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(VOICE OF THE SOUL)

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UPCOMING EVENT: SWALLOW THE SUN LIVE IN DUBAI (UPDATED)









IMPORTANT UPDATE: SHOW IS EFFECTIVELY CANCELLED, BUT DIFFERENT LINE-UP WILL PERFORM. SWALLOW THE SUN MEMBERS WILL STILL BE THERE AS GUESTS. DETAILS HERE

After their Finnish brethren Insomnium conquered the stage in Dubai a few weeks ago, Swallow the Sun will be laying doom and gloom in the same city with their first show in the region.
On Friday, February 12th, the Finnish six-piece doom metal outfit will bring an atmosphere of both despair and hope to The Music Room's stage at the Majestic Hotel in Dubai. Joining them onstage will be Jordanian metal act Bilocate and locally-based oriental doom band Aramaic. This event is also organized by Metal East Records, who seem to be springing the Dubai metal scene to wonderous heights with such line-ups. This is, of course, an event that is not to be missed!

You can find the event page on Facebook here.
Band Facebook pages: Bilocate, Aramaic, and Swallow the Sun.
Organizer's Facebook page: Metal East Records.

Some samples of the participating bands' music below:














UPCOMING EVENT: NADER SADEK LIVE IN BEIRUT


UPDATE: The show has been postponed to the second half of April for personal reasons related to some of the performers. It will still happen, and we will update you as we get more details.


Metalheads of Lebanon, gear up for the sickest metal event in Lebanon yet!
On the 27th of February, the extreme metal pioneer from Egypt, Nader Sadek, will rock Beirut's Metro Al Madina, supported by progressive death metallers Voice of the Soul, thrash band Phenomy, and technical death metal group Hemorrhagia. This event, dubbed the Middle Eastern Metal Gathering, is organized by Lebanon's Metal Bell Magazine.

Holy shit! I kid you not but Nader Sadek's group will include guitarist Tom Geldschläger (ex-Obscura) and drummer Derek Roddy (ex-Hate Eternal, Malevolent Creation, Nile)!

If you're in Lebanon and aren't living under a rock, then you better be at this event!
Event link: https://goo.gl/99euQz

INSOMNIUM LIVE IN DUBAI [REVIEW]

Insomnium at The Music Room. Photo credits: The Music Room Photographer.


by Habib Tabaja

On the 15th of January, 2016, the frigid winds and frozen beauty of the Finnish wilderness were brought to Dubai’s Music Room by the melodic death metal giants Insomnium, supported by Bahrain’s extreme metal act Smouldering in Forgotten. The show was hosted by Metal East Records, who are bringing over Insomnium’s funeral doom brethren Swallow the Sun to Dubai on February 12th. How was the show, you say? Well, it was stellar and surreal, if you want the short answer.

However, if you want the long and more detailed answer, which I feel does the performing bands and the organizer more justice, I would tell you that, from the start, I knew it was going to be out of this world. Insomnium, a band on a musical journey more than 18 years in the making, have come a long a long way from their humble roots to become a band renowned in the worldwide metal scene. Smouldering in Forgotten, the Bahraini band that warmed up the stage for their Finnish counterparts, stood proud as one of the first and most recognized extreme metal groups in the region and have been around for more than 10 years.


Smouldering in Forgotten rocking the stage. Photo credits: Metal Bell Magazine.

Soon after the fans filled the Music Room’s relatively small albeit comfortable and welcoming space, Smouldering in Forgotten took to the stage to unleash musical chaos and darkness from their desert homeland, combining a variety of metal styles such as black, death, and thrash, along with their own touch. The band played some of their older tracks such as “Dread Messiah”, “Reincarnation of the Judgment Star” and “I, Devourer”, as well as unreleased ones from their upcoming album, which were  “Cult De Aur” and “Tartarus”. They also played their recently released single “Siren of Truth”. Their performance, especially in the last two songs, resulted in extreme moshing and headbanging, echoing memories of their show in last March’s Resurrection Metal Night. I was particularly glad I could hear their black metal elements well in their songs, allowing for an atmosphere of musical destruction and reconstruction with well-timed riffs. Their performance affirmed my assumptions that they are, quite indeed, an underrated band.


Markus Vanhala of Insomnium on stage. Photo Credits: The Music Room Photographer.

Insomnium on stage. Photo Credits: The Music Room Photographer. 

When it was time for Insomnium to ascend to the stage, the crowd fell silent as the opening for “While We Sleep” rang through the venue, but what followed next was beautiful chaos that echoed the deadly beauty of the Finnish winter, as the mesmerizing riffs tore through the audience, with all of the band’s members headbanging in unison. The choice of the next song they played surprised us, as the ever-magnificent and melancholic “Daughter of the Moon” was not played by the band in their last few shows. The brilliant riffs of that song as well as the song’s saturnine atmosphere put the crowd into a trance of surreal musical beauty. The Finnish quartet also played crowd favorites such as “Mortal Share” with its addictive introductory riff and headbang-incuding tunes. Songs such as “The Harrowing Years”, “Where the Last Wave Broke”, and “One for Sorrow” demonstrated the sheer beauty of blending Ville Friman’s cleans with Niilo Sevanen’s growls and the magnificent keyboard sounds that dominated “Down with the Sun”. Another powerful song they performed was “The Killjoy” that destroyed the crowd with its brutal, yet majestic sounds. “Unsung” gave me goosebumps as it, in my opinion, is a song that perfectly portrays Insomnium’s take on melodic death and doom metal. In addition, “Weather the Storm” was another wonderfully-performed song that would have been even more amazing if Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne was around to do his part of the song’s vocals, but Niilo’s vocals were equally as haunting and menacing in their own way. Among their relatively quieter songs, their performance of “The Promethean Song” takes the cake in its beautiful acoustic sounds and dark ambience. It was a beautiful yet haunting, a powerful yet dark, and brutal yet melancholic performance that transcended the meaning of music, and brought us into the heart of the Finnish woods and frozen lakes.

