Interview with Shady Abdelkhalek of Bovem by Dave Wolff
Bovem’s biography states the band formed in Alexandria, Egypt in 2014, played Cairo twice in 2015 and '16, then went on hiatus until 2022. Is there a large underground in Egypt with many clubs? What prompted you to put the band on hold for several years?
There’s a large underground scene in Egypt but most of the scene is not active. We have a few venues in Egypt that allow metal concerts to be set, especially extreme metal bands. Most of the other venues only allow metal bands to perform if they have clean vocals, putting them in the category of rock.
The band was originally formed by Ahmed Samy ex-drummer and myself, Shady Abdelkhalek, currently on lead vocals and guitar. After 2016 Ahmed had to leave the band due to his military service and he quit music altogether. Other band members left the band or were in an inactive state. I got busy with my studies until I met some old friends who played metal and wanted to form a band, so I proposed to bring Bovem back to life.
During the period Bovem was on hiatus, what were you studying? Was anything accomplished as a result?
During the period of hiatus, I was studying Mechatronics Engineering and my engineering degree lasted for five years. I managed to graduate from engineering with an excellent grade. This only took me away from music for that period of time but the spirit never died.
At present, which clubs in Egypt support extreme metal bands? Is there any reason why most of the venues are biased against bands unless they use clean vocals?
At present, only Cairo Jazz Club 610 in Cairo and Jesuit Cultural Center in Alexandria allow for metal concerts with brutal vocals. Other venues either totally do not allow metal concerts to be held or only if bands have clean vocals due to the national taboo that links metal music to Satanism. This problem has been going on for ages with major media propaganda that happened in the 90s and early 2000s which fortified the ideology that metalheads are Satanists which metalheads were opposed to by Egyptian society. There’s also another problem that recently arose, the Musician’s Syndicate released legislation that states that for any musician to perform in any concert they must have a membership at the Musician’s Syndicate.
Was the media's propaganda against metal in Egypt during the 1990s and 2000s as intense as it is today? Do you think it was as bad as the propaganda in the United States or was it worse?
There is no propaganda today. I don’t have the full details about the propaganda that happened in the United States, but these propagandas happen every once in a while. One time it was because there was a popular Egyptian TV Series at the time that had a small story about one who was a metalhead and they portrayed metalheads as satanists and drug abusers and so the media amplified the case and it led the authorities to speculate and some people got arrested but they were released just after that as they found out that it is just a type of music and a style of clothing.
In what capacity does the Musician's Syndicate function and what connections, if any, do they have with the Egyptian government? When it comes to bands' ability to appear live and gain a following, how long has religion been an issue?
I don’t have a lot of details on how the musician’s syndicate functions. We only face a small problem with some venues as we are not members in the syndicate. Regarding religion, we never faced any issue regarding appearing live or gaining a following. It was only the propaganda of Satanism that caused a lot of public backlash, but nowadays Egyptian society is much more knowledgeable and they either just accept metal or don’t.
Who comprises the new lineup of Bovem, and how have they fared since joining? Based on your music being aired on radio stations in Mexico, Venezuela, and Indonesia, as well as receiving exposure in Africa, it appears that the new band is doing well.
The band currently is comprised of myself, Gaber Shimony on guitars, Gasser Helal on bass and backing vocals (Mythos), Mahmoud Aly Filth on drums (ex Nathyr, ex Mythos), and Peter Samir as a session guitarist who wrote some the solos on our debut EP. The new members helped in making a lot of changes to the original tracks of Bovem and had many connections with local and international metal heads that got us the chance to be heard worldwide.
What are some of the radio stations adding the band to their playlists? In what African countries do you receive exposure, and how active is the underground there?
