If you thought that Orphaned Land, Arallu and Melechesh was Israel's only metal exports, you'd be highly mistaken. Making a name for themselves is Scardust, their unique take on the progressive metal sound has received global acclaim and is evident in their latest music video "Tantibus II".
The song itself is taken from their new album 'Strangers', which was released on the 30th of October, 2020 via M-Theory Audio. The YouTube video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/C7uOQPjjiqM
Tantibus II continues the story of the song Tantibus (the first ever single and video the band officially released, back in 2015) in which the protagonist is stuck within a Sleep Paralysis and is looking for a way out. In Tantibus II the protagonist becomes addicted to this feeling, describing it as “taming her demon”, disconnecting from reality into her own mind in which she can now feel safe.
Yoav and Noa talk to GMA about the new album, how COVID-19 has impacted the band's plans and what metalheads can do when visiting the city of Tel Aviv.
Arguably, Scardust has emerged as one of the newest exports the Israeli metal scene, has it been a challenging journey for you guys?
"Well, it has been challenging, yeah. But I think that's just the way it goes you know? Trying to maintain a group of different people together with endless tasks over a long period of time is hard. We usually work on high gears so the grind never stops. Recordings, shows, videos, promotion, social media and so on."
Tell us more about the Israeli metal scene, we know about Orphaned Land, Melechesh and Arallu, but what about the underground?
"There are many local bands. There's a vivid death metal scene, if you're into old school stuff check out Kever, Venomous Skeleton, Promiscuity and Psynthesis. There is also Winterhorde who play Black Metal. In the more progressive direction you should check out Tillian and Subterranean Masquerade."
Reflecting on your new album "Strangers", what was the journey like in creating the new release? Talk us through the creation process.
"Firstly, Noa and Orr met to discuss the concept of the album. Through these meetings came up the idea to make a themed album from Noa's idea of estrangement and to build the album as pairs of songs. After that the writing process began, they wrote the lyrics and composed the main melodies and song structures with vocals and piano alone. Then came the orchestration as a full band, choirs and string quartet. When this was about half done we started rehearsals on the new material and gave feedback (for example, there was a whole song that was shelved), changed things a little bit, wrote solos and practised a lot. Almost the same as the way our previous album was made.
The recordings were quite different. Firstly there's the children's choir "Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir"; Noa travelled to England for their recording. Besides that, the pandemic hit us in the middle of the recordings, which meant that parts of the choir had to be recorded separately instead of a full section together. You can see that on our behind the scenes videos for the songs 'Break The Ice' and 'Mist'. Yadin and Yanai recorded their parts at their home studios instead of coming to the recording studio and having a technician help and make the process faster. That was quite a nightmare. But we made it through."
What was it like working with the legendary Jens Bogren? Was this your first time working with him or have you worked with him before?
"In addition to being legendary, Jens is a friend. I first contacted him in 2015, to master our first ever release, the EP “Shadow”, and then again in 2017 for our album “Sand Of Time”. In 2018 I worked closely with him, on writing and producing the choir parts (performed by my own choir Hellscore), and some female solo and backing parts, for Amorphis’s album “Queen Of Time”. Apart from that we both also worked on the Orphaned Land album “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” that year. It was only natural to work with him again on “Strangers”."
Check out their music video for 'Tantibus II' below:-
Noa, I think we can agree sexism is still prevalent in the global metal scene, but what is it like in Israel? If you have been subjected to it, how did you cope?
"Israel is the same as the rest of the world, or dare I say - slightly better, but I think that’s just because the scene is very small and most people in it know me personally. Unfortunately I have been subjected to sexism many times, and I’m afraid it’s probably safe to say that no woman in this industry can avoid that. It would usually appear in a form of man-explaining, or other forms of disrespect, or worse than that - objectification and / or harassment.
I know I can’t possibly educate adult people who behave in these ways, so I’m choosing to deal with it by being my strong self, and being confident in who I am, on and off stage. It’s also good to have bandmates who have my back at all times, I know I can trust them with my life :)"
Tell us how Scardust are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic, did Israel have a lockdown? Word is you have had a 2nd lockdown?
