Lebanese Fever: Five Women in Love of 'Thrash Metal' Prepare Album

Published June 11th, 2018 - 11:14 GMT
(From left) Alma, Lilas, Shery and Sarah (bottom left) Tatyana and Maya (Facebook)
(From left) Alma, Lilas, Shery and Sarah (bottom left) Tatyana and Maya (Facebook)

Lilas Mayassi, Sherry Beshara, Maya Khairallah, Alma Doumani and Tatyana Boughaba are five Lebanese women in their twenties who are united by their love of metal.

A first in the region, they launched their first EP of thrash metal songs in March 2018 and are now preparing a full album.

"We will lure you inside / Of our cave / Become a slave to sirens / Look into our eyes / Hell fires rage / Become a slave to sirens" - the lyrics from their eponymous song Slave to Sirens sets the tone for what is to come.

The five women are not on the scene just to have a good time, but to succeed in their favourite style of thrash metal, an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterised by its overall aggression and often fast tempo.

Lilas and Sherry chose the name of the band to represent the Sirens - dangerous creatures from Greek mythology, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and singing voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. "It means that everyone can be enslaved."

It's a feminist stand in a region that is not used to women singing or playing genres outside pop and traditional music - especially not metal, a largely male-dominated field.

"Our first concert, people were interested and curious," Sherry said. "They were like 'let's see what these girls sound like'. They didn't expect what they heard, so they were kind of shocked. But after, we got the respect somehow, even from the male bands."

"It's hard for girls here to have a band and to go out, especially recording at night," said Lilas. "Parents are still overprotective. It's a male-dominated country, so it's hard for them to understand why a girl would come and go alone at night."

While they have the support of their families, they say their work with the band is seen as unimportant - because they don't yet make money from it. They have had to convince their parents they are not wasting their time.

"My dad used to tell me, 'why don't you change your style? He is a musician as well, but his genre of music is blues and jazz," Sherry said.

"But when he saw that I wasn't going to change, he had this idea that I would get attention. 'Being an all-girl group is good for you' he told me."

Eventually, when the band released their EP, the audience's reaction was much better than they expected.

The five women met through music and personal friends. Lilas and Sherry, both on the guitar, first met during the 2015 garbage protests in Beirut. Sherry was previously in a band with drummer Tatyana.

They had been at a jam night. "We had the chemistry," Sherry said. "I always found thrash music to be my calling so when Lilas talked to me, I got very excited because I was also influenced by other female thrash bands."

Lilas then found Alma on social media. "She is the only female with a bass here," said Lilas. After convincing Tatyana, the band was officially formed in 2016.

 

 

All five fell in love with metal music and culture at a young age, but struggled to find the space to enjoy it in Lebanon.

"We don't have a lot of metal pubs or places to hang out in Lebanon," Lilas said. "Quadrangle [a live music venue and pub near Beirut] is the only place."

But the venue had to start welcoming fewer metal bands after neighbours called the police several times.

Metal culture is poorly thought of in Lebanese society. During a goth-themed wedding in March 2018, the priest of the church where the wedding was taking place ended up labelling the couple as Satanic and condemning their anti-church practices.

"It's about misunderstanding, because it's a different way of thinking and it scares people," Maya said.

In the 1990s, metal-heads used to be arrested by police, accused of Satanism. Times have changed, but metal culture is still quite foreign to Lebanese society.

"Our scene is a bit small, that's another challenge. We don't have organisers or supporters as the scene is more Arabic, oriental oriented, it's not our culture. Metal is something imported from outside," Maya said.

"If you want to reach someone from the music industry here, he will be like, 'this is noise, it's not music'. Even if you want to mix or record or produce an album here, it's harder because they don't have the right equipment for metal."

Slave to Sirens recorded in Lebanon but had to mix and master their EP in Italy.

Sherry and Lilas usually come up with the lyrics "in puzzles" that the rest of the band then edits and makes sense of. They write about society and human nature in general, the evil nature of men and war in the region.

"Most of it comes because of where we live," Maya said. "We see that around us everyday. It's about how we feel and what we see."

As they work on a full album, Slaves to Sirens do not hesitate in saying that their music is a statement: "It's an all-girl band; it has a message," said Lilas.

"It talks to all the women here, living in their own shell because of a religious conservative society, who don't have the guts to do what they want because of society or their parents. 

"We are telling them: 'Go, follow your dreams, if we can do it, you can do it.'"

 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


Copyright @ 2019 The New Arab.

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