Insomnium thanking their fans after their set. Credits: The Music Room.





Finally, it is safe to say this was the best show I’ve witnessed so far in Dubai, and Insomnium’s promise of their return here as well as Swallow the Sun’s impending performance next month mean one thing: The Middle Eastern metal scene is alive, and both local and international bands are going to benefit from this, and the fans here will be happier than ever!

If you missed it for whatever reason, then I feel very sorry for you. It was an unforgettable experience.

Here’s to more awesome shows like this one! 

UPCOMING EVENT: MASTERS OF THE MIDDLE EAST 1

Presenting itself as the first bi-annual metal festival in the region, Masters of the Middle East brings together a host of various bands for Egypt's metal fans on February 20th at 6:30 pm at the Amoun Hotel in Giza's Midan Sphinx. Bands on the bill include headliners Inquisition, the infamous American black metal band with their first show in the Middle East, as well as Egyptian-American extreme music act Nader Sadek, joined by death metal band Perversion (UAE), extreme metal band Smouldering in Forgotten (Bahrain), and melodic death metal group Al-Azif (Egypt).

This event is set to be a significant step for the Middle Eastern metal scene with such a fantastic lineup of brilliant bands, as well as shed light on the Middle East as a place for more international bands to come.

Metalheads, let's make this show a grand one to remember!

You can find the event page on Facebook here.


Below are some samples of the performing bands' music:
















INTERVIEW WITH INSOMNIUM'S NIILO SEVANEN



A couple of hours before their first show in the Middle East which took place on January 15, Metality’s managing editor Habib Tabaja chatted with Insomnium’s vocalist and bassist Niilo Sevanen. The Finnish melodic death/doom metal giants performed that night in Dubai’s Music Room, supported by Bahrain’s Smouldering in Forgotten, with the show organized by Metal East Records.



Habib: This is your first show ever in the Middle East! So how does Dubai feel like for you guys? Was it anything like you expected? What are your expectations for the show tonight?

Niilo: It’s about what I thought Dubai would be.  It’s awesome to see places you’ve read about with your own eyes. So far, it’s what I thought it would be. No big surprises, but everyone is really friendly and nice. They’ve driven us around the city and showed us around, and we like it. We had a long flight and arrived here in the morning, so we didn’t get any sleep and we’re very tired now. But that doesn’t matter because we’re excited to get on stage, so it doesn’t matter if you’re tired when the adrenalin hits you to do your best for the show. After that, you feel like a winner, so I’m sure it will be a great show and a wonderful evening!

So besides the gig tonight, do you have any other plans in Dubai? Also, the weather here is very different for you, obviously.

Yes! We have this desert safari trip planned for tomorrow, and it’ll take around 7 to 8 hours. We’re excited for that too! And, yes, the weather here is great, especially because in Finland now it’s -25 degrees Celsius or so. The weather here feels like the summer in Finland and it's perfect!

Have you ever heard of or listened to any bands from our region? Do you think it’s surprising that the Middle East has an active metal scene?

I don’t think I’ve heard any bands from this region, but I’ve definitely read some names of them somewhere before. I’m not really surprised by the fact that there’s a metal scene here, because I’ve learned that in every country there is at least some small metal scene somewhere, and we have fans in literally every part of the world. It’s great, because metal unites people across cultures and countries.

I've been listening to Insomnium since 2010, and I've listened to your entire discography hundreds of times over. And it still amazes me. How do you guys keep putting out a unique and fresh record each time?

That’s what we want to do and try to do. We have really high standards in everything that we do, and we don’t want to repeat ourselves. We always want to invent something kind of new. That is, not totally changing everything, but always brining something fresh and making a different kind of album. For a band like AC/DC, for example, repeating themselves works out for them and nobody expects them to change at all. However, for most other bands, it’s better to put out something different and unique each time, to keep things interesting and fresh.

There has been a noticeable shift away from the folk elements present in your first two albums in your past few releases. Will you ever return to them? Or should we expect new elements?

Honestly, it depends on what kind of material we come up with and there might be folk influences, but it’s hard to say. I’m sure, however, that our next work will include a mixture of elements of melodic death metal, black metal, doom metal, folk metal, and thrash metal, in addition to things that we come up with. Then we make our own package of it, until it sounds like Insomnium.

Do you want classify yourselves into a specific genre, or Insomnium is just what it is?

If we have to categorize ourselves, then we are melodic death metal. But, you  always want to add “but”, because we always have influences and elements from other subgenres, like doom and black metal, and I think it’s a great thing. That’s what makes Insomnium a unique band.

I've once shown your lyrics to a couple of English literature professors at my university, and they loved it and asked me which 18th-19th century poet wrote this! Speaking of poetry, your lyrics have been an inspiration and influence for me to write my own English poems. 
What makes you write such powerful pieces that echo the style of the European romantics and gothic literature as well as Finnish poets like Eino Leino?

