Middle East

Fezzes and Leather

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Middle Eastern metal has received a sudden wave of Western coverage this year. The latest example is an article in Coilhouse that covers the music itself, the subcultures surrounding it, and the crackdowns—some successful, some not—from above:

iranmaiden

Iran's regime is among the most repressive, forcibly cutting metal fan's hair and crushing concerts outright….

It's easy to see what they're afraid of. If Egyptian metal musicians rave about Israeli band Orphaned Land, and Israelis about Lebanese metal, then the terminal dividing lines that benefit generals and dictators begin to blur. The fates of Eastern Europe's tyrants are not that far away in history: often change is only an anthem away.

The dividing lines between styles have also blurred. Middle eastern metal overlaps considerably with the hip-hop and punk scenes, especially in Palestine and Israel, encompassing everything from Massive Scar Era's symphonic rallying cries to Arthimoth's primal growls. It was, after all, late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti who coined the "music is the weapon of the future" slogan that's become popular among [Lebanese musician Moe] Hamzeh and his friends.

The essay includes several samples of the metal itself, which among other things will be useful for anyone who has wondered what Cookie Monster vocals sound like in Arabic.

Elsewhere in Reason: Charles Paul Freund on Arab music videos and the liberating effects of vulgarity.

NEXT: Ted Stevens, Walking the Bridge to Nowhere

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  1. …which among other things will be useful for anyone who has wondered what Cookie Monster vocals sound like in Arabic.

    And who doesn’t do that, from time to time?

  2. …which among other things will be useful for anyone who has wondered what Cookie Monster vocals sound like in Arabic.

    I quit caring about the Cookie Monster when he stopped eating cookies. I guess all that cookie eating was too much negative influence on children.

  3. Persepolis, the animated movie about a young girl growing up in Revolutionary Iran, has a scene where she walks down a street with a bunch of guys in trench coats selling western rock. She buys an Iron Maiden cassette.

  4. Up the Irons!

  5. “Iran Loves Iron Maiden”

    Who doesn’t? Well, up until No Prayer For the Dying.

    Also, Paul Di’Anno > Bruce Dickinson.

  6. Fantastic. Metal rules.

  7. Fear of the Dark has some good tunes on it with the title track being my favorite. And their new stuff is still pretty good. Better than Priest’s new shit.

    And I like Bruce Dickinson but Killers is my favorite Iron Maiden album. Fuck, Killers is one of my favorite albums of all time.

  8. Also, Paul Di’Anno > Bruce Dickinson.
    Killers is my favorite Iron Maiden album. Fuck, Killers is one of my favorite albums of all time.

    QFT.

  9. And their new stuff is still pretty good…Killers is my favorite Iron Maiden album

    I saw them in Hartford for the A Matter of Life and Death tour, which was OK, and I agree with you that Killers is probably their best. Maiden Japan was pretty great for a live album, too.

  10. Cool. I saw them on the Brave New World tour and the show ripped pretty good. I like the fact that instead of Janick Gers leaving when Adrian Smith came back, they just went with three guitarists.

  11. I heard traditional Iranian music recently. It reminded me of Israeli music. I think music does have the potential to bridge cultural gaps.

  12. System of a Down, or is that Caucasian-American metal? Or nu-metal unworthy of consideration?

  13. Also, Paul Di’Anno > Bruce Dickinson.

    Oh Epi, you jokester.

  14. Yep, nothing inspires freedom like third-rate pop music.

  15. Oh Epi, you jokester.

    Don’t make me come up there, Warty.

    (I’m not saying Bruce isn’t good. I’m just saying Di’Anno was better. Just like Bon Scott is/was better than Brian Johnson, but Johnson is still great.)

  16. Interesting stuff. In Easter Europe, where I am more familiar with things, metal tends to be more of a right-wing, nationalist phenomenon among anti-EU crowds and those who distrust foreigners (at least ones they share a border with). There are a lot of strange things, like folk music (the province of die-hard lefties here in the U.S. and Western Europe) is also a hard-right phenomenon in Hungary. So metal in the Middle East can be liberating, but it’s not clear that it is generalizable.

