Global hit — heavy metal in the holy land

The World

Heavy metal music is not for everybody. That’s the point. It tends to attract people who feel like outsiders. Add to that the tension of living in a city fraught with religious, political and ethnic conflict and you have heavy metal in the holy land. The World’s Quil Lawrence has today’s Global Hit.

It’s late Friday night and most of the stores in West Jerusalem are closed because it’s the Jewish Sabbath – and – because it’s three a.m. But in one of Jerusalem’s biggest clubs, it’s more of a Black Sabbath kind of Sabbath.

It’s Jerusalem’s annual Metal Fest and the entire country’s dedicated, if small, headbanger community is out for an all night extravaganza. There’s something very soothing about listening to speed metal, death metal, or thrash when you live in a country that is driven by fear, says a 20-year-old metal head with long blond hair and steel rings in her ears, nose, lips, and eyebrows.

FAN: “Fear, we live by fear since we were young. People tell us the Holocaust, the Arabs, we live with fear. In metal concerts you come you see your people, it’s a safe place to loosen up.”

The music is inspired by Motorhead, Ozzie Osbourne, Iron Maiden – the classics. But, there is a difference in the lyrics. Christian imagery, especially the crown of thorns kind of stuff, has long been present in metal. There are even Christian metal bands. But not here. One ban playing tonight, Acropolis, calls itself Hebrew Metal.

DAVIDOV: One of our songs that people really know is about how Abraham first acknowledged the all mighty.

Yochay Davidov is the lead singer and writer of Acropolis. He says the Old Testament makes great material. But he thinks Israeli fans mostly need to bounce around the mosh pit and blow off steam.

DAVIDOV: It’s a very intense country. People are driving recklessly all the times. People are really intense over here, on things that are meaningless. It’s hard to overcome it. It’s still music, it’s not a punching bag. Maybe it’s a punching bag for the crowd.”

The band on stage right now is Shworchtsechaye. It means “Black Beast” but it’s also a slur against Jews from Arab countries by European Jews in Israel. The song is called “Nowhereland,” about the uncertainty of life here. Shworchtsechaye is one of the most political bands on the metal scene, says singer Yehi Zaken.

ZAKEN: “We sing about Jewish pride, being in Israel and being proud about it. You can call us a little bit of right wing, iIf you place us on the right.”

Zaken has written songs against Israel giving up any territory to the Palestinians and others urging regime change in Arab countries. He doesn’t care if his views are controversial.

ZAKEN: “A lot of Israeli bands interviewed throughout the years are afraid to express their views. Most artist from this genre even are afraid to talk about their political views.”

In any case, Zaken says, the kids out here tonight don’t really listen to the words or care about the politics. Zaken’s point is proven as he announces a song called “George W.”

Most of the metal heads just start to thrash on the dance floor, but one of them asks, “Who’s George W?”

For The World, this is Quil Lawrence, in Jerusalem

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