Blaakyum is a thrash/heavy metal band from Beirut, Lebanon. The band came third place in the worldwide finals of the Metal Battle at Wacken Open Air last year. Currently the band is working on the release of ‘Line of Fear’, the follow up album to their their debut ‘Lord of the Night’.
I spoke to vocalist/guitarist Bassem Deaibess about their new single ‘Riot again Riot’, their upcoming album and also their gig in Dubai this weekend.
The band has been around for some time now. How did the present line up of the band get together?
A constant fixed line-up is fictional, for bands in the Middle East and elsewhere for sure, but mainly for people in the Middle East. That is mainly due to the fact that not only are Rock and Metal underground genres but also because it is a constant sacrifice to be in a band. So Blaakyum’s line-up changes have been sporadic. The longest line up stability held from 2012 till February 2016. Our beloved drummer is immigrating to Canada soon, so he left the band to make space for someone else to step in. We were lucky to discover a very young talented drummer through a Facebook post. His name is Hassan Kheder. Sadly he will not be able to perform with us in Dubai because the absurd law there says that even artists cannot enter clubs to perform if they are under 21. So for our show in Dubai, Ziad El Alam (ex-Kaoteon, Zix) will perform in Hassan’s place. Also, our bassist Rany Battikh, who has been with Blaakyum ever since it was reformed in 2007, is no longer able to commit to us especially for touring and gigs outside Lebanon, and for that we have also been very lucky to meet Pierre Le Port who recently moved to Lebanon, and who has agreed to join the band. As for my brother Rabih Deaibess, he joined Blaakyum in 2012 during “The First In Line” tour of Lebanon after Elias Njaim, who recorded “Lord Of The Night” with us, was unable to perform as a permanent member of the band due to his work commitments.
Last month you released a new single Riot against Riot which sounds awesome. Tell us a bit about the single.
We wrote this single during the garbage crisis protests-turned-riots in August 2015. We had just come back from Wacken Open Air to find Lebanon thrown into chaos. We were angry and frustrated, some of the band members including myself and Rabih took part in the protests and are active in the civil movement, and it was natural to let our frustration and anger have an outlet of expression through our music. The song itself has never been performed live before, and if luck has it we might perform it in Dubai for the first time.
You have recorded your second album ‘Line of Fear’ last year with Manuele Pesaresi at Dyne Engine Studios in Italy. Tell us about the album?
We finished laying down the tracks last year, but the mixing and mastering process was finished a couple of weeks ago. First we would like to point out what a positive and relaxing experience it was to record at Dyne Engine Studio, despite the rush and the extensive work. Manuele Pesaresi is such a remarkable person to work with, calm, understanding, patient and highly talented. The majority of the songs on the album, which amount to eight, were written between 2012 and 2015. Some of the songs started as intro riffs we did during our 2012 tour; one song in particular, Wicked Revelation, was written as early as 2011. The initial plan was to have a theme based around our own literature and historical heritage, hence the song Baal-Adon, but the events of Massacore 2012 (a new wave of witch hunting and idiotic accusations of Satanism and Devil worshipping that Blaakyum and Kimaera were directly accused of by the Lebanese media following a joint concert with the name Massacore), changed our plans. The album theme is based around cultural terrorism and the basic right of freedom of expression. Maybe few songs are a bit cynical but that is what happens when an entire society bullies you and pushes you around with ignorance and superstitions.
How does the album compare to your previous album ‘Lord of the Night’? Have you tried anything different this time around?
Lord Of The Night was in some unusual way a “Best Of” album, not of previously released songs obviously (except Am I Black) but because of the long time that Blaakyum had existed and the endless live shows we had; we picked the best songs we had been composing over a decade and made them into an album. It was our debut and it had a wide, varied range of styles and even genres, including orchestral compositions and ballads. We just wanted to capture what Blaakyum was about all these years. Line Of Fear is a more defined album, it is way heavier, way more Thrashy and way more aggressive than LOTN, and because we are a bit more experienced it was better produced. Also we further emphasised oriental elements in the music. Although LOTN had such elements in songs such as ‘The Land’ and ‘March Of The Eastern Man’, it was a shy attempt. In LOF we upped the dose, the Tabla (also known as Dirbakkeh in Lebanon) was used way more frequently and more aggressively; in fact, we never expected that Tabla could be such Heavy Metal and even Thrash/Death Metal friendly. As always what we are trying to do is to have an oriental sound yet without compromising the heaviness and thrashiness of the music. The majority of Oriental Metal bands in the Middle East rely on keyboards to make the sound more oriental. What we are doing is making the Metal sound oriental, not just add oriental elements to the music. Thus we did not use keyboards at all in LOF, except for the album intro which was in collaboration with the highly talented Mood Yassin.
