An interview with Rawad Abdel Massih the Guitar player of The Hourglass a heavy metal band from Syria : "IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING!!"

We'd like you to give us a fast overview about your band and what style you play?
The truth is that The Hourglass has never been a band. We didn't have concerts or singles. I used to play with Bahij (drums) in our practice place from time to time in Homs, and the songs were mixture b/w covers and originals.
Then in late 2002 I decided to write lyrics after I gave up for the idea of having someone to help me in that. And it worked! Actually I discovered talents that I thought I don't have at all. I used to write short stories but lyrics? Never!
Musically at that time I had like tens of riffs and solos in my head and on tapes I worked on the songs till the end of the year and started searching for a vocalist to sing them after they were nearly complete.
That was a big big problem for me. Our style is 80's traditional metal and the songs are like Maiden and Savatage a lot. I know that Basem has a voice and singing style like Bruce but I never knew him in person at that time. I used to know a guy called Gary he sings with a Lebanese band called Dilemma, I called him and invited him to test our songs. He is a very good vocalist but his voice is more suitable for power metal, Stratovarious and Hammerfall style, so I asked him to introduce me to Basem. We played with Basem and the main members of the band are formed.
The Bass guitar problem was saved by Salim from Solitaire (Lebanon), we used to play a long time ago together in a cover band called Neo Blood in Lebanon.
Because of time variable, I recorded a lot of the bass on the album.
The keyboard was played by Nareg of a cover band in Aleppo called Just Pain, he is brilliant we recorded them in half a day, I like his solos at the end on The Land of the Free, they are magical.

Can you tell us about your music influences?
I started listening to metal when I was like 12 with Fear of the Dark of Maiden and I was so much into this band and other famous bands like Metallica. Then a friend of mine introduced me to many metal bands like Testament, Candlemass, Savatage, Annihilator, King Diamond, Death….
My major influences as a song writer are for sure Maiden and Savatage in the first place. Metallica and Candlemass also appear a little bit on To the Land of the Free.
But of course I listen to all styles of metal. Gothic like HeavenWood, Tristania
Doom like Solitude Aeturnus. Black like Dimmu Borgir, and of course metal classics like Sabbath and Priest. I love Anathema a lot also, I worship these guys.
U know there are like a 100000000 bands we can't list them all now.
As a guitarist, I love these guys who use harmonics a lot, like Criss of Savatage, Randy and Jake of Osborne. (2 of them are dead eh?)
And guitar harmonies like Maiden, Queensryche and Thin Lizzy.

What are your lyrics about?
Well, this is a very hard question that people always ask me.
Most of my lyrics are symbolic; I mean I don't give the meaning directly I leave the listener to understand whatever he/she wants from the song. Maybe Holy Rage is the only direct song on the album with lyrics like Manowar. But basically politics and religion have a nice share of it. (hehehehe)

(THE HOURGLASS) Tell us how you pick out this name?
Actually it is not me who picked the name. It was suggested by one of my friend like six years ago after the song of Savatage on The Wake (read in the CD)
Me and Bahij suggested a lot of names like Sandfall, Quicksand, Clockwork, Time X,
The Hours, Morlocks, Parricide and many other names. But most of them were used.
I know that there is an underground progressive band in USA called Hourglass. But honestly I didn't care anymore and I just added the "The".
U can notice that most of the names are related to time, I'm obsessed about the procedure of time and memory, and my lyrics are related to these also.
Time changes everything.

Give us some info about your band members?

Check the bio that I gave you and it is posted now on ur site.
I can tell u that Basem is one of the most active metallians in Lebanon he performed with like a thousand bands through his life. And he had his own band Blaakyum.

