"If you want to release your music legally in Iran and be able to sell it or perform live, you have to get permission from multiple religious authorities for every single release and live show. "
There are so many unsung or largely forgotten (overlooked at times) metal scenes worldwide, one of these is Iran. To think the country has over 80 bands and projects active and yet can anyone name any major ones? Might be worth for the rest of the metal media in the west to focus their coverage more on said scenes, but in the spirit of metal it's bands like Integral Rigor who take the D.I.Y. approach and do what they can to enjoy metal as much as they can.
The band have big plans to try and release their music through a label, potentially tour outside of Iran and in doing so put Iranian Metal on the international stage.
Guitarist Masoud Moghaddari filled us in with the details.
For those who have not heard of Integral Rigor, please give us a brief history of the band, what does the band name mean?
"Hi! I'm Masoud, guitarist of Integral Rigor, the band was formed in 2009 by Reza Rostamian (Guitars,Vocals) in Sari, northern Iran. Inspired by ancient Persian music, Integral Rigor released it's first album "No More Room In Hell" in 2011 and the second one "Alast" was released in 2018 in which our bassist Shahriar Rajabpour and I joined the band. Very briefly, the title of the band means the maximum purity and absolution of everything, in our case extreme music and art."
You released your 2nd album "اَلَست " back in 2018, what was the reception like and did you get attention from outside of Iran?
"I think we received good feedback especially in Russia and eastern European countries despite not promoting and advertising the album that much. I think oriental music sounds interesting to Russian ears. Also almost every blogger and reviewer who we sent our music to, enjoyed it. It takes some time get more attention from the metal fans worldwide."
What instruments or scales do you use to bring Persian / Oriental flavours into your own form of Death / Thrash Metal?
"Well, there are lots of scales in traditional Persian music which we call "Dastgah" or more anciently "Magham" - that are closely related to classic major / minor scales. These can be used to create cool sounding elements which could be unique to western ears. For example there are some scales that have different ascending and descending patterns, or there are some quarter notes in some scales."
Speaking of which you switched to being instrumental, what was the decision behind the change? Will you bring vocals back?
"If you want to release your music legally in Iran and be able to sell it or perform live, you have to get permission from multiple religious authorities for every single release and live show. Originally, the album had lyrics and vocals, but we were forced to remove it due to restrictions from said authorities. I think they do not like growl / scream vocals!"
What is it like growing up as a metalhead in Iran? Are restrictions not as harsh as they used to be? What challenges to bands face these days?
"The most noticeable restriction I think is that no bands tour or do live shows here. So as a kid you would grow up wishing to see your favourite bands live, but this wish would hardly be granted. It used to be harder to even listen to metal music back in the days as there are no metal music stores here! But it's not a problem any more thanks to the Internet. As I said earlier, bands have to get permission from various organizations in order to release albums or do live shows (which rarely happens) and it makes it very difficult for the bands because most of them cannot earn that much to continue doing what they love to do."
For metalheads visiting Sari, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any bars or venues also?
"Iran is a great country for tourists, especially for those who are interested in historical sites.
Sari is located in the north of Iran in the Mazandaran province, which is popular for being the most green province in Iran with having many amazing natural landscapes. There are various forests & mountains like "Badab Soort" which is a stepped travertine terraces and very unique in the world. Moreover, there is the "Shah Abbas I Mosque", "Fazeli Hotel", "Dasht Naz & Miankaleh Wildlife Sanctuary" and many more!
What are your plans for late 2020 / early 2021? Were any cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19?
"We are currently in search of a record label to help us reach a larger audience worldwide. Until then, we will release single tracks every few weeks to stay active and be seen on social media.
Also we have plans to tour outside Iran if possible and are really looking forward to that. About the COVID-10 situation, we had arranged some live events in 3-4 cities in Iran but had to cancel all of them. The annoying fact is that we have to go through the permission process again for future plan."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I would like to thank you for this interview and all your efforts, it means a lot to us. Just want to say that do not judge Iranians by what you see in the media. Iranian people are separated from politicians are very lovely and welcoming and love all the people around the world. Hope to see you someday soon! Stay safe!"
