INTERVIEW: Iravu – on Black Metal, Brian Eno, and Overcoming Oppression

The Sound of Perseverance meets (No Pussyfooting) might not be a combination you expected on your musical bingo card for 2023, but Malaysia’s one-person anti-fascist Black Metal force Iravu is not one for limiting artistic statements when inspiration strikes. Since the inception of the project, each release has been thought out yet brimming with raw feeling. The newest album A Fate Worse Than Home has taken the leftist band’s acclaim to the next level, with the art also resonating on an even deeper frequency of multi-layered meanings.

It was enjoyable to catch up with Hareesh Kumar Shanggar about performing and producing the record as well as the state of metal and more.

1. ‘A Fate Worse Than Home’ is such a compelling title. It sums up to me the fear of every adventurer, that you will lose what you already had in pursuit of a fruitless quest. Do you think that is a fear many people have when deciding not to pursue art or being in a band as a career, for example? Of course, like the cool Natasha Nor Azmi album art, it can also be similar to being dead and floating forever in space hell and wondering why you ended up in a tomb of stars. I also wondered if you were ever inspired by The Odyssey, where an epic voyage takes a heavy toll.

– Well, that’s an interesting way of interpreting the album. I always love reading what people take away as the message on the album. The album mainly has to do with marginalized identities. Whether you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community or a specific marginalised ethnic group, your identity is important to you and no matter how far you shy away from it, oppression will follow you into the shadows. This was something I had to deal with as a Malaysian Indian growing up in my country. No matter how far we try to run away or no matter how much power we have as an individual, the systems around us will not give us the freedom we need to live with dignity.

I think this concept can also relate to art. Personally, however, I have and will never think about art being a career. I think achieving something like that by playing the music that I love is practically impossible. This capitalist system we live in that thrives on supply and demand will not allow you to express yourself in the way that you want. I think for a lot of people that fear exists. For me, I try not to think about it and just write the things that I want to write. Any artist who actively produces bears their soul to their audience, and for it to be true we must not think about supply and demand. Otherwise, it’ll just be soulless. That being said it is not an excuse to be hateful or racist. If you have those feelings and want to show that part of yourself to the public, I’d suggest a different avenue, like therapy.


2. Well said. How has it felt seeing folx gain more awareness of your humble project in RABM spheres? What have been some of the greatest milestones for you in recent times that you are on the right path? In activism-based music, there is more work to be done than a simple goal of fame. Who are some of the other bands that have also been inspiring to you lately, Hareesh?

– I am super grateful and very overwhelmed with all the support honestly. I never expected Iravu to take off as it has, and every day I am shocked at the response. I am not sure how to measure the success of Iravu really but the amount that I have donated to the NGOs I am supporting to the album has been a lot of money. Recently, the wonderful label I am working with Vita Detestabilis and Fiadh Productions told me that all their tapes of the album have sold out. And I’m just sitting here in shock. So yeah I honestly do not know how to react. I guess that is in and of itself a milestone.

Who inspires me? Honestly, I would just link the Antifascist Black Metal Network’s Youtube Channel and all the people behind it:

All these bands and artists behind the music and the work they all put in are inspiring to me.

Musically it is many of the same bands that I always give any time someone asks me this question hahaha. Death, Opeth, Edge of Sanity, Enslaved, Devin Townsend, Mare Cognitum, Spectral Lore, Panopticon, Horrendous, Brian Eno, Atrium Carceri, Alphaxone, and many, many, many more!


3. It feels like you have synthesized the heavy side of the band and your atmospheric tendencies to a greater and unique degree. It sounds like you worked very hard on this release perfecting the expression you wanted. What was the biggest challenge? Your guitar sounds a lot bigger and fuller, in a way. I also love the tension in this release. “The Creature” really gives you a feeling of apprehension and suspense!!

– Thank you so much! I guess this blend of atmosphere and heaviness is still a bit of a challenge to me. It is my ultimate goal that I think only a few bands and artists have achieved. A perfect synthesis of heavy and atmospheric. It’s such a problem for me because I love Death, but I also love Brian Eno!

Striving for a perfect balance between these 2 styles is a struggle because it is always a question of give and take. You want to add more reverb to the guitars because it will give the record a much-needed ambience. However, doing that will take away from the guitar’s definition and you will lose the intricacies of the many riffs and solos on the album. It gets even more difficult with drums as it is very easy to screw up (admittedly mixing drums is something I suck at). With drums, it is the same issue with guitars except for this time you are dealing with a dozen moving parts. The cymbals sound completely different to the snare and the kick sounds completely different to the hi-hats. It’s a really tough balancing act! Sometimes I wish I could just press a button and the album would sound exactly like how I intended it in my head. But hey, I am still learning and have a long way to go. Let’s see where the next record takes me.

