UAE bands Ascendant and Anuryzm flying high with gigs at Dubai Rock Fest and supporting Black Sabbath

We speaks to members of Ascendant and Anuryzm about supporting big acts and working hard on their craft.
Ascendant will open the 2014 Dubai Rock Fest on May 23. Courtesy of Dubai Rock Fest
Ascendant will open the 2014 Dubai Rock Fest on May 23. Courtesy of Dubai Rock Fest

The UAE metal scene has two reasons to celebrate in the forthcoming days. At least two local leading lights are performing high-profile gigs of their own; Ascendant are set to open the Dubai Rock Fest on Friday at Al Nasr Leisureland (tickets are priced at Dh200,, while Anuryzm have been given the prized slot of supporting Black Sabbath at Abu Dhabi’s du Arena on May 29 (tickets begin from Dh295, Both bands say that hard work and vision are needed to stand out from the pack.


In just over 15 months, Dubai’s Ascendant managed to turn heads with their energetic live shows and solid original material. “It has been great and consistent,” says the guitarist Alaa Abou Saada. “We have been enjoying the shows and working hard and we will keep doing that.”

Ascendant’s formation is reflective of the growth of the UAE’s music scene. Moving from Syria, the long-term Dubai resident Abou Saada was on the look-out for musicians to form a new band. After checking out a few local gigs, he met and recruited the guitarist Ashish Shetty and the bassist Puneet. Not long after, the singer Youmni Abou Al Zahab and the drummer Aram Kalousdian arrived from Syria to the UAE for a new start. Both friends met Abou Saada and expressed interest in joining the new group. “We all decided to give it a shot and we found out that everything was clicking,” Abou Saada recalls. “We were also united in our goal to play pure metal music.”


The Abu Dhabi band’s story revolves around the friendship between the founders, the guitarist John Bakhos and the singer Nadeem Bibby. Both of whom laid the seeds for the group back in 2003 as a challenge to create more accessible metal music.

The project progressed slowly, with Bakhos moving to Canada in 2007 and returning to the capital three years later. After reuniting with Bibby, the duo managed to turn their growing list of original songs into the debut album Worm’s Eye View. The 2011 album gathered an international following courtesy of its ferocious sounds and guest appearances by the former Opeth drummer Martin López and the keyboardist Uri Dijk, a member of Dutch metal favourites Textures and Ethereal.

Bibby says it is the passion for music he shares with Bakhos that allowed the group to continue and thrive. “This is not a run-of-the-mill band who are just made up of expats,” he says. “We have been doing this in a semi-professional capacity for a long time.”

Supporting the legends

Both Ascendant and Anuryzm have performed high-profile opening slots. The former were chosen to open for the Swedish 1980s rockers Europe last November, while Anuryzm supported America’s Avenged Sevenfold at their du Forum show in 2012.

“These shows were important for us as it gave us experience playing in front of such a large audience and also to raise our profile,” says Abou Saada.

As for opening for Black Sabbath, Bibby states that he is “strangely” not nervous. “I think that’s because they are our heroes’ heroes,” he says. “We are so far removed from Black Sabbath in terms of where we are in comparison that I would rather let my idols get nervous about playing with them while we just go out there and perform.”

Work and play hard

You need to be serious to succeed is the message from both bands. “I come from an athletics background and that’s the mentality that I approach the band with,” says Bibby. “Whether it is working in the studio or performing, the harder you prepare and train then the more easier it all becomes.”

Abou Saada echoes the sentiment that it is all about consistency. “You just have to be or you really can’t make it,” he says. “We practise at least two times a week but that is not everything. You also need the vision and to play from the heart. Every member on stage needs to feel that this is their band.”

Published: May 21, 2014 04:00 AM


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