Both Ville and I read a lot, and we both write the lyrics. We read all kinds of literature, of course. Novels, and poetry and short stories. I love to write poetry and prose. I have two passions in life: music and writing. Those are the things that I extremely love. So, we have very high standards when it comes to lyrics, right from the start. We want the lyrics to work as poetry, even without the music. If you could just read the lyrics, it works as a poem, and there’s some kind of story that develops there, with an ending. And what you said about European romantics and gothic literature and poetry, as well as Finnish poets from 100 years ago, those are all big influences for us. For me personally, the German Romanticism era is a big influence as well, in addition to Eino Leino and Finnish poets from that time. When I read those poems, I feel like they convey similar feelings to the ones that we try to give in our music. It’s a huge source for inspiration.

Do you sit and deliberately force yourself to write lyrics when you have to, or do they just pop into your mind in a rush of creativity and emotion?

It’s hard work, the same as creating any form of art or writing music, but inspiration is a must. There’s creativity there but there’s also a lot of hard work. So you need to sit down and see what you’ve been doing, but also after a while look at it analytically and edit it. Your first draft is always your first draft. In this sense, the biggest difference between the amateur and the professional is how they handle the text after the first draft. It’s not ready when it’s the first draft. Only the idea that you formulated for yourself is what it’s in the first draft, and then you start changing it and making it work. It’s sometimes difficult and you feel like “I have no idea what to write or fix”, and you get writer’s block. It can also be tricky when trying to make the poem change to fit the rhythm for the music, and it takes time to do that. In the end, when you make it work, you feel super good!

Your 2009 album Across the Dark included heavy use of electronic keyboards (which I personally loved). Do you ever plan on using those again? Why or why not?

Again, it depends. I think it mostly has to do with the mixing of the album. There’s usually some keyboards in the background in most of the parts, but they’re not so audible. Maybe that’s one thing, but we shall see when it comes to our future albums. However, I think keyboards are an important part of Insomnium’s music, and you can add a lot of stuff with them that you can’t do with just guitars. We’re definitely going to have keyboards in the future as well.

I feel One for Sorrow was a beautifully well-done masterpiece of melancholy. However, I sensed that Shadows of the Dying Sun seemed to shift towards a bit more positivity. What was the reason behind that, do you think?

It’s hard to analyze that. Songs just come out of somewhere, and this time, they sound like this and the other times they sound different. It’s not intentional, that we decided to make an album sound overly like that. We just start making songs, and something comes out of it. And at some point, when we have like, let’s say 10 songs ready, we would ask ourselves “What is this album missing?” We then see if we need one fast song or one long, epic song to add to the album and whatever else we feel is missing. Up to that point, it’s really free-flowing and natural before being a directed and deliberate album from the start.

You guys have come a long way since your formation in the late 1990's and you've become one of the more recognized and renowned bands in the worldwide metal scene. Is there any advice you think you can give to up-and-coming metal artists in the region?

Believe in yourself and try to find your own voice and style. Of course, everybody starts by imitating their idols, but at some point you should find your own voice, sooner or later. So, try to do that. If you want to stand out amongst all the bands in the world, you have to have something unique about your music, that’s the thing. Making good and unique songs, something that people want to listen to again and again, that’s what’s important to help you establish yourself as a musician.

I've always wondered if you guys listened to anything other than metal. Do you? So is everything not so brutal and KVLT for you?

We listen to all kinds of music, and I think that it’s a bit childish to intentionally and forcefully limit your music choices. Listen to everything you like. If you like only metal, it’s cool; go for it! However, I try to find good stuff from all kinds of music. For example, if we’re touring, and playing metal all the time, with 3 or 4 other heavy bands, in the evening when we’re on the tour bus, we’re not going to listen to metal, so we put on some classic ‘80s pop music or Queen or Michael Jackson, so it’s totally different. I think that’s one important thing when you want to create something very unique because you need to study more than your own genre. This also applies to literature and writing. If you want to be a science fiction writer, for example, you don’t want to just read from your genre, but you need to read the world classics in literature and a large variety of books and literary works. The same thing goes for music.

If you could choose only 5 artists/bands to listen to for the rest of your life (excluding your own band of course), who would they be?

This is a difficult question indeed!
I would say Queen, Emperor, Type O-Negative, Amorphis, and Sentenced. It could be other artists, but those are just what I got off the top of my head right now.

Any words for the readers of Metality as well as for your fans in the Middle East?

We’re really excited to finally get and play here, in this part of the world. And, we hope to get back here soon! Also, for those people who haven’t heard our music, check us out, and open your mind to more bands and genres of music!  

Habib: I want to thank you guys on behalf of Metality, its readers, and the region's metal scene for making it all the way here to play, and for this interview as well.
As a loyal fan, I'm looking forward to seeing you guys live again, and to see what you have in store for us. Thank you for being inspiring musicians and fantastic lyricists! Until next time!

Niilo: Thank you so much!


The show that followed by Insomnium and Smouldering in Forgotten was, of course, beyond amazing! Our review for it will be out soon. 

INTERVIEW WITH SMOULDERING IN FORGOTTEN [BAHRAIN]


In anticipation of their show with Insomnium in Dubai's Music Room on January 15th, Metality's Habib Tabaja interviewed Bahrain's extreme metal band Smouldering in Forgotten. Omar Zainal (Voidhanger), the guitarist and backing vocalist of the band, answered the questions before the show, which is organized by Metal East Records. 

