Formed in 2016, Lebanese Death/Thrash Metal band SLAVE TO SIRENS released its first EP Terminal Leeches in 2018. After receiving rave regional and international reviews, the all-female band is looking to make an ever bigger statement with their debut album.
There has been much talk about the Lebanese Metal scene in the last 5 years, less concerts (RockRing no longer the main event organizer), cancelled international bands (Sepultura, Within Temptation), less venues to play in (main venues such as Nova and Cherrys closed or simply died out). Still, we witnessed the best international coverage/recognition of the scene (Lebanon featured on Metal Hammer, Lebanese bands in Wacken) and music output (Ostura, Blaakyum, Kaoteon, etc) during these times, including Slave to Sirens’ explosive arrival and their WACKEN OPEN AIR FESTIVAL 2019 performance.
Interview with Slave to Sirens
You mentioned conservative Lebanese society many times throughout your interviews, while portraying the Metal scene as an obscure and unpopular community. Do you actually feel you are outcasts, both as Metalheads in Lebanon, and as female Metal musicians in the scene? Do you think the Metal scene, however liberal it may be, still echoes the patriarchy of Lebanese society? Any first-hand experiences with that?
Alma: To our surprise and pleasure, we were immediately accepted in the Lebanese metal scene, although some people, especially men, like to say that we’re getting there just because we are an all-female metal band from Lebanon; a quite conservative country. But to sum up our presence in the metal scene in Lebanon, it has been going really well. But in the eyes of the bigger audience, which is society, we’re just insane.
When speaking to the listener as “you”, is it really about self-reflection? Perhaps you are still experiencing some of the obstacles that you are preaching to be free of? How do the audience/listeners genuinely connect with your messages and music?
Alma: Our songs are about how we feel towards the subjects that we write about, and those subjects are present in our harsh world, so it should absolutely be self-reflection and we leave the audience to interpret the songs the way they want, we’re not limited to one meaning. War, animal cruelty, evil human nature and corruption are all obstacles that many people wish to be free of, so we shouldn’t stop talking about them whether it’s in music, books or movies.
Here’s a tough question I’ve heard many ask: do you feel the narrative of being an all-female Metal band from the Middle East overshadows your music? Do you think your music is good enough to penetrate the Metal market?
Alma: Yes. That’s what a lot, but not all, interviewers shine a light on. They are more concerned with this matter than the music. But if our music wasn’t good enough, we wouldn’t have got the opportunities that we got. We had a couple of podcasts, YouTube channels (Banger films), many magazines (mainly Revolver), articles and international radio shows who got to review our EP and we had one positive review after the other…some radio shows had no idea we were actually girls when they heard our music!
You mentioned that the genre / style you play is imported, so one assumes that you do not focus on creating your own sound, but rather using already-established sounds as a vessel for the band’s main message of female empowerment, anti-oppression and anti-control. Your thoughts on that…
Alma: What we meant by imported sound back then is that Metal as a genre does not originate from the Middle East but of course, many bands inspire us to create this music. Female empowerment, anti-oppression and anti-control are some of the band’s messages. Our music also includes topics like abuse of power, psychopathy, human nature and subjects of war. Female empowerment comes from being on stage, so we could inspire women (also men), especially in the Arab world, Fear should not dictate our lives and girls should do whatever they love and feel comfortable about.
It is understandably hard to follow up on EPs as an independent band, how is your debut album going? It surely must have been affected by the recent economic crisis in Lebanon, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. What can we expect a little teaser from you, and are you reaching out to any labels at the moment?
Lilas: We are still working on our debut album; it has been a challenging journey so far with the covid-19 pandemic really slowing down the progress of finalizing the final touches on the album before entering the studio to record. We were in quarantine and could not meet that often. The economic crisis, the revolution also made things worse, because prices skyrocketed and now recording plus releasing the album meant that we are obliged to find any financial sponsor or aid to make things happen. The teaser will be out eventually, when everything is in its right place.
I personally found your first EP to have highly polished and tight material, with a few more songs it could have easily passed as a debut full length. Why did you choose to stick with the EP even though the quality is obviously commendable and your creativity and energy is capable of pouring out more? Also, tell us how was your experience actually performing live when it comes to staying true to the studio level of tight technicality and brutal assault?
Lilas: We chose to stick with an EP (we definitely do not regret it) because we were a band that was just starting, the amount of excitement was unfathomable and we had to listen to our gut feeling! so, we created those four brutal and fantastic songs, and decided to release them. Thankfully, we got amazing reviews, shared the stage locally with amazing bands and played at major festivals in Europe/ North Africa. Now many people are impatiently waiting for our full-length album. We cannot deny that performing live is totally a thrilling and challenging experience, like an adrenaline rush but this experience is sacred. We love performing live and we will always try to stay up to the level to the brutality and technicality of our albums.
What are your favorite Lebanese Metal bands of all time? If you had to split an album with one, who would it be and why?
Lilas: To be honest, we enjoyed sharing the stage with most of our fellow brothers from the Lebanese scene and we are grateful to some who actually supported us along the way, so to pick one would not be fair… we would make a Lebanese metal bands mash up hehe.
We love Metal subculture like H.P Lovecraft fiction, mythology about ghosts, demons and witches. Tell us some interesting things you like from the Metal subculture.
Lilas: Ah yes our lead guitarist Shery Bechara is huge fan of H.P lovecraft especially Cuthulu stories, she also got a tattoo of cuthulu! We are all interested in mythologies it helps our creativity and imagination, our band’s name was inspired from Greek mythology of sirens luring sailors with their seductive beauty and enchanting voices to their doom so you can tell how much we are involved in such themes.
Any female musicians from the region (Lebanon/Middle East) you’d like to cooperate with?
Lilas: Nancy Ajram jkn… You know it is quite unfortunate that the Arab world has few known female musicians; during our time in Casablanca, we met an incredible talented metal vocalist from Alchemy band!
Finally, what are you listening to nowadays? We won’t judge if it’s Baby Metal!
Lilas: Lately we have been trying to discover new bands, new interesting and peculiar genres, so let us say anything that is more aesthetic and inspirational. Each one of us comes from different musical backgrounds. This means our taste in music varies but we all listen to metal (obviously) such as Gojira, Opeth and Lamb of God to name a few. Other genres include Rock, Jazz, Electronic music and Rap and classical.
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