Although Trivax originated in Iran, the frontman Shayan S. moved to the UK in 2010 to pursue becoming a metal musician. The rest of the band members are from Birmingham with the exception of bassist 'S' who originates from Syria. So where East meets West and liberalist and conservative cultures clash, Trivax stands strong as a force of nature. Shayan spoke to GMA about growing up as an Iranian metalhead, challenges faced and what it's like being immersed in the British Metal scene.
"If you're religiously or politically against what the Government (Iranian) do or believes in then you can almost be executed"
Trivax didn't form in the UK, so could you tell us it's origins? What is the Iranian scene like?
"Eh no I originally formed the band on my own in Iran in 2009. I can't really say there's much of a scene because it's illegal over there to be doing this kind of thing. There are obviously some musicians who are trying to be active but obviously the quality of what comes out isn't quite as good because people don't really get to exercise the rights for music. So obviously because there's rarely any gigs or anything like that. As bands, they don't really have a great deal to offer but of course there's a lot of good musicians who have come out of there. From The Vastland is an Iranian Black Metal band formed by a friend of mine called Sina who is now based in Norway, and they're doing quite well at the moment.
The name Trivax translates to 'storm', it's a transcription of a war, of a name that's in Farsi and yes it came about nine years ago as I mentioned in April 2009. I just decided that this was what I needed to be doing, I didn't really have the circumstances to be doing it at the time, it's just the hunger to create and play extreme music and to light up the fire that's in you."
So would most Iranian metalheads leave the country to pursue metal music careers, etc?
"I wouldn't say most, no, they would like to but I don't think anyone can do it"
What can happen if someone in Iran was found to be supporting metal music?
"Well it can usually just start off with getting arrested by the culture police which means they'll cut your hair, eventually they'll let you go on bail, or if you're playing live music without permission from the Government, then that can go very badly... they can break your instruments and things, finally if you're religiously or politically against what the Government do or believes in then you can almost be executed."
What do your parents think of you playing metal music?
"I think they might have been slightly sceptical at first, but I have to say that they have been greatly, greatly supportive - it might not be something that they'd listen to themselves, but they really enjoy it, they support that it is something I believe in because they see that it's not just a hobby or just something for me to try to and impress my friends with. This is my life. They're open-minded about it."
Did you face any challenges when you wanted to learn to play metal music?
"None really, it'd a different environment to what it is like here, I was that desperate to actually play and I learned that whatever difficulties that were in the way, I would push through them."
How does it feel to be at Bloodstock?
"Feels pretty amazing, yeah so far everyone has been kind to us and we're very much looking forward to the show."
Do you get nervous when going on stage?
"erm... I don't, I... it's a very strange state of mind, I'm not sure if I can really talk about it and have it make any sense, all I can say is that it gets very intense and excitement."
Do you feel metal music in general and not just Bloodstock, brings the world together irrespective of socio-cultural and political differences?
"Absolutely, that's why we are here, we share this metal music together with people I've never met before, but we're all brothers and sisters in metal."
Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Many thanks to those who have supported us over the years and devoted the time to come, we're only really getting started with Trivax and we're going to do our best to get out there as much as possible, and conquer each one of you".
When many people think of Iran, either the vast-lands of desert or the historic silk-road springs to mind. But underneath the rich history of this Islamic country is a metal scene that determines to thrive despite facing oppression from the political and religious elite, something of which metalheads despise; the act of creative art and freedom locking horns with the sharia law that prohibits non-Islamic music, so one begs the question.. what defines as Islamic music? Tarantist, a Thrash Metal band originally from Tehran, but now based in the USA, stepped up to talk to GMA about their native scene, their new single 'Ekhtelas' and the general complications they face as being Iranians.
