Metal in Dubai guide

An idiot's guide to music's most misunderstood genre

It’s undeniable that heavy metal has a bad rep. At one end, there are accusations of Satanism; at the other, many dismiss the genre as nothing but puerile fantasy to help moody teenagers annoy their parents. And don’t even get us started on metal’s bewildering fashion. But despite – or perhaps because of – this, the genre attracts some of the most loyal fans in the world. Nowhere is this more true than in Dubai, where regular nights by Metal Asylum, Spellbound and Holy Noise attract a contingent of the faithful. No other live music genre commands the same kind of representation in the city.

Ahead of a month of metal madness that will see a string of head-banging gigs come to town, most notably Savatage co-founder Jon Oliva and US band Evanescence, we sat down with South African Georgina Enzer, 31, the editor of local online fanzine and forum Mentality UAE, to brush up on our metal-speak.

Metal’s genesis can be traced back more than 40 years.

‘It has roots way back in the late ’60s and early ’70s when early bands first started straying away from rock, which was already pretty out there to begin with. From there it’s evolved from one sound to so many subgenres that it’s hard to keep track.’

Not all metalheads wear black, have tattoos, or worship the devil.
‘If you’re looking to annoy your parents and you want the most extreme thing, metal is ideal – it’s something that teenagers do in their rebellious years. But I’ve met metal fans aged between seven and 70 at gigs in Dubai. You don’t have to get tattoos to enjoy it. While you may find it hard to hear some of the lyrics, there’s a lot more depth to metal than cheesy bubblegum pop about chasing rainbows and unicorns.’

The scary stuff is normally for show.
‘A lot of the bands that do things like bite the heads off bats or sacrifice goats on stage are actually really nice guys who do it to attract the audience. At home they’ll be knitting their grandmother’s stockings.’

Metal is a common vehicle of political expression in the region.
‘In the Middle East there’s not the same opportunity for a lot of political and emotional statements, and metal is a major part of how people express themselves. In Iraq there are a lot of bands that play death metal and black metal – the heaviest and most depressing forms of the genre – and the people have a lot to say because they’ve been through a war. It’s a very important form of expression, particularly here when so many people have had such awful things happening in their county.’

Metal’s mysterious subgenres unravelled

Classic heavy metal
It all began in the UK and USA during the ’60s, with roots in the blues. Many fans claim Black Sabbath are the original classic heavy metal band.
Listen to: Anthrax, Judas Priest.
UAE acts: Echoes With Laughter.

Death metal
This ominous-sounding genre is defined by heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, blast-beat drumming, minor keys and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes.
Listen to: Cannibal Corpse, Arch Enemy.
UAE acts: Nervecell, Perversion.

Thrash metal
Hailing from the early ’80s, thrash is characterised by high-tempo drum riffs, low-end riffs and shredding guitar work, and peaked in popularity in the ’90s.
Listen to: Metallica, Slayer.
UAE acts: Primo.

Black metal
A new wave of metal began in the ’90s in Scandinavia, often featuring depressing lyrics supposedly inspired by a lack of daylight. Expect shrieked vocals, raw recording and unconventional song structures.
Listen to: Anaal Nathrakh, Goatwhore.
UAE acts: Serpent Dye.

Symphonic metal
Hailing from the late ’80s, this sub-genre mixes orchestral string sounds and operatic singing with metal elements.
Listen to: Evanescence.
Local acts: Massive Scar Era (Egypt), Frosted Leaves (Iran).

The metal calendar

Friday June 15
Metal Asylum’s Thrash Metal Night.
Dhs50. 9pm. Greenbelt Lounge, Astoria Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 353 4300).

Friday June 22
US symphonic metal band Evanescence perform for the first time in Dubai.
Dhs295-595. 6pm. Dubai World Trade Centre,

Tuesday June 26
Jon Oliva’s Pain perform Savatage’s The Hall of the Mountain King.
Dhs225. 7.30pm. Club Sensation, Crowne Plaza Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road,

Friday June 29
UAE metal band Riff Raff launch their debut album.
Dhs50. 9pm. Greenbelt Lounge, Astoria Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 353 4300).

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