Every fourth year, the football maniacs of the world gather in one of the most massive events we humans know of, the World Cup. 32 countries who have fought with all their might have now gathered in Russia to determine which of them has the best skills to kick a ball with their feet. It is a month long battle of blood, sweat, tears, tactics, and dives, and we are all invited to this party to witness history in the making. To celebrate this occasion, I have taken quite a task on me, to not only dissect each country, but also how their metal scene is. So get ready for a journey around the metal world, and let us hope that we discover some gems along the way.
So we start out with one of the tougher countries to examine, the kingdom known as Egypt. Since they have not qualified for a World Cup since 1990, the happiness was seemingly endless when the national team finally managed to do so by winning their group in the African qualifier. Led by their own pharaoh, Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, and their own mummy, 45 year old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, the Egyptian squad is hoping to make their people proud by playing some exciting football.
As for the metal scene, there is not much of it, with only 35 bands officially listed at Encyclopaedia Metallum, but there are still some interest to be found here. Arguably the most well known band from the country, brutal death metal group Scarab has certainly caught the attention of the rest of the world. Formed in 2001, the band has released two studio efforts, "Blinding The Masses" in 2009, and "Serpents of The Nile" in 2015, two nice records that really showcases the band's connection with their own heritage, fusing that recognizable Egyptian tone with some nifty death metal. So if you have not heard of these guys yet, go listen to them now.
The Arabic influences does not stop with just Scarab though, other bands like black metal duo Odious and the more progressive group Sand Aura takes full advantage of it with their music, creating some really captivating music. So while the sample size is not too big, there is still some tasty bits to enjoy here.
On to Mother Russia, the hosts of the 21st World Cup of football. While I am certain Putin and his crew is doing everything in his might to make his country look at his best, he unfortunately cannot do anything about his national team. Russia is said to be the worst hosting nation of all time, with a squad that has very few stars, with most of the more well known names (such as Akinfeev, Dzagoev, and Zhirkov) not being in the best shape of their career. I believe Russia should be happy if they even get one win out of this competition, even with a relatively easy group.
In metal, folk and doom are the more dominating genres, with bands such as Arkona, Kauan, The Morningside, and Alkonost leading the charge. Just as Egypt, Russia uses a lot of their own culture in their music, mostly through the fact that they use the Russian language in their music, to evoke a different style from what we in the western world are used to. We got some other genres emerging through too, like the death metal band Katalepsy and nu metal band The Slot.
There is one band I would like to lift up, and that is the power metal band Hammerforce, a really exciting and relatively young band that completely blew me away with their sophomore effort "Access Denied" (which was released in a Russian and a English version). Their futuristic take of the genre is really fun, and the debut record "Dice" is not too shabby either. Been a while since I heard any news from the band though, so their status is a little up in the air, but I do recommend you guys to check them out if you love power metal.
Overall, Russian metal is certainly on the rise, unlike their football team.
It has been a while since we saw Saudi Arabia in the World Cup stage, 12 years to be exact, but it feels like very little has changed since that 2006 competition. The country had its glory days during the late 90's, but has slowly but surely lost leverage in the football world. Close to all players in the squad plays in the Saudi Arabian league, and the few who play in the Spanish La Liga have not had much play time to speak of. I would be very surprised if they did anything spectacular in Russia, maybe steal a point from the hosting nation, but no, not even that seem likely.
As it turns out, the metal scene in the country is not that great either, with only 12 entries in Metallum. Not surprising really, since the whole Arabic region is not too keen with metal in general (as Egypt also showed). Most popular act seem to be black metal band Al-Namrood, and they play quite a weird style with some Arabic influences and a singer who sounds like he has marbles in his mouth. A strange band that did not peak my interest at all.
Rest of the bands are not much better, with most focusing around death and thrash metal. So sorry for all of you Saudi Arabians out there, I am afraid that you need to work a little harder.
Finally, we have Uruguay, the only country in Group A that has good experience from the World Cup, and seem to have a shot at success this year as well. With an electrifying attack starring Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, Uruguay has the opportunity to be one of the dark horses of the competition. South American teams always delivers some great football, and with a Luis Suarez on the field, we may never know what to expect. Goals? Mistakes? Biting? You never know when Uruguay plays.
The underground scene in Uruguay is quite big, but there are still no band that has managed to break through so far. Just like Brazil, thrash and groove metal is a good representation of the country, but there is also a good deal of basic heavy metal. Through my brief research, I did find a couple of bands that might interest some. Thrash metal band Epsilon delivers some nice meaty thrash in Spanish, Horror On Black Hills has some good black metal to offer, and then we have Elarcos, a progressive metal band that mixes in a lot of fusion influences too, creating a uniquely strange sound, one that you might have to hear to believe.
Thoughts on group
From a metal stand point, this is certainly not one of the stronger groups of the lot, might be one of the weakest actually. No real high profile band to be found here, but there is some interesting underground scenes that we hope will grow larger in time. So it is just like the football side of things, maybe not the sexiest group, but still worthy of investing some time at least.
Prediction on the competition
The strong attack of Uruguay will propel them forward towards the play offs, together with Mohamed Salah and his Egypt.