(This is the album cover of Risala’s “Patterns of War,” a band containing Tony Aziz Yaqoo, former member of Iraqi Thrash Metal Band Acrassicauda)
On this blog I like to get opinions about all things metal and pagan from different corners of the globe. I have a fan in Iraq who has been a very helpful supporter of this blog, so I decided to have a conversation with him and get his opinion on some things. Also (as a U.S. citizen myself) I thought it might be interesting to get some of his opinions on America’s increasingly bat-shit-crazy-political situation with President Trump and his travel ban.
MG: Hey there, I was curious…you said you were from…Iraq? I’m just asking because I like seeing what people in other parts of the world think about some of the topics that I discuss.
AA: Hey. Yes, that is right. I’m from Iraq. I would be glad to answer any question you may have. Although you shouldn’t count me as a typical Iraqi since most my education and culture is very western oriented.
MG: Are you still living in Iraq? And did you study in a Western country, or that’s just your interest?
AA: Yes i still live in Iraq. Depends on what you call study. I didn’t go to college outside the country but I speak English ever since I was 15. Most books I read are in the English language.
MG: If you don’t mind me asking, what part of Iraq do you live in?
AA: I live in Baghdad. So the very middle hahaha.
MG: This might be a dumb question…but in that part of Iraq are things relatively stable now? Or is there violence as an after effect of U.S. involvement and current violence in Syria and what not?
AA: It’s not a dumb question at all. Yes things are relatively stable now. Which seems to be the perfect way to describe it. Most cities are being taking back from ISIS, but because of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, many things are now broken and seems to be beyond repair. Not in the short run, anyway.
MG: Agh that sucks. But yeah I heard that ISIS was losing ground, so that’s good.
Do you know anyone who was stuck living in an ISIS taken city like Mosul?
AA: No, they moved before things went REALLY bad. And good thing too since everything happen over night.
MG: That’s good!
AA: ISIS was never that strong but we made it so ourselves. Our government did by giving it land and making it the bogeyman that it is now.I remember not knowing anything about it. However, saw large billboards on the streets with a text saying “No for ISIS”. Which seems to be a free ad campaign for them made by the government. That and the fact that the military left in one night without any battle or anything.
MG: Yeah, people in the U.S. have obviously gone full retard about it. They’re so afraid of ISIS, but we have more deaths caused by cows and toddlers with guns than ISIS.
Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on Trump’s travel ban?
AA:We have people who are misinformed and call it a Muslim ban. Which is not. Since over 700 million Muslims are excluded from it. They seems to be going crazy about it. On the other hand, we have those who believes it’s very well-intentioned and harmless, which is far from it. Because Trump have always had it for Muslims and talked about it across his campaign. The fact that also affects those who already have green cards. They don’t know if they left the US, they’ll ever be able to go back. Not to mention that most of those countries haven’t had anything to do with any terrorist act in the US. Even though this list been made by the Obama, not Trump’s administration. It wasn’t as absolute and as strong as it is now.
I’m personally against immigration. We should stay and try to fix our country instead. So I might think it’s a step in the right direction. It’s just the fact that it was like this. And from someone like Trump, makes me uneasy. And we have those who prepared their whole life to leave and sold all their belongings. Only to be put on hold for 90 days.
MG: Yeah, that’s harsh. I feel bad for the people who are stuck in limbo because of this.Or the people who went to Iraq to go visit their families and now can’t come back.Trump should have at least given people a few weeks to prepare for this instead of just springing it on people. But yeah…what a mess. But anyways…to take things in a completely different direction…I wanted to ask, how is the metal scene over there in Baghdad?
(Iraqi Thrash Metal Band, Acrassicauda)
AA: It’s not very common. But it DOES exist. Metal has always been misunderstood and simply not for everyone. I guess you know that better than anyone. I don’t know if you heard that few years back there was a phase where people were killed in a very horrible way for dressing, hair style and tattoos that got to do with metal. The main attack was against gays. But it also included all that isn’t considered “Good” For social standards.But with all that, we still have many die-hard fans here.
MG: Wow. Yeah, you definitely have to be hard-core to be able to face that kind of threat.
