Interview with vocalist and guitarist Ismaeel Attallah and guitarist Youssef Saleh
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 8, 2021
Live picture of Youssef Saleh taken by Dariusz Hermiersz
Live picture of Ismaeel Attallah taken by Gabriel Hudec Photography
Egyptian death metallers Crescent, formed in 1999, have been making quite a name for themselves with their three full-length albums, all of them delving deeply into the band’s ancient roots in a way that supports perfectly the dense, atmospheric, and dark death metal they play. The band operates from their home country of Egypt as well as from Germany since guitarist Youssef Saleh moved there a couple of years ago. The bigger markets for metal music are in central Europe, so that’s probably a good move for the band.
The band’s latest album, Carving the Fires of Akhet, was released in the summer of 2021 and received an amazing response, just like their first two albums did and we here at The Metal Crypt thought it would be a good idea to contact the band once again to ask about the album, how they have been coping with these tough Corona times, their future plans and such things. Read on...!
How’s it going? Great, I hope. Anyway, since we last talked in March 2018, you were still located in Egypt but apparently some of you have relocated to Germany. If that’s the case, how did this move change the band’s working methods and chemistry?
Youssef: Honestly, not that much has changed. If anything, the band has the ability to do more shows in Europe now (given that there is no pandemic going on). It is business as usual, Ismaeel writes the music and then everything follows. Now, we rehearse in two countries instead of one.
Whose decision was it to make this brave move and divide the Crescent camp and carry out future plans in Germany? I suppose it was not easy to make this final decision as far as continuing the story of Crescent all the way from Germany, right?
Ismaeel: It wasn’t a single person’s decision. It so happened that Youssef moved to Germany for his studies, and at the same time Amr (co-founder and ex-drummer) and Moanis (long-time bassist) left the band. It made sense that the next step would be to find members where it would make it easier for us to play shows and Germany made total sense as Youssef moved there, and we have many connections within that scene. It was neither easy nor hard, it just happened, and we coped with it well.
What kind of new changes and/or opportunities have the relocating of the band to Germany brought to you that otherwise would not have been possible in Cairo, Egypt?
Youssef/Ismaeel: It gave us the flexibility to be able to perform more shows.
GIVING IT ALL
May I ask how you found Julian Dietrich to play drums and replace your previous drummer and co-founder of the band, Amr Mokhtar? Did you arrange auditions or was he already someone you knew from his other bands, Into Coffin and Cloudbreaker?
Youssef/Ismaeel: We did have auditions and we are honored to have met some decent musicians in the process. However, Julian came recommended through our good friend Stefan from Nocte Obducta, Horresque and more (who is now our bassist).
Is Crescent considered his main band now or are all his bands equal so there’s no conflicts between any of the bands he’s involved with?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Julian is a professional, so it is implied that if he’s in any band then he will give it the attention it needs at the appropriate time and in the most professionally coordinated way.
CARVING THE FIRES OF AKHET
The band’s new album, Carving the Fires of Akhet, saw the light of dark Egyptian catacombs in July this year, and before that, advance reviews raved about it. I bet all those reviews led to optimism that you were definitely doing something very right. With the release of this album, do you have more faith in this band than ever before?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Not necessarily, it just reinforced our feelings about Crescent and what we made/will make of it. We knew what we were getting ourselves into and what to expect.
Now that you have some distance and perspective regarding Carving..., what would you say were the biggest differences between the making of this new opus and your previous album, The Order of Amenti?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Carving the Fires of Akhet is the big brother of The Order of Amenti, more relaxed, mature and with more space to breathe. Amenti was a furious warrior battling his way and triumphantly, too. Akhet is the reign that came after conquering.
Is there a line on this new album linking each song together to form one uniting concept?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Yes, there is one for sure. It follows a thread or a story that is strongly linked to the artwork and previous principles. We even link it to The Order of Amenti. At this point, we would like those who are interested to read the lyrics and put in a bit of effort like we all did back in the ‘90s.
The album was mixed and mastered at Woodshed Studio by V. Santura (Triptykon, Dark Fortress). How was he chosen to turn the knobs to the right position on this new album?
