Bill and Ted found themselves wandering through the middle east, somewhere. The time machine had finally shorted out when Ted connected it to his iPad, causing a brief detour through 1968 Christopher Street in New York and a Royal Navy frigate in 1780 at rum ration time before crashing somewhere into this Semitic wonderland.
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was the simultaneous, sudden emergence of hundreds of heavy metal bands in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and early eighties. The NWOBHM was prompted by the collapse en masse of earlier hard rock bands and heavy metal originators. Led Zeppelin and other blues-based riff rock bands had collapsed into meandering stadium rock with only a couple listenable songs per record at best (“Achilles Last Stand” on Presence). Black Sabbath fell flat on their faces after Sabotage, making the meandering duo of Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die. Punk declined from almost-progressive works as the The Stooges’ Fun House to boy bands such as the Sex Pistols playing radio pop. Deep Purple regressed to playing what their former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore termed “Shoeshine music.”
There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.1
Many metal-heads think that metal died out as a genre because it went corporate and lost its edge. Undoubtedly more commercialized metal appeared, as it always does whenever a genre becomes popular and therefore, profitable. There is more to it than that, however, as larger cultural forces and schemes were at play.
The question of commercialism arose because there was a bridge between power metal/jock metal (e.g. Korn) and more old school thrash metal (Metallica/Slayer) which was never gapped. This paralleled the gap of a decade earlier, when the gap between metal bands like Motorhead and hard rock bands like Van Halen divided the fanbase between album listeners and radio listeners. This gave rise to entire subgenres like black metal, death metal and grindcore which were deliberately designed to avoid having large-scale commercial success. That in turn triggered the rise of the 1990s version of glam, grunge, which was basically slowed-down indie-rock influenced hard rock.
Have you ever listened to a metal recording and realized it was trying to be all things to all people? Eternal is like that. One of the most recent additions to the ‘European’ school of power metal, I impulsively jumped into this album before realizing, with a start, that my understanding of this subgenre basically ends at 1992, before the genre became the hyperactive, instrumentally maximalist Goliath it is today. Whoops.
If this album is any indication of the band’s overall approach, then Stratovarius is ultimately descended from the Van Halen school of music. Few moments will pass on this album without some sort of rapid-fire instrumental flourish or (more importantly) a Big Dumb Chorus™. The Big Dumb Chorus™ is one of the stylistic limitations this sort of music labors under – surely, the audience will remember and better identify with the songs if, on their first try, they can sing along with the refrain? It’s slightly more difficult than your standard pop choruses, since to meet their own power metal ambitions Stratovarius has to make everything as epic and melodramatic as possible. Stratovarius isn’t even the worst offender in this regard, since this doesn’t prevent them from showing off their instrumental skills, but since songs are still structured around these moments, they don’t have much else to do.
Because Eternal relies so heavily on conventional pop songwriting, it has to differentiate itself from its companions solely on sound and production. Stratovarius relies very heavily on their keyboard lines to do this, and they do a suitable job of pushing out semi-orchestral flourishes throughout the album. Some of the samples (like the brass at the beginning of “My Eternal Dream”) sound a bit cheap and artificial for 2015, and the keyboardist probably resents you, the reader, personally for not buying enough of their merchandise in recent years. There’s also the occasional vaguely contemporary electronic passage that doesn’t really fit the mood. I suspect such things were carelessly tossed in with the intent to create more “variety”, but they’re ultimately inconsequential and could generally be removed without any significant impact on their tracks. At best, these passages are going to pull in a few EDM drones whose friends are insisting they give metal a chance.
Ultimately, Eternal is literally candy. It’s fine and non-toxic in small amounts, but ingesting too much of it will make you jittery and irritable, as well as spoiling your appetite for dinner. Besides, you don’t expect your chocolate bars and peanut butter cups to challenge your conceptions about the nature of food and its relation to reality, right?
In the early 1990s, a new music burst forth. The dark sounds of Black Sabbath and the guitar-oriented heavy rock of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin merged and, through the wizardry of Hollywood-style image, became a new genre that hyper-extended the characteristics of the most rebellious music in the previous generation of rock. This was called glam metal, and you may recognize it by names like Motley Crue, Poison, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Cinderella, Van Halen, Ratt and Winger.
Glam metal stood out from other rock at the time. It was more technical, featuring early shred guitar wizardry, and more visual, incorporating gender-bending into its image as well as tattoos, long hair and leather. For the radio music of the era, it was one of the more advanced and outside the mainstream sounds one could purchase at the local record shack. Kids liked it because it drove parents mad; politicians responded by trying to criminalize it with Tipper Gore and the PMRC targeting glam metal bands for their overly-sexual lyrics about outré topics such as drugs, suicide and promiscuity.
What makes glam metal stand out is to look at the backdrop of music at the time. Most bands were taking advantage of newly-available electronic instruments and more options in the studio, and were focused more toward being synthpop or album-oriented rock. The nascent indie rock movement, to explode with bands like REM and U2, dwelt still in the basements. Punk had died and punk hardcore was unlistenable by most, as were bands like Motorhead and the NWOBHM who were still just a bit too loud, and too controversial. Glam allowed people to be rebels without really rebelling against anything, because glam rock was just what David Bowie and Sid Vicious were doing with the actual danger removed and all the imagery turned up to eleven.
