Formed in 2011 Messianic Era (ME) is a progressive metal band from Dhaka with Navid Ehsan on vocal and guitar, Tahmid Rahman on guitar, Rafeed Redwan Roktim on bass guitar and Sk Rafayyat Jim on drums. Though the band has been in the scene for a decade now, their self-titled debut album was released last month. With massive response from the audience, the band sold out almost all the hardcopies (CD) of the album at this age of streaming. Many referred the band’s modern prog approach to album sound designing and mixing as the beginning of the Messianic Era in Bangladeshi music scene.
In this interview get to know the prog messiahs, their thoughts, plans and more !
- How’s quarantine going for the band, is it productive?
Messianic Era: Well, not really. In fact, quarantine has reduced the amount of practice for us together which we usually do on a weekly basis. Apart from that, practicing at home is what we can do for now.
- Let’s look back to the formation of Messianic Era. How did you people meet and how did it all happen?
Messianic Era: It all started with Navid Ehsan and Tahmid Rahman Jim who are basically childhood buddies. The home jam sessions back in 2010 and 2011 ultimately gave us the idea of forming a band. In the course of time there were many changes in the lineup, i.e. the drummer and the bassist. We finally formed a permanent lineup in 2016 with Rafeed Redwan Roktim joining in 2015 and Sk Rafayyat Jim in 2016. We had a keyboardist, Tawhid Islam Khan, for a few years, though unfortunately he left few months back.
- Who came up with the title Messianic Era and how? What’s the philosophy behind it?
Messianic Era: Navid was the one who was always making the names of the band. At first, we thought of calling it Messiah, but there was already a band with that name. So, we looked for something somewhat related to it and voila! We landed upon the name Messianic Era. The idea is basically this- a lot of people associate rock and metal music with violence, probably due to the names and lyrics of the bands; we wanted to approach it in a positive manner, ie. a peaceful title.
- Messianic Era’s self-titled debut album was released last month. It’s a decade ME has been in the scene, how was the response from fans and friends after the release?
Messianic Era: We must say that the response we got so far is kind of unexpected. We were very much pessimistic about our album in the sense that this genre and style might not be welcomed or liked by a lot of people. On the contrary all we got were positive reviews in all perspective. The most astonishing thing is, in this digital era we have sold almost the whole stock of CDs that we made available where most people don’t even have CD players anymore.
- People these days hardly collect CDs, what made you guys launch album CDs along with the digital copy?
Messianic Era: CDs are very special to us. The feeling of owning a digital copy of the album and owing a hardcopy/CD of an album are poles apart. Though people no longer have CD player at home or in cars, CDs have become something like more of a souvenir or you may say a collectible. It’s like something you own physically and show with pride. When launching CDs this was our sole intention, knowing the fact that people no longer use CDs to play songs.
- Self-titled debut album Messianic Era was supposed to be released the by the end of 2017 but eventually it’s been released this year. Did you bring major changes to any tracks prepared earlier and what was the reason to keep the audience awaited?
Messianic Era: We were taking as much time as possible to create something nearly flawless, something that when we listen, we like it. After all we are our first audience. According to us if something sounds good to us it is good to go. And about releasing in 2017, well, we never imagined that creating an album could be such a huge task. Some of the tracks that were previously composed like Rupantor and Mukhosh had gone through some major changes. These happened with our changes in musical understanding.
- How would you guys define that feeling to finally have the debut album released?
Messianic Era: To be very frank we didn’t have any significant to show to our audience before we released our album. So, after releasing the album, it did bring a huge change. More and more audiences are getting familiar with our music every day. It feels really good to be able to finally share with everyone the contents we have kept with us this long. The feeling is unparallel to anything !
- Tell us about the album.
Messianic Era: The album is comprised of nine tracks which include an intro called The Arrival and an outro called Eternal Stream- are instrumental. The rest seven tracks are all lyrical. Two of them are English tracks- Illusion and Barzakh and the rest five are Bengali tracks- Mukhosh, Osshikar, Joyotshob, Rupantor and Nirjonota.
