Heavy Metal Islam, a feature length documentary film, will tune audiences in to an alternative vision of the Muslim world that few in the West realize exists: The burgeoning heavy metal scene. Traveling from the slums of Casablanca to abandoned mansions outside Cairo to clandestine, literally underground gatherings in Iran, we enter a closed universe in the forgotten underbelly of globalization, where musicians and fans take great risks to play and listen to heavy metal with a religious fervor. For them, the music is not just for head-banging—it’s a way to vent widely shared but oft-repressed feelings of anger, anomie and hope in a forum that they—and not the corrupt state or the conservative Mosque—control.
Despite various government crackdowns (deriding the music as Satanic is a favorite ploy) metal scenes continue to flourish across the Muslim world. As these scenes grow, they’re revealing and an entirely different narrative than the one we get from the 24-hour news channels. It’s a story of similarities between East and West, with young people in Egypt venting their rage and expressing their desires in much the same way that kids in Indiana or London do; of collaborations between Western and Eastern musicians; of music—not suicide bombing—as protest and poetry. This odd, often violent-sounding stepchild of rock and roll is proving to be a remarkably transcendent vessel of hope.
As the film progresses, we’ll see musicians struggling with their history, their religion, and their art, and young kids struggling to make sense of an extreme world with stark choices. Heavy Metal Islam, the film that we’ll forge from this amalgam, will try to see if the seeds of a different, better future might already be growing from the desert sand.
On the 10th we have the latest from Black Label Society, Order of the Black. I have been a huge fan of their work since early in college, but 2003's Blessed Hellride was kind of a turning point. They were much heavier and dirtier sounding before that, and lost some of their charm after that. This is their first new album in four years, though, so I hope there will be somewhat of a return to form. Decibel noted there were several ballads, but Zakk did that quite well on Book of Shadows--not so well, though, on Hangover Music.
Iron Maiden's The Final Frontier comes out on the 17th. For a lot of people, they were one of the first metal bands they got into. I didn't get into them until after I had been a metalhead for a decade already, so they don't have the same emotional attachment for me. From the reviews I've heard, it doesn't sound like one of their best, but the music I've heard has been pretty good. I'm on the fence about whether I'll get it.
The cello metal masters Apocalyptica will be releasing 7th Symphony on August 24. I am very much looking forward to this one. They are the original cello metal band, and they have continued to evolve and improve their sound on each successive release. You can definitely look forward to seeing more about this one in the coming month.
Also on the 24th is The Sword's third album Warp Riders. Decibel gave it a bad review, comparing it to Corrosion of Conformity's Deliverance if everything went wrong instead of going right. This is another one I'm on the fence about, and I'll be checking out Youtube videos to see if I can get a feel for it before buying.
On August 31 Disturbed release their fifth album, Asylum. I heard a promo cassette for their first album before it came out, and I have to say they have been one of my favorite bands--until recently. I keep questioning whether the alternative metal scene has gone downhill, or if I've simply lost interest in it, like metal is a drug and the lighter stuff isn't making up for the law of diminishing returns. I'm on the fence about it.
Up in the air--is Monster Magnet going to release their new album soon?
Of course, there are a lot of more underground kinds of albums I'll find as I go along, so I'll keep you posted.