A black metal voyage to the land of the Aryans | By: Yossef Ben Oz
The 1st time I've heard Akvan's black metal it sounded like a duality: He plays something that in its initial experience sounds very similar to the powerful Norwegian black metal of old times, yet it also seems to hold another thing, totally different. Gradually I have come to understand that it is the unique leading melody of it all that differs. It's like feeling a fresh new morning breeze upon your face. The breeze of a new culture you weren't familiar with yet.
Well, it's not every day that I encounter a black-metal art originating from the land of the ancient Aryan tribes – Iran.
We should begin with the black metal:
A new style commenced at the early 90's of the 20th century, one that will later be named the 2nd wave of the Norwegian black metal. One of the most significant contributions of the musical techniques of that rejuvenating genre was the gradual omission of the rhythm guitars as a key player of the metallic structure of the song and replacing it with a more 'open' style of playing, meaning: riffs played so rapidly that the experience is of a fluent and fairly homogeneous distortion.
The resulting outcome was no less than Brilliance: by using a very simple playing technique (primitive), when the strumming frequency is very high the general sound ceases to be as of a rhythm guitar (as was custom so far in the greater part of the extreme death metal subgenres) and translated via the listening experience into a singular harmonic motion whose texture is a high frequency vibration.
What is so genius about it? It's a plain revolution – the extreme metal turned at once from a style of fast dominant rhythm into a kind of "subsoil" that imbibes whatever you want. With that technique you can integrate a really heavy sound of soul-scorching black metal with melody without losing the latter amidst the dominant metallic tempo and on the other hand without it softening the song structure. And all that manages to simultaneously occur inside your own heart. That was, amongst other things, what I meant at those times I bid black metal to be 'the harmony of disharmony'.
Furthermore, the riffs high frequency allows the ear to adjust even to a micro-tonal scale. In other words, unlike the western classic scale of whole tones the primitive black metal is capable of implementing melodies of eastern or Andalusia-scales.
This elastic feature enabling the introduction of two polar elements (melody and rapid primitive riffs) within the same composition and at the same time, creates the sensation of a dissonance: this is an unconceivable emotional excitement, the experienced effect that is embodied within the depths of this style. This probably happens because the human spirit has difficulties grasping the ally of edges, especially the type that actually whirls inside of it, hence the soul feels revulsion and allure at the same time.
Because of this black metal is to my opinion the unconscious natural hymn of the reactionaries: it is both war and aesthetic ambition simultaneously. The dirty and rough riffs are the artistic defiance; a war until the crushing down of the banal and decadent; and the melody is the king's palace to which all returns. The truthful order; the return of nobility.
In the Norwegian scene the black-metal war revolves around the culture theft the church did to the Vikings. To the Aryans it's the hidden yearning for the coming back of the Aryan tribes into history.
In an interview that Lord Vizaresa gave to the online magazine METALITY.NET, he explains:
"Simply put, Akvan is an Iranian influenced black metal project that cites Iranian mythology, art, literature, and music at the core of its inspiration. Its sole member is myself, Vizaresa, and I would say the elements which distinguish it from other black metal bands are the utilization of distorted microtonal Iranian scales, (which, to my knowledge, have not been incorporated in this genre of music before) and the inclusion of traditional Iranian instruments, such as the tar."
(Interview with Akvan – اکوان, Iranian black-metal, METALITY.NET)
And beyond the technique, there's the writing: the extreme content of the black metal is consistent with the musical vessel that serves them. Fair is the rebuke at times of war. And her most adequate ones are these warriors, those who know how to rise up from amidst havoc.
"Aryan" is one of the more susceptible words to be found. Aside from the simple historical familiarity that Iranians actually originated from the ancient Aryan tribes, the inevitable association is that which relates to the atrocities of WWII. In his Facebook page disclaimer Lord Vizaresa explains that unfortunately the word "Aryan" carries with it connotations of hatred and white-supremacy. But to his eyes, this is all a fruit of a disgraceful underhanded opportunism. To him this is an infringement of his original culture no less than the modern decline of the elite Persian civilization to which he truly relates, amongst other things due to being in exile (though he himself is form Billings, MT USA born and raised).
In the interview I have mentioned he again reminds some simple historical-linguistic facts regarding the names of these ancient tribes and the specious connection to the culture of hate:
"It should also be taken into consideration that Iran still translates to this day as “land of the Aryans.” Therefore, anyone who does not identify ethnically as an Iranian cannot refer to themselves as an Aryan. However, this is not to imply racial supremacy. The ancient Iranians, Aryans, did not believe in or promote such backwards ideas."
