Death in the Middle East

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One usually knows what to expect from a Unique Leader release, which is not a bad thing. It just means that the soup of the day is technically proficient death metal brutality. Most, however, would not expect the soup de jour to be made in Ankara, Turkey. But that only means that some folks on these shores have not been paying attention to what has been for some time now a fertile extreme metal scene. Enter Carnophage, one of the shining stars of the Turkish death metal movement. Deformed Future / Genetic Nightmare consists of eight smartly written compositions that are savagely delivered and technically competent, yet also surprisingly varied, often groovy, and individualistic. In other words, you can in fact tell when one track ends and another begins. Guitarist Berkan Basoglu checks in with The Teeth

I’ve seen more and more extreme metal bands coming out of Turkey these past few years (Cenotaph, Episode 13, Zifir, Self Torture, Heretic Soul, etc). Are the death and black metal scenes strong in Turkey? Are they concentrated in certain specific areas, like Ankara or Istanbul?

The growing scene is absolutely the extreme metal scene in Turkey, as in the world! People are no longer giving any weight to old fashioned heavy/thrash bands as they used to. More complicated and chaotic stuff has already taken over the flag. So being in a competitive scene, the bands have to work harder and do their best for not to be vanished. In this case, the quality increases and the local bands have an opportunity to be more popular in the world. You’re right; these bands mostly are located in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. The reason is, these cities have more facilities than the others. It’s about the audience, studios and performance halls.

There is even a Myspace page dedicated to Turkish death metal, (http://www.myspace.com/turkishdeathmetal). Does this indicate unity in the Turkish scene? Do you often play with bands like Cenotaph [currently on Unmatched Brutality]?

I don’t think the TDM page reflects the death metal scene in Turkey well. It’s rarely updated. I think the gigs of TDM bands have to be listed daily, but it never happens. Anyway, it needs to be more purposive. The last gig we played with Cenotaph was Rock Station Fest on October. We play with them and other death bands in Turkey very often. And most of them are our close friends.

Does it help the Turkish metal scene, and support for metal in general, that you live in a Western democracy with a secularly based constitution?

Incidentally, Turkey is a modern country contrary to the expectations. We have a democratic system like other countries and have open minded people in most cities. The only difference between us and the bands based in Europe or the U.S. are economic conditions. We don’t have a chance to manage our lives from playing metal music. It’s impossible in our country because we have no guarantee. We have to tour in the half of the year to earn money from death. For now, it’s not possible for us. But who knows the future?

Do the current Islamist leanings of the Justice and Development Party concern you at all?

Fuck them! We all hate the Justice and Development Party. They’re just using the foolish people’s religious beliefs. They want to turn back to the primitive. To make more money, they can do everything by using religion. They know that religion is the best weapon to impress spider minded stupid people. We don’t care about them.

But enough about politics… What is the story of Carnophage? Are you all veteran musicians? How long have you been involved in death metal?

I’ll try to keep as brief as possible because the story can be found on Myspace. All of our main genres is death metal and Carnophage was founded to be the most chaotic and aggressive work compared to the formed bands of us. Oral [Akyol, vocals] is the oldest metalhead of us. He has been involved in dearth since the early 90’s.

What does Carnophage mean anyway?

Actually, it’s a Magic The Gathering card from Exodus expansion in 1995. But you can also consider it as the mixture of the carnivorous and phage. Suitable for a death metal band, huh?

Listening to Deformed Future/Genetic Nightmare I can hear a variety of bands, such as Deeds of Flesh and, of course, Suffocation. Are these bands influences on Carnophage? What bands inspired the members of Carnophage to play not only death metal, but brutal death metal?

You’re right Scott. Suffocation and Deeds of Flesh are the biggest influences of Carnophage. Besides them, it would b e Morbid Angel, Death, Decapitated, Slayer, Necrophagist and Hate Eternal that inspired us mostly. You can even add some black metal and hardcore bands to the list. Mert [Kaya, lead guitars] is the dark and technical part; I am the groove and aggressive part of Carnophage.

What helps to set Carnophage apart, if only a bit, is the variety in the arrangements, even some melodic sections, rather than a one-dimensional sound across eight tracks. Would you agree?

Yeah, we think the same. Every track is independent from each other by a coincidence. Some have melodic parts, some have orient based riffs and some have emotional arpeggios behind solos. It’s about the mood and combination of the variant styles. That helps us set apart and not be a typical brutal death metal band.

For example, I love the break in “Anomalistic Resurrection,” which then turns into a melodic outro that fades out and ends the album.

