Friday, January 10, 2014

Passion Over Life: The Story Of Metal In Iran

Metal music today is a global phenomenon. It is a culture shared by hundreds of thousands of people all over the people. Despite this, in many parts of the world, it is not an accepted culture and in a few places, it is even frowned upon. Here in India, the metal community is a small, albeit a steadily growing one. But the general public fails to accept metal as a culture and all its followers are labelled heathens or Satanists. Till recently I thought the situation faced by us Indians, is bad. That is until I heard about the situation in Iran.

Recently, our webzine, had the opportunity to review a band, where one of it’s members hailed from Iran. Curious to know about the metal scene there, I got talking to this person and to be honest, what I learnt, shocked me to my core.

Imagine this: You are a passionate metalhead and you pursue your dreams by singing for a band. But then, you pursuing your passion causes you to be banished from your homeland. Unbelievably horrific isn’t it? But, this is exactly what happened to this person.

Recollecting the unfortunate incident, this person says , “I had gone to out of the country for a show with my band. We were there for a couple of days and I was really happy. The night before my show, we had a call and we were informed that 3 persons came to my house looking for me! They said ‘this person is none other than Satan. If we ever find this person we are gonna rape and kill them’ and so many other things.
 They took all my CDs and everything that I owned as proof, including the hard disk of my computer. The room was like an earth quake ravaged zone. So just in one call, I had to say good bye to all my friends and family and everything I had was lost.”
So many others share a similar plight in Iran, where metal is considered to be an illegal and satanic art form. Not only playing metal, but also listening to it is punishable by law. Speaking about the artists’ problems there, this person says, “Firstly, they filter everything. But most of people in Iran know how to bypass the filtering. So we try to bypass the filtering, but the speed of net is getting really slow, making it hard in general to put information on the net or to even watch videos! So you can imagine how hard it is to publish your music online in Iran.

“For releasing albums, you are supposed to go to a special office called ERSHAD. Here, they dont give a damn about the quality of your work or how good you are or whatever. They just tell you, ‘Oh!! it's metal?!! No! you cannot release this album.’ Or like in certain cases, ‘Oh! There is a girl singing on this album??!! No! you cannot release this album!’

“So you have to pass this filtering office, in order to have the permission to officially release your album which so many bands don’t give a shit about. They release their albums themselves, underground, and sell them in the underground! With my band in Iran, I remember how we did the production of our album, all by ourselves! We had made a  copy of 300 CDs, including the cover art,  and all the package”.

All this basically stems from the country’s religious government that strictly adheres to the Islamic laws and tradition. According to this system, metal music equals Satan’s music. The government permits only traditional Iranian music and some pop music to flourish. This has resulted in many metalheads in Iran, having to travel to nearby countries like Turkey and Armenia, to witness live shows which I’m told is a very expensive affair that many cannot afford.

“So many metalheads in Iran, have never seen bands like METALLICA or the kind of band that most of the people in other countries would have witnessed. For a small time band, dont even think about it! And ofcourse, no tee shirts with bands’ pictures and logos!! If the secret police find you in the street sporting metal apparel, they will arrest you and put you in jail!! You’ll then have to pay money and your shirt to get out”

One would think, under such intense and extreme circumstances, there wouldn’t be many metal bands operating in the country. But one quick visit to Metal Archives will reveal that the country has multitude of bands playing different sub genres. Every single one of these bands are “illegal” and have no option but to stay underground and support themselves. The dedication of these bands is beyond amazing.

The sad part though, is that not many people know about the situation in Iran and these bands do not get the attention that they deserve. Lack of media coverage and support has caused some very talented bands from the country to vanish into oblivion. This person, introduced me to some very fine metal bands from the country. Keep in mind that all the following tracks were recorded by the bands themselves, in the basement of their homes. They did not have proper support from record labels and had to make due with what they had.

Mist Within – Progressive / Melancholic Doom Metal

ScoX – Brutal Death Metal

Rabble of Heaven - Groove Metal

Arsames - Mythological Death Metal

Satura - Metalcore / Melodic Death Metal

Out of Nowhere - Alternative Rock / Metal

Deathfuse - Metalcore / Hardcore

After learning about the harsh reality of countries like Iran, I feel that we are wasting away precious liberties that have been granted unto us. It is amazing to see the passion in Iranian bands inspite of all the dangers that their passion brings. Compared to that, we have it easy. Yet, we bicker amongst ourselves and fail to contribute to the scene. This is something I wish, would change in the near future. Now, I cannot mention the name of the person who enlightened me about all this, as it would pose a threat to that person’s friends and family in Iran. But one thing I can say is that this person rose above every bad thing that happened and now is part of another upcoming band, inspiring many people in their country in the process.

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