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Arabia: Oman's Sole Black Metal Band

27 September 2009

(Note: This is my sixth entry in my series on Middle Eastern black metal. Previous posts have centered on Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.)

Oman juts into the Arabian Sea, the furthest eastern point on the Arabian Peninsula. Though it borders Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, the country is effectively cut off from the rest of the Middle East by the Rub’ al Khali, aka the Empty Quarter – a vast, sprawling desert that provides a natural border with the Saudis.

Though not outright banned in Oman, black metal is definitely frowned upon, so much so that the only black metal band in the country, Arabia, packed their bags and moved to England, where they can perform their black metal without accusations of devil-worship being hurled at them. If nothing else, their dedication to their music is astounding.

In fact, contrary to your typical black metal cliche, “Arabia presents a deep rooted message, the message of education and bringing to light the injustice that is occurring in the Middle East and other Islamic countries,” according to their website. This isn’t as surprising as it may initially seem – bandleader SHABEEB AL HARAMI came from hip-hop, but became a metal fan while attending school in England when he was 14. (He’s now in his early 30s.) More interesting tidbits of information – like how they had to build their studio from scratch to record their debut release in Oman – can be found in this JorZine interview.

So without further ado…

ARABIAThe Black Pearl EP (Arabia)

Judging from the three songs from this EP posted on the band’s MySpace page, Arabia are a worthy and welcome addition to the black metal arena. Their music is brutal but intelligent, ferocious yet engaging and original. They know how not to let their musical prowess get in the way – the technical flourishes add to the music, making it unpredictable instead of steeped in self-indulgent pretense. Even the keyboards are used effectively to add to the music. “Arabian Steel” stands out, with its syncopated intro that blasts into the chugging main riff. Time signatures change at a moments notice, but it’s barely noticeable beneath the headbanging fury. This is the real thing, metallically speaking.

The other three songs on the MySpace page are from Arabia’s forthcoming CD, Arabian Blood, which should be out very soon, if it isn’t out already. They show the band evolving without losing their edge. The songwriting is excellent – the musicianship is top-notch – everything is perfect. “Master of Resistance” particularly shows the band at their technically brutal best with tempos changing as fast as the blast beats. Hopefully, Nuclear Blast, Century Media and/or Candlelight Records will take notice of this amazingly talented band and give them the recognition they deserve.