On August 4, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated in a warehouse in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, killing close to 200 people, leaving some 300,000 homeless and causing $10-15 billion in property damage. The blast, caught on camera from various angles around the city and going viral worldwide across social media, was so severe and awe-inspiring that many wondered if a nuclear bomb had been set off.
For Anthony Kaoteon, founder of Lebanese extreme metallers and 2018 Golden God Global Metal Award winners, Kaoteon, it meant yet more heartbreak for a nation that had already been through immense political turmoil, war and corruption.
“The damage is severe”, he tells Metal Hammer from his adopted home in the Netherlands. “The Lebanese are still in shock. My dad keeps telling me, ‘Anthony, this was a nuclear explosion for us. When I saw the mushroom above me in the air, I saw my life backwards and thought we are all going to die!’”
For Anthony Kaoteon, it was important that the world should know the full brutal impact of the explosion, and understand the devastation it has brought to his homeland, where the value of the local currency has plummeted by 85%. As ever, his music would be the medium to shine a spotlight on the real-life horrors hundreds of thousands are facing up to in the aftermath of the terrifying blast.
“I had finished the recording of the second album from my band Death Tribe”, he explains. “I was (and still am) in the process of creating a full, animated movie that should be watched along with the [album’s] music, with Dronicon Films from Argentina. As my home country was going through extreme situations, I had a track about [Lebanon’s issues] on the album called Thawra. When the explosion took place, I called the team from Dronicon Films to change the animation [on the Thawra section of the film] by adding explosion scenes. We released that video so that we help raise awareness about what is happening in Beirut and raise some money to help.”
Death Tribe’s forthcoming second album, Beyond the Red Light District: A Canal Experiment, is “a statement against all that is wrong in the world today” says Kaoteon. The first album that he has composed in the Netherlands, it’s a call to arms on behalf of a nation which has suffered too much.
Despite its modest size, Lebanon’s complex inter-community relations and vulnerable location – sharing borders with both Syria and Israel – have seen it become a centre- point for conflict. The country became embroiled in a 15-year civil war that lasted from 1975-1990, and has been at the centre of a refugee crisis across the last decade or so that has increased tensions in the region. The warehouse explosion in August has only brought more strife to a country on its knees – and it’s a situation that was exacerbated even further by the sitting government quitting a couple of weeks later.
“This is the worst period that the country has ever seen”, says Anthony, who remains convinced that the people of his place of birth can come together and force positive change in the face of increasing adversity.
“Power to the people who are shouting and protesting for change”, he says. “It is time to unite and be strong. Do not be divided into fragments. Stand up for your rights and believe that, united, you will prevail.”
Joined in Death Tribe by drummer Baard Kolstad (Leprous), bassist Linus Klausenitzer (ex-Obscura), and violinist Chris Baum (The Bent Knee), Kaoteon is channelling the voice of the voiceless in his broken homeland. While Beyond The Red Light District: A Canal Experiment awaits a confirmed release date in 2021, the release of Thawra and associated donations, he was able to raise thousands of dollars to send back to Beirut – but as he explains to Metal Hammer editor Merlin Alderslade in the current issue of the magazine, there is still much, much more to do, and metalheads worldwide can play their part.
“So far, between music, friends, colleagues and connections, we were able to raise about $6,000 worth of donations to send back home, which will hopefully contribute in some way to comfort those in need”, he says. “But it is not only about raising money. I never made profit from music as I invest it all on the production and creating better music for Death Tribe, Kaoteon or other musical projects. What really matters here is reaching mediums like Metal Hammer and other outlets so that we can talk about Beirut. The people and the country are victims of years and years of oppression. There are so many countries in the world that are passing through horrible times and Lebanon is one of them that has always fought and somehow survived. Today, Lebanon needs us more than ever as it is bleeding faster than it can recover.”
Already known for his work with Golden God award winners Kaoteon, Anthony considers the forthcoming Death Tribe album his most diverse and powerful musical statement to date. Thematically, Beyond the Red Light District… is the journey of ENTE who grows searching for the thrill of life, to discover that the power was given to those who suck the blood of the innocent, deforest the land, abuse its resources, kill and abuse its animals, torment its youth and create false illusions about pleasure that sicken the meanest of souls.
"I want to make music with a message,” Kaoteon states. “I see metal music as a rebellion against what is wrong in this world and not the other way around. I want the listener to think about their daily choices that are leading humanity to its own demise. We need to stop blaming authorities and the world for our own mistakes. We have the right to vote, the right to act, the right to raise awareness in many parts of the world and if we want a better world, we need to stop talking and start acting.”
Death Tribe’s frontman hopes that Beyond the Red Light District… will become a catalyst for change, offering an inspirational and empowering beacon of hope for his beloved homeland, a country which has refused to have its spirit broken by decades of unimaginable suffering. While the countdown to the album release continues, he has a simple, urgent and vitally important message to impart.
“Donate, donate, donate!” he pleads. “Donate to the Lebanese Red Cross, to Offre Joie, to Impact Lebanon and other NGOs, and keep talking about Beirut.”
Death Tribe’s Beyond The Red Light District: A Canal Experiment is due for release in 2021. You can donate to Lebanon via Death Camp’s official Bandcamp page.
You can read the full interview with Death Tribe’s Anthony Kaoteon in the new issue of Metal Hammer, which is on sale now. The issue also features Judas Priest, Rammstein, Mastodon, DevilDriver, System Of A Down, Perry Farrell and more.