Interview with Sinnery’s Alon Karniei
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings
It’s a warm early September night in the UK as I catch up over Zoom with Alon Karnieli, rhythm guitarist and vocalist with Israeli metallers Sinnery. Alon is outside the band’s rehearsal venue, and looks warmer than I am, despite being a couple of hours ahead of the UK.
Sinnery have been around since 2012, and have two full-length albums under their belt, 2012’s “A Feast of Fools” and last year’s “Black Bile”. They are about to release their latest EP, “Below the Summit”, which coincides with their first ever UK tour which starts in mid-September.
I start by asking Alon to give me a bit of history about Sinnery and how the band formed. “We started out as kids. We were 16 when we started, since Idan and I met at a music school. We were both into metal and not everyone was into metal. And so, we started out, started some kind of band, I think in 2011, but it didn’t go that well because we were 15 at the time and then when that broke up, we were like, all right, we still want to keep doing it. So, let’s start over. And we formed Sinnery and over the years we grew into this thing that became, you know, our life. It’s a project, it’s like the most stable thing across the past 11 years that we had. We then progressed and learnt how to do things, you know, how to get the band to work, how to write music, how to rehearse, how to perform, how to schedule tours and negotiate with people, you know, form connections with people etc. It’s a fun process, you know, because we had no experience, and this is our first real shot and it’s been going on for 11 years and it’s still growing. It still feels better every day”.
If you search Sinnery on the web, you’ll find the band labelled as a thrash metal outfit. Listening to “Below the Summit” you’ll certainly find thrash included in the mix, but there is quite a bit more to unpack in the Sinnery arsenal. Who were Alon’s first influences that drew him into the world of metal?
“Well, if you’re asking who made me pick up the guitar, that’s Metallica for sure. I saw them for the first time in 2010 when they were here in Tel Aviv. And, you know, I was a kid, 14 years of age. I was standing on the upper level and the intro started, ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ was playing, and then they were straight into ‘Creeping Death’. I was like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Three weeks later I met Idan, and we started the whole thing. So, that’s the main influence that made me want to pick up the guitar”.
Alon continues “What influences Sinnery then? It depends on the time. For the EP we were influenced by a lot of Gojira and Behemoth, and a lot of Power Trip and the latest Trivium played a part. It’s funny that you say we’re more than a thrash metal band because we don’t consider ourselves a thrash band. Since our first album, “A Feast of Fools” was a thrash record, but we consider ourselves a metal band. We are influenced by so many things and there’s so much awesome music out there that we like. We want to put everything into our art. I think in the EP you can hear a lot of black metal, you could hear death metal, you can also hear the modern styles, some deathcore or metalcore, I don’t know. It’s just funny, you know, that’s what we like to hear. And that’s what we like to listen to”.
As we chat, Alon is clear that he is always listening to new music as well as older influences. “Yeah, you know that feeling when you find an artist that once you dive into their catalogue, then everything you hear by them, you like and you find like, this whole world to explore. When I was first introduced to Metallica, it was no matter what album, I always enjoyed it and it was so fun to listen to new music by the same band and see the evolution and the development of things and be psyched about every part of it, and so I’m always in search for that artist that will take me on that journey with them. So yes, I’m always checking out new music, not necessarily metal. I love hiphop. I love even some jazz. Lately I’ve been listening to love scores. I love Blues. Pretty much everything that will catch my ear is worth the try, you know. So, I’m always on the lookout for new things”.
Being rather ignorant about the Israeli metal scene, I ask Alon to expand on it. I’m aware and have seen the brilliant Orphaned Land several times, but who else did Alon see during his formative years, and how does the scene translate? “Well, Metallica had Orphaned Land open for them over 12 years ago. And that was the first time I realised that there is Israeli metal music so after Metallica, obviously, I went to see Orphaned Land. They had a 20-year anniversary show. I think they also filmed it. It was a great experience and then I was at the right age to start exploring. And then I fell in love with this beautiful music scene; like Israeli people are, they can get extreme. This place is always hot, always at work. So, I think the music really resembles that, in terms that bands here are mostly extreme metal and the shows are pretty much extreme and for years we got mostly extreme acts to come here. And so, it’s a lot of fun, and there’s a great scene and there are great people who go here. I think the bands here, because it’s so hard to get out, you can’t just rent a van and start playing, you need to fly everywhere, so it’s hard for Israeli bands to get outside of Israel”.
Alon continues, explaining about the quality of the bands in Israel. “The level of the music here, and the production value of bands and even the young bands who always catch me by surprise, because the production level is so high because they want to stick out. They want to be offered the adventure out of here, you know. So, I really love the community. I love the bands here. We have great bands”. Alon points out that he’s wearing the shirt of Eternal Struggle, who are, he informs me, “a great band and one of the biggest bands in Israel. They’ve been on tour right now. They’ve been out lately with Sick of It All and they played a few shows with Hatebreed. It’s awesome because my friends are breaking the limits”. His energy is infectious and very pleasing to see. As Alon says, “It’s fun, because it’s all new and we share information. There’s a lot of sense of community in it”.
