“When we first started out, Metallica was all we were basically listening to,” recalls the band’s frontman Dia Hassan. “Our first show that we played, we had some songs from [the Metallica album] Reload; it was fun.” Hassan says Metallica’s influence is pronounced in the Gulf because they were one of the few metal bands available in mainstream music stores. “Back then, the kids were divided into two sections: you had the grunge and punk rockers and then there were the people into Metallica,” he says. “This really affected the UAE’s musical evolution. The music scene back in the day was a lot heavier because of the music that was available.”
The hard rocker and recent support act to Guns N’ Roses says Metallica recalls cherished family memories. “I was 13 years old when I went to a record shop with my dad and bought my first Metallica album – The Black Album,” he says. “Then on, I just started collecting their earlier stuff and they became one of my favourite bands.” The influence of a growing Metallica collection soon started seeping into Wud’s early years as a songwriter. “As a guitarist and songwriter, I learnt an awful lot. They moulded my ear and guitar chops with heavy metal goodness,” he says. “As for their songwriting and performance on stage, no other band have what they have. They are titans.”
Nervecell had the best seat in the house when Metallica first toured the UAE in 2011. The UAE heavy metal group were hand-picked by Metallica to open their maiden show. The band’s guitarist Barney Ribeiro says they’re still feeding off the adrenalin generated from the performance. “It still keeps us going,” he explains. “The encouragement that we received from that show and the response we got made us realise why we’re doing this, why we’ve been struggling for so many years. It motivated us to take it to the next level.” It was not so much Metallica’s punishing performance but their offstage humility that stuck with Ribeiro. “We had eight minutes of quality time,” he laughs. “They were so friendly when they didn’t really have to be. Lars [Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich] asked about us and said that we were heavy and brutal. And Kirk [the guitarist Kirk Hammett] thanked us for supporting. It just shows how professional they all are.”
How do your prepare for the biggest performance of your life? Lots of practice, according to EYE (also known as the Empty Yard Experiment) frontman Bojan Preradovic. Ever since receiving word they were opening for Metallica tomorrow, the group have been rehearsing daily. “It’s Metallica and it doesn’t get much bigger than that,” Preradovic says. “It is also a huge opportunity for us to connect with fans in the du Arena, which is such a large sonic platform.” Known for their prog-rock sets, complete with visuals, the band’s experimentation stems from Preradovic’s teenage years in Serbia, listening to Metallica. “I was just starting to listen to heavier music,” he recalls. “When Metallica released The Black Album, it was a platform for me to listen to their earlier stuff, which to me as a musician was more interesting.”
The Dubai hard rock band were one of the recent winners of the Zippo/Makshouf Battle of the Bands competition. The lead singer Neil D’Cruz says the group, which play original songs, performed in front of their first sold-out crowd as part of a special Metallica tribute night at the now-defunct Dubai venue Aussie Legends. “It was in 2010 and the place had never been so packed,” he says. “There were about five bands and we played tracks such as Nothing Else Matters, Fuel and Memory Remains.” D’Cruz says Metallica’s dynamic songwriting is enough to maintain interest when performing some of theit classics. “The songs have great hooks and big choruses that everyone can sing along to,” he says. “They are built for the masses. You play them in front of a big crowd and you will get a reaction.”
Metallica performs at the du Arena on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island tomorrow. Doors open at 7pm. The support band EYE performs at 7.30pm. Tickets cost from Dh295. To book, visit www.thinkflash.ae or call 800 FLASH (35274)
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