Metal Mondays: Iran’s Artamene Give Protest Rock a Whole New Meaning

Artamene_ZigguratArtamene, Ziggurat, 2021
Tracks: Infinite Escape (5:27), Fear of Darkness (4:11), Heavy Motion (3:55), Mayhem (3:51), Shining Black (5:24), Inshushinak (6:01), Rain of Paradise (2:56), Petrichor (5:39)

Persecution is still disgustingly widespread in the world today. There are millions of people in countries across the globe who face imprisonment, torture, and death for their religious beliefs, their ethnicity, political beliefs… the list could go on. Iran is one such country. America has experienced childish backlash against heavy metal (Tipper Gore and her Parents Music Resource Center in the 1980s as one example) in the past, but American musicians have never feared imprisonment just for making and performing metal music. This threat is real for Iranian metal musicians, and Artamene wants the rest of the world to know that awful truth. 

Artamene was formed in Iran in 2017 by brothers Pedram (lead guitar) and Pooya Shitrah (drums) along with Soheil Avakh (vocals) and Ali Karimi (rhythm guitar). Their album, Ziggurat, also features Yahya Rahmani on bass. Pedram and Pooya grew up listening to and playing metal with each other, and they decided to form Artamene. The problem is the Iranian government thinks metal is inherently Satanic, and they have thrown bands in jail for making metal. Members of the bands Confess and Arsames have been sentenced to prison on charges of “Satanism,” although thankfully the musicians were able to escape the country. 

I don’t hear anything Satanic on Artamene’s Ziggurat, so hopefully the band will be safe from those accusations. They are allowed to play live concerts, although the behavior of the audience is strictly regulated by the government. They actually get 200-500 people at their concerts.  

Artamene_Live

The music itself is quite good. There are a lot of thrash metal elements, but there are also some more atmospheric metal moments and certainly progressive flares. Thrash metal in general often has a lot of progressive metal elements, minus the keyboards usually. On Ziggurat there are heavy distorted guitars, clean solos, and clean rhythm sections. The bass is clear, heavy, and distinct throughout. It shines in the mix. The drums are intricate and pounding with a prominent double kick, reminding me of the brilliant Gene Hoglan (Strapping Young Lad, Testament). 

The vocals are heavy and distorted, but they’re not black metal vocals. Thrash tends to have its own sort of yelled distorted vocals, along with cleans. Avakh’s vocals follow that trend, and his voice works very well with the music. It helps that the lyrics are in English. At times Avakh’s voice reminds me of M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold. 

https://youtu.be/YqT2DnTQi0A

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The End of Dormancy – EP

Often reminding us of 70s prog or jazz rock, and at times of their Motörhead roots, Voivod sound pretty much their usual self. Live recording adds some rough textures, but not enough to eclipse the classical symphony, or those intricate transformations, or even those strange lyrical plots. It’s also easy to notice that interesting contrast — two songs on the EP occupying slightly different ends of their musical spectrum. ‘The End of Dormancy’ reflecting their proggy sophistication, while ‘The Unknown Known’ rooted in their more dissonant past. Giving us all a glimpse into that unique set of influences only Voivod dares to blend.

Roman Horník / CC BY-SA

Reign In Blood

Reign in Blood emphasizes Slayer’s nearly complete departure from NWOBHM roots. In fact, the last remaining cross-over imprints are only on the additional track, “Aggressive Perfector”, included in the 1998 reissue. In other words, this album begins the Slayer epoch of dissonance. Here the band march into the margins, with a level of fury steamrolling the genre sideways, inflicting legions of extreme metal imitators.

With aggressive structural progression and a signature speed — Hanneman and King effectively blend conflicting strands from hardcore/punk and heavy metal. Dissecting this intricate chaos mandates schooling in multiple extreme genres. But glad that appreciation only requires an ear for some atonal brew – of genre-bending twin guitar dissonance. The band simply accomplished what they actually state in Raining Blood — “abolish the rules made of stone”—and they did it while remaining grounded in that ever snowballing extreme metal roots.

Released on October 7th, 1986 – so today marks thirty two blood soaked years.

— Image Attribution
By Benoît from Tours, France (Hellfest 2007 – 22/06/2007 – Slayer) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Immortal and Megadeth

Two brand new releases — one a remastered version of 80s metal, the other a brand new single. Compositions separated by decades, but illustrating raw melody in its most natural habitat — old school black and thrash metal — at threatening velocity. Immortal and Megadeth school of craft is on stunning display. Records developed in different eras, but still sharing a common context; Mustain proving he can play as well, or better, than Metallica — and Immortal going into studios for the first time without Abbath.

Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good is already a classic, its testament is simply its massive influence. Immortal’s new single takes no prisoners, they launch headlong into an aggression totally missing from their last few works. An icy chill descends, rewinding music to the darkest corners of mid-90s. Worth mentioning there are striking 1349 like qualities here, another essential Norwegian talent. If the whole album is even a fraction as good as “Northern Chaos Gods”, we are in for an early winter.

—– Image Attribution
By Mark Coatsworth [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Phoenix Rising

Among the best to have emerged from Down Under is this band named Deströyer 666. Feels like they only entertain one single goal – destroy even the last remaining understated qualities in metal. And that’s exactly what they accomplish. Synthesized from black and thrash elements, Phoenix Rising takes extreme metal aesthetics to unprecedented loudness.

Rough harping choruses, over-the-top guitar melodies, black metal screams and galloping old school riffs. In short, 80s/90s heavy metal signatures exaggerated to the point of no return. From “Rise of the Predator“ to “I Am the Wargod” to “The Eternal Glory of War” – lyrics pretty much mirror exactly what the music conveys. With this brazen approach, they will manage to get through to even the most obtuse of listeners. With no frills old school structures, a style absolutely devoid of pretenses and adequate in substance – Deströyer 666 becomes that essential cross-over band to darker genres. Needless to say, album is rated 666/666.

By Christian Misje (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The Evil Divide

Heavy metal is actually swarming with cross-genre bands, and then there are a few like Death Angel. Over thirty years, and they still wield an uncompromising arsenal of old school thrash. Decked with stunning guitar harmonies, intricate progressions and ultra-thrashy riffs — ‘The Evil Divide’ is a new album with mid-80s sound. Thrash at its creative best.

With that NWOBHM train of break neck riffs and pristine melodic hooks, Death Angel is elegant and loyal to their founding roots. They are sort of unique in persisting with this age old aggressive terrain. As expected, most of their illustrious contemporaries have mellowed, and now fear to tread through these very furious paths.

 

 

 

By Fileri (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Teramaze – Her Halo – Album Review

Artist: Teramaze Album Title: Her Halo Label: Mascot Label Group Year Of Release: 2015 Another day, another good news story. Before I was sent a promo for this release, I knew very little about Teramaze if I’m honest. However, a quick look on that there Internet showed me that there was a definite buzz surrounding […]

https://manofmuchmetal.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/teramaze-her-halo-album-review/