Whenever metal bands in the west think they have it hard, very little thought is spared for their contemporaries in the war-ravaged, poverty-ridden or geographically-isolated nations on planet earth. It's bands from these parts of the world that ultimately deserve far more attention than your next big band who sells thousands of albums a month. When your recording and playing metal music whilst bombs around you go off and your effectively playing with your life in the balance, reality kicks in and the reality is the Syrian Metal scene has far more to lose than the vast majority of westernised metalheads can ever lose. This is why Absentation relocated to Germany, here guitarist / vocalist Salah Alghalayeeni speaks to GMA about the scene back home, the challenges that came with playing metal, the forthcoming album and the fact that having no festival in the MENA region has left some scenes without a live outlet.... this is his story.
"Hopefully someday we will gather at a big metal event in Damascus Castle, that would be f***ing awesome"
For those who have not heard of Absentation could you give us a brief history of the band?
"First of all, greetings to you Rhys and to Global Metal Apocalypse, Absentation is the first official Death Metal band formed in 2003 in Damascus, Syria. The first album was "Death Chapter" released in 2005, then "Mental Battle Resurrection" which was released by ADP records in 2007 (we were interviewed by Terrorizer magazine and got a killer review by Noisecreep), then we were preparing to release an album entitled "Claves Inferni", we released 2 singles but couldn’t complete it for the bad situation we faced in the country. We came back with "Ascending To Desolate" released in February 2018 and are actually mixing the upcoming album "The Intellectual Darkness".
It must be tough for Syrian Metalheads these days let alone bands, how do you ensure you're not caught; have you fled Syria? Any plans to evacuate?
"Well now I am in Germany, but the situation for metalheads in Syria nowadays is very good compared to old days, today nobody gets caught yet still there is no support, record labels, magazines…., etc, which is hell for bands and music careers."
It seems alongside Maysaloon that Absentation are flag-bearers for the Syrian Metal scene, but what about in the early days, when did the Syrian Metal scene first come around?
"Well we had in the 80’s a lot of rock bands and tribute bands to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden etc., and still we have a lot of tribute bands that are doing great. About the early days, we are proud that we were the flag bearers and are still in Death metal alongside Anarchadia (Thrash Metal), Netherion (Death Metal) NuclearDown, (Power Metal) and now Maysaloon joins the troops of flag bearers for them and for all much of success."
Are you worried about touring the USA and Europe because of the politics going on? Do you feel metal music brings the world together regardless of differences?
"I am not worried, because we all are brothers in metal, we all relate to this kind of music and we all trying to keep metal alive, as Chuck Schuldiner said, but of course it affects us a lot with visa granting."
You're currently working on your new album "The Intellectual Darkness", how is that going? Will this be released physically?
"Yes, this album I am proud of and are working hard on, the mixing of the album will be finished soon and thereafter entering the mastering process. Yes of course this will be released worldwide and we are in the negotiation process for now to pick up the best deal to get to the next level; there is a big surprise, I will leave it as a surprise until the release.
The album is talking about an intellectual man, who no longer fits in this fake society; his brain is eaten by them, so he is trying to find the equation (based on strings theory) to make the universes collide so he can join a higher civilization, will he succeed? Or will he turn to a very dark entity to take revenge? We describe here all the darkness he is suffering and sees, and how society manipulated his mind and was responsible in turning an intellectual man to a very dark entity, will he survive? That is what we will see and follow with this album."
For bands in the MENA region it must be hard not having any real metal festivals, so, would you hope that Desert Rock in The UAE revives?
"Yes sure, I hope so, and hope we have in the future big festivals that unites all metal bands worldwide."
Have you had any fans contact you outside of Syria? Any from countries you would have never imagined?
"Yes sure, we have a lot of fans from Germany, Belgium, France, the United States, even in China, India, and we got massive support from Brazil, Argentina… etc., we hope someday we will be known around the globe."
Obviously it's hard for metalheads to go on holiday in Syria at the moment, but, what sights or attractions in Damascus?
"You have old Damascus (Babtouma, Bab Sharqi, Damascus Castle, Qasiuon mountain... etc.,) Damascus is a very pretty city and it has it's magic. Hopefully someday we will gather at a big metal event in Damascus Castle, that would be f***ing awesome."
What plans do you have for 2019 and are there any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out?
"I am concentrating now on the upcoming album, as I am producing it, the release will be in early 2019. The plan is to do it as professionally as I can and to get the attention that in Syria we have a lot of talent that needs to be supported, and to be recognized as world class musicians. Also to continue in spreading the plague with our music. I want to thank the fans that believe in Absentation, and believe in our music . Stay tuned for "The Intellectual Darkness". I want to thank you Rhys for the support, I send hope for you and wish Global Metal Apocalypse much success."