Compare this to the present time. Radio is much louder, and rap-based music has replaced synthpop. Indie rock became huge and expanded into emo and post-Joy Division quasi guitar ambient bands. The old dad rock like Springsteen and Mellencamp faded like an autumn sunset, and while millions of niches exist, most people hit up the big favorites. Metal is the radio now, too, and thanks to nu-metal — the second generation of rap/rock — people are accustomed to heavy distortion, detuned guitars and raucous drums. People wearing bizarre costumes and masks while acting out self-destructive tropes are common. What remains to shock the parents of today?
Much like glam metal, metalcore attempts to pick everything that stood out in the past generation and amplify it. The introspective despair of indie rock joins the progressive stylings of 90s bands and the whine of alternative rock; the proto-djent of Pantera and Helmet shows up as well, alongside the deliberately random songwriting of emo and post-hardcore bands. Add them all together and you have a template for making infinite music: an aesthetic of randomness, with high technicality, and metal power but not its threatening antisociality, melded together into a product that is more like a jam session than a planned event. This resembles what happened after progressive rock fiddled the first time, and jam bands showed up that merged jazz, progressive and rock into expanded-format songs that wandered. Metalcore can take any form, whether melodic death metal or math-influenced grindcore, because it is at heart a philosophy much like glam was. It takes what shocked the last generation, adds it all together, and ramps up the imagery to deliver a “new” (old) product.
If we are honest, we will admit that metalcore is the glam metal of today. Designed to shock, it pretends at being “underground” only to keep its indie cred, and relies on the disturbing self-absorption of indie and emo to make parents quake. Formed of too many elements to support together in one coherent genre, it focuses on incoherence, and ties it together with imagery. It emphasizes technicality, which thanks to endless instructional videos and better access to guitar equipment (thanks Guitar Center!) has cranked up a notch, but uses it as a means to the end of its appearance. While band members no longer dress up in clothing of the opposite gender and tease their hair, they perform the equivalent through their embrace of passivity, feminism and self-pity as fundamental values. This shocks parents as much as glam metal did, and has correspondingly bad effects on metal as a whole.
As part of our exploration of academia in metal, we meet all sorts of interesting academics with different relationships to metal. Some are more on the academic side, some on the musical, and some in-between. Ross Hagen straddles both extremes by being both a musician and an academic with a focus on teaching metal. As a result, he brings both personal experience and delight in the genre to the otherwise more abstract academic view. We were lucky to get in a few questions with this interesting person and teacher.
You’ve got two degrees in music and one in musicology. What launched you along this direction? Did you intend to become an academic, or did the music lead you there?
I think this career path resulted from my love of music coupled with the fact that I didn’t really have the discipline for seriously practicing a musical instrument so I could play professionally. I’d much rather spend six hours a day in the library. Graduate school was also a nice way to extend my adolescence and avoid adult responsibilities for a few years after college. But when I think about it, I suppose that academia was always an intention of mine, whether I thought about it consciously or not. Both of my parents were educators, so I guess I’m something of a poster child for following the path laid out by my upbringing.
What got you involved with heavy metal? Were you a fan before you studied it? What appeals about it to you, both as a research subject and as a personal listening experience?
I was definitely a fan before I began pursuing it as a topic of study. My father was a college professor and his students would occasionally loan him tapes and CDs so I was listening to a lot of college rock and industrial music (well, NIN anyway) in my early teens. At one point he had a student who loaned him some of the early albums by Amorphis, Samael, Tiamat, and My Dying Bride and I dug them a lot. It wasn’t until college that I found other people who liked that kind of stuff and expanded my listening though. I feel like I’m still playing catch-up on a lot of older material from the 70s and 80s especially. I also got into musicology as an undergraduate and began including metal in my studies there.
From a personal standpoint, I suppose I find it empowering in some respects, but I also like that black metal especially is a style where it’s easy to just get lost in the sound. As a bassist and composer I like that metal is challenging to perform and that it’s a style that is quite malleable in some respects even as its fundamental ingredients remain relatively stable. I think that’s part of what I like about it as a researcher as well; the tension between the metal’s core attributes and its desire to evolve and change.
You’ve contributed a piece, “Musical Style, Ideology, and Mythology in Norwegian Black Metal,” in the compilation Metal Rules the Globe. Can you tell us about this writing, and what your thesis generally was?
This was a version of my 2005 Master’s degree thesis where I wrote about some of the key elements of the “second wave” black metal musical style and related them to the genre’s interest in the supernatural and mythical. In particular I looked into the way that blast beats and tremolo picking seem to suspend rhythmic momentum and time in black metal when coupled with more slowly changing harmonies and hazy-sounding production.
I also related the use of full chord voicings and the use of parallel minor 3rds and 6ths (in Emperor’s music especially) to an interest in chaotic sorts of sounds since those types of chords are much less focused and resonant than the typical metal power chord when played with lots of distortion. I considered these musical conventions as evocations of trance experiences because they create a sense of stasis and timelessness (in a literal sense) by obscuring rhythmic propulsion and harmonic clarity.
