Metal Without Borders
Limp Bizkit may be coming out with a new album this year, but nu-metal — a genre of rock that melds hip-hop influences and pop-metal — died in America effective October, 2001 (with the debut of the chart-topping indie band The Strokes). Yet, while the death rattle of nu-metal rings here, Israeli nu-metal is vibrant and healthy.
Contrasted to the vulgar, jejune hedonism of American nu-metal, Israeli nu-metal has a decidedly humanistic tinge. Consider Seek Irony, five Israelis who recently finished an album with producer Sylvia Massy Shivy (Tool and System of a Down). Seek Irony’s music is often standard nu-metal fare. The single “Tech’N’Roll” features masculine posturing and vague, absurd declarations about the power of rock ‘n’ roll: “Tech and Roll, expands your mind and saves your soul.” Their recent single “Everything We Are,” though, is both a musical accomplishment for the band (thumping without being ridiculous, moving without recycling vague tropes) and a surprisingly political one. The song is a collaboration between the Israeli group and Rabih Zogheib, the lead singer of Blood Ink — a Lebanese metal band. The two bands met immediately before the Lebanon War in 2006 and kept up a correspondence during the violence.
After the war, Seek Irony and Zogheib cut the single together. According to Seek Irony, which posted a long blog post about the song, Zogheib faced down pressure not to work with an Israeli band. Zogheib and Seek Irony, instead of meeting together, traded vocal tracks online, and the track was mixed at Seek Irony’s home studio in Tel Aviv. The song, as Zogheib describes it, is a non-partisan protest against the war. The chorus, an elongated, desperate vocal cry, goes, “Taking everything we are and everything we could be/Tearing us apart.”
The single may lack subtlety, but here the most significant gesture was the one the led to the song’s creation. At times the context surrounding a song’s production gets ignored, but with “Everything We Are,” that is what infuses it with its emotional core. “Taking everything we are” is a set of words that rings far more sincere when imagined as one band singing to another across war-torn borders.
Listen to “Tech’N’Roll,” “Everything We Are” and other songs on Seek Irony’s MySpace page.
Mordechai Shinefield has written about music for Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and the New York Press.