Iranian metal band escape country following 15-year prison term
In a statement published by Loudwire, the members of the band Arsames, whose name derives from one of the kings of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, denied charges that their music promoted Satanism and said that their lyrics were about Iranian history and patriotism.
"Our music is about our past culture and history. They think when we growl and play fast music we are into Satanism! The skulls on our t-shirts means the same for them as satanic musicians," the statement said.
The band members released a short YouTube video last Sunday asking, "Is it a crime that we are playing metal music? Is it a crime that we are talking about Persian history? Is it a crime that you think we are into Satanism when we have songs about Cyrus The Great and Monotheism? Is it a crime that we love music and our country?"
The band’s statement detailed their arrest and sentencing by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, as well as their escape.
"We were arrested in 2017 when we were in our studio during rehearsal. They moved us to jail that day and didn't tell our families about where we were for a week.
"Finally, nearly a month later, we paid bail to come out of prison and they told us we should not work, release or sell [merchandise] until the final court appearance… and not to talk with the media.
"Our Instagram page and official website were banned and shut down for a year, but we built a new Instagram and started to be active until few weeks ago when the court called us again and gave us 15 years in prison. So we had to escape from Iran."
Arsames were formed in Mashhad in 2002 and have played death metal despite the illegality of this music genre in Iran.
Iranian authorities consider heavy metal to be "satanic" and a violation of Islamic laws on blasphemy.
Last year heavy metal duo Confess were sentenced to 14 years in prison and 74 lashes for blasphemy, but also managed to escape the country and now reside in Norway.
Arsames' current whereabouts are unknown. They have previously played alongside well-known international metal acts such as Napalm Death and Sepultura.