Twelve Things to Love About the Metal Scene in the Middle East, by Kaoteon
As we preached last month when we wrote about Kaoteon, a Lebanese band who have since migrated to the Netherlands, the Middle East is a hotbed for metal talent despite the region’s low profile on the international scene.
But don’t take it from us — take it from the band’s lead guitarist Anthony Kaoteon, who has compiled a list of some of the most important people, places and bands from around the Middle East, particularly his native country.
Kaoteon’s new album Damnatio Memoriae comes out on February 23rd and can be pre-ordered here. Check out the title track below.
Metal music in the Middle East has survived throughout the years due to some great people, organizers, venues and musicians that have helped keep the flames of metal burning. I wish I knew a bit more about other countries in the region, but I couldn’t afford a sandwich when I was younger, let alone travel, so here is a collection of memories that we recall as the best places that have kept metal going. Many of these places are unfortunately closed now, especially after metal was persecuted and people stopped going to shows and gatherings due to social image. Lately, though, many metalheads are coming back to shows. Recently, Kaoteon played a show put on by Groove Machine Entertainment with Legion of the Damned, which was full of metal fans, and more recently, Groove Machine got Septicflesh to play in Beirut and it was a full house.
1. Pickwick Bar
In wartorn Beirut I remember a pub called Pickwick where they used to host some metal and goth nights that few people attended at first, but soon after many followed. I was underage – too young to enter a pub – but always found a way in back in the ’90s. This place has been closed for a while since concerts have seen a lull.
2. Radio Mont Liban
I remember the Radio Mont Libon radio station with the worst DJ in the world, Jyad El Murr. He was always playing gothic rock and doom metal on his show.
3. Disco Rama
An unforgettable discotheque where most metal cassette tapes were sold in Burj Hammoud. Anthony remembers getting his first original metal cassette tape from there, Hypocrisy’s Osculum Obscenum.
4. Peak Hall
We surely cannot forget the music venue Peak Hall, run by Mr. Dollar, who hosted a lot of concerts there. This allowed many bands to get their start, many of which still exist to this day. Kimaera is one of those bands. This venue also closed a long time ago due to a lapse in shows.
We need to mention the music venue Cherry’s where we played many concerts in Lebanon. Same situation here – closed to a lapse in the scene. Cherry’s was managed by the Deaibess family, who are behind the current band Blaakyum.
This was another concert venue – never short of pool tables and lots of girls, ha! This venue is where we started playing concerts with bands from neighboring countries, like Tyrant Throne and Bilocate from Jordan.
7. Lebanese Bands
We have to mention a few Lebanese bands that inspire the local scene, aside from the ones mentioned above. These bands include favorites Exceed, Oath to Vanquish, Weeping Willow, and newer bands like Arcane, Bloodink, Damage Rite and others.
Some huge festivals are noteworthy in keeping Middle Eastern metal alive, including Rocknation, Desert Rock (UAE) and Beirut Metal Fest. I should also mention the great events put on in Jordan and UAE by JoScene’s Muhammed Jaber.
9. Metal East Records
10. Woody Naufal and Elia Msawwir
Some important names in the Middle Eastern scene include sound engineer Woody Naufal and event organizer Elia Msawwir, who are very passionate about bringing international bands back to Lebanon.
11. Other Bands from the Middle East
It’s definitely worth mentioning bands like the amazing Melechesh headed by my Turkish friend Murat Ashmedi, Scarab from Egypt, Deathless Anguish from KSA, Myrath from Tunisia and Private Government from UAE, who are still active, kicking “the man” in the nuts and about to release an album.
12. The Fans!
Last but not least, we cannot forget the amazing friends and fans who shared beers, shawarmas, soujouk and kebab grills with us throughout the years at multiple meeting points like Abraj Cinemas, Rio Grande, Dunkin Donuts, and Cinnzeo. Cheers to these memories and many others that have made us all who we are today