After the intensifying rush of Beirut Metal Fest back in September, the scene was once again gifted with a sick line up of a gig. And the best part about it? It was completely free!
Organized by the Skull Session team, Skull Session 2018 was held at The Palace, Hamra, on November 17, 2018. In case you don’t know who Skull Session is, they have been around for around 3 years, and have been working towards bettering our scene every year. They hosted the first free concert in 2016 (Read review here), which proved to be a very successful start. In 2017, they brought British thrashers Onslaught (read review here), and today they have again given our scene a free gig to enjoy.
As always, they never fail at giving us a great event, making sure that everything goes smoothly, and try to maximize comfort for both the crowd and the bands. Adapt’s guitarist, Mohammad Yatim, posted this on his Facebook page as proof of this “…not only was it professionally executed, the treatment was excellent. Not a single request was denied, and while we were merely an opening band you guys supported all of us since day one and worked hard to get all people to watch us.” So props to that!
First off, I would just like to take a moment to appreciate the location. A really big thumbs up to the venue. It was big and spacious, and there was pretty good ventilation. Smoking was allowed inside, and my eyes began to burn a little bit, but that’s normal. It was still more tolerable than any other venue I’ve been to which allowed smoking. The stage was big and could be seen clearly from anywhere you decided to stand, thanks to the venue’s stair structure. That could, however, also be considered a bad thing since people move a lot in Metal concerts and when they were moshing, it was a bit scary watching them because I was worried that someone would fall and hit their head on the edge of the stair or something. They did say moshing was not allowed, but hah, yeah right! I also found that the location of the bar was convenient, it was at the back of the venue, right as you walk in, with lots of space around it so it wasn’t crammed and you could enjoy the view of the stage from the back. Speaking about that…the sound wasn’t so good back there.
The sound was overall very good, and I think the sound was improving as the event went on, since there were constant tweakings here and there. However, I felt like it wasn’t uniform, as the back of the venue sounded too bassy and instruments were not as clear. But as you got closer to the stage, the sound got better, specially mid way, where the sound was best.
To accompany sound, lighting was cool. Nothing too fancy, but I did love the screens on the stage and the fire machines. Those were the highlight of my night. They made me laugh at times because every time a flame would pop up and a band member would be headbanging, it would look like their head was on fire.
The event started a bit late, and the doors opened around 7 p.m. , but people went in to find a screening of the first episode of Sam Dunn’s series Metal Evolution. By 7:30, it was time for the first band – Adapt. Adapt is a new band in the scene, and Skull Session was their first appearance! So, to introduce you to them they are Mario Ghadban (vocals), Mohamad Yatim (lead guitars), Jack Khamo (rhythm guitars), Sergio Ashjian (bass) and Samer Baghdo (dums). They played Gojira covers and they were fucking awesome! All the members are really talented musicians, and they were able to deliver a very solid show. I also liked that Mario had his own thing going on with the bloody makeup, many bands usually disregard stage props/outfits/image, but I think it is really important and I’m glad that they did take that into consideration. He also pulled out an axe when they performed their last Gojira cover of “The Axe”, which he used as a mic. I cannot judge them harshly, because as I mentioned it was their first appearance, and I am not sure if they have had previous experience individually on a stage before, but they should be more comfortable on the stage and try to move around some more. Their musicianship is excellent, so their comfort on stage would compliment that perfectly. I can see great things happening with this band, I can’t wait to hear some original material! Adapt, you kicked ass! Best of luck to your future.
DeathTone was the second band to perform. It’s really sad that they don’t have any recorded material out, but I guess that makes their shows special and something to look forward to. Most of the people in the crowd knew their songs from previous events, so they were singing along and moshing and having a pretty good time. Their performance was great, specially their front man, Anwar, who was engaging with the crowd all the time. His stage attitude is one of my personal favorites when it comes to local bands. The only thing that bugged me was that the left side of the stage was empty since the guitarist and bassist were standing on one side. I would have liked to see the other members move around a little more, but overall it was pretty neat. Record your shit, DeathTone! We can’t keep waiting for you to go live. *cries*
What was really cool was that the bands went off and on stage so smoothly, and didn’t make you wait for ages for the next band to start. That’s usually rare. Thumbs up to time management! I did step outside for a few minutes before the next band went on, and I couldn’t help but notice that there were a lot of new and fresh faces who came to see the show. That is always something positive and I hope that we keep seeing even more people attending metal concerts.
