I grew up in Kuwait (you know, that squally bit of a land between Saudi Arabia and Iraq). As a result, I not only have increased restraint and the driving skills of a NASCAR professional (if you know me, you’ll realise just how untrue this is) but I’ve come across some awesome bands and musicians that need checking out right this second! Here they are in no particular order:
A band that have very much lead the charge of Middle Eastern metal bands. They’ve put out a slick EP and two crushing albums (and a believe are working on a third!). Nervecell are absolute touring workhorses, touring throughout Europe and Asia extensively, as well as opening for Metallica’s first Middle-Eastern gig in Abu Dhabi! Their music is a brilliant combination of oriental influenced guitar riffs and a voice so guttural (courtesy of frontman James Khazaal) that it would probably cause most badgers to run in fear. If you’re a death metal fan, then look no further!
These were only brought to my attention about a week ago, but damn they’re good! Grooves that would make even Barry White’s iron loins loosen in fear, it’s clear that A.K.B are trying something fresh in the Middle Eastern Music Scene, and it’s working. With a frontman that sounds like Zack de la Rocha and Serj Tankian’s illegitimate child, what more could you want?
Glad to see this guy back in action and getting the regular radio play and live opportunities that he deserves. I really can’t describe his brand of R’n’B infused hip-hop, you have to listen to it for yourselves!
Emcee Element (Kuwait)
Having actually appeared on this guy’s earliest EP (go easy on the lyrics, I was young and confused) it’s been great to see his transformation into a legit hip-hop artist. There’s something that Element does that nobody else in the region can emulate. It’s a style completely his own (which says something for the genre in the region). Another regular on soundcloud, make sure to check him out. There’s big things on the horizon for this one!
Voice of the Soul (Kuwait/Dubai)
This is a personal one for me, as I’ve known these guys since I was about 14. After putting out 3 awesome EPs, each displaying a different level of musical maturity, VotS went all Danaerys Targaryen on us and broke the wheel entirely with the release of their debut album, “Catacombs.” With a satisfying blend of death metal, melody and even some “shoegaze” (seriously, what is this shoegaze thing? Last I checked music was named after it’s traits not after forms of window shopping) VotS are definitely a must listen for metal fans out there!
Because once again project leader, Hashim Al-Nasser is holding my family hostage. I reviewed Jivan’s debut “Forguilt” over on Mouths for War, but I’ll just reiterate that the combination of radiance and aggression that makes this projects something special, like a guardian angel toting a sawed-off shotgun. “From Guilt to Forgiveness” and “Catacombs” feature awesome crescendo’s that would make Skwisgaar Skwigelf want to pick up a “grandpas guitar.” Give the EP a listen and check out Hashim’s soundcloud while you’re at it, he’s always posting new stuff! (now for the last time you sick bastard, let my family go)
A recent addition to the scene, but , like Rocket Raccoon in a Xandarian prison, Svengali have stomped on the ground and shouted “THIS ONE HERE’S OUR BOOTY!” Their debut EP “Unscathed” gave the band a great, heavy foundation, whilst their latest release, “Theory of Mind” has solidified them as one of the region’s top acts. Bringing the fury of Pantera, the groove of Hatebreed, the catchy choruses of Lamb of God and the melody of Whitney Houston (well…you get the idea) Svengali are a band you definitely need to listen to if you’re a fan of any of the bands listed above (except Whitney Houston).
Orphaned Land (Israel)
One of the first bands to combine oriental instruments with heavy metal, these guys were always enjoyable. Their 2004 album “Mabool” put this guys on the map as a brilliant progressive outfit, whereas latest offering “All Is One” promotes one of the best messages since Metallica’s “Metal Up Yer Ass!” Any band that promotes a message of peace and unity is a winner in my book, really living by the credo that music is a universal language (I know that sounds cringey, but it’s true)
Animate Experience (Dubai)
Another new one for me, but the tracks that I’ve heard off of new album “The Source” have been enough to land them on this list. Ambient backings over riffs that chugg more than a frat party. Check ‘em out! (I would say more but I haven’t been able to listen to the whole thing yet…I know, I’m a terrible person)
Another Kuwait original, these took prog. to a whole new level. Their first full-length “The Covenant”, not only showcased some of the best songwriting to come out of the region, but also featured ANDOLS FUCKING HERRICK on drums (If you don’t know who that is, look him up and then chastise yourself for not knowing you failure of a person). The result? A metal maelstrom of a record, with a great balance of lighter clean vocals from Hadi Sarieddine and a resonating snarl from brother-frontman Fadi Sarieddine.
I first saw these guys live in 2009, just before the release of their debut record “Blinding the Masses” and boy was it awesome. Very few bands can combine Egyptian folklore and death metal successfully (Nile being one of those bands). Not only do Scarab maintain a sound that ‘s entirely their own, but they do so with an integral theme to their heritage. Their second album, “Serpents of the Nile”has just come out, and it’s a killer (took a while but we got it in the end!) Definitely give it a listen if you like some mysticism with your death metal!
Coat Of Arms (Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Qatar)
These cats have been enjoying quite a run of dominance lately and I can see why. Their full-length “This Is Manslaughter” busted open a can of hardcore whupass all over the scene. Then came “Sun and Satellites”, amping up the djent to max and solidifying COA’s musicianship. You’d think that’d be enough, but latest offering “A Shade of Red” puts the (red) cherry on the iron frosted caked, combining both the delicate intricacies and the hardcore smacketh down into one moist, tasty and somewhat gritty metal dessert (yeah…I’m kind of hungry). If you’re looking for the Middle Eastern metal equivalent of Iron Man, look no further!
The interesting thing is, all of these bands have put out records in the recent past or have an established touring history, and for some reason, I feel a sense of patriotic pride when I hear them. I guess when I listen to a Middle Eastern band or Musician (especially if they’re awesome) I feel a sense of “YES, that’s one of ours!” and that the music scene back home is indeed alive!
Whelp, there you go. There’s a good number to get you started, and if I’ve missed any out, feel free to post links and whatnot in the comments section, I’d be more than happy to check ‘em out!