Review & Interview

SALEM - Collective Demise


How many times do you think about Isreal when it comes to death metal? Do you know any Israeli bands at all? I think some bands' names may sound familiar to all of us, but that still doesn`t mean we`ve ever heard the music these bands play. That was my case with Salem too. I`ve heard their name before, but didn`t know anything else about the band. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me a cd he liked so much: the new Salem cd, Collective Demise.

Salem was formed in 1985 and this is their 4th full length album. They worked in two studios in Israel and produced the album themselves. I don`t know what kind of music they had played before, but Collective Demise is an interesting piece of melodic death metal. When I say melodic DM please don`t think about any band that has been labeled as melodic DM lately, because I simply can`t compare Salem to those bands. The first word that comes to mind when I listen to their music is `strange`. They've managed to create their very own style and sound.

There are many influences in Salem`s music, ranging from black metal to oriental melodies, and combining the elements of all these different styles created the `strange` feeling around their music. The songs are mostly mid-paced with faster passages. The music is based on the heavy guitar riffings together with the dry sounding drums. The tempo changes make the songs somehow intense, though it`s not fast and complicated, but varied enough to keep your attention all the time. Due to this, the songs have an unusual, clear structure. The whole album is heavy, dark and aggressive. If I want to describe it in one word I would say it is MASSIVE. If you like the grimness of black metal and the tight tempos of death metal, spiced up with heavy sounding guitar solos, you will definetely enjoy this album.

They have a female vocalist (Kristin E. Wallace) on the album, but we can hear her only a few times and mostly she took part in the backing vocals, giving a light gothic-like touch to those songs, such as in the refrain of `Coming End of Reason`: "When blood is seen in heaven, God knows his creature`s gone insane". Her clean, soft voice draws a sharp contrast with Ze`ev`s vocals. Actually his voice characterises the band. Though it`s not too varied and melodic, it`s very harsh, raw, primitive. This is what makes their music natural and grim. Sometimes his vocals contrast with the melodic, often-catchy music.

They used Afro-Cuban percussion and Arabic darbuka, and the sound of these special instruments give another interesting experiment to the listeners. It's enough to mention the acoustic song `Act Of Terror`. The lyrics are dealing mostly with issues in Israel, and the song `Al taster` is a cover of an old Jewish hymn whose lyric is taken from Psalms, chapter 102, verse 3. Their lyrics show the reality of our lifes. And one song is dedicated to their Israelian fans, it`s `Broken Yet United`. This is a very well composed album and it`s good to hear their freshness among the tons of similar-sounding releases nowadays.

My favourite songs from the album: `Broken Yet United`, `Coming End of Reason`, `Act of War`, `Collective Demise`, `Feed On Your Grief` and `Recall`.

Collective Demise is an interesting example of today`s modern death metal. You may like it or not, but it is an original, unique album.


Salem - Living In Aggressive Times

The first time I heard about this Israeli band was last year when they released their fourth album and I also found out that they're one of the first Israeli metal bands. After reviewing their album `Collective Demise` I had the opportunity to interview the singer of the band, Ze`ev, in January.

- Hello Ze`ev! How are you and Salem in the first days of 2003?

- Happy New Year! I hope this year will be good for Salem as 2002.

- Four years have passed between your last two albums `A Moment of Silence` and `Collective Demise`. What did the band do during this period?

- When we did "A Moment Of Silence" we were signed with an Israeli record company "BNE". When "A Moment Of Silence" was released, "B.N.E got a deal from "Noise Records" (German label) for 5 albums. The reason that prevented Salem from signing and ruined the album distribution in Europe was a number of clauses in the contract that can fail the band in the future. Therefore the contract with "Noise" was cancelled. Salem's deal with BNE was for 3 albums. We tried to cancel the deal with them, and it took a long time (almost 3 years) and that is why it took some time between "A Moment Of Silence" and "Collective Demise". So, in early 2001 Salem was released from the contract with B.N.E. We taped a demo and sent it to several record companies. The best deal we got was from KMG/ System Shock. Also, we heard good things about this label from people who knows them. KMG/ System Shock treats us great, They are doing a great promo for "Collective demise", they are very satisfied from the sales of the CD - and if they are happy, we are happy

- After this 4 year long break, what was the comeback like? What were the fans` and the media`s reactions like?

- Until now we are getting great responses, a lot of fans e-mails, excellent reviews and a lot of interviews. We appreciate it a lot. The album was released in Israel on July 8th and we did a show to celebrate it. That night we sold about 750 copies. This is a good stage to say thank you to all of you for the support and for the good responses of the audience and the media.

- `Collective Demise` has been out for several months all over the world and it mostly got positive reviews. How much are you satisfied with the album?