AA: Hahaha yeah. My look, and some of my friends, still haven’t changed. Not because we are metal fans, but we simply don’t want change by following people who have no idea about what’s considered a good taste. We rather die than to live their lives, not ours.
MG: That’s awesome. Power to you man.
MG: Was that the government killing people? Or just some crazies who took matters into their own hands?
AA: Little of both. The people who took things to their own hands, had a lot of influence in the government and they are well known. People are just too afraid of saying it. The government says, “We are unable to protect you if you keep dressing and behaving like this.” So the government isn’t literally doing it. But they aren’t doing anything to stop it either.
MG: Ahh that sucks. Just curious, are bands able to play shows anywhere or is that just…impossible?
AA: Yeah that’s impossible. Just so few people that it’s not worth it. Maybe for the best, if too many people, it will bring a lot of attention to us. It’s very different to our culture. The closest thing to it that people interested in it is rap. So you can imagine.
MG: Can people actually gather to listen to rap, or is that impossible too?
AA: Yeah they can. We have people who go drinking and whoring and no one beats an eye. We also have bars and parties and all that. It’s not as grim as it might seem. It’s just that, people like us (excuse the expression) , the fewer, and the more strange to society they are, they are easiest as a target.
MG: Ah I see. So among you and the people you know, what metal bands are pretty popular?
AA: Depends.. For me, Eternal tears of sorrow, not saying they are the best, has always had a place in my heart. Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Death, Black Sabbath and Megadeth are the most common. For good reason too.
(Metallica fans in Abu Dhabi, Dubai)
MG: Hell yeah!
MG: So I was also curious about something else. I obviously post about ancient Earth religions on my blog like paganism. How common is it for people to talk about or explore things like alternative spirituality over there?
AA: Not very common. To tell you the truth, I’m yet to find someone who’s interested in spirituality and the old religions as I am. When society is at it’s weakest point, they turn to religion. When they get comfortable with their lives, they tend to move away from it and from the concept of god, and it always seems to be one of the reasons of their downfalls. It’s like they lose their reason to live. As in example, you know how things ended in Rome. You can also see it in Europe today . I always try to find a place in between.
MG: Yeah. That’s very true. [After much further discussion about religion and what not I asked] What do you see yourself as?
AA: Well, for me I left Islam or simply stopped caring much about it years ago. Even though I studied it more than the average Muslim. And memorized almost half of the Quran. But there were things I noticed made no sense. Other are simply too harsh. Aside from stuff in the Quran and Muhammad’s life that I simply rejected all together.
About 6 years ago, I went through clinical depression. Didn’t like the proscribed drugs at all and the way it made me feel. So as I was looking for an alternative treatment, I stumbled on meditation. Maybe it was just me but, it worked great. From it, I started to learn more about Buddhism and Hinduism. As much as I loved their teachings, didn’t want to follow them but rather learn from them. After that I got into witchcraft and self-empowering. Didn’t practice any black magic, but I continued to clean my chakras, empower them, my aura and heal myself as god knows I have a lot of emotional baggage and can see how broken my soul is. I got to a point where it’s very hard to explain. I know it seems crazy but, I feel very connected to higher powers than ourselves. Don’t know what it is. But I know it’s guiding and helping me. I’m still looking to this day to recognize it. Maybe it’s just like Michelangelo’s creation of Adam’s painting. That god is in our mind all along.
“The Creation of Adam.”
MG: That’s awesome! Maybe this just shows my ignorance, but I know in some parts of the Middle East there are pretty harsh apostasy laws that can punish or even kill people for leaving Islam. Is this something you have to worry about?
AA: Yeah, but. I don’t mind. Not many people know about me anyway. But those who follow my posts and got close to me, might notice. But there is nothing I can do about that.
MG: That’s pretty badass.
MG: Do you think things will ever change in Iraq…like people will eventually be more open to these ideas that we’ve talked about, metal and alternative spirituality…or that people may embrace a more secular form of Islam that permits more freedom of expression and so on?