The radio stations that played our tracks are online radio stations, Guatemetal Radio from Mexico, Seven Rock Radio from Venezuela, 1921 Baliheadbangers Online Radio from Bali Indonesia, LAUT.FM from Germany, Combativos Radio from Argentina, Metarockfosis Radio from Mexico, and Heavyhops Africa. For the exposure, we have some exposure in Morocco and there are several African metal Facebook pages. There’s a page called African Metal that puts a weekly ranking for the new releases and then a monthly ranking for the top releases of the month. The African metal scene however suffers a little from lack of festivals and continental concerts, but the scene is active and hoping to develop.
What changes have been made to Bowen's original material since the new members joined? Name some connections and how much exposure they helped the band gain.
The new band members helped in the restructuring of the original tracks making them way more powerful. Gasser Helal our bassist has a lot of connections in the metal scene and with venues so he added a lot of PR to the band. That got us a lot of exposure, we got from being barely known to a popular band among the other local bands.
What connections in your local underground has Gasser Helal helped establish for the band since he joined?
He is the one responsible for all of the PR work in the band, and he managed to get us to perform our first concert after revamping the band in our hometown Alexandria which was the first concert for extreme metal since 2008 to 2010.
Have the new members reworked your first singles, "Annihilation of the Idols" and "Tribulation of Plagues"? How did those songs come to be written and what inspired them?
The new members and I reworked some parts of “Annihilation of the Idols”. We did not make any changes to “Tribulation of Plagues”. These songs were written mainly in 2015, they were written during jamming sessions. We would just go to the jamming room improvise and come up with all the parts and we would record them with our phones.
Your second single's cover artwork is quite striking; it bears a similar impression to Celtic Frost's “Into The Pandemonium”. Who designed the cover and who else he has designed for?
The artwork for “Tribulation of Plagues” is truly fascinating. It is an AI artwork using Midjourney and some Photoshop by Gasser Helal. It mainly shows the concept of the ten plagues of Egypt. This was a much more convenient option for us as we are on a tight budget.
Has the release and exposure of your two singles resulted in favorable reviews in zines and webzines? How much more material do you have that has not yet been released?
We received favorable reviews directly from our friends and audience but not from zines or webzines. At the moment we have three more songs that have not been released yet and we are planning to be releasing these tracks along with the first two singles to be our debut EP really soon.
Can you tell the readers how Bovem secured a slot at Egypt Wacken Metal Battle 2023? Considering this was the band's first festival appearance, how did the audience receive you?
For Bovem to secure a slot in Egypt Wacken Metal Battle 2023, we had to apply the band's portfolio, two or three original tracks, and band member's passports. Then that went through a preselection process by the jury to assess which bands would participate in the battle. We were selected among; Mythos, Erasing Mankind, and Medic. I am also a member in Mythos along with Gasser and Peter Samir so we were increasing our chances of winning haha. Our performance as Bovem was absolutely crushing; the audience could not stop headbanging and started making mosh pits and circles even though that was against the rules of the venue and most of this audience had never heard of us before, yet we absolutely broke their neck and we were the first band to perform in the battle. After the show, I was met by many cheers from the audience and from the other bands joining the battle by how powerful our performance was.
Does Egypt Wacken Metal Battle take place every year? Do you think Bovem and your other bands will be invited back based on your performance?
Egypt Wacken Metal Battle is planned to take place every year but it was on halt since 2019 until this year 2023. In the next battle, the bands that participated in the previous battle should have higher chances of passing through the preselection phase.
Has Bovem received invitations to perform outside of Egypt as a result of the exposure they received in other countries? Is there any interest abroad in the label?
We didn’t get any invitations yet to perform live in other countries, but we are planning on working on getting more exposure very soon and finally releasing all of our music as we only have two released singles. We are interested to become a part of a record label abroad as they are going to help us get more exposure internationally and hopefully be able to perform abroad. At the moment, we have some talks with Misanthropik Records. They have been very helpful and excited about the band.
How long have you been in discussions with Misanthropik Records regarding signing with them? Does this represent the first US-based label you have contacted or have you contacted others?
