Anti-religious sentiment has been a hallmark of metal since the genre was born. And in the decades since then, anti-religious tirades by metal musicians have gotten rather tired and predictable.
But last year, the metal blogosphere was taken aback by Janaza, a purported “anti-Islamic black metal band fronted by a female in Iraq” who introduced herself with a single called “Burn the Pages of Quran.” The mere mention of this song’s ballsy title made even the most hardened of metalheads take notice. I remember personally telling members of Acrassicauda (another wartime Iraqi metal band) about Janaza before their show last July in San Francisco, and watching their eyes go wide in shock.
In other words, Janaza was awesome!
I was immediately hooked (also known as “Where-Can-I-Buy-Merch? Syndrome”) and wanted to find out more. But aside from a 5-cut demo and some brief interviews with frontwoman Anahita, there was little info out there about Janaza. Of course, Anahita’s deliberately low profile was completely understandable, as she needed the anonymity to preserve her safety — especially since she (supposedly) already had lost both of her parents to sectarian violence in post-invasion Iraq.
But now, the more Anahita talks, the less believable her heroic story becomes.
Earlier this week, The Atlantic published an article by metal writer “Grim” Kim Kelly about the burgeoning Middle Eastern anti-Islamic metal scene. The story revolves around Anahita and her projects Janaza and Seeds of Iblis, another anti-Islamic black metal band (supposedly) based out of Iraq. Kelly writes that Anahita insisted on corresponding via Facebook rather than phone, and much of the resulting information in the article about her isn’t anything new from a year ago. Nevertheless, the Atlantic story was Janaza’s and the other mentioned bands’ biggest publicity to date.
And then, the Internet happened!
Shortly after the Atlantic story was posted, a commenter named “Boullan” pointed out that at least one of Iblis’ band member photos was taken from the line-up of another obscure black metal band. That photo was used by Seeds of Iblis on their Metal Archives profile and on their 7″ EP Jihad Against Islam, which was released last year. (on the French label Legion of Death — tsk tsk!)
And that wasn’t just a one-off occurence. Another band in Kelly’s piece named Tadnees (who are in a black metal coalition dubbed the Anti-Islamic Legion, alongside Janaza and Seeds of Iblis) pulled a similar switcheroo with their “band photo” and that of German Nazi black metal band Morke.
One last instance of pictorial plagiarism comes from Anahita herself.
Another commenter on the Atlantic article named Raúl González recognized the (supposed) photo of Anahita from somewhere else. You see, Raúl is an amateur photographer in Mexico, and he posted that photo of his wife (who is not Anahita) a couple years ago after she dressed up in fake blood and corpse paint for a photo project he called “Black Metal Barbie.”
After Anahita’s use of fake photos was brought to the Atlantic editors’ attention, all photos purporting to be of her or her band were removed from the article.
Of course, there could be a simple explanation to the fake photos — these self-professed “anti-Islamic bands” are living in too dangerous environments to show their own images in public. So, they instead use photos of their idols or other cool pics they find on Google Images to promote themselves.
But their story still doesn’t check out!
Anahita claims Janaza and Seeds of Iblis are both based in war-torn Iraq, and are part of the deeply underground Iraqi metal scene. And according to the Atlantic story, two of her Seeds of Iblis bandmates were in previous bands:
Seeds of Iblis features five men and one other woman besides Anahita herself (Epona, who has also spent time in the now-defunct black metal band False Allah)… One of the band’s guitarists, Yousef, pulls double duty in Tadnees.
Do they really expect us to believe that two Seeds of Iblis members immigrated to post-war Iraq to start the band? Especially since Anahita has stated on record that they’re actively trying to score a record deal. (I doubt many A&R’s hang out in Baghdad — where Anahita claims Iblis have played concerts)
Ms. Kelly, how did you not notice that???
At the end of the day, there’s little reason to doubt that Anahita, Janaza, or Seeds of Iblis are anti-Islamic metal musicians. However, their Acrassicauda 2.0 backstory of currently living in Iraq and covertly dodging “religious authorities” as Kim Kelly’s (supposed) reporting describes just doesn’t add up. And since that was their main claim to blogosphere fame, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to promptly give them the Milli Vanilli treatment.
And since they’ve hid behind fake photos and only talked to the press via Facebook messages, it also doesn’t seem unreasonable that Anahita could be a 40-year-old white guy from Georgia.