On the morning of November 9, 2015, ten members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard burst into the Tehran home of Nikan Khosravi and arrested him. Nikan’s belongings were seized, and he was taken to solitary confinement, where he began a grueling series of daily interrogations and threats from the guards.
Nik’s crime: playing heavy metal. As members of death-thrash band Confess, he and his bandmate Arash Ilkhani were accused of blasphemy for playing music that spoke out against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the nation’s Supreme Leader. Upon first arrest, Nik and Arash faced execution for their crimes.
“Once, the warden opened up the hatch on my cell and said, ‘Get ready, you're about to get executed! No need for trial cause you're a heretic!’” says Nik. “And then came back something like 45 minutes later and said, ‘Not tonight!’ So you're constantly dying and coming back, with them playing with your brain.”
While Confess’s case has been the most highly publicized of its kind, oppression, censorship, and the fear of arrest is something that Iranian heavy metal bands deal with daily. With a terrible human rights record and rigid laws against the blaspheming of religious and official authorities, Iran is a country where music -- especially rebellious, angry music -- is carefully monitored, and those who make it in defiance of the authorities can be arrested and even killed for doing so. And yet, as in all rigid cultures, heavy metal thrives in Iran, rising to meet the nation’s propaganda state with pure sonic fury.