Talking In The Flesh With The Egyptian Artist
Egypt-born, New York City-based visual artist Nader Sadek doesn’t consider himself a musician, but he did just put out a death metal album about the complex (and brutal!) relationship that human beings have with petroleum products.
In the past, he’s worked with some of the most respected artists in the world of extreme and experimental metal, creating stage installations and masks for the likes of Norway’s Mayhem and the US’s Sunn O))). A long-time fan of such artists, Sadek’s own artwork is often metal-inspired. In retrospect, it seems inevitable that he would eventually release the album/multimedia gesamkunstwerk that is In the Flesh.
For sure, it is a metal album — a majestic one, in fact, featuring a dream team of extreme metal collaborators including members and former members of Mayhem (Rune Eriksen), Morbid Angel (Steve Tucker), and Cryptopsy (Flo Mounier). But there’s also a lot of visual stuff going on. Sadek plans to make a video for every song on the album and eventually bring its strange mineral-haunted tale to the stage.
The engine-noise music and the videos for “Nigredo in Necromance,” with its flesh guitar, and “Sulffer,” with its melting skull mask, grabbed our attention right away. These things also earned Sadek massive support from a legion of metal heads with good taste in art. They voted for him in our Artist of the Week competition, bringing him victory in an unstoppable landslide. That means we got to ask him everything we were wondering about — everything from how he makes his props to what is going on in those videos.
Read on for Sadek’s thoughts on art, heavy metal, and whether or not we’re all doomed.
Why a death metal album about oil dependency?
My work is always somehow related or derived from the petroleum theme, when it was time to create another project I was basically at the crossroads of my performances with metal musicians as well as my sculpture work. They were never really separate things for me, my work is always my work, but I really wanted to take the musical side to the forefront.
Basically, I’ve always felt that the rhythm guitars in metal music resemble the harsh, fast sounds that a car engine produces, except that metal music is organized, controlled, and melodic. All the clanking sounds and the gears changing, this overwhelming barrage of sounds — all these are things you can find a resemblance to in metal music. So even making the album was, in this respect, very easy because nothing was artificial, meaning we didn’t to have to sample any sounds and inject them into the main songs.
How does the sound of the album relate to the story you wanted to tell?
The sound of the album is very varied. Each song has its own story, its own “take” on the issue, if you will. There’s an abstract narrative which follows a character in his observation of the events that lead to the tragedies which are caused by petroleum use. In “Awakening,” as the title suggests, the narrator/observer is awakened from his deep slumber. The sound of his lamentations congeals with the sounds of oil refineries, an introduction to his observations. “Petrophilia” the first song, continues on with an engine kick or an engine start before it goes full blast; this song takes into the immediate worship societies have developed rapidly for fossil fuels.
Each song/track is also represented on the cover art work. There are nine “plates” on the album, each corresponding to a song. The cover with the castle-like shape represents a sanctuary that’s referencing the shape of a shell as a fossil — so this is the church of petroleum so to speak, made of the origin of it. The following track is “Of this Flesh (Novus Deus)”. This track introduces the New God. This new deity proclaims its status as the most powerful god of all — again you hear bombarding thrashing of the drums as an unstoppable engine. At some point, there’s a rhythm that sounds exactly like the gears of car chasing before it hits the crescendo. In the chorus of this the song, we used an opera singer in an attempt to recreate an evil (and atmospheric) hymn to this God.
We then go into “Exhaust Capacitor.” This track’s functionality is to relieve the pressure — the two songs that were played have such ferocious intensity that to digest them, there needs to be some pause, equally. Our narrator is intoxicated by his observations and buys himself some time before going into the next auditory image of this horror which brings us to “Soulless,” arguably the most intense song on the album. this track lyrically tackles what people are willing to do for their belief in (that) god — basically killing and maiming, starting wars, quenching the lust for power. The song continues into another break, “Rusted Skin” another relief of pressure before “Mechanic Idolatry” which gets more specific about the idolization of petroleum. The next track, “Sulffer,” revolves around the element Sulphur as it is extracted from petroleum and used for preservatives (food and medicine). This song suggests that someday, in order to reverse ourselves, we must become one with sulphur.
And, finally, “Nigredo in Necromance” is about a man who loses his lover. Unable to cope with her loss, he buries himself beside her. The bacteria which activates decomposition transfers onto his skin and they both decay together, reuniting eventually as petroleum.
You released two videos for songs from the album so far. Are you making more individual videos?
Yes, that’s the plan — a video for each song. Right now, I’m trying to concentrate on doing a few live shows and then come back and do a video for “Mechanic Idolatry” and “Awakening.”
What other visual or physical dimensions will there be for this project?
There’s the live performance, which I’m extremely excited about — it will contain as much effort as the videos. In fact, it will have pieces/sculptures form the videos along with its own character. The other aspect is sculptures which encapsulate the CD as limited edition pieces — the first one is the “Sulphurus Edition” with a glowing crystal emerging from a petroleum base.