    What may be generalizable is that certain genres of music tend to be oppositional to whatever the dominant regime. Folk music in the U.S. was used to oppose capitalism, but in Eastern Europe was used to oppose state socialism. If the same sort of oppositional dynamic holds true for metal (I have no idea of its uses here in the States), it’s not surprising that it would serve the roles described above.

  17. I saw Iron Maiden on the Number Of The Beast tour, and also Powerslave.

    Killers is too poorly engineered to be a great album. Piece Of Mind tops my list, though Live After Death is also a must have.

  18. Paul Di’Anno could not wail. Iron Maiden without wailing is not Iron Maiden. Q.E.D.

    WTF item on his Wikipedia page:

    Their first audition with Rod Smallwood reputedly failed when Paul was arrested for showing off his pocket-knife in public.

    WTF?

  19. Untermensch, as far as this metalhead can tell, US metal is something nerdy social outcasts use to convince themselves that they’re cooler than the other kids. I don’t think there’s any political significance to it.

    For what it’s worth, American metal mostly sucks these days.

    Also, this thread is lacking in German metal babes.

  20. Aw, nah! Epi got QEDed! You gonna stand for that, sucka? Y’alls need to take this to the streets!

  21. Wait until the Iranians find out that Obama doesn’t like metal.

  22. Paul Di’Anno could not wail. Iron Maiden without wailing is not Iron Maiden. Q.E.D.

    WTF are you talking about, dude? Di’Anno could wail. But he also had that creepy fucking voice that worked so well for their style at the time.

    Their first audition with Rod Smallwood reputedly failed when Paul was arrested for showing off his pocket-knife in public.

    Uh, it’s the UK, dude. You’re not allowed to carry knives, or anything that can be construed as a weapon.

  23. It’s on.

    Bring it, biatch!

  24. Paul Di’Anno could not wail. Iron Maiden without wailing is not Iron Maiden.

    QFT

  25. Okay, I hate to pull rank here, but the fact is that I saw both the original Maiden and the V.2 with Bruce Dickinson and Dickinson wins hands down.

  26. Or nu-metal unworthy of consideration?

    that’s a question that answers itself.

    now that math majors and star trek fans have taken over metal, what do the burnouts do for musical identity? what is the slaytanic wermacht shirt of 2008?

    the best metal album i heard this year was “two hunters” by wolves in the throne room, though it was released in 2007. today is the day’s “axis of eden” is great, but i still hate the way it was recorded.

  27. System of a Down, or is that Caucasian-American metal? Or nu-metal unworthy of consideration?

    No, that’s good stuff. Not crazy about the “nu-metal” label…if it’s metal, it’s really gotta bring the umlauts. When bands as diverse as Tool, Korn, and SOAD arrive in the same category, it’s time to rethink your categories.

  28. I thought you dug the latest Ghengis Tron CD Dhex?

    I like bits of it, like “Greek Beds”.

  29. Personally, I dont think the Bush Regime is that far behind.

    jess
    http://web-anonymity.vze.com

  30. now that math majors and star trek fans have taken over metal, what do the burnouts do for musical identity?

    Lemmy’s still alive, dude. He’ll bring the pain.

  31. Episiarch,

    I agree with your Brian-Johnson-is-awesome-but-Bon Scott-was-better opinion. A while back, I posted a video of Bon Scott playing the bagpipes (for “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”), along with a video of the bagpipe guy from So I Married and Axe Murderer. He’s awesome, too, but he’s not quite as good as Brian Johnson.

  32. It’s on.

    Bring it, biatch!

    Dance off!

  33. Motorhead > Iron Maiden

  34. Di’Anno couldn’t wail!? Who the fuck…

    YouTube some of the old Maiden vid with him. And I’m in full agreement with Epi here. Di’Anno’s voice had that creepy/mean/unpolished quality that Bruce’s lacks. Iron Maiden and Killers have an almost punk vibe to them. Very street and, for lack of a better term, dangerous.

