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originally published in Ryerson Free Press

There is a city in Serbia where heavy metal is loved by youth. They are a younger generation of fans that keep metal alive. Most of them are in high school and they attend local shows and buy the albums of their favourite bands. One of Kragujevac’s metal ambassadors is Forever Storm. Their music tells stories of past wars and battles.

Their first album’s title, Soul Revolution, sums up the over-arching theme. Forever Storm asks for a revolution of the soul first, to solve the problems of the world. Lyrics from the song “Storm” describe the feel of the album in one sentence: “we’re here to belong, not to destroy”. The mood and content of this album speaks of forgotten history;  a time when children, like the ones who love Forever Storm, were taken out of their classroom, to be killed, in an atrocious act of war.

During World War 2 the Nazis killed innocent children attending local schools in a town outside of Kragujevac, Serbia. This time in history is memorialized in story and poem. One story is told in Serbian citing the words of a teacher. The poem Kragujevac contains the final lines ‘Pucajte. Ja i sada drzim cas.”  The rough translation means “Go ahead. Shoot. I am giving my lesson. Now”. These words reveal the re-telling of tragedy shared among Serbians.

Because there were no survivors to tell the story that day, folklore lives on in remembrance.  However, there were letters written by children, left on pieces of paper, found in the classrooms, to express last words to their loved ones. Robert Burns, a poet and writer who lived in former Yugoslavia tells of a letter from a 17 year old student, addressed to his mother and father: “Dear mum and dad, hi for the last time. Ljubiša.” The massacre during October 19 to 21, in 1941, was justified by the Nazis with the notion: “that 100 people should be shot for every German killed, and 50 for every German wounded”. Children became a part of this killing spree.

Presently, in Kragujevac, there is a place of alliance for youth that love heavy metal. On the steps of a local high school, fans of metal meet and listen to music. Heavy metal fans and players in Kragujevac are outcasts and non-conformists. Stephan Kovačević, of a local heavy metal band Forever Storm, shared his views on Serbian musical majority. The most common genre is folk music. Thus, writing and playing in a metal band, can be frustrating and alienating, due to popular trends in music, though, heavy metal provides a place for fans and players to belong.

Soul Revolution, Forever Storm’s first album release, connects to a history in Serbia rarely discussed in Canada. Songs reveal epic battles, alienation, and oppression on personal and national levels. Lyrics of the song “It Rains” read: “We’ll keep fighting on and on / just let your heart lead the way…/ on this holy ground we’ll forever stay”.

The most passionate fans of heavy metal and Forever Storm are youth living in the city. In Kragujevac, specifically, heavy metal is loved immensely despite being a misunderstood genre. Heavy metal addresses issues of war not often shared. In song, there is an emotional resonance that connects the youth of the city to the bands and music they love. Forever Storm is a heavy metal band with a social and political message. Their younger fans have a place with heavy metal and the band. It is a place they share common ground.

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