Lyrics for four tracks were written by Samin Yasar, one by Akhlaqur Rahman, another by Mathur Mannan and the track Mukhosh by Navid and Roktim. All the tracks were recorded at home except for the drums and vocal parts, though we did record the vocals ourselves mostly. The drums were recorded some in Noisemine and Funknoodles studios. The magic of mixing and mastering was done by Syed Arif Al Hoque at Studio Mars. The album artwork was done by Mir Hisham from Mir Hisham’s Art of Heavy Metal. The motions were basically done by Navid himself.
- Where from can people collect Messianic Era album?
Messianic Era: Currently only a very few copies are available. Listers can either get it directly from us through our page or from Heavy Metal T-shirt outlets.
- What led Messianic Era to create a theme based or conceptual album?
Messianic Era: The album is not entirely conceptual. Two of the tracks, Rupantor and Joyotshob are a bit different (lyrically) from the rest. The rest of the tracks have a common concept which revolves around spirituality, life-death and the whole circle of life. We didn’t plan on creating a semi-conceptual album. It just happened with the flow.
- If asked to select the band’s favourite track from this album which one would be chosen?
Messianic Era: We four have our personal favorites and if we have to select a common track that we like and would talk about, that would be Rupantor. It’s lyrically a very straight forward track. It’s about a person who is a werewolf and the feeling he goes through as he turns into one. We composed it ay back in 2013 and we even recorded it back then though that version and the current version has a lot of difference in terms of composition. Back then Akhlaqur Rahman was our drummer and he was the one who came up with the lyrics. And thus, the song was created.
- Tracks from the album that perfectly defines the band’s signature sound.
Messianic Era: That would be Osshikar and Barzakh! These two tracks were the last ones to be composed. These are the ones that clearly defines who we are.
- What is the Messianic Era’s song making process?
Messianic Era: It all starts with the guitars first which is then followed by other instruments. And in the process a vocal tune is created. After all of these are done, we work on the lyrics, finally.
- What challenges did you guys face while creating this album?
Messianic Era: The biggest challenge we faced creating this album was Money and Time and of course Covid-19. Apart from that we don’t consider any other things as challenge for the creation of the album.
- What new things were you guys able to learn through the process?
Messianic Era: When creating a song, we take influence from a lot of international artists of the progressive rock/metal genre. Going through their compositions and implementing their way of approaching music is what that has helped us in the process to learn new things.
- Now that the album is finally out, what’s the band’s expectation with it?
Messianic Era: We don’t expect to grow over night. After all, all good things take time to grow. What matters here is holding on to our current audience and growing it steadily. If it wasn’t for the Covid situation we would have had a launching concert which would have been a big push; after all, music is not just about recording but also playing it live. Let’s hope best for the situation to get better and hopefully soon we can start doing live concerts.
- After composing a song how do you know that the members are satisfied with it?
Messianic Era: It has no formula to it to be honest. We put bits and pieces together and fit them whichever way those sound best and about the completion of the track, it totally depends on the mood. What we mean to say is, if it feels like that the track demands to be long, it has to be long. We don’t determine the duration of the track from the start. We just keep going with the flow until finally we met that particular point in creating a track where we can say, yes, this is where we stop. As long as something sounds good to our ears, it is good to go.
- Do you have plans for music videos on some of the tracks? Which tracks and when?
Messianic Era: We do have a plan on making a music video very soon and this would be most probably for the track Nirjonota. We do also have a plan on making a music video for Rupantor though we are not sure when.
- What do you guys think are the major ways or platforms to promote bands and their works these days?
Messianic Era: YouTube and Spotify are the biggest/major platforms that any artist can go for to promote their album. There are numerous other streaming platforms too. You can get all of it in a package when you go for it through a distributor, for example Distrokid. And there’s also GAAN app which is solely for promoting the musicians of Bangladesh.
- Tell us about Messianic Era’s musical influences.
Messianic Era: Bands/Musicians that influences us would include Dream Theatre, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Symphony X, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Alter Bridge, Metallica, Megadeth, Motorhead and Iron Maiden and many more.
- What else the band members do, besides music?
Messianic Era: Tahmid has a job in Apex, Roktim works in Daraz, Navid has his Video Shinobi which is where he makes all animations stuffs and Rafayyat Jim is almost done with his undergrad from IUM.
- Interesting facts about Messianic Era members.
