This band was jailed for making heavy metal music. Now they’re hosting a comeback | Ents & Arts News

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“If I go back to Iran, handcuffs are waiting for me,” says Nikan Khosravi, frontman of heavy metal band Confess. “It could take 20 years, it could be an execution – I don’t know. Going back to Iran is definitely not an option.”

In November 2015, Khosravi was arrested along with teammate Arash Ilkhani, removed from the safety of his home, he says, by the country’s Revolutionary Guards, blindfolded and taken to the notorious Evin prison.

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The band is now playing as a five-man band with new members from Norway, where Khosravi and bandmate Arash Ilkhani have been granted asylum

The couple spent three months in solitary confinement, the start of a horrific ordeal in which they were later sentenced to several years of imprisonment and lashes, accused of blasphemy, propaganda and even Satanism; all because of the music they were creating in a country where artists have to toe the line, or potentially face the consequences.

After being released on bail in 2017, Khosravi says the couple managed to flee the country, despite having their passports confiscated, escaping first to Turkey to await sentencing. Now living in Norway, where they have been granted asylum, the band are releasing music again with new members – “a five-piece street protest” that wants the world to know their story.

Surviving Iran’s Most Notorious Prison

“It’s as terrifying as it sounds,” Khosravi told Sky News of his time in prison, speaking on Zoom from his home near Oslo. “Sometimes when I think about my own story, it’s like, how did this happen and how did I survive?”

The arrests took place shortly after the release of Confess’ second album, In Pursuit Of Dreams. Khosravi says the band “definitely knew” what they were doing in terms of creating music that the radical government wouldn’t look favorably upon.

What they may not have liked, he said, was the extent to which they would be punished for it. “I thought they were probably going to take us into custody for a few days, just slap me a little,” he says of his arrest. Instead, he was told authorities had been investigating him for over a year.

“My case was so thick,” he said, waving his hand. “When they came after me, they came with the translation of the lyrics…they took a picture of me and my girlfriend, they showed me pictures while I was on the street… pictures of things I posted on Instagram or Facebook.”

Confess.  Photo: Camilla Norvoll
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Confess released their third album, Revenge At All Costs, in January

What was it about the band’s music that the government was so against? “I think music is the best outlet to make people aware of what’s going on,” Khosravi says. “There are a lot of political themes and criticizing organized religion, dictatorship.

“As a young Iranian, it’s very important for me to talk about this stuff or incorporate it into my music. At least there’s someone to represent a group of people who think differently, including us there are so many of us. The Iranian regime is trying to show the world that Iran is a country [where] everyone thinks the same. It is totally false. And I’m just one of many people who have things to say, but maybe they don’t have the voice as much as I do.”

Heavy metal is a dangerous passion in Iran

Confess’s music being heavy metal also played a role. “They don’t like metal music, to them it sounds satanic, as I guess it did to British authority when Black Sabbath came along in the 60s.”

Khosravi says they were even accused of Satanism. “I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in Satan either. They call me an atheist and they call me a satanist. It’s just nonsense. They think that because you look that way or that your music is that way, or you’ “I say things that question the existence of God, they call you Satan. I don’t think Satanism has anything to do with this type of music anywhere in the world.”

Read more: Iranian musician risks his life to make music

Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian
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Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian also spent time behind bars in Iran’s notorious Evin prison

Confess are not the only musicians in Iran to have been imprisoned for their art. In 2021, Sky News spoke to a musician and composer Mehdi Rajabian, who served two years in prison for making music that Iranian authorities disagreed with. There is more.

Music and all art forms are regulated and censored by the Iranian government, while heavy metal in particular is considered a harmful Western genre, according to Jasmin Ramsey, deputy director of the nonprofit Center for Human Rights based in New York. in Iran. Censorship causes many artists to operate “underground”, unable to sell, promote or perform their music.

“Musicians can only be ‘free’ in Iran if they operate under the radar of the state,” Ms Ramsey told Sky News. However, she says restrictions don’t stop creativity. “It is deeply saddening to see the Iranian government go to great lengths to censor art and crush free speech when it has so many other pressing issues to focus on.”

“I’m going to be on the run for the rest of my life”

Khosravi’s experience certainly did not deter him. “When you go to jail, when you live in stress, when you go to trial, [all the] bad memories in your head and being forcibly exiled to the other side of the world, away from your family, from your home – you’re like, if I drop this, everything would be in vain.”

With musicians from Norway having joined the band, Confess released their third album, Revenge At All Costs, in January. “It goes without saying,” Khosravi says. “We just came for revenge. It’s not music anymore, it’s a weapon, you know? All the songs that are in this album [are] when I was in prison.”

While he now feels safe in Norway, the musician feels anger and resentment at his situation. And following the election of the intransigent cleric Ebrahim Raisi as president in 2021, he says the situation is not going to improve any time soon.

“I’m going to be on the run for the rest of my life,” he says. “That anger and frustration and all that negativity has got to come out somehow.”

Khosravi regards the release of Revenge At All Cost as the closure of this chapter of his life. Although it was a horrible ordeal, he says he wouldn’t change a thing.

“Even if I die and come back to this life, I would do the exact same thing as I did,” he says. “Exactly. 100 times. This is who I am. I will live my life the way I want, and no one can force me to live it any other way.”

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