Habib: You’re going to open for Insomnium in Dubai! How does it feel? What can the fans expect onstage?

Omar: It feels great! We always enjoy playing shows in Dubai. This is going to be the 5th time we play here. Since the first show until now, we haven't done an exact same setlist, and we always keep it that way for those loyal fans to expect a different show every time.




Speaking of Insomnium, do you have any favorite Insomnium songs or albums? Have they influenced your music? If so, how?

I'll be honest, I haven't heard much of Insomnium and I don't consider myself a fan but that can change right? Looking forward to seeing them perform!



We hear that your third album is in the works. Any updates on that? How does it differ from your previous two?

That's correct, the album is still in the writing phase with a handful of songs ready. The sound will be a little different. "I Devourer" being very intense and full of blast beats until the end, but the next one is going a little more old school death metal sounding. We recently released a single "Siren of Truth". That should give fans a hint of the album's direction.


You’re also going to perform in Egypt next month with Nader Sadek, Perversion, and the mighty Inquisition? What do you expect and do you think this is a huge leap forward for the Arab metal scene?

We are really looking forward for the Egypt show; it's definitely going to be special since this is going to be our first performance there. Definitely a huge leap forward and hopefully for other Middle Eastern countries as well.


Do you guys have any pre-show rituals that you rely on before hitting the stage?

Rituals? Ain't nobody got time for that.


What’s the state of the Middle Eastern metal scene at the moment? Where do you think it is heading?

It's definitely on the rise. Despite all the problems we have, I think we're actually doing pretty good with our metal scene.


As an artist in the Middle Eastern metal scene, what advice can you give to up-and-coming metal artists in the region?

Yeah I have a couple of things I'd like to list down:
- You'll never make money out of it. It's a fact.
- Learn from the older bands in your area. They've been through it and would always be open to help out newer bands.
- Seriously dedicate time for the band.
- Start small and work your way up.
- Practice, practice and practice.
- Support your local scene.


So what have you been listening to lately? Do you listen to things other than metal?

I haven't been very updated with the latest metal albums (besides Slayer of course) but I've been listening to some Evil Army, Ranger, Grand Magus and Bolt Thrower the last few weeks. Other than metal, I rarely listen to other genres, but when I do, they are either classical music or blues.

If you could choose only 5 artists or bands to listen to for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Personally, I'd choose Slayer, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Judas Priest and King Diamond.


Any final words for Metality's readers? 
Stay tuned for new material and we'll see you all in the mosh pit today!

Thank you, Omar! We wish you and the rest of the band the best of luck on your endeavors, and we are looking forward to seeing you tonight with Insomnium! 



You can find Smouldering in Forgotten on Facebook here.



INTERVIEW WITH ALPHA.KENNY.BUDDY


Anticipating the release of their debut album, Metality's editor in chief Kareem Chehayeb chatted with the guys from Dubai-based Nu-Metal band Alpha.Kenny.Buddy. 

Hey guys, how’s it going?
We’re really excited about Violent Asymmetry coming out. How long did it take to write the album? What was the song-writing process like?

We’re hoping we don’t let you down. A few of the songs had been written way before we got around to the studio, so it was essentially just a matter of polishing the rough edges with those. As for the other tracks, it was necessary for us to get into a different head space. We needed to pull ourselves out of our comfort zone to keep our expression as transparent as possible, which took more than a few months. The album reflects on the overwhelming powers of a self-righteous facade of order and the conflict with oneself through the process of merciless realisation.

Violent Asymmetry was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Hadi Sarieddine at Haven Studio. What was working with Hadi like and how did it differ from previous experiences?

It was surreal. We’ve never really had someone who would invest himself the way the Hadi did. He has augmented each track with a layer of his own masterful interpretation. Most importantly, he truly believed in this record, and when we would wallow in self-loathing and creative insecurities, he would pull us out of the hole and reassure our perception regarding the honesty behind Violent Asymmetry. He has genuinely been a very integral part of the way the album defines itself and we can’t wait to work with him again.   

How would you describe Violent Asymmetry’s music in 5 words or less?

Visceral, unforgiving, satirical, and groovy.

Tell us about the album launch and the free show at the Music Room in Dubai on the 25th of December. How long’s your set going to be?

Oh, we’re excited about this one for sure. We’ve stalled for far too long and it’s finally time. We’re going to go explore the whole album and probably a couple of the old-school AKB EP tracks which would collectively round up to about an hour. It’s a great gesture on Joscene’s behalf to organise a free event to thank true supporters and we’re glad to be a part of it. 


Name three albums that you’ve been listening to a lot lately.

Living as Ghosts with Buildings as Teeth – Rishloo
Dysfunction – Staind
Around the Fur – Deftones 

How has the UAE metal scene changed since AKB started? Where do you think it’s heading?

It’s hard to define. On one hand, you have musicians getting off their asses and doing what they love. On the other hand, you have venues not backing up the organisers who actually care and exploiting bands for all they’re worth. We can’t sit here and lie to ourselves by saying it’s all good because it’s not. Avoiding the problem and being delusional is only going to exacerbate true appreciation for music in the metal scene. We’ve been at this for years now, never really getting anything out of it except the joy of playing the stuff we love. It’s all about perspective really.

What advice do you have for young musicians and bands that want to release and perform their own music?

Advice?! Where!? Please let us know if you have any… 

Any closing words for Metality’s readers? You’ll talk to us more about each song in an upcoming track-by-track piece, right?