"Naturally COVID-19 came with many challenges, to say the least. We had the worst luck. Two productions, that we worked on each for months, cancelled at the last minute because of an unexpected lockdown, twice. We had to rethink how to fund the album, since it was supposed to come from the summer shows. We had to come up with alternative solutions on how to promote the album, without any shows. We had to figure out how to finish the album production during lockdowns and restrictions.
It wasn’t easy, but luckily for us, we are surrounded by some amazing people who devoted themselves to help this album happen. All the people in the choir, the strings quartet, our main sound guy Kossov, our guest Patty, everyone just gave their hearts and souls to make this album happen, even when it felt impossible! Apart from that, we decided to produce as many videos as possible in order to promote the album, and we had some amazing friends and family helping us produce them with an impossible budget and impossible timeframes. We also received generous donations from our fans. Our management, label, and PR people are doing their very best every day."
Under normal circumstances, for metalheads visiting Tel Aviv, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
If you are into metal bars that play all genres from heavy metal to death metal and black metal, then you have got to go to 'The Rebel Bar'. Great atmosphere and Max the owner is the best guy ever. If you want a more rock to metal experience with some nu metal music I'd say that both 'Cheers' are good, 'Cheers Alenby' and 'Cheers Florentin'. For shows you should check the listings at 'Levontin 7', 'Ozen Bar', 'Barbie', 'Reading 3', 'Art Hall TLV' and 'The Zone'.
"And let’s face it, most metalheads are big nerds, so you should check the LVL UP Gaming bar as well. They usually have rock music in their playlists, and the staff are some of the coolest people."
What are your plans for next year (all things considered)? Will we see Scardust perform in the UK?
"I wish I could be the bearer of good news here, but unfortunately it’s still nearly impossible to make any plans at this point. That being said, we had some big plans that were cancelled in 2020, and we surely hope to be able to “pick them where we left off” in 2021. We love the UK and can’t wait to go back there, so this one is definitely on our to do list for as soon as it’s possible :)"
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Great! We would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who was involved in creating this album. So many wonderful and talented people, most of them being our friends and families. You know who you all are, and this album couldn’t have happened without you. Apart from that, to our amazing fans that support us and vouch for us. We love you all and can’t wait to see you live again!
And to you, thank you for having us here. Cheers from Israel!
Truth be told, Israel is one of the more active metal scenes in the Middle East (let's not get political here) alongside the likes of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, the Gulf States (Bahrain and Kuwait; Qatar less so) and to a certain extent The Lebanon.
Salem, Orphaned Land, Arallu, Melechesh, they've all graced and kissed the golden sands of this Mediterranean nation, the latest to walk in their footsteps are Nothing Lies Beyond. A Melodic Death Metal force with enough ferocity about them to challenge the already-overloaded Swedish (nay Gothenburg) Metal scene.
So what makes this Israeli outfit an exciting one to watch? Well let's find out.
Guys in recent years the Israeli Metal scene has been flourishing and breaking international ground, what would you put this success to?
"Hey! I think that the reason that the Israeli metal scene is flourishing in the past 3-4 years and actually getting some recognition on the global ground is because there are more interest from the local bands to break into the global scene.
It's not something new of course, every band wants to get as much attention as possible, especially I think if you are living outside of the main music areas like the US and Europe, but the thing that helped us in the past years is mainly in my opinion, the whole digital era. There are more ways to bring your music to other people then there were before, when you needed in the past to send physical CD's or cassettes, now you can send a digital version of the album and of course the whole Facebook and YouTube platform.
So to summarize it, I think that because of the digital platforms, many Israeli bands and also as I said, bands that are not from the US or EU, can now reach new exposure levels.
Would it be right to say that metal music offers Israeli's a means of expressing discontent during dangerous times? E.g. war, attacks, etc. But also can metal music bring the world together regardless of social, political and religious differences?
