x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Rock music is alive and well in the UAE

Halfway into 2014 and the year is already shaping up to be stellar for the local rock scene — three leading acts have released new albums this year, ranging from commercial pop-rock to more dark and progressive territory.
Empty Yard Experiment. Courtesy EYE
Empty Yard Experiment. Courtesy EYE

Empty Yard Experiment (EYE)

Who are they?

The brooding Dubai group are one of the most intriguing local outfits, what with their prog-rock sound and sensory live shows. Formed in 2006, EYE immediately made an impression by matching their dense, rather complicated song structures with captivating visual backdrops, created by the group’s former drummer Sami Al Turki and the artist Altamash Urooj.

The band settled on their present line-up – featuring a new frontman, Bojan Preradovic, in 2010 – and ­released their self-titled EP the ­following year.

The acclaimed offering got them support slots for the metal titans Metallica and the Goth rockers Evanescence on their UAE visits. With the debut full-length album Kallisti out, Preradovic says spirits are high within the group. “It is a really good feeling and there is a very good sense of brotherhood,” he says. “It took a lot of effort, chaos and suffering to get this album out and through that whole process, we came out as a much stronger band.”

The album: Kallisti

The boys deserve to feel proud of themselves – Kallisti is one of the best releases from the region. The epic album is best listened to intently in one sitting; the songs are intricately threaded together through moody instrumentals. The dynamic Greenflash swings effortlessly from sombre laments to aggression, while Entropy charges out of the gate with its heavy riffs to be met with a crushing chorus where Preradovic’s wailing recalls Alice In Chains’ late Layne Staley.

The album is a definite development from Empty Yard Experiment’s EP, says Preradovic. He cites the group’s sheer commitment to the project for its superior results.

“We had a lot of ideas before we entered the studio to record the album,” he says. “So all five of us locked ourselves up in one room in one apartment for about two months. If we were not working, we would be together working every single night on the album and crafting these ideas into the songs.”

Kallisti by Empty Yard Experiment is out now on iTunes. Visit www.emptyyardexperiment.com

The Boxtones

Who are they?

Live favourites in the region, the Dubai-based four-piece have been largely known for their killer rock covers. They recently changed their tune after winning last year’s Rolling Stone Middle East From Street to Stage, a competition where regional bands are judged on their original songs.

The singer and guitarist Gary Tierney said the victory was a revelation for the band. After years of slogging away, playing proficient covers, the five-piece realised there was a real appetite from local crowds to hear original material.

“That win put us on the map and made us think: our original stuff is liked by people,” he said. “It was a real confidence boost for us and, by that stage, we had seven new songs, so we said: ‘Right, let’s work on it and make it a full 45-minute album experience,’ so we started writing again.”

The album: In the Pocket of Clowns

The Boxtones’ debut album In the Pocket of Clowns delivers some usual high-octane numbers such as the strutting Plug Me into You (led by the female vocalist and Gary’s sister Gill Tierney) and the driving Run. The band also expand their sound with acoustic guitars and strings. Indeed, the album’s secret weapon is their ace keyboardist Will Janssen, who shows his worth in the evocative U.F.O. and Today. With many of the songs crafted quietly over the years, Tierney said the album is basically the best nine songs from hundreds written over a decade.

“A lot of thought went into what was the most commercial or catchy and songs that we as a band all like,” he said. “The fact that the album sold more than 1,000 copies in the first week of release and that we are getting cheques in the mail because of that, is absolutely amazing.”

In the Pocket of Clowns by The Boxtones is available on iTunes and in Virgin Megastores. Visit www.boxtonesband.com

Nikotin

Who are they?

Another Dubai-based group who made their bones in the competitive circuit. The five-member band announced themselves in 2009 after winning the MTV Arabia and Puma Battle of the Bands and the UAE-based Dred Rock Festival Awards. Their solid hard rock and alternative grunge sound made them easy picks as support acts for UAE tours by Nickelback and ­Maxïmo Park.

The singer Cruize says the band always began with the intention to perform original songs. Any covers making their way into the set, he explains, were radically changed to keep it interesting for the band. “When we started we did pretty unusual covers,” he recalls. “There was a rock version of George Michael’s Careless Whisper and also a rock version of Billie Jean. They gave a fresh taste to the live shows.”

The album: Panodrama

With their live pedigree established, the band curtailed their busy gig schedule to hit the studio. The resulting debut album, Panodrama, is a ruthlessly edited riff-heavy collection of eight songs. There are echoes of Creed in the soaring opener Broken Dreams, while the anthemic live favourite Overloaded has the band “crowdsourcing” the chorus with fans sending in their vocals to the group who then wove it into the finished product.

“I think we accomplished a fairly good debut,” says Cruize. “My impression of the album is that each one of the eight songs touches on a different kind of rock; from hard rock to pop rock and there are grunge textures as well. I think it’s a very ­refreshing album.”

Panodrama by Nikotin is available on iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp with physical copies from Virgin Megastores. Visit www.nikotinmusic.com

sasaeed@thenational.ae