After a five-year hiatus, metal band Coat of Arms are back to revive the UAE’s dead scene with a brutally addictive new track, ‘Old Habits’. The song delves into the vices of mortals, heightened by the passage of time, and is stylistically reminiscent of the golden screamo days of the early noughties, a la Fall Out Boy.
“Most people won’t like me saying this, but unfortunately the metal scene here has almost completely died down. It is what it is. The metal community is still extremely active,” said vocalist Rayan Bailouni, adding that it can’t be compared to what it was 5-10 years ago.
“Metal predominantly thrives on live shows and even before COVID it was quite hard to organise shows at the best of times. As of now so many venues that we’re keeping the scene going have closed down. A lot of event organisers have called it quits. It’s become almost impossible for bands to find decent shows to play here, which ultimately has led to a massive drop in the activity and enthusiasm,” he said.
Discussing their new track, Bailouni says it’s about a vicious cycle.
“They say old habits die hard, right? It’s basically playing on that. The older you get, the harder it becomes to kill those bad habits off. The longer you take, the more they’re set to stay. You run out of finding ways to change yourself or get rid of them because they’ve become such definitive parts of your persona,” he said.
The band made their comeback with ‘Inferno’ late last year. Guitarist Amir Chaouch says that despite their hiatus, the passion for Coat of Arms has always burnt bright.
“Our passion never really disappeared,” said Chaouch. “I think what most people forget is that whether we’re publicly active or not, we never stop writing music or sharing ideas with each other privately.” And what’s coming is going to be more surprising than what’s passed...
“There’s new sides to us people definitely haven’t heard before,” he added.
Despite releasing music during a pandemic, bassist Liam Ruddell says their creative process hasn’t changed.
“Since we have always been spread all over the world, we write and record in our home studios and then bring it all together at the end,” he said.
But don’t expect an album anytime soon, adds drummer Shannon Peiris.
“We initially thought of releasing an album, but the more we looked back at how previous releases performed and how people digest music today, it didn’t make sense,” he said. “We wanted to try something new and really highlight the story behind each track individually and bring people closer to them. A music video is definitely in sight and something we really want to do. You might even be in for a little surprise for some visuals with Old Habits. We’ve tried to pull something off whilst social distancing.”
But for Chaouch, the idea of not being able to perform the songs live anytime soon is daunting.
“Taking a five-year hiatus wasn’t easy. So with no time frame to when the end of this COVID situation will be, it has been very frustrating,” he said.
Outside of fronting Coat of Arms, Bailouni is now an established music producer in the region, with a particular affinity for R’n’B. Is there a major difference between producing metal and R’n’B?
“To be honest, I think it’s something I would have answered differently when I started my journey as a producer. However over time I’ve realised there is a lot less separation than you’d think,” he admitted.
Bailouni’s voice holds is noted for its seamless duality, alternating between a growl and a smooth vocal, something he was shocked to discover about himself.
“If I remember right, it was in the car trying to sing along with some bands I was listening to as a teenager. I remember having a song blasting in the car on the way to school and, as I was singing along, my sister suddenly turned it off and all we heard was me growling alone,” said Bailouni.
“It shocked me because I had no idea I was actually even pulling it off. I just assumed it sounded incorrect because the music was so loud above me I was being drowned out.
“In terms of singing clean vocals, though, that’s something I started doing in high school bands, as a second vocalist playing guitar type of thing. When I started Coat of Arms I wasn’t intending to be any type of vocalist for the project, but I got so sick and tired of looking for someone I just decided to do it until I did. Goes without saying, I’ve stopped looking now.”