Formed in 1995 Blaakyum is the oldest active Lebanese Metal Band, ever. As one of the most iconic bands within the Arab Metal scene, these guys need no introduction. They’ve toured Lebanon and Europe, played at a myriad of festivals such as MetalDays and MetalCamp, and even shared the stage with huge names like Meshuggah, Annihilator, Wintersun and Candlemass. But now, they’re about to be the first ever local Lebanese Metal band to perform at the annual Byblos International Festival. They’re due to open for Epica on August 2nd 2014, making history within our metal scene. I decided capturing Blaakyum’s musings at a crucial moment like this is an indispensable mission that must be executed. So I emailed Blaakyum with some questions and, on behalf of the band, Bassem Deaibess (Lead Vocals and Rhythm Guitar) provided me with beautifully articulate answers.
Blaakyum has earned the huge chance to become the first ever Lebanese Metal band to play at Byblos International Festival. How do you feel about this opportunity and about supporting a band like Epica?
It is indeed a huge chance, not only for Blaakyum, but also for the local Lebanese Metal scene, to be represented. Sadly, we have seen a dramatic drop in the level of Lebanese Metal bands in Lebanon since 2009 until today. In 2009, we had over thirty active Metal bands and more than ten of those bands were serious bands, recording, releasing and generally working hard.
Of those bands I can name a few who come to mind: Kaoteon, Kimaera, Blook Ink, Blaakyum, PostMortem (now Damage Rite), Weeping Willow, Nocturna, Void, Alain Azar, Amadeus Awad, Tristmoon (later became Inner Guilt)…I am sure I have forgotten many others.
We had talented, promising bands that were incredible like Element 26… All these bands and several others started to drop out one by one because of the economic and political situation, in addition to the few “witch hunt” incidents, but mainly because of the lack of support. Many either relocated or disbanded all together.
The reason why I am naming all these bands is to remind the current scene that a few years ago we were so alive yet still, people claimed the scene was dead… Actually, ever since social media was born (around the year 2000) there were people claiming that the scene was dead. But this scene will never die, it has its ups and downs, what we lacked was support from the national community.
With Blaakyum on stage at Byblos festival, we have been given long due attention from our national community, this unprecedented event adds yet another “We have been the first to do it” to Blaakyum’s long list of achievements. We were the first Lebanese Metal band to independently tour Europe and play Cairo and London, as well as the first Metal band to actually tour Lebanon north to south, including an unplugged tour. The difference this time is that unlike before, where it was us who put the effort and created these events and momentum with our own personal sweat and blood, this time it was the national community who made a move towards a local Lebanese band.
Blaakyum at Progresjia Club in Poland- August 2012.
We received the news just like everyone else did, we knew it when we saw Omerta Management announcing us, and it was both a shock and a pleasant surprise. Today, Blaakyum does not represent itself on Byblos festival’s stage, it represents every single band I mentioned, it represents every single band that I forgot to mention, every single band that is trying, in these extremely difficult times, to carry on against all odds. Of these bands I would also like to name a couple more such as Zix, Ostoura, In Sanity, Rebellion, Deathlam, Hatecrowned… (I am sure I forgot many more) the reason I am naming all these bands is because we, as Blaakyum, in our hearts and minds represent them, we feel they deserve to be there as much as us. Any band that remains active in such times deserves to be looked at as iconic and heroes of this forsaken scene. Please tag every one of these bands, please spread the word, the Lebanese Metal Scene is alive, and has always been the pioneering scene of the Middle East and North Africa. This long answer of mine is how we feel about this opportunity, we are overwhelmed and happy to open this door, let us hope that the national Lebanese community will start paying attention to this incredible amount of authentic talent that has been neglected for too long.
As for us opening for Epica, this will be the second time we perform with them in the same festival, we both performed in the last edition of MetalCamp 2012. This will be the first time we open for them and the fact that we are opening for such an established band on our own land, our wounded and bleeding country, is a pride for us, and I hope, for every Lebanese Metalhead. I would like to note that yes we are the first Lebanese Metal band to ever play in an International Lebanese Festival locally, but let us not forget that Anuryzm, although based in Dubai, is a Lebanese band and they were the first to perform in Byblos festival last year.
