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From the chaos and contradictions of Pakistan’s financial and criminal epicentre of Karachi comes one of the East’s proudest testaments to extreme music, Dusk, presenting their latest album, Imaginary Dead.
Led by Babar Sheikh, Dusk has been an ongoing force in heavy music since 1995. Exploring all corners of death and doom metal’s convergences since that time (and a brief detour to 80s goth inspired synth music), Dusk’s latest offering is the band’s most complete album yet. Blending doom metal, death metal, and fragments of black metal with elements of folk inspiration, Imaginary Dead also serves a surprisingly large side-serve of synth-derived experimentalism.
Discipline Mag had an in-depth chat with Babar in 2021 about the trials and tribulations of creating extreme music from one of the subcontinent’s most unstable locales. Consult the article below to learn more about Babar and his journey from teen metalhead to pioneer of Eastern doom metal.
DEATH AND THE CITY: A conversation about extreme music in Pakistan
Pakistan’s original extreme metal musician, Babar Sheikh, speaks to Discipline Mag about making music in one of Asia’s most dangerous cities.
The opening two tracks set a tone for the rest of the record, but do so without giving everything away. The ambitious sounds of “Ancient Shattered Moon”, with its classic doom riffs and emphasis on atmosphere, push the work of Dusk forward in terms of production and ideas while being simultaneously conscious of what came before. This recognition of the past expressed both in terms of Dusk’s own history and classic doom bands, as well as the likes of Celtic Frost and proto-black metal more generally. Track two sees the blackened growls continue with an added dose of speed in the shred-focused immediacy of “Inanimate Reflections”.
But the full breadth of sounds, this absolutely was not. “Like a Candle Flame, Ceaseless” introduces spoken word passages backed by a piano and acoustics. The track being a welcome and tasteful addition to the album that successfully contributes to the overall doominess of the album, and notably without feeling cheesy. The punchline, “It makes me want to celebrate…” hits hard, and it’s a shame the passage and atmosphere couldn’t have bled into the following track, the epic and longest on the album, “Eigengrau”.
The second half of the album reiterates Dusk’s Eastern settings, but does so with an unwavering sense of modernity. Plucked acoustics and Eastern hums sit as counterweights to blast-beats, ferocious growls and near-blackened riffage. These more familiar sounds met with the persistent threat of electronic disruption.
Not for the first time, Dusk try their hand at some experimental electronics and sampled pieces with Monochromatically Reimagined. This then leads into Identity’s Burden, the final track that could be considered metal in the conventional sense. Twilight Morse Code then rounds out the album, an anomaly, even with the knowledge of electronic precedents. Guided by a steady beat, but animated by unsteady codes of synth and erratic hymns, presumably in Urdu, the track sounds like Babar may have been note-taking from The Body.
Dusk is not simply a “Pakistani” doom metal band, but a doom band in their own right, and one which refuses to revel in the novelty of being a geographical outlier. On Imaginary Dead, Dusk’s unfleeting vision and well-established sound congeal into an ambitious package of death/doom familiarity and left of field surprises.
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