Fezzes and Leather


Middle Eastern metal has received a sudden wave of Western coverage this year. The latest example is an article in Coilhouse that covers the music itself, the subcultures surrounding it, and the crackdowns—some successful, some not—from above:

Iran's regime is among the most repressive, forcibly cutting metal fan's hair and crushing concerts outright….

It's easy to see what they're afraid of. If Egyptian metal musicians rave about Israeli band Orphaned Land, and Israelis about Lebanese metal, then the terminal dividing lines that benefit generals and dictators begin to blur. The fates of Eastern Europe's tyrants are not that far away in history: often change is only an anthem away.

The dividing lines between styles have also blurred. Middle eastern metal overlaps considerably with the hip-hop and punk scenes, especially in Palestine and Israel, encompassing everything from Massive Scar Era's symphonic rallying cries to Arthimoth's primal growls. It was, after all, late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti who coined the "music is the weapon of the future" slogan that's become popular among [Lebanese musician Moe] Hamzeh and his friends.

The essay includes several samples of the metal itself, which among other things will be useful for anyone who has wondered what Cookie Monster vocals sound like in Arabic.

Elsewhere in Reason: Charles Paul Freund on Arab music videos and the liberating effects of vulgarity.