We have been in contact with Misanthropik Records for a couple of weeks now. They are the first and only US-based label that replied back on our band submission. Labels tend to take forever to reply back but Misanthropik Records replied in one to two days.
What made the people at Misanthropik Records enthusiastic about the band? Are there any plans to release more singles, an EP or a full-length in the near future?
We sent out an email to Misanthropik Records asking if we could be a part of their label. They reached out to us, they are interested in our music and they told us about the services they provide. We are still in talks to draft a contract. Very soon we are going to release our debut EP “Ominous Dawn” and we are working on some ideas for a full-length.
Would you consider contacting labels in other areas of the world such as South America or Europe, in addition to labels in the United States?
I would consider depending on the nature of the label, if it can provide us with distribution and promotion in the US as well as Europe for example it is better to work with one label. If it is not the case we will consider contacting labels elsewhere while working with the US-based label.
Name the three songs you’re planning to release on “Ominous Dawn” with the two we discussed earlier and explain what they’re written about.
The concept of the album is the apocalypse. The first track “Annihilation of The Idols” is the beginning of the apocalypse at which we are destroying the ideas of the idols of this world. The second track “Tribulation of Plagues” talks about the ten plagues of Egypt. The third track “Ominous Dawn” talks about how the darkness came and the rise of the dead. The fourth track which is our favorite “Cryptic Desolation of Chaos” talks about the state of chaos in this world and the fight between light and darkness. Represented by the fight between Apophis and The Guardians of Light. Fifth track “Torment” talks about the pain and torture suffered but yet we still should fight against the darkness and never give up.
What was the process of writing the lyrics for the EP? Did you conduct a great deal of research on the subjects? If so, what sources did you consult in print or on television?
The idea of the lyrics for the EP came from our ex-frontman, Mostafa Sokkar. After his departure from the band I wrote the lyrics with the ideas he gave me, mainly using the internet for maybe historical references or legends and building the concept of each track and writing the lyrics. I also had some help with a friend of the band, she helped us in writing ideas then I transformed her ideas into the final lyrics to fit the context on the song by adding or removing some lyrics.
What were the reasons behind Mostafa Sokkar's departure from the band? After he left, did he give you and the band his blessing for you to develop the ideas he conceived?
Mostafa Sokkar decided to depart to focus on his career and he was very supportive that we continue the work with his ideas.
Do all the songs on the EP incorporate Egyptian beliefs to one extent or another?
Not all the songs incorporate Egyptian beliefs some do have references.
What was the name of the friend who assisted with the lyrics and how helpful was she when it came to contributing more ideas for the EP concept?
Her name is Farah Bassem and she helped us in writing from the description we told her about the concept and she helped us get more ideas.
From your description of the EP, it appears that the songs are united by the traditional concepts of good and evil, where good represents one's own free will. Do you think the concept is generally positive despite any perceived negativity?
The concept is generally resolved into a positive outcome of never giving up and keeping on fighting yet it was a difficult journey and everything was destroyed in the process.
What are the ideas you and the band are considering for a full-length album? Will this album consist entirely of new songs? How soon do you expect to start writing the material?
For our full-length album, we are looking to create a very dark and powerful record. We want to write something that will set us apart and deliver what our few fans and friends are expecting from us. This album is coming to be written completely from scratch. We are excepting to start writing the new material just after we release our EP.
Is there research you are conducting for a possible concept? Will they also be inspired by or have references to Egyptian beliefs?
We still have not done any research regarding the concept of the new release. The new concepts or ideas we get are not inspired by Egyptian belief yet we might have some shallow references.
What lasting impressions do you imagine your musical and lyrical statements can leave on underground/extreme metal in your country and in other countries?
I guess the solos on our unreleased song Cryptic Desolation of Chaos will keep fans of extreme metal always wanting to go back and listen to the solos one more time, we as a band literally keep on repeating the solos whenever we play the song for friends of ours. For our lyrical statements what we are trying to example is that we are always facing the apocalypse everyday but we are still fighting and never giving up.