  35. Motorhead > Existence.

  36. Ah, yes… System of a Down… or what they should have named the band:

    Vitaly Chernobyl and The Meltdowns.

  37. I thought you dug the latest Ghengis Tron CD Dhex?

    i do, but the wolves in the throne room album is really excellent, and i generally fucking hate everything to do with black metal. it’s the professional wrestling of metal, which is saying a lot with the perpetual touring of every band from the 70s and 80s.

    UNDEAD UNDEAD UNDEAD

    but yeah if you like digi-grind that reaches for musicality and even touches it sometimes, genghis tron is totally worth your time. dream lineup: them and agoraphobic nosebleed. that would be a great concert.

  38. Dance off!

    Ice ice baby…

    Iron Maiden and Killers have an almost punk vibe to them. Very street and, for lack of a better term, dangerous.

    Exactly. I await your apology, Warty and Warren.

  39. WTF are you talking about, dude? Di’Anno could wail. But he also had that creepy fucking voice that worked so well for their style at the time.

    If that’s what you call wailing, then OK, dude. I’m not one to judge.

  40. Since the Metalheads seems to be out in force here, anyone else play?

  41. Somebody wake me when we get a bluegrass thread, mkay?

  42. I’ve always felt Seventh Son was the best Maiden album. I know it’s probably a minority opinion but there is something really fascinating about it. I think it just holds together as a whole album better than any of the other stuff (Which is also good).

    And at the risk of sounding like an old man, I agree with Warty, today’s metal does suck. Everything just seems so derivative or overly technical.

  43. Hell, I’ll just start my own.
    I once saw a really good Czech bluegrass band in Bristol, Tenn. (The “Birthplace of Country Music.”)

  44. Really, CN? That’s fascinating.

  45. do you like john fahey, mr. nothing?

  46. CN,

    Woodsongs, local bluegrass enthusiasts. And you can download podcasts of shows. We only hold the masters of shows on deposit, and consequentially I am not to blame for their terrible website design.

  47. I must confess I don’t know much of Fahey’s music, although I considered him more of a roots, than bluegrass, guy.

    (Gotta love the name of his book, “How Bluegrass Destroyed My Life”, though, which, no, I’ve never got around to reading.)

  48. I think Iranian metalheads would be able to win hands down in a rebelling-against-a-repressive-society competition.

    AMERICAN METALHEAD: My parents don’t understand me, and the kids at school don’t like me. That’s why I listen to these really meaningful songs y artists who understand my pain. But, oh, the repression! Dad yells at me and Mom cries.

    IRANIAN METALHEAD: That sucks. It’s like the other day, when I was at this concert, and the cops arrested me and my friends, forcibly shaved us, and threw us in a fetid prison. Want to see my police-brutality scars?

    AMERICAN METALHEAD: I fold.

  49. Thanks for the link, SF. I’ll check it out.

  50. Motorhead > Iron Maiden

    Motorhead > Existence.

    QFMFT

    I was wondering when we would get to Motorhead. IMHO the best there is. Lemmy does the theme song and music for Down + Dirty the HBO comedy special that comes on friday nights.

  51. Motorhead was good up until 1987 or so. It was all downhill after Orgasmatron.

    Also, DiAnno could have had Dickinson’s range, if you only removed his testicles.

    Kyle – bass & guitar.

  52. Somebody wake me when we get a bluegrass thread, mkay?

    Hey we can combine the two.

    Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000CC866/associatizer-20/

    I actually found it kind of interesting. Sounds kind of creepy.

  53. Hey, SF. I’m gonna be on assignment in Louisville sometime next month. Would it be worth my while to hop over to Lexington for a show/taping?

  54. The best mashup ever is The Gourds bluegrass version of Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice. CN says, “Check it out.”

  55. “I heard traditional Iranian music recently. It reminded me of Israeli music. I think music does have the potential to bridge cultural gaps.”

    I love classical Persian music.

  56. “The best mashup ever is The Gourds bluegrass version of Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice. CN says, “Check it out.”

    That is a great cover of that song.