I was at the time interested in connecting these musical devices to the sort of Norse revivalist rhetoric that was regularly coming from people like Varg Vikernes and that also underpins Michael Moynihan’s Lords of Chaos, especially mythical figures like the berserker…that black metal seems to reward an ideal of virtuosity based on physical endurance rather than dexterity and nimbleness, things like that. I do think that there was a certain aesthetic affinity with these mythical ideals for some black metallers, that they envisioned themselves as warriors or as part of a charivari tradition trying to bring back a romanticized ideal of pre-modern Europe. However, I think that the chapter’s main contribution is the articulation of the musical style…or at least when I go back and read it those are the parts that I think hold up the best.
You teach courses on popular music, music appreciation, and music history at Utah Valley University. Does this include metal? How do students respond to it? Does their response change depending on whether they are metalheads or not?
Most of them seem to respond fairly positively to it when I do teach it, which usually only happens in the course specifically centered around popular music. I do include bits of Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen in my schtick on musical virtuosity in the music appreciation classes, but more as a side comparison. Students in the popular music courses seem to respond well to it even if they aren’t fans, since by the time we get into it most of the students understand that “liking” a genre of music is not a prerequisite for investigating its musical style and influence. Metalheads or former metalheads (I actually hear that a lot here…metal is something they used to like as teenagers) tend get a little more into it, but I’m often pleasantly surprised as well when students who have no personal affinity with the style offer thoughtful considerations of it.
I find it interesting that you’ve composed music for the production of two ancient Greek plays at UVU. Are these going to be released? Is there any overlap between ancient Greco-Roman music and heavy metal?
Actually only one of them (Antigone) was an ancient Greek play. The other one, Eurydice, was a modern play by Sarah Ruhl that is built around the myth but definitely takes its own path (and was directed by my very talented and lovely wife Lisa). Oddly enough, my music cues for Eurydice actually did include a bit of Rammstein-ish heavy metal…the script called for it when the Lord of the Underworld enters dressed like a child and riding a tricycle.
I’m not planning to release recordings of Eurydice‘s music cues themselves since they wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense on their own (15 seconds of heavy metal, 45 seconds of lounge music, etc.) but I did put together a suite of sorts called gravity is very compelling out of the soundscapes from Eurydice. The Antigone score is likewise kind of boring out of context, but I’ve repurposed parts of it in other works here and there.
Regarding ancient Greek and Roman music, I can say with some certainty (even though ancient music isn’t a specialty of mine) that there’s not any overlap with heavy metal in terms of musical content. A lot of the theoretical ideas and writings helped lay the foundations for the European art music tradition in the medieval period, though. Plato’s famous concerns about the dangerous moral and social effects of “disordered” music also echo through the centuries to inform the various moral panics around heavy metal and other musical styles.
According to your biography, you’ve participated in more than a dozen album releases on various American and European labels, and perform in the ambient bands encomiast and Schrei aus Stein as well as two local metal bands. Can you tell us a bit about your musical history?
I started making ambient music with encomiast in the late 1990s, when I had access to a proper electronic music studio at college. That sort of whetted my appetite for it and I’ve continued recording stuff like it ever since, often drawing my friends into the mix as well. Most of the catalog from that project is available at encomiast.bandcamp.com, although I think my favorite is the 139 Nevada 2xCD that grew out of an attempt to record ghostly voices at a haunted theater. I started Schrei aus Stein when I wanted to do something that mixed drones and noise with more of a black metal aesthetic. Beyond those projects, in the last decade I’ve played in the absurdist metal duo Spawn of the Matriarch, the stoner metal band Governors, a krautrock/free jazz trio, a one-off Mortician-worship solo project named Immensite, and a couple of cover bands.
Currently I play bass in Burn Your World, a band that mixes extreme metal styles with some hardcore punk influence. We also have a side project called Curseworship in which I play bass and compose a lot of harsh noise and analog synth freakouts. Both of those bands have recordings coming out soonish.
What do you think is the role of music? Is it to communicate ideas, express emotions, or make an aesthetic object for others to appreciate? Or none of the above?
I’d probably say it’s more like all of the above in my view, depending on the context and the person who is experiencing it. Your last role (aesthetic object) is probably closest to the way I think about the music I create — I tend to think structurally rather than in emotional or rhetorical terms.
Do you think metal is a subject that should be taught in schools? There’s two viewpoints to this: from academia’s point of view, and from metal’s point of view.
I think that from an academic point of view it’s as valid a subject as any, and to my mind it provides a rich musical and cultural well for all sorts of areas of study. I’d also be lying if I denied that it gives me a lot of pleasure to teach and write about music I love, so there’s a selfish end too I guess! I certainly also understand why some metalheads might not appreciate it because sometimes it does seem like once something has the stamp of approval from the ivory tower it loses a lot of its countercultural credentials.
Some might see it (possibly correctly!) as a misguided attempt to validate metal as an art form…or perhaps to validate academia by borrowing some of metal’s coolness. I personally try to avoid giving that impression in my classes, but my position as an academic may make it impossible for me dodge those bullets entirely. So I suppose my ultimate answer is “yes,” but with acknowledgement of some pitfalls.
