Interview With Kareem Chehayeb (VOICE OF THE SOUL)

[By: iRoar]

Founded in 2007 in Kuwait, and now spread out across the world. Voice of The Soul is one of the middle east's hardest working bands. The young foursome has already released 3 EPs with "Into Oblivion" being their latest opus. And continue to gain more and more supporters around the world for their highly active and professional work ethics.

While the members of Voice of The Soul live in different countries for University; the band manages to stay connected via online meetings to swap ideas for new songs. When the time nears for recording; the band heads back to Kuwait to record at Sarj's Studio (one of the region's premier destinations for quality rock and metal recordings. Responsible for some of the best releases from the metal scene in Kuwait such as; Benevolent's "Divided," Depth's "Memento Mori" and Black Well's "The Human Condition".)

I got a chance to catch-up with founder/frontman Kareem Chehayeb to talk about the band's latest release "Into Oblivion," his favorite bands from the middle eastern metal scene, which international acts would he like to open for, and more.
Here's how it went:

First of all I'd like to thank you for this opportunity. Voice of The Soul has been hard at work after releasing it's latest EP Into Oblivion. How is everything with the band lately?

The pleasure is mine. Thanks for providing the opportunity! Things with the band are going well. We've been struggling with organizing shows this winter…the lack of shows in the region and the fact we're all under 21 are two factors which kick us in the nuts on a daily basis. Otherwise, we've been working on our official website, more merchandise (including CDs of Into Oblivion EP), and our cover contest. All these things will be sorted out soon, and we're very excited…hopefully the supporters are too!

Into Oblivion was released last month via Bandcamp. The reaction has been extremely positive from fans and critics alike since it's release. Are you personally happy with the end result? Do you feel you've achieved what you originally set out to do with the release?

Yeah, definitely. Though some have said otherwise, I think this is a huge step up from Eyes of Deceit and Winds of Apprehension. I think this was definitely a more confident effort, and the amount of time and effort put on each song compared to before was second to none. It's heavy, it's melodic, and it really puts out the message. At the same time, I think it also has a unique twist to it. So yeah, I think we're all very happy with it.

[Live photo taken at Annihlation Gig 5 in Dubai, UAE]
Monish (Left), Kareem (Right)
What does Into Oblivion center around? Does the EP have a recurring subject, or is it a culmination of lyrics over the course of writing for the EP?

Monish and I are the people who usually write the lyrics (though everyone contributes here and there). I feel like we have a reoccurring theme on society and people. I'm not surprised, though (laughs). I think each song has a different story behind it, but they all portray the same message: people are fucked up and are fucking each other up. The greed, apathy, ignorance, and arrogance of typical society today is astonishing…Of course, some songs are more personal than others too. We sometimes write about these things based on our personal encounters and experiences, but also based on things that we read about or see with others.

Into Oblivion features a killer cover of At The Gates' "Under A Serpent Sun." Being a more straight forward melodic death metal band. What other veteran bands influence you?

When we started writing originals, we had this obsession with Dark Tranquillity. Monish and I couldn't stop listening to them. It was worse than how most little kids are with Justin Bieber. We also really enjoyed Arch Enemy, old In Flames, King Diamond, Kalmah (holy shit did we love Kalmah and still do). We really liked Opeth as well. Blackwater Park still blows me away! Finally, though not considered a "melodic death metal" band, Death's latter few albums have some beautiful melodies in there too which inspired us big time.

Speaking of covers. The artwork for the EP looks spectacular! Which was handled by Israeli graphic designer Vincent Monsonego. How did you guys come about working on the artwork with him? And can you tell us about the concept behind the cover?