  57. CN,

    If someone is there you want to see that’s worth a 45-60 minutes drive, sure. It’s taped in a restored movie theater from 1922 and downtown Lexington is easy to navigate and there’s plenty of restaurants and bars for before or after.

    Sadly, for living here, I do not care for bluegrass at all. Therefore, I can’t offer any testimonials to actually going to a show.

  58. When I read Bruce Dickenson all I could think of was “More Cowbell”

    I was a metal fan in High School…. That’s like a quarter of a century ago. I still enjoy dragging out the old Black Sabbath from time to time (Ozzy era mostly) but I’ve long since ditched all my Iron Maiden, Judas Priest etc. And listening to what’s being put our today does nothing for me…. It’s all about nostalgia, not about enjoyment.

    What’s Evanescence to you people? Them I like, especially that delightful Amy Lee.

  59. Dune inspired the Iron Maiden song “To Tame A Land.” However, when songwriter Steve Harris requested permission from the author to name the song “Dune,” his request was met with a stern refusal – backed up with a legal threat – which noted that “Herbert doesn’t like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden.”

  60. What’s Evanescence to you people?

    i remember when they were being pushed as a goth metal act.

  61. Dune inspired the Iron Maiden song “To Tame A Land.” However, when songwriter Steve Harris requested permission from the author to name the song “Dune,” his request was met with a stern refusal – backed up with a legal threat – which noted that “Herbert doesn’t like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden.”

    Wow. What a dick.

    As if it wasn’t completely obvious what he song was about anyway.

    What’s Evanescence to you people? Them I like, especially that delightful Amy Lee.

    I like the concept of a strong female vocalist with heavy guitar. I find the contrast interesting. But Evanescence just sounds kind of canned to me. Remove her and they sound completely generic.

  62. I’d classify Evanescene as Metal. I don’t do subgenres. (Except Thrash. Thrash is the pinnacle of Man’s time on the planet and in the Universe now and forevermore Motherfuckers!)

    BakedPenguin,

    Cool. Same here but only enough bass to put my song ideas together.

    And Bluegrass? I can’t name many artists but my lord, can those guys play!

  63. Pain,

    Check out the album “Once” by Nightwish. Female vocals over some good metal. It may be a bit cheesy though to some. Not Dio level or anything though.

  64. Kyle Jordon,

    Don’t you call Dio cheesy. Who even tries to make album covers as good as this anymore?

  65. Calm down! Holy Diver was one of the first albums I ever got as a kid and I loves me some Dio.

  66. Don’t you call Dio cheesy

    Rainbow was better.

  67. Check out the album “Once” by Nightwish. Female vocals over some good metal. It may be a bit cheesy though to some. Not Dio level or anything though.

    I’ll check it out. Actually Holy Diver along with Last in Line are probably two of my biggest gulity pleasures. Although the video for Holy Diver is probably the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.

    As long as they aren’t Dragonforce cheesy I can generally go along with it.

  68. Rainbow Rising. Such a great album. Don’t leave out his Sabbath stuff either. Hell, I think his three Sabbath studio albums are the best Sabbath stuff after Paranoid and Master of Reality.

  69. They’re not Dragonforce levels. I like DF but only in bursts. Haven’t heard their newer one yet. So far this year, I have to say “Holographic Universe” by Scar Symmetry has been the best album.

    What say y’all?

  70. The best mashup ever is The Gourds bluegrass version of Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice.

    Agreed. In the same vein, there’s Rodeohead, a Bluegrass medley of Radiohead songs

  71. Epi,

    You’re a metal fan? For some reason I picture you as that Duncan Hills Coffee guy from Metalocalypse.

  72. If you want cheesy, check out this recent cover of Dio by Killswitch Engage. I was cracking up halfway through it.

  73. Female vocals over some good metal.

    You should try Hanzel Und Gretyl then, especially the earlier albums where Vas Kallas exerted greater control.

  74. There’s dozens of other groups out there that do the gothy-with-female-vocals thing better than Evanescence. The Gathering is probably the originator of that sound, and probably my favorite example of that subgenre altogether. They had some swell albums on Century Media in the late 1990s.