Life is shit; music helps.
Absolutely! Very much looking forward to breaking it all down once everyone has had time to perceive the songs their own way.

Thanks for your time, guys!


It’s been our absolute pleasure. 




You can find Alpha.Kenny.Buddy on Facebook here

INTERVIEW WITH THE PARALLEL [CANADA]



After having reviewed their debut EP, Embark, Metality's Habib Tabaja interviews Canadian progressive hardcore band The Parallel. Vocalist Matt Johnston answers the questions.

            Habib: Hey guys. Hope you’re doing well, and it’s a pleasure to have you here on Metality. So how did you guys get together and form this band? What drove you to do it?

Matt: We formed this band a few years ago all coming from different bands in our local scene. We all got along well, and had a similar goal/vision on what we wanted to achieve as a band. We all just love making music, and I think the fact that we were making stuff together that we could get behind and support drove us to keep pushing this project to where it is now.

           We see a lot of bands following the progressive/djent sound nowadays, to the level that it’s being stereotyped and parodied on the Internet. What do you think distinguishes you from those bands and makes your music unique?

I think what makes our sound different from other progressive/djent bands these days is our hardcore element we bring to our music. We try to incorporate different styles when writing our music to keep it different, and make it unique to us.

We recently reviewed your Embark EP and we loved it. How would you describe the writing process for it? Can we look forward to anything new from you guys soon?

Collectively we all write riffs, piece things together and record demos, then we work on drum parts to solidify the song. Playing the sporadic, technical type of music that we do, it’s important that every riff or section in a song feels like it belongs, and truly justifies its existence. Being 100% satisfied with a song is always tough for us but there comes a point where you have to step back from endlessly tweaking a song and just call it done. After a song is completed structurally, we then work on writing lyrics and figuring out vocal parts. Our writing process is nothing fancy or atypical but it works for us. We are always writing and working on material; as of now we're planning to drop one or two singles before releasing a full-length in a year or so.

What bands would you cite as your major influences?

We all have our own influences personally, but the main ones that we share collectively would include; Structures, Northlane, Architects, and Counterparts.

We at Metality deal with bands from all over the world, but we’re based in the Middle East. Have you heard of or listened to any bands from the Middle East?

I can’t say I have to be honest! I would be interested in checking some out though.

Here’s a fun question: If you had to choose five bands/artists you could listen to for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Well I would want to get as many different genres in there as possible so I think I would pick
Bring Me the Horizon, Brand New, Zac Brown Band, Blink-182, and Justin Bieber because his new album is absolute fire. I don’t care what anyone says haha!

Will you be going on tour anytime soon? Do you guys have any preshow rituals that you do when performing live?

We have nothing set in stone at the moment, but we're aiming to set one up in the new year. As for pre-show rituals we don’t do anything specifically, I personally do vocal warm-ups, but nothing other than that.

Any words for the readers of Metality?

Thanks for checking out our interview and supporting our band!



You can find The Parallel on Facebook here and on Bandcamp here


INTERVIEW WITH AKVAN [IRAN]




1. Lord Visareza, how's it going? How would you introduce Akvan to our readers? What do you think differentiates it from other Black Metal bands?

Hails and thank you for this opportunity. Simply put, Akvan is an Iranian influenced black metal project that cites Iranian mythology, art, literature, and music at the core of its inspiration. Its sole member is myself, Vizaresa, and I would say the elements which distinguish it from other black metal bands are the utilization of distorted microtonal Iranian scales, (which, to my knowledge, have not been incorporated in this genre of music before) and the inclusion of traditional Iranian instruments, such as the tar. The sound is also extremely raw and is intended to be so as Akvan is a reaction to the over-produced, digitized, and emotionless nonsense that appears to be dominating the metal scene at large. In many parts of the Middle East, such as Iran, metal music is outlawed and many metal artists are denied the privilege of working with professional grade equipment. Thus, I want to convey a similar atmosphere in regards to the sound of my music.

2. How did you come up with the name Visareza, if we may ask?

According to Zoroastrian theology, the original religion of Iran, Vizaresa is a demon that collects wicked souls and transports them to hell after death. I figure it fits well within this specific genre.

3. Could you tell us a bit about the writing process for your songs? How often would you work on your music?

It’s quite spontaneous and more of a mental process than anything else. Music has always been a dominantly improvised art form, especially traditional Iranian music, which is where a fair amount of my musical influence comes from. I will usually sit for a few hours playing for fun on either my microtonal guitar or on my tar and come up with a melody I like. Then, I’ll put it on hold for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or even months and then come back to it. There is a fair amount of mathematics and theory involved in finding chord progressions that blend well with microtones. It might not sound complicated when listening to the final product, but there is a lot more going on musically than the average listener might grasp. The most challenging part is coming up with fitting drum parts as I am in no way, shape, or form a drummer. Once the music is written, I find inspiration for lyrics in texts such as the Shahnameh, Iranian historical and political events, poetry, and art, especially art produced by Mahmoud Farshchian.

4. What do you think about the metal scene in the Middle East in general, and Black Metal in specific? What sets the Iranian scene apart from the rest of the ME scene?

