In Europe and America we often take for granted certain liberties we have. Artistic and political freedom are unappreciated amenities in the free world. Metal bands in Europe and America have the creative license to be as openly satanic, racist, revolting, and offensive as they please, and still they whine about Christians and posers like a bunch of fucking pussy bitches. They seem to have overlooked that artistic freedom isn’t a luxury in some parts of the world. In fact, in some parts of the world, just being a longhaired, metal head freak can get you executed. And you took offense when that old lady crossed the street when she saw you coming.
But despite the hostile governmental and religious oppression, metal bands are springing out of the Muslim world in insanely large numbers. Now, I’m not talking about countries like Indonesia, Turkey, or Bangladesh; all countries that are relatively progressive and not subject to extreme religious persecution. Metal is actually thriving in those countries, and a lot of it is pretty rad. But for the purposes of this article, I’m more interested the metal being churned out of countries in which Sharia Law has been enacted. The countries that police thoughts, and fear women’s bodies. The countries where having the wrong opinion can get you stoned. The countries where the people seem to be endlessly at war with one another over the bullshit written in some archaic text. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Metal, with its brashness, depravity, intentional offensiveness, and “sinful” nature is most certainly banned in countries.
Thankfully, for metal heads the world over, these antiquated laws didn’t stop some brave souls from clandestinely bellowing the sounds of hellfire from their garages and basements. While American and European metal band’s biggest concerns are whether or not there will be a decent turn out at their shows, bands in The Middle East worry about their shows being shut down and being convicted as infidels. The spirit of metal is ablaze within them though and these brave warriors play the music they love despite the danger that awaits them. This article hopes to pay homage to those bands.
Janaza was one of the first extreme metal bands said to have come out of the of the oppressed Middle East. Fronted by a female, Janaza aggravated all Islamic taboos, with their brand of satanic black metal. The band kept their identities and location private for fear of persecution. Janaza was said to be a part of the Arabic Anti-Islamic Legion and ardently dissented against Sharia Law and the dogma within the Quran, even going so far as to title their album Burning Quran Ceremony.
The band was said to have split because two of the members were fearful for their safety and later, the woman who fronted Janaza went on to form Seeds of Iblis. Seeds of Iblis was musically similar to Janaza, with its raw, blackened intensity. Unfortunately, while the music is good as well as the band’s ideals, the whole thing was exposed as a fraud. All the pictures of the band have proven to be fakes and even the band’s claimed Iraqi origins have come into question. But this publicity stunt did, however bring attention to the actual metal coming out of the Middle East.
Many bands coming out of the Middle East are less blatantly Anti-Islamic, instead opting to focus on Middle Eastern religions and myths. Cyaxares, for example, is a one man death/folk project out of Iraq. The band’s sound is more interesting and intelligent than the simple, raw sound of Janaza. Mir Shamal Hama-faraj, the mastermind behind Whores of Babylon, creates an interesting atmosphere by combining Arabian folk music, with elements of tech death, and melodic death metal.
Syrian black metal band, Theoria has a more traditional atmospheric black sound with elements of depressive metal woven throughout. The band’s sole release, 2013’s Mantra has notably satanic cover art, which is risky for a band coming out of oppressed Syria. The lyrical themes on Mantra, however, aren’t so openly satanic but instead more intelligent and esoteric. I actually really enjoy this band’s music. Ahmed and Besher started the project in 2012 and is said to be still active despite not having released anything since 2013. The band is signed to French label, Antiq Records.
Similarly, Aras is one man Iranian black metal band with depressive elements. Lord Aras, the visionary behind Aras keeps busy, and has released six full length albums since 2004 along with a slew of EPs and demos. The majority of Aras’ music is instrumental, although Lord Aras does occasionally inject raspy, blackened wails into the background of the music. This is good stuff for the more patient black metal listener. Lovers of Wedard or Trist might find themselves enjoying Aras. The band’s more recent material, 2014’s Pest, is entirely instrumental, but I’d highly recommend Aras’ demo entitled Arase Khoonin. Once again, the band plays it fairly safe lyrically, mostly focusing on Iranian folklore.
The band that’s perhaps taking the biggest artistic risks however, is Saudi Arabian black/folk metal band, Al Namrood. The band has outright anti-religious lyrical themes and has even spoken out against the Quran and the Islamic State in interviews. Al Namrood’s music videos cinematically display the exploitative nature of the Islamic State and the overtly decadent nature of the Eastern monarchs. The band has gone on to explain that religion is not really a concern of their’s. Still, Al Namrood is taking a great risk in creating their interesting blend of black metal and Arabian folk.
This article is truly a testament to power of metal. Metal has transcended either end of the Earth and people are risking their lives simply to create it. It is truly a remarkable thing. Let’s hope that there’s Norway like revolution in the Middle East and metal comes out reigning supreme. Until then though, we can enjoy the evil sounds of the east billowing from our speakers. All hail Middle Eastern metal!