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DVD Review
Acrassicauda - Heavy Metal in Baghdad


Heavy Metal in Baghdad
Record Label: Arts Alliance America
Artist's Facebook
Review by Jason Mansavage
June 2010

When one thinks of Iraq, one envisions a war torn country, a country plagued by civil unrest, political and religious upheaval, a dry, hot, sand infested wasteland. Sometimes Americans don’t realize how good we have it and how important freedom really is. Just ask Acrassicauda (Latin for “Black Scorpion”), Iraq’s only metal band. Conceived in a basement rehearsal space and tutored by music instructor and guitar virtuoso Saad Say “the Yngwie Malmsteen of the Middle East,” and inspired by western bands like Metallica, Slayer and Slipknot, they began writing and playing metal in 2001. You think it’s hard enough for most bands to get a gig in the free countries of the world, try getting a show in Iraq.

Original members Firas (bass), Tony (lead guitar), Marwan (drums), Faisal (rhythm guitar) and Waleed (lead vocals) were only able to play three shows before the war started in 2003. Waleed fled the country soon after, which left Faisal to fill in at vocals. Tightened security made it difficult to practice and get gigs. They even received death threats from insurgent groups and religious fundamentalists accusing them of Satan-worship. Eventually, it proved impossible to find any venue that was safe to perform in. Their practice space was eventually destroyed by a rocket attack.

Their dream of being a metal band and even making an EP became possible from several generous donations. The entire band took refuge in Damascus, Syria for a year before finally ending up in Turkey. In their seven years as a band they have managed to play only six concerts in Baghdad, two in Syria and one in Turkey. “The war has all but destroyed their dream to live in peace, grow their hair long, bang their heads and play metal as loud as they want. Life in Turkey is proving extremely difficult for them. Acrassicauda is literally a band on the run,” proclaimed their bio. “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” is a documentary of their struggles in Iraq. I found the DVD very compelling. It was well put together and the footage was filmed over several years and took more than one visit to Iraq. Their story echoes the unspoken hopes of an entire generation of young Iraqis and is a must see for metalheads.

After seeing the film, I ended up searching Google for them and discovered that they finally came out with an EP entitled “Only the Dead See the End of the War.” This four song disc is straight-forward thrash with gritty vocals and virtuosic guitar solos provided by the highly skilled Tony. Although their sound isn’t entirely unique, Acrassicauda does throw in some Middle Eastern flair in the guitar solo on “Garden of Stones” accompanied by some Arabic wailing for the dead. There is also a passage in Arabic on the intro to “Massacre” and some downright sick drumming. Lyrically, they discuss the ravages of war and what they have endured. Produced by Alex Skolnick (Testament guitarist), this CD is worth every dime if you have a penchant for some down home Iraqi metal.

Purchase Heavy Metal in Baghdad on DVD from Amazon

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