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Acrassicauda Seeks Safe Haven To Pursue Metal Dream, Ozzfest 2008

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Band Photo: Acrassicauda (?)

Jam! Showbiz reports: Vice co-founder Suroosh Alvi, whose record label is home to Bloc Party, Chromeo, The Streets, The Black Lips, and Panthers, plans to get Iraqi metal band Acrassicauda into a state-of-the-art recording studio, then onto Ozzfest 2008 — but first he has to help get them out of danger and to a safe country.

“If we can get in trouble for this, then so be it,” says Alvi, who has followed his convictions since starting the edgy counter-culture magazine, Vice, in 1996 out of Montreal.

Acrassicauda — dubbed “Iraq’s only heavy metal band” because it is the only one known to have performed on a stage — is the subject of Vice Films’ moving documentary “Heavy Metal In Baghdad,” co-directed by Alvi and fellow Torontonian Eddy Moretti, and executive produced by Academy Award-winning director Spike Jonze (“Adaptation,” “Being John Malkovich”). Right now, the band members are living in Damascus, Syria, where the government has refused to renew their visas.

“They’re going to start kicking Iraqis back and their visas are expiring in the middle of October,” says Alvi, who is based in New York, but traveled to Iraq and Syria.

Vice had covered their story — from surreptitiously rockin’ out in Baghdad to attempting to start over in Damascus — through a series of filmed segments on VBS.tv, Vice’s Internet television channel whose creative director is Jonze. The full-length documentary recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, but things have taken a turn for the worse for Acrassicauda and Alvi and Moretti have started a fundraising campaign to help out these guys they now consider friends.

As the band wrote early this month in a blog on www.heavymetalinbaghdad.com, “We have been denied the right to be there in the film festival of Toronto in Canada for many reasons, as they said in the Canadian embassy for the second time, and as many of you heard that we are not able to perform or to play our music any more as a band all together for a lot of reasons. Plus there is no way to make living so after all there is no chance other than going back to Iraq where the chances of staying alive there are zero%.”

Alvi says that since the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. has let in less than 500 Iraqi refugees and Canada half that amount, while Syria has welcomed more than a million and Jordan some 400,000.

Alvi and Moretti have made it their mission to raise $20,000 to get singer Faisal; bassist Firas, along with his wife and child; guitarist Tony; and drummer Marwan (their surnames have been withheld by request) to a safe neighbouring country, until they figure out the next step. They have raised $8000 to date.

Ultimately, Alvi would like to bring them to North America, where they can realize their dream of playing heavy metal. But how does Acrassicauda measure up? Could they get a recording contract were they from the West? In “Heavy Metal In Baghdad,” we see their rehearsals and their live show, and even the results of an impromptu recording session in Syria, but it’s hard to tell if the snippets we hear of the actual original songs (such as “Massacre,” “The Orphan Child,” “Between The Ashes” and “Underworld”) are any good.

“Well, in my opinion, what this band needs is a month — a month to practice with normal equipment in a normal environment, what we consider to be the normal playing field for bands,” says Alvi. “And if they have that month, then they are good to go. They will be a great metal band, and not be a band that will be considered pretty good for Iraqi refugees living in Syria. And I think that’s what they want more than anything else.”

The article goes on to detail some of Acrassicauda's experiences playing metal in Iraq and under former dictator Saddam Husein.

Source: Jam! Showbiz

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