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Sammy Sayed - Scarab

Interview with Sammy Sayed from Scarab
by Craig Rider at 17 September 2020, 3:18 AM

SCARAB - the Egyptian Death Metal band counterpart to the mighty American Death Metal trailblazers: NILE delivered a groundbreaking 3rd album last month entitled: "Martyrs Of The Storm". A blisteringly creative record that showcased pandemonic mayhem while delivering conceptual storytelling stability that amalgamates harmonically deadly rituals with pile driving dynamics, and a barraged frenzy of distinctively distinguished chaos that rollicks through the Egyptian landscape like a bulldozing berserker in their own trademark style. Today, Metal Temple writer Craig Rider got to question this remarkably splendid quintet who really surprised me with this tornado of destruction and Egyptian myths of legendary metal madness.

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Hello there, how is everyone doing in that terrific Eqyptian weather that we Brits totally envy you on!? It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview you guys today.

Hello Craig! Thanks for this interview! This is Sammy Sayed speaking to you on behalf of everyone in Scarab. Right now it is the brutally abysmal sun of the summer, If you don’t have an air conditioner, you’d definitely turn into a human soup.

It is probably an overrated question by now but I guess the people of the metal world are curious on the global pandemic, and would like to get an Egyptian point of view on this whole affair…how are you guys coping with it; is it interrupting with your schedule on being inventive, or are you just getting on with it while being hard working as possible?

Just like everyone, we try as much as we can to limit ourselves from going out. We don't meet as much as we should, we don't do studio rehearsals like we used to do. Pretty much everything is on pause until a glimpse of certainty is clear but we are still keeping busy, we write new material and share it with each other. Everyone is re-evaluating and reflecting on their own lives personally and trying to figure out how to make a living while still being closed at home, Alas. It is September now so it seems to be getting better, there is some flow and movement. Hopefully 2021 will be better for everyone, Time will tell…

Onward to the record; it is a fantastic listen for sure, to the overall production, songwriting and musicianship…it's just an all round bruiser contrasting an epicly detailed amount of lore & crunchy hymns which savagely portrays neck breaking momentum with uniquely versatile vehemence. For how long did it take to craft an explosively dynamic Death Metal record?

Wow, thanks a lot for those huge words. We did the best we could to make it reach a state where we feel right about it. It took us exactly five years until we finished it. That’s due to a lot of factors and events that happened during the creation and recording process. It wasn’t just an album that was written, recorded, and released, there was much more to it and it would be hard to explain everything in details without missing out on an important part so it is better to refer you to a note on our facebook page that we titled  - Martyrs of the Storm (The Story) - Where everything in the process of creating the album is written thoroughly in details. The main factor that gave us a delay was to find dedicated band members to replace our departed long time band mates.

Who founded SCARAB and what was the intention to implement guest musicians such as the mostly notably Karl Sanders from NILE who does a fantastically driven lead solo in the majestic "Kingdom Of Chaos"?

Al Sharif Marzeban (Guitarist) is the founder of Scarab. At first it was called Hate Suffocation with two Eps released in 2004 and 2005 but then the members and sound of the band changed and with this came a different identity.That’s when the name changed to Scarab. It was also Al Sharif who invited Karl Sanders into the song Kingdom of Chaos. He has a good relationship with Karl Sanders online,  and he was the one to bring the idea of inviting guitarists from around the globe into the album. Karl Sanders did what we believe to be a masterpiece of metal madness, it is like the chaos of fire, it couldn't fit the energy of the song better! There was no pure intention behind inviting any guest musicians at first. But after it was done it felt like a message to us. A message of unity, oneness and brotherhood of metal.

Were there any difficulties and learning curves that needed to be addressed while overcome, or did it all just come nimbly swiftly?

Well, indeed there was, Especially this album in particular was not easy for us to create in the shape that it is now and it was a real heavy duty for us. Perhaps if musicians don't learn or experience something new while creating their new record, then probably they are just repeating themselves. This is something that we always seek to stay away from, and we are lucky that this just happens unconsciously anyway  because as a band and music writers/composers we are always evolving and we always want to implement fresh energy into Scarab. but of course without losing the essence of what Scarab is to us. Saying all this, still we don’t analyze much in the music composing process or any kind of process for that matter, it is what it is, we go where the energy is leading us, and the analysis comes later on, in steps.

Progressively speaking; was there any technical standpoints that transcended previous outtakes, while remaining solidly crunchy & conceptually deadly but atmospheric?

Continuing from the last point, we evolve and change but not in the sense of doing something completely new that ends up sounding like a different band. We believe that it is something continuous that keeps on transcending from the same core that it started from. In that sense, the persona of the previous releases is still there in terms of the atmosphere but we believe “Martyrs of the Storm”  to be much more mature, complex, heavier, and sacred to us than anything we attempted to create in the past.

What were the revolving philosophies that transition throughout the making of "Martyrs Of The Storm", was the sound production mechanics synergetic while profusely wonderous & monstrously meaty?