You taught a couple of metal-centric classes at CU-Boulder while you were finishing your degree. What were these like? How did you “teach metal”?
One of them was a single Saturday course done through Continuing Education that was sort of a quick trip through some various issues (musical style, censorship, etc.). The longer course was a version of a course on Rock Music that I team-taught with Joel Burcham. In that one my idea was to use metal as a way to explore various aspects of popular music, including recording, performance, fandom, authenticity, etc. My goal was less to teach metal and more to allow metal to teach us, if that makes sense.
You’re an ethnomusicologist; those seem like a cross between music historian and music analyst. How does understanding metal at a musical level help you understand it at a culture level? Are there correlations between the two dimensions of metal?
I sometimes feel like the primary thing my musical training provides me with is a vocabulary with which to work. I do find it helpful in terms of articulating aspects of metal music and production that encourage particular responses and experiences among listeners. As I mentioned in my summary of the “Metal Rules the Globe” article, I do think that some musical ideas can evoke particular experiences and reflect certain values. I would stop short of saying that they necessarily correspond to the values of the performer and the audience though. Sometimes that might certainly be the case, but I’ve come to be skeptical of sweeping correlations, mostly because I want to avoid misrepresenting the culture of metal as a monolithic entity. The more time I spend with metal and with other metalheads, the more I appreciate the diversity of experience within it.
One of your research interests is ritualism. Are there ritual aspects to heavy metal, especially the black metal variety?
I tend to think that almost every musical activity has some sort of a ritual component to it, using the term broadly. With black metal, though, I’m particularly interested in the deployment of Ritual “with a capital R” as a conscious effort to connect the music and performance with some archaic imagined past. In some respects, I think the past black metal invokes is the past of black metal itself, a retro recycling and recreation that is common to all music in some degree, but which has perhaps increased lately (Simon Reynold’s recent book deals with this better than I).
Invoking ritual also feels like an appeal to an authoritative kind of authenticity, an assertion that black metal is not entertainment or theater, but instead that it is a stable and “timeless” tradition and (importantly) not beholden to the vagaries of taste or fashion. The use of a fairly standard and narrow set of musical gestures and sounds, deindividualizing costumes and pseudonyms, and staged evocations of sacrificial death all work to this end. Of course, the “appeal to ritual” is also in some ways merely a marketing term and a performance conceit. It might go hand-in-hand with the increased visibility of black metal over the past decade or so.
I’m currently working with these ideas as part of a research project on musical ritualism as an authenticating tactic in popular music…possibly with a parallel trajectory in musical representations of monstrosity and supernatural forces. I’m still gathering my dogs together to see if they hunt though.
How important do you think heavy metal is as a cultural indicator? What does it tell us about our society?
I think it certainly has a role there, although I think that what it says varies a lot depending on who is involved in it. Actually, I think that if we look at metal around the globe, I might consider a lack of metal in a society to be more significant. It seems to be an almost ubiquitous presence, even under circumstances of war and deprivation.
I do think that the value so much metal discourse seems to place on trueness and authenticity is perhaps symptomatic of a larger sense of uprootedness in (American?) society. Rather than celebrating the protean side of 21st century identity, metal seems to demand a higher level of “identity essentialism” in that respect. It promises some measure of stability.
In your view, why is metal such a distinctive genre, with such strong rules and boundaries (trueness, cultness)?
It seems that being embattled or marginalized is an integral part of the way metal views itself, even if in some cases we might consider that metalheads doth protest too much. This sense of being outside the mainstream probably creates this sense of cohesion and belonging, as well as a bit of suspicion and distrust of outsiders and “un-metal” musical influences.
I think that the boundaries have actually gotten more stringent over the past decade or so in underground metal, although it’s probably more likely that I’ve just become more aware of them. I might suggest that as the artifacts and symbols of insider-ness in metal have become more readily available, the concern with maintaining boundaries has risen accordingly. As it becomes easier and easier to amass knowledge about the most obscure bands, along with their recordings, that obscurity loses its power.
Patch jackets don’t seem to carry the same weight if you can purchase a whole collection of rare kvlt “merit badges” in 20 minutes on eBay. This situation makes metal’s system of cultural signifiers less trustworthy in terms of judging someone’s commitment to the genre, so it seems like the boundaries need more strict enforcement. It’s only exacerbated in cyberspace. But of course the best way to be kvlt is to deny that it matters if you’re kvlt or not…it’s square to be hip, right?
You’re on the editorial board of the journal Metal Music Studies. How has metal in academia expanded during the time you’ve been observing, and where do you see it going in the future?
To be totally accurate, I’m actually just on the editorial advisory board, which just means I’ll be on-call as a peer reviewer once we’re totally underway. I hope to continue my involvement in the future, however.
When I first began writing about heavy metal as a graduate student in the early/mid 2000s, it seemed that there was precious little academic writing about metal beyond Walser, Weinstein, and sociological studies beating the dead horse connecting metal and crime/delinquency. Over the following decade it’s just blossomed as a field of study, and I think it’s impressively diverse. I mean, we’ve got people from sociology, ethnomusicology, historical musicology, fan studies, philosophy, and interested practitioners all in the mix. I’ve been trying (and failing) to keep up with all the publications. It’s an exciting and inspiring field.