    That Orphaned Land clip was not bad. Anyone out there heard any of their other stuff? I suspect that the novelty value (“Whoah! Not-half-bad metal from Israel!”) might outweigh the musical value.

    Glad to see that there’s another ORGASMATRON fan out there; I always thought it was criminally underrated. Motorhead’s actually held up pretty well through the years; their newer stuff doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Ace of Spades”, but then what does? Here’s a song from their 2006 LP. Gotta love those lyrics: “I might be a dog, but, honey, you’re a bitch!”

    Fun fact: although I have been listening to and buying metal records for 20 years, I HAVE NEVER EVEN HEARD Iron Maiden.

  75. KSE’s cover of Holy Diver grew on me but man, they “Killswitched” it up a little too much.

  76. You’re a metal fan? For some reason I picture you as that Duncan Hills Coffee guy from Metalocalypse

    Not really. I go through phases in music and there was a metal phase in high school, so I know the stuff. I am well past the metal phase now.

  77. KJ–

    A hearty second to RAINBOW RISING. I blew my wife’s mind when I put this on a couple years ago while we were sitting around reading; she couldn’t believe that it was released in 1978. “I didn’t think you were allowed to sound this metal back then!”

    Dio’s Sabbath stuff is good too, but the Ozzy-years catalog is some of my favorite music ever, so the HEAVEN AND HELL years suffer more than they probably should by comparison (BORN AGAIN is the best non-Oz BS record, IMO). Dio (the group) I always thought was a little overrated.

  78. CN, SF,

    Do we need like a h&r meetup in Louisville next month?

    I recommend the red room at Rich O’s for maximizing irony. After the 12th of Dec, the Saturnalia Fest will be going on.

    Saturnalia Festival

    I cant find a real good picture of the red room, but it contains too much soviet shit.

  79. Powerslave is still one of my top albums. I still listen to it to warm up for my hockey games.

  80. Handsome Dan –
    “Fun fact: although I have been listening to and buying metal records for 20 years, I HAVE NEVER EVEN HEARD Iron Maiden.”

    *blink* What?? I can’t fathom how that’s even possible…. Go. Go now. Buy one. Seriously.

  81. Few things, imho, are more obnoxious than any sort of discussion about music in these comments. A lot of you seem to regard music as an intellectual pursuit of some sort. Just because only five people in the world have heard of your favorite band doesn’t make them good, okay?

  82. Iron Maiden sucks.

  83. For the curious, since I’ve got nothing better to do at the moment, here’s some example of gothy metal with female vocals that smoke Evanescence.

    The Gathering – “Rescue Me” Like I said, this seems to be where this sound came from, or at least this is where I first heard it back in the mid-1990s.

    Lacuna Coil – “Stately Lover” Not my favorite group, but these guys are (I think) the most popular exemplar of this kind of thing. I believe they have the best selling album in the history of Century Media records. Apologies for the goofy AMV.

    Madder Mortem – “My Name Is Silence” A little more chaotic and a little less twinkle-toed; this is more my speed.

  84. Saw Orphaned Land at ProgPower VI and VII in Atlanta. Definitely not a flash-in-the-pan, as long as they decide to finish their next album: they had, hands-down, the best performance of PPVI and made a huge fan of me as a result of their live set.

  85. robc,
    Saturnalia? Count me in.

  86. For the love – You were the one who read them. Don’t be a hater.

  87. Few things, imho, are more obnoxious than any sort of discussion about music in these comments.

    When you read the initial post, you did realize it was about music, didn’t you? Did you expect the comments to be about Sarah Palin?

  88. BP = pwnage

  89. “Did you expect the comments to be about Sarah Palin?”

    So, what’s on Palin’s iPod?

  90. “God Bless Selected Parts Of The USA”

  91. If the article title was a play on Saxon’s Denim and Leather tip of the hat to you.

    If not I guess I’m using up too much ram on worthless metal trivia.

