Alain Ibrahim is undoubtedly one of the best musicians in Lebanon nowadays. He is a skillful multi-instrumentalist who has showcased his talent ever since he was 15. After building up a strong name for himself in the local scene and after a very productive and healthy musical life, starting with Monarchy, passing through Ostura, and excelling with Turbulence, today, Alain is working on his first solo album. As soon as we heard about the album, we jumped to the opportunity to have a small chat with guitar virtuoso Alain Ibrahim about his solo and band careers.
It was a very exciting moment when, during last September’s THRASH MERCENARIES TOUR, we contacted Blaakyum, who were part of the tour, to ask them if they would be able to pass a few questions we prepared as an interview with Onslaught. But Blaakyum’s frontman, as well as their manager, proposed to do it as a video interview, instead of a written one, with Bassem Deaibess volunteering to ask the questions prepared on our behalf and to film the interview on his mobile phone. (Watch Video Interview Below)
An interview with Onslaught
Onslaught is a band that would “never compromise [their] artistic integrity in any way”. We got a lot of insights from Sy Keeler and Nige Rockett about the inside world of Onslaught. Covering many subjects starting with the then ongoing tour, Nige and Sy explained how important it is today for a band to tour and why. They also shared with us some funny, beautiful, and life-changing stories they have faced during their life on the road; some were weird though.
Talking about their composition and the band’s sound, Nige was surprised that some people are “anal” about what tuning the band can use for a thrash Metal song.
“when you look at Testament, Kreator, Overkill, ourselves, everybody is making some of the best music they ever created.” – Nige
The interview also covers the band’s influences, which start with Punk and end with Prog, the recording back in the day versus the recording procedures and costs of today, ending up with information about the upcoming releases. So enough with me blabbering about the interview, you can watch it below:
On January 13, 2013, we announced the news that Alan Azar will be leaving Lebanon for good to pursue his career, after we got exclusive information from Alan’s management. The news back then shocked the Rock and Metal scene and was shared by all major Rock and Metal news outlets at the time.
Last Christmas, Alan visited Lebanon to spend the holidays with his family. As soon as we knew about his visit, our team at Metal Bell jumped for the chance to have an exclusive video interview with the guitar virtuoso himself.
Alan talked about his decision to Leave Lebanon, about his music, his experience in Hollywood and Disney, and about his previous and future projects.
Watch below the full video interview:
Video by: Nancy Jdid
Edited by: Karam Aslan
Interview by: T.P.
Alan Azar is a Lebanese electric guitar virtuoso who has been known for his melodic, intricate, and technical musicianship. Alan began his journey of learning the guitar when his father bought him a nylon string guitar at the age of 15. With a lot of dedication and practice, Alan became proficient in the instrument.
Feeling an ever-strengthening bond with the guitar and with music as a whole throughout his youth, Alan proceeded to earn a degree in music and became a university guitar instructor.
In 2001, Azar formed his first band, ‘The Alienz’, achieving underground success throughout Lebanon.
The band amassed a strong following, performing cover songs by Metallica, Megadeth, and Savatage.
Eventually, the band shifted their focus from covers to originals, and turned to a more progressive-metal flair, with influences from bands like Symphony X, Dream Theater, and Joe Satriani. This shift was the defining moment in Alan’s career, shaping him into a multifaceted player and giving him the impetus to launch his solo career.
A few years later, Azar’s first solo album, “Defective Harmony”, was released in January of 2009. With help from his brothers, Julien on keyboards and Roland on mixing and mastering duties, the album was met with praise. The guitarist dabbled in genres like jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and oriental, which reinforced and diversified his compositions.
Alan is also a sought-after session and touring guitar player. He has played a variety of genres including R&B, Jazz, Metal, and Rock.
He has collaborated on various international recordings and has also been a session guitar player for the Arab pop sensation Nancy Ajram, a move which gave him the exposure and the world-touring familiarity that would expand his musical experiences to that of international standards.
Alan Azar released his second solo album, “The Cosmologist”, in September of 2011, recorded at Studio Recco, engineered and mixed by Roland Azar, mastered by Glenn Schick at Glenn Schick Mastering Studio, Altanta, GA.
Besides being a successful solo artist , Alan tours with the Lebanese rock band The Kordz.