When can we expect the album to be released?
Mid to end of June 2016.
What are the bands from Lebanon that you recommend we should check out?
I am pretty sure no matter what bands we name here we will be forgetting other great bands, but those that come to mind are definitely Kimaera, the Lebanese Ambassadors of Doom, Zix the True Lebanese Metal Warriors, if you are a fan of Manowar and Iron Maiden Zix will be your thing. Inner Guilt are not for the faint hearted as they are one of the most aggressive Death Metal bands in Lebanon. We also have a comeback of two legendary bands in Lebanon Blood Ink and Element 26 who merged into a supper group called Ink26, you definitely need to check these guys out. Last but not least there are two up and coming bands that are really worth the support, one is a traditional Heavy/Thrash Metal band called Phenomy, and the other is a modern wave Djent/Metalcore-ish band with a very fresh and interesting musical approach called Qantara, if anyone is in town and these guys have a gig, make sure not to miss it. I am sure I am forgetting many other bands, oh yeah… there is also Eden, and Amadeus Awad, there are some Black Metal bands but I am not sure how active they are, such as Deathlam for example.
You are touring Europe alongside veteran thrash metal band Onslaught as part of the Thrash Mercenaries Tour in September. How did you become a part of the tour? What are you looking forward to at the tour?
I do not know how it actually happened exactly, after Wacken a lot of eyes were on us, naturally it is not just the fact that we ended up the 3rd best unsigned Metal band in the world’s biggest Metal competition, as we all know such titles never last more than few weeks, it’s that the biggest Metal festival on earth noticed a band from Lebanon and it was not expected. So we know that we made a bit of noise somewhere somehow. But it was that night when our manager contacted us and asked us to name bands we would like to perform with. I gave one name: Onslaught, of course I gave other names later after being urged by the manager to give more. Other band members also gave the name Onslaught among others. Then few days later our manager just announced to us that we will be touring with them. As we understood, our single Riot Against Riot and our portfolio of live performances caught the attention of Onslaught’s promoters and we were chosen!
We are eager to see how we will handle the pressure of performing 16 dates in 16 consecutive days without any day off, this will be the ultimate test. Needless to say we are thrilled to meet Onslaught, such a privilege has never been given to us before, although we did meet a lot of our favourite bands during our tour in 2012 and our show at MetalDays in 2013, but to have the chance to spend 16 days with one of our idols is beyond anything we expected. As well as Onslaught, the tour has two great bands on the bill Mors Principium Est and NO RETURN. Besides the fact that the bands are extremely friendly and such a delight to be around, they are very talented and… well, this will be one hell of a tour \m/
Next week you will perform at Blast Night 3 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. What are you looking forward to at the show?
I have performed twice in Dubai before, and our sessionist Drummer Ziad performed there once with Kaoteon. But it is Blaakyum’s first time in Dubai. And we are eager to see how the Metal Scene in Dubai is, how well they support and appreciate the local Middle Eastern scene. Dubai has been famous for its glamorous Metal Scene during the 90s with Dubai Desert Rock Festival, and it has been the hub of Metal in the Middle East, almost every great Metal band has performed there, and so we are so excited to go there and meet that vibrant Metal society. I have been many times to the Music Room during daytime to rehearse with my Syrian band The Hourglass when they were to perform there, so I’m super excited to be back in the Music Room as a performing artist.
As this is your first time in UAE, what can fans expect from your set in Dubai? Do you have anything special planned?
For sure we will be giving our best in Dubai, it is uncharted territory for us and we are eager to conquer it. We will be performing mainly from our upcoming album, with some songs from our debut. Unfortunately due to the fact that our drummer will not be allowed to perform with us, we had little time to prepare what we originally had in mind for Dubai. We are rehearsing constantly with our replacement drummer Ziad El Alam who has been doing an amazing job given the extremely short notice time and tremendous pressure that he is having to deal with to memorize our songs which are rhythmically very complex and not too straight forward. Also sadly our Tabla player is not able to be with us in Dubai due to his pressing commitments in Lebanon. So we will see how it will all turn out, one thing for sure, we are eager to bring the house down no matter what \m/
Thanks for answering all my questions. Do you have any final words?
Dubai… SHOW US WHAT YOU’VE GOT \m/
Check the poster below for all details about ‘Blast Night 3’