We didn’t have a certain concept in the beginning. It is the other way around, like I said… we are just following where the energy is going, and through analysis we start to create and understand the philosophies of the album as we are working on it. Martyrs of the Storm Journey was in short terms ‘a journey into the abyss and out’. we figured out that the sound in the album has to be the middle path of old school and modern death metal (our usual attempt with any release), but this time we chose to leave subliminal noises and sound designs that may not be so much hearable but always there doing its job of making the album sound sandy and dirty, as we were doing this, the idea of sound designing the album based on what the energies and the concepts behind it would express, appeared to us. A cosmic upheaval both within the psyche of living beings and also our planet into the depth of the abyss and out.

I would like to ask about the range that oscillates with each and every member that have been recruited temporarily, were they tasked with their individual flow by the mastermind or did they just do their own thing?

Every song in Martyrs of the Storm was either musically composed by Al Sharif Marzeban or myself or both of us together. Any member who was recruited after our long time past members department came to find the whole album fully composed except for our current drummer ’Amir El Saidi’ who reinterpreted the drums and turned it into a heavy storm blast. On the other hand, all the guest musicians had certain concepts that I personally wrote for them in order to grasp and interpret into their input, also with punch in/punch out points of where they should record, yet obviously they were all given freedom to create what they desire or adding any kind of additional parts that they felt and we will do the alchemy back home when they send us their magickal input. It was such a great experience to collaborate with them all and witness how things were flowing and shaping perfectly for us, something that I will personally cherish for a lifetime, especially that I wasn’t really fond of the idea of guest musicians in the beginning, but later on I understood Marzeban’s Idea when it came into being. On the other hand, for any member who have been recruited temporarily, they were all great musicians, it's just that they didn’t come earlier enough to join the writing process and they didn’t stick long enough to contribute to the writing of our upcoming material after Martyrs of the Storm. Scarab is an entity, it isn’t based on just us as individuals… for example I believe that both myself and Al Sharif were channeling this all from this entity ‘Khepri’ The ancient Egyptian Scarab headed spirit/god/neter/daemon.

Which song stands out to you the most in terms of sheer variety, power & technique? While being diversely dynamic and choppy at the same time? I would say they are all pretty gnarly.

We don’t have a favorite track in the album, they all resemble a very important factor and a specific role, and they all together complete one picture as if they are the ten leaves within the Kemetic tree of life system. But if we had to choose something that can go with your description the most, it would be the 1st track Martyrs of the Storm (Feat. Joe Haley - Psycroptic) & the 6th track The Dwellers Beneath (Feat. Amduscias Baal - Temple of Baal)

What can be said about the album's approach in terms of perfection, which steps were made to achieve at the record's full capacity to where it is now, on the scale of daily routines and the borderline aesthetic that manifested this meticulous performance?

We paid attention to a lot of details in Martyrs of the Storm to the point of OCD. Putting all these different energies from different places all together and then the idea of really microcosmically zooming into the simplest details and then macrocosmically zooming out in order to view the outcome from a bigger picture. This took us a period of many long sessions of trial and error, until we have finally reached something where we can all feel right about conceptually, musically, energetically and just about everything being in a perfect balance. The process of Martyrs of the Storm gave us so much experience that would make upcoming releases smoother to create. Time will tell.

Are the record's emphasis on Egyptian mythos ultimately just fascinating to you as it is to an outsider like me? Have you ever thought to venture out and explore into those mystical tombs?

Each one of us has a certain awe towards Ancient Egypt and each of us relate to it in their own unique way either spiritually or just through contemplation or certain personal experiences that they have had. This matter is almost infinite. But I personally have had a bond since childhood because I grew up so close to the Necropolis area. This video is from the time where Amir was tracking the drums for Martyrs of the Storm at El Warsha Studio. Not so far away from the pyramids of Giza as you can see in the video and in the end of the video is real footage of myself inside the great pyramid just singing and enjoying the unfathomable reverberation of sound inside the chamber.

https://www.facebook.com/87959055510/videos/10159479386840511

What can you tell me about the band's origins of the record, and how the overall injection materialized into the beast that it is now?

I personally believe that what made this album sound different and unique was the idea that everything was recorded in a completely different studio (Guitars/Drums/Vocals/Bass/keys and orchestration programming/lead guitar parts). Which is something that a lot would advise against and would prefer to stick to one studio. But I personally come from the background and the old school of experimentation and believe otherwise. Like I said the whole process of recording is written in detail in a note we titled Martyrs of the Storm (The Story) on our facebook page. In regards to it materializing into the beast it is now, I would say this is mainly because of our sound engineer.

Who engineered this shotgun blasting chugger? And what were the main attractions in this sub-genre that empowers you to create such stampeding shreds, rambunctiously-driven drum hammering and audible bass frolicking? As well as the blood-curdling cords that exercise intricately yet steely precision?

Apart from the energy we have put in the recording performance itself, working with Ahmed Abdel Samad ‘Samadie’ on mixing and mastering was what shaped the identity of the sound the most. Long sessions of constant trails and errors until we have finally reached a conclusion that we are happy with. We were following where the energy of the music was leading us and this album was calling for a sound that is unique, and I believe we have given it that. The sound production was all crafted in Noiz Studio, Giza, Egypt. Samadie joined Scarab as the bassist right after the production was done, it was inevitable.

