Lycopolis - “There are three of us and we would like to remain not named.."
Who is the old God Wepwawet and his influence on Lycopolis?
“Wepwawet is an ancient Egyptian god. He was similar to Anubis and not as well-known later. He is called the "opener of the ways" and that has many meanings. He would open the way for the pharaoh into battle and would lead the dead in the underworld. Some said he performed the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. He was the main god of ancient Asyut along with Anubis. When the Greeks came, they called Asyut the city of wolves and the word for that with Greeks was Lycopolis.”
How did the band draw inspiration from the name?
“Egypt is a very Muslim country and Asyut is a very religious city. We are not religious, and it is a sensitive topic here, so we decided to use our mythology and history as our inspiration. The stories of the ancient gods are so many, and Asyut was a very powerful city for a long time. It was considered to be the guardian of Upper Egypt in ancient times.”
Does it give direction to the band?
“Yes, very much so. Most things we have released all come from Asyut and Wepwawet. 40 Days Road is about a famous old trade route that involved a lot of slavery. Opener of the Ways is about ancient Asyut and the old power. Guardian is about Wepwawet. Our album for 2021 will be called The Procession and it is named for The Procession of Wepwawet and the entire album is for him. The songs we made for the split were different. We wrote them for the ancient gods Ba-pef and Am-heh who were two of the only ancient gods that could be seen as evil. We thought it would fit the themes of black metal since we do not speak of religion. “
How did Lycopolis come to be?
“There are three of us and we would like to remain not named because it could cause difficulties for us here. Asyut is not as open to things like this as Cairo and Alex. I play guitar. We have a bass player that also sings. Our drummer came from Cairo. He speaks better English, so he helps with the lyrics. We met at the university here. I listened to more common heavy metal like Metallica and Slayer and Black Sabbath. I have grown up with our bass player, so we discovered this music together. When we met our drummer, he knew more bands because Cairo has more people for this, and it is more known. There are some famous Egyptian bands that have come from Cairo like Crescent who played black metal and now death metal. There is nothing like this in Asyut, so our drummer showed us these bands like Darkthrone and Mayhem and Emperor. It was very different and shocking for us in the begining, but we like the mood and the dark feeling. so, we started to try to play this and we are still learning.”
“We first discovered heavy metal in movies soundtracks and then found more on the internet and YouTube. It was so different from everything else you hear in Egypt, so I was very attracted to it. Black metal came from our drummer and it is a different sound that we really feel has more mood and mystery than other styles.”
What draws you to the black metal genre? Is it an apt description for your atmospheric music?
“That is an okay description. It is what we are trying to do in our own way. We liked more known heavy metal before knowing of this and we like how it feels dark and has more of a depressive feeling. We don't have good music equipment or a good way to record so the rawer sound of black metal can be captured better for us.”
“We don't do all the smaller names for different types of black metal. We just try to play black metal and now we are trying to put in parts of Arabic music with it on our new songs. Our song Guardian and the others on that record show this sound and our full album will have even more. We would like to try to make something original by mixing Arabic scales with black metal. They are remarkably similar so we hope we can accomplish this. I don't know what a name for this would be. Maybe another person could name this if it needs a name other than black metal.”
Your lyrically inspired by Asyut and the older gods? How important are they to you personally/musically?
“They are not so important to us personally, but they are the main focus of our songs. Mostly Wepwawet but we have also made two songs for Ba-pef and Am-heh. It is not easy to have no religion in Egypt and even more difficult to make that known or to worship something like the old gods. We like the stories, and they make good use for topics to write about. Asyut has a rich history, so it is important to us, but it was all very long ago.”
With all gods there is chaos, war, and peace. Do you draw influence from all of them and their motives?
“Ancient Egyptian gods are more peace than a person would think. There are very few seen as evil but there are specific gods for war and chaos. We have only focused on Wepwawet because he is the chief god for Asyut. There are many bands we have discovered that use Egyptian gods for their music such as Nile but Wepwawet is not as known outside of Egypt. We may use more of the old gods in the future.”
Is this in opposition to the traditional Sunni Beliefs held in Egypt today? and what can Society learn from the old gods?
We were raised in Islam but as we got older, we have gone away from it. Religions are very much in control everywhere in the world and especially a place like Egypt. Asyut is stricter than some other big cities like Cairo. We also have Christians here. I do not know if society can learn from the old gods because they were created for things that no longer concern people the same way. Like harvest and good health and protection. We do not need to worship gods for these things. Modern religion could learn to not control everything, and it is okay for people to be who they are. I think it will be a long time or never before this part of the world thinks like that.”
