The metal scene in Dubai has been quiet for the past couple of months. However that changed last weekend, Finnish melodic death metal band Insomnium performed at the Music Room.
I was expecting the gig to start after 10 pm but when I reached the venue I realised that the openers Smouldering in the Forgotten had already finished their set. It was good to finally meet the guys later in the night.
I have been listening to Insomnium for a decade now. The first album I heard by them was “Above the weeping world” and was really glad that they played songs from the album like “The Killjoy“, “The Gale” and “Mortal Share“. The band started off their set with tracks from their recent release “Shadows of the Dying Sun” and covered their entire discography. They were in top form and put on a great show. The audience were equally enthusiastic, I noticed a moshpit going during their faster songs. Here is the entire set list they performed
I was glad to see a good turnout for the show. It shows that metal is still alive in the city. Overall it was good night thanks to Metal East Records. Looking forward to Finish doom metal band Swallow the Sun next month.
Here are a couple of pictures of Insomnium I took on my phone.
In the past couple of years, I have discovered quite a few killer metal bands from Pakistan. I interviewed Multinational Corporations and Dionysus last year. I heard about Islamabad based heavy metal band Blackhour through my friend Kunal Choksi. He has released their second album “Sins Remain” through the distribution arm of his label Transcending Obscurity. I was reminded of bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon listening to the album .
I spoke to the band about “Sins Remain”, being a metal band in Pakistan, performing with Bumblefoot and their plans for this year.
Hi guys, you started the band in in 2007. How did you’ll get together? Are you’ll from the same school/college?
Hashim: So Blackhour started in 2007 when I was in college and recently started playing Iron Maiden licks. At that point I had a vision to make songs that people would sing along to and me along with a few friends got to gather to form a band which had no name… Just a school band to be honest. As luck would have it, we were that one bad band which was boo-ed off stage but it wasn’t going to kill my passion for making music
One year later, me and my brother Diam (Drummer) decided to take things seriously and by late 2008 BLACKHOUR came into existence and it wasn’t until 2010 that the final line-up as our fans know it now, was formed with Tayyab Rehman as vocalist, Salman Afzal on Bass, Mashoo and myself on guitars and little baby bro on drums.
Blackhour indeed started as a bedroom project but with newer musicians from outside our college social circle joining in, Blackhour became bigger and in the early 2012 after release of Age of War album, when Manager, Hassaan Ahmed joined the band… shit just went serious Hahaha!
It is not easy being a band in Pakistan. What are the struggles you faced so far?
Tayyab Rehman: I guess to say at a broader perspective, it is not easy being a musician in any corner of the world, and being in Pakistan brings about a whole new level of challenges. With the local music scene mostly dominated by classical and pop genre, to be a musician in a heavy metal band is like playing in a hockey team with a cricket Bat.
To our surprise we had support from our loved ones but some close friends always forced us to adopt urdu as our lyrical content and make songs more “Listenable” but we knew what we wanted to achieve with our music and we took a big leap of faith. At the end of the day the biggest struggle of being a heavy metal band from Pakistan, is the exposure. The music never gets heard at the level we want it to… but we would try our best to break the boundaries and make a mark!
Your second album “Sins Remain” is out now. It takes further the sound from your debut release “Age of War”. Tell us more about your latest release.
Hashim: The second album was a challenge for the band. With Age of War, it was just me, Tayyab and Hasan Rauf (ex-member) who were involved in the writing process so it was easy to carry. But with this one we decided that each member should bring about their creative process into the songwriting and thus, each song is so much different from the other that you get to hear the versatility of each member.
The title track Sins Remain, is by far our favorite track and it is the brainchild of the most silent member of the band, Slaman Afzal, and I will let him talk about the concept and what not.
Salman Afzal: Umm… well I had this melody which I made back in college and me and Hashim used to jam to it, and it just had a nice ring to it.. When Hashim came with the idea that each member has to put in an individual song in the album, I was actually taken aback. I tried working out various licks but nothing had the “IT” factor, so one night while randomly playing my acoustic guitar the riff for Sins Remain was unleashed on the fret board and I knew it, THIS WAS GOING TO BE MY SONG! We experimented a lot on this song and perhaps spent the most time in structuring it and relating the music with the lyrical content. In fact it is the first song from Pakistan and I dare say from Asia that utilizes the Pashto folk instrument “Rubab” in a metal song which added to the progressive feel of the song.
It is the combination of the whole band’s involvement and the versatility that the song had to offer that we went with Sins Remain as the album title!
