"My blood ran cold" is how most listeners describe their reaction the first time they heard the Israeli band Salem.
Known for its fearful "doom metal" sound and its chilling lyrics, Salem created the heavy-metal scene in Israel back in 1985. The unique band inspired many local heavy-metal groups in its wake, most prominently the ethnic metal band Orphanland.
With most of its songs, Salem has sold more than than 100,000 discs in 30 countries, while sticking to national themes like Holocaust and daily terror attacks. Roaring guitars, earth-splitting bass and deafening drums give expression to the pain and frustation, but they all serve as background to Ze'ev Tananboim's unique voice as he growls out the words. As for the latter, the only way fans can make them out is to check out the booklets accompanying the discs.
Their song "The Shtetl is Burning" (whose lyrics are in Hebrew) raised a brouhaha in the early '90s. Then Knesset chairman, survivor Dov Shilanski, asked that the song be banned, claiming it was unseemly that the pain of the past be expressed through guitars and drums. But MK Shevah Weiss won the right for the band - made up of sons of survivors - to play the pain the way they chose.
In its new double album Strings Attached, Salem integrates acoustic instruments - cello, violin, double bass. In a combined 20th anniversary bash/release concert Tuesday at Moadon Hateatron, the band hooks up with the all-female Israeli Contemporary String Quartet for heavy-metal versions of classical pieces. Guest starring will be Attila Csihar, soloist for the Norweigan metal band Mayhem, on his first visit to Israel.