I do not want to come off as negative or disrespectful, as I am very well aware that there are a handful of gifted artists that play from their hearts and truly risk everything to do something they love in this part of the world, many of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting and even have the honor of calling my friends, but I have to say I am a little disappointed. As many artists of this genre have stated before, there seems to be a herd mentality in metal these days that is contradictory to the spirit of this type of music.  I base this on much of the criticism I have received from metal fans in this region. They all seem to have a fixation on recording quality as opposed to the actual music itself. This is especially the case in Iran… which I find funny since Akvan is a black metal project. It’s not supposed to sound produced. Many have even told me outright that traditional instruments and melodies have no place in this genre of music. I personally believe this has more to do with Western-influenced or Western-appeasing politics, the idea that presenting as Western somehow implies superiority or intellectual advancement, which, for lack of better wording, I find asinine and self-deprecating. I mean, I was born in the US and grew up there and am proud of my Iranian ancestry. I believe no matter where you are from, regardless of political or historical background, you should take pride in your roots, which is why I would really like to see more bands come up with an interpretation of metal rooted in their own culture. I think it would certainly make things more interesting and help expand the genre to new territory. Especially bands from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Scandinavian black metal bands, but I’d also like to add more variety to my musical library, if you will.  Music can serve as an exceptional platform for cultural expansion. I also think the metal scene in the Middle East has a commonality with the scene in the States in regards to the foolish notion that technicality is more important than musicality. Anyone can learn to sweep pick in 13/8, but not everyone can write a song. In all, on a positive note, I would say there is a lot of room for development in this region as far as metal goes, and I think we’re already on our way to seeing a new player in the global metal scene.

5. You’ve recently re-located to Dubai. Would you mind telling us why you’ve moved?

I moved to Dubai after I finished my Master’s degree back home. My parents had already re-located about 8 years prior, so I figured I would take a chance on somewhere new. So far, I love it. I’ve met people from all over the globe and as a result have widened my global perspective. Not to mention the available dining options are awesome. Dubai is also close to Iran, so I have the opportunity to visit and keep in touch with extended family, as well as expanding my musical knowledge and embracing my ancestral roots.

6. You were born in the US. So how was growing up there as a first-generation Iranian-American like and how did that affect your music?

To be honest, it was quite a lonely experience. I grew up in a part of the country that was predominantly conservative and Republican based, meaning many individuals in our community were unwelcoming to non-whites. My parents, myself, and my sister experienced our fair share of racism and isolation. Even though my parents are both respectable university professors, I felt as though we were treated like second-class citizens sometimes. Especially after then-U.S president Bush labeled Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil.” I was bullied quite often in school, even by some of my teachers. I think that’s where inspiration for Akvan primarily came from. This need to connect with an identity and rebel against  the belittleing of my ancestry. It was also around this time that I was first exposed to black metal and realized how similar it was to traditional Iranian music. Because of the music, I met many good friends that I am still in contact with to this day, as I found people who listen to this kind of music are more accepting of that which is different and judge based on character as opposed to physical appearance.  Many of the bands I listened to pushed a national identity in their lyrics and concepts, and I loved it and thought, why not an Iranian black metal band? And the rest is history.

7. You told us that record label from Germany tried to sign you. How did that go? 

I received an email from a record company (that will remain anonymous) offering me a contract for two albums over the course of the next four years. Naturally I was stoked. In their email they referred to my work as "genius" and "ground-breaking." However, I was asked to drop the Iranian theme, change my project name to something more " 'Arabic' and accessible," and take a more "progressive stance towards the West." And I did what had to be done. I declined politely by telling them to get lost. Akvan is Iranian black metal, pure and simple.  No compromises. Plus, I doubt their idea of ‘Arabic’ is anything close to a legitimate representative of real Arab culture. They wanted me to represent a culture that, for one, is not my own, and, in a way that only they deemed acceptable and would most likely be seen as inaccurate and offensive by real Arabs.  So, no, I absolutely refused.

8. Many of your songs and lyrics contain the word Aryan in them. That is sure to evoke accusations of racism. Or is there deeper meaning to this term?

The disclaimer on my Facebook page states the following: Unfortunately, due to a lack of education and media-propagated misinformation, the majority of the Western world has come to associate the term Aryan with the asinine ideology of white supremacy. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM), a movement just as puerile and misguided as the music written to represent it. Although its adherents refer to themselves and their equally foolish comrades as Aryans, nothing could be further from the truth. The word Aryan is derived from airya, a term used in the ancient Avestan language of the Persian Empire to denote individuals belonging to the Iranian race. Its literal meaning is roughly interpreted as “of nobility” or “a free individual” and has evolved from the Avestan airya to the contemporary Farsi آریای (transliteration: Ariyayi). It should also be taken into consideration that Iran still translates to this day as “land of the Aryans.” Therefore, anyone who does not identify ethnically as an Iranian cannot refer to themselves as an Aryan. However, this is not to imply racial supremacy. The ancient Iranians, Aryans, did not believe in or promote such backwards ideas. In fact, one of history’s most important Aryans, Cyrus the Great, opposed intolerance so much that he made it the basis for his and the world’s first charter of human rights. He is also credited as the first messiah in the Hebrew Bible as he freed the Jews from the Babylonians and provided them the means to rebuild their temple, though Cyrus himself followed the teachings of Zoroastrianism. Under his rule, the Persian Empire expanded through bloodless conquests as men and women from various cultures, ethnicities, and religions were all granted equality and freedom. Only a man such as this can be called a true Aryan. Blues, jazz, and rock and roll all either provide or strongly influence the foundations for black metal. They are also styles created primarily by African-American musicians. Thus, for a lowlife to play black metal in the name of white supremacy and to refer to himself as an Aryan is not only blasphemy, it is insulting to the legacy of the true Aryan.
Hope that answers your question.

