Dubai's Weekend of Metal: Gulf Bike Week 2014 and The Rock Nation Halloween Masquerade [REVIEW]

This year's Halloween weekend was a little more intense than usual in Dubai, with a couple of major metal shows going on. Thursday October 30th was the first day of this year's Gulf Bike Week, and on Halloween night was Rock Nation's Halloween Masquerade show at The Music Room. Some of the UAE's best bands, including death metal mammoths Nervecell were playing that weekend, and we had to cover both. So we did. Habib attended both events, and gave us the rundown on how things went. More after the break.

Gulf Bike Week (Day 1) 

A celebration of motorbikes and music, Gulf Bike Week Dubai at Media City Amphitheatre is a three-day event intended to attract bikers, music fans, and a general audience of all ages. Now, when I saw a picture of a huge stage posted on the event’s Facebook page, I was extremely excited for the show that I would see on Thursday, October 30. However, upon my arrival to the venue, I was surprised that the stage on which the bands will perform was actually a much smaller one, and that the bigger stage was for the bike shows. The music stage was at a rather obscure place, if it wasn’t for the security and staff’s directions towards its location. It was in a spacious, grassy field with a couple of trees, enclosed by a 2-meter fence that obstructed the stage area visually from the rest of the venue. The bands performing that day were Fat Randall (Pop-punk), Tartarus (Black Metal), Benevolent (Extreme progressive metal/djent), and Coat of Arms (Extreme progressive metal/metalcore). Unfortunately, some of Coat of Arms’ members coudn’t make it into the country because of visa issues, so they were replaced last minute by the local Iron Maiden cover band, Maiden Arabia.

Fat Randall were up first. I had heard them performing their sound check when I entered the venue, but I was astonished at the scarce number of spectators around the stage when their performance started. There were no more than 25 people in the stage area (including the bar) at that time. Regardless, the three members of Fat Randall humored with the audience and exchanged friendly banter amongst themselves throughout their performance despite the lack of a sizeable crowd. Although I am not a big fan of their style of music, I think they put on an enjoyable show of 6 original songs off their With Extra Fat EP and interacted with the audience quite well. “Joanna” and “Rebel Rock” marked the band’s presence with fun, fast-paced tunes quite well despite the dwindling number of spectators (which was composed mostly of event staff and some kids hanging around the place). By the end of their performance, there were just about 10 people left as Tartarus got ready for their set.

Being the first Black Metal band I see live, Tartarus did not disappoint in spite of the fact that their audience consisted of only me and a couple of other guys who chose to keep their distance from the stage. As soon as Tartarus finished their sound check, the kids hanging around the stage area ran away, probably scared of their brutal riffs. After all, being probably the only Black Metal band in the UAE meant something was already unique about their performance, which had 5 songs, including a great cover of Emperor’s “I Am the Black Wizards.” The highlight of their set was “Of Grimness and Atrocity”, the title track off their debut EP, Of Grimness and Atrocity. “Cosmic Storms” was also astounding. A riveting and brilliant performance regardless of the low turnout.

Next in line were Benevolent, and the audience grew to around a dozen people when they started playing. The members of the band were very lively in their show, which had six songs, and brought life to the seemingly dead venue. The djenty sounds and the beautiful contrast between growls and clean vocals echoed well with their performance of “Asphyxia” from their debut full-length album The Covenant. When they played “The Collector”, Benevolent transported the stage and its surroundings to a realm of musical wonder. The stage’s beautiful blue lights added a particular flavor to the music. Towards the end of their set, lead guitarist Hadi Sarieddine leapt off the stage and on to the ground where he joined the small audience yet continued playing brilliantly. A stellar performance by a powerful band.

Although they were last-minute replacements for Coat of Arms, Maiden Arabia delivered a great Iron Maiden experience with their set of 9 cover songs. Dressed like Iron Maiden themselves in the 1980’s, they played, for an audience of half a dozen people, classics like “Fear of the Dark” and “Two Minutes to Midnight”. They managed to pull off a great set of songs despite the slight sound issues they had with the lead singer’s microphone. An enjoyable performance no doubt.

Overall, the show was great and the bands put on a great performance although there wasn’t a big crowd to witness it. The people who attended were definitely in for a musical treat.

Rock Nation Halloween Masquerade 

With everyone in their crazy costumes, the RockNation Halloween Masquerade at The Music Room (Majestic Hotel, Dubai) was the place to be on Halloween. The main attractions of the night were performances by UAE Death Metal pioneers Nervecell, rock bands Point of View and Behold the Locus, Oriental Doom Metal band Aramaic, and Nu Metal act Alpha.Kenny.Buddy.  Other bands on the bill were Ascendant and Coat of Arms, both of which were not able to perform that night.

The place was packed by the time Behold the Locus started playing, dressed in construction site jackets. They performed some great original songs, such as “Fly” and “Supergirl”, which were complemented by some covers including “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon and “Small Things” by Blink 182. They got the crowd warmed up for the night.

Next up were Point of View, who really got that hard rock vibe going around at the place with their set. They played songs from their album “Revolutionize the Revolutionary” including “Déjà vu” and “Third Eye”, which really ignited the stage in musical madness as the venue became nearly full with party goers and fans.

The headliners of the event, Nervecell, did not fail at making it an unforgettable night with their thunderous performance as the crowd headbanged and moshed wildly in their outfits. Their killer tracks including “Shunq” and “Human Chaos” sent the venue into a musical rampage of pure fucking death metal, accompanied by rapidly flashing lights on the stage. Someone was even knocked out in the mosh pit. This awesome show of theirs was their last in Dubai, for now, before they head to tour in Europe.

Even though it was their first live show, Aramaic delivered a splendid performance with their Oriental Doom/Death sounds distinguished by an ancient Levantine vibe. Songs off their recently-released The Fallen EP like “The Summoning” and “The Pledge”, as well as their new song “The King” plunged the venue into an ambient, Oriental-inspired Doom Metal atmosphere that was complemented with the darkened stage lighting to give off the perfect vibe for their music. An excellent first performance by this band.

Last but not least, Alpha.Kenny.Buddy put out a great set while still dressed in their costumes. The Nu Metal band, who are recording their new album now, played some heavy, fast-paced tracks like “Riot Hand Man” and “Bow Down Now”; a brilliant performance that gave a remarkable early 2000’s atmosphere to end the event.

Overall, it was a party that was not to be missed. Plenty of the UAE’s metal talent converged in this wonderful event and impressed an insane costume-donning crowd.

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