Live at Moda Theatre

We're time-travelling back to 4 November 1988 and a bit earlier. We will witness a life-changing concert in the destination. Your seatbelts, please!


So I collect some old documents about heavy metal history of Turkey. I share them randomly on Twitter and Instagram, tell stories about the bands in YouTube, and share them systematically on its own website. But it’s all in Turkish.

I’m curious if this relatively little, mostly amateur music scene from 80s and 90s can be interesting to international audience. I’ll give a few shots here with some stories. Here’s the first one:

An appearance of the era

During the 80s, the popular “heavy” music genre in Turkey was hard rock. Some bands were heavier, some were faster, some were more progressive but it was rarely pure heavy metal, based on the photos and interviews of the bands. It was a movement that started in 1981 and maintained until 1988, the point at which the bands started to dissolve. Really, almost all of the bands of the 80s disappeared in 1988 for their own reasons: money, military service, family, graduation, etc. So, some small steps from a newer generation became visible throughout 1988. For example, thrash bands Kronik and Metafor performed at a wedding hall in Uskudar, Istanbul.

Thrash metal band Kronik is on stage at a wedding hall in Uskudar.

There was also a band called Pentagram from Fatih, Istanbul. They recently changed their name to Pentagram from Thunders and gave the first concert in late 1987. Again, at a wedding hall, this time in Bagcilar, Istanbul. Pentagram consisted of Hakan Utangac (guitar&vocals), Cenk Unnu (drums) and Tarkan Gozubuyuk (bass), but for that first concert the bassist could not make it to the gig and his place was filled by Kronik bassist Ozgunay Unal.

Pentagram after their first concert at a wedding hall in Bagcilar, Istanbul. Ozgunay Unal from Kronik (on the left) is once on the bass for Pentagram. Tape trader Hakan Yurusun is photobombing from the right.

It was summer of 1988 and Pentagram played at two more concerts, both in Bursa city, first being a festival organised by a local newspaper called “Bursa Hakimiyet”. During this period, the band evolved from a trio to a group of four with the brief addition of guitarist Engin Tümer. The Istanbul audience was curious of Pentagram’s Bursa performances. Hakan Utangac acknowledged the demand and decided to organise a solo concert in Istanbul. He went to Kadikoy to visit the second hand book store in Moda Passage. The reason was Sadi Cogur, the metalhead who used to work there. They coordinated in the tape trading business. This time, Hakan Utangac’s visit revealed his concert plans. Sadi Cogur was also in a band, he was the bassist and vocalist for Metalium. He somehow persuaded Hakan Utangac and added Metalium next to Pentagram in the bill. The line-up didn’t conclude there, Kemal Kut entered the shop and wrote his band Metafor for the concert. Now the details were complete: 3 bands, November 4th, Moda Theatre.

Poster for the “Speed Metal Attack” concert.

By the way, Hakan Utangac quickly drew the logo of Pentagram on the paperand gave it to Caglan Tekil, who would be the pioneer for heavy metal media in Turkey in three years.

The day has come

Audience of the Speed Metal Attack concert.

So the big day arrived and there were 800 people in the theatre of 450-people capacity. Hundreds of other people were outside. Caglan Tekil describes the atmosphere in one of his future articles:

We’re finally inside. About 800 people are here. About 500 of them are customers of Sadi. Everybody knows each other. I am with Bulent Benli [caricaturist]. We’re looking for the Manowar necklace he has just dropped. By the way, the place is a movie theatre, so there are seats all over. Most people are waiting seated, while some big acts like Ismail, Mustafa, Koni, Bulent [they are probably the members of Headbangers, the first punk band from Turkey] are standing between the stage and the seats. They smoke and take pills. They even roll weed, as the rumour goes. Thus, they are respected by everyone. All of them wear t-shirts of Venom, Slayer and Kreator, etc. They look down on us. But Running Wild is also beautiful, what is bad about them? Oh sob…

First band to hit the stage was Pentagram. They started setting up the equipment. To consolidate the evil attitude around the place, a goat skull was attached to the microphone. Another interesting detail was a white double-bass drum, which was very rare in Turkey at the time. Finally the audience noticed the change in Pentagram’s guitar slot: Umit Yilbar was there instead of Engin Tumer.

Pentagram on stage, during soundcheck. New guitarist Umit Yilbar is in the middle.

So the concert started. Pentagram played their songs such as “Rotten Dogs”, “Mephistopheles”, “In Satan We Trust”, and “Guardians of Hell”. The audience went nuts while they played “Black Magic” from Slayer.

Second act was Metafor, which consisted of Can Atacan (vocals), Kemal Kut (guitar), Metin Turkcan (guitar), Aykut Ataseven (bass) and Ufuk Dinc (drums). Two songs were prominent in their performance. One was “Burning Fire”, and the other was “Metafor”. The audience cheered “Metafor… Gote kor…” (which translates “kicks ass”) during the song. Other songs were played with technical difficulties. Can Atacan could not memorise all of the songs, so he left the stage during those ones.

Metafor is on stage.

Finally, Metalium was on stage with a bit of delay because of setting the drums for each band, as Ufuk Dinc was left-handed. Owner of the drum kit was Cem Tan, drummer of Metalium. And the trio was complete with guitarist Mazhar Siringoz. All of them had evil make-ups on their faces. Cem Tan had a collar with metal pyramids. Their songs went on with “6th Day of Hell”, “Traces”, “Servants of Death”, and “Black Mission”. The audience found a rhyme and cheered “Cem Tan… Seytan…” (as you might guess, it’s Satan in Turkish). The ending of the concert was a bit chaotic as the time slot had already been filled.



Well, three bands performed over Moda Theatre. There remained a wreckage after the concert. The seats were completely broken, there were metal accessories all over the ground, some knives were found in the trash cans. Due to the damage, the movie theatre cancelled its film and concert programme at least for a week. All the damage in terms of Turkish Liras were written as loss to Pentagram’s budget, as they organised this concert. Cem Tan’s drum kit were given to the theatre as hostage until Pentagram compensated the damage.

Moda Theatre concert was one of the few big bang moments in the history of heavy music in Turkey. Many people formed bands, opened metal shops, wrote music articles, organised concerts, and published fanzines in the following years. And until around 1995, thrash metal was like Turkey’s national heavy music genre. Pentagram and Metalium published two albums until (and including) 1995. Pentagram discovered that in order to get attention outside Turkey, they should include folk elements in their music. So they went on like this and became Mezarkabul in the rest of the world. Metalium switched to death metal in their second album and then suddenly disbanded until their resurrection in 2010s. Metafor could not publish any albums, and disappeared after 1992.

Oh, by the way, the concert was repeated in its 30th anniversary, with the same bands and the same venue. 2 November 2018 was a Friday as the original concert was on Friday. The line-ups for each band were mostly different but there were some comebacks such as Cem Tan and guest appearances of other former members. This time, no seat was damaged because there were none, the venue was transformed a bit in time.

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