AA: Little bit of both. If things got better like it did before, some people will turn to science, others will follow spirituality or a form of it. Like the Sufi, for instance. But never Paganism or Hinduism. They have a very strong reaction toward it. Because it’s the main thing Islam is out to destroy. I’ll just be happy to reach a point where we have freedom and tolerance like in the US or the West. Where no one cares about what you do or believe as long as you keep it to yourself.
What I told you about civilization rise and fall. History repeat itself. I’m very afraid for Europe and the US. Because when they strayed away from religion, they didn’t make up for it with spirituality or philosophy or maybe both. I’m sure you see it yourself. People lack direction and morals. But with the internet, where it’s so easy to share knowledge, I believe there is hope. That’s why I love your blog. I believe it’s a form of what the world need. A form of mindset and understanding I mean.
(Scenes from Baghdad)
MG: I guess in your opinion, what do you think needs to change in the Middle East — or at least just Iraq — for people to move toward a more secular, less religiously extreme direction?
AA: Every era comes to the country; it puts its mood on it. Right after the fall of Saddam, there was a strong movement toured a secular direction. That quickly changed after Shia religious fundamentalists took over.
To answer your question, the policy and the parliament needs to change. They are all thieves and killers. Most of them hide behind religion to command their followers. As we are neck-deep in ignorance and the lack of objective thinking, we come to Islam for the solution to all our problems. And that’s where politicians get their votes, thus their power.
And so, we should either change the whole system because democracy only work as well as people’s education and common knowledge. Alternatively, wait for things to slowly change as it doing now since we have something we never had in a very long time. And that is the freedom of speech that the internet provides. Which gives us the power to criticize Islam and show its true face. ISIS, as bad as it was, it did us a favor. It showed the people the elephant in the room. And that’s Islam is NOT unrelated to terrorism and jihadist.
Other ways I don’t see how we can convince people in doing it. People need to read in order to have an argument with them. It works both sides, you see. You can’t play football with someone without legs. The problem is they only read school curriculums, the Quran and dream explanation books. They also need to speak English. As it will give them, a prospective they never had before and show them the world outside their sphere.
MG: Wow, very well thought out answers. Thank you!
AA: Hahaha you’re very much welcome.
Genre: Pagan Black Metal
Lyrical Themes: Respect for nature, winter, revenge against humanity.
Damn. When Greece makes black metal they definitely know how to make it dark and intense. Another big Greek Black Metal band to pay attention to is Rotting Christ.
The style of Celtefog also reminds me of the style of atmospheric black metal bands from the American North-West, like Agalloch.
This is definitely a haunting song to listen to as nature around us darkens and we prepare for the winter months
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country of Origin: Germany
Here’s some balls the walls packed heavy metal to livin up your evening. These teutonic titans have been around an impressive 48 years! That’s like twice as long as I’ve been alive. They formed back in 1968 as “Band X,” but the band became “Accept” in 1976 when their vocalist Udo Dirkschneider formed a new line up. So…technically the band really got started in 1976. While bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann have been in the band more or less since then, the current vocalist, drummer and guitarist Uwe Lulis are fairly new.
So these guys are a great heavy metal band that has been rocking out on their six string sabers for almost half a century. If you like bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Accept.
Storming the castles… swords In the air
Killing the monsters in their own lair
Lighting the torches… setting the stage
You get what you ask for… right in the face
THE FINAL WAR
Genre: Symphonic Death Metal
Lyrical Themes: Ancient Rome
Country of Origin: Canada
This is a side project of Kataklysm’s Maurizio Iacono.”Ex deo” is Latin for “from/out of God”. So, if you enjoy Kataklysm, you will probably love rocking out to this Roman Metal project as well.
On December 28th, the world lost a heavy metal legend. The singer, song writer, bassist and sole constant member of the band Motorhead. Many people are shocked to hear the death of Lemmy, but it’s actually a surprise he lived as long as he has, being the human embodiment of the hard drinking, fast living, rock and roll life style.
Many people credit Motorhead’s fast and heavy style for the creation of thrash music. But Lemmy always liked to insist that Motorhead was a rock and roll band.
This New Years celebrate the life of this legend by taking a drink for Lemmy, won’t you?
