Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Middle Eastern black metal (part 2 of 3) - Ayat

How should extreme music from the third world sound? Well, like this, of course- Ayat's origins in Lebanon really demand the sort of raw, needling, utterly chaotic sound that they bring to the table so flawlessly on their releases. Like most burgeoning third-world scenes, the middle eastern scene is tragically soaked in bullshit Dimmu Borgir-with-Arabic-melodies pseudo-folk metal that the vast majority of the scene demands- after all, Ayat's from Lebanon; they're entirely defined by their cultural musical legacy, correct? Well, apparently not, and bands like Ayat and Halla are proving that they can enter the scene in the same way that so many others did: without concession, trend, or hipster energy propelling them.

Halla and Ayat represent the spearhead of Middle Eastern black metal, defining its sound almost by refusing to define it. You will never find cliched Arabic folk melodies, lyrics quoting passages from the Koran, or other somesuch self-conscious attempts at superstardom. Instead, you'll find primitive, raw, animalistic black metal that gives the best of the rest of its world a run for its money. These bands come from an environment of religious oppression (true religious oppression, the kind where you're executed rather than given a stern talking-to in the mainstream media), almost constant warfare, and a barbaric, murderous, and simultaneously intelligent and rich cultural history- it's only natural that the music sound as chaotic and deranged as the environment in which it was spawned.

The messy, discordant, abstract sounds of bands like Ayat and Halla are both more relevant and more honest than any of the more open attempts at "Middle Eastern Black Metal" that some of their contemporaries are attempting. The overweening obsession that metalheads feel towards "folk" metal (which rarely has anything to do with actual folk) reflects a sort of cultural narcissism at best and unabashed racism at worst, proving that the only way a bunch of white suburbanites can relate to those from other cultures is through watered-down, cliched representations of those cultures. Ayat and Halla have no desire to be scene as Lebanese or Iranian black metal respectively; rather, they desire to be seen as black metal alone. And in doing this, they have created more authentic Middle Eastern metal than Orphaned Land could ever hope to produce.


  1. bravo. this is a wonderful critique of the exoticist tendency in metal, and a lesson in the meaning of authenticity.

  2. exoticist tendencies might show up the worst in chinese metal. there's a lot of decent chinese black metal (ululate and wrath of despot come to mind, but a lot of it is hard to find because i think it's banned or restricted in china), but the fucking flutes and gongs are in so much of the other stuff it's really painful to listen to. i find it so disappointing though, you'd think mongolian throat-singing could be really cool but i can't find one band with "folk" elements from china that sounds good.

  3. "exoticist." Nice. Now I have a word for that phenomenon.