- When we started writing "Collective Demise" we didn't know how it would turn out. The expectations were high and now we are very satisfied with the results.

- The band was the producer of the album. Why did you decide to make everything on your own and why did you worked in two studios for the recording and the mixing?

- The budget for "Collective demise" wasn't big enough to bring someone like Colin Richardson. All of Salem members has a technical knowledge and we know our ways in a studio, therefore it's easy for us as a musicians to produce and release a good quality product. We worked in two different studios because every studio was capable for different technical things. We recorded in D.B. Studios (Drums, Bass, and Guitars) and Noise Studios (Vocals and mix).

- Pls tell us what are the lyrics about?

- Our lyrics are influenced by life itself. In Israel it's impossible to ignore the news since it has a direct effect on your daily life and as a result you have songs. It's hard to cope with the fear of being somewhere crowded (like buses, restaurants, or even live shows) without knowing how it will end. The fact that innocent civilians are dying gives you a helplessness feeling. It is difficult for us to see a solution for it right now, but we don't know what tomorrow will bring - therefore we try to keep hoping. In general and conceptual, all the songs in the album are referring to collective demise.

- Living in a religious country like Israel, what is your aim to make Salem?

- As musicians, our goal is to create music and to pass our message through the music and lyrics to the listener.

- How long did it take to put everything together around `Collective Demise`?

- The rehearsals, writing the materials and the recording took us 18 months.

- Did you have ideas from before that weren`t used on the previous albums or does it contain all brand new stuffs?

- All the stuff is brand new.

- I don`t know your previous albums but I`ve read `Collective Demise` is more agressive comparing to them. What are the differences that make it more agressive?

- "Collective demise" is very aggressive, although it has a lot of melodies and harmonies. I think "Collective demise" reflects certain adolescence of Salem, the fact that it's more aggressive and much faster distinguish it from our previous releases. We are living in aggressive times and that influences us when we write the music.

- Is there a specific song on the album you like the most? If yes, then why?

- I like all the songs, every song means something to me, and every song is different. Take Coming end of reason and try to compare it with Slave, those are 2 completely different songs, and that is why this is so difficult.

- You had difficulties when you made `Ha`ayara Boe`eret`. Did you have problems with `Al Taster` too?

- We did have a problem when we did "Kaddish", we had an argument because they thought this isn't appropriate to play Ha'ayara Boe'eret with Metal. This is a very sensitive subject and some people thought the music is too aggressive, but eventually we decided that it is appropriate to cover songs like that, and that is why we did it. After all we have the freedom of speech and creativity. Until now we didn't have any problems with "Al Taster" lyrics. "Al Taster" is a cover of an old Jewish hymn. Lyrics are taken from Psalms, chapter 102, verse 3. You can usually hear this song in Israel on Holocaust Memorial Day and on Memorial day for Israel's fallen. It was very important to us to do this song in Hebrew because of it's meaning. We dedicated this song to a woman we know, who lost all her family in the Holocaust, and after she immigrate to Israel and build a new family, she lost her only child in the war.

- Who came up with the idea to use Afro-Cuban percussion and Arabic Darbuka in the music? Do the band members or guest musicians play on these instruments?

- When Salem finished writing for "Collective Demise", we thought what we could add to the songs to make them sound as good as possible, and that is how the ideas of female vocals, darbuka and percussions were born. Salem members are playing all the instruments, except from the ram's horn.

- Who is the female singer, Kristin E. Wallace?

- The female singer, Kristin E. Wallace is our drummers wife (Nir Nakav).

- The cover and the ovearll lay out of the cd is very precise, following the lyrics and harmonizing with each other. Who was the artist?

- The cover was made by two people: the lay out was made by Gilad Arama (He is also Dalmerot's Kingdom drummer), and the front and back cover were made by Nir Gutraiman (after "Collective Demise" was released, Nir joined Salem as a guitarist).

- There are different influences in your music starting from black metal till the orienal melodies. When you compose the music, what are the main considerations?

- It is very important to us to built the song right, there have to be coordination between all the parts. The song have to flow.

- Regarding to this variety, what are your musical influences? How much have your influences changed since the forming of the band?

- Our main influence is life itself. In Israel it's impossible to ignore the news since it has a direct effect on your daily life and as a result you have songs. Another thing that inspire us is the Israeli music rotes. In any case, all 5 of us writing the material, and we all like different bands, so when we eventually build a song, it sounds like us. My early idols were "Iron Maiden", "Black Sabbath", "Judas Priest", "Motorhead" etc'. The band that influenced me back then was "Venom", and then came other bands like "Slayer", "Sepultura", "Bathory" and more.

- What is the general creative process of the album?