"Well, you can say that the music that we make gives us a way to get our words out, about politics or any other difficulty that we face in our country.
But I can say the same thing about any kind of music from any part of the world. Music gives us a way to express our feelings and thoughts, no matter what separates us – religious, social status, political differences.. We can hear the music that somebody else created and just enjoy.
I don't know if metal music in specific, or any music for that matter can "bring the world together", but I'm sure that nobody would pay any attention to the artist's nation, religion, etc.. if the actual music is good for the listener.
Your debut album 'Fragile Reality' came out 22nd July, could you give us the background behind it and what your messages are?
"The album's main topic is the struggles that we have to face in our life, I think that "Closed In Chains" and also "Lost" are the songs with the lyrics that pronounce the idea behind "Fragile Reality" in the best way. We tried to present our music in the best way, and I think that the outcome was perfect."
How supportive is Israeli society of metal music, does the Government know about it? How hard is it for metal music to exist in the Middle East?
"I can say only our opinion about the whole Israeli's music preferences so maybe some people will think differently about the whole situation..
In my opinion, metal music is not so "big" in Israel, there were times that the crowd in shows was bigger and there were more local bands, but I think that it depends on the whole environment and "musical era" of the specific time..
Nowadays, people connect more to pop or electronic music because it's catchy, and in our country specific also for Middle Eastern style (not my cup of tea to be honest), so I do think that maybe in the 90's, the connection to metal music and the whole genres that it includes was bigger.
I think that metal music could exist in any place, as long as people keep listen to it. Maybe in some countries in the Middle East it's "forbidden" or something like that, but in Israel we can play as much as we want and whatever we want to play."
Will you be embarking on a European or 'Eurasian' tour to promote the album? Surely the UAE would be an ideal location as well as Israel in the Middle East?
"Actually, we are not planning to go on tour yet, there are some private issues that deny us from touring at this moment, but I do think that in the right time we will start planning our first tour.
We will try to play our music as much as we can and in any place that will be available, not only Europe (that is our main goal for now), but also maybe in Japan and other places in the East that in my opinion has great potential."
Talk to us more about the Israeli Metal scene, what festivals are there, clubs, markets, in fact what is a day like in Israel?
"OK, so first of all, the metal scene in Israel is not so big. There are many people who love metal music over here, but if you compare it to the numbers in Europe... It's really not so many.
Nevertheless, there are local producers that try to bring over here an international band every couple of months, so we do enjoy a variety of metal bands that come to Israel and perform. Regarding festivals and clubs... usually there aren't any festivals over here, not in metal anyway, we do enjoy the shows over here, but usually it consist of a local band as an opening act (as we were for Children of Bodom), and the headliner.
The clubs for metal are also few, as I said before, I know that in the early days there were more clubs that gave metal bands an opportunity, but one after the other they closed the gates and now there isn't as much as used to be.
In terms of the day here in Israel, it's pretty much the same as in any other place (only probably hotter haha)... we do live in a country that has its own problems, if it's local problems or international problems, but I think that every person here in Israel just try to live his life quietly as possible.
Is it true that Israeli's have to do service be it army, navy, air force? Have any of you done this?
Yes it's true. In Israel, when you turn 18 years old (not at the very moment... it could take up to a year until you can get recruited, but usually its at the age of 18), you are joining the army. For men its about 3 years and for women it's 2 years of service, they are changing it a little bit now but it will remain in the area of those numbers.
Usually everybody has to recruit to the army but you know..There are special cases sometimes. Alon and me already finished our service, and the rest of the guys are doing it now or about to start, we can't elaborate on what we did during our service but I can honestly say that this experience toughen us and made us ready for the "real world".
I do know some bands that the army torn apart because the band members couldn’t meet on a regular basis due to their jobs... so it really depends on what you are doing in your own service.
What plans have you got for the rest of the year?