One other thing that I thought I had initially sorted out ended up coming back to bite me in the ass later. I had a huge issue with the low end of this album. Generally turning up the reverb and delay on a mix will give you a large amount of unnecessary low end. While I was mixing and mastering this thing, I felt I had reached a point where the low end sounded fine to me. However, my dear comrade Ayloss of the incredible Spectral Lore pointed out that the low end still needed some compressing, which I agree with it. Listening to it now, it’s completely out of control. Anyways enough ranting about my fuck ups, hope all of you reading this did not have your ears blown out by the album haha!


4. TW: Transphobia. When so many people in hard rock and metal and punk have been red-pilled massive letdowns lately, misgendering non-binary people in boomer-ass ways that sound like someone from 90s episodes of The Sopranos talking, what makes you risk it all putting your neck out there for the full trans community or in donations to SEED Foundation Malaysia? Itis not a safe time for anyone queer or their allies.


-My answer here is going to be relatively simple. I have always wanted my music or any music project that I am a part of to be something more than just music. Issues of marginalized groups and identities have always been important to me, the album itself is about that and I want to affect change in any way that I can. Music is such an important tool; it would be a complete waste if it were not used to speak up or fight for something as important as these issues. Besides, as mentioned we have plenty of shitty bands out there. I and many others are here to take Metal back from them.

I am also a huge fan of the SEED Foundation. I have been following them for some time and have always loved the work they do, (especially in a country like Malaysia) NGOs like SEED are important in a country that is way too hostile to the trans community. The decision was simple for me. I just want to help out in any way that I can.


5. “Fear and Lead” is many people’s favourite that I have shown your work. I love the Death-esque thrashy parts and the technical riffing that almost sounds like it could be in a video game, but there is also more to the song. What inspired this one? Did you know you had to thematically pick up the energy and promote some adrenalizing panic at this point in the narrative?

-Yes! Death is a huge influence on me, and I think it mainly came out in the solos of this song. I would also say I was listening to a lot of 90s-era death metal during the writing of this song. I think ‘Erosion of Sanity’ era Gorguts had a lot of say in how this song turned out too if you ask me.

As for themes, I would not say that I had to pick up the pace to serve the narrative. In reality, it was the other way around. The speed and the adrenaline of the song ended up influencing the narrative. Much of the narrative was conceived after all the music was completed. As for whether I intentionally picked up the energy during the writing of the music? It’s tough to say. Most of the music was written in isolation, and the songs had nothing to do with each other. Once the songs were all completed, that is when I realised that if I put them in a certain order, I had a pretty cool little album in my hands… or well computer… you know what I mean.


6. How do you feel about Pantera’s “reunion” without consistently on-stage discussing harm from the past like why the Confederate Flag was wrong or Phil’s drunken white power bullshit? I know maybe Scott Ian or others are convinced he didn’t mean it, but many also feel he never did enough harm reduction and was defensive about it since.

-Pantera was and is a racist band. This is coming from someone who was a fan of them when he was a teenager (must make it clear that I had no idea what the confederate flag was as a 14-year-old teenager living in Malaysia). After 2016 and the Dimebash incident, I decided to do some research (something Pantera fans seem to be incapable of doing) and I discovered that Pantera and Phil Anselmo’s entire careers have been filled with statements of racism. The Confederate flag that most people see on Dimebag’s guitar, was just the surface of their racism.

I have no time for Pantera and their jock red-neck fans these days, I am more disappointed in the other bands that are touring with them, Metallica being one of them. I have taken to not paying attention to their current tour, however, news of some of their shows being cancelled in Germany and Austria did make me and a few friends cheer. I don’t think Phil will ever do something educational on racism. I think he has way too much to lose from his red-neck, right-wing, white supremacist fans. Although, I am more than willing to be proven wrong. Until then though, fuck Pantera.


7. What are your next goals for the project? It seems like you have been using your time wisely between releases and so I am wondering how you are planning ahead?

-I am not sure what to do. This record has gotten such praise that I cannot help but feel massive pressure for the next release. I need to get out of that so right now, I am just taking my time. Slowly writing music and just having fun. I might release a few more ambient things sometime this year, but we will have to see. All I know is I will not be rushing the next release haha.

To answer your question, no I do not have a plan. Or well, I guess the plan is to just keep writing and have fun doing it!


8. Do you think there is more respect for one-person metal projects these days or is it still considered not a “real band” by people? I think a release is just as real as a band of several people playing shows. Art is alive in different forms.

-Weirdly enough, the question I get the most for Iravu is whether or not Iravu will ever play live. I still see some people referring to Iravu as having a drummer or a bassist. I am not sure what their reactions will be if I told them that it’s all just me.

End of the day, however, I do not think people care. People just want to listen to great music.


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