[Laughs] let me tell you the truth. We completed “Anomalistic Resurrection” two days before the recording. You know, you lose the creativeness in the end of a work. And I admit that, we had no idea what to do between the last riff and the fade out outro [laughs]. So we decided to add a sample to there. That was a lucky shot and it filled the space great!

Along those same lines, the solo parts are very effective as well, like when the main riffs change during the solo breaks of “Harmlessly Eaten” and “No one Forgotten.” Of course, the solo on “No One Forgotten” is played by Berkay Demirer.

Mert has a unique style on solos. He’s not a great shredder, but I think he’s very good at hammer-on, pull-off techniques. And it gives the emotion and soul to the solos. “No One Forgotten” has a long solo part. Mert had played the solo on “No One Forgotten” demo recordings that had been on the Myspace player before the album recording. We wanted to add a different taste to the song’s new version. Berkay is a close friend of us and we wanted him to write a solo for “No One Forgotten.” He just came to the studio and made an improvisation over the solo riff. He wrote and played the solo at the same time!

There is some riffing on “Blood Commander” that actually reminds me of early Sepultura. Coincidence?

Hmm. Maybe you’re right, but we’re not a big fan of Sepultura or inspired by them.

In addition, you’ve managed to come up with some relatively unique riffs and guitar parts that really stand out (“Bone Nails” is one example).

[Laughs] Oral has to read this! For him, “Bone Nails” is the weakest song of the whole album. Anyway, I agree with you. “Bone Nails” has unique riffs that unlike most in a brutal death metal song. It has the most effective double guitar work on the album. And I think it has a bridge riff that can coincide in a post-rock band.

The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Erkan Tatoglu and Carnophage. I’ve seen Tatoglu’s name on other projects as well. Is his work in high demand from the Turkish death metal community? Why did you decide to use him?

Erkan Tatoglu is also the guitar player for the band, Suicide. He’s one of the oldest death metal heads in Turkey. Even his studio has no space-craft like tools and he knows what to do with limited facilities. Being a death metal head, we can easily work with him. He has many references and that is the reason of the demand for his works in the extreme scene.

I’m not sure if anyone has pointed this out to you, but it is quite a coincidence that the first name of the vocalist is Oral.

That’s true! It’s a coincidence, but nothing can be more suitable than this name for a vocalist, even if the name of him is not microphone.

The lyrics aren’t typical brutal death, blood, guts, and gore either, although there is definitely some blood involved. “Blood Commander” almost reads like an anti-war song. Please share your thoughts on that song.

Thanks for spending time reading the lyrics, Scott. We don’t like gore based lyrics in Carnophage. Except for “Harmlessly Eaten” and “Corpsefield,” none of the songs have a gore theme. “Harmlessly Eaten” and “Corpsefield” belong to the earliest era of Carnohpage. Then we decided not to use any gore lyrics. “Blood Commander” and “Bone Nails” have anti-war themes. Rather, “Bone Nails” has a bombing for peace theme in an allusion way.

On “Clandestine Depravity,” the theme seems to be one of religion and you make reference to “the greatest liar.” Please discuss these lyrics.

I remember that we talked about Justice and Development Party. It’s about them and the politicians like them. Just read the last paragraph of the lyrics [“Saving his throne which has been earned / by the blood of mankind / in the name of human rights / in the name of God”]. I disclosed too many things. That’s enough.

What about “Corpsefield?”

It’s about the innerself. Self torment defined in an extreme way. Orient based riffs helped to strengthen the feeling of paradox and the rapid change in thoughts.

What about some of the other lyrical themes, including the title track, “Deformed Future/Genetic Nightmare?”

“Deformed future…” has a real meaning. The world that we dwell… “Genetic Nightmare” defines the unbounded growth in technology and the feasible risks. Actually, if you consider the whole album as a concept, it’s about where we are going.

Carnophage is obviously a good fit for Unique Leader. What led to your signing to the label? Are you happy with what they’ve been able to do for Carnophage?

Unique Leader has always been the best label for top-notch death metal. Before the assignment, we had already been a fan of Unique Leader. So, it’s a pleasure to be a part of roster. They like our music and try to do their best for Carnophage.

What is next for Carnophage? Are you already thinking about the next album? What about touring?

We have started to write the new material and have a plans for the new release in 2010. We also have plans for touring and have communications for this. Hope you will be able to see Carnophage live soon!

Any final thoughts?

Thanks a lot for this candid interview, Scott. I hope this won’t be our last conversation.

http://www.myspace.com/carnophageturkey

http://www.uniqueleader.com

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