I think that we’re going to see more studies that question the conceptions of locality and place in metal, since the increasing digital networks around the world are making physical geography less relevant in some respects. I know some scholars are working on the exoticism in metal, which seems especially interesting because it binds together questions of intent (patriotism? parody?) with issues of reception. It also seems that Metal Studies has focused a lot on the more extreme and underground subgenres, so I hope we might see more people begin to explore the intersections between metal and mainstream pop culture, both currently and in the past.
What are Sadistic Metal Reviews? We think heavy metal has artistic value. Advertisers want heavy metal to be the token rebellion of future generations of consumers. We have truth and cruelty on our side, but they’ve got the money. Read between the screams for the rare non-failures…
Stop. When you hear the name Ghost (or Ghost B.C., since they got sued for unoriginality) don’t think “metal band.” Think hipster product. Ghost create yet another social status pandering musical widget for frappuccino enthusiasts to feel superior to the rest of us. If you go look at your local independent coffee haven, they are there raising their left fists above their foreheads whilst tilting a pinky finger outward and staring down their noses at the rest of us who aren’t as pop-culture savvy as their enlightened Adult Swim-watching kind are. Ghost added a Roky Erickson cover to have “street cred” amongst the garage/psych-rock crowd that hipsters associate with (because it’s rock music, but different…), but then play a series of pop songs from ABBA, Army of Lovers, and Depeche Mode to feign a sense of “open minded-ness” which reveals the true money-grubbing ways that motivate the constant churn of vapid media products. Sure to be a talking point amongst latte experts, this EP culminates in a live take of an original song which sounds like a bad excuse for carnival music.
With their seasoned membership which includes former Liers in Wait personnel, a Necrolord cover and an overblown concept, this “seems” like a death metal gem, but it isn’t. Coming off like Liers in Wait after hearing too much Yngwie Malmsteen and Nocturnus’ Thresholds, Crystal Age play an unfocused form of late 80s Forbidden style melodic speed metal with “extreme” updates in the form of raspy vocals, Egyptian themed tremolo riffs, and blast beats aplenty. Considering the scatter brained riff salad nature of these songs, it’s a surprise these guys would even have the aptitude for writing commercially viable AOR power metal later on in Hammerfall. Nothing too offensive, but at the same time random and uninspiring, this band could best be described as “spectacularly mundane.”
This is a NWOBHM with the rhythms of an American punk band playing in honky tonks. Riffs are less ornate than most NWOBHM except for the fills which are classic early Iron Maiden and the like. It has a local band vibe and as a high-energy act fits more in a live bar setting than being heard on record. Songs vary between having the punk side win out and the metal side win out. On the whole, it’s above average quality with good energy, and songs that develop in very simple but not inept ways. Why is it here among the sadism, then? I like it, but I wouldn’t want to hear it often. It would be a great local bar band, A+. For listening in the world beyond, it’s not yet ready. Most reviewers won’t tell you this, because most reviewers go through a 2.5′ pile of CDs at three minutes each and like anything that they recognize as being like the other stuff they like.
A Tampa death metal influenced project that made compromises to fit in better with the Gothenburg crowd of their scene at the time, Ceremonial Oath manage to wear their influences on their sleeves without living up to the promise of any one single influence, much less the hope that adding them together would make a better teen rebellion sonic product. There are some well developed counterpoint riffs and some of the tracks have interesting structures but, aside from the awesome artwork provided by former At the Gates guitarist Alf Svensson, this doesn’t hold up well over time or when compared to other releases from it’s era. Like a less worthwhile and stadium rock cheese infused Swedish counterpart to Shadows of the Past by Sentenced, but with more rhythm riffs, The Book of Truth is best judged by its cover and recycled early.
This box set, lovingly released by Century Media on 3 CDs or 5 LPs, is a boon — if you like Abramelin. I am totally divided on this band, since they have many great ideas for song construction, but can’t get over the hurdle of writing obvious and somewhat painfully blunt and directionless riffs, which leaves the end result as a lot of potential left in the hands of implements too crude to realize it. This seems to be a national characteristic of Australian metal which often has great ideas for songs but doesn’t have the technical power of the Americans or the melodic flair of the Europeans that enables it to reach those goals. The production on these restored demos, 7″ records, live tracks and album grooves is amazing and this set does great credit to Abramelin. I just can’t see myself listening to it again.
