Meeting 28-year-old Jean Pierre Haddad on any regular night, you would not know he is the frontman and guitarist of Kimaera, one of Lebanon’s most acclaimed metal bands. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt, he smiles as he offers you a drink from behind the bar at Sin’s, in Gemmanyzeh. However, on show night, he and his fellow band members put on their customized leather Viking harnasses and let their anger come to life through heavy metal.
The group was featured last September in the famous Metal Hammer compilation World Metal and has already built a following in several European countries.
Haddad formed the band in 2000, at a tumultuous time when metal music was still underground in the Middle East due to fears that listening to this genre was correlated with suicide incidents among the youth.
But Kimaera managed to survive despite the several setbacks, the many changes in the band’s line-up as well as the political instability of the country.
Haddad explained to NOW Extra his take on metal music, saying, “This is how we express ourselves; this is who we are. [This] is not happy music, but it unleashes your negative energy. Whenever you feel down, you need to let it out in a way. We express it through doom metal. When it comes to anger, death metal plays its part. And we make it more interesting with the symphonic and atmospheric metal influences. We tried to make things as interesting and rich as they can be.”
Whenever you feel down, you need to let it out in a way. We express it through doom metal. When it comes to anger, death metal plays its part. And we make it more interesting with the symphonic and atmospheric metal influences. We tried to make things as interesting and rich as they can be.
The band’s breakthrough was in March 2004, when Kimaera’s self-produced single entitled “God’s Wrath” earned great reviews. As a result, Stygian Crypt Production, a label in Russia where metal music is popular, decided to collaborate with the band. Their debut album titled Ebony Veiled was released in 2006, and their second album called Solitary Impact, which reflected the band’s musical maturity, was released in 2010. However, by that time, Kimaera had a different line-up as three members had already left the band.
“These changes are normal in Lebanon because it is hard to find musicians who are dedicated, responsible and who would have the same ambitions. Because when you play metal with an [international] band like Kimaera, you have to be fully dedicated [to the band] and it has to be one of your [top] priorities,” Haddad noted.
But last year was a good year for Kimaera. The band left the Middle East to take part in the Masters of Rock Festival in the Czech Republic with the famous US heavy metal band Manowar. Kimaera was well received by fans at one of the biggest festivals in Europe, which gave the Lebanese musicians a boost of confidence. The band also performed last September at the 2011 Unirock Open Air Festival in Turkey as well as at the Beirut Rock Festival with Portuguese gothic metal band Moonspell and Swedish metal band Katatonia.
Recently, Kimaera released a new single, this time a ballad called “December Ends”. “The song is very different from what we have done before; it’s very mellow. But it is Kimaera. If you listen to it, you’ll know it’s us: the violin, the piano, the ups and downs in the tempo,” Haddad said.
The band has also been trying to build an identity that complements its music. Haddad told NOW Extra that they hired a costume designer who came up with the Viking leather harnesses displaying the band logo for their stage outfits.
Although there is a metal music fan base in the country, Haddad said that he and his fellow band members are eying international festivals rather than trying to perform in Lebanon. Haddad pointed out that the metal music scene, and this is true of the whole Lebanese music scene, is as fragmented as the communities are, and rivalry rules the show.
“But for us one thing is important. Because we made it to the Czech Republic and we played at Unirock, metal fans from across Europe turned their attention to Lebanon and found out about other bands. Whether you like it or not, we are the pioneers,” Haddad concluded.
For more information on Kimaera, please visit their official website.