This interview with Molodost was originally published by Echoes & Dust. Enjoy reading it and check out the music.
When you listen to metal from far of places, you find that views can be very different to what you’re familiar with. To me this is always the challenge and beauty of exploring metal’s unexplored fringes.
But if you are from Tyre in Lebanon and you make black metal, your concept of anti-Zionism isn’t some strange theory from a far right movement. It’s the very real expression of fear of war, which for Tyre was never far from its door and a bit too often in the recent history actually in their country. This runs through the music of Molodost, the otherness, the oppositions and a typical melancholy.
The theme of Molodost’s music is youth. Youth is a broad concept and matches with an open, inquisitive mindset towards the world. Towards wrong and right, towards the self and the other. Youth means being open to others, open to change and learning. Read my interview with the man behind Molodost and make sure to check out the EP.
Hi, could you kindly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Molodost?
Molodost: Hello and thanks for such an opportunity. I hail from Lebanon; a small country in the heart of the Middle-East. Molodost was founded in 2012 as a medium to primarily express some English and Arabic poetry of mine, rather than write and record music as an end-result by itself. The project mainly lasted some months with the release of 2 demos. I have, however, continued writing and recording more mature materials from 2013 all the way to 2015 and eventually released them in the recent release entitled نسيم جبل صنين (The Breeze of the Mountain of Sanine).
(((o))): How did you get into metal music? What bands inspired you to make your music?
Molodost: I have been listening to heavy metal music since 2003 and it was a natural development of an interest when I was exposed to ‘Moonlight’, a song by the German death/gothic band Crematory and carried over since then. However, it wasn’t until 2009 when I have discovered my niche of metal music which have ever since influenced my entire listening experience and my own music; such niche is mainly Slavic folk metal and (atmospheric) black metal with all the variants of being ‘traditional/epic/blackgaze/ambient/neoclassical/etc…’. Folk music in general, neofolk, darkwave and dark ambient, in addition to some Arabic music also had some influences on my work. To cite some influential bands, they were and still are Burzum, Alkonost, Summoning, Agalloch and Fairouz (yes, Google her! The very famous Lebanese lady).
I understand that there’s a Russian connection to Molodost, how did that start out? Can you elaborate on that?
Molodost: Yes, definitely. Molodost (Молодость) is Russian for ‘youth’. This is the title of a song by Ivan Kupala (a Russian ethnotronica band) and was later covered by my ultimate favorite band of all time, Alkonost (a Russian folk metal band). Youth is also a major theme in my poetry and so, since I have a deep appreciation for the Russian culture, geography, language and music, the connection between the name, the music and the themes was natural.
You’ve just released your new EP. Can you tell us a bit about it and its themes?
Molodost: This is actually a compilation more than an EP of the best materials I’ve written over the years (some stuff didn’t make it to the final compilation). Some songs were also omitted out of respect for copyright (since the ‘EP’ is available for purchasing on Bandcamp) since they were cover songs (for the record, I have two covers: Burzum’s ‘Móti Ragnarokum’ and Mortifera’s ‘Epilogue D’une Existence De Cryssthal’). Lyrical themes of this record revolve around existence, anti-Zionism and the support of the Palestinian case, mountains and deserts (landscapes of Lebanon and the UAE, respectively), and poverty.
One of the criticism that I read a few times involves the quality of the recordings. I felt that the synth parts had a fitting dungeon synth-esque vibe and the quality matched the expression, but I was wondering if it was a lack of means or a conscious style choice to make your music this way. Are you satisfied with the result.
Molodost: At the beginning, yes! I was and still fascinated by lo-fi productions as sometimes they can be truly atmospheric! Yet, with the emergence of more high-quality and more accessible stuff in the recent years, I actually wanted to improve my sound, especially the synth (to reflect more natural folk instrumentations) and the drum machine involved. Guitars-wise (since this is the only real instrument in the recording; except for one song as it shall be a secret), I was never able to improve the quality of recording due to my living circumstances. But generally and for the early Molodost songs, the creepy and frightening tone of the synth and the guitars were indeed satisfying.
Can you tell a bit about the recording and the writing process, how do you go about these things and do you involve others in it?
Molodost: I just grab my guitar, unplugged, of course, and start composing riffs. Appropriate stuff are then evaluated if they are more suitable as synth lines, bass lines are then added (and I like them loud!) and the beats are composed next. Vocals were always difficult to be recorded due to logistic issues (e.g. equipment availability, inappropriate recording place). Others were never involved and this was a clear decision I’ve taken from the early days as I just can’t adapt my poetic and musical ideas to the ideas of others. This is something I can elaborate later on but my metal musical taste is far from common in my country (and I actually mean among typical metal fans, and not non-metal fans).
How important is nature, or the land, in your music. In what way do you find inspiration in that?
Molodost: Nature is and will always be the glue that attaches all my ideas, whether musical or poetic, together. The appreciation for nature can express itself in either directly describing landscapes or describing a more desired natural human behavior (like how we should really respond to poverty or understand existence). The influencers can range from the US black metal scene and Scandinavia all the way to the harsh Russian winter and Lebanon’s valleys and seas.
When listening to your EP (repeatedly) I find that there’s a lot more feeling put into it than you’d initially think. I mean the poetry, the expression, it feels to me as a highly personal expression the way you make music. How do you feel about that?