Let me tell you something about the term “avant-garde”: it works when other people use it to describe you. When you use it to describe yourself, it sounds like an excuse for low quality. Claiming to be “avant-garde”, Solefald play a style of black metal that uses the raspy vocals, thin guitar tone, and fast playing typical of the genre, but nothing else from black metal persists here. Especially not, you know, coherent songwriting, melodic development or atmosphere that isn’t a mile wide and an inch deep. Like Opeth, Solefald use “metal” sections in juxtaposition to “outside” elements in order to create “contrast” which is apparently the opposite of writing a song. This results in a compilation of new wave, rock, and synthpop elements superficially dressed up as black metal, but it’s like a bag of puppies and snakes fighting it, i.e. visible from a mile away as not being in any way unified. Listening to this, one can imagine Ulver, Enslaved, Opeth, and Dimmu Borgir sitting around a conference table and patting each other on the back to see how, like AIDS, their muzak has spread its “influence” which will ensure the ruining of metal beyond them. After us, nothing but pop brain-death, as far as the eye can see…
Discipline is not too bad for a late model black metal aesthetic-ized theatre of blasturbation. The problem is the songs are way too similar for their own good and it gets grating, not because of style, but because of monotonously linear songcraft. Considering guitarist Anders Odden’s (playing here under the “Neddo” alias) imaginative and exploratory playing on Cadaver’s In Pains album, Cadaver Inc. seems like a waste of talent as he tries to make a more popular style that is literally too simple for his brain to do well. The music is worthier than Marduk or Dark Funeral, more heavily favoring a grindcore heritage than throwing pop jingles under blasts. Still, this band will perhaps be remembered more for its bringing of underground cynicism and morbidity into the “.com” era in the form of a satirical website than its music.
Good riffs, random order. Combine Bathory Blood Fire Death with Ancient The Cainian Chronicle. The result is black metal with a heavy metal feel and while it can build atmosphere, it can’t develop it, thus feels incomplete and deflated like early Satyricon, both in melody and song structure. This is too bad because there are some quality riffs on here, nothing groundbreaking but clearly showing a fair amount of thought. There are also some borrowed riffs which when used too blatantly without being in a new context can crush the atmosphere achieved. Still, the feeling here is that this band has a huge amount of potential but needs an editor to put the riffs in the right order to develop the moods so adroitly evoked.
When something gets trendy, like metal, everyone else starts trying to shoehorn their own genre into it. Karmatik is basically a lite progressive band that like guitary riffs, but has nothing in common with metal other than a few moments of speed metal riff before the band gets back to the real business, which is extended space jams. They do a good job of this, although its somewhat personal nature will probably appear a bit cheesy to a metalhead. The hard rock riffs here are, for all that this band likes to be progressive, of extremely well-known types and so there’s not much to listen to there. Like other bands who have become metal when they wanted to be prog, this band shines when they’re doing what they enjoy, which is the space jam parts. This should probably be referred to a prog-rock audience, but their criticism will probably be most severe for the metal parts as well, since they are the weakest link here.
One of these comes along every few years. In the late 1990s, it was Driller Killer. Remember them? ME NEITHER. Bones is late-model grindcore set up to have the energy and listening appeal of a late hardcore band. The embrace of sleaze/perversity is almost always a red flag that a band has zero in terms of ideas about life, thus zero in terms of musical ideas that aren’t based on what another band did. In this case, it’s a crying shame because these guys are good songwriters who can pump out quality (but not groundbreaking) grinding riffs. These songs hold together, have emotional content and are memorable, for the most part. The problem is that like Hollywood stars they don’t connect to anything but themselves.
Despite attempts to appear otherwise, this is LA strip styled hair metal re-shaped with modern sludge/metalcore drumming and a few aesthetic touches such as an alt-rock influence in the vocals. However, it’s the hard rock riffs from the late 1970s with just enough groove to slide into the vocals and the decadent simplicity mated with period touches of guitar virtuosity, as if showing a once-vital civilization under the collapsed ruin. It’s not bad but there’s no real reason to listen to it either. I am always repulsed when bands try to disguise their inner nature, and also, when metal bands try to dumb it down to the point of appealing to a rock audience. Just be a damn rock band. And unleash that guitarist. There’s a lot of talent here in mating up these riffs, keeping up with the drums, and making the whole thing work. Unleash some solos, go Van Halen and play more of those epic riffs that sneak in toward the end of the songs. The vocalist is too dominant, as is the giddy slaphappy shuffle drumming, which detracts from any attention span the listener might have had. Then again, if you’re marketing to morons, that’s a good bet.
I wasn’t old enough to have figured it out at the time, but according to this entertaining report, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame cobbled together a festival in 1983 whose goal was to showcase new styles of music, and in the process, showcased metal blowing away the willowy music of the previous ten years.
This isn’t to say I dislike New Wave or any of those other styles. They have their place. But in 1983, metal was raging to take over. The Cold War was in full nuclear terror of instant radioactive death, the world was unstable and conservative, and as a result most people were getting ready to go into full kumbaya mode. Metal to the rescue, with warfare, doom, death, disease, horror and hedonism!
Heavy Metal Day featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, Triumph, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Scorpions and Ozzy Osbourne raging across a massive stage with spectacular amplification. In short, it was the MTV metal of the day, or the stuff you’d see on the then-new invention of MTV with its music video channels, and that meant it wasn’t as extreme as what we have now, but for then, it was like a giant backlash against the gradual creeping “love will save us” mentality of 1970s music. With metal, war was back, and it was angry!
The ever-pointed Vine Neil of Motley Crue told one reporter that the significance of Heavy Metal Day was that “It was the day new wave died and rock ‘n’ roll took over.” 670,000 people attended the event, but over half of them came for Heavy Metal Day alone. The power of metal was established, and would only rise from this point onward as the world waited for the wavebreak of Slayer, Metallica, Bathory, and Hellhammer which was about to come crashing down about its ears.
