Today Blessed Altar Zine has the pleasure of speaking with one of the masterminds behind SCARAB. If you’ve had your head buried in the sand, SCARAB are a wicked Egyptian death metal band full of brutally fast, crunchy, and technical guitar riffs backed up with some insanity on the drum kit. I’ve been keeping tabs on these guys ever since I heard their EP “Valley of the Sandwalkers” and first album “Blinding The Masses” around 2009. They’ve been keeping busy since then, releasing “Serpents of the Nile” in 2015 and now their 3rd “Martyrs of the Storm” on March 6th 2020.
Egyptian themed death metal is nothing new for a lot of metalheads, but SCARAB conjures up a much different beast than other incarnations of the sound. Every riff and progression serves its purpose well, with the songs accurately reflecting the wrath and destruction the ancient gods were known best for. I’ve loved everything they’ve put out so far and their latest is no exception. Check out our interview with the band below and pick up a copy of “Martyrs of the Storm” as soon as possible! Metal Yeti
Sammy Sayed – Vocals
Al-Sharif Marzeban – Guitar
Tarek Amr- Guitar
Ahmed Abdel Samad – Bass guitar
Amir El-Saidi – Drums
Hello and thank you for agreeing to this interview! This is the Yeti of Blessed Altar Zine and it is a huge honour to be speaking with SCARAB! Who from the band are we speaking to today? Introduce yourself and tell me the last band/song you listened to!
Greetings Yeti, this is Sammy Sayed speaking to you on behalf of everyone in Scarab. I am actually listening to the new single by the Death Metal band Abysmal Dawn on repeat, it is called Hedonistic. As usual they always write great music, and it is an amazing song! Looking forward to their new release!
I’m a huge SCARAB fan, so first off thanks for all the fantastic tunes to blast over the years! I really enjoy how the death metal is infused with some cultural influences while staying true to form with relentless brutality. What are some of your favourite bands and other influences that have driven you over the years?
Thanks for the life force brother! Too many favorite bands and songs, everyone in Scarab has a different musical taste in general and not necessarily only Metal. I’d say the bands that would have influenced us are the bands that each member in Scarab used to cover before Scarab was born in 2006, back in the teenage days as we were actually growing up to learn how to master our instruments, we learnt from these bands, and even some nu metal bands since their music was simple to cover, I used to cover System of a Down, Korn & Slipknot myself before I could play anything in school days. But here are the bands that most Scarab Members learnt from – Morbid Angel, Immolation, Monstrosity, Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, Nile, Satyricon, Opeth, At The Gates, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, Slayer, The Misfits, Decapitated, Psycroptic, Vader, Gorefest, Six Feet Under, Sepultura… the list can go on. Most of the bands I mentioned and I guess metal in general uses the Minor Scale and especially the Harmonic Minor, plus the infamous Tritone or so called “devil’s interval”, I wouldn’t want to simplify the matter or generalize, of course it is way much more deeper than just this boring analysis I just attempted to do, but coming from Egypt these musical scales I mentioned are deeply rooted into our musical traditions and the tritone isn’t at all associated with the devil and whatnot, it is not forbidden in our musical culture.
Let me tell you none of us studied music anyway, but that’s just a general knowledge, all the great bands I mentioned above and more, have in some way or another implemented these scales into their music consciously or unconsciously. Anyone who listens to the Egyptian Oud music will find tremolo picking, interval chords, and just about everything that is in metal but portrayed differently. What I want to say is that I believe that metal music in terms of music writing “not how it sounds like” is something that is already close to our hearts and collective unconscious and we couldn’t help it but to naturally understand it, and it was inevitable to learn the craft through all the names I mentioned above and even more, it is our calling.
I’ve been blasting “Coffin Texts” a lot since the single was shared a few weeks back, how do you think this track compares to the rest of the new album?
Coffin Texts is one of the tracks that is musically fully composed by Al Sharif Marzeban, one of my favorite tracks that he magically brought to the table, featuring Achraf Loudiy of Aterenam with a classic melodic guitar solo and lick. A heavy number! And I believe they all are. Yes, every song can be contemplated individually but I believe especially with this release, every song complements the other and there are no highlight songs in the album in my own humble opinion, I personally couldn’t say which would be my favorite song in the album as they all really are. Coffin Texts to me like the rest of the songs, conceptually feels like one of the branches within the Kemetic/Egyptian tree of life that consists of ten branches. I couldn’t compare it with any of the other songs as to me they all complete one big picture, I believe every song is unique and all interconnected together and the only justice is to leave the comparisons to the listener’s taste.
The production quality has increased a lot over the releases. Where do you record the albums, and has anything changed in your process since the first few releases?