"Back in the day if we wore band shirts, we would have been arrested and raped in the Islamic jail by some jihadists"
For those who have not heard of Tarantist, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Formed in the basements of Tehran around the year 2000, bitten and toxic by the society's poison, we started to scream out loud and get our frustration heard by the world. Unhealthy situation by the occupying Government of Iran..."
How did you get into playing and listening to metal music? Was it hard growing up as a metalhead in Iran?
"Only through some friends or relatives who have been travelling in-and-out of the country and later on by the help of satellite TV channels, radios and then internet. It was all in the underground and secret scene and was a very dangerous situation, because mullahs have been thought by the puppeteers, to impose the society false and bullshit statements... like the music will rape their profits anally... so, music was banned, joy was banned, happiness was banned, being a human was banned, every f*****g thing was banned, because the f*****g false prophets of some f*****g bullshit lies were supposed to get mad at us and send us to hell if we did so! Sigh... "
You just dropped your new single 'Ekhtelas', what has the reception of the single been like?
"The chorus seems to be catchy and everyone sings and dances with it!"
You moved from Iran to the USA, how easy or hard was the transition?
"It was (and still is) so f*****g hard... you won't believe the amount of horse-s**t both governmental bureaucracies will put in your plate... that was insane... but TarantisT got kind of lucky (although it was not luck, it was because we f*****g rocked hard and we deserved it, then we gained it)... so, we got a huge international exposure, people from major international media were coming to Iran only to meet with TarantisT and interview us! Then the news we were getting viral on the early days of Internet and social media. Then we started to receive invitations to travel the world and perform... so we walked in to the US like rock-stars with the visa type of "Internationally Recognized Artists"! Yeah f**k yeah, young kids as internationally recognized artists... proud of our achievements..."
Do you feel that metal music offers a way for everyone to come together regardless of political, religious, cultural and social differences?
"Metal is life, metal is everything, metal is a culture... humanity comes first, before any Satan-damn thing!"
What can fans expect from your forthcoming album? What is different in comparison to previous albums?
"In the upcoming album, "Fucked Up Generation", words would be in Farsi once again like "Not A Crime" album (2017), but again fresh and new sounds, groovy bass lines and riffs, traditional Persian instruments, and new subjects to bite the f*****g corrupted system."
For metalheads visiting Tehran, what sights or attractions should they go and see? How restricted is metal music in Iran; are metalheads allowed to wear band t-shirts in the street?
"Back in the day if we wore band shirts, we would have been arrested and raped in the Islamic jail by some jihadists, who are scared of their nonsense Allah! We haven't lived there since 2007 so we don't have personal experiences, but it seems it is a little bit better these days. But you won't see any thing related to rock or metal music in public. If you lick the balls of the supreme leader, you might be able to f**k around though..."
For the rest of 2018 and into 2019, what are your plans?
"3 albums in 2019 ready to fire, SXSW festival 2019, new videos, some shows and gigs here and there... all news will be posted on our social media channels, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Apple Music, etc."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's, etc., that you wish to send out?
"Fuck you mullahs".
Metal music is unmistakably global, we've seen the rise of metal bands from all corners of the globe, from Brazil's Sepultura to New Zealand's Ulcerate and all the countries in-between and... basically everywhere. However it's multinational bands and projects that just show the solidarity this music brings irrespective of religious, cultural, political or societal traits... Metal is the Mecca of open-mindedness. Akheth, a project generally central to Canada features members from American, Dutch, Iranian and Mexican backgrounds and as they drop their debut single it's only right that they get all the attention they deserve because Akheth are not just a band, they are a prime example of 'metalisation' (a portmanteau of metal and globalisation; I just made it up); that is the power of metal music bringing different nationalities together under one roof.
Akheth gave us an insight into their world, their new single, their paths to metal and the challenges of being a project separated by vast lands and open seas.
How did Akheth come about? What does the band name mean and how did that come about?
"The band started from the first demo of 'The Asylum' we did back in 2015. It was a song that I had written in 2011 for my band at the time. When I saw a few YouTube videos of Mahafsoun singing I asked her if she'd be interested in recording vocals for the song. We finished that demo but didn't create Akheth as a band until late 2016. The name of the band is an Egyptian hieroglyph that represents where the sun rises or sets. I chose this name for the band because I was looking for something original and short and Akheth was the name of the first song I ever wrote back in 2006, so it has a special meaning."
Seeing as you all live in four countries, do you send recordings over the net or do you meet up on occasion?
"Mahafsoun and I have met a few times but most of the work we do is through the internet. I send the guys complete demos with guide vocals or just the skeleton of a song when I'm still working on it. From there they learn it and add their own thing to it. There is also a new song that we are working on for the EP on which Mahafsoun wrote the main piano parts, it is the first song we are writing together. Next month (April) Mahafsoun and I will meet and practice the vocal lines for the new songs."
What (apart from the previous question) challenges do you face as an international band?
"Sometimes communicating ideas over the internet is difficult, you can't really explain for example a melody or a complicated section over an e-mail. Besides that recording everything separately, specially with a low budget is hard because you have to take all those different tracks recorded in different places and make them fit together. Of course with the technology we have these days it's a bit easier but some of us are still learning and getting more experience as we work more on recording music. Lastly the cost of getting all of us together in the same place, every time we want to do it one of us has to get a flight somewhere."
Mahafsoun, what was it like growing up as a metal fan in Iran? What does your family think of metal music?
"During the time I lived in Iran, I was only eight years old. Because of this I never got to experience what it's like to be a metal fan growing up in Iran. However my mum and dad nowadays enjoy some metal. In the beginning they didn't really care about it, but after I showed them the different sub-genres of metal, they each found one that they really enjoyed listening to. I believe that for each of them, they enjoy metal more nowadays especially because they know that I have such a strong connection to the music and the culture."
You released your debut single 'The Asylum' this year, what has the reception been like and how did you come up with the single title?
"At the time of writing The Asylum and other songs I had the idea of making them all fit together in a concept album. The story is about the human mind and how insane it can sometimes be. So at the beginning of the story everything is somewhat abstract but getting to this song, The Asylum, you start to figure out what it was all about. At this point we aren't even talking about the full length, since we are working on the EP, so we'll have to see if we keep the same subject.
So far the reception has been great! People from all over the world ordered our CD's and merch, as a new band we didn't really expect that so we are very thankful for the support. Not only that but people also liked our music and we were lucky to have Mark from Epica as a guest on the song!
Will the single be included on your impending EP / debut album in the future?
"Our EP will contain 5 new songs and we will include 'The Asylum' as a bonus. Although for our first full length album we talked about re-recording the song because this single was basically home-made and we had some comments about our production quality. So yes! we will have a much better version of 'The Asylum' but it'll have to wait until we record our full length."
How would you describe your style of metal? Who influences you?
"Right now we only have that one song out so it is still too early for people to really know what our style is. However in a review for Metal Injection they called us Progressive Symphonic Metal and we really liked that term because it doesn't limit us to play the same thing all the time. We have so many influences that go from Progressive Rock all the way to Black or Death Metal and everything in between. I think our music will definitely reflect that. Also each one of us has different tastes and styles of playing our instruments or singing.
The good thing is that we are all open minded and so is most of the metal community, our core will always be metal so I think most people will find something that they enjoy in our music. For our EP we are working on a ballad, also other longer songs with middle eastern vibes and instrumental sections. Some songs have more orchestra and others are more riff oriented so you guys can get an idea. The beauty of Symphonic Metal is that you can do so many different things with it and when you throw in the progressive part you get even more variety.
As far as specific bands that influence us I'd personally say Opeth, Dream Theater, Tool, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Evergrey, David Gilmour, Steven Wilson to mention a few. Mahafsoun likes Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Septicflesh, Moonspell. There would be too many to mention them all!"
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Our plans for this year besides the EP are making our first official videos together! We'd like to thank you and everybody for supporting Akheth and we hope you keep an eye out for our EP towards the second half of the year!"