MetalBlog by Steff Chirazi


METAL BLOG, Vol. 14 - by Steff Chirazi


Wacken 2016 once again reminded me that metal/hard rock/whatever tags you like, is a tribe unto itself, one which operates with its own unique set of rules and customs. Primary among these is the reality that fear has no place. Metalheads come to Wacken to enjoy, to experience, to escape and to be entertained.

They do not come to bind themselves with fearful thoughts of what ‘might’ happen because of incidents occurring internationally. They do not tailor their behaviour to accommodate media-driven hysteria. This is in no way meant to disrespect those who have suffered tragedies at the hands of evil-doers, but let’s face the facts, such incidents (thankfully) remain the exception rather than the norm, and this is in part because of communities which refuse to buckle to media fear-mongering. I spoke with Wacken/ICS chief Thomas Jensen many times throughout the week, and was saddened to hear him say how many reporters kept primarily asking him about ‘security’ and what Wacken was doing about it. Because as we all saw, Wacken was Wacken, Wacken is Wacken and Wacken is about INCLUSION AND JOY not EXCLUSION AND HATE.

I had joyously bounded up to the Wasteland with my mate Marco, braving the muddy bogs en route, to catch Overthrust. Photographer Pep Bonet has been all over these guys for some time, and made it a virtual mandate that I not miss it. Put it this way, he framed them as so utterly exciting I would be a fool to miss it. He was, in the event, right, as had I missed them, I would’ve felt a total idiot. Flying the flag for the exploding southern African metal scene (Overthrust hail from Botswana) the juxtapose of this quartet clad in thick, black ’Sergio Leone meets goth-metal’ leathers delivering inch perfect Floridian-tinged death metal with passion and ferocity was both exciting and invigorating. How many of us even knew there was a metal scene in Africa, let alone Botswana? How many of us imagined it would be this heavy or this tight? Truth? Not many of us at all. Because we live in a society where we are ‘fed’ much of what we consume, however ‘progressive’ we might think we are.

As much as I will complain about the internet’s current hold over humanity, I must equally accept its power to open doors I never knew existed, to allow me into places I never thought I’d see. At Wacken, as I’d wandered the fields looking ‘round and digesting what I saw, and it reminded me that for so many different cultures, metal music remains such a visceral release. Which lead me to start digging around and trying to learn a bit more about how the metal scene might be helping people in, say, Turkey. Or Iran. Or Afghanistan. Or the Middle East generally. And upping the ante, what of women in the metal scene? Why wasn’t I hearing of more? I know they have to be out there, and having spent some quality time with the delightful women of Girlschool at Wacken, I know there have to be more female metal bands out there.

I came across some excellent music, I came across some noble energy and I came across passionate, talented folks all over that I certainly hadn’t heard of before and I’ll wager most of you hadn’t either. Take Kirmizi from Turkey:
Five extraordinarily powerful and entertaining women who bring the fire and let vent without reservation, something which given the current political situation in Turkey is sure to be a huge benefit for both them and their fans. Again, just contemplate for a moment what inner-strength and courage it takes for these ladies to do what they do! From Bahrain, I found the thick, heavy and superbly blended Narjahanem (check out “Ahlu Al Quboor”) who sound like I imagine Max Cavalera might’ve had he been born in the Middle East. One interesting note with Narjahanem is that they have a song simply title “Al Jihad”. In the current climate, this could seem like a threat, like a negative cry. In this case, the song is simply expressing an anger and hatred of current wars both in the region and around the world, specifically ones which revolve around religion. I heartily recommend you sit back and take in the album Wa ma Khhufiya Kana A’atham a glorious dark metal interpretation of classic Middle Eastern music, re-imagined through a prim of frustration and raw expression.
What is VITAL right now, is to look at those around us everywhere and find the similarities, the shared energies, the shared problems and shared passions, many of which transcend the febrile media-inspired barrier erected by some to try and exercise some form of ‘divide and conquer’. Music has the power to do that for us all.

I found myself wondering how many bands must be breaking out of the tragic Syrian crisis, and was not disappointed by a simple web search for such acts. My first port of call was actually a superb story in US periodical The Atlantic, which rather than break into pieces and re-quote I shall simply link right here:
We cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to get sent to jail for simply making metal music. There are few words to add to that. Read the story…

Black metal band Chained have a wonderful album Earth out right now, and along with the gloom and grit is a symphonic base-curve to the compositions which gives them extra heft. Look, it is incredible to me that they are doing this right now. Brave? Oh I’d say we don’t know the half of it, the third of it, the quarter of it. This is serious stuff indeed, requiring a level of spirit and determination that pretty much everyone reading these words (as well as the one writing them) have never had to come close to possessing.

Indie rock band Khebez Dawle might not rip your doors off with an aural black metal massacre, but I’d wager their journey has been plenty black and bleak enough. They formed in Damascus, Syria and currently find themselves in Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, which is now a refugee processing centre. They wait to see whether their asylum status will be recognized, yet they had already decided to use their music (at time shadowing Pink Floyd) as a way to deal with their situation. Having got to Turkey, they found passage to Greece via a dinghy ride with 16 other fleeing refugee musicians across the Aegean Sea (not, I would suspect, a particularly smooth or comfortable cruise). From there they found their way across Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. Reportedly, their first European performance was at a refugee camp. They then found themselves offered shows in Croatia, Austria and Köln, Germany, using borrowed equipment from empathetic local musicians. THESE are the stories to share, THESE are the bands to see and support, THIS is the power of music. In fact, Syrian filmmaker Monzer Darwish is trying to complete his in-depth portrayal of the Syrian metal scene titled Syrian Metal Is War and again, I encourage you to read this fine piece by Noisey/Vice magazine’s Kim Kelly on the man and his struggles (Darwish has been in Holland since 2015 with family and friends split throughout Europe).

Go and seek them ALL out, be sure to check the links embedded, go and find MORE like them, go and immerse yourself in the common language we all share wherever we’re from …

…of course as I was writing this, a track dropped a la Bowie, the metal world gulped and rejoiced in having actually been SURPRISED by something, and thousands upon thousands of stereos and iPhone’s and mp3 players and whatever else shook uncontrollably to ‘Hardwired’, Metallica’s return to the world…come on, it is outrageous, a proper pulveriser…oh the treat you have in store this November 18th when Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is served! Someone told me recently that when you’re the biggest metal band in the world, the stakes and expectations are high. All I will say is that such questions and standards are what make the best ’the best’. You’ve had a small slice of proof here, and when the full banquet is served, prepare to gorge and gorge and gorge again. AND remember, whether in Syria or San Francisco, if the music’s in your veins then it will transcend whatever barriers people try to put in front of you.

Steffan Chirazi

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