A Look Into the Metal World of Iran – Arsames

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Some months ago (9 October 2012 to be precise) I started a little tour out into the metal world, to see what music lies hidden in countries you don’t hear about that often, especially when you live in the northern hemisphere of the world.

This journey actually started when a good Twitter-friend from Kuwait sent me a link to a funny little video (Thanks Rashed!)

In the suggested videos that appeared later a name caught my eye and I got curious…

Arsames is a melodic death metal band from Mashhad in Iran, formed in 2002 by Ali Madarshahi, singer, general manager, lyricist and former drummer of the band.
In the early days they recorded some songs in a home studio, but couldn’t release the songs, as metal, amongst other genres, were and still is banned in Iran, making the metal scene as underground as you can possibly get.
Rock and especially metal has been banned since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 were the country changed from a moderate monarchy to a fundamentalist Islamic state. Rock bands are allowed to play nowadays but with government restrictions. Metal is however still forbidden and looked upon as satanic and evil music. Metalheads try to be as anonymous as possible when going out to avoid bad incidents, such as hiding the long hair and not showing metal-tee’s etc as there is a risk that they could get their hair cut of or go to jail for showing this in public.

Arsames bandname derives from the first King of the Persian Empire from 520BC and the lyrics are concentrated around Ancient Persian history and culture. Arsames is very proud of the ancient history of their country and would like to spread the knowledge of the ancient empire of Persia to people around the world.

In 2006, when the internet began to offer more opportunities for bands to promote their music through various sites, frontman Ali created a MySpace profile for the band and started to promoted Arsames music. On MySpace they gained a reputation and a following, mostly because metalheads were caught by surprise that metal was being played and recorded in Iran. Arsames showed just by their music another Iran and not how the media described the country.
The biggest problem for the metal community in Iran, except the fact that they need to stay underground in order to not cause themselves any trouble, is to get instruments and a place to rehears, which for the most parts is in basements.
Gigs are pretty much only arranged in somebody’s home or garage. Management and getting your music out to the masses is also a major problem in Iran. Arsames has been left pretty much alone from the authorities, mainly because they don’t mix politics or religion with their music and simply because they keep a low profile. Ali Madarshahi had the opportunity to immigrate, but chose to stay because of his sincere love for his country and also because he has been a part of the metal underground for so long he would rather stay and fight with his friends and the rest of the Iranian metal community to keep it alive.

In 2008 they entered a contest to play the MetalCamp festival in Slovenia, which they won but couldn’t attend, as the Slovenian embassy demanded a substantial money guarantee by a resident in the country , which Arsames for obvious reasons could get. The embassy refused to give them a visa and they couldn’t go. The disappointment over not being able to go to Slovakia to play soon turned into joy as they got an invitation from the UniRock Festival in Turkey to come and play the festival the following year. There they played alongside Amon Amarth, Kreator and Arch Enemy. They have since played festivals in Dubai and India.

In 2010 they re-recorded their Album ’Immortal Identity’ and got it released worldwide. During 2011 they made a tribute EP ’Persian Death Metal Tribute to Warriors of Metal’ with 4 songs covering Amon Amath, Sepultura, Kreator and Carcass.

Arsames was the headlining act of the first Persian Metal festival held in Armenia 2012. The festival was put together by Zhesht Events with support from MOP music group and presented 10 Iranian metal bands from different genres.
A little funny note from that event was that the bands had to travel into Armenia as ’Classical musicians’. The organizers even made travel packages for the Iranian fans including tickets, accommodation, transfers etc.

To celebrate their 10-year anniversary, the band is also in the process of making a DVD with footage of their time together as a band, and even footage from before Arsames was even created.

As I have understood their are about to record, or even in the process of recording, their second album Epic of the Kings’ where they are gonna incorporate more of the old traditional Persian style of playing music.
They have a very optimistic view on the future, where they hope they will be able to play in even more countries and of course land a major record deal.

The current band members are:
Ali Madarshahi – Vocals
Morteza Shahrami – Guitar
Ahmad Takabu – Guitar
Saeed Makari –  Bass Guitar
Saeed Shariat – Drums

More Arsames here:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/METALARSAMES

After this nice discovery I got even more curious and started a little venture out into the metal world of Iran, Syria etc and found even more bands that I think are worth checking out, so why don’t you do the same?!

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