Chile on the western side of South America has always had a vibrant metal scene with some notable musicians and bands making their names known far and wide, with bands like Mar de Grises and Criminal ending up with record deals with European labels in Season of Mist and Metal Blade, it's no surprise that the Chilean Metal scene goes on with bolder and greater ambitions. Leading the next wave is Weight Of Emptiness, a Doom / Melodic Death Metal outfit who released their debut album "Anfractuous Moments For Redemption" last year physically by themselves and digitally through the British label Sepulchral Silence. It was then later reissued through the Mexican label Sun Empire Productions. Thus showing their never-ending attempts to explore markets outside Chile.
Drummer Mauricio Basso (also plays in the Melodic Death Metal band Letargo) agreed to talk to GMA about the band's history, their complex sound, touring Mexico and life as a Chilean Metalhead.
"The main obstacle is that there is not much formality and guarantees for musicians in Latin America"
For those who do not know of Weight Of Emptiness, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"Three individuals from Buin (a town near the capital of Chile) plus two friends and musicians from Santiago gave shape to Weight Of Emptiness, all of the members came with experience from being in other bands, we came together to give shape to this new experience."
You've only been going two years and yet released an EP and an album, surely that's a dream start?
"It has been a lot of work and focus, besides that it is not our only activity, but there is always strength for what we want to achieve and everything so far has gone well. It has been a lot of work these last couple of years."
Your debut album "Anfractuous Moments For Redemption" was released last year, what was the reception like?
"It has been quite good from the public and the media in general, we are very grateful for that too. We have played many shows to promote it and the reception has been incredible, even with many interesting proposals going around."
You toured Mexico last year, how hard is it to tour Chile let alone organize a Mexican tour? What difficulties can you face?
"Well, the main obstacle is that there is not much formality and guarantees for musicians in Latin America in terms of contracts and that kind of thing. Everything is based enough on trust and goodwill, especially if you're not very well known, but with great effort they put on a lot of shows and quite a few producers were interested in the band.
In Mexico, there were also previous contacts with friends from a radio program there. It was an incredible experience, lucratively speaking it was not something important, but the experience was magnificent, the people were wonderful and there were very good vibes."
What would you say Weight Of Emptiness brings to the table that other bands have not? What makes you different?
"In truth I think that influences that are not very common together in the same band can be something that distinguishes us, and the other thing is that we care enough about the sound and the effect it has on the perception of the listener."
How did you get into metal music in the first place? Are any of your family members musicians?
"Well since I was little there was a lot of music in the house where I lived, the radio was always on in the morning where there were also radio theatre programs. My uncle's had enough vinyl's and cassettes with plenty of bands from the 70's and 80's era's, and that was what I was trained with. My dad is a drummer too and that's where the drummer comes from as an instrument of worship."
For those visiting Santiago, what sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads?
"There are quite a few shows of national Metal bands playing. Locals like the Oxido Bar are frequented almost every day of the week. I recommend Pablo Neruda's house, that has a very special vibe and is full of beautiful objects. There are also interesting museums and parks, the restaurant El Hoyo and especially outside Santiago there are interesting landscapes."
With 2018 closing up what plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"A lot of work. Another album is waiting, a new process is coming full of interesting things, new people on this trip, presentations outside of Chile, video's, we hope to surprise you with this new stage of Weight Of Emptiness"
Are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"A special greeting to all those people who take the risk of looking for new sounds and forms of expression and take them to extreme metal. Also to all the people who read your media I propose to know our band and join us on this trip. Cheers"
Scarab are arguably the leaders of the Egyptian Metal scene, and whilst they're purveyors of 'True Egyptian Death Metal', the sextet are always exploring new avenues in which to take their music down. Humbled by the past oppression seen across most countries in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region in terms of authorities viewing metal music as the 'devil's music'; watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDXqP49ZNE8, Scarab's origins start back in 2001 under their previous guise 'Hate Suffocation' from which became Scarab in 2006; carried on by three members (Sammy Sayed - vocals, Tarek Amr - guitars and Al-Sharif Marzeban - guitars/backing vocals); the original bassist Bombest left in 2015 and a year after that the original drummer Hatem El Akkad left.
Scarab are on the home run stretch in the completion of their third album "Martyrs of the Storm", Scarab spoke to GMA about the impending album, the current state of the Egyptian Metal scene, Rami Malek in the film 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and what to do when visiting Egypt.