x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Juliana Down: Empires

The first UAE band to sign to an international label, Juliana Down's new album Empires is a promising production.




The rise of the UAE rock group Juliana Down can be linked to the growing live music scene in the region. Formed in Abu Dhabi in 2004, the group went through several member changes before settling on a five-man line-up and playing in some of the region's biggest rock festivals and tours.
Now signed to Sony, they have released Empires, their second album (the first, Cause and Affect, came out in 2006). As the title implies, the group are interested in making grand musical statements. The opener, Control, begins with a 20-second string arrangement before the band arrive with cascading riffs reminiscent of U2.
The lead singer, Dia Hassan, takes his cues from modern rock's biggest voices. He seems to channel Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba in the title track and his slightly distorted vocal turn in Run to Me is reminiscent of Brandon Flowers. After an energetic yet uninspiring opening batch of songs, the band rise above their influences and deliver some truly memorable tunes.
Good For Nothing is powered by taut bass lines before Hassan explodes into a cathartic chorus, while the claustrophobic Rush delivers some of the band's toughest riffs. The most promising indications for Juliana Down's future, however, can be found in Freaks and Wonders, with a dynamic arrangement and an offbeat chorus that is both surprising and affecting.