To Stay Away From The Devil, Sing For Him

A decade of war.  But for almost all of of us, it's a war viewed through our television sets.  We have no understanding of what war means.  The fear, the uncertainty, the complete lack of contol over your own fate.  War is a favorite theme of thrash.  And there's no doubt that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have played a role in the resurgence of that genre.  Take WARBRINGER.  When I saw that band the first time, I thought three things: 1)  Fuck, they're just kids; 2) Fuck, they're talented; and 3) What the fuck do they know about war?  But when I thought about it, I realized these kids grew up on September 11th and lived ther entire adolescence with their country at war.  Maybe it wasn't such a foreign concept.

That view was shattered when I finally saw Heavy Metal in Baghdad.  Apparently, you don't know war until your practice space is blown up.  The movie is the story of a group of kids that just wanted to play in a metal band.  Under Saddam, the relative calm allowed them to pursue that dream (albeit with some artistic compromise to please the dictator).  Post-invasion, they were able to play just 6 shows in over 5 years, culminating with a daytime performance in a Green Zone hotel with flames, mortars and Blackhawks as the backdrop.  The type of show only their heroes METALLICA could afford to put on.  But for ACRASSICAUDA, it was all part of the rider when the U.S. military books you to play in the middle of hostile territory.  When conditions worsened so that practice became impossible, the band made the fateful decision that nobody should live with death everyday, and the members scattered across the border.  Yes, they were ready to die, but why wait for it?             

It turns out that Syria is not a much better place for metal than Iraq.  It's so bad that the U.S. gov't was willing to grant them refugee status because the release of the movie had revealed to their neighbors that there were not in league with Islamic fundamentalism.  Today they reside in Jersey and release an EP on Vice entitled Only the Dead See the End of War.  Produced by TESTAMENT's Alex Skolnick, the record showcases the incredible progress the band has made over the last year.  Sure, the influences are there - MEGADETH, SEPULTURA and SLAYER all unsurprisingly come to mind.  But there's nothing generic about this music.  It's not possible when the creators have lived the songs.  And with Skolnick's production, he helps them sound like the professionals they have risked their lives to become.  The lead guitar work and the variety of vocal stylings have me believing this is no novelty act.       

So what does this have to do with Los Angeles?  Nothing.  What does it have to do with metal?  Everything.