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Nadia Tehran - Dozakh: All Lovers Hell Music Album Reviews


The debut album from the Iranian-Swedish artist offers a fascinatingly dark take on romantic love, filled with images of violence and devastation.

Dozakh: All Lovers Hell, the debut album from Iranian-Swedish artist Nadia Tehran, begins with a recording of her immigrant father, Ali Kardar, saying that he’s not afraid of death. He’s in the middle of describing a near-fatal experience during his time as a soldier in the Iran-Iraq war. “I wake up with unbelievable pain that isn’t just pain from my legs, it’s pain through my whole soul,” he recounts in Swedish. “I didn’t even realize that my leg was gone.” And with that harrowing image, Tehran sets up Dozakh, an album examining emotional purgatory and devastation in all its forms.

Dozakh means hell in Persian. But in a statement, Tehran has explained that she conceptualizes the word metaphorically, as “a place of torment one believes they are in when separated from their lover.” In accordance with this thinking, Tehran writes about romantic love as tragedy, weaving in apocalyptic images of death and violence to underscore her point. On the synth-pop song “Down,” Tehran bridges the visceral lyricism of CocoRosie with Sky Ferreira’s twisted romanticism. “I’d be the best girl that you ever had/I’d blow you when you’re sad and lick your wounds when you’ve been bad,” she sings, revealing a fascinatingly warped sense of devotion.

Dozakh is saturated with a feeling of hopelessness, but Tehran keeps things moving with deft genre-hopping. As a preteen, Tehran sang in a punk band in her small Swedish town, and she lists her YEAR0001 label mates Yung Lean and Viagra Boys as inspirations. On “Something New,” she sounds like Karen O fronting Show Me the Body, while “Jet” is a snarling takedown of immigrant stereotypes, like a more in-your-face version of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” “Alcoholic Waves” is cloud rap on downers; “True romance is a drank in my cup/True romance is to light it up,” she chants in sing-song, like a depraved lullaby. No matter the subject, Tehran’s music matches her nihilistic worldview.

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But this universal doom and gloom is also a crutch, and Tehran’s songwriting is ultimately not sharp or precise enough to get a singular point across. There are songs about being heartbroken and disillusioned by a former partner (“High,” “Tell Nobody”), ones that have a more pointed political message (“Jet,” “Nazi Killer”), and others that simply describe haunting thoughts of death and genocide (“Come and Go”). But Tehran fails to tie these themes together, leaving it unclear how post-war trauma and romantic heartbreak are inherently connected; the only loose common thread is the pervading sense of self-destruction. Nadia Tehran’s vision of hell is terrifying. But without an incisive message, its impact dulls by the end.


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