If you need to release some stress, tension or just want a good dose of loud music, it seems that El Sawy Culture Wheel is the place to go. Last Friday the headliners were Cairo’s answer to Iron Maiden. Sirens are a tribute band to American death metal band Savatage, who first hit the hard rock scene in the 1970s, and are still rocking on to middle age.
With true homage to their mentors, Sirens are not only self-styled on Savatage, but have named themselves after the veteran rockers’ first album.
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of thrash metal, death metal, progressive metal, new metal (the list goes on), but I am partial to a bit of head-banging if the urge should so take me, and if, indeed I find the concert atmosphere so inspiring that you can’t help yourself.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t really taken anywhere at the Sirens concert. Standing on a chair surveying the crowd, I expected to see some serious “moshing (a British colloquialism for head-banging). Although it was obvious that the Sirens had some seriously hardcore fans (one even had a brave attempt at crowd surfing), the atmosphere on the whole was fairly constrained. I found myself wondering as to the veracity of the audience claims to being ‘metal fans’ or whether for many present, it was all about the image.
Or could it have been that the Sirens, those eponymous chimeras whose voices are the downfall of Odysseus’ crew, failed to woo the crowd? Ramy Sedky’s curling rifts were certainly met with gothic screams of approval. His electrical intros, the metal version of the Sharqi Mawali, sent the crowd wild, and it’s a shame we didn’t hear more of his thrashing.
Dressed all in black, complete with beard and pony tail, Ahmed Hani, Siren’s frontman looks the part. His deep and wailing vocals ranged from serious thrash metal to a more sensitive vocal edge, but the real gut-wrenching stuff took a back seat this time. Hani even tried his hand as a pianist, but his energies would probably have been better spent giving that extra push on the vocal front.
Perhaps it was that on Friday night, Sirens were not a conventional metal tribute band. A string quartet sat to his right, in a harmonious marriage between rock and classical. But although it added a touch of elegance to the set, elegance wasn’t really what the concert-goers were hoping for.
It wasn’t that a metal concert needs to conform to the traditions of violent scraps and narcotics, in fact, it was reassuring that the only fluids I saw exchanging hands was a can of Coke, but in a rock concert, what the audience brings to the concert is almost as important as the performance itself.
Biting the bullet, I asked Hani his opinion. “It is definitely a great deal calmer than it used to be, he said, while putting on his glasses, rendering him more the academic than hulking rocker, “but since 1997, when the government implemented a major crackdown on rockers, accusing them of being satanists, things are not like they used to be. We used to get 8,000 people at one concert.
On Friday night, there was definitely not more than a thousand.
And the verdict? Not exactly thunderous as far as metal concerts go. There needed to be a little more reckless abandon from both crowd and band, without which, the concert was left a far cry from a metal-head’s paradise.