Bands often discuss struggles and the troubles they’ve been through in interviews. For Blaakyum and their frontman Bassem Deaibess, this takes on an entirely new meaning. In Lebanon and the Middle East, at times over the last two decades metal has been a dirty word, to the point of being associated with heavy metal culture could mean prison time. Blaakyum’s continued existence today, twenty years after the band first began in a country that looked very different, is a triumph of the highest order, and it has been fascinating to hear Bassem’s take on various things. Now, let’s hear from the man himself…
Thanks for sparing some time for us, and an early welcome back to the UK.
Cheers for having us.
The fact that Blaakyum even exists in 2017 is a tremendous testament to yourself and your band mates for believing in both metal and freedom to express yourselves through your art. Is belief in that freedom what kept you going during the many difficult times in your homeland?
Definitely! Freedom and the hope for a more culturally open and less religious society.
You’re returning to the UK to take part in an International panel discussion for The Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London in a few days’ time around the subject of “Art As Defiance”. Can you tell us about how you got involved with this event?
The event is about how art in the Middle East is a way of expressing defiance to oppression and Blaakyum’s music and story are very much part of this.
You’ve just released a new single called “Freedom Denied” which seems very topical considering the subject matter you will be speaking about in the panel discussion, what can you tell us about the track?
We released our album in June 2016, titled “Line Of Fear”. Freedom Denied is from that album, and we will be releasing its lyric video on April 4. Freedom Denied is one of those tracks in which we went full folk while trying to remain Thrashy or at least heavy. This is from a musical side, as for the lyrics and subject, the song talks about the Arab Spring, and how it was hijacked by both radical Islam and the West and turned into a blood bath.
Do you find that attitudes in your part of the world to heavy music have taken a big shift in recent years (for example, we know you were able to appear for an interview and have your music played on Satellite television, which sounds like it would have been impossible a few years previously)?
Our part of the world is schizophrenic! Before 1996, Metal was a common sight on TV stations and on radio stations, in teen news magazines and in university campus newsletters!! Metal was just a regular form of music. It was just after the first wave of what I like to call the “inquisitions” when many international Metal bands were banned in Lebanon, from 1996 onwards, that Metal became not just underground, but in a way secretive. Lebanese society accepts the fact that Lebanese bands play Rock music, but Metal is usually advertised as Rock or alternative, people try to avoid the word Metal because it has negative connotations. Today yes it is a bit more acceptable to say Metal, but the subject is still heavily monitored. At any second things can deteriorate. We still need to wait and see to what extent Metal has become accepted. But one thing is for sure, freedom of artistic expression is still not understood in Lebanon.
Your most recent album Line Of Fear was released last year to widespread critical acclaim across Europe and beyond. Given the struggles you have had at times to get your music released, this must be very pleasing for you.
This is sweet revenge. The album subject is the oppression and struggle we had to go through in Lebanon, the main topic is freedom of artistic expression, and freedom from any form of forced beliefs whether religious, social or political.
You’ve played several big European metal festivals over the last few years, are we likely to see Blaakyum on a UK festival stage any time soon?
Yes, very likely, keep an eye for some announcements at the end of April
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers, either about your band or about metal in your part of the world as a wider topic?
We are here, we are plenty and we need your support. The Lebanese and Middle Eastern Metal scene is part of the international Metal scene, we are angry and we know how it feels, so join us in anger and let us give the finger to the world together… FUCK the system.
Blaakyum’s current album, Line Of Fear, is out now. Please follow them on the following: