Heavy Metal in Baghdad Now Means Music, Not Tanks

PHOTO: Adel Faiq Rasheed - rashid_heavy metal_10112xPlayCourtesy of Adel Faiq Rasheed
WATCH Iraqi Heavy Metal

Heavy metal is back in Baghdad and for a change that doesn't mean tanks or artillery.

More than 300 "metal heads" defied the dangers of being in a Baghdad crowd - which are tempting targets for terrorists - to rock out with Fatalogy last week on Karradah Street. Earlier this month worshippers at a Christian church were massacred in the Karradah neighborhood.

The only violence at the Fatalogy performance, however, was the high decibel assault on the ears and the fans leaping into the mosh pit.

"I feel so excited and it's good to be here. Life is so frustrating and we need some time out," said Ahmed Badie, a 33-year-old barber who closed his shop for the day to attend the show.

Heavy metal has been popular in Baghdad since the early 1990s and boasted half a dozen bands during Saddam Hussein's regime.

It disappeared from the stage after the 2003 U.S. invasion, surviving only on CDs and YouTube videos. With a fragile security seemingly taking hold, heavy metal bands are emerging once again.

Fatalogy consists of four musicians, Rafi Saib on drums, Humam Ibraheem on bass, Rami Abdul Sattar on guitar, and lead singer Ahmed Al Salihy.

The name of the band and much of their music reflects the grim reality of Baghdad's recent past. Fatalogy is a combination of the English word "fatal" and the scientific suffix "logy," understandable in a city where death has been common along with armed militias, Al Qaeda and exploding arsenals of IED's, car bombs, mortars, sticky bombs and lately muffled guns.

The band opened its show with two original songs, one called "Abu Ghraib" and the other "War After War." Abu Ghraib was a notorious prison under Saddam and became even more notorious under U.S. control for its torture of prisoners. The crowd responded emotionally to Salihy's roaring voice.

"The band was great and the band members did their best effort and it seems that they rehearse for long hours," said Ali Magsosi, an old school guitar player.

"Abu Ghraib song expresses the true injustice of Iraqi prisoners' ordeal and how they were abused inhumanely. After the Iraqi government turned a blind eye to the abuse and couldn't do anything about it, we felt that there must be someone to defend the rights of prisoners," said drummer Saib.

The song "War After War" tells the story of each Iraqi who witnessed war from his first day in life.

Heavy Metal Means Freedom in Baghdad

"War ends, another war begins," said bass player Ibraheem. Saib added, "War is like a burning cage."

Fatalogy also performed hits from bands like Sepultura's "Slave New World" and Exodus' "War is my Sheppard," Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell," Slayer's "World Painted Blood," and Metallica's "Seek and Destroy." Head banging youth repeatedly asked for "Seek and Destroy."

"The band made it clear in their song 'War After War' that Iraq has had enough of wars. Look back at our brief history. Eight years of war with Iran, first and second gulf wars, and now fighting terrorism," said man in his 40s who identified himself only as a guitar player named Haval.

But they haven't had enough of heavy metal and its raucous, dark anthems. News of Fatalogy's performance was followed by the announcement of a upcoming show by 'Dog Faced Corpse." The announcement meant a lot to a fan who gave his name as Ziyad and said he sang and played guitar in the 1990s.

"Two gigs in one month have a big meaning of freedom," Ziyad said.