The Arty Semite

Top 5 Middle Eastern Metal Albums of 2013

By Mordechai Shinefield

  • Print
  • Share Share

At some point in the early ’90s, folk metal acts from the Middle East received the decidedly un-PC neologism, Oriental Metal. The term, implying a heady mix of thrash guitars, throaty vocals and maqam-inflected scales, fell into disuse but the relevant bands did not. In a year when the Middle East was marked with military coups, ongoing sectarian civil wars, and one of history’s largest refugee crises, metal bands stood at the vanguard — distilling chaos into chaotic music and writing some of the best albums of the year. Here are five of them:

“Let Us All Unite” (Syria)
By Anarchadia

Out of civil-war-torn Damascus, thrash metal Anarchadia opens their debut full-length album with the sound of automatic weapons and former President George W. Bush intoning a warning against terror. Nour Sabbagh’s death metal vocals underpin an album full of political awareness and hope for a better future. While “Narchaotic” bemoans narcoleptic despair in the wake of turmoil, instrumental “Elevation Call” is a gorgeous progressive ascent into transcendence.

“All is One” (Israel)
By Orphaned Land

Scene godfathers Orphaned Land open their fifth album with a twisty Arabic guitar riff and then a feel-good series of concepts about friendship and peace in the Middle East. Tracks “Let the Truce Be Known” and “Our Own Messiah” are as prog-epic as anything since their breakthrough “Mabool”; closer “Children” asks “How can we live with this horror that we bring to this world?,” lyrics laser-focused on a tribe of orphaned children living in a broken land.

“Arabic Rock Orchestra” (Palestine)
By Khalas

While we don’t normally expect metal bands to personify transnational cooperation and peace, Khalas and Orphaned Land did just that this year with their 18-date tour together in Europe. Orphaned Land’s Kobi Farhi and Khalas guitarist Abed Hathout are long-time friends and music outlets throughout the world picked up the story of an Israeli and Palestinian band playing together. What they missed were the amazing jams the band kicked out on their sophomore record: hard rock packed with Middle Eastern sounds.

“Anti Quran Rituals” (Iraq)
By Seeds of Iblis

It’s hard to know what is true about Seeds of Iblis. They claim to be an underground, anonymous Iraqi band of two men and two women dedicated to desecrating the principles of Islam. Anti-religious sentiment is not new to black metal — anti-Christian themes have been a continuing source of lyrical inspiration in Europe — but anti-Islamic themes carry their own risk in a sectarian post-Rushdie world. In dark, pulsing techno-metal swirls, “Anti Quran Rituals” targets terrorism, holy war, and even closes with a Nietzschean “Allah is Dead.”

“The Devil Went Down to the Holy Land” (Israel)
By Betzefer

Israel’s premier stoner metal band’s third album eschews obvious regional politics for groovy licks and and blasts against consumerism, as on the mid-album track “Yuppie Six Feet Underground.” Not quite as geopolitically aware as some of the other albums on this list, Betzefer brings more of the nihilistic rage we’ve come to expect from metal, with just a touch of the holy land.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Music, Metal, Best of 2013

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.