9. Some people complain that a lot of black metal, including your music, sounds very low quality and done with “bad production”. What is your response to that?

As stated before, I think many listeners, even seasoned metalheads, don’t realize that a traditional characteristic of this genre is low-fi recording. And when I say low-fi, I mean I’m using a 2i2 Focusrite interface, a Roland cube lite amplifier, Audacity, and two Shure SM-57 microphones to record my music with. The reason I do this is because it creates a very primal musical atmosphere. I want my music to be an honest reflection of my abilities as a musician. I could easily plug in to some studio grade interface and use ridiculous editing software for hours to engineer something that sounds completely different from what I produce when I play in my room. I feel that if I did this, I would be lying to myself because this is not what it actually sounds like live. It’s just disingenuous. I also play every track all the way through without editing or doing re-takes. My guitar solos are 100% improvised and made up on the spot while recording. Which I think is kind of cool, so that every time a solo part comes up, whether live or while recording, it is slightly similar but very different every time. In other words, what you hear when you listen to an Akvan song is exactly what you would hear if I played it live, imperfections and all, for it is the imperfections that make it real. Although this does not apply to metal as a whole, I feel that many “artists” are selling a lie to their audience. Just like when you purchase a burger from a fast food joint, the picture you see is quite different in quality compared to what you put in your stomach. Same goes for any pop artist. I can assure you, none of the surgically altered members of whatever boy band would sound like they do on their album if they were to sing to you in person.

10. What advice would you like to offer up-and-coming metal artists in the region, especially those pursuing Black Metal?

My advice is quite simple: don’t be afraid to express yourself and don’t worry what your peers or anyone else thinks. As long as what you are creating is true to yourself and your intentions, that is all that matters. Music, especially black metal, is art, not entertainment. And most importantly, never give up your passions. Never.

11. Would you like to say any words for our readers?

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview and I hope some of the misconceptions regarding Akvan have been cleared up. Hails \m/

As a bonus, we're also premiering Akvan's newest track "Blood of Zal". 
Check it out and let us know what you think!


You can find Akvan on Facebook here and on Bandcamp here

OMRADE - EDARI [REVIEW]


Album: Edari
Artist: Omrade
Label: My Kingdom Music
Release Date: April 13th, 2015
Reviewer: Habib Tabaja

An eclectic mix of strange sounds from various influences, such as jazz, post-rock, metal, and ambient music, Edari, the debut album by French band Omrade presents an interesting audio palate. The French duo’s 8-track album presents a foray into the weird and often unexplored territory of avant-garde metal and related music, joined by several guest musicians.

The opening track “Mótsögn” contains heavy jazz and progressive influences with impressive vocals, and the album continues with delectable electronic tones in “Mann Forelder”. Next comes an industrial and quite ambient track, “Luxurious Agony”, full of harrowing vocals that remind me somehow of Bjorn Strid’s vocals on Disarmonia Mundi’s Fragments of D-Generation album.  Edari also includes lovely female vocals in “Satellite and Narrow” and the closing track “Ottaa Sen” with synthesizers, which adds to the diverse sound of the album. One of the most haunting and goosebump-inducing tracks is “Aben Dor”, a seemingly creepy and immersive song with wonderful piano elements, also present in “Skam Parfyme”, a generally quieter track on the album. Another song, “Friendly Herpes”, in addition to being strangely-titled, contains progressive electronic elements and relaxing beats to form a beautiful atmospheric musical work. 

While it may not be a welcoming treat for some hardcore metal fans, Omrade’s Edari is both relaxing and haunting to listen to. An impressive collection of various sounds and influences, this album is a well-produced musical mosaic that I also wish would have contained an additional couple or more songs. Definitely recommended for fans of bands like Ulver and Manes. Overall, it is a wonderful piece of avant-garde metal from a band which I am certainly looking forward to future releases from.


8/10



You can find omrade on Facebook here.


HALLOWEEN METAL NIGHT IN DUBAI [SHOW REVIEW]



by Habib Tabaja

Despite the unfortunate cancellation of Belgian deathgrind band Aborted’s appearance in Dubai’s Halloween Metal Night, hosted by Metal East Records and JoScene at the Music Room on October 30th, metalheads still celebrated with a vicious lineup of local bands while donning insane costumes. Svengali, Coat of Arms, and Verdict performed in front of the crowd of freaks that night, in addition to DJ Der Abyss playing his mix of industrial and black metal between sets.

Verdict. Photo credit: JoScene.






Newcomers Verdict commenced a night of madness by playing four of their tracks, namely “Reckless Punishment”, “Systematic Slaughter”, “Heartstab”, and “Defiance”.  This is the Death/groove metal band’s second live performance, after making their live debut a week prior to this show at The Fridge in Dubai. They put on an excellent set with crushing riffs and brutal vocals and were definitely a crowd pleaser, resulting in a mosphit and involuntary headbanging, especially during “Systematic Slaughter”. In addition, Vocalist Karam Toubba was sure to send a message to the haters of the local metal scene, getting a roar of approval from the revelers. I can say that I am definitely looking forward to their first release as well as any of their future performances.

Verdict. Photo credit: JoScene.