Were there any frustrating conflicts between each member, as well as the guest musicians, or did everyone just accept the writing  material process?

Well, not really. Things went by smoothly in terms of writing the music, and somehow anyone who wasn’t in alignment with where this record / the band was going, had to naturally step down. Our long time previous members for example, are still our good friends. And now that time has passed, it is understandable why the story couldn’t manifest itself with a different scenario. It wasn’t really about the non acceptance of the writing material. It was more of the band itself as an entity that is longing for evolution. It is undeniable though that it was the hardest thing to find a proper replacement and to work with musicians who can fit in Scarab. We couldn’t be more grateful for settling down with Amir El-Saidi on Drums and Samadie on the bass guitar. We are currently working on new material too.

A fun one; what was your major achievement while producing, writing and forging the "Martyrs Of The Storm" any particular stories you'd like to tell?

Apart from how interesting and exciting it was to witness the contribution of all the great guitarists who featured with lead guitar parts in the album. I believe the major achievement is that ‘Martyrs of the Storm’ is actually beyond me, myself. Yes, I admit taking a huge part into shaping or directing where it should go. But, I was merely improvising, step by step. Actually we all were. And now that it is out to the open, I am personally in awe. We put so much hard work into it, never stepping back, only retreating for gathering energy and inspiration and then returning back with full force. Here is an interesting story… I thought I had lost the whole recording project and I had no back up. My work PC was hit by ransomware in 2018. And i thought to myself “Holy crap… I have to see if the studios we worked with still have the files or not, otherwise we will have to record everything from scratch”… a couple of days later while I was trying to calm myself down and figure out a solution, “keeping in mind that I still didn’t inform the band about it yet too”… I miraculously found a flash memory in one of the jackets that I rarely wear and it had the whole project except for only two recordings by guest musicians “Joseph Haley” from “Psycroptic” who is in the title track “Martyrs of the Storm” and “Tarassenko Nikita” from “The Contradiction” who’s in the song “Oblivious Sanctum”. I told Al Sharif Marzeban about it then and he contacted Joseph Haley, and luckily he still had the files he recorded, while Tarassenko Nikita was cool enough that he actually re-recorded his guitar part again.

Every song represents an imaginary folklore on the underground tombs of Atlantian Egypt; brutally transcribed into metal form, did you guys promptly do your research on the myth or just do your own thing - lyrically wise?

Scarab to me is a life journey that speaks to my soul. I constantly do research about ancient egypt but that is not enough. Knowledge comes to those who are ready to receive it, it cannot come through becoming some kind of a bookworm or a google searching freak only. Ancient Egypt is one of the biggest mysteries that one can come across. The type of lyrics I compose is based on experience and not just some knowledge that is written in a book or some article. It is more like a spiritually artistic expression of what ancient Egypt may represent to us and how that is reflected upon the world we live in today. And to really be honest, most if not all of the lyrics are done through an automatic writing session that I do without thinking much. Later on, I would rearrange it in order for it to make sense. I believe it is like how we write music, we automatically channel it and then rearrange it so It can end up sounding like a solid track and not just some music sketch “for the lack of better terms”. So it is like this; it begins with chaos and we take the chaos and we purify it and do the alchemy and make a solid order out of it. Most of the track titles are figured out by Al Sharif Marzeban and I would sit and contemplate the energy of the song and do the writing. I believe I am inspired by so many different things and perhaps a collective of world mysticism in general. Let me leave for you a great quote by the one and only “Aleister Crowley” that may sum this whole thing up…

“Life is a joyous battlefield wherein We Soldiers of Horus rejoice in conflict and strife. Could the artist’s statue be created and perfected without chiseling away the dross?".

What can we expect in the future for SCARAB? Clearly no shows, but I suspect that you will just be writing new music even though you have just released a new record? There's not much else to do in quarantine is there?

It is mid September now and somehow the whole quarantine thing is not as big as it used to be. But who knows what is coming after the fall… Who knows what winter is bringing to our shores. We do our best to remain vital and vigilant. As you said, yes we are writing new material. Also on the other hand we are working on a lot of video material to support Martyrs of the Storm since we cannot put on any show at this point. We have released 6 videos so far and more is in the making. We strive to endure and thrive until the end.

You can check it all on this youtube playlist link:



I think that will do for today, I thank you very much for taking up a bit of your time today with us and I hope you stay safe in these struggling and trying times - or are they? Anything else you would like to add to this metal community of ours? \\m/

Thank you Craig, this has been a really unique and interesting talk! We thank you and everyone supporting and relating to Scarab in any way shape or form. We are thankful and grateful to our fans for giving us this immense life force and believing in our cause. We wish everyone freedom, and peace in these hard times of sudden changes. Stay metal, and don't give up on your passions no matter what. Hails from Egypt/Kemet, the land of mystery and magic.

https://www.facebook.com/Scarabegypt/



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Edited 31 October 2020
 

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