How did you go about recording “Sins Remain”? Are there many recording studios for metal music in Pakistan?
Mashoo: The Sins Remain recording process was a rather interesting fatigue because at the time we had tied up with other bands to experiment on different live concerts, and while handling concert/show organizing, our manager was up our asses to finalize the recording for Sins Remain album. We started by setting up our own recording studio, so this was a first for Blackhour to record its own music on their own. Two upbeat songs, Battle Cry and Wind of Change were produced at a good friend, Fahad Humayun from Dissbeleif’s (an alternative rock band from Islamabad) studio – Bracket Productions, who did an amazing job at handling them and the raw feel that we wanted out of these two songs.
For the remaining three songs, we recorded them through a series of ups and downs at our own studios. The writing process had been finalized during the start of 2015 and we were perfecting our songs via live performances to know the studio sound we want. Finally in late September we collaborated with Mr. Saiban Khaliq – Vocalist/Guitarist for Revolt (A death metal band from Islamabad) for the production of the three songs and I still remember the late nights Hashim and Daim used to spend at the producer’s basement to perfect the sound we wanted and I think if not a 100%, we managed to get a good 80% of the raw/live feel in our produced songs.
Hashim: As for recording studios for metal music in Pakistan, as mashoo highlighted, such studios are majorly operated by metal band members… because they understand the music and given the resources are able to extract that sound for other heavy metal bands, and these studios are usually home studios. Don’t get me wrong though, there are formal recording studios as well, but for a metal band like ourselves, affording the formal studio is through the roof so it is the community that helps each other with production, recording etc. And pretty sure there will be a Blackhour Studio to look forward as well.
“Sins Remain” is being released by Transcending Obscurity distribution. How did the deal come about?
Hassaan: Well Blackhour is all about creating a community for metal music and with this, we tied up with Tejali, a good friend from India, to act as Blackhour’s representative in India. It was her brilliant efforts while working as a full time Architect that she linked up Mr. Kunal Choksi with the band and I guess he liked our music which took further our deal. What’s interesting is that the relationship with TO Distribution is more of a very friendly and collaborative venture as opposed to a suit and tie formal business deals. Mr. Kunal understands well what the band is capable of and has helped us out reach a bigger audience.
The metal scene in Pakistan is slowly picking up in the past couple of year. I’ve really enjoyed listening to bands like Multinational Corporations and Dionysus. What are other bands from Pakistan that you recommend?
Diam: Pakistan’s metal scene though very underground is still enriched with some really amazing bands ranging from death metal, grind core to some really progressive alternative rock bands as well. Some of the amazing bands that I would recommend anyone exploring the Pakistani Metal Scene will be; Blackhour (have to tell them about my band lol), Revolt, Inferner, Tak-a-Tak, Ehl-e-Rock, Dissbelief and Qayyas.
In August last year, you performed alongside guitarist Bumblefoot at Lok Virsa Open Air Theater in Islamabad. How was the experience?
Tayyab: FUCKING AMAZING! These are the words that kept repeating in my mind, as I went around answering this question. I guess there are no words to define how out of the world it felt. Bumblefoot is indeed a legendary guitar player and to be alongside on the stage with him, well again FUCKING AMAZING. Despite being on stage, the interaction with him off stage and during jam sessions was an eye-opener for the band. We have never met a musician so down to earth and true to music as him. We really hope to share the stage with him soon. And for us it was an honor, that he flew all the way to Pakistan, despite how the country is portrayed in the media, he took the risk and performed and interacted with the musicians here! Honestly, I did not want that show to end to say the least!
What are your plans for this year?
Hashim: We are planning to go about promoting Sins Remain via performing live. In fact last year in November 2015 we did a national launch of the album by organizing Pakistan’s first ever theatrical concert, where each song of the album was complimented by live on-stage theatrical performances (directed by The Insane Production House), while the band performed live. So we are planning to take this setting and perform this show across all the major cities of the country. Along with that we are trying to perhaps play live across the borders as well.. I guess our Manager can help us with that if he moves off of his lazy butt! Other than that, we are also playing at an upcoming music festival of Pakistan (One of the biggest in the country), Music Mela, in late April.
But beyond the live shows we are also planning to start working on a new album. The Writing process has already started during the production of Sins Remain… So there is a lot more of BLACKHOUR to witness this year and the years ahead to come!
