Al-Namrood is a Middle Eastern black metal act, whose name translates as "the non-believer". Formed in 2008, the band has released two splits, two EPs, and six LPs, signed a contract with Shaytan Productions (Canada) and presented a few video clips, but never performed live to avoid criminal prosecution. The band’s vocalist 'Humbaba' has answered our questions, telling us about the local metal scene, the Saudis attitude toward heavy music, and how Al-Namrood’s members manage to declare anti-religious views in a country where atheism is punishable by death.
Tell us about the metal scene in Saudi Arabia – are there many metal bands and heavy music fans in your country? How in general do local people feel about rock and metal music?
Humbaba: Ha-ha-ha-ha... Metal scene! Well, if you insist on knowing: we’re almost disconnected from every underground subculture metal scene whether did exist in the past or still exist. Some bands claimed they knew us personally, which I don’t understand what made them saying such bullshit!
In addition, there were very few approximately around 20 or something bands in the whole country — 99% of them are practicing Muslims, they’d play "deicide" then, half an hour after, go to pray (Allah Akbaaar s**k my C**t Allah, yeah). I don’t know what you call this but I know that wouldn’t make Venom or any other Blasphemous acts happy, would it?
We’re not in touch with any of them no more ever since the time we started the previous band Mephisophilus during 2005-2006. We’ve got booted out because of our Blasphemy views. People, in general, are very ignorant about rock or metal, some are still fully convinced that it belongs to Devil worshipers and the one whom involved in such thing practice sorcery which it terrifies them.
How do Al-Namrood’s rehearsals and music recordings usually go? Do you have the opportunity to rehearse and record music altogether?
Humbaba: We rehearse in our improvised home studio located 500 meters away from a bloody mosque especially during the (Prayer times).
Among the bands that you like, there are many foreign performers: Bathory, Darkthrone, Hellhammer, Sodom, Kreator, Black Sabbath, Deströyer 666, Marduk, etc. Tell us, how and when you discovered metal music and black metal in particular.
Humbaba: As far as I remember sometimes during the 90’s I was browsing the TV and some random channel appeared it was MTV which wasn’t registered include my TV. Cable, it was playing heavy metal all night, I didn’t know what heavy metal was at that time I was staggered I couldn’t believe my own eyes of the sound and attitude so I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the bands names, as far as I remember they were: Iron Maiden, Manowar, Deep Purple, Slayer, Led Zeppelin, etc.
A few months after, I managed to ask anyone who is traveling abroad to bring me cassette tapes. Through the years, I found this cool European TV channel that played black/death metal bands so I discovered Mayhem and bunch of other bands then the Internet has arrived in the country so I did my own research of finding bands…
Speaking of music, what can you tell us about the purchase of musical instruments and records in your homeland? Is it easy for a metalhead to buy, for example, an electric guitar or a new Kreator’s album in a local store or does he have to get everything from abroad?
Humbaba: The best way to get instrument is through online. But there is the cost of shipping ripping us, also using a forwarding address is important because many online stores do not ship to our country. If we have to buy instruments from neighbor countries, we have to pass through checkpoint where we have to declare our stuff, it is not illegal to carry instruments, but it can be subject to question our motives and direction of life and usually getting bullied by border officers, so it is the best to keep it low.
Locally, there is only one Instruments shop that may sell drumkit, guitar, keyboard, etc. but very limited on brands and very costly more than any regular shops in the West also, there’s no alternate option such as pawn shops… No, it is almost impossible to find Kreator or any other extreme bands in music stores you can only find Arabic Pop, or Western Pop, Rap, R&B and other similar stuff!
It's not a secret that atheism is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. How do you manage to declare your views, through Al-Namrood’s lyrics, under such conditions?
Humbaba: We NEVER show our real identities so it can't be brought up as a legitimate evidence against us to Court. We just keep living behind the shadow hoping we don’t get prosecuted.
As I know, due to this situation, you never gave concerts. Have you ever thought about emigration?
Humbaba: Some of us have a criminal record and banned from traveling (details can’t be disclosed for security reasons).
In one of your interviews, commenting on the meaning of the song "Nabth", you said that there is "the political crisis in the whole Arabian peninsula". What possible ways to get out of this crisis you see for Saudi Arabia and other Arabian states?
Humbaba: SECULARISM and Fair socialist System might abolish this current crisis.
The mastering of your new album "Enkar" was handled for the first time by the Endarker Studio Sweden. How satisfied are you with this cooperation and the final result of their work?
Humbaba: Very satisfied but we still wish to do it physically in their studio rather than sending waves back and forwards.
Last December, you posted on Facebook that the band "received some angry emails from different background nationalists" after unveiling a new logo. In general, how often do you face threats and who most often expresses the aggression to Al-Namrood?
Humbaba: Although we have a lot more supporters, there are many pissed off, it is completely ok if someone doesn’t like our work, but it is ironic to threaten to find us just because the logo is offensive to someone ideology. The anarchy symbol provoked many nationalists, and it drove them to send us emails saying we have chosen the wrong path!
We receive these threats very frequently, if not from Muslims it would be from New Nazi "Boneheads" sometimes Nationalists, Conservatives, sometimes even Liberals because (they think we’re radical for being anti-religion).
Also, what so called "Moderate Muslims" some has participated on sending us threats! Different backgrounds, same box of detest.
Today, many music zines and news websites publish their own tops of the best metal bands from the Middle East. And which groups from this region would you put on such a list?
Humbaba: Unfortunately, nothing we found interesting.