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT LEMMY’S LIFE
Being the supreme being he is, he was born on Christmas Eve.
“Kilmister” is the real last name he was born with.
The term ‘”Motörhead” is slang for an enthusiast of methamphetamine and other chemical stimulants.
Lemmy had the honor of being a roadie for Jimi Hendrix.
Motörhead’s immortal motto—“Everything Louder Than Everything Else”—is the one, flawless summation of everything that defines heavy metal.
LEMMY KILMISTER TRIBUTE PLAYLIST
RIP MOTORHEAD Frontman Lemmy Kilmister, 1945 – 2015 (Metal Injection)
MOTÖRHEAD’s LEMMY Dead At 70 (Blabber Mouth)
Happy Veteran’s Day! I just want to issue a hearty thank you to all the brave warriors who have risked their lives to keep us safe and free.
Yet today our veterans are often discarded by society after their courageous sacrifice. Over 1.4 million veterans are at risk of becoming homeless. There are 300,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the streets and this number is rising. An estimated 460,000 veterans suffer from PTSD. They have an increased risk of getting a divorce. And in the time it takes you to watch the first video below – somewhere, a veteran took their own life.
So I put together this metal list to celebrate the brave sacrifice of our vets. Some of the songs are meaningful, others are just fun and uplifting. The first one is a very powerful video about the problems facing veterans today.
Death in battle is not a failure, but a study in triumph of the spirit. May the warriors of our time find their final resting place in Valhalla, where they will be remembered and honored until the end of time.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m not saying these are the best songs for the subject. Just my opinion. Also, someone complained that I added Five Finger Death Punch, but the video itself actually addresses the problems faced by today’s vets better than anything other music video I’ve seen, so it deserves to be on here.
METAL PLAYLIST FOR WARRIORS
Five Finger Death Punch – Wrong Side of Heaven
Judas Priest – Halls of Valhalla
Ensiferum – In My Sword I Trust
Turisas – Stand Up And Fight
Amon Amarth – War of the Gods
Ensiferum – Victory Song
Orden Ogan – The Things We Believe In
Motorhead – Dogs of War
Sister Sin – 24-7
Tengger Cavalry – Hero
Amon Amarth Twilight Of The Thunder God
Amon Amarth – Tattered Banners And Bloody Flags
Judas Priest – One shot at glory
Tyr – By The Sword in my Hand
Amon Amarth – The Hero
Metallica – The Day That Never Comes
Iron Maiden – The Trooper
Kataklysm – The Ambassador of Pain
Amon Amarth – Warriors Of The North
Fortress – Victory or Valhalla
Manowar – Warriors of the World United
Sabaton – The Price of a Mile
Genre: Black Metal
Country of Origin: Norway
Themes: Rediscovering the ancient Pagan ways
For many people, the old school black metal is difficult to listen to because of its low production quality. However, for others, this is a big part of its appeal. After metal music became over commercialized in the 1980’s, the scene of Norwegian Black Metal that emerged in the late 80’s/early 90’s was appealing in a primordial, and natural kind of way. The music seemed a sort of dark, pagan magic re-emerging into a world that had become fake and synthetic.
Burzum evokes a gritty brutality that is quite captivating. Burzum itself means ‘darkness’ in the Black Speech, a fictional language from Lord of the Rings. The song above came from the album ‘Det som engang var.’ The album cover was visually inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. So there is obviously an interest in fantasy at work here.
Varg himself, the man behind the Burzum solo act is quite the controversial figure. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison for the murder of Mayhem guitarist Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth and the arson of three churches. What’s interesting is that Varg stabbed Euronymous a few days after the release of the album listed above.
After Varg’s release from prison in 2009 he recorded three further black metal albums.
Varg is also a controversial figure for his racist and anti-semitic views. However, amidst a lot of his rantings about race and the Jews, he does sometimes have some pretty brilliant things to say about the return to the ancient wisdom and truth.
Here is piece of an interview with him from the movie ‘Until The Light Takes Us.’ (The background music is Bathroy’s ‘One Rode to Asa Bay’)