W:O:A Metal Battle Middle East 2015 - Lebanon Battle
Band: W:O:A Metal Battle Middle East
Author: Carmina Khairallah - 2015-04-17
On Saturday, April 4th 2015, Beirut's The Quadrangle Pub in Hazmieh witnessed the unveiling of a tremendous milestone in the history of the Lebanese Metal Scene: the W:O:A Metal Battle Middle East – Lebanon Battle. The battle, that celebrated this year its 11th occurrence, is thrown in many countries around the world in order to provide the winning band from each country with a chance to perform at the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany. It has recently reached the Middle East with the help of Corporation Govad Music and, this year, has expanded to Lebanon in a battle organized by Metal Bell Magazine. Three local bands: TURBULENCE, BLAAKYUM, and APRIL, performed that night in front of a jury formed of eminent members of the local scene as well as Monika Bremer, the owner of Corporation Govad, in hopes to get their chance to compete against the winning Dubaian band ASCENDANT in Cairo on 24th April. Alongside them was a local guest band, QANTARA, setting foot on stage for the first time ever.
Sadly, a few days after Lebanon Battle, it was announced that Dubai-based metallers ASCENDANT wouldn't take part in Cairo's final, so that made Lebanon's winner the sole Middle Eastern representative in world's number one Metal festival. Do you want to know who won? Keep reading.
The doors to the venue were said to open at 7 pm. This did not happen due to some technical difficulties, but that did not stop a relatively large agglomeration of fans to chat excitedly at the door until they were allowed inside not long before the start of the event. The festivities themselves began exactly at the expected time of 9 pm with a little surprise. Members of the jury: Nathalie Jeha, Roy Naufal, Bahij el Khatib and Marc Bassila, lit off the stage with a short jam, performing “Holy Diver” by DIO and “Perfect Strangers” by DEEP PURPLE. At that point, the venue was already very crowded, and the building energy was palpable.
Shortly afterwards, the first band of the battle, TURBULENCE, climbed on stage. They performed live for the first time ever the following original tracks from their debut album, which is in the process of being recorded:
- My Darkest Hour
- Richardson’s Nightmare
As they played and sang their first notes, the sound was a bit shaky but got fixed soon afterwards to reveal a well-rehearsed feast of progressive technicalities. It was evident that each member knew their part well. The band’s performance and stage presence were energetic and communicative, engaging the front row of attendees into heavy head banging.
Vocalist and front man Owmar Elias Hage kept a steady interaction with the crowd throughout the show, but it might have been a little too much as he repeatedly asked the audience to scream or raise their horns, which seemingly lowered their responsiveness towards the end of the three songs. Nevertheless, TURBULENCE shone through their technical mastery of the musical craft in an intricate mesh of Progressive Metal goodness.
Next up was BLAAKYUM with the following songs from their first album “Lord of the Night”, released in 2012, and their second album which has yet to be released:
- Lord of the Night
- Baal Adun
- The Land
- Rip It Off
- Al Ain
- Last Stand (outro)
At first, the sound was very noisy and bassy, and although it was fixed relatively quickly, the drums were obnoxiously loud almost throughout the entire performance. That did not stop the band from exhibiting spotless professionalism through a fan pleasing performance that got a considerable part of the crowd screaming, head banging, and singing along to their beloved tunes. The band made it a point to showcase the entirety of their Oriental repertoire with “Baal Adun”, “The Land” and “Al Ain”, and the vocalist and front man Bassem Deaibess did not derive from his usual local-society-oriented satirical comments in between a few songs.
They did mix it up a bit, though, by turning “Rip it Off” intro into Funk, which added a very different touch to the performance. Apart from that, the technicalities were spotless and BLAAKYUM delivered no less than what can be expected from a band that has been around for a few decades. When asked for a comment regarding the event, Bassem Deaibess stated that he “loved every bit of it: the crowd, the incredible great sound system…This was one of the best gigs [he] ever played. Moreover [they] played a gig, not a competition. [They] weren't trying to win, [they] were having a good time. And again the crowd was incredible”.
He also wanted to add that he personally “was dead impressed by APRIL and never knew that they had such heavy crushing riffs” and that they as a band “voted for TURBULENCE”.
It was then time for the final band of the battle: APRIL. They performed the entirety of their newly released EP “Archives of the Mind”, which consists of the following tracks:
- Untitled Instrumental
The band’s sound was immediately good, except for the muffled vocals which got fixed soon enough. Their performance was mildly energetic, which fit their Progressive Psychedelic Rock genre perfectly, but didn’t get the crowd very excited at first. Although, the band’s music showed perfect balance between soft, soothing melodies and heavy riffs, all wrapped up in great vibes and lots of highly communicative positive energy. One drawback was that, due to a technical difficulty, the band experienced a rather long interruption between the first and second track, and did not deal with it appropriately, resulting in a dead spot in the crowd’s excitement. However, this did not make them lose their enthusiasm, and they immediately resumed rocking the stage in a brilliant performance, leading up to a highly exciting instrumental finale.
When asked for a comment regarding the event, vocalist and front woman April Rach Bassili stated that they “simply had a blast and the sound was amazing”.
The jury now had to deliberate, but the night was not over yet. Last but not least was a promising new band that made their debut at this electrically charged event: QANTARA. They performed the following originals from their not yet released debut album:
- Let There Be Light (the revolution)
- Look at the Pendulum (the puppeteer)
- Armygeddon (physical domination)
Save for a few previously posted teasers, no one had heard of them before, so when the band took a little too much time to get ready on stage, they were quickly dismissed as amateurs. But the crowd’s reactions immediately flipped as the notes of their first song heavily struck the venue. The band’s performance was a bit shaky with a few mistakes here and there, but all that was forgotten as, within seconds, a good portion of the already tired out audience was heavily head banging, screaming, and even chanting along to the tune of one of the band’s songs, which lasted for the entire duration of the band’s performance.
The three songs were perfectly linked with no interruptions in between, which to some felt tiring but for others kept the excitement going. As newcomers to our local scene, QANTARA surely left one hell of an impression, and hopefully they’re here to stay. When asked for their comments regarding the event, the band simply replied that they “really enjoyed working with Metal Bell” and that “for a first performance, [they] are more than satisfied”.
Obviously each competition has a winner, and this time it was BLAAKYUM. We wish them the best of luck in W:O:A Metal Battle final, that will take place in August's first weekend at Germany's Wacken Open Air Festival.
We would like to thank TURBULENCE, BLAAKYUM, APRIL and QANTARA for their amazing performances, The Quadrangle for yet again hosting a great event and supporting the scene, Corporation Govad Music and Metal Bell for their amazing organizational work, and everyone else that was involved in this beautiful night, hoping that this is only the beginning of a new era for the Lebanese Metal scene.