Perhaps May 29 should be remembered as the day metal rose up in power and struck down the opposition to assert itself.
Shane Bugbee and Amy Bugbee, who wrote The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America which featured interviews with Possessed, Averse Sefira and Gene Hoglan, answered our interview request with a flotilla of good information.
These are the two writer-artist-metalheads who hopped into a decade-old Suburban with $200 and drove across America, spending a year touring the USA to figure out what Americans actually believe and where the soul of America rests.
During the process, they interviewed Possessed’s Jeff Becerra twice, Gene Hoglan, Ian Mackaye, Averse Sefira and many other underground figures who have featured prominently in the evolution of metal.
They also caught the spirit of metal in their critique of society and its tendency toward herdlike conformity, along with a refusal to join in. The resulting adventures were insightful and humorous, and you can read them in the book. But for now, the interview…
I’m here in Tampa, Florida questioning Shane Bugbee and Amy Bugbee about their new book, The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America. We are most definitely not firing shotguns, drinking whisky and listening to old Sarcofago bootlegs. Let’s see what they say when I whip out this list of questions written on an old receipt for ammonium nitrate and fuel oil…
AMY: Hi Brett, thank you for asking questions, glad to answer them, thanks so much!
When did you first become a metalhead? Why? I assume it would have been easier to get into AOR or country.
AMY: I have been a metalhead since I was little girl, and when I think back to where it began, I must have been in 3rd Grade. I had a sister 5 years older than me, and we grew up in a working class community on the industrial South Side of Chicago. We would pool our allowance ($3 a week each) and buy an album — AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest. The first time I heard Black Sabbath I was hooked. I can remember when Ozzy left Sabbath, I remember when Bon Scott died, I was 9 or 10 and I was devastated.
We had a record store in downtown Hammond, Indiana that we walked to almost every Saturday, called Hegewisch Records. They used to put album art on black t-shirts with hundreds of bands, I started wearing them in 4th grade. That place was like a secret world, I loved it. (The owner was murdered in 1991 – shot five times, never solved – but that’s how it is where I grew up!)
SHANE: my uncle was digging on sabbath, led zeppelin, ac/dc & zz top when I was a wee lad, so, that was a start… the first 45 I was given as a gift was elvis, the first full record, kiss destroyer and, the first cassette, van halen/fair warning… seems like my uncle liking hard rock bands helped to influence and guide me, that and the clan-ish war beat of heavy metal/hard rock that naturally attracted me…. I think the metalhead is a lost culture/clan that is split up through kings or natural catastrophe… we find each other through the music… my earliest metal memories are listening to the radio in a chicago suburb and wanting the first ozzy solo record so bad I said out loud I’d sell my soul to the devil for it… I wound up with a copy the next week… kiss on TV, I can’t recall exactly, but maybe when kiss appeared on mainstream, prime time tv, I think is was CBS who aired phantom of the park… buying a bootleg led zeppelin record from the classified ads in rolling stone – these are some of my early metal memories.
What were your favorite metal bands? What made you like these more than others?
AMY: As I mentioned I really loved Black Sabbath, and a lot of what I would now call “Hard Rock” bands. At 14, I was introduced to Metallica, Slayer, and that whole second generation of metal through a crew of friends I’d begun running with. I thought Metallica, Motorhead, and all those bands were great, but my real loves were Venom and Slayer. I remember running to the record store the day Slayer’s Hell Awaits came out. I was working my first job at a Dairy Queen in Harvey IL, and I got myself a decent stereo and bought albums with most of my paychecks that summer. I would immediately record the albums onto cassette tapes and I took them everywhere. I was the person everyone turned to for music after a while.
So much great music then — Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, Exodus’ Bonded by Blood. I am lyrically inclined, so Venom was something I was really drawn to. Today, there is a lot of really good and a ton of really bad metal out there, as always probably.
Sad to say, since I lost my entire music collection I have been less inclined to buy music, and listen instead to a lot of internet metal radio and even our local community station.
SHANE: it’s impossible for me to make a list of favorites as they will move and change, sometimes daily… here’s a quick retrospective and some of those I’ve loved through-out the years…
- van halen
- ozzy ozbourne
- black sabbath
- king diamond
- destroyer 666
- dark funeral
- electric wizard
- sepultura w/max only.
that’s a hard thing for me to put a reason on taste… I’d say the overall thing that sticks with me through all art is aggression and honesty… be it a painting or a song. there is of course my influences as a child, influence from peers.
