Heavy Metal in Baghdad, VBS.tv / Vice Films / Arts Alliance America

Jim Jacka

Heavy Metal in Baghdad, VBS.tv / Vice Films / Arts Alliance America

Four main steps represent the rock 'n' roll dream: 1) Form a band. 2) Write songs and play shows. 3) Use money earned from shows to record an album. 4) Use the demo album leads to get signed by a record label. Rock 'n' roll infamy ensues. This is how the tale supposedly plays out in fantasy, but where can we include the part about your country being invaded or the practice space being obliterated by a SCUD missile? Hmmm?

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Acrassicauda, a metal band from Iraq, and their Western world rock stardom ideals, is the centerpiece of Heavy Metal in Baghdad. It's a fascinating look at tradition vs. progression for betterment based around music. One question left me shaking my head: Would I risk my life for long hair, a goatee or a Slipknot shirt? How about another scenario: Your band is able to play a public show, but the one stipulation is you must play a pro-Saddam Hussein song or risk open-ended imprisonment? Such was and is the life of these amateur musicians in Iraq.

It came to me, near the end of Heavy Metal in Baghdad, that someone who reads this review would want to know if the strife and death-defying was worth it. If a band is this important, Acrassicauda has to be a Beatles/Led Zeppelin/Metallica combo. But I’m glad that the film doesn’t even make a point about that. And not to cop out but I don't think it would have mattered if they'd just learned their instruments, dedication vs. insurmountable odds is the real story. As an aside, they're a decent band mainly influenced by Metallica and guitarist Tony is a marvel. I'm talkin' virtuoso.

This is truly a story from the other side of the world and one that the directors and musicians risked their lives to tell. Think of your past failures, were you ever really willing to risk your life? These guys just wanted to cross borders and record the first metal record in a country's history. So simple, but damn it if they don't get ripped off by leaches or whisper English in the streets for fear of death. Doling out cash wads for armored vehicles and eventually 12-shooters was a necessary duty for the filmmakers. Simply and masterfully put by Mike, a 19-year old Iraqi and #1 fan of Acrassicauda, “Is it a crime to be Iraqi?” No, but apparently being in a rock band is. In a land where human life is taken for granted, Acrassicauda knows its existence is limited, but still keeps all focus on rockin'.

 
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