- Every member of the band is writing material, and in most cases we are all meeting, listening to it and choosing what we like, eventually we build a song, after that we write lyrics to it. When the song is ready, we can change it, so a song is not really ready until we record it.

- You have a cd-rom with 3 video clips on it. Is it available for the fans too?

- Salem has released 3 new video clips from "Collective demise", the first one "Al Taster" deals with the pain of the people who lost their loved ones, the second "Act of war" shows the absurd of suicide terrorists on busses in Israel, and the third "Broken Yet United" is dedicated to the Israeli Metal scene, to the audience and it shows the relationship between Salem and the fans. You can't get the videos for now, but soon Act of war and Broken Yet United will be on Salem site.

- Who chose the songs to make the videos of? I think every song has a message, why specially these 3 songs have been chosen?

- Salem members chose the songs. Nir Nakav, our drummer, directed all three of them. We choose those songs because we think they describe the situation in Israel, and it was very important to us to show this situation visually. The lyrics of the video "Broken Yet United" are describing the situation in Israel, but we dedicated this song to the Israeli Metal scene, because in spite everything, we are still living.

- In the clip of `Broken Yet United` we can see you have many fans in Isreal. But do you know how much are you known outside of your country based on the feedbacks or the emails you have got till now?

- We get hundreds of e-mails and great reviews from all over the world. Even from fans that live in countries that don't live in peace with us, like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and more.

- Are there plans about a tour promoting `Collective Demise`, outside of Israel? If you were to chose the supporting bands, whom would you like to play together?

- KMG/ System Shock is planning an European tour for Salem on 2003. We don't have the exact details right now, but we will be happy to inform you when we will. I always respected bands from the old generation. A band that I really appreciate and I would be happy to tour with is Kreator. It would be great to play all over Europe.

- What is your best or worst concert memory or any other story of the band`s life you would share with the readers?

- I Think we accomplished a lot, the main things are: Our first albums were relatively successful in Europe. In 1994, Salem video clip "The Fading" was on M.T.V on the show "Headbangers ball ". Afterward we were chosen on the magazine "Kerrang" that operated with M.T.V, as one of the best 10 promising bands in this genre. "Creating our sins" and "Kaddish" sold 40.000 copies. Salem shows have great energies. The audience knows and sings all the lyrics with me, almost every show is sold out (800-1000 people). Until now "Collective Demise" is getting great responses, excellent reviews and a lot of interviews. We have experienced some shocking things over the years too, like receiving hatred letters and things like that. Also, Burzum sent us the bomb after he purchased our Demo "Millions Slaughtered" and realize that our lyrics are against death, murder and Nazism. He wrote us a letter that he liked our music but not our lyrics, He also said that it's a pity that Hitler and Sadam didn't killed more Jews. I wrote him back correspondingly to his letter. After a while, He sent me a bomb, I didn't get it because in Israel we have a very good security, and so the police destroyed the envelope with the bomb.

- I know only a few bands from Israel. How big do you think might be your influences on the Israeli metal scene?

- Salem was formed in 1985. At that time, we were the first black metal band in Israel. We influenced the generation that came shortly after us.

- This year will be the 18th anniversary of Salem, that is a long time. If you look back now, would you change anything in the band`s life?

- The album "A moment of silence" was released on an Israeli record company "B.N.E". They checked Salem's potential with several companies from abroad, and the responses were positive for worldwide distribution of a completed product. B.N.E invested on this album 80,000$ (including bringing Colin Richardson to produce the album in Israel). B.N.E got a deal from "Noise Records" (German label) for 5 albums. The reason that prevented Salem from signing and ruined the album distribution in Europe was a number of clauses in the contract that can fail the band in the future. Therefore the contract with "Noise" was cancelled. I think this album could be a big success, and if I could change something - I would try to distribute it in Europe.

- Do you have ideas, plans about a new album after `Collective Demise` or shall your fans wait another 4 years again?

- We are now working on a new material, and we are trying to build a concept for the new album. This is just the beginning but I hope it will take shape real soon.

- Does any of you take part in side projects?

- Some of us have Side projects (Musical). I produced several bands. Nir Nakav - our drummer, played the drums and recorded with Nail within and Arallu, he also released 2 albums of his own. Nir Gutraiman - our guitarist, have another band called "Lehavoth".

- What are you doing in everyday life?

- First of all, I have a family - a wife and a beautiful girl, and I like being with them, I also like exercise Martial art "Tai-box", create web sites, playing with Salem, and helping metal bands- I produced several bands like "Arallu", "Azazel", "Aztec", "Betrayer" , and I just returned from Germany, helping producing "Nail within" with Harris Jones.

- Thanks for spending your time answering to these questions. Last words are yours.

- Thank you very much for your support. Keep metal alive! For more information about Salem, you can visit our web site:
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