Next up were Coat of Arms, an industrial/metalcore band that many in the region are familiar with. It was my first time seeing them live, and they proved they were as great as they sounded on their recent album, A Shade of Red, which was released earlier this year. They played a mix of old and new songs, such as “Trade Lie Census”, “Silence the Sensor”, “Black Holes”, and “Forming Abyss”. At one point during Coat of Arms’ set, Svengali’s vocalist Adnan Mryhij joined Coat of Arms’ vocalist Mohammad Bailouni onstage in performing of their songs. The crowd was rocked in their costumes and corpse paint to the well-engineered sounds of Coat of Arms.

Coat of Arms. Photo credit: JoScene.

 
Headliners Svengali closed the night with a set of their powerful and uplifting songs from both their debut album Theory of Mind and their Unscathed EP. The band, who have been taking the UAE metal scene by storm, made the fans enter an energetic trance of moshing and headbanging to many of their fun tracks including “Deny”, “Laced in Sin”, “Floodgates”, “Blindfolds”. Also, Coat of Arms’ vocalist Mohammad Bailouni also joined them onstage in performing their hit song “Conquer”. Simply a superb performance yet again from Svengali.

Svengali. Photo credit: JoScene.



Overall, it was a great, well-managed show with fantastic sound quality as is usual for the Music Room, in addition to the efforts of organizers Metal East Records and JoScene, who despite the setback involving the cancellation of Aborted’s performance, managed to put things back on track and prove, with the help of this lineup of local bands, that the UAE metal scene is powerful and alive, more than it ever was. It was definitely a night to be remembered and not missed out on, especially with all the fantastic costumes that the people were wearing, which even included a menacing Naz’Gul from Lord of the Rings! 


You can find the bands on Facebook here: Coat of Arms, Svengali, and Verdict.
You can find the organizers on Facebook here: JoScene and Metal East Records.



DEAFHEAVEN - NEW BERMUDA [REVIEW]


Album: New Bermuda
Artist: Deafheaven
Label: ANTI- Records
Release Date: October 2, 2015
Reviewer: Fawzi Abdel Al

Deafheaven are an American Post-Black Metal/Blackgaze band hailing from San Francisco. New Bermuda is their third studio album, which was released on the 2nd of October, 2015. What sets Deafheaven apart from other bands of similar genres, such as Lantlos, for example, is their ability to get the right balance between sheer brutality and peaceful ambience.

This album starts off with “Brought to the Water”, an amazing track in which the church bell-like intro is very reminiscent of that of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. This track perfectly gives a clear idea of what this album is going to sound like: short and groovy Death Metal riffs which smoothly transition into haunting and ambient Black Metal ones, which blend in well with alternative rock and shoegaze-inspired riffs. An interesting observation is that the outro of this track is the continuation of “Irresistible” from Deafheaven’s 2013 album release, Sunbather. This track is followed by “Luna”, my personal favorite from this album. I love how “Luna” is lyrically reminiscent of “Dream House” in Sunbather. The way Clarke screams the word “home” is filled with despair, but also with so much hope.

Next is “Baby Blue”, the most technical track on this album, or so I thought until I heard outro, when a heart-breaking riff barges in to prove you wrong. The emotionally-violent outro then settles down to become the overture of the following track, “Come Back”. At first glance, this song seems to be boringly ambient, but suddenly, a very heavy riff explodes into the scene. I feel that this track in particular is a big middle finger to all the Black Metal elitists who think that Deafheaven aren’t heavy enough to be a Black Metal band. This track’s sound ranges from soft to heavy and from calm to haunting, or all those together, which is an excellent demonstration of the band’s style. This album concludes with “Gifts for the Earth”, probably the lightest track on this album. This song consists of Post Punk-inspired riffs with Black Metal vocals on top. It’s the perfect track to conclude such an album with as it sums up all of the leftover emotions from all 4 songs above and combines them into a wonderful ending.

In conclusion, I believe Deafheaven managed to mix the best qualities of Roads to Judah (2011) and Sunbather (2013) into one album. To me, this is Deafheaven’s best work yet, from soft intros to hauntingly heavy riffs, to a groovy alternative rock sound, to short technical guitar solos, and to heart-breaking outros. Definitely a treat for the ears.


9/10


Find Deafheaven on Facebook here.

THE PARALLEL - EMBARK EP [REVIEW]



Album: Embark EP
Artist: The Parallel
Label: Subliminal Groove Records
Release Date: October 9, 2015
Reviewer: Habib Tabaja

Today, we embark on a short, but exciting musical journey that will take us to the proggy plains of Canada with a remarkable hardcore twist. Although The Parallel's debut EP Embark is only 14 minutes long, it contains sufficient material for the band to define their sound.

The opening track "Embark" is the shortest on the album, but it shows some serious, powerful vocals reminiscent of Northlane and Volumes, as well as crushing breakdowns. However, the following track, "Pendulum", better showcases the band's sound with melodic, heavy riffs full of progressive metal elements with a djenty vibe. The third track "Shipwrecked", which is my personal favorite from this EP, does a fantastic job of creating the ambience and mood a band needs to achieve in order to characterize their sound, with a more technical albeit hardcore style. If I would say that there is a song to represent this relatively recently formed band, it would be this one. The release ends with the song "Endeavors", offering an emotional and highly melodic tune complete with a wonderful addition of clean vocals.

Overall, the Embark EP is a good start for a band like The Parallel. The EP is stylistically diverse and exhibits the band's different approaches to the progressive hardcore style. I am definitely looking forward to more of their releases.

7.5/10


Catch The Parallel on Facebook.
You can also visit their Bandcamp and stream their EP!