"We are now focusing mainly on the album release and all the things that it includes, if it’s the CD release and after that we are planning a massive release show, so mainly this is what we are focusing on for the next 2-3 months. After the release show we will continue performing and maybe start planning our tour, and beside that we will start in early 2017 to work on the next album's music.
So it's going to be a busy year!"
Finally have you got any greetings you wish to send out?
"Well first of all, we want to thank you guys for the interview, it was a pleasure. We also want to thank all of our followers around the world for the support that they give to us. We hope to see everybody soon on stage and we hope that you will like our album."
Interview by GMA's Israel correspondent Liram Golibroda
Shredhead are a new wave Thrash Metal band from Israel and are considered one of the best new bands there. They started their music career together in 2009 as a Slayer and Megadeth cover band, a couple of years later they released their first album "Human Nature" and could be regarded as one of the best Israeli Thrash albums. In 2012 they went to the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle for Israel and now, just before releasing their new album, GMA spoke with Yotam and Lee about the band, the new album and well… if you want to know more just read the interview:
Ahron Ragoza - Vocals
Lee Levi - Bass
Roee Kahana - Drums
Yotam Nagor - Guitars
Hi guys, what are you working on now days?
We have just finished recording our new album, the album has been mixed and mastered by Tue Madsen who has worked with bands like Aborted, Betzefer, The Haunted and many more. And now we're getting prepared to send him to some record companies. Besides that, after we finished the new album we have already started writing for the next one, and also we're planning some shows in Israel.
How can you summarize everything from the beginning of the band up till the times after recording your second album?
We've been through a lot, starting with new members to setting our own style of music. It was a long process but nowadays we feel like we're strong and stable, and are all friends with those who enjoy playing together with us ever since the first day. We have had some amazing experiences that we couldn't even imagine ourselves achieving, such as the WOA metal battle and recording our second album.
How do you create new songs?
90% of the time, Yotam writes the riffs and tries to make them link together into a song, later on he sends the riffs to the rest of the band so we can work on it during future rehearsals and everyone gives their own style to the song. It can be with Kahana's drumming or Lee's bass playing and writing lyrics that will fit the song in the best way. In other cases we just improvise and hope for the best.
How does the new album different from "Human Nature"?
In every possible way! It the beginning we only searched for music that allowed us to be faster, more brutal and louder. When we started writing "Human Nature" we were just kids that loved playing with no music experience, but now a couple of years later after "Human Nature" we've all had some musical experience that made us better musicians. The new album is more aggressive and more melodic than "Human Nature", and the lyrics are more thoughtful and intimate.
Are you planning any surprises for us, maybe plans to go on tour?
We have a lot of plans, not only for the new album but also about where we'll stand next year as a band. Everything else is a secret. As for tours, we have a lot of plans and we hope everything will go on as planned.
What live show do you remember as the best one you have had up in till now?
Two weeks after we came back from WOA we celebrated one year since the release of "Human Nature". As with every Shredhead show we invited special guests, made some funny covers and even had a boxing fight between Lee and Ahron. In general that was a show that felt more like a huge party and it was great.
What can you reveal about your upcoming album and where can you see Shredhead in 5 years time?
The new album will include 11 aggressive songs and will feature this concept of an instrumental song before the last song just like in "Human Nature". The name of the album is "Death Is Righteous" and it describes what we've been through in our personal lives over the past two and a half years, and our understanding of why does death everyone deserves death.
As for looking five years ahead, we envisage it with a third or fourth album, non-stop tours and hopefully with music as our only career.
What is Shredhead for you?
Shredhead is the frame that holds our lives together, everything we are going through lately is for Shredhead, we work to support the band and we work hard to promote her. Meaning every second we have we put into the band as without Shredhead we are different people.
How could you define your music?
MMMMEEEETTAAAALLLLL!!!!!!!! People can describe our music as Thrash Metal or Groove Metal. We don't describe our music because we play what we love and believe in.
What is your message to the fans?
We want to thank every single person who supports the band, without you we would not exist and we would not have the strength to move on.