We usually record everything in one studio, but with this album it was an alchemical storm. The main guitars were recorded by Al Sharif Marzeban & our ex member Stephen Moss both at Subliminal Audio Productions Studio, Cairo, Egypt. All the guest musicians recorded their guitar parts in their own countries (Karl Sanders, Joseph Haley, Amduscias Baal, Paul Nazarkardeh, Achraf Loudiy, Tarassenko Nikita) the rest of the lead parts were recorded by Al Sharif Marzeban also at Subliminal Audio Productions Studio while a lot of the lead parts and additional guitars in the album was recorded by our ex member Stephen Moss in the UK and sent over. The Drums were recorded at El Warsha Studio, Giza, Egypt by Amir El Saidi. The vocals were recorded by myself in Noizz Studio, Giza, Egypt. I did all the samples, keys, and orchestrations programming in my own humble temple AKA home studio AKA room.All the bass guitars in the album were recorded in the UK by Arran McSporran in his home studio, and it is a fretless bass guitar. Then all this was mixed and mastered at Noizz Studio in Giza, Egypt by the sound Alchemist Ahmed Abdel Samad who recently joined Scarab as a full time member on the bass guitar after wrapping it all up. A lot more is explained thoroughly on a note over our facebook page that we called Martyrs of the Storm (The Story).
The cover art for your releases has gotten much more intricate over the course of yoru releases. “Martyrs of the Storm” looks especially wild from what I’ve seen so far. What’s the story behind the cover art? Is there any specific inspiration for the art over the years?
Scarab’s identity is obviously about Ancient Egyptian myth, magic, mysticism & culture. Being born and living in Egypt makes this inevitable. But, as usual, we always tend to reveal in our work that Ancient Egypt also has created streams of influences and/or similarities with many civilizations & cultures including our modern times. This is something that always finds its way into the concepts of our artwork and also lyrical content ever since the beginning. Let me start by the cover artwork which is done by the artist Fiona Garcia after a lot of emails back and forth about energies and concepts behind the album, we wanted to do something that can relate to infinity, that’s why the Octagon/eight pointed star/chaos sphere. The original point of reference for us is the Ancient Egyptian Calendar. The cover art represents the macrocosmic point of view of the album, the totality of the energies behind all of the tracks. While all of the booklet artwork was created by the artist Valeria Misko (Dakonde Art) except for Circles of Verminejya by Aldy Ivan (Ivan Brutal Art) & Kingdom of Chaos by Thomas Dimitriou. The booklet is a zoom in into the energy and conceptions behind each track solely.
I of course only have insight into my own local metal scene, but I am always curious about other places around the world. How is the Cairo metal scene when it comes to Death Metal and other extreme genres? Are there any bands you think I should check out?
Back in the days it was so rare to find here in Egypt bands who actually play their own music and especially extreme metal, they were few. It was mostly cover bands so you’d have a black metal cocktail cover band, a death metal cocktail cover band, and some mainly tribute bands. On the other hand, now it is the other way around, and that’s a great sign. Now there are more bands who actually write and record their own music, in almost all the main genres of metal. But to keep it only narrowed to extreme metal I’d recommend bands like (Crescent, Odious, Osiris, Erasing Mankind, Ahl Sina, Veritatem solam) These are the bands that came to my head right now and I am pretty sure there is more I am not aware of or anyway missed. It all depends on your taste and I am sure if you research the Egyptian Metal Scene you will find a lot more happening.
The two things that are lacking would be the shows, it is impossible to tour Egypt performing metal for example and there are no labels that I have heard of that are dedicated to metal music in Egypt and that gives you a good view on the market of Metal in Egypt… Almost non existent. Positive thing though that there would be a show happening every now and then such as Metal Blast Festival, and we hope there would be more of that in the future.
It is clear that death metal flows naturally for the SCARAB crew. Have any of the band members ever ventured into other territory or music styles?
I believe all of us ventured into a lot of musical styles from experimental music to jazz music even. Whether this is listening or actually performing or just dabbling in it. But always we find our ways driven towards the death metal as our true passion and closest to the heart, that’s why, yes it flows naturally and it is the thing that comes honest to our persona.
SCARAB have had some wicked live shows at festivals like Bloodstock and Metal Days over the years. I have to ask about the possibility of touring in 2020? Anything in the works?
With all the cancelations of the shows during the coronavirus problem, it seems that 2020 so far is a dead season, we are keeping our options open though and hopefully the universe will bring us some good fortune. We look forward to playing ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ & touring! When it feels like it is the right time.
What does the future hold for Scarab after “Martyrs of the Storm”?
Write new material! We have a lot of ideas & concepts/ energies that we want to experiment with & implement in the future of our music.
Metal music transcends national borders with metalheads building strong bonds regardless of the physical distance between them. How does it feel to have your music blasted in headphones and speakers across the planet?
The best feeling ever. We are in awe of this opportunity. That people can connect with Scarab and the music that unfolds from this entity & relate to it.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Well, Martyrs of the Storm is out. Give it a listen, dig deep into it. It is available online on all the digital platforms and it is on CD & also Vinyl. If you feel it, own it! Having a copy is a whole other magical experience! \m/
Thank you for the interview! Cheers and I can’t wait to see you live if I ever get the chance! /../
Blessings all the way from Egypt/Kemet \m/
Interview by Metal Yeti
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