The Black Scorpion of Baghdad


Der Spiegel runs a fascinating look (German-language link) at Iraq's only officially tolerated heavy metal band. A. Crassicauda (the Latin designation for the black scorpion, it sez here) is a five-man group that models itself on Slayer, Metallica, and Machine Head; members learned the genre through pirated CDs and videos smuggled in from Turkey and Jordan. The front man, "Bloodmaster" Walid, is the son of an Iraqi army officer.

A. Crassicauda sings in English, but reportedly sells out the concerts it stages at Baghdad's major venues. The second number at each show is an obligatory paean to the regime; the group speeds through it in two minutes. "By following the leader Saddam Hussein," it goes, "We will make them fall, we will drive them insane." When that's out of the way, the group starts doing songs ("Massacre," "Fade to Black") from a cautiously subversive repertoire.

Spiegel reporter Bernhard Zand offers this verse from the song, "The Doll," as representative of the group's veiled meanings: "I guess it's time to change the actor / I guess it's time to close this chapter / I guess it's time to go to the top / I guess it's time to say stop." For the record, the group's members wisely deny that their material is political. But then, as one of their own songs puts it, "To live, I have to lie."

Iraq's remaining literary establishment falls all over itself to praise Saddam's stupid novels; the country's leading singer of poetical verses, Kazem al-Saher, has exiled himself and is at this moment touring the U.S. But there may yet be audible dissent in downtown Baghdad, and it's driven by a heavy metal beat. Perfect.