Mist Within Frontman Alireza Motevasel on the Iranian Metal Scene and the Band's Upcoming Debut
When we hear about Iran nowadays, it is often in a heavy context wrapped around religious or political narratives. Iran is almost never associated with Heavy Metal - in fact, metal is barely tolerated in Iran, and is a subject aligned with devil-worship, ostracized to the fullest extent of human ability and political power.
However, where conflict and revolution percolate in response to perceived oppression and omission, a growing interest in all things forbidden, dark and heavy is born. Mist Within is just one example of Iran's youth seemingly corrupted and ruined by Western culture. Their hunger and passion for our literature, cinema and music - utterly nonexistent to Iranian eyes and ears just 50 years ago - has contributed to the emergence of a diverse musical underground rife with intensely talented men and women looking for a way to be heard.
Here, Mist Within vocalist Alireza Motevasel enlightens us on their upcoming album, the Iranian scene and what it is like to be a metalhead in one of the most controversial nations on Earth.
Eternityrites: What is the metal scene like in Iran, and how is it viewed by society?
Iran is literally like hell for metalheads. Metal subculture is not accepted by the majority of society here. Even though, on most occasions, people don’t behave properly when faced with a metalhead, the most important issue for metalheads is the government. Many metalheads have been threatened, fined and jailed during these years and it’s getting worse each day. They won’t let you live the style you want and play the music you love, which is a very basic human right everywhere. Long story short, it’s illegal to play Metal in this country.
Eternityrites: Do you feel Iran has changed since you were younger in terms of this view? Do you believe it is getting better or worse?
Well, there have been many improvements in Iranian bands these years. Quality has significantly increased and you can hear some real good music here and there. But the whole thing stays the same. You can’t sell CDs or play any gigs. It’s even illegal that you exist! They won’t let you have the simplest requirements. Thus, logically there is no room for any change.
Eternityrites: That is really not ideal. I am surprised you have gotten where you are now! How did you first discover metal and what has drawn you to the doom and progressive style in particular?
The first sparkles were in the childhood. My uncle used to listen to Rock and Metal songs pretty much. So as I was hearing some serious stuff here and there, I became a bit interested. A few years later, I started borrowing tapes from him and that’s how shit got serious...(laughs)
In first years, I wasn’t into heavy music that much. I even couldn’t bear guttural vocals! I loved that Pink Floyd-ish era - I was obsessed with the atmospheric Progs mixed with dreamy melodies, melancholic vocals and emotional guitar works... that was exactly when I figured out that music is the only passion in life. After a while, I made a very good connection with heavier music too, and I suddenly noticed that I love deep growling now. So I’ve started to try different aspect of metal music. That was when my musical taste moved into a new level. At this moment I listen to a vast variety of genres and I really enjoy most of them.
Eternityrites: You studied Chemical Engineering at your University - what prompted that choice? Did you see yourself as a professional musician when you began studies?
My father studied the same field, He’s a professor and he has been teaching at the University for over two decades. So I always had a positive background about it in my mind. But the truth is that I was never interested in Chemical Engineering at all. In fact, I was never passionate about anything but music. I was always dreaming about being a musician. I dreamed myself on stages, playing gigs and shows. I mostly chose Chemical Engineering as an alternative and because of the difficult situation of musicians in Iran. It was never meant anything serious to me, but it gave me a little freedom in family and society to follow my dreams.
Eternityrites: Tell me a little about your upcoming album - is it conceptually driven, straightforward, or more personal?
I believe all mankind’s problem around the world and through history can described in few words. So we all have same struggles in life more or less, same concerns. We experience same failures. We sometimes lose hope and we have to accept the defeat. These feelings will never completely fade, they just acervate as burden on your shoulder. When you talk about these things stem from your very own personal experiences, most people will completely understand you. It’s like you singing their story in your voice.
Eternityrites: The band has gone through some turbulence in the last year - what challenges are you facing now with lineups and recording? Is it difficult maintaining such a high level of talent?
We had some great plans for “Post Mortem Dump” but we came into a situation that we had no other choice but to change it a bit, it affected the band’s process pretty much but time will heal for sure. We will release Post Mortem Dump as an EP consists of four or five tracks soon. We’re facing too many obstacles but giving up is never an option. But the most priority at the moment is to find a decent way to get out of this country, because it’s not possible to continue like this anymore.
Eternityrites: For an independent act, your recordings and videos have a very high level of polish, making it clear you put a great deal of care and work into the band. How difficult is this to achieve and what has gone into it thus far?
It’s definitely difficult to work in situation like this, everything’s on risk and you don’t have most simple recording equipments. That’s why it took a little longer to release the album. But when you truly passionate about something, no excuses will be accepted. You will find a way in every deadlock. So we tried to be as accurate as possible in every single detail. We faced many ups and downs including line-up changes, rehearsing in very difficult situations or traveling 700 miles for recordings. But no big deal, you have to pay the price for your dreams.
Eternityrites: With the mounting tensions in Iran and the Middle East, how is this affecting the band and the scene in general?
We have many troubles even without the conflicts in Middle East. Actually the main problem is within the country. There are many active and successful bands throughout Middle Eastern countries. Yes the tensions affect them for sure, when you have safety you can work easier. But for an Iranian band, it’s completely a different story.
Eternityrites: What misconceptions about Iran and its people do Westerners have that you would like to change?
I don’t think if there is any actual idea about in Westerners minds. Nothing than some horrible news in the media about war, terrorism and conflicts in this region. It’s very sad and in many occasions they won’t even bother themselves to hear. They don’t expect you to achieve something worth listening. However, I believe it can work in beneficial ways sometimes too. Anyway, I’ve never been into exposing a different image of Iran and Iranians, I just try to express my thoughts and emotions as an individual artist, no matter where I came from.
Eternityrites: If someone is interested in Iranian music, including metal, what would you recommend?
There are bands here representing some real good music. Mantism and Acrovaya are my favorites. I can mention some very skillful musicians like Adel Rouhnavaz or a brilliant solo artist Ehsan Imani, who recorded and produced our music too. There are many other talented musicians in this country who work very hard despite all the difficulties and the limits.
Eternityrites: What are your hopes for Mist Within's future?
Mist Within is just like a child to me. It’s not a newborn born but still not more than a toddler. There is a long long way to go, many ups and downs and lots of changes. But I feel the light at the end of this rough tunnel. When there is a will, there is a way.
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