As a huge Secret Chiefs 3 fan I was very interested in Hashshashin’s second album Badakhshan. After all the Sydney based trio cited Secret Chiefs 3 as an influence along with Om, another personal favorite of mine. Although the musical approach of these Australians is rather similar to that of Ishraqiyun, one of many Secret Chiefs 3 satellite bands, we’re not dealing with copy cats at all.
Like Ishraqiyun Hashshashin uses authentic Middle Eastern instruments and mixes those with Western rock music, but the focus and inspiration is different. Hashshashin consists of Evan McGregor (drums, percussion), Lachlan R. Dale (guitars, bouzouki and many more stringed instruments) and Cameron Macdonald (bass). The album title is named after a province in the far east of Afghanistan. The band celebrates the rich cultural history of this region by using instruments from this area like the Persian setar, the Parmiri setar and the Afghan rabab. A few of the song titles refer to the Badakhshan region as well.
The spine of the music of Hashshashin is still the guitar-drums-bass set up, but it weaves perfectly together with the Middle Eastern elements. Crossing The Panj is one of the many highlights. The song has a beautiful flow and build up. You can imagine crossing the panj river when you listen to this composition. In Death In Langar and Sarhadd the focus is more on the Middle Eastern instruments. Both songs really emphasize the beauty of these instruments and the additional use of the violin works really well too.
In Shrine Of The Wakhan Hashshashin sets a more post rock vibe with the guitar parts and rhythm section changing pace and volume quite regularly. The twelve minute composition The Taklamakan might be the best composition on this album. Mostly because of the beautiful build up, variety of moods and use of instruments.
It’s really fun diving into this record. Finding out about the Badakhshan region and the instruments the band uses. But that wouldn’t be fun if the compositions weren’t good. Luckily Hashshashin knows how to compose and play these instruments well. It’s not easy combining these different musical elements without sounding incoherent, but Badakhshan sounds focused and genuine from start to finish. Be sure to check their music on Bandcamp.