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JEDDAH: Saudi heavy metal band Wasted Land will perform at an event that metal fans describe as “one of the most prestigious (music) festivals in the world.”

Wacken Open Air, the annual hard rock and heavy metal festival that attracts almost 100,000 music fans to the city of the same name in Schleswig-Holstein, will take place from the first weekend in August and will feature 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 international finals of the festival for the first time in its history. The event was supported by the German Consulate and the European Music Week in Saudi Arabia.

The band will share the same stage as some of the most famous metal bands from around the world, including Scorpions, Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, In Extremo, Pain and Beast In Black.

The 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 performing at Wacken Open Air was “unreal” and a “dream come true” for them.

“With an opportunity like this, you can truly do what you love,” Mujallid said.

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

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

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

Their journey from the quiet music scene of Jeddah to their performance at Wacken Open Air has been a series of ups and downs, breakups and reconciliations. The members have survived “crazy lineup and management changes” — but each time they face a challenge, they continue to strive for success.

Khoja described 2004, when he began putting the band together, as a trying period.

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

“Basically, our identity was hidden and our musical arts were stored in the basement,” he added. Fortunately, the situation has changed.

“The Saudi music scene is currently experiencing its best period, and the reforms have also paved the way for other entertainment companies to develop,” Al-Ghamdi said. “I hope that all types of music will receive the same attention and support.”

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

The band members also expressed their gratitude to the German Consul in Jeddah for their support and in particular to the German Consul General, Dr. Eltje Aderhold, who will be coming to the festival to support this extraordinary event.

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

They were featured in Saudi filmmaker Abdulrahman Sandokji’s documentary Underground, which explored the Saudi music scene. The band has also released an album, as well as several singles and music videos.

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