Found in: Turkish music
Oriental metal is a subgenre of folk metal that combines heavy metal music with elements of traditional Middle Eastern music. The music developed in Israel during the first half of the 1990s with the bands Orphaned Land, Melechesh and Salem being the pioneers of the genre. Contributions from other countries have emerged since then.
The progressive metal outfit Orphaned Land was formed in 1991 in Israel with their first and only demo ''The Beloved's Cryreleased in 1993, "immediately creating a media stir" that "quickly drew attention to their unorthodox style." Members of the group were still teenagers when they released their debut album Sahara'' in 1994. The music of Orphaned Land "borrow heavily from Middle Eastern music styles" with traditional elements coming from Arabic folk music. Acclaimed as "one of the world's most unique and trailblazing heavy metal bands," Orphaned Land's style of music has since been dubbed oriental metal.
The year 1993 saw the formation of Melechesh in Jerusalem, "undoubtedly the first overtly anti-Christian band to exist in one of the holiest cities in the world." Melechesh began as a straightforward black metal act with their first foray into folk metal occurring on the title track of their 1996 EP The Siege of Lachish. Their subsequent albums saw the group straddling the boundaries between black, death, and thrash metal, with "impressive, tastefully rendered epics chock-full of superb riffs, Middle Eastern melodies, and vocal exchanges varying from a throaty midrange screech to chanting."
Predating both Orphaned Land and Melechesh, Salem was formed as far back as 1985 with their first album Creating Our Sins released in 1992. They began as a black and death metal band before turning towards doom metal with their 1994 release Kaddish. That album featured a Hebrew cover version of a traditional Yiddish song ''S'Brent'' ("Haayara Boeret") originally written by the Polish Jewish poet Mordechai Gebirtig. The band has continued to use folk elements in their music. This includes the use of traditional music on the guitars as well as non-traditional instruments like the darbuka. Despite attracting some degree of notoriety by receiving a mail bomb from the anti-Semitic Varg Vikernes, Salem has not attained the popularity of Orphaned Land or Melechesh.
Other oriental metal acts have since emerged with the band Distorted notably forming in 1996 as the first female-fronted metal act from Israel. Other groups from the region include the Israeli Arallu, Palestinians Khalas
Similar to folk metal, oriental metal bands adopt different styles of heavy metal music. Melechesh and Arallu both perform a style they describe as "Mesopotamian black metal", a blend of black metal with Mesopotamian folk music. Doom metal can be found in the music of Salem and Distorted. Orphaned Land performs a blend of progressive metal and doom metal. Aeternam [www.myspace.com/aeternammetal] from Quebec (Canada) use oriental melodies in their Death/black metal, ancient civilizations subjects and some songs are written in arabic.
Keith Kahn-Harris - Website of sociologist with articles on Israeli metal
Shaytan Productions - Underground record label specialising in oriental metal