JorZine - Interview with Syrian Heavy Metal band The Hourglass

Interview with Syrian Heavy Metal band The Hourglass

Band: The Hourglass

By: Kassem - 2011-08-10

JorZine Reporter "JD" has conducted the following Interview with The Hourglass Syrian heavy Metal band.

JZ: So first of all, thanks for accepting my request to do this interview with me, so you live in Lebanon and the rest of the band live in Syria, how often do you meet the other members from The Hourglass?

Bassem Deaibess: I must say it is a bit unfair for the guys, they do most of the work there, then before a gig (or recording session) we meet few days ahead, we rehears and then we do what we have to do. That is how often we meet, which is barely once or twice a year.

JZ: You have a lot of projects such as Blaakyum, Communion, Alienz and you do many concerts in Lebanon, how does that affect your work The Hourglass?

Bassem Deaibess: It doesn't much, at least not anymore, we had few conflicts of dates earlier, but I think nothing is major. Since I do not take part of the composition process, my input is simply how to arrange the words and create the vocal lines melodies, I usually do that in the studio, and Rawad would already have laid the basic ideas for that. Very rarely have I changed the basic vocal line, I only develop it. 

I would like to point out that Blaakyum is not a project, it is my main band, the one I founded in 1995 and reformed in 2007, it is my main Metal outlet. Communion was a cover band, that I joined in 2002/2003 by 2007 when it failed to focus on originals, I reformed Blaakyum, and Communion does not practically exist anymore. The Alienz is a complicated Story, the band does not exist anymore as well, I was part of it in 2000 and 2001, left, then recorded two songs with them before the whole band cease to be and changed into Alain Azar solo band, the two songs I recorded are featured in his debut Album. 

When the Hourglass has a project, I make time for it, and unless Blaakyum have a gig in the same day (in another venue) it will not conflict. The only downside is that Blaakyum and The Hourglass cannot share the same stage since I am the Frontman of both... Though the idea might be interesting in the future, if we ever had the chance to organize a joint concert, but definitely not in the near future.

JZ: Thanks for clearing that, allow me to ask you why Blaakyum disbanded back in 2001?

Bassem Deaibess: In 2001 Blaakyum and Alienz where almost the same band, Same Vocalist, Guitarist, Bassist, the only different member was the Drummer and they had a keyboards player. At first I accepted to join because Alienz was a cover band, but since they started making their own music, a lot of conflict, by that time our Drummer had a lot of health trouble and was no longer able to play live, I was replaced by another vocalist in Alinez and felt that there is no way to continue with Blaakyum, so I announced the split.

JZ: Ok, When I first met you in Summer fusion 2009 in Lebanon, I remember you told me that you own a pub, is that your real job beside your bands?

Bassem Deaibess: Not anymore unfortunately, every single Rock Pub in Lebanon did not succeed to remain open for more than a year or two, I do take pride that I kept Cherry's Pub (the one you are talking about) open for almost 3 years, it was a huge pub and the only pub/venue that supported Metal music to the full, that came at a heavy financial cost that lead me to close it. These three years saw the rise of many bands because they had a place to perform at and even rehears, the Metal Scene in Lebanon had a place to hang out at. Hopefully one day I will be able to open such a pub/venue again. As a note, most people in Europe say Bar rather than pub. 

As for what I do for a living, currently I am a permanent Rock performer in one of Lebanon's leading clubs called Music Hall. It presents a variety of shows from Traditional Arabic, to Jazz, Dance, Salsa, Opera, Reggae, Fusion and Rock, all in performed in every night, so I do the Rock show.

JZ: Where did the name "The Hourglass" come from? And who came up with it?

Rawad Abdel Massih: We had a friend who is now an ex-metalhead, who suggested the name in 1997 after Savatage's song in the Wake of Magellan, in 2002 I stuck to that name because I love Savatage and I like any idea that is related to time and changes it causes.

JZ: The Hourglass released an album called "Resurrection of the Horrid Dream" in 2007 this album caught the Middle East metal scene attention, if you had to choose one favorite song in this album, which song would be? For me "Suicidal Form" is one of my favorite songs.

Rawad Abdel Massih: My fav is for sure "Alone Again", I love this song, it’s a ballad but thats fine. Also I love "East of the Mediterranean" (which I see as our own "Angel of Death") and "The Book" which is my fav lyrically, there are some very good songs in that album.

Bassem Deaibess: My two favorite songs of "Resurrection of the Horrid Dream" are "Alone Again" and "East of the Mediterranean".

JZ: In the song "East Of The Mediterranean" I want to share this words with the readers, because it means a lot to me, 
"At the land of the east
Here you were born
You didn't have the choice
You didn't need to know
It wasn't your fault
Surely it wasn't ours
Now face your fate
And pray you die"
And here I quote "At the land of the east" is there any specific countries?

Rawad Abdel Massih: People must put their own understanding into art, specifying the meanings would remove that. So my answer is that there are plenty of countries over here, take your pick.

JZ: Do you have sources of influence or inspiration when you write lyrics?

Rawad Abdel Massih: anything that you read or watch can be an influence, you get inspired also by politics and religion which have the major part in our lives here in the middle east. In "Resurrection of the Horrid Dream" album each song had a different meaning, "Selective Memory" is about the movie Memento, "Suicidal Form" is about suicide bombing, "The Book" is about religion and violence, you can have countless issues and subjects to write a song about.

