In the less fortunate regions of the world where conservative cultures, economic crises, and religious/superstitious beliefs take the lead role in governing people’s lives it becomes exceptionally hard to play a stigmatized genre such as Heavy Metal, let alone succeed in recording music and touring with it. One of the strongest bands of the middle eastern/arab world are Lebanese thrashers Phenomy, which I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing recently as well as getting some insight on how they run their creative process and how they maintain being a Heavy Metal band in Lebanon.
- First, I would like to say that I’m honored to have you with us at Rock Era Magazine and that all the metalhead editors we have are huge fans of the work you guys put out. Who Am I speaking with and how would you like to introduce yourself?
Hello, Thank you for having us! My name is Loïc and I am the co-founder, guitarist and lyricist of the band. I also do management stuff.
- For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that a Lebanese metal band by the name of Phenomy exists, but I’ve never really heard the story of how the band was conceived. How and when did you guys meet? And what does the band’s name mean?
Rudy (Drummer) and I started jamming in his garage when we were kids. We used to jam on some Metallica, Pantera and all these good stuff. Later, we started jamming over our own music which was basically influenced by these bands.
We went through many line-up changes before we got to the current one.
Sam (Vocalist) Joined us to record our first album “Once And For All” and Peter (Bassist) joined later on just before we played Wacken Open Air 2018.
The name Phenomy is just a cool name that we all liked and that derives from the word Phenomenal.
We think it suits our style well and it will fit in any type of music or genre we might want to explore.
- Could you give us some insight into the metal scene of Lebanon? How do the bands manage to record, perform, and fund their work?
Well, it is a real struggle really, if you listen to our first two albums, you can see that the level of knowledge in metal music production is not the best. So that’s why on the third one, we decided to record it ourself, in our own home studios.
Finding venues is not easy as well, but we manage to negotiate with some venues to make events in Lebanon. It is quite expensive for bands that don’t make money out of their music yet. But Lebanese bands are passionate and work hard to make it happen.
Everything is usually funded by ourselves, we have daily jobs and we use our own money to record, play shows and tour.
- How would you describe Phenomy’s musical direction? How would you describe it to someone who can’t define the subgenre?
We started as a Thrash metal band with groove metal influences as well. But we can’t be defined just by that, because we like to try different things when we write our music. It might be from ethnic or cinematic music influences. Everything is allowed as long as we find it interesting and good enough for the four of us.
So it’s hard to find one subgenre that fits it all basically. Just listen to the music and label it yourself, right? haha
- We were all very stoked for you when you won the Wacken Metal Battle in 2018 and got to play at the legendary festival…how did that process go?
We heard that the metal battle was coming to Lebanon and we were so excited about it. Peter had just joined the band and we were trying to figure it out. Honestly, we were in the battle with really good bands, but we were the only ones who really had an album out and that had already toured abroad. Winning the battle and going to play Wacken on the headbanger’s ball stage was amazing. It still feels surreal.
- I heard there was some drama in 2019 when you tried to bring Sepultura to Lebanon…what was that story all about?
Well we met Sepultura in Germany, at Wacke. Our promoter kept in touch with them to organize the tour. The tour was supposed to happen in Russia and it was supposed to end in Beirut. Unfortunately, the Lebanese government has a list of banned bands including Sepultura, because of some false accusations like satanism and supporting Israel.
So, their visas were refused and ours as well. It was frustrating.
- In 2022 you released your concept album, Syndicate Of Pain. Would you like to tell me more about the album’s story and what inspired you to write it?
The album was written and was ready to be released as a non-concept album in 2021. But then covid happened and Lebanon went through an economical crisis before the massive explosion on the 4th of august. So the lockdown and all the frustration led me to work harder on it and that’s how I came up with the idea of making it a concept album.
We had already a music video covering “The Memory Remains” by Metallica. So I took the story and went on with it, to write the story behind “Syndicate Of Pain”
- And how would you say this album differs, in terms of sound, from your previous releases?
As I said previously, We recorded and produced it ourselves. A dear friend of ours, Bassem Daouk,, helped us mixing and mastering it.
It has a modern approach with cinematic elements. It has also cleaner songs like “When The Darkness Comes’ which is not the type of songs you would hear in previous albums.
- How and Where was the album recorded? Did you tackle any struggles during the writing and production process?
It was fun to experiment and record it ourselves in our home studios. We learned a lot about everything concerning recording and producing an album. It was quite an experience!
- How does it feel to be a live act going on tour and playing shows back to back, especially when this lifestyle is so unorthodox in our Arab culture?
We grew up watching bands like Metallica, Pantera and Iron Maiden touring the world. Of course, we would follow their footsteps. It’s a thousand times more difficult for us with our visas, coming from a third world country like Lebanon. But we manage to make it happen and we are proud of what we were able to achieve all by ourselves. We never thought we would come this far.
- Can you name one artist, living or dead, you would like to collaborate with, one you would like to tour with, and another one you wish to watch as an audience but still didn’t get the chance to?
I’d collaborate with Cliff Burton, I’d tour with Dimebag and I would love to watch Rob Zombie, He’s one of the artists that I didn’t tick out of my list yet.
- Have you played any special venues when you toured? And what are some venues you still wish to perform at?
One really special venue that we played at, was the Arenele Romane, in Romania at Metalhad meeting festival 2018 with Children Of Bodom. It’s a beautiful Roman Amphitheater, it was spectacular to play there.
There is no specific venues, we would love to tour the world in every venue possible. But events like Rock Am Ring and Hellfest are the ones we would like to participate in one day.
- What are your current and future plans with Phenomy, is there any new music in the making, or maybe a new tour or concert?
We are constantly writing new music. We are now based in Europe and we are still managing and figuring out everything. Of course, we will be touring this summer. We have announced two festivals in Czech Republic and there will be more dates announced soon.
- Would you by any chance be interested to come to play a show at one of our venues in Egypt? Since our scene has been going strong and we have hosted many foreign bands here before, it would be an honor to have you guys here.
Same here, it would be an honor for us to play your beautiful country. As soon as the opportunity shows up, we will be there!
- Lastly, what advice would you give bands that are just starting out in Lebanon or a similarly metal-unfriendly place in the world?
If you are passionate enough about what you do, everything is possible. You will make mistakes and you will learn from them, it’s ok to fail and learn. Just hold on and good things will happen.
Thank you so much for giving us some of your precious time and we hope to catch you guys on tour (hopefully you will include Egypt in your plans). We hope you keep rocking our world and putting out awesome groove/thrash records that will definitely “lead your throne” among the world’s greatest metal bands.
Thank you so much for having us, we hope to meet in real life soon! Stay heavy \m/