Molodost: Indeed and I just wish if you could understand Arabic! Mentioned earlier, the primary focus of the project was to express some words I’ve been writing since 2006, rather than make music for the sake of music. Feelings are genuine. For instance and in the anti-Zionist song, the lyrics and the music were written at the height of the Israeli invasion of Gaza strip in late 2012 and so you can’t imagine how much rage one could have during that sad period.
You’ve got one song you describe as an anti-Zionist song on the EP. It to me felt like a sad song, lamenting the situation and the losses. You’ve just written another song with a more violent tone. You’re not going to release that as a Molodost song. How do you determine what fits in the project and what not?
Molodost: I was always a fan of chaos in music (I mean, just check the Italian black metal band Nazgûl!). You know that feeling when a song starts with a mesmerizing flute melody or a harp line where you are taken back to your childhood with all the memories and the forests you’ve once played in (yes, that line is from Nest, the Finnish neofolk project) and so, out of nowhere, violent blast beats interrupt everything and start reminding you again that you’re now living in the present where evil is taking over (Ulver’s Bergtatt comes to the mind eh?)? Yet, the outro is just another piano line where hope is reborn from gazing at the stars and the rising sun behind the mountains (Saor had something relatively similar in their latest album, Guardians). Such a musical chaos reflects the kind of poetry I usually write. In other words, the musical aspects of a record don’t really matter for me. I can place a peaceful neoclasical intro, followed by a violent black metal song, a soothing folk metal song and a farewell neofolk outro without feeling ‘out of context’ as they are the themes of the lyrics that unite the musical aspects of the record and not vice versa as often done elsewhere.
Can you explain what your position on the anti-Zionism is as a musician? I’m interested in why you as a Lebanese musician feel that you need to speak out on this topic.
Molodost: That would be very obvious for any person who has a minimal knowledge of the Middle-East and the modern history of Lebanon and Palestine. As a lyricist and a hardcore music fan, I believe that music and poetry are very powerful political tools. You know that cliché of saying that ‘music should unite all/music should be separated from politics’? That’s bullshit for me. A bit of a context out of my personal memory, I have survived 3 ‘Israeli’ invasions and wars; one in 1993, one in 1996 and the last one in 2006. This is not mentioning the continuous abuse of Palestinians and the Gaza-Strip wars. Put differently and as simple as it can be said, ‘Israel’ is a ‘country’ built on terrorism and crimes. However we fight back, it’s just resistance. Whatever you hear differently, it’s just ‘typical blind western media’. I live 15 kms away from the borders of Palestine and I really know what happens nearby. I don’t really live in the west and remotely preach about what’s going on in the Middle-East.
What is it like to play the music you do in Lebanon. I understand it is a rather tolerant country. Does your music get a different sort of attention due to the language choice?
Molodost: Lebanon is actually a relatively tolerant country, unlike, again, what you could hear in the ‘typical blind Western media’. Many concerts of all sorts often take place in Beirut and heavy metal music is among them. Hell, even Dead Can Dance (a highly respected world/neoclassical music act) had a concert here in 2012. The desire to use Arabic poetry instead of English was actually a very conscious choice as the former language is much more expressionist than the latter one.
Do you plan to ever play live with Molodost. If not why not?
Molodost: Not really. As I said, the project is on-hold and so, frankly, I am not a good musician at all (last time I held my guitar was a few months ago!) due to a lack of interest and time (I am currently more of an academic and work person).
What is the metal scene like in Lebanon? And are you involved in it in any way? What bands should people check out?
Molodost: The metal scene in Lebanon is actually a fine one, in terms of having ‘metalheads’ (which is a super silly term but you get the idea anyway). As I mentioned before, heavy metal concerts do regularly take place. Am I involved? Not at all; neither as a fan nor as a musician. I simply don’t like the common liked styles of heavy metal here in Lebanon. Most fans here listen to traditional, thrash, groove, progressive, death, etc… metal music. Folk metal is under appreciated in Lebanon and, if found, it is more towards the Celtic branch and sound and not the Slavic one which I am a huge fan of. As for atmospheric black metal, appreciation is growing, especially with the explosion of interest in bands such as Alcest and all the -gaze movement since the early 2012. Personally speaking, I loved and still like a Lebanese oriental gothic metal band called Shepherd Of Sheol which was a band in the early 00s who once open for Theatre of Tragedy here in Lebanon. As you have also mentioned them, Blaakyum is a very good band in terms of international exposure but I am just not a fan of their sound since I hate thrash metal and its related sound and songwriting.
How are the relations with metal artists from neighboring countries?
Molodost: It’s fine. Not that I have many to say but supporting is nice, especially if relevant. There’s a good folk/pagan black metal band from Tunisia (a country I really love) called Ymyrgar. That’s a great step forward.
You’ve composed some material that you’ve named oriental black metal. What makes the track oriental? What element do you add to the mix so to say.
Molodost: The track was actually labeled as ‘oriental folk metal’ and so this is because of the theme of the desert, the influence during my stay in the UAE and the Arabic-inspired synth sound of that track, and eventually, the lyrics which were, sadly, never sang!
If you had to describe Molodost as a dish, what would it be and why?
Molodost: Molodost is youth and the dish of the soul is its youth! Clear enough? But yeah, I love Lahm-bi-Ajin. Shoukran a lot and Spasiba again for the opportunity!