  92. Just like Bon Scott is/was better than Brian Johnson, but Johnson is still great.

    I agree. One of the things that made Bon Scott so great was the combination of wise ass, playfulness and dirtbag-ness. Whereas Brian Johnson doesn’t have any of the goofiness.

    And most metal plain sucks.

  93. StupendousMan,

    I thought the same thing in regards to Denim and Leather so you’re not alone on that one.

  94. And most metal plain sucks.

    That’s just Sturgeon’s Law at work: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”

  95. if you miss 80s thrash, municipal waste does a drunken, sleazy version that’s not to be missed. (dave witte played drums with them for a long time, iirc)

    Just because only five people in the world have heard of your favorite band doesn’t make them good, okay?

    conversely, it wouldn’t make them bad, either.

    not everyone is into stuff because they want to lord it over other people – not that i understand how this lording would work if party A (being lordered) didn’t know what party B (lording party) was banging on about in the first place.

    i realize some folks are actually like this, but they’re douchebags.

    confession: i get judas priest and iron maiden confused sometimes. i know i shouldn’t but i do.

  96. “The Sword”.

    Kinda cheesy. Kinda derivative. But still frikkin awesome.

    Its like they have come to save us from the shame of “Spinal Tap”, just as foretold by the prophecy.

  97. “The Sword”.

    Kinda cheesy. Kinda derivative. But still frikkin awesome.

    Its like they have come to save us from the shame of “Spinal Tap”, just as foretold by the prophecy.

    When a band has a song called:

    “Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians”

    Is it possible to be bad? (Well probably, but they still rock).

    They have an interesting sound for those who like pounding epic metal. I imagine it’s what viking warchants would sound like if they had electric guitars.

  98. I own Holographic Universe. I don’t know how the fuck Christian manages to growl and sing like that, but it’s damn good. Although, since the band was stupid enough to let go of such an amazing vocalist, I don’t know how good they’re going to continue to be. Maybe they can get Peter Tagtgren.

    I own an album by Rotting Christ called Theogonia. It features some of the most amazing guitar work I have ever heard. Check it out.

    I don’t now if Porcupine Tree is metal, but Fear of a Blank Planet blew my head off.

    Thanks to Weigel, I now own Udu Wudu and Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh. Thanks, Dave.

    Art and music (and artful music) cross borders. I am grateful for that.

  99. Jim Bob,

    They replaced him with two guys. One to growl, and one to sing. There’s a couple of vids up on YouTube showing the two guys auditioning and singing. Seems like it may work out.

  100. Oh man the Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh record is awesome!!

    (The one with the “Red Wedge” cover art, right? I assume they only had one record…)

  101. I imagine it’s what viking warchants would sound like if they had electric guitars.

    Look up Amon Amarth. They ARE Vikings.

  102. HD,

    Fortunately, they had lots of records. 🙂 Weigel linked a vid of a song called “De Futura” from album called Udu Wudu, and I was hooked. I’ve since become quite a fan of Christian Vander.

  103. KJ,

    I’ll check it out.

    BRB gotta hit 71.

  104. “What may be generalizable is that certain genres of music tend to be oppositional to whatever the dominant regime.”

    Heavy metal, death metal, and black metal certainly fall into that category. In Norway, these types of music tend to be heavily Satanic or Astatruar, the better to oppose the Christian mainstream. In the US there’s some of that, but I find that death metal bands in the US are more about opposing the cultural mainstream, rather than the dominant religious or political paradigms – i.e., you go see Slayer because you despise American pop music, and not necessarily for any additional reason. Sure, there are upside-down crosses and political statements at some shows, but not as many as you might expect. It’s more a rebellion against the crowd who wear sweatpants and sneakers everywhere and watch American Idol.

    I got into the American death metal scene a few years back through my husband, and I enjoy it. The folks in the scene do tend to libertarian with a rightish-twist, and it’s interesting to see the scene becoming more diverse, as people from places like India, Eastern Europe, and Russia move here to get involved with this type of music. The strong libertarian streak that I see in the American scene would be nice to see in other countries as well.

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