If you’re trying to imagine a soundtrack to Dubai, it’s unlikely your first thought will be a heavy metal song. In a place packed with designer nightclubs and a big urban music scene, you might think the genre just wouldn’t sit particularly well. But you’d be mistaken, because if you know where to look, you’ll find a community of metal musicians and fans rocking out all over town.
Just looking at the bands that have played here, it’s obvious there’s a metal following in Dubai. In 2014, Black Sabbath played a gig in Abu Dhabi to a massive crowd. A few years before that, there was the Dubai Desert Rock Festival, headlined by Iron Maiden and Motörhead.
Massive gigs like that are few and far between, but the scene doesn’t begin and end with those. Gig organisers such as Aarrgghh Kolektib, Metal East Records and JoScene put on shows across the city with local bands, and international acts often appear on the line-up. Fonda Skogsra, one of the founders of Aarrgghh Kolektib, came to Dubai a few years ago to write about music. Since then, she says, the local metal scene in Dubai has grown a lot. “It’s small, but strong. We all know each other, and treat each other as family.”
While there are hundreds, if not thousands of fans of the genre in the emirate, it’s not always evident when gigs take place at venues such as The Music Room, Classic Rock Café, and The Fridge. “People need to support local talent,” Skogsra says. “A lot of metalheads went to the big concerts like Black Sabbath, but they should also show up at the local shows.”
Some bands that formed right here in the city have gone on to play huge gigs around the world. Dubai-based Maticrust played at the Obscene Extreme Festival in the Czech Republic, which took place last month and you might already have heard of Nervecell and Svengali.
All subgenres are represented here, too – at the Aarrgghh Kolektib gigs, you can hear everything from heavy metal and punk to crust, hardcore and grindcore. The scene in Dubai tends to stun many people who discover it for the first time, Skogsra says. But once people find it, they’re often pleasantly surprised.
She says newcomers to the scene should not be put off by the bands with names like Devastatory or Tyranny Rising (both based here in Dubai). “Contrary to what people might think, there’s no violence,” Skogsra reassures us. “Metal connects people,” she says. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, everyone is accepted.”
Regulations have occasionally made it difficult for bands to come here, but she says that won’t stop the scene from flourishing in the emirate. “There’s one thing we know for sure – the metal scene can’t be stopped, as long as we support each other.”
For more information on future gigs, head to www.facebook.com/aarrgghhKolektib.