With the fiftieth anniversary of metal music around the corner, forthcoming years will witness an increase of publications dealing with the history, legacy and defining characteristics of the genre. This could finally resolve the lack of consensus that still exists regarding the definition and origins of heavy metal.
Czechvar (Budweiser Budvar outside of the US) is the original Budweiser beer whose demonymic name Adolphus Busch appropriated for his green apple tasting adjunct lager omni consumer product in the 19th century. Czechvar and Pilsner Urquell were the two beers the communist government of Czechoslovakia chose to export to increase foreign currency reserves. Unlike Pilsner Urquell, Czechvar‘s production was modernized after World War II despite the recipe remaining largely the same an Budějovický Budvar was not privatized after the fall and failure of communism, still remaining an asset of the Czech Ministry of Agriculture. This means that that Czechvar/Budvar remains largely the same as it was decades ago, having kept its distinctive yeast strain, exclusive use of whole-cone Saaz hops, and ninety day lagering period in in comparison to SABMiller slightly genericizing Pilsner Urquell in order to stock it on the import shelf every deli and bodega the world over to compete with the likes of Beck’s, Heineken, and St. Pauli Girl.
A trend in the modern conception of anything has been that the newer something else, the better we expect or assume it to be. Experience in reality, however, has also given rise to another perception: that the new tends to be worse and not better. Attempts at rationalizing this drive the pseudo-intellectual, pro-sheeple crowd to say that times just change, but ratios of quality do not vary. This is not only unscientific but an obvious politically correct answer that has as its premise that everyone is equal, and hence, that the resulting products of these “equal” people must also be probabilistically equal. Impermeable external influence seems to them the only changing factor, with the internal being either infinitely constant or practically negligible. This is assumed and then possible causes are haphazardly and desperately pieced together, the answer is assumed and then anything is either positive evidence or brushed aside if too problematic to incorporate into the fairy tale. Ignorance compounded with pretense and emotional insecurity always results in capricious imposition of an arbitrary and dogmatic concepts and scale of values.
With the metal scene as it is these days, one out of three DMU-approved bands isn’t too bad. Marduk, Immolation, Origin, and a band named Bio-Cancer will be touring Europe throughout May 2016. While Marduk is headlining, their companions in general seem to have similar levels of notoriety; I wouldn’t dwell too much on the specifics of the headlines. I’m betting European fans of Death Metal Underground’s writing will treat this as a possible opportunity to see Immolation in concert. While that’s an optimistic appraisal, the band allegedly gives their older and stronger some emphasis when live, so if you can grit your teeth through the other material it could very well be worth your while. Otherwise, you’ll have to hope there’s good beer… and that there’s plenty of beer money in your pockets.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote without an outline using only the thoughts gathered in his head over long hours of smoking his pipe and staring into a fireplace. Sitting at his typewriter, head wreathed in smoke, he pounded out a first draft of the Lord of the Rings mythos, and then discarded it, beginning again from scratch. As the story took form, it left behind a litter of empty blue-painted cans of tobacco.
The tobacco was Capstan Original Navy Cut. Members of his family remember the tins proliferating around the house and being used to store household items. When Tolkien and other members of his literary group The Inklings met, nicotine burned in abundance, and they could be found by following the trail of smoke. In his books, Tolkien inserted characters finding great comfort and wisdom in their pipes much as he did in his.
As part of a recent binge of writings by Tolkien and fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis, this writer has indulged in their favorite tobaccos. Capstan Original Navy Cut comes in “flake” form, having been pressed into table-sized cakes and then sliced into wafers about a third the size of a playing card. These are either stuffed into the pipe or “rubbed out” which converts them into ribbons of tobacco. Throughout this experiment, the thought lingers at the back of the mind: why this tobacco, and does it resemble the Longbottom Leaf or Old Toby of his legends?
Original Navy Cut is composed of pure Virginias, but the pressing and aging has converted some of their sugar and acid into a more hay-like flavor, the partial decomposition of the leaf having released its most irksome elements. What remains is a sweet smoke, with slightly more Nicotine (PBUH) than the average medium smoke, which burns evenly and rewards small “sips” or short slow puffs, as one might take while hammering out words on a typewriter. It also admirably complements the smell of typewriter ribbon, for whatever that is worth.
Virginia flakes such as this tend to appeal to either new smokers who want a blend that is sweet and strong like a cigarette, or to the experienced who can nurse a pipe for hours. Since Tolkien was a master pipe smoker, he fit the latter category, and apparently always kept a pipe going with this and other blends to power himself through late-night endurance test writing sessions. And we can enjoy the results, and the metal inspired by them.
Metal rarely got attention from respectable institutions during its early days. As officially designated social enemies and rebels, metalheads were perceived as being antagonists of such institutions who did not necessarily agree with their basic principles like the hippies did. However, with the lightening of metal this has changed, and academics, the corporate world and now the Smithsonian Museum have taken an interest in metal.