What do you think an opportunity like this means for the future of the scene in Lebanon and across the region? And do you think Lebanon has reached a point where Metal has become an acceptable art form?
The Lebanese Metal scene should have been the first to rise up since Lebanon has had Metal music alive and active since the 70s. It was sad how we were attacked by our own society through their ignorance and arrogance. While we were the biggest and most developed Metal scene around, we were hindered by our society at the most crucial time and this allowed Dubai and Istanbul to take up that leading role and become the hub of the Middle Eastern Metal scene, instead of Lebanon. Although, all this time we have to remember the endless efforts of so many people especially Mr. Jyad El Murr who tried to keep at least a minimal amount of Metal and International acts. But I hope all of this is behind us now, Byblos Festival is definitely doing a great job helping the Metal Scene regain its original place in the region, I really hope this is not an isolated incident and will continue to occur again and again. If we keep up this pace I think we will eventually be back on the international Metal map.
I am not sure if Lebanon has reached the point where Metal has become an all-out acceptable art form, many genres within Metal will never be accepted, but what is evident after the 2012 Massacore incident is that we have finally broken this thin line of fear and things have moved a long way ever since, we still have a long way to go but I think Metal has become more acceptable than before, yet it is still neither fully accepted nor appreciated as much as it deserves to be.
Are you planning to preform songs off Lord of the Night? Or will you be playing some new material, singles, covers, ect?
We would have loved to do all of these, as we have been doing in our last few gigs. Recently we have been playing songs from the new and upcoming album along with a single that has become a permanent song on our set, it’s called War Zone and will either be a released as a single or featured in our third album. However, due to the fact that we do not have that much time on stage, we will not be playing any covers. Most songs will be from Lord Of The Night. Nevertheless, there IS a surprise, something I think of as a representation of the Oriental Lebanese Metal music we should have done a long time ago… We are still working on it, let’s hope it works out well.
Your last release, Lord of the Night, was in 2012 and recently you began recording your second album. What are the concepts and inspirations behind this new album and what would you say are the major messages Blaakyum tries to deliver to its audience?
The new album will have a fresh and new sound for Blaakyum especially that the first was actually a recollection of many songs and styles Blaakyum played during a long period of time. This album will more explicitly define the original sound of Blaakyum, it has new elements and a fresh sound especially since our latest member joined, who is the youngest and from the new generation, Rabih Deaibess. This album, unlike the first, is a collective effort; every member has contributed to its composition. Whilst retrospectivley, I was the main composer, this isn’t the case anymore. Many songs were composed by either Rabih Deaibess (guitars) or Rany Battikh (Bass) and most of the songs are the result of pure teamwork. The concept was formed mainly after The Massacore incident in 2012, there was a mini revolution; the Metal Community no longer remained silent and we fought back, this will be the major theme of the album. We will, as well, have a lot of Lebanese folk both lyrically, musically or conceptually. Our message is and always will be: freedom of artistic expression.
Can we get a release date or a potential album title?
We have already announced the album title though we did it subtly, I think the fans who are following us on Facebook or at our gigs know it too well by now, the album will be called “Line Of Fear” As for the release date, it is still way too early to tell since our recording process has not practically started yet and has been delayed a bit for financial reasons.
Just last year Blaakyum played two major festivals in Europe sharing the stage with huge names… are you planning any more tours for the future?
In today’s world, especially the international Metal society, a band that doesn’t tour is a dead band. We are definitely planning future tours, but not before this album is released.
Do you have any final words for your fans as we eagerly wait until August 2nd?
Be there, be many and let us show the mainstream media and the mainstream artists and Lebanese society how we enjoy our music. We WILL head bang and we WILL mosh… We are among the very few communities in Lebanon that is actually united and do not discriminate amongst ourselves, we do not know or ask what each of our respective religions are, we do not judge anyone according to the way they look or what background or ethnicity they are from. Let us go there and have fun… For a united scene \m/