How Israel's metal music community remains supportive

The metal community will hold a benefit show for its main spark plug, Yishai Sweartz.

 ISRAEL’S METAL pioneer Yishai Sweartz.  (photo credit: Naama Kostiner)
ISRAEL’S METAL pioneer Yishai Sweartz.
(photo credit: Naama Kostiner)

The country’s close-knit metal music community is coming together this weekend to help perhaps the main driver in supporting and promoting the scene, Yishai Sweartz.

Often referred to as “The Raven,” Sweartz is beloved by metal artists and fans alike. Since the early 1990s, he has pioneered Israel’s metal music industry and created a community for metalheads.

Sweartz recently underwent a very complex surgery and is recovering but the vocalist and producer has been forced to slow his work pace. Consequently, his ability to support himself and the industry has become increasingly difficult. 

Given the state’s limited support for Israelis who are self-employed, the financial burden has taken its toll on Sweartz. On Saturday, May 6, at the Gagarian club in Tel Aviv, the metal community will come together to show their appreciation and to help ease Sweartz’s difficult economic situation.

Among the performers and friends who will perform is Yossi Sassi, metal vocalist, guitarist and frequent collaborator with The Oriental Rock Orchestra. He said Sweartz is one of the main pillars of the metal community and its continuity for the past 30 years. 

“He has been holding the flame of hope, we all owe him a lot,” Sassi said.

Bringing metal bands to the holy land

Working as a producer and promoter, Sweartz has been responsible for bringing international metal bands to Israel. Through his influence, metal bands such as Behemoth, Septicflesh, Sabaton Cannibal Corpe, Satyricon, Rotting Christ, Nightwish, Paradise Lost and others have visited.

Also appearing on Saturday will be one of Sweartz’s oldest metal friends, Polish star Adam Darski of Behemoth. Better known by his stage name Nergal, Darski is a legendary figure among the metal community and, thanks to the duo’s friendship, he has performed in Israel on six occasions in the last 20 years. When Darski heard about the evening, he was insistent on supporting and playing at the event.

“[Darski] has given me a lot of inspiration for how to survive the worst,” Sweartz says.

The night will also see a reunion for Sassi with his former band Orphaned Land – one of Israel’s best-known metal music exports. Sassi will also be performing alongside the band’s current members Kobi Farhi, Uri Zalka and Chen Belvos.

As well as co-founding Orphaned Land and pioneering a solo career, Sassi has created his own instrument. A ‘bouzoukitara’ is a combination of an acoustic Greek bouzouki and an electric guitar, creating a unique rock sound with Middle Eastern tones. He said he has prepared a special arrangement [with the instrument] for the event.

For one night only, these metal forces will perform together to celebrate not only Sweartz but the metal community itself. For Sassi, it is a reunion of friends onstage, backstage and in the audience.

Other Israeli acts performing include Shredhead, Scardust, Tabernacle!, Eran Tzur and Subterranean Masquerade.

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