Youssef/Ismaeel: V is well known in the scene, and we found ourselves liking his work with various bands. He is a phenomenal sound engineer, one of the best out there today. It was a no-brainer to go for him as we knew that he would deliver something that is 100% Crescent. We were not wrong!
You have always kept the band’s songwriting bar high, constantly trying to better your songs and yourselves as musicians, which all has to do with learning, evolving, and experiencing new things. How do you keep yourself hungry and always trying to top what you have done before?
Youssef/Ismaeel: It certainly is not easy. It is probably more evident today when musicians take their time to produce a strong art piece as we are surrounded by subpar quality or at the least nothing outstanding or worth attention. To answer your question, it all got to do with experience and, of course, talent. We always assess our work from a listener’s perspective. You can’t convince listeners or audiences if you aren’t convinced yourself.
How much has Covid-19 restricted your life in general and especially the band’s plans regarding shows and all that jazz?
Youssef/Ismaeel: It slowed the recording process down for sure and we couldn’t perform planned festival shows (which applies to everyone).
THE UNDERWORLD AND BLOODSTOCK EXPERIENCES
You guys played at The Underworld, London, in August 2019, for the first time and shared the stage with such names as Deicide, Krisiun and, last but not least, Damim. How was that experience for you and did you make friends with the guys in Deicide or Krisiun?
Youssef/Ismaeel: It was a pretty wild 40 minutes or so experience. People were going nuts during our set. All the bands were too busy to socialize, so nothing much happened. We just greeted everybody. However, we got to know and chat with the gentlemen from Damim and we also used some of their amps/drum kit for the gig.
Before your Camden experience in London, you had the chance to play at the Bloodstock Open Air Festival in Derbyshire, which has become the UK’s biggest metal festival. In addition to your Wacken experience back in 2014, this was another huge festival for Crescent. What did playing at a festival of this size teach you about festival logistics and such? Did the organizers know their job and make you at least somewhat happy and satisfied with the arrangements?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Bloodstock was definitely fun, and it would be cool to return there again someday! We don’t concern ourselves too much with big or small really. For us, a big festival is a one that has the biggest impact from and on us.
Fast forward to this year. You were also supposed to participate at the Dark Easter Metal Meeting festival in München, Germany, in April 2021, but due to restrictions caused by the global pandemic, the festival organizers were forced to postpone the event until 2022. What kind of blow was it for you and the band? Did you see this postponement coming?
Youssef/Ismaeel: We saw it coming, so there was no blow at all. Anyway, it sucked for everyone equally. The only crappy thing was canceling the flight and hotel reservations.
Things haven’t been easy for people working in many fields because of Covid-19. Have you ever thought of dropping your instrument for good due to all these setbacks that have prevented you from playing shows? I suspect this idea has occurred to many musicians in the past two years or so because it isn’t easy to be completely without gig opportunities where a big chunk of their income comes from...
Youssef/Ismaeel: Nah, the pandemic gave us more time to reflect and sharpen our thoughts and weapons. Fortunately, music is no source of income for us, it is purely a project of passion and liberation.
I did notice a while ago that you have recruited a new bassist. His name is Stefan Dietz, and he has gained a lot of experience in such groups as Nocte Obducta and Horresque. How did you get in contact with him?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Stefan is a very good friend of ours and an incredible musician with over 25 years of experience, plus we share the same taste in music. Stefan joining the band was an inevitable situation after our former bassist (André from Chaos Invocation) decided to leave.
What has he brought to the band besides his cool personality?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Lots of experience. Great addition indeed.
OK, I have just one final question. What are some of your personal hopes and plans for 2022 as far as Crescent’s war plans and/or conquests are concerned?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Just more territorial conquests and spreading our plague and flame across the farthest point on the horizon.
Thank you very much for your time for this pleasant conversation and, of course, all the best with your future endeavors with the band. Any fitting closing comments perhaps?
Youssef/Ismaeel: Keep the black flame burning. No compromise.
|Other information about Crescent on this site|
|Review: The Order of Amenti|
|Review: Carving the Fires of Akhet|
|Interview with guitarist Youssef Saleh and vocalist and guitarist Ismaeel Attallah on March 30, 2018 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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