The Milwaukee, Wisconsin group Khazaddum is our featured artist in this week’s Meet The Band. They play brutal death metal with Tolkien inspired lyrics. Their debut full-length Plagues Upon Arda was just released. Vocalist Luka Djordjevic introduces us to his band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Khazaddum.
Luka Djordjevic: Khazaddum started as an idea by Alex Rausa (guitar) to do a Tolkien themed death metal recording project. He recruited Peter Kissain to play drums and chose me to do the vocals and write the lyrics. We were all busy with full time live bands at the time, and only really had interest in writing a cool EP. In Dwarven Halls was the result.
Due to other obligations, it was put on the back burner for some months after it was recorded. In late 2015, we decided that the music was too good to not be released, and as a result, we got together again and started writing. We put out the EP and started playing as a live band. Over the next year we wrote, cemented a live linup, and played a limited amount of one off shows. We recorded Plagues Upon Arda and just released it on August 19th.
Describe the songwriting and recording process for Plagues Upon Arda.
Plagues Upon Arda, our first full-length, was written over the span of six or seven months. The record was conceptualized with symphonic accompaniment intertwined with our brand of brutal death metal to better express the epic stories that we’re portraying within.
For this task, we decided to go with No Passenger Studio from Madison Wisconsin. Spencer Fox and Trae Titus understood the goal that we envisioned, and helped us realize it. They were responsible for the recording, mixing, and mastering of Plagues Upon Arda. Furthermore, Trae composed the symphonic element of the album based on the specifications and inspirations that we set forth.
How has your style/sound evolved from your debut EP?
I think that we have significantly grown from the EP to the full-length. In Dwarven Halls was a glimpse into the auditory world that we were trying to construct. It was brutal, but short, so we couldn’t fully express our vision within three tracks. Plagues Upon Arda, on the other hand, is a much more in-depth glimpse into the Tolkien mythos.
Musically, we expanded quite a bit from the EP as well. The brutality of the first release took a step up, but we also included more tempo changes, melody and atmosphere. I think this record establishes a very solid identity for the band. Brutal, epic death metal is the mission statement. The quality of the drumming, guitar work, vocals, lyrics, composition and artwork have all increased, in my opinion. One of the most obvious differences with this release is our inclusion of orchestral symphonics throughout the album.
Do you anticipate your lyrics will always be Tolkien related?
Yes. We find inexhaustible inspiration and endless tales to draw material from within the immense codex of the British literary master J.R.R. Tolkien.
Why did you decide to go the DIY route? Would you like to sign with a label in the future?
We have a vision that we’re trying to execute. If a label is willing to help us realize our goals and understands the mission at hand, we would certainly welcome the prospect of label support.
What has the response to the album been like so far?
So far, excellent. Critics and fans alike have been very responsive to Plagues Upon Arda in these early stages. I’m constantly running to the post office to send out orders for the record, and the numerous reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Considering I’m writing this only five days after the release, we couldn’t be happier with the feedback.
What has been your most memorable Khazaddum live show?
Most recently, our album release show was great! Featuring Chicago’s death metal devastators Cardiac Arrest, Minneapolis Hellenic heathens House of Atreus and Milwaukee’s very own death metal pioneers Dr.Shrinker, the show was a huge success. Another memorable show was the NYDM Annual Festival in Birmingham Alabama. Also, opening up for Germany’s Desaster, Goatwhore, Seattle’s Drawn & Quartered, and Brazil’s Nervosa were all memorable shows in their own right.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
We plan on making our way out east in September, and then a two week trek down south, then towards the west coast in October.
How did you get started in music?
All of us have been playing death metal for quite some time. I personally started singing in a band when I was 17 here in Milwaukee called Branded at Birth. Since, I’ve been in several bands over the years: Carnal Befoulment and Promethean Parallax to name a couple, and am also currently in a black metal project called Prezir as well.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
For me, as far as death metal is concerned, chief among them was Deicide. But many others were very vital to my formative years within the genre. Morbid Angel, Nile, Immolation, and Suffocation, to name a few.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Either Milwaukee Metal Fest or Napalm Death at the Rave. Not sure which was first.
What’s the heavy music scene like in Milwaukee?
It’s certainly not as strong as it was back in the heyday of Milwaukee Metal Fest, but in recent years there has been a slow moving resurgence. There are several bands here that keep the torch lit and the spirit of the underground alive in our scene.
Seen any good movies/DVDs lately?
The two best theatrically released films that I’ve seen in the last two years are Robert Eggers’ The Witch, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Split.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I’ll list some 2017 albums that I find my self returning to regularly: FIN – Arrows of a Dying Age, Forteresse – Thèmes pour la rébellion, Dumal – The Lesser God, The Committee – Memorandum Occultus, Immolation – Atonement, Horn – Turm am Hang, Venenum – Trance of Death. That’s just seven among many.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
We’re very excited to finally unleash this album upon the denizens of this world! It’s been a long and rewarding process making this record, and we’re proud of it. Look for us in the road in the coming months.
In the meantime, check out the album streaming for free and order the CD/merch from our Bandcamp, our music video on YouTube, and keep up with all the latest news from Khazaddum through Facebook. Thank you for your interest in our band. Hails from The Halls of Khazaddum!
(interview published August 26, 2017)