Messianic Era: Navid is basically an emotional guy and could get hyper anytime. Tahmid is more like “Let my fingers do the talking”. Roktim is very much out spoken and a lot of time when Navid struggles with what to say, Roktim comes to the rescue. Rafayyat Jim, the youngest member of the band, is a very chilled guy. He is basically a party animal (LOL).
- What’s the story behind Navid Ehsan’s stage name EB?
Messianic Era: Navid has that stage name which was given by Roktim himself. Back then, in 2013, when Navid and Roktim were in university, they were in a particular club where they faced some problem with the Executive Body which in short stands for EB. Later Roktim started calling Navid as EB which stands for “Ehsan Bhai”, which was actually done out of fun but in the course of time many people started calling him EB and that’s how the story goes.
- Memorable concerts of the band.
Messianic Era: If we are to talk about our memorable concert that would be our first concert back when we had a different lineup and also another concert in Mogbazar Grand Plaza with our current lineup. There’s also another one that we did in Chittagong back in 2017.
- Tell us about the Messianic Era’s hardest time.
Messianic Era: The band’s hardest time was back when we were struggling with a proper lineup. We were going through a lot of changes back then. At a certain point we even stopped our practice session as we didn’t have our drummer and bassist.
- Tell us about the dreams Messianic Era holds.
Messianic Era: The first dream was to make an album which is already fulfilled. The second would be to come up with more albums and originals. Third would be to do a concert in Joy Bangla someday, hopefully. And then there’s fourth which is to go international someday though it feels only like a dream. But then again there’s no harm in dreaming. After all dreaming is the first phase to bring something to reality.
- What are your thoughts on earning through music in Bangladesh?
Messianic Era: Earning through music over all is very tough when your target audience is very niche. If for example, we were pop artists (with no disrespect to any genre), earning through music would have been so much easier as such genre caters to the mass.
- Apart from live concerts what alternatives are there for the bands in our country to gather revenue from?
Messianic Era: There’s YouTube and Spotify and other streaming platforms from which revenues can be generated but the amount is very minimal unless or until you have reached a large audience.
- Does a band get enough revenue from merchandise here?
Messianic Era: Well, whatever they get is better than not getting anything at all. At least the merchandising partners are helping musicians in the process though the amount might be small.
- What responsibilities do you guys think the audience have, to support the bands they like?
Messianic Era: Stream as much as possible from the streaming platforms as these are revenue sources for artists. Of course, buy tickets for concerts instead of looking for free pass. And of course, buy their authentic merchandise. All in all, stop piracy !
- If there were a ministry for metal music in our country and Messianic Era in charge, what would you guys do for the scene?
Messianic Era: Make metal great again! (in the tone of Donald Trump). It is quite sad that in the last few years there haven’t been any full-length album release from any metal band of our country, though there were some EPs.
- Why do you think many band members find it hard to stick together for years?
Messianic Era: It is mostly because of their priorities. If music did pay properly today, many musicians wouldn’t have left music. There could be other reasons too but this one is a major one. Money is definitely necessary to survive and music alone does not fulfill an empty tummy.
- What changes might occur to the scene after the pandemic?
Messianic Era: There is already a huge impact on musicians who play live. Playing live is the ultimate source of earning for musicians and cutting down on that source has an adverse effect on all musicians both home and abroad. A lot of international musicians started focusing on YouTube as a source of earning.
- A decade ago-now, what major differences do you guys notice in the scene?
Messianic Era: Well, back then there wasn’t any shortage of gigs. Shows were happening, sometimes twice, every week. That was the last time we think people had CD/DVD players and actually bought CDs. The thing is “change” is the only constant. Changes are supposed to happen. People these are more into streaming music from streaming platform, and we all should cope with that. And taking into consideration the current covid crisis, we think musicians/artists should start doing online live shows. After all a musician/artist got to eat.
- It’s a decade Messianic Era’s been in the scene, what would you guys suggest new prog metal bands?
Messianic Era: Prog scene is still unexplored in our country. We can name two bands who have brought a full-length proper prog album to the audience. They are Artcell and Eclipse. Now Eclipes has disbanded and we don’t know when we will ever get the next album from Artcell. We want more and more musicians to embrace the prog genre no matter how hard it gets. It is still a very unexplored territory in our country we highly encourage more prog bands to come out and make prog rock/metal a huge part in our music scene.