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Track By Tracks: From the Vastland - The Haft Khan (2020)

Meaning - “The Haft Khan” - The Seven Labors of Rustam (the hero)

It’s based on one of the stories from the great epic masterpiece poem, the most notable piece of Persian literature, "Shahnameh" (The Book of Kings - One of the world's longest epic poems) which was written by the Persian poet, the world known "Ferdowsi" between c. 977 and 1010 CE.

“The Haft Khan” story, narrates seven difficult challenges of a national hero, the greatest of the Persian heroes, called Rostam on his journey by his legendary horse “Rakhsh” towards the land of Mazandaran, to save and free the king "Kei Kavus" and his army who have been captured and blinded by spell of the White Demon.

In the story, Rostam passes seven stages and fights against natural difficulties, fierce animals, demons and at the end, the white demon. finally, by dropping the blood of the white demon's heart in the eyes of Kei Kavus (the king) and his army, sight returns to their eyes again. The story of "the haft khan” is full of metaphors and symbols and represents some of the most important characters, legends and myths in the ancient Persian mythology and history.

Personal Feeling - For several different reasons this album is very special to me, among all my other works. Not only because it’s a concept album but the original story has a very special place itself in the Persian literature, very symbolic story, I would say and to be honest personally this was also a very symbolic release for me. You know, 2020 is the 10 th anniversary of the band, a decade of unexpected events in my life with From The Vastland which drastically changed my life, in a good way. Even the number 7 which is originally within the name of the story and the album (Haft=Seven) plays a very symbolic role in our culture and mythology (and as far as I know a lot of other cultures around the world). And it was also my seventh release with the band. And musically I would also say this is my most mature album I have ever made and I’m really super satisfied with the result. So far the feedback from the fans, my musician friends and the whole community, magazines and reviewers was so great. This is an album that I’m really proud of, thanks to my band mates who did a great job (as always) on their lines. You know, to me it all got together as best as possible.


Song: Song review and personal felling

01 - To me, the first song of an album is really important, that’s what the listener is going to hear first and it should represent the whole album in a right way. So, in The Haft Khan I wanted it to start with an intro that builds up the atmosphere before it hits the main riff and goes to the song with full force. I would also add, when it comes to the feeling, the first song is like when you open a book to read and while you are getting prepared slowly to get the know the story, it takes you, drown you without you being noticed and all of a sudden you already part of the story. So, a stormy blast beat and then we have the break when at the same time in the lyrics it prepares you for what’s going to happen next until the end of the song...And at last the song ends with that outro representing the dark atmosphere by the end of the night in the story which goes directly to the second song when it reaches the peak of that piece. 

02 - In the second song the hero is already on the way and I wanted the song also starts the way it brings you that feeling. So, it continues steady until the point when he is lost and facing the death, that’s when the song gets calm and goes to the clean spiritual kind of riffs as he is praying to the gods but as soon as he finds hope to survive we hear that something is happening and it’s like you follow him step by step both in the lyrics and on the song until he is back on track and ready to continue his journey, that’s when you hear the first riff of the songs again and get the feeling that the things are back.

03 - The third song is probably the most vicious song of the album or at least that’s how I feel about it. When you hear the first riff and the way the song starts you immediately know something is going to happen. It gets wrathful very quick and then everything happens really fast with a very short bridge/break before the vocals come in. So, you can feel the chaos that’s going on in the story until the main break when the hero and the dragon are facing each other and getting ready for the battle. That riff is basically explaining the situation, getting you ready for the battle itself when the blast beat comes in and leads you step by step to the end of the song.

04 - Typical/standard From The Vastland style song, I would say! Well, but still in the style of The Haft Khan album where it starts with the intro and build up the atmosphere before the stormy start of the song which continues full force until the clean part right in the middle of the song and that’s when you hear one of those very oriental melodies in the whole album, however, it’s just short and soon the track is back with drums and distorted guitars. The last part of the song also has another oriental melody that plays as kind of solo right before the ending part riffs and then it goes to the atmospheric outro.

05 - Most emotional song of the album to me. Even though it’s so old school black metal but the whole theme of the song has a sombre atmosphere. This turns into a dim atmosphere in middle of the song right after the break when you hear the thunders and rain under the new riff and it prepares you step by step, slowly for the very melodic part when you feel like everything is spinning in your head. That ends by a very oriental melody on top of the riff for a short time before it fades you out into the sombre darkness with its very last riff.

