Pakistan’s metal bands need more than just headbangers


They say only the coolest cat digs out deep, distinctive flavour. Similarly, anyone paying acute attention to metal music eventually comes down to Asian metal, and if interested, comes across Pakistani metal at some point in their quest.
Today, in Pakistan, various underground bands can be found playing such unconventional musical genres as metal. It’s as if you name a genre and it is starting to thrive already! This is interesting indeed, considering the obnoxious political tension in our country. But we all know when things slacken, people find out a way to speak out, and metal is simply another – not to say one of the best – way to do it.
The other day, when I made off to dig out what was cooking in the practice pad – set up at Jauhar – of Communal Grave, the leader of Pakistani death/thrash underground scene, I found that heat was definitely on as the vocalist Moiz appeared at the door with the mike in his hand. Further down the big room, guitarist Nabeel was impeccably shredding his guitar and Jamail, the back-up vocalist and bassist, was practising his growling range.
Having seen the dedication and mastery of talent of these guys, I soon began to wonder why is it that the metal scene in Pakistan is so underrated that only a minute fraction of population knows about such talented underground bands playing the genre.
Though the metal scene in Pakistan has evolved much since its birth in the late 90s and early 2000 – with bands like Bumbu Sauce, Abyssed, and Foreskin – that now it has all kinds of metal bands playing almost all the subgenres of metal, like Communal Grave (death metal), Messiah (power/thrash metal), Autopsy Gothic (progressive death metal), Karachi Butcher Clan (heavy metal), and Neophyte the Symmetry (grindcore), yet the Pakistani metal scene hasn’t quite been able to make its mark on the global music scene or even the Asian metal scene for that matter.
One band that can be expected to take the metal scene in Pakistan to a whole new plateau is Communal Grave, which formed in 2006 and has gone through various line-up and name changes. Back in 2006, it was Jamail Rafi (bass) who met Moiz Khan (vocals) with Asas Arif (drums) at a jamming session in Jauhar, after which they set off in search for guitar players to complete the line-up of their heavy metal band SIN. They then approached the local instrumental project Reckoning Storm’s guitarists Nabeel Imam and Saad Akhter. Things fell into place after a few jams, and the band was christened Communal Grave, the name originating from the lyrics of one of their all-time favourite bands, Carcass.
Disgusted by the local ‘pop’ scene, they sat about carving their own niche in the underground community of Karachi. Initially, the band started out with a more traditional heavy metal sound from the likes of Pantera, but Nabeel Imam’s love for melodic death metal and Jamail Rafi’s vision of a thrash metal sound gave birth to the sound of Communal Grave. “Above all, metal music is a cathartic experience for us. Other than that, musically, it allows for boundless experimentation and innovation, which is always exciting,” said Moiz while commenting on their five years of dedication to metal music.
When asked what scope they see for the genre in Pakistan, Jamail said, “We believe the scope is in producing original music. Hardly any music scene in the world can take off if there is nothing original. But let’s be honest, none can do music professionally without making money off it, so we need a large-scale record label in the future, but that is nearly impossible at this point. So, independent work is the key right now.”
The band went on to mourn the absence of music promoters in Pakistan, specifically promoting metal bands. Nabeel rued the fact that “there is no market for this genre in Pakistan. There are some very dedicated fans though, which are the lifeblood of this scene.” Although the number of fans has increased over the years, especially after their best single ‘Anomaly’ received some airplay on a local metal radio show, FM89’s ‘Black Sunday’. “But still our fanbase is very limited and we need to gather more support and, take this with a pinch of salt, such a following cannot be assembled with our metal elitist attitude,” he added.
At the end of 2008, their songs ‘Anomaly’ and ‘Blinded by the Deceit’ were aired on an American indie rock radio channel called ‘Indie Wildfire’ in a back-to-back show, making them the first Pakistan-based metal band to appear on American radio. This gave them international exposure and motivation to perform as well as record more stuff with renewed zeal, topped off by the brilliant and memorable gig at the Royal Rodale. The band was both amazed and appreciative of the crowd response and the support from the metalheads there.
When asked why the metal scene in Pakistan hasn’t thrived, Moiz attributed the reasons to the apathy of the media and lack of large-scale record labels, saying, “The media will not be interested until and unless they can make a buck or two off of it. This is not an anti-establishment rant, but let’s be practical about things. Speaking in terms of metal, we’re in the phase that Europe and America were in the 70s or 80s. Instead, we have more critics per square mile than any other country.” While urging people to drop their censoring attitude, he said, “We need not all be critics. And let’s encourage bands just for the heck of it, for a while anyway.”
The band’s manager, Fowad, said, “We were approached by a record label, and everything was in line for an album and a few gigs, but the whole thing fell through.” While throwing light on the band’s popularity, Asas said, “We have made some achievements, and achievements have no limitations.”
Today, there are many underground bands like Communal Grave who are putting out music off their own bat and striving to make an identity of their own for the sole purpose of making their mark on the world of heavy metal. However, only a few of them make it through, for despite struggling hard to make good music, they often get little or more like no response at all, let alone making good and substantial money. As a result, most of them eventually fall out, and the metal scene remains stagnant.


  1. I've got a bit of a thing for black metal from Islamic countries. It seems they have a more legitimate reason to rage against religion and god and tradition than bands from other, less theocratic parts of the world.

  2. holy … these bands are good especially communal grave.. tho i wish they come up with some more heavier stuff.. m/

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