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

Wacken Open Air, the annual hard rock and heavy metal festival which attracts nearly 100,000 headbangers to the eponymous town in Schleswig-Holstein, will be held from the first weekend in August with bands from all over the world.

Wasted Land won the Middle East 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 European Music Week in Saudi Arabia.

The band will perform on the same stage as some of the best-known metal bands from around the world, including Scorpions, Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, In Extremo, Pain and Beast In Black.

Band members are vocalist 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.

“With an opportunity like this, it actually brings it to reality that you could do what you love,” Mujallid said.

Al-Ghamdi added: “Yesterday, we were dreaming (of finding) tickets to attend this big festival. Now, in (a) few days, we will be standing on the stage with (the) best in the world. Just being there is an achievement for the first-ever Saudi metal band.”

“For any metal band, playing at Wacken Open Air is a dream of all time. It’s the ultimate stage where legends are gathered,” said Khoja. “We are honored to represent Saudi Arabia at such a huge global event.”

Wasted Land was formed in 2004 and was at the forefront of the battle to prove that heavy metal could exist in Saudi Arabia. The band’s sound is a unique blend of melodic death metal and groove metal. It draws on inspiration from metal bands such as the Suidakra, from Germany, and In Flames from Sweden.

Their journey from Jeddah’s low-key music scene to performing at Wacken Open Air is one of highs and lows, breakup and reconciliation. The members have survived “a crazy amount of lineup and management changes” — but each time they face a challenge, they continue to strive for success.

Khoja described 2004, when he started to gather the band together, as a testing period.

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

“Basically, our identity was hidden and our musical plays were kept in the basement,” he added. Happily, things have changed.

“The Saudi music scene today is in its best era and the reforms also provided a path for other businesses in the entertainment industry to thrive,” Al-Ghamdi said. “I hope all types of music gets the same attention and support.”

Mujallid added: “I think that Saudi Arabia’s music culture is flourishing right now, and I hope that they will be more open to supporting all genres of music rather than focusing on a few and ignoring others, like rock, jazz, blues, and even heavier music like metal.”

The band members also expressed their appreciation to the German Consulate in Jeddah for its backing, and especially to German Consul General Dr. Eltje Aderhold who will attend the festival to support this remarkable milestone.

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

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

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