Saudi foreign minister arrives in Madrid for meeting of European Council on Foreign Relations

JEDDAH: Saudi heavy metal band Wasted Land will perform at what metalheads say is “one of the most prestigious (music) festivals on the planet”.

Wacken Open Air, the annual hard rock and heavy metal festival that attracts nearly 100,000 headbangers to the eponymous city in Schleswig-Holstein, takes place from the first weekend of August with bands from all over the world.

Wasted Land won the Middle East’s Wacken Open Air Metal Battle in Jeddah in early May, earning the opportunity to represent Saudi Arabia in the festival’s international finals for the first time in history. The event was supported by the German Consulate and the European Music Week in Saudi Arabia.

The band performs on the same stage as the world’s most famous metal bands, including Scorpions, Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, In Extremo, Pain and Beast In Black.

The band consists of singer Emad Mujallid, founders and guitarists Ayman Al-Ghamdi and Ahmed Khoja, bassist Mahmoud Al-Tayeb and drummer Tameem Helmi.

Speaking to Arab News, Mujallid, Al-Ghamdi and Khoja said it was “unreal” and “like a dream come true” to perform at Wacken Open Air.

“Having an opportunity like this makes it a reality to be able to do what you love,” Mujallid said.

Al-Ghamdi added: “Yesterday we dreamed of finding tickets for this big festival. Now, in (a) few days, we will be on stage with (a) the best in the world. For the first Saudi metal band, it’s already there.”

“It’s always a dream for every metal band to play at Wacken Open Air. This is the final stage of the gathering of legends,” said Khoja. “We are honored to represent Saudi Arabia at such a huge global event.”

Wasted Land formed in 2004 and has been at the forefront of the battle to prove that heavy metal can exist in Saudi Arabia. The band’s sound is a unique blend of melodic death metal and groove metal. He draws inspiration from metal bands such as the German Suidakra and the Swedish In Flames.

Their journey from the low-key music scene in Jeddah to performing at Wacken Open Air is one of highs and lows, breakups and reconciliations. The members have survived “an insane amount of lineups and leadership changes” — but each time they face challenges, they continue to strive for success.

Khoja called 2004, when he started assembling the band, a trial period.

“Times weren’t always so rosy,” he said, referring to the departure of some band members and problems with performing live, releasing songs on streaming platforms and promoting their community.

“They basically hid our identity and kept our music in the basement,” he added. Fortunately, things have changed.

“The Saudi music scene is at its best today, and the reforms have paved the way for other businesses in the entertainment industry to flourish,” Al-Ghamdi said. “I hope all types of music get the same attention and support.”

Mujallid added: “I think the music culture in Saudi Arabia is thriving at the moment and I hope they will be more open to supporting all genres of music instead of focusing on a few and ignoring others like rock, jazz, blues and even heavier music than metal.”

The band members also expressed their gratitude to the German Consulate in Jeddah for their support, and especially to German Consul General Dr. Eltje Aderhold, who is attending the festival to support this remarkable milestone.

Wasted Land is one of the first metal bands to play in Egypt and Dubai and has also opened for international bands such as Lacuna Coil and Moonspell.

They were featured in Saudi filmmaker Abdulrahman Sandokji’s documentary ‘Underground’, which followed the Saudi music scene. The band also released an album, along with several singles and videos.

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