Salem is an Israeli extreme metal band, pioneers of the oriental metal movement and of the Israeli heavy metal scene in general. Much of their lyrics and music deals with political issues concerning the Jewish people and Israel, most notably the concept albums Kaddish and Collective Demise .
Salem, the first extreme metal band in Israel, was formed in 1985, under the name Axe Metal, and is thus one of the first bands in the worldwide underground metal scene to play brutal black metal. This can be heard in their self-titled rehearsal tape from 1986 and their live demo Destruction Till Death from 1987, recorded at the legendary 'Penguin' club, the only outlet for alternative music in Israel throughout the 1980s. This formula was later perfected by bands such as Beherit and Blasphemy in the early 1990s.
After five years underground, the band released another live demo, Millions Slaughtered , with a new line-up and a genre shift towards the death/doom realms. This demo sold 1,500 copies and led to a record deal with the German label Morbid Records. In the film Global Metal, drummer Nir Nakav recounted a story relating to the demotape that somehow ended up in the hands of the Norwegian Varg Vikernes, who contacted the band and noted that while he appreciated the music, he loathed the anti-Holocaust lyrics and wished the band to perish in the Gulf War. The band, infuriated, replied with a strongly worded letter; a few days later the band was contacted by local police, who had found a bomb in the mail from Norway.
The band's official website describes this story in the following manner:
"SALEM was formed in 1985 along with the newly born extreme metal scene and released 2 demo tapes called: "Salem" and "Destruction till Death".
Back than, SALEM were in very good relations with Mayhem`s founder Euronymous who offered SALEM relocation to Norway and joining the black metal inner circle. Varg Vikernes of Burzum who disliked the band's ideals thought differently and sent to vocalist Ze'ev Tananboim an explosive envelope by mail."
Creating Our Sins and Kaddish were released by Morbid Records and became the first metal albums from Israel to gain worldwide success. Kaddish is a concept album about the Holocaust. Prior to its release, Morbid Records released a 7" picture EP with the single "Dying Embers" to promote the album, and when Kaddish came out, a limited edition picture disc was released. The opening song, "The Fading," was played on MTV's Headbanger's Balls rotation and had the band elected as one of the 10 best up-and-coming bands in the world by MTV and Kerrang!.
Kaddish also featured a cover song in Hebrew called "Ha'ayara Bo'eret" . The song was originally a poem written in Yiddish under the name "S'brent" by Polish-Jewish poet Mordechai Gebirtig in 1938, in response to the 1936 pogrom of Jews in the town of Przytyk near Radom. It was since translated into Hebrew, long before the band performed it. National controversy led to the Israeli parliament discussing whether it was appropriate for a metal band to play such songs.
In 1998, now with Israeli label B.N.E., the band enlisted producer Colin Richardson , who flew over to Israel to record A Moment of Silence. The album was recorded in D.B. studios in Israel and The Chapel in England and was released late 1998. A big distribution deal with Modern Music fell through due to miscommunication between B.N.E. and Salem.
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