I got hooked to metal music back in high school. I never knew what it was called back then, what genre it belonged. But when I heard Iron Maiden, and later Metallica, I was instantly a fan.
Few people played metal music live when I was growing up. In the 80s, radio was dominated by disco and some local music–which I don’t dig that much. However, there was this local band called Revelation. They sported long hairs. They donned flannel shirts. And they wore tight and torn jeans. Of course, they came with their leather boots–western-style.
Watching this documentary brought me back to those days when I first heard a double-bass drum that went: bridididididididididi. The time signatures were insane. Then loud guitars complemented this “noise” as it escalated into the atmosphere of searing speeds. The cadence of the palm-muted rhythm guitar and the thumping bass provided the canvass. Then out came a guttural scream. That was your metal band. To this, you start banging your head. Banging your head required up and down motion, as if you’re nodding fast. And it has to go with the beat of the drum and the bass guitar. Pam-pam-pam-pam-pam-pam. Headbang.
Metal music, or rock music, transcends culture, race, age, and time. Heavy Metal in Bagdhad is that. Amid a backdrop of civil war, guys in their 20s played in a metal band called Acrassicauda at the risk of getting killed. Influenced by bootleg music from the western world, they saw metal as an escape from reality, a short reprieve from the death and destruction that is happening around them. Ironically, they also love Iron Maiden, which often plays on death and destruction, and the apocalypse as metaphors to their music.
These guys are just like any other 20 something kid who fell in love with metal music. The loud guitar, the searing drums, and the “in your face” lyrics told their stories of frustration, anger, hate. However, in this documentary, all these were directed at the world they lived in. In the end, they wanted freedom. And if metal was the only way they can have it.
As the documentary ended, the filmmakers noted that most of us are “spoiled.” Spoiled because we complain a lot, and yet these guys who had nothing but their music, still try to thrive amid despair. To them, music kept them sane. Music gave them hope. Music gave them a voice to express every Iraqi’s cry for help. It was a sad story, and I hope these guys are still out there, alive.