I draw Alon back to the “A Feast of Fools”, released in 2016. As a musician, it’s always an early ambition to put out your own music. How did he feel when the debut Sinnery album was released? And what was the reaction to a band that were already established? “We felt like we were on top of the world,” Alon admits. “We released the album, and we were 17 or 18 when we released it or when we recorded. It was so far-fetched to get the funds to really go and record an album and mix it. And we didn’t know anything about recording or even playing on a metronome. And so, it was so full on, with mistakes. When we had the release show here in Israel, that was the point where we were like, we attracted a lot of crowds, more than anyone expected us to bring. Over 300, 350 people coming to see us and suddenly you see all the work you put in, you see it before your eyes. People know the words and people are buying the CDs and everybody’s reacting well to it. Although now, I can’t compare it to what we do now, because what we do now, I feel is way more advanced. It has more death in it, you know. But it was a necessary stage to go through, to see how we can create something and how people will react to it. We do this authentically, from our hearts. And I can guarantee that we do it from there, you know”. Alon is rightly proud of that first album but explains that he also has mixed feelings about it now. He’s keen to say that there was no feeling like that first moment. “We felt for the first time that we succeeded in something beyond our expectations”.
It’s really uplifting when you hear about that excitement. There’s a six-year gap between the debut and follow up release “Black Bile”. With the pandemic impacting on that period, I asked Alon if the band had already written most of the album before the global lockdown happened. “It was mixed and mastered before the pandemic,” he says. ”We got it back the month the pandemic started. We had a lot of thoughts about it. We put a lot of thought and a lot of emotion into it, and we didn’t want to release it. In our city we have a saying, like a fight in the wind. We didn’t want it to just blow away because we put so much into it. We didn’t know what to do, the whole music thing seemed to be shutting down, so we said, we’ll hold off the release. Go and do some music videos. Go and do the artwork, get everything ready, and then we started thinking about making the EP already back then. And we’re like, alright, let’s try things out. Let’s see how we can arm ourselves with ideas and content. Yeah, so when the music venues go back and there’s people that we can, you know, communicate with, then we’ll do it the proper way, maybe have a tour for it. The wait was long, but it was worth it because we learned a lot about releasing stuff properly and getting ready for the album to come out. It’s not enough to just go and record nine songs”.
There was a split between bands that had albums that were ready and scheduled for release that ended up, as Alon said, blown away and now we are at a stage where some bands are touring two albums because of the cycle. And then we had others that had the opportunity to put the brakes on and just let things pan out a bit, which is obviously what Sinnery did.
We move onto the new EP “Below the Summit”, which is coming out on 29th September. It’s a four-track EP with a quirky midpoint advert for the band’s socials. I admit to Alon that when I first heard it, I was a little confused, but it works. It’s quite funny. It makes you take notice of it. The band have a very aggressive sound and as Alon says, it’s not pure thrash. These are songs written during the pandemic. Alon explains the feeling and background to the songs.
“If you look at the band at the time we wrote “Below the Summit”, you need to know that the band was under pressure because we had an album that we couldn’t release. We said, alright, we can write a lot of songs and I think the songs in “Below” are the finest we ever wrote. All the lessons that we learned in “Black Bile” were put into this EP, we felt like we were gonna do it in terms of putting a needle in a moment in time. This is how we sound right now, and this is how we want to sound right now, and it may evolve next time we put out an album. But at that time, we felt like we had all this aggression, we were stuck in our rooms, and we were at the beginning of the pandemic. Obviously, we couldn’t have rehearsals, so we didn’t even meet each other, and it was pressured. I think the condensed sound of “Below the Summit” really reflects that, it’s all in your face because we felt we needed to blow up. You know we had all this stuff, and we can’t say anything and we can’t sell anyone anything and we can’t let anyone listen to it! Those are probably the most epic songs, I’m so proud of them. They get out the message we had at the time”.
In a couple of short weeks, Sinnery will be embarking on their first ever UK tour. They have six dates with Sworn Amongst starting on September 18th at the Cobblestones in Bridgewater, and then end at The Cavern in Exeter on September 23rd. I ask Alon about the tour and where they have played before.
“We’ve played in Romania, Cyprus, Russia but we haven’t played in the UK. We wanted to get to the UK for some time now, because it was a landmark in terms of where we should tour. We always thought the UK might accept us well and Germany. We didn’t get to visit so we were trying to get to the UK for a long time. And then we met Ashley from Sworn Amongst, and we formed some kind of connection and then this tour came to be through that connection, and it feels like we had so many different ideas of how this story will happen. They’re great guys and the music fits well and we saw the clubs, you know, on the Internet, it seems like there’s gonna be great crowds and great places to play and we really get to see a lot of the UK”.
Sinnery will be playing at a festival in Romania when the EP is released and will play it in full there for the first time. Alon tells me what a Sinnery show is like. “Very energetic. We really love to fill the crowd. We really like to hear people sing or shout or mosh. Here in Israel, we always move around, and it can get violent! For us, metal is a place where you can release all that bad energy”.
We’ll be covering the show at Fuel in Cardiff on 21st September and I’m sure it will be an excellent evening. There will be a review of the EP coming shortly.
The full tour dates are:
September 18th – The Cobbletones – Bridgewater, UK w/ Sworn Amongst
September 19th – The Black Heart – Camden, UK w/ Sworn Amongst
September 20th – The Hairy Dog – Derby, UK w/ Sworn Amongst
September 21st – Fuel Rock Club – Cardiff, UK w/ Sworn Amongst
September 22nd – The Gryphon – Bristol, UK w/ Sworn Amongst
September 23rd – The Cavern – Exeter, UK w/ Sworn Amongst
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.