You think you've had tough gigs before? Ever had the venue lose power due to mortar fire? Ever have your rehearsal space and instruments destroyed by a rocket? Ever have to lie about the genre of music you make on your fliers to avoid being killed for being 'satanists'? I'll just stop there, because no matter who you are, you've never had it as tough as Acrassicauda - the only heavy metal band in Iraq.
"Heavy Metal in Baghdad" follows the band after MTV did a brief profile of them at the start of the Iraq war. The Canadian film-makers became intrigued with the band and many years later wanted to meet them, make a documentary about them, and, indeed, to find out if they were even still alive. So, they snuck into Iraq through the northern border and what follows is a harrowing journey into one of the most dangerous places on earth.
They locate the band and follow their struggles in what must be simultaneously one of the most inspiring and depressing band profiles you are ever likely to see. Somehow, in the midst of perhaps the most abnormal of living situations imaginable, music serves both as catharsis and an anchor to normalcy for the band's four members in a way far more profound than anyone watching the film can probably relate to. All the usual band experiences are there... the original singer leaving the band... the struggles to get gigs... the threats to break up the band if things don't look up for them... but given the backdrop this all takes place in, it's on a far more exaggerated level.
It's unavoidable that this film also has a political angle, and this turns out to be just as fascinating as the musical one. It gives a taste of the experience of the average Iraqi and not simply the journalists and politicians we are usually restricted to hearing from. Unsurprisingly, it becomes clear that the media gets most of the story wrong.
By now, you may be asking, "But Tom, what does this have to do with electronic music?" Well... it doesn't. It just has to do with music and the power it has to get us through unimaginable times. And sometimes that's just enough.