I'm friends with his wife, Alexandra, who is a vocalist for a band called Soul Torture. They're into Arch Enemy and Dimmu Borgir a lot…anyway, we talked to a few people who told us they were interested before, but they wouldn't respond on their emails or would not get anything done on time. I was talking to her one day, and she told me her husband is an artist/graphic designer, and she told him about us. He was great! He was incredibly helpful, supportive, made a front and back design, and a really cool backdrop sorta design. I couldn't be thankful for both of them!
As for the concept, Vincent had a couple of unmastered new songs with him while designing the artwork. He had a concept about the contrast between life and death, which was very similar to what we had in mind as a band. Overall, it's the struggle between living and fighting to be free or dying to be free elsewhere. It sounds pretty twisted, come to think of it (laughs).

More and more international acts are being confirmed for performances in cities like Beirut, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Cairo, such as; Metallica (at Yas Arena in Abu Dhabi in October) and Megadeth (at The Mutt Rock Festival in Dubai in December). If given the chance which band would you like to see Voice of The Soul support on a big international festival or event?

It's incredible how many metal bands are coming this year…though I really wish the Middle Eastern fans gave more attention and time to their own bands. There are way too many bands to list for that though (laughs). I can't speak for all the members, because we all have different favorite bands…I think it would be a dream come true to open up for Dark Tranquillity. We don't have the exact same sound, but they're legends! If anyone asks me what I used to do between the ages of 16-17, I'd simply say "listening to Dark Tranquillity". Since Carcass have reunited for some gigs, I'd love to play with them too. They're some of the most underrated and honest musicians in the metal industry. I guess it's a tie between the two. There are other bands I would mention, but the legacies both of these bands left behind in metal music are almost unbeatable!

If you were to organize a headlining tour for Voice of The Soul, which Middle Eastern bands would you like to take on the road with you? What are some of your favorite Middle Eastern bands?

We've been fortunate enough to gig with some great bands in the Middle East, including Midway, Osprey, We Left As Skeletons, Billy Bob's Blood Drenched Brew, Apeira, and Obselion. I'd want to bring about 20 bands with us though (laughs). In all seriousness, if we had a headlining tour, I'd like to drag a bunch of Kuwait-based bands, particularly Black Well, Benevolent, and Depth. They deserve so much more exposure than they get…

I've been a Nervecell fan-boy for almost 4 years now. More than their sound and achievement, I like their humility. I really like a lot of the stuff that many of the bands from Kuwait come with. It's a small community there, and we all know each other and share the same issues. I've known the guys from Depth for ages now…probably 5 years now. I've gotten to know the guys from Benevolent and Black Well for the past few years, and we're all close. It's really nice when bands come together and support each other. There is too much silly and bitter rivalry…moreover, I love Kaoteon as well. I also should mention another Lebanese band called Monarchy. I saw them at one of the Heats for Global Battle of the Bands, and they blew me away. They sound a lot like Myrath actually! Keep an eye on them. From the UAE, I've been keeping an eye on Perversion and Coat of Arms a lot. There is so much talent in the region, I have to stop here (laughs).

The Middle Eastern metal scene has been seeing a boom in terms of big events and promising acts emerging. With the help of the internet, Facebook and sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, it's been easier for bands to get their names out their. What is your advice for a start-up band to help them gain some exposure?

Never stop dreaming, but be reasonable and logical. Don't expect Terrorizer Magazine or whatever to respond and give you a full-blown interview right beside one by Watain! Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Reverbnation, Bandcamp: all these things are essential. It seems redundant in some cases, but you have to have as many branches as possible. Also, this is slightly cynical, but don't be afraid of approaching people. Most people aren't going to make the effort to find out what's going on with the band unless it comes to them (Hint hint, fans). Just don't overdo it…you'll piss people off otherwise. Also, use proper spelling and grammar. I think it looks more professional rather than having a tweet that goes "hai errbody, we have a gig 2night! ;)"

Thanks a lot for doing this. It's always a pleasure to chat with you. Would you like to add anything?

Thank you Metality!

[Ed note: The following video was provided by Kareem.]

Make sure to visit Voice of The Soul on Facebook. Listen to the entire new release "Into Oblivion" on Bandcamp. Support the band by paying which ever price you may to download the EP! (or put "0" for price to download for free).

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