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Uncured is a very talented Progressive Metal band based in New York City, formed by two young but ambitious brothers, Zak and RexCox. Their first EP “Spontaneous Generation” featured Max Portnoy, the son of legendary drummer Mike Portnoy, as a guest drummer. And the EP was critically acclaimed. In order to introduce you to this dynamically creative band, we conducted an interview with the main brains behind the music: Zak and Rex. Continue reading
CARACH ANGREN is a Black Metal band from the Netherlands that was formed back in 2003. Their style is characterized by a prominent use of orchestral arrangements and Horror stories. On Friday October 28, CARACH ANGREN will fly their horror ship to the Middle East and haunt Dubai for the first time alongside local UAE bands Aramaic, Verdict, and Cathect. It’s going to be a Spooky Halloween night indeed! This event is hosted by Joscene.
Dark Phantom is a multi-ethnic band probably new to our ears, but they have been around for a while, playing the music they love in an oil-rich nation of turmoil and everlasting war, defying the reign of extremism and various death threats from Islamists who equate ‘metal’ with Satan worship.
Dark Phantom’s inception attempts started back in 2007. But with the hard situation especially within the areas controlled by Al-Qaeda, the situation was violent and playing music was a crime. The band then struggled to fit in, even in the Iraqi music scene. With all these efforts, they tried to keep the faith and compose their own music, but to no avail.
“This was for survival, without any developments in the level of art.” – Dark Phantom.
In 2009, the band took the bold decision and stood up in front of all disbelievers and started a serious project: DARK PHANTOM. They started composing and recording their own music. The quality of the recording wasn’t pleasant, so the band took it on themselves to learn and evolve their recording techniques. They upgraded their home studio with some proper software and hardware after a lot of research, until they got what they needed at the time.
The band’s first public show was in 2011, fighting against all atrocities, hate, anti-metal music laws, and terrorism. The band was surprised that people, fighters like them, showed up and gave them support they didn’t expect during the gig. Following that show in the city of Kirkuk, the band received several threats, and was asked to shut down all their activities.
Dark Phantom didn’t surrender to the situation and kept working on their album that was supposed to be called “Beta” at the time. The band’s reputation started to propagate, leading them to perform at 3 concerts in 3 different cities. Then in 2013, the Phantoms faced another challenge; the original vocalist and the drummer left the band for safety reasons, and the band then welcomed Mir and Mahmoud to replace their predecessors respectively. With that addition to the group, they defined their style as Thrash Metal and started the album composing and recording process all over again.
Today in 2016, Iraqi heroes “Dark Phantom” have completed and released their album under the name of “Nations Of Dogs” that will be soon reviewed in details by Metal Bell Magazine.
Meanwhile, we conducted an interview to know more about the brave phantoms of Kirkuk–Iraq.
How and when did you guys start Dark Phantom?
After 2003, we started listening to metal music. Cousins Murad and Rebeen got together with a couple of friends from college and started the band, firstly playing thrash/death covers before beginning to write our own material. Murad met Sermet at college and he started learning bass, our old drummer on social media, and Ehsan at the music center as vocals.
What does your music talk about and what does it mean to you?
Our lyrical theme is about war and corruption basically in our country Iraq. This chaotic situation naturally has a huge influence on our music. And it is about our life in Iraq, as well as religion/criminals who kill and slay people in the name of God.
How do you define your sound?
We collected all that we like individually and came up with our sound and we call it Thrash-Death Metal as it’s like a mixture of both genres.
Tell us more about the recording process of your album” Nation Of Dogs”.
We recorded the album in Murad’s bedroom using simple recording tools. It was released on May 8, 2016.
All songs lyrics by Mir Shamal
All songs music by Murad, Rebeen, Mir, Mahmood
Mixed and mastered by Mir Shamal
Album cover art by Ece Baş
What was your first album on cassette, vinyl, and/or CD?
What difficulties do you guys face living in such a tormented place?
Religious conservatism, social taboos, and repressive governments mean most metal is viewed with suspicion. Also, there are no metal venues.
Who are your favorite artist and your influences?
Metallica is our idol. As for influences, we are greatly influenced by Slayer and Lamb Of God, etc.
What are your plans for the future?