Slayer: The Origins of Thrash in San Francisco, CA is a five-minute video which looks at the creation of speed metal as it happened in San Francisco, California, following up on the work of bands like Motorhead, Satan and Blitzkrieg in the UK when hybridized with hardcore punk. It shows the respectable institutions of society recognizing not just Slayer, and speed metal, but that a thriving and viable sub-culture has existed within their society for almost thirty years.
This product exemplifies the fraud perpetrated upon American consumers, with those consumers as willing participants, by the food industry. The name is cute; the graphic design is great; the theory (backed by an ideology of health by avoiding evils) is impeccable: gluten-free without having to say so, non-GMO, low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar. In other words, they have made junk food without the evil-ness of junk food.
Except for one problem: they taste — almost literally — like heat-pressed cardboard, with undertones of old garage dust. To say they are tasteless is not so in the same way that tap water is not tasteless; the taste of Beanitos, however, resembles nothing like a chip, which is not a bad thing, but nothing like good, which is a terrible thing. Here we see the fallacy of trying to make good by removing evil alone; one must actively intend to do good, and remove evil to that end, but without the corresponding filling-of-the-void with good, what is left is not evil but entropy. An ashen heat-death of absent flavor and questionable nutrition, clearly fleeing from our fears of high-fat high-salt high-sugar McDonald’s style junk food, but not making it to the other extreme of Real Food. Instead, you have the junk food with the evils removed and the remainder is a jumble of mediocrities.
Original Black Bean With Sea Salt chips are great for any gathering that is essentially political. That is, if you are swimming in acquaintances who are obsessed with veganism, gluten, cholesterol, salt and other scapegoats for their poor health — which can be cured by moving to the suburbs and getting some exercise, for the most part, unless they are outright doomed by bad genetics — these Beanitos chips are a good compromise that will not offend anyone. They will not make them enjoy the experience, but many people judge life based on ideology and not enjoyment or beauty or truth or any other of those old-fashioned things, and so if your audience is suitably neurotic, they will claim to like these. But beware: they are not good, nor flavorful, nor really useful as chips. We tried feeding them to grackels and they gave us the finger (feather?) and flew away.
Very few people have any idea what grindcore means at this point because of the high degree of crossover between grindcore and death metal. Not just one way, but both: grind bands becoming deathy in the Napalm Death style, and death metal bands becoming grindy as happened from Suffocation onward.
But what wasgrindcore? History might show us that punk and metal were birthed in the early 1970s and spend the next three decades crossing over. This resembles a quarter-century negotiation as to what aspects of each to keep in the hybrid with the other. Early hybrids included speed metal, which used uptempo punk rhythms, and thrash, which combined metal riffs with punk songs. Grindcore was a logical extension of thrash.
Thrash — exemplified by Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Cryptic Slaughter and Corrosion of Conformity — grew out of the “thrasher” community which was composed of skateboarders. These were a 1980s movement that existed in the abandoned areas of modern cities where skating was undetected if not permissible. Anarchistic, but also pragmatist, they were like the ultimate hybrid between the individualistic and hierarchical impulses behind human politics. Thrash bands as a result tended to direct their criticism toward society itself and were less likely to hover on one side of the political spectrum or the other, despite having a huge background influence by the almost-universally anarchist punk movement. We can only assume the additional influences on thrash came from metal, which was more likely to take a historical and impersonal view of life, where punk was much more personal and present-tense.
Where the bands that prompted the early speed metal and thrash hybrids were punk hardcore (The Exploited, Cro-Mags, Black Flag, Minor Threat, GBH) and early crustcore (Discharge, Amebix) bands, thrash in turn spurred hardcore on to become faster and more extreme, resulting in shorter songs with more metal-like (more chord changes, more internal texture) riffs. The later punk hardcore bands like Void, Faith and Siege prompted a gnarlier sound, picking up on the distorted vocals which has become a staple of the previous punk generation, perhaps prompted by Motorhead and Lemmy Kilmister’s incomprehensible gargled-glass screaming.
From this inspiration, a movement caught on in the late mid-1980s. Fronted by bands like Repulsion and Napalm Death, it quickly diversified and spread worldwide. However, like punk before it, grindcore did not have much staying power. The more one streamlines and simplifies, the fewer variations exist, until most things can be described as a modification to an archetype. At that point, bands lose the ability to distinguish themselves and thus realize their talents are better applied elsewhere if they wish to distinguish themselves. Nevertheless, between 1986 and 1990 the foundational masters of grindcore emerged in the form of Repulsion (1984), Napalm Death (1985), Terrorizer (1989), Blood (1989) and Carbonized (1990).