Stay up to date with Blackhour on their facebook page and check out their video for the track “Battle Cry” below
2015 has been a great year for Indian metal bands like Albatross, Against Evil, Bevar Sea, Rectified Spirit all put out stellar releases. This year also promises to be another good year for Indian metal. To kick off this year, I did a short interview with Hyderabad-based progressive metal act Skyrpt. I had reviewed their debut EP “Discord” back in 2011 for Indianrockmp3 and I found it promising. 5 years later after a couple of line up changes, the band are back with a 14 minute opus.
I spoke to Abbas from Skrypt about their new single “Oceans Alive” and their plans for the coming year for Transcending Obscurity. Read the interview here
Criminal Records is a UAE based metal/punk label. Started a few months ago by ReyXJustice (I Cease), the first release from the label is United Assault, a compilation of demos by UAE bands. The compilation features band like Manhunt, Maticrust, Devastatory and others.
I spoke to ReyXJustice about the compilation, the music scene in UAE and also his zine Wrong Choice of Words.
How you came up with the compilation ‘United Assault’?
Well I met a lotsa people with their heart on the right places. Good people who want to put up a proper CD record for everyone to enjoy but doesn’t have the money to do it coz’ the greedy lunatics who run music studios here charge people like they have people’s kids hidden in their basement and can ask the craziest amount of money for ransom and people would pay em like junkies. Like they only build recording studios exclusively for people with their own oil rigs or employ dwarves to mine fuckin’ diamonds for em singing hi ho hi ho keepin a runaway princess in their dwarf crib all tied up for dwarf gang rape… So Compared to most yuppies the can afford musicians, We are poor as a rat, that’s why Dubai music scene wimmin’ doesn’t hang out with us, coz’ they’re convenience whose. we live in flats partitioned like friggin’ Noah’s arc and struggle to make ends meet coz’ the cost of living in Dubai is bat shit crazy expensive. specially if you’re not getting white people salary. so what’s the back door to that? Convince people to pull up their measly shits and money together and do a combined effort compilation all DIY and they did! So here we are now with a professionally pressed demo compilation distributed worldwide. Fun!
How did you select the bands for the compilation?
The compilation is an underground compilation so I selected underground bands = simple system. People in bands who knows what’s real and live it. whose involvement is beyond music and reinforce the growth of their local scene to bolster a humane community. An environment that supports each other rather than the dog eat dog society normal fucktards with the combined IQ of 2 noontime TV show are into. bands outside the hypocrisy of the mainstream music scene. The nice to you face to face but stab you in the back people which dominate the city and for some weird reason keeps picking on a small underground scene that exist completely opposite to their way of life and try their asshole best to make it what it isn’t. Weird right? like people, why bother? You already got all the nice superficial things why soil something you’re not? spare yourself the humiliation coz you look stupid. So one day I finally got tired of all the bullshit and went ‘you know what? Fuck it, Let’s draw the line it’s either you’re real or you’re a mainstream piece of shit. Stop wasting good people’s time and join a fuckin’ talent contest somewhere.
What are your thoughts on the music scene in Dubai/UAE?
The music scene here is filled with talented musicians. that’s it I really don’t think about the music scene here a lot. I think about why all the Zoom in metro stations doesn’t sell peanut butter flavored M&Ms anymore where are they and how to get them.
You also have a zine ‘Wrong Choice of Words’. How long have you been working on it?
Doing a zine is one of my favorite pastime just doing it for the love of writing. Writing stuffs i think of and writing about shits i really like and people doing shits that I really love and support. I know it will never get me laid hell, nowadays in the age of the bully majority acting like cops an policing people’s thought in social media I know free speech will put me in a lot of trouble against a lot of fucking assholes. but I don’t care anymore. Free speech also land me good friends and 1 real friend is better than a hundred asshole i’d rather be enemies with. Writing truth is my passion and I love using nib pens on shitty parched paper then type it on the pc (coz it’s a must) ..who knows maybe someday I can make a book out of it. I’ve been doing a zine for quite some time now started when I was still in the P.I. first zine I’ve done was cut and paste did it with some punk pals back in college. We called it ANTI, school fraternities tried to kill us for that, then when I begin to really like hardcore music I did my own zine called KEEP DA FAITH elitist PC punks and commies tried to kill me for that, And now i’m doing WCOW here which is more of a journal and essays rather than a current events mag. been doing that here and show band yuppier posers try to kill me for that as well. Must’ve been writing stuffs for this zine for 2 years now. I just released my 2nd issue this year and the third issue might come out next summer hopefully with more real u.g. bands from the UAE and from the Phils., Japan and the US. The bands I interviewed from the U.S. are Filipino bands too like Digma from CA and NSI from NY. so more columns more weird stories documenting OFW life from a Filipino (not kabayan but) Filipino punk point of view. Copies are still available. 15 bux back issue plus courier cost. for same day delivery. try snail mail! you’ll love it!