We have never played outside of Iraq, and that’s like a dream to us. We need a visa to travel or some sponsor. Just bring us to play even for free, because we don’t look for money, we just want to play on a big stage.
Can you describe the Iraqi metal scene?
There was a small number of metal bands in Iraq and most of them left the country while others remain underground. Some people listen to metal and know what it is, but the majority see us as Satanic and don’t know what we are talking about.
Do you easily get to find a venue to play metal?
We have played a few gigs though it’s very hard to do that here because there is no space to play music, but we still try and do our best.
If you were to choose one record label to get signed with, who will it be?
Metal Blade Records, it’s one of our dreams.
Where can we buy Dark Phantom’s “Nation Of Dogs” album from?
In conclusion, Dark Phantom is one of the many struggling bands in the Middle East, and one of the very few active in Iraq. We will be getting back to them soon enough. We will also be covering some bands from Syria. Stay tuned for our review of the great album from Dark Phantom, “Nation Of Dogs”, soon on Metal Bell Magazine.
1- The cover arts for “All Is Not For All” and “Worm’s Eye View” are somehow similar, one can directly make a connection. How similar are the albums in terms of lyrical concepts,themes, and music?Continue reading
Following last year’s Summer Fusion, we teamed up this year with RockRing to keep you updated on everything that is going around. As a starter, here is an interview with Roy Naufal, founder of RockRing Lebanon.
1- So, Summer is back and the Fusion is in the making. How excited are you about the 5th installment of Summer Fusion?
Nothing is more exciting than getting the music scene into one place in a unique fun atmosphere that doesn’t just revolve around getting a ticket and watching bands. Summer Fusion has more of a friendly community vibe, and since it’s an all-day event by the pool, everyone gets a chance to mingle around. The water games and bungee jumping will definitely add a new twist to the event!
2- How was last year’s comeback? Was it as you expected it? Did you face difficulties especially that there was a 5-year gap?
It was great. We were not sure what exactly to expect in terms of attendance after a 5-year gap, but the event proved well worthy and everyone who was there had a blast, and those who weren’t regretted not coming. This year, we’re hoping for an even better event and we are improving it on several levels and already preparing for 2017.
APRIL‘s performance from last year’s Summer Fusion. Check out this great performance and give them a shout-out in the comments
3- Last year’s Summer Fusion had what I believe to be the least amount of attendees among the other Summer Fusions. But it definitely made some noise, and this year, there is excitement all around. Are you expecting to break previous records with this year’s edition?
In the past, Summer Fusion and the previous events we did grouped a whole community under one umbrella. When there was an event, everyone was there without the need to even tell what the event was; people knew RockRing’s events and what kind of fun atmosphere they would expect when they come.
Commercial mass advertised events gather up a lot of people but who are very ‘disconnected’, so there’s no ‘friendly vibe’ in such events, whereas our events are more community-based so there’s a more friendly feel to them; it’s not only about the event and who’s playing, it’s also about hanging out with friends.
After a 5-year gap, this community needs to be ‘reconnected’. From last year to now, there has been a lot of activity and the event itself had caused enough noise to make 2016 bigger than 2015. We also connected with a lot of the community and people are aware of us and what we do, so we’re expecting a steady crowd growth in the coming events – we also have plans for several upcoming events such as Global Battle of the Bands and possibly international artists.
Our Stand at SUMMER FUSION 2015
4- According to your experience, how much has the scene changed (since 2006 when RockRing started and 10 years later)?
Mainly, the music community has become disconnected because there are no real hangout areas for music lovers, and medium-scale events are nonexistent. It’s either small pub events or big scale events like Byblos Fest. Our role in the past was that middle ground which connected everything together, and that’s what we’re trying to establish again.
5- What to expect from Summer Fusion this year? Will any new ideas be implemented into the festival?
We’re adding a more ‘summer’ twist to the event; other than the bands, there will be many more activities on location such as water games, possibly bungee jumping, and a few other things.
Check Out Our Review of Last year’s Summer Fusion >Here<
Adel Hassan was introduced to the Lebanese Scene as Phenomy’s vocalist, just few months back, Phenomy and Adel parted ways and he was replaced by Sam Felfly. Today Adel has a few interesting projects under his belt and he is giving us an exclusive insights on them.