Is it hard to translate the darkness into music and into English?
“We feel the music comes from a dark place inside of us and is not difficult, but we are still learning. When I played guitar before this band it was not like this music at all, so we have to continue to listen and learn. We are pleased with what we have done so far. Our drummer comes from Cairo, so he has different schooling and more exposure to English and tourism. So, we come up with what a song will be about and what we want to say, and he helps the lyrics be more consistent. But of course, with this style of music it is difficult to understand them and we do not care to publish them. We are looking to what the classic black metal bands have done, and we see that some of them do not make the lyrics available and we like the mystery of that. We do not want to identify ourselves and this all goes together to try to capture the old mysteries of the old black metal bands.”
Your latest split release?
“Our split release was something we have worked on for a while now and we thought would have come out a long time ago. You can tell our songs sound more like the old songs we first wrote from 40 Days Road. We were supposed to make this but Of Two Lands took more time, so we stopped work on our songs as well. When we revisit them, we had changed our sound some?”
How you came to work with Of Two Lands?
“Of Two Lands is also from Asyut. When we first started to make this music last year it was very few people that knew of it. Just our close friends. More people became interested and that band started this year. Our first demo 40 Days Road was something we made ourselves and gave to friends and sent in the mail to Cairo to try to make more fans. It did not get any notice, so we moved on from it and did not put it online for people. After Opener of the Ways did better for us, we decided to put it out again, so we have more music for the new fans. Of Two Lands has the original CD we gave to people and became interested in making music like this also. We are the only bands like this in Asyut. We want the music to grow and have more fans but we know this will be impossible here so we must reach out to other places in the world. I think Of Two Lands is making more music and we are excited to hear it and grow our music here even if we cannot play shows or be known who we are. “
The New Album?
“We have a new album that is maybe finished. We want to wait until 2021 because we have released three things this year as well as making 40 Days Road available again. We do not want to make people tired of us by too many things at once. But with corona virus we have had more time to play and create so that is why we have been so busy. If you have heard our single Guardian, it is the first song we have released to use the Arabic influence. There are two more songs on the record for that and they also do this. But we do not feel these songs are as strong as what we have written for this full album, so we made them a separate release. I suppose a person could say they are the B-sides to our new album. The new album is called The Procession and right now it is 10 songs that last 40 minutes. Everything else we have done is only 2 or 3 songs at a time so this will be very different. All the music has the Arabic influence and there are 2 instrumental songs where I play some solos that have not been in our songs before except Guardian. We think this album is very different for us and for black metal as a genre. We have shared it with two record labels but nobody else has heard it. We have a label called Snow Wolf in America that has helped us release our music to this time and we have talked to more that would like to release things. Snow Wolf and one of these others have heard the album and we hope somebody will release it.”
You are unique to the extreme scene? Is there a large following in Egypt and do you encounter any opposition to your music?
“There is some music like this in Alex and Cairo, but I do not know of anywhere else. That is why we remain not named. I have seen pictures where there are shows in Cairo but nothing here. There is not a large following for this. Most people may discover this when they are younger and at university but not as many appear to stay with it. There are rock bands here in Egypt and bands playing cover songs, but this heavy music would not be tolerated here in Asyut. We do not want to test it because the government could make things very difficult for us and our families. Egypt is a poor country and Asyut is no different. It is not easy to have equipment to perform or record and not possible to travel to do it in other cities. Cairo is not close so there is no place near us. We have friends sometimes come to where we practice but that is all. I would not call this a performance but maybe somebody else would. We record our songs live but there is no crowd for that. It is very interesting for us to watch people respond to our music outside Egypt.”
Plans and to expand your following?
“We hope to be able to keep making music and finding a new way to do it. We would like for this to become more acceptable in Egypt but until that happens, we hope to share it with the rest of the world. At this time America and Europe have been very kind to us and we very much thank everyone for the support. We have been very fortunate to have a connection to a photographer that put us in contact with Snow Wolf Records. He photographs bands and works with animals, so he knows the American that runs Snow Wolf through an animal shelter in Cairo. Our drummer knows this man from other bands before when he was in Cairo. Without this we do not know how we would have been able to produce physical copies of our music and send them around the world. We are very grateful for this and hope to continue to do this with more record labels also. A label in Ukraine called Depressive Illusions also released Opener of the Ways for us.”
Your top 6 albums of all time?
Metallica Black Album
Slayer Reign in Blood
Darkthrone Transylvanian Hunger
Black Sabbath Paranoid
Iron Maiden Power Slave
Metallica Master of Puppets