Nocturna were on next, and their symphonic melodies were a perfect refreshment. I think that it was my first time watching them, and I found them to be really good. The style is not my favorite, but as a band in their genre I think they are very good at what they do. Their stage presence is also very strong and crowd engaging. Something went wrong with the sound during their 3rd song I believe, and there was only one guitar that could be heard playing. The problem was solved in a few seconds, however, and it was great to see that the crowd reacted positively and actually cheered rather than complained. They also played Amon Amarth’s Twilight of the Thundergods which was bomb and got everyone excited!
AM I BLAAACKyum! What can I say? Like I don’t even need to review this band. Their drummer warms up to Meshuggah’s Bleed. The coolest thing though? They performed a new song called Rise of Canaan, which was really catchy and had some awesome riffs. But that’s not all. They surprised us with a little something called a video clip, which was being shot right there! I don’t think anyone didn’t get excited about that, and it’s such an awesome thing that they decided to do it in their home land. They also payed a tribute to our lost brothers and sisters in the metal community with their song We Who Are Dead. It was emotional looking at their photos on the screen, but it’s such a beautiful way of bringing them back, to a place they would have loved to be in, and I thank Blaakyum for that. Speaking of screens, they had snippets from parts of The Lord of the Rings movie, which I didn’t quite understand and thought that they were odd. And why the hell was there fire and smoke near Hassan (drummer)? I thought he was gonna suffocate. I asked him about that later, but he said “Nah, but I was worried about the electrical wires because they were so close”. Yeah, that shit is scary! Blaakyum are such an amazing band to watch live, their presence is so in-capturing and Bassem is such a funny man, always making jokes and making the crowd laugh. I’d watch them all night and never get fed up. So much love and respect to them!.
Finally, the last band of the evening was Phenomy! To be quite honest, I was really surprised by their performance. I heard their 2nd album T.W.O when it first got out and I thought it was a pretty good album, but lacked some elements that I usually look for. But watching them during Skull Session made me want to re-listen to the album, because they were pretty amazing. Oh, and let us not forget the awesome percussionists on the djembes who played during Threaten World Order, Fear Not, and Dance of the Wounded Souls! They added such an awesome dynamic to the whole performance, and it was something new for our local scene. And those breakdowns, boy did they break all hell loose. And I would have jumped into those intense moshpits if it wasn’t for my fear of the stairs (mentioned at the beginning of this review) haha. What I love about Phenomy on stage is that they always look like they’re having fun, like even when Sam is trying to look like a badass, he’ll pull a goofy face once in a while. I also have to point out that Sam’s performance as a front man has improved tremendously, and his voice has gotten so good! I remember watching him the first time with Phenomy in 2016 during the Christmas Mission at Quadrangle, where he was a guest vocalist, and was singing kind of a soft clean song. I did really like his voice back then, but felt like maybe he wasn’t very comfortable. There has a been a huge improvement on his part, and I commend him for his awesome advancement, and feel like he completes Phenomy. And as I mentioned before, bands who take into consideration their stage image always have the advantage. They had some pretty wicked stage props, the voodoo dolls hanging from the ceiling and their little Tiki mic stand with glowing eyes looked so cool! They were all hand made by Lourdes Mehanna, who is such a talented artist! They also had mini voodoo dolls that they threw out to the crowd to catch at the end of their show, which was super neat! Phenomy were my favorite band that night. Love love love.
Lastly, I would like to thank Skull Session for this beautiful experience and their hardworking efforts to keep this scene alive and strong. We are all grateful to have such people who care and support our local bands. Until next year!
Don’t forget to check out all the bands Adapt – DeathTone – Nocturna – Blaakyum – Phenomy and follow up with Skull Session!
- METAL BELL 6TH ANNIVERSARY – December 15 – Metro Al Madina
- Alex Skolnick Free Guitar Clinic – December 17 – Instruments Garage
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