JZ: What do you think of The Hourglass releases? Anything interesting fans should know about? Any problems happened with you guys while recording? What can you tell us more about these releases?

Rawad Abdel Massih: I love the last two album\EP, I think the Ancient Hope is our finest hour, I love the debut but the production makes me hate it, plus I think that some songs should have been removed or modified, that’s why we re-recorded Holy Rage in Ancient Hope. During recording things can go wrong. For example during the Ancient Hope recording the tracks of the drums were deleted by mistake, so we had to bring Aram and his drums from Aleppo all over again and record, it was a mess, our albums now are available in Virgin megastore Dubai and

Aram Kalousdian: I love the music, I like the production of the new EP Ancient Hope and I like performing with the guys by playing those heavy thrash beats, in this new EP we put the end story of the last two albums, during recording the tracks of Ancient Hope one of the drums track deleted so I moved my all drums from Aleppo to Damascus to rerecord it again and it was disaster.

JZ: Let's talk about Nu.Clear.Dawn long time since the "Poem Of A Knight" album, Any news? Any upcoming album?

Aram Kalousdian: After the album release we played a couple of shows and two festivals, and we kept getting invitations from other countries in Europe and the U.A.E., but unfortunately we couldn’t play there because most of the band members moved outside Syria for various reasons, and I couldn’t find the right musicians to serve as replacement members for Nu.Clear.Dawn, so I preferred to take a break until it’s the right time to come back and rock again. And speaking of which, Shant has renewed the site last month, at least to show the fans that we’re still alive and there is hope for a second Nu.Clear.Dawn album.

JZ: Is there any upcoming The Hourglass album? After the Ancient Hope EP? Any touring plans in future?

Bassem Deaibess: I do not handle these decisions, they are Rawads' and the members in Syria, but we are always on the lookout for dates, we were going to have another Concert in Lebanon but that was postponed, and we had an offer in Dubai which we did not take, details will be given to you by Rawad.

Rawad Abdel Massih: we could be doing a nice event at the beginning of next year in Lebanon we could be opening for an international band, me and Aram are working on some more complex music, we are shifting our style to something more raw, less melodies and guitar solos, more harsh vocals and more complicated arrangements, something between Testament and Lamb of God.

JZ: I'm glad to hear that after 15 years Blaakyum finally recording their debut album, what can you tell us about this album?

Bassem Deaibess: The recording process is going very slow, but we are almost done, we still have to record the keys and vocals and the album will be ready for the mix. The Album is receiving a high level of production, and it sounds heavy as fuck, and we are so excited about it, this record will be a parallel image of the bands' frenzy live shows taken into the studio. It will be, just like Blaakyum is live: Aggressive, Thrashy, and revolves around the term I love the most: "HEAVIOSITY" without neglecting the soft part of Rock and the emotional slow rock tunes it sums up Blaakyums' previous era, filled with diversity from Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal, Hard Rock and Soft Rock.

JZ: The day after Ronnie James Dio has past away, I chatted with you over the internet, and you told me that you have want to do a gig tribute to Ronnie James Dio by playing some of his songs live, beside I remember you said something about solo album? Are you still working on it?

Bassem Deaibess: We did the Tribute, My solo project is on hold now, first I am more concentrating on Blaakyum, second the owner of Music Hall has a record label, and he wants to discuss with me the opportunity of signing up for a solo album. But there is nothing in that regard yet.

JZ: Since the metal is forbidden in Syria, how many times you guys played live in Syria? And did you face any problems with the authorities?

Bassem Deaibess: We did one, in Aleppo, it was nice, and freaky, Rawad will tell you all about our adventures with the authority, it was like as if we were part of an underground resistance organization that is facing the occupying regime... Weird, but the rush was exciting at least.

Rawad Abdel Massih: The intelligence too, our sound engineer and interrogated him but things got fine later, nobody talked to us, it was funny and scary at the same time. I tried recently to bring Lake of Tears into Syria and I failed because the authorities feared "devil worship". The Ministry Of Culture said that the Syrian embassy in Sweden told them that these guys (Lake of Tears) are "hippies" and they are junkies who use drugs and causes problems, and that the audience in these kind of concerts "always beet and cut each other with knives". So I didn’t feel like discussing the matter with somebody who believes and listen to this nonsense so I preferred to drop the idea. Musically Syria doesn't belong to my map anymore.

Aram Kalousdian: We played only one in Aleppo it was great from the audience and weird from the policemen but the excitement and a little bit scary was at the end of the show by escaping from back door and the other things already Rawad Told you.

JZ: Once again thanks for the interview, is there any last words you guys would like to say?

Bassem Deaibess: I'd like to say, it's about time the International Metal scene takes a look at what we have here in the Middle East, specially Syria and Lebanon, unlike some other rich Arab countries I can mention who were able to pay their way to reach the International scene, we have really good bands here, very talented, and heroes who are able to create such high quality Metal music while being under persecution and with no support from anyone. And I'd like to thank "Jorzine" for such a state of the art webzine and for creating a strong online Metal community... And as always my very last words are: Keep Metal Alive \m/

Rawad Abdel Massih: I wish that the underground metal media and independent labels get interested more in the metal bands of the Middle East, there are great talents here and new blood.

Aram Kalousdian: I wish the underground metal scene in the Middle East see the sunrise to do big metal events and festivals and wish all labels in all Europe takes a look what we have here, and great thanks for "Jorzine" for the big support for the metal scene.


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