As bands such as Israel’s Orphaned Land and Iran’s Arsames have proven, the Middle East has become an increasingly visible territory within metal, being home to not only a small army of dedicated fans but also some first class bands.
With their new album All Is Not For All, progressive thrashers Anuryzm have proved themselves a definite highlight of this ever-growing legion, working alongside the likes of Nervecell to put both the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East on the metal map. Having formed in Lebanon and relocated to the UAE via Canada and Turkey, founder and lead guitarist John Bakhos is well placed to offer his thoughts on the benefits and pitfalls of playing in the region.
“You can easily get into deep thought while experiencing Lebanon’s natural aspects, be it the mountains, the sea or the forests,” he enthuses, “but I also had my share of difficult situations where we had to perform in small pubs with shitty sound and an audience literally standing next to you. In some cases, performances were halted as the authorities came in and started rounding up metalheads on suspicion of Satanism or drug use. So Lebanon is a great place to get inspired, but UAE is a much better place to actually make records and performances.”
As vocalist Nadeem Bibby explains, the fact that the UAE is largely made up of expatriates (he himself moved from the UK as a child) means that it is much more open to different subcultures and alternative forms of music compared to neighbouring Gulf countries like Qatar or Kuwait. And though during the 90s metal activity was notable only by its absence, today there is a small but active scene, with visits from genre giants such as Metallica and more intimate performances by a range of respected overseas artists.
“We’ve have some pretty cool local bands now,” Nadeem reports, “as well as shows with artists such as Hate Eternal. Usually these smaller shows are really cool because the local bands work together to have an eclectic and fun night of rock and metal, usually culminating in an impromptu jam, as happened with Blaze Bayley and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. One of the perks of having a relatively small scene!”
Despite such advances, the band explain that the key for success for Middle Eastern bands is to make sure they reach international audiences, something that has been much easier to do thanks to technological advances.
“There isn’t much emphasis placed on arts and performing arts here, regardless of genre, and there isn’t enough support to really make it as a band in the Middle East,” explains John. “Thankfully, with Anuryzm there is now a wider network of fans being established thanks to the good relationships we’ve developed on the internet. That’s definitely a win in my book!”
*All Is Not For All* is out now via Melodic Revolution