06 - Tyrant, brutal and stormy! That’s how the sixth song starts. It takes you before you find out what’s going on. It drowns you first, in the first break, right before it takes you again and tells you the story. But then it will face you with the demons at the heart of the song. Well, I would also say the song ends when everything has already burned and turned into ashes and you just sit and review the dead scenery. One of the most intense song of the album.

07 - The song number seven is just dark, mysterious and unknown, even to me myself. You know, even the way it’s represented. It’s enigmatic. The intro when you hear the story through the acoustic and distorted guitars is just the preparation for the hell when the wave of the all instruments push you back for a second and then take you with themselves to the world of the final battle between the hero and the white demon. Well, afterwards it makes you a bit calm to breath for a few seconds closer to the end of the song when you hear the clean guitar and the melody on top but it doesn’t take long when you find yourself in middle of guitar screams and the pounding drums before the very last piece of the song with the sudden finish when it drops you off!

The stories of each stage (which you hear on the songs one by one) is as follow in original the book:

The First Stage: "The lion"

Rostam the hero and his legendary horse "Rakhsh" which gallops two days travel in one day just have started their journey to free the King Kavus and his army that are blinded and captured by the white demon in the land of Mazandaran. on their way when they rest, Rostam goes to sleep among the reeds. In a short time, a fierce lion appears and attacks his horse Rakhsh with violence but Rakhsh very speedily with his teeth and heels tries to kill the lion. Rostam, awakened by the confusion, and seeing the lion is already dead and the wounded Rakhsh is right by him, he heals his favorite companion. Then, he remounts Rakhsh, and proceeds on his journey towards Mazanderan. 

The Second Stage: "The desert"

Rakhsh and Rostam get lost in a dry desert and nearly die of thirst. Both horse and rider become oppressed with thirst and therefore, Rostam prays to the gods. Under the influence of a raging sun, Rostam sees a sheep pass by, Rising up and grasping his sword in his hand, he follows the animal, and comes to a fountain of water. They drink the water, get rest and prepare themselves to continue the journey towards the land of the white demon, Mazandaran. 

The Third Stage: "The Dragon"

While Rostam sleeps on his way towards Mazandaran, at midnight a monstrous dragon serpent appears from the forest. Rakhsh strikes his hoof on the ground, the dragon vanishes and Rostam awakes but sees nothing. Rostam complains to Rakhsh for waking him up. This happens twice more. each time Rostam is saved by his horse but each time Rostam reprimands him. Finally Rostam sees the dragon. They fight, Rakhsh bites the dragon and Rostam slays the dragon, cuts off the head. 

The Fourth Stage: "The witch"

Rostam and Rakhs find a banquet of food spread out under some trees on their way. So, he sits down to eat. A beautiful woman appears welcoming them. Rostam places in her hands a cup of wine in the name of the gods to prais. But she changes shape into a hideous terrifying hag. Rostam catches her, draws his sword, at once cut her body in two.

The Fifth Stage: "Rostam capturing The Ulad"

While Rostam sleeps, Rakhsh wanders into a field. The farmer of the field is furious. Rostam fights the farmer and pulls off his ears. The farmer gets the hero of the area, Ulad, to support him. Ulad arrives with a whole army. Rostam destroys the whole army single- handedly. He then asks Ulad if he knows where King Kavus is being held and offers to be his guide and instead hwe will not kill him. 

The Sixth Stage: "Battle With Demon King Arzhang"

Rostam and his horse, Rakhsh, come upon a demon encampment in the mountain of Sperouz. He kills the demon king Arzhang by cutting his head off. All his demons are scared and ran away. He tie Ulad to a tree tom make sure he will not betray him and then with Rakhsh he continues on the long journey to King Kavus. 

The Seventh stage: "Killing The White Demon"

King Kavus and his army are blinded and captured by the white demon in Mazandaran. Rostam enters the area, he waits until dawn comes. He overthrows and kills Div-e-Sepid, the White Demon. The blood of the White Demon's heart restores Kai Kavus and his army's sight.

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