Cinemetal Reviews


  • Corey Mitchell

How much do you love heavy metal? Are you willing to die for it?

Two new excellent documentaries will make you feel like a complete pussy when you realize what some people will do for the love of metal and punk rock.

Heavy Metal in Baghdad and Heavy Load, while very different in feel and execution, portray two groups of metalheads with wildly differing sets of challenges that make their lives’ missions to bang thy head that doesn’t bang.

Baghdad tells the story of Acrassicauda (Black Scorpion), the only heavy metal band in Iraq, who must deal with a lack of venues to play in, laws against headbanging, more laws that require musicians to perform one pro-Saddam Hussein song per set, and, oh yeah, getting their practice pad literally bombed to pieces.

While Acrassicauda’s music is not the heaviest in the world or even strikingly original, guitarist Tony is an excellent player and the band’s love of metal is quite apparent. Also, bassist Firas is as likable as anyone could imagine and dispels not only stereotypes of Iraqis but also of metalheads.

Baghdad works better as a historical document of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the resultant exodus of Iraqi refugees to Syria than it does as a paean to heavy metal. Its Blair Witch-y shaky cam is tiresome after a while, but nothing beats the sight of two war-hardened metalheads hanging beside an Olympic-sized hotel swimming pool while bombs are detonating less than a mile away, in a bizarre modern-day Apocalypse Now-Lt. Kilgore “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” kind of way.

Heavy Load the documentary features Heavy Load the band, which is comprised of three Brits who suffer from varying degrees of physical and mental impairments, along with well as two healthcare assistants. The band sounds a bit like The Ramones cranked up on Kool-Aid and methamphetamines with a little Johnny Rotten tossed in to piss everyone off. The fact that the core members are “mentally challenged” and range in age from 40-60 speaks volumes about the beloved genres of heavy metal and punk rock, but more so to the character and commitment of these outstanding men.

The band comes off as a bit of a novelty act at first, but as the film progresses and the band starts to have their Metallica Some Kind of Monster moments the serious nature of what this band is all about comes through. Especially engaging is drummer Michael White, the most severely impaired member of the band, a huge Elvis fan who wants to step out of the Heavy Load spotlight and become a solo singer. His sense of humor is a riot and he brings the heart of the band and the movie into focus.

The final act of the film details the band’s campaign to “Stay Up Late,” an attempt to encourage mentally challenged persons and their support staff to stay up late and crawl the pubs so they can be like so-called normal people. It is much more inspiring than it sounds. The fact that the band warranted governmental attention only adds to the uplifting tone of the story.

While neither documentary is far from technically perfect, and the directors suffer from Michael Moore wannabeism, they are wonderful testaments to rock and the diehard fanatics who live, breathe, and yes, die for punk rock and heavy metal.

If you have a Netflix account you can view Heavy Metal in Baghdad on your PC right now.

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Heavy Metal in Baghdad (4 out of 5 horns)

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Heavy Load (4 out of 5 horns)

Acrassicauda’s MySpace:
Heavy Metal in Baghdad Film Website:
Heavy Load Band Website:
Heavy Load Film Website:

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