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Highway to Lelahell: New Documentary on Algerian Metal

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Redouane Aouameur (AKA Lelahel) is a central figure of metal in Algeria, where the genre has recently been under attack by a sensationalist TV program, depicting its musicians as Satan worshippers. This makes a new documentary, Highway to Lelahell: An Algerian Metal Documentary, which examines the genre’s history froma  more level-headed perspective, all the more valuable. The documentary, directed by Samir Abchiche and Fouad Bestandji, begins with Redouane describing his first exposure to hard rock, screaming along to his older brother’s Scorpions and Motörhead albums at the age of 6 or 7. By the time he was a teenager, Redouane was part of a small, devoted group of metal fans in Algeria, who traded cassette tapes brought home from trips abroad and tuned into Spanish radio stations that they could only hear during the summer. Redouane went on to be a founding member of the seminal Algerian metal group Neanderthalia, formed in 1994, along with the death-folk metal group Litham, perhaps the first North African metal group to gain a major following. Along with interviews with Redouane and some of his collaborators through the years, the documentary includes some rare recordings, photos and videos of Redouane performing with Neanderthalia, Litham, grindcore act Carnavage, Devast, and his current band Lelahell.

Algerian metal emerged at the same time as the country was embroiled in its Décennie Noire, the decade-long civil war between Islamists and the country’s military pouvoir. It is against this backdrop that Redouane talks about the murder of Litham’s manager Cherif Afelah. Though the murder appears to remain a mystery, the possibility that it was a targeted assassination, made Litham feel uneasy about continuing to perform in their own country. Ultimately, the band never recorded a follow-up to Dhal Ennar, their classic debut album, though Redouane has remained a steady and vital part of the Algerian metal scene since its beginning. The documentary also delves into some of the difficulties faced by metal musicians in Algeria, in particular the lack of venues suitable to play in.

Overall, the Highway to Lelahell demonstrates Redouane’s tremendous dedication and passion for metal in a country where it has been quite challenging to be a metal musician. For more on the history of metal in North Africa, check out our interview with blogger and musician Christophe Hancox. You can watch the documentary in full bellow:

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