(Interview with Akvan – اکوان, Iranian black-metal, METALITY.NET)
Except for a few singles here and there this projects has one EP out, one demo and one split all from 2015. The artist himself comes from Teheran but is physically located in UAE and works from there. His transition there enabled him an international acquaintance with different artists in a more open atmosphere than that which exists in his Iranian homeland, where black metal is outlawed (as in the majority of Islamic countries where metal music in general isn't always legal). The man's musical and cultural knowledge are fascinating. He himself is the son of two professors and a man whose life experience in the USA to which his family exiled was problematic despite the respectable backgrounds of his parents. The sense of alienation, the feeling of foreignness and the harassments by the local Americans lead him to a self-search voyage and his ethnic relation that was always a source for inspiration and art for him, became the warm home to return to, also musically.
Musically speaking, Akvan keeps its production unprocessed and raw, one take recording done with no mixings or fancy digitization. To him, he says, black metal wasn't meant to be "produced" or Smooth. It is an art whose authentic, unclean and raw sound is its very soul. The riffs that Lord Vizaresa develops are born of his leisure Tar playing, until he discovers a descent riff that could work, then he sits down to record it with some simple equipment. First the music is written. After the song is musically ready he approaches the craftsmanship of the lyrical aptness which he derives out of the historical, literary and artistic sources of the abundant Iranian culture, especially Mahmoud Farshchian's art which interests him greatly.
Akvans black metal is like listening to Burzum or Emperor the earlier works communicated to you through Tars micro-tonal scale. Iranian scale melody, made with pretty powerful basement distortion while the overall tempo of the song is usually slow. In fact both the rhythm and the melody are dictated by the ancient classical Persian music structure. Just like listening to Enslaved will take you to the cultural regions of the ancient Vikings mainly thanks to the integration of old Viking classical melodies throughout their work, so will Akvan take you to the ancient Persian kingdom, one of the copious sources of the western civilization in many aspects.
The meaning of the word "Akvan" is "universes". I do not know and have also found no evidence till the writing of this article, but it just could be that there is a reference here to one of the cosmological narrative that was a significant part in ancient times mythology. Alternately, it might more likely be that what we have here is a reference to one of the four Sufi principals by Shams Tabrizi:
"The whole universe is one. All things and all people are connected through a covert net of stories. Whether we are aware of it and whether we aren’t, we are all part of a silent conversation. Do not hurt and do not harm. Practice compassion."
("The Forty Rules of Love", by Elif Shafak, the Sufi principals of Shams Tabrizi)
In my view this is a magical project, which surprises in its originality and cultural abundance. I find myself returning to his works from time to time; intrigued and discovering another handbreadth with every reading, every note of new found melody that the ear notices. There is no doubt that black metal is a music whose womb is vast, and more will be told here about projects from around the globe bringing their cultural story through this extreme art. In general, the Persian nation is one of the most intriguing amidst the nations east to us, a nation that succeeded in preserving its ancient culture in poetry, writing, language and art even far into the days of its conversion to Islam at the times of Yazdegerd III that was defeated by the Islamic conqueror but never gave up his nations culture even if they all converted.
It should be noted that to my eyes a simplistic anti-Islamic black metal like what Al-Namrood (Saudi Arabia) or Ayat (Lebanon) are doing is less intriguing because it simply copy-pastes the banal satanic prototype, except that it's over the middle-eastern cultural background. Not that there is no place for this, it's nice and cool as to itself, but less interesting than for example a black metal work that holds a genuine cultural stance, aside from just hating Islam. What Akvan is creating is a black metal that doesn't fall to the nonsense doodle of the 'Christian Black Metal' that is no more than a delusional caricature of black metal to my opinion and still escapes nicely from the banality of the satanic mold, that in its roots is strange to this region. That, aside from the musical uniqueness which is rare in its modesty and allure.
The opening of a worldly gate is always a fascinating and mind widening experience. With this spirit I will in the future try to walk towards more human corners around the globe that create such early-ripened marginal artworks like these.
And for the meanwhile, some more Akvan.
Late edit (9/10/2016):
after reading this, the artist himself contacted us and remarked that the name "Akvan" is another name for the devil in Zoroastherianism (the original religion of Iran), as well as vilain from the country's epic poem - Shahnameh (the book of kings) by Ferdowsi.
Yossef Ben Oz.
 Visareza, is the name of the demon that collects the souls of the sinners into hell according to the Zoroastrian theology – the original and most significant religion of the land of the Indo-Aryan tribes (Iran – Persia) which grew strong at approximately the 5th century B.C.
 The professional description of the eastern\Iranian musical scale.
 An Iranian string instrument of the 15th century with six strings that's considered as 'the king of all string instruments'. It is of the most fundamental musical instruments of the classical Persian & Kurdish music.
 Similarly, for example, ancient European mythologies addressing the pre-Christian days of Europe refer to sunken Atlantis as one that life upon it originated from a vast planet called "Aldebaran" see Wikipedia at the "mythology" reference of this value (where mainly the American context is mentioned but myths like this have also been claimed in Europe).
 Shams al-Din Mohammad (1185–1248) a Persian Sufi mystic, the spiritual teacher of the famous Sufi poet Mewlānā (=our master) Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, one of the fathers of Islamic mysticism.