Singapore’s melodic death metal darlings Assault has come a long way since their humble beginnings in 2006. With their debut full length release, The Fallen Reich, finally dropping last year via Transcending Obscurity, the band has upped their game, supporting the album with numerous shows locally, and around the region. We catch up with them, in anticipation for their, erm, assault on our senses this May 5 at the inaugural Metal United World Wide, Singapore edition.
Greetings Assault. It’s been a long time since we’ve last had you here on Heavy Metal Tribune. The band’s debut full length album, The Fallen Reich was released last year via Transcending Obscurity Records. How has the reception of the album been so far?
Clarence: The response of the album has been really positive so far. We have received lots of album reviews from online magazines worldwide which have rated us positively. Locally, our album was mentioned as one of the top 45 releases of the year 2017 by Bandwagon. Recently our album was also reviewed by Burrn! Magazine, one of the most popular music and long-running magazines in Japan, receiving a rating of 72 out of 100.
Transcending Obscurity Records is home to various other local bands as well – namely, Rudra, and Ilemauzar. How did the deal with Transcending Obscurity come about, and how has it been working with them so far?
Clarence: The band finished our recording and mixing around July 2016. At that point of time we were sourcing for record labels to release our debut album. I remember it was in mid-August when I had a meet-up with Kathir from Rudra over lunch where I let him listen to the final mix of the album. Kathir was so impressed with the final product that he suggested to me that we write in to Transcending Obscurity for a record deal. Thus I decided write in to Transcending Obscurity, and with Kathir recommendation to Kunal – boss of the record label – the band successfully secured the record deal in September 2016.
The working process with the label has been really good. Kunal is one of the most down-to-earth guys I have ever met, and he has been instrumental in the marketing and PR of the band, which we have greatly benefited for this release.
The Fallen Reich features a much mature sound than the material on the band’s EP, The Exceptions of the Rebellions. Compared to the EP, what was the songwriting process like for the album?
Syaz : Process-wise, I think it’s about the same as how we did for the EP. Whenever anyone of us has an idea for a riff for a verse or a chorus for example, we would share it with the rest of the band and each of us then gave our own input to try and improve and build upon the song.
However, from the start, we all had the vision that we wanted the album to sound more aggressive than the EP. We all feel it’s a natural step to take so I think everyone then did their homework and got into all the aggressive melodic death metal bands that we could think of while in our songwriting mode, and that naturally translated into the material that we composed.
While the melodic death metal edge of the band is still clearly present on The Fallen Reich, there also seems to be a more aggressive tone to the band’s sound, with instances of thrash and black metal thrown around. Who are the influences this time round for the band while writing the album?
Syaz : Bands like Naglfar, Amon Amarth, At The Gates and Kataklysm were our influences for this album as to us, these bands sound aggressive yet melodic. Listening to these bands motivates and challenges us to try and come up with aggressive melodies during our songwriting stage.
The Fallen Reich features guest appearances from international metal icons such as Freddy Lim of ChthoniC fame and Fufu of Nothnegal. How did you settle on having both of them as guest musicians, and what was it like working with them?
Clarence: The idea of having guest appearances for the album was conceptualised right before we started recording the album. As a fan of both ChthoniC and Nothnegal, the idea of having them as guest musicians came naturally. The guest appearance for Freddy was in my mind for awhile since I got to know him personally in 2008. When I was in Taiwan back in 2012, I had the opportunity to meet him and so I took the chance to invite him to be one of our guest musician for the album which he gladly accepted.
For Fufu of Nothnegal, it was just by chance that the band was invited to perform in Hammersonic Festival in Jakarta back in 2012, and the band invited me to help out with their logistics backstage. At that point of time we had just commenced with our recording, so I asked Fufu about the possibility of recording a guitar solo for one of the songs, which he gladly accepted without any hesitation.
There is a certain anger in the lyrics on The Fallen Reich, both against the system, as well as general anger at the state of modern society. Where does the band draw influences from, and what are the pressing issues that the band is trying to deal with through your lyrics?
Clarence: The majority of the inspiration for the album lyrics actually came from the events that occurred during WWII. Musically as we’re taking a darker approach for this album, I personally felt that the lyrics for this album should focus on a particular event, thus I chose to focus on the holocaust as I felt that the subject suited the band’s darker musical approach. The main objective of the band’s lyrics is to try to to revisit history, as well as target specific issues of modern society.
In support of the album release, the band has also ramped up appearances at local gigs over the last 2 years. Having been in the scene for more than 10 years now, how has the crowd transformed?
Clarence: As per every release cycle, we will be ramping up appearances both locally and overseas. Having been in the scene for more than 10 years, certainly the crowd has transformed over the years. We have seen a younger crowd coming to gigs and supporting the bands through buying their merchandise. The fans nowadays are also more receptive to our music. Also, with technology, fans nowadays are more updated about new releases and shows through social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter.
The band also had the privilege to perform in Mongolia last year at the Noise Metal Festival. How did this happen, and what was the experience like? How is the scene in Mongolia?
Syaz: As with all of our overseas gigs, Clarence is our main point of contact for the band. So when he informed us of the opportunity to perform at Mongolia, naturally we were very much interested in it. The thought of being probably the first Singaporean metal band to perform at Mongolia further motivated us to grasp at the opportunity.
I can say that the scene over there is quite similar to ours in Singapore. In terms of numbers, both are small. Yet both are very dedicated and supportive of each of their local bands. And similarly to Singapore, their local acts specialise in a variety of genres from heavy metal, to brutal death metal to black metal. And all of them are very impressive. Standouts include Karmantic and Growl of Clown. We were very honoured to share the stage with all the bands and we are very sure the scene will continue to grow for both countries.
Of course, being in a foreign country, we also became starry-eyed tourists. We managed to savour their local cuisine and visit their countryside and other places of interests. Overall it was a very positive and eye-opening experience for us.
Assault will be part of the huge lineup this coming 5 May at the Metal United World Wide – Singapore Edition, and will be the first performance of the band with its new lineup. Tell us about the new lineup, and how it came about.
Syaz: The new lineup right now includes our newest member Afi, previously of No Prophecy and Ghostworld. He takes over drum duties from Noh, who now takes over rhythm guitar duties from Yuda, who had to leave the band due to personal commitments.
It actually came about during our planning stages for the Mongolia gig. Noh was unable to join us due to family commitments, so we decided to hire a session drummer. After a few weeks of searching, Afi answered our call and we got to work.
What impresses us the most about Afi is his ferocity and he is not afraid to experiment with different drum patterns. After the Mongolia gig, we kept in contact until the beginning of 2018 where Yuda had to leave the band. After much consideration, we finally settled on this current lineup that you see now.
Finally, what can fans look forward to on 5 May, and will there be any sneak preview of new tracks?
Syaz: Fans can expect a new and improved Assault, dishing out melodic, yet in-your-face tunes from our latest album, as well as a few new ones that we have been working on towards our next full length. Trust us, you will not be disappointed!
Catch Assault, and many other quality Singaporean bands this May 5 at the inaugural, Singapore edition of the Metal United World Wide. More details at this location.