The death of Jean-Pierre “JP” Haddad last month shook the Middle Eastern heavy metal scene.
Since genre stalwarts Kimaera announced that their frontman and guitarist had died aged 39 of asphyxiation following a natural gas leak in his Cairo apartment, the community has rallied together to hold memorial events in Egypt and around the world. his native Lebanon.
It was in the latter that fans heard his latest batch of recordings as part of the official launch of Kimaera’s fourth album, Imperium.
Talk to The Nationalkeyboardist Charbel Abboud confirms that the release was recorded and mastered fifteen days before Haddad’s death.
“In a way that gives me and all of us that feeling of comfort because JP heard the album and was satisfied,” he says.
“After all the work we put into it for two and a half years, having him listen, appreciate and say how proud he was of our achievement is something I will always remember and hold on to.”
Haddad’s contentment was certainly deserved, for Imperium, which was released last week, is Kimaera’s biggest artistic statement to date.
Inspired by the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the nine songs explore aspects of the heady times, Rome’s war with Gaul, the constant political intrigue of the Senate and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. Emperor Julius Caesar.
According to Abboud, the subject was inspired by Haddad.
“I remember a few years ago JP had this new obsession with Roman civilization,” he recalls. “He would watch any movie or TV series that was related to it and he would tell us how amazed he was to see how the Roman Empire had survived for so long.”
Since Haddad was Kimaera’s chief lyricist, Abboud and his comrades realized that the subject matter would undoubtedly form the basis of an album.
This meant stepping things up musically to match the majestic subject.
Imperium is not so much pompous as grandiose. His songs are interwoven with cinematic orchestral instrumental passages that feature strings and piano.
“We were even precise in the choice of instruments. So if we had to compose a song about ancient Egypt, which was part of the Roman Empire, we would choose oriental instruments,” he says.
“We want people to feel like they’re traveling through different places while listening to the album.”
While Imperium realizing Haddad’s ambitions, Abboud admits that some of the songs sound different now that his bandmate is gone. One is thunder ides of marchdetailing Caesar’s eventual assassination by colleagues in the Roman Senate.
“Every time the band listens to it, we get goosebumps because of the way JP sings it,” Abboud said. “Especially in the lyrical part that says, ‘So let it be done. His terrible end has come. His body has been smitten. Betrayed by his own.'”
A track that inspired an unlikely mass reaction is closest to the album, Ya Beirut.
A death metal interpretation of Majida Al Roumi Ensemble of Beirut El Donyathe song was originally released in 2020 with a music video broadcast on the Lebanese television channel MTV.
While the track resulted in the band’s first and only brush with mainstream attention in their 22-year career, it angered Roumi who filed a copyright claim against Kimaera for what she claimed was an unofficial use of the song.
With the two parties reaching an agreement requiring the official video to be removed from the group’s social media, Abboud said. Ya Beirut achieved its goal by showcasing the artistic value of death metal, a genre long derided in Lebanon.
“It’s something that JP has always pushed and what he’s been doing for over 20 years, and that’s 10 years before I even joined the band,” he says. “I remember when my dad saw the music video on TV, he cried.
“He was able to appreciate what we did to the song and not be swayed by some of the misconceptions people here have about metal music in general.”
Abboud confirms that Kimaera will continue. However, talk of a replacement for Haddad remains premature.
“It’s still very sensitive for us and the whole scene,” he says.
“Anyone who could ever replace JP has to be up to it not only musically, but also have a certain clout within the scene to be accepted. It will be a very difficult decision that we will eventually have to make.”
That said, Haddad left behind a legacy and an approach to life that guides Kimaera through these uncertain times.
“We learned a lot just by watching him. We learned that whenever we want to do something, we have to see it through,” says Abboud. “JP never meant to do a sloppy job. He pushed us to keep going no matter the obstacles. That’s what we did and what we will do.”
Updated: March 25, 2022, 10:25 a.m.