How can people buy the compilation?
They can buy it through every band who is included in the compilation because as I mentioned earlier all of these bands are active ug bands and not babies who expect labels to do shits for them like fucking retards on a wheelchairs. All these groups PSF, MANHUNT, S.D., CYNTHIA LUSTER, DEVASTATORY, MATICRUST, I CEASE these bands are all fuckin’ DIY and put a lot of efforts to reinforce each other and the micro u.g. scene they are part of. People can also get it from CRIMINAL RECORDS just email us through me! from us at 30 bux a copy and extra 20 bux gets you a copy within the same day via courier service. we also distro bulk rates which is dirt cheap! so do get in touch!
What’s next for you, new edition of the zine? New music?
Well yeah, a new issue of the zine is on it’s way. not that anyone gives a fuck about it hahahaha, new music as well right now, A number of u.g. bands are recording materials on their own so expect some really city leveling EPs to come out soon. Even my buddies in I CEASE are recording new songs to annoy the shit out of yuppies and bullies set to be released on January when people least expect it coz that’s just how we blow up things. I’m also excited for the PROJECT SKULL FUCK EP coming soon and for MANHUNT EP as well..Things are looking up for 2016 all these people have to do is not lose faith in what they are and stop dealing with show band leeches, Coz’ these scene parasites just suck the fun out of everything. They actually tried to sabotage the compilation but the good prevailed. so fuck em until the next life. But our biggest thanx to you Peter! Keep doing your blog coz this shit is awesome! I hope you help carry some old Emirati lady’s grocery one day and as a gesture of thank you she gives you 5 Billion Dhs. Respects to the Real and to all the show band suckers out there and fake punk bands I hope you all die of liver cancer! Peace!
REY JUSTICE x I CEASE email@example.com P.O.B. 1155 DUBAI, UAE
Eccentric Pendulum are a progressive metal band from Bangalore, India. They released the EP ‘Sculptor of Negative Emotions’ in 2009 and the album ‘Winding The Optics’ in 2011. Winners of the Indian leg of the Wacken Metal Battle, the band were the first to represent India at the global metal battle at Wacken Open Air 2011.
I spoke to the band about their new single ‘Resisting Another Equation’ and also their future plans for Transcending Obscurity here
Drowning Melancholy are a goth/progressive metal band from Jaipur. are a goth/progressive metal band from Jaipur. I met singer Komal and drummer Alvin at the Battle of the bands at IIT Jodhpur in 2013 where they were performing with their sister band Fragile Silence. They put a good show and came 2nd. Since then Fragile Silence has been dormant due to few lineup changes. Komal and Alvin have been working on new material for Drowning Melancholy and have released a video for their track “Defenceless”.
I spoke to frontwoman Komal about the video, being a metal band in Jaipur and also their plans for the coming year for Transcending Obscurity. Read the interview here
Who: Surtur The band is Riasat Azmi(Vocals) Shadman Omee (Guitars) Masnun Efaz (Bass) and Rifat Rafi (Drums)
What: Surtur released their EP “Descendant of Time” last month. “The EP has four songs, one of which is a guitar instrumental. All of the three songs have different backdrop but they all share a common theme.” said vocalist Riasat Azmi describing their debut release. “That is making a stand for what you believe in and holding your ground. The title track is a fantasy about a heavy metal messiah who will put an end to all the hypocrisy we see around. Maggot Filled Brain was written with the shitty political culture of Bangladesh we keep seeing everyday here. And Demolisher is a song about a grave where the members of a tyrant regime will be buried after being overthrown by a revolutionary insurgence.”
How: “Our guitarist, Omee , is the principal songwriter of the band. He had the riffs all worked out in the mind so that created the skeletons of the songs. They took the entire shape after we rehearsed them altogether.” said Riasat about how they wrote the songs on the EP. “Rifat put his inputs, Efaz inserted the low ends and lastly I (Riasat) added the vocal portions. The songs were ready almost a year ago and we played them live before releasing the EP.”
“We started tracking the drums at June of this year. For various reasons, the recording process was a bit slower than usual. The whole process ended at September and we started pressing the physical copies after that.” said Riasat explaining the recording process.
Listen to “Descendant of Time” below