To me, Defacement self-titled albums was one of the best and most loved surprises of 2021. Released by I, Voidhanger, Defacement was a perfect blend of death and black metal, uneasiness, melancholy and abyssal turmoil. I reached out to Khalil, one of the two founding members and guitarist of the Utrecht-located band, to discuss the genesis of this project, its history and its future plans.
Let’s start with an introduction: Defacement is a relatively unknown name, and it’s hard to find any information on the web. How would you introduce the band to a stranger?
We wouldn’t call it a metal band or black or death metal. We see it as something anybody can relate to, anyone can potentially connect to the storytelling behind the music.
Following online breadcrumbs, it appears the band was born as a side-project to the black metal band Deathcrush, originally from Lybia and then relocated to Ukraine, Germany and eventually the Netherlands… Is that correct? May we ask what’s your story?
Ahmed [bass and vocals] and I have known each other for a long time, since school. We then moved to study in Ukraine. We graduated and understood that we couldn’t settle down in Ukraine because it’s unsafe for non-white foreigners and there are no chances for a musical profession there, unlike Europe, where there are professional studios and opportunities. In Ukraine, I was banned from performing in the whole country because I’m not white.
Metal-Archives states that both Defacement and Deathcrush are a three-piece, how did you meet Italian drummer Mark “Bestia” Dal Pastro?
I’ve been searching for musicians for three years in the Netherlands, but could not find any. I found Mark on Facebook, I sent him a friend request, told him I was looking for a drummer and he said that he could do that, and we’ve been making music together since.
You released two albums, Deviant was self-produced in 2019, while Defacement was released via I, Voidhanger in 2021. They are both wonderful examples of obscure, murky, dissonant death metal: what are the main differences between those records, and what are their similarities?
Mark recorded drums for the second Deathcrush album and I was in a very messed downward spiral mentally, psychologically and physically and this state made me repulse most of my surroundings and hate everythin in life. When trying to listen to music at the time, everything sounded the same. Same people, same black metal blast-beats and three chords, and thousands of bands that sound and look the same and compensate their lack of dedication and practice with attitude or radical political ideologies where music is just background noise for their conversations and judgements and hate towards each other. So I wanted to write something that had my definition, tone and opinion in form of storytelling, I wanted to pour my emotions into music. And that’s how Deviant was recorded. On the drums Mark did for the second Deathcrush release. The album has no lyrics, the screaming parts were more of a description of a state that can be relatable for a listener. There were lyrical ideas, but those were ideas in my head that I eventually kept for myself and didn’t want to share. Defacement, on the other hand, came in a period where social aggression came to an ugly point. This made me more motivated and stronger and more driven to create music and be myself. The album isn’t focused on musical wankery but rather a storytelling and description of a state of being I was in that period, and a sort of documentation of incidents that happened and that our future selves will proudly look back to.
Conceptually speaking, the band’s name is kinda self-explanatory, even more so when paired with the pinkish, super-striking artwork by Dusty Ray from 2018. How did you come to choose such a painting?
One of the important reasons that Defacement is Defacement is that Ahmed and I experienced living in different places, cultures and continents. No matter where we went, there was always a group of fanatics who just like their own voice and hence talk loud, wanting to put words in our mouths. Some kind of religious, racist or moral supremacy has always been used or practiced against us and everyone always wanted to lecture us and teach us how to live our lives. That’s why the band name is Defacement. It’s our way to tell those people that even if we agree we won’t give you the feeling that we want to kiss your asses and live by your standards, our way to say that you’re not moral examples for us. Until you understand you’re not better and that what you have in your head is not a free pass for you to automatically practice your habits of misery on people just because you’re miserable and ugly and want to prove something. About Dusty Ray: yeah, the artwork is great. I wish I could redecorate someone’s face like that. [laughs]
Both Deviant and Defacement sound like very intimate, personal albums. Everything seems to be pointing inwards, to an inner struggle, to the horrors of the mind, even more so when reading Defacement lyrics. This reminded me a lot of Brendan Sloan’s solo project Convulsing, and I cannot say I was surprised when I learned he is a guest vocalist on Defacement’s last track, “Wounded”. How was this collaboration born?
Brendan is a friend of ours. I asked him to do vocals on a track and we are glad he did and this collaboration turned out very good.
As I said, your lyrics are very intimate, albeit ultimately nihilistic (“Full of nothing… Empty of everything”), and you confirmed this in your previous answers. Would you go into details as to where those verses come from?
The lyrics on Defacement describe an inner struggle, and continuing to read till the last track, “Wounded”, the lyrics says that someone is out of the dark tunnel or will almost be there.
You are a rather “silent” band online: few posts, fewer interviews, only the essential information available… Is this an intended choice, or just a result of chance? How important do you think is the ability to communicate your art, during these digital times?
Our focus is mainly making music. Not showing off. We don’t like the idea of making loads of posts to push people to listen or buy the music. We’re not silent, we have a good support with every release and judging from the fact we have sold out records we think that the communication is good. The most important thing to us is to share the idea of Defacement, rather than just selling, posting or socialising.
What plans await Defacement in the near future?
We have a new album that will be recorded soon. The music writing is finished and it is currently being rehearsed.