Heavy Metal in Baghdad. I wasn’t sure about this film, especially with the Vice Magazine connection. I was a bit worried that this would be some sort of hipster bullshit ironic crap. I was pleasantly surprised by the film and the story it had to tell; metalheads are pretty much the same everywhere, but these guys had real problems. Their hopes and dreams were pretty simple and straight-forward too; not being blown up, keeping families safe, and maybe growing some long head-banging-friendly hair.
In 2003, the Iraqi heavy-metal band Acrassicauda were the subject of a Vice magazine article and with the magazine’s help were able to stage a sell-out show despite the recent ousting of Saddam Hussein in the summer of 2005. Filmakers from Vice returned to Iraq in 2006, to track down the band. Upon their return they discovered the multitude of death and destruction, including rehearsing studios destroyed by bombs.
There’s a scene with Faisal and Firas outside at the journalist’s hotel, sitting by the pool. They’re answering questions, and in the background, automatic weapon fire sounds, maybe a block away. Weapons discharge from the other direction. Faisal doesn’t even flinch, doesn’t even pause in his answer. He gets visibly nervous soon after, and they end the session.
These guys could be from nearly any American city, even in 2006 in this film. Three years later, in early 2009, they’ve been able to relocate to the US as refugees and even meet James Hetfield… well, three of them met Hetfield, Tony was out of town working on getting his family out of Iraq.
And on Sunday night, two days after the last of the bandís four members was resettled in the United States, they enjoyed what any metal fan would have to call heaven: bearhugs and “Wow, dude” heart-to-hearts backstage with Metallica at the Prudential Center in Newark. It probably wasnít necessary for James Hetfield, Metallicaís lead singer, to surprise them after the show by handing over one of his guitars, a black ESP, and signing it “Welcome to America”; their minds were already blown.
Sure they’ve met Hetfield, but one of the dreams that Firas spoke of early on was that they can’t let their hair grow without being arrested or beaten. It looks like they’ve been focusing their efforts on
Update on the relocation to the US from the NY Times print on February 3, 2009, on page C1 of the New York edition. The NYT online piece has three songs for streaming; presumably the ones from the Syrian recording session. The sound quality isn’t phenomenal, but add in a producer and recording engineers who’ve recorded rock or metal before? The image at the top shows Faisal, Marwan and Firas with James Hetfield, and I didn’t see a credit, but I stole it from the NYT article, so likely some staff photographer or the band.