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- Published on Sunday, 10 July 2011 20:00
- Category: Music Events
The Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda took the stage last Thursday at Hollywood’s iconic Whiskey A Go Go, marking a brief pit stop on what has become an improbable ten-year journey. For the band members, the occasion provided yet another opportunity to spread their brand of adrenaline-pumping songs to anew audience. For the audience, it was a reminder that all too often we take life’s simple things (free speech for example), for granted and lose perspective of the world-at-large.
The heaps and ruins of a civil war did not stop this group of Baghdad-natives from pursuing their musical passion for electric guitars and thrashing vocals. Named after the Latin term for a species of black scorpions indigenous to Iraq’s desert, Acrassicauda’s unique style crawls upon a vast musical landscape, drawing notable influences from its metal forebears Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and Black Sabbath. But the comparisons end there as the quartet’s path to international fame, highlighted in the 2007 documentary Heavy Metal Baghdad, bears no semblance to any of those bands.
In 2001, when Acrassicauda was founded in the acoustic safehaven that only a basement can provide, Iraq was a much different place. Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the band enjoyed relative freedom to perform its sets (just no headbanging, which the regime claimed too closely resembled a Jewish prayer practice). Sure the band had to perform the occasional pro-regime song, but that was a small price to pay to be able to play their music in public. When war broke out, however, and Iraq was tossed into perpetual chaos, the opportunity to perform, and safely, deteriorated, creating enormous uncertainty for many musicians. Thus, Acrassicauda’s epithet as the “only heavy metal band in Baghdad” — a label that befits both the pride of being a trailblazer and disappointment that others do not yet exist.
After facing death threats from religious extremists who perceived them as “Satan worshippers,” Acrassicauda’s members fled their homeland with hopes of freedom and security. First, Syrian refugee camps; then immigration limbo in Turkey. Finally the band was allowed to settle in the U.S. in 2009, where they released their first studio album the following year, the critically-acclaimed "Only the Dead See the End of the War".
Today, Acrassicauda experiences a level of success that was once unimaginable, attracting large crowds of rock fans and social observers to some of the country’s holiest musical venues. Thursday’s performance captured this spirit. Even if aggressive vocals and schizophrenic riffs may not be your fancy, the success of this band on the run and its apolitical message can, and should, be appreciated by most, if not all.
By Staff Writer
Watch the video here