Acrassicauda: Only the Dead See the End of the War

After earning respect in the metal world through their movie, the Iraqi band has officially arrived with their first EP.


Only the Dead See the End of the War

Label: Vice
US Release Date: 2010-03-09
UK Release Date: available as import
Artist Website

After watching the enthralling 2007 documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad it was near impossible to keep yourself from wondering just how the four Iraqi musicians in Acrassicauda were doing lately. After all, these were four musicians so dedicated to their art that they were willing to risk everything to write music and perform, whether it was living in the heart of the war zone in Baghdad (their rehearsal space wound up being destroyed by a missile), living on the run as refugees in Syria and Turkey, and dealing with the endless paperwork that eventually brought them to America in late 2008. It's been an arduous, painful journey, but now that they're on somewhat solid footing for the first time ever, work on their music can finally begin in earnest.

In the film, when you see the band perform an awkward instrumental of Europe's "The Final Countdown" at a rare concert in Baghdad, it's more than evident that they have a lot of work to do towards simply gelling as a band, let alone writing their own material. However, unlike a bunch of sniveling suburban American kids with all the technical chops who would only bring themselves to cover Europe as a joke, Acrassicauda's passion is absolutely palpable in that clip. Metal isn't just an after-school or weekend hobby for these guys, it's a matter of life and death, and considering that they hail from the most dangerous place on earth, where any trace of Western culture was enough to seriously put your life at risk as well as your family's, it's enough to convince anyone that they would eventually realize their dream of following in the footsteps of their heroes in Metallica and Sepultura.

Acrassicauda's early demos were likeable enough, a good start, but it wasn't until they finally made it to the States where they started to make serious strides, and the end result of their entire ordeal is a four-song debut EP that will not only have people cheering for them even more, but actually turns out to be a good first record. Of course, it never hurts to have the metal community take you under its wing, and the foursome found a terrific mentor in Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick, who not only produced Only the Dead See the End of the War, but played a significant role in getting the band to tighten their sound, and it doesn't take long to notice that Skolnick's guidance has paid off tremendously.

The band's approach is simple to the point of being unabashedly derivative, settling into some robust post-thrash grooves reminiscent of Metallica's Black Album and Sepultura's Chaos A.D.. The stuttering double-kick cadences and double-time breaks by drummer Marwan Hussein drive "Message From Baghdad", with lead guitarist Tony Yaqoo letting loose lithe arpeggios as guitarist/vocalist Faisal Mustafa emits an effective growl as he paints a blunt portrait of his battered home city. The dirge-like "Massacre" is appropriately menacing, in the vein of early Machine Head, right down to Mustafa's shifting from coarse growls to strong clean singing, the song coming to a harrowing climax as he sings, "My child is crying, my child is starving / his mother’s heart inside is burning / they stole my land, they stole my home/ they ripped my flesh, they stripped my bone."

The seething rage and blunt approach of "The Unknown" walks a line between 1990s nu-metal and straightforward hardcore, from the shouted "gang" vocals to its rather simplistic breakdown, but Yaqoo ties it all together neatly with a terrific, expressive guitar solo before the foursome launches in to a headbang-inducing outro. The best song on the CD, and most likely the best indication of just where Acrassicauda can go from here, is the excellent "Garden of Stones". Starting out as a mid-tempo stomper not unlike Metallica's slower, heavier material, Mustafa's vocals are front and center, his inflections Hetfieldian but convincing, his vocal melodies catchy. Meanwhile, the band launches into a very cool solo break that clearly draws inspiration from their homeland, Middle Eastern melodies, percussion, and chanting making their way into the latter half of the song.

Skeptics will say that there's not much to this music, and they're right, but compared to a bunch of kids trying to be the next version of Suicide Silence or the Faceless, there's a level of sincerity to Acrassicauda's music that's irresistible. They don't just sing about war like every other metal band out there; they've been there. And there's no doubt that if we've experienced what they have gone through over the last eight years, we'd be just as driven as they are.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.