The journey of a heavy metal outfit in Pakistan is almost a tragic cliché by now. Time forces some members to quit music altogether and settle into day jobs, turning them into martyrs for their cult-like fandom. Those who manage to hang in there long enough eventually embrace the mainstream either as session players or if they are lucky, producers.
In both cases, most metal heads eventually give in to economic pressure and join what is pretty much the anti-thesis of the subculture. To the casual observer then, the argument that ‘metal is just a phase’ would still hold true.
But perhaps this sort of generalization is part of the problem when it comes a genre as niche as metal. Since counterculture emerges as a societal anomaly, overlooking the outliers within it would be intellectually dishonest.
This brings us to ‘Takatak’ a heavy metal outfit from Lahore that has been active for the past ten years. “With the exception of Dusk, I don’t think there is any metal band that has been actively doing music as long we’ve been” said, Zain Peerzada, the band’s lead guitarist. “Metal bands that we started out with in Lahore’s underground scene have either disbanded or are on indefinite hiatus.”
Zain still gives credit to both his contemporaries and veterans. “It would’ve been great if they were still doing it” he said as he recalled the time when Ahmed Waqar, guitarist of Lahore’s renowned progressive metal band Odyssey, produced Takatak’s early releases for free.
Formed in 2009, Takatak initially consisted of Zain and his school friends Yusuf Ramay on drums and Misbahuddin on guitars. Soon afterwards, Misbah went on to form Keeray Makoray, another mainstay on Lahore’s underground scene.
Since then Takatak has witnessed several line-up changes, albeit from the same fraternity. The current iteration comprises Zain and Luke Azariah on guitars, Yusuf and Daud Ramay on drums, Altamash Server and Ali Suhail on vocals and Isa Najam on bass.
The band’s decade long quest to keep metal intact wasn’t easy. “If you’re a musician in Pakistan and you’re not playing commercial music, you do end up getting a job. Something similar also happened with us,” Zain shared. Since getting out of college all the members did end up venturing onto side gigs. Most members have been active session players for a variety of acts such as Ali Noor and Umair Jaswal. “We’ve been very fortunate that the acts we’ve worked with have generally liked our style. What separated us from our peers was our commitment to perfecting a live sound. I think this has paid off. It might not be in a Takatak capacity but that's understandable since the music not palatable to the general public” Zain said.
There did come a time when Takatak was on the verge of calling it quits. Zain credits two things that changed everyone’s mind for the better. One was getting called to headline Lahore Music Meet. ”When I got the call my first response was ‘are you sure you want to ruin your show’. The catch was that we had to play new songs.” The other was Keshav Dhar from Skyharbor, an internationally acclaimed progressive metal band, mixing Takatak’s 2018 release Masterbeat.
For the last two years the band has been working on its full length album which is set to release in 2020. Unlike the past, the band has adapted its approach to changing circumstances. “Previously we would spend hours together to write songs. This time, since everyone was not always physically accessible, we wrote the entire album remotely on Whatsapp,” the guitarist chuckled. “Me and Luke produced the songs in such a way that as a whole we still needed to learn the songs”.
The album which was recorded at Aleph studios in Karachi will be mixed by Dhar and mastered by Ermin Hamidovic who has previously produced for progressive and djent acts such as Pilini and Periphery. Unlike previous releases, the record will feature vocals. Next month the band will be dropping a music video which, according to Zain, will feature ‘the heaviest song’ from their catalog.
Have something to add? Share in the comments below