Give us some info about your cd "To the Land of the Free"?
U know as I said it traditional heavy metal so the songs' length is in average 4:30 min. only Denial is more than 8 min cus it is a play not only a song. The album is full of nice guitar solos and harmonies. Bahij played nice double basses in the album especially on Deceptive Light. Basem's voice is very strong on Final Departure Stamp and Planet of Cockroaches he was incredible. For those who didn't listen to our CD yet, u can check 2 songs on our website (which is still under construction $$$$$$) .
It is not a complete concept album but most of the songs r based on a short story I wrote called Ancient Hope and it has three parts, based on a book written by a Syrian writer called Sa3dallah Wannous.
The story in brief is about a family who is living in crypts underground and promised by its elders that it will reach out to the sun one day. It is a very nice story and I recommend each one who bought the album to read it. The intro Pilgrimage the second track Trapped the sixth Ancient Hope: part 1-Denial and the last The Land of the Free are based on this story the rest have different subjects. The forth track Planet of Cockroaches is about a dying planet after a thousand year which turns into a deserted place where only cockroaches live in. it is about the extinction of man kind after a nuclear war. I got the idea when I read in The Readers Digest that the cockroach is the only being that does not get affected by nuclear reaction.
The eighth track Final Departure Stamp is a true story of a Palestinian refugee, named David Demiany, who is living (or dead) in Beirut. He ran away from Haifa in 1947 after the massacres that the Haggana did. This is a conversation between a Jewish business man and the father of David and David himself. The story is taken from Pity the Nation for Robert Fisk. A book about the war in Lebanon.
And the rest of the songs have different subjects, track nine Deceptive Light was debatable here in Syria b/w some religious people. But as I said my songs are symbolic, u r allowed to understand anything u like from them.
The photos that we took are inspired for the story, we're playing the characters. All the art work is based on Ancient Hope, that's why I chose the booklet black and white, cus this family is living underground and never seen the sun, putting red and green in the booklet is not suitable at all.

Where did you record your album?
I recorded the album in studio 55 in Aleppo. The man Yeghya is the one who recorded mixed and mastered the album. It is the same studio that our friends Nu.Clear.Dawn recorded their debut in.
We recorded the drums in four days, the vocals in four days, the guitars in 2, the bass in 3, the keyboards in 1. Of course those days weren't in a continuous manner, cus the bass was recorded at Salim's studio in Tripoly and Basem had to come from Lebanon to record. Mixing took like one month and a half.

Any upcoming album?
YES!! Musically I have a big load but lyrically I have the ideas but not the lyrics themselves. Only Ancient Hope: part2-Kin Traitor is completely written.
I think the album will be called Resurrection of the Horrid Dream. It will be complementary for To the Land of the Free. I think the coming album will be REALLY debatable. It is not from a year from now for sure.

What is your favorite band and album?
(This q for all band members)
It is impossible to give one band and one album, u know there is a lot of brilliant albums.
Rawad: Savatage: The Hall of the Mountain King
Iron Maiden: Piece of Mind
Metallica: Master of Puppets

Bahij: Metallica: Ride the Lightning
Candlemass: Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast

Basem: Dream Theater: Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Metallica: Master of Puppets
Symphony X: Five

How's the metal scene in the country? Can you recommend us any band?
I really don't know what to tell you. Here the thing is so much contradicted. I mean in a concert you find hundreds of people but our sales (and Nu.Clear.Dawn's I think) were shockingly low even though they priced it for $6 and we priced ours for $4 only. Maybe these guys only pretend that they are for metal, I don't know!
Some problems happened over here for the so-called "devil worshiper" thingy but not much. (I hate this expression, such a dark-aged one!!)
About the bands there is no real bands over here I mean they play only covers.
But I can talk about Lebanon a bit, in Lebanon things are somehow easier (except for the "devil worshipers" thingy, u know the church and the mosque have big influence on the government…THE DARK AGES ONCE AGAIN!!!)
Anyway, in Lebanon there are a lot of bands that plays originals. Salim with his band Solitaire are recording there debut that will be called The Book of Life, and oh!!! Basem also sing with these guys. In Lebanon there are a lot of concerts too. Check and .

Tell us about the concert in your country and did you perform in any concert?
We didn't perform any concert till now as I said. Basically cus everyone of us study and live in a different place. I think the concert will be in late July. (if Basem wasn't in the military service by that time, eh?)

As I see in this time the Arabian metal it grow up, How you can view it?
Walla all the third world countries are rising metal-wise. U should remember that metal has a very good seed in the countries that their peoples are oppressed religiously or politically.

What you think about the idea to make Arabian metal festival?
I prefer an underground metal festival, it doesn't have to be Arabic because I think there is one thing in common b/w these bands that they r simply underground. But putting it in an Arabian or whatever framework is not a bad idea at all. It will be the best gift for these bands.

Is there any band you would like to play with as a support act?
Me and Shant of Nu.Clear.dawn have talked a long time ago to do a united concert, mostly in Beirut cus Basem is Trapped over there cus of the military service issue.
But when u said "as a support act" u meant an international band?? In this case I really wish to do an opening for Iron Maiden or Savatage. But as I said…wish.

Message for the Arab underground?
Like the new slogan of Adidas "IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING!!"

Thanks for the interview, we wish you good luck.

Interview by DeathCurse


©All rights reserved, Lelahel website® 2004