Shane, I remember that you were involved with the Milwaukee Metalfest. I don’t think metal fans today remember how important that event was, but it was like the industry conference for metal fans (not the metal industry, which didn’t exist). How did you get involved, and what did you take away from the experience?
the metalfest was quite the gathering point, wasn’t it. boy, those were the days… I got involved because I had a zine (Naked Aggression) and was trying to sell jack koshick (metal fest founder) some ads, I told him I could help with sales and wanted to sell vendors tables and publish a program book I could sell ads in… I felt they could profit off of the show without all the ticket buys (pay to play) they made low end, un-signed bands take part in… I really hated the pay-to-play deal and wanted to help make the fest better… it was cool, I made enough money to live off of for six months a year but the metal fest only crumbled due to too many pay-to-plays and the fest became less and less about the music and all about the money… funny thing is, I quit because so many brothers in metal came up to me during my final metal fest, they would yell and scream about the shitty pay to play bands and the schedule, telling me they’d never play the show again, so I quit thinking I’d give up the 6 months worth of payment working on the metal fest and I’d start a fest for all those bands that would never play the metal fest again… I was going to do it for the ‘scene’ !!! hehehe, yea, right… the scene!!! the second we put together the expo of the extreme, the scene turned its back on our show and each and every band that said they’d NEVER play the metal fest, RAN to play the metal fest, and if you told the promoter of the metal fest that you were going to play my show it became the fastest way for a band to not only get booked, you’d also get paid and a decent stage time on the metal fest stage… so, the biggest take away was the ‘scene’ or ‘art’ within the metal community had gone away – it became a business and was striving to be an above ground and exploitable job vs. a pure expression… I should have just continued to play along, fighting against it all was personally satisfying, but it didn’t help my bottom line and I lost a lot of friends over that war of principles.
the black metal underground gave me hope for a bit, and on the net I’ve re-found the metal underground, so it didn’t die, it just stays in the cave.
For “The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America,” which has one of the most metal titles of any book I’ve read recently, you interviewed a number of underground metal legends, including Jeff Becerra, Gene Hoglan and Averse Sefira. How did you manage to meet so many fascinating people? Why do you think they granted interviews to you as opposed to the rest of the metal press?
SHANE: we simply asked trusted sources, friends of friends… a lot of luck went into whomever we eventually spoke to… traveling with no $$$ meant that we would find work, then a place to crash, then a gas station, then the highway. if we were lucky an interview we planned from the beginning of the trip might fit in…
as far as the interviews with us VS the metal press??? I don’t see us as metal press, just press. The metal press talks metal, so they are by their nature, predictable… and about the business of their industry… me, us, our trip was something different and exciting and I think top tiered metal heads are always looking for excitement vs. business.
AMY: I think, as with everyone we spoke to on our road trip, we were coming at things from a unique angle or perspective. We were not asking about their latest record or whatever BS they hear all the time so they were interested in being represented in a different way maybe.
I had interviewed Jeff Becerra on my defunct radio show some time back, and Gene Hoglan we’d met while living briefly in LA after our “shunning” – I’d invited him to a porn party via myspace, he said he wouldn’t know anyone, I said we just moved here so we don’t know anyone either, and he actually stopped by. Turns out a bunch of metal guys were at the party, I remember one guy falling to his knees to praise him when he walked in. Averse Sefira was a recommendation from a wise internet friend, as I was unfamiliar with their work before that. They turned out to be one of our favorite interviews.
Amy, you started out as a teenage metalhead and still proudly wear the Possessed shirts of your youth. How did your friends and family react to you being a metalhead? Can people cope with it these days at all?
AMY: To be honest, I have nothing left from my youth, my t-shirts and my record collection were lost while on the road, Jeff gave me that shirt when we stayed with him, but I get what you are saying…
As I said my sister got me into metal, our crowd was metal. We were the hardest of the hardcore in our town, but not for metal, more for drugs and mayhem and stuff. Our crew included druggies, thieves, pimps, prostitutes, guys who worked for the biker gangs and other criminal syndicates. Most of them are dead or in prison nowadays.
Ironically, the very friends who got us into Slayer and that whole wave of metal hated it when my sister and I started going to lots of shows in Chicago – to see bands like Possessed, Dark Angel, and even some hardcore bands. They said that was just noise — Silly boys, just could not handle we were more metal than they were! In reality, getting deeper into metal and spending less time with those people in Calumet City probably saved my life.
As far as family reaction, I was raised Atheist in a Catholic community so we were always outside of society. I’ve never been baptized, read the bible, or attended church. My parents were logic minded, they were spiritual but not Christian. I was told I was going to hell for attending public school and biting my nails by the Catholic kids on my block. In public school, when everyone was preparing to do communion or whatever they do in second grade, and kids realized I didn’t attend any of the local churches, I was called a devil and a witch, and they stopped talking to me, so I was never part of society. If you always live outside what is “the Norm” it has no meaning to you.
You two launched yourself out on the road with what, an old Suburban and $200? Were you afraid? I think most of us are afraid to leave the morphine drip of our paychecks and grocery stores. What motivated you to do this?
SHANE: when I look back I can see a lot of feelings… but I cannot feel those feelings. I’m not above being afraid, just don’t think of it that way… this was a reverberation, a creative reaction to an aggressive action against my family… so our expression to that aggressive action was survival and revenge all rolled up into one. so, the motivation was to stay sponsored as I had been with my newspapers and creative enterprises, while at the same time finding creative ways to enact revenge on the town of ely, but responsible revenge… I wanted the world to know about ely… I wanted the world to think about ely. not the town, but the mindlessness of the collective mind. I also felt it was time our art became understood, the stuff amy & I had been doing was so-misunderstood it was easy for the other side to paint us into a corner… my friendship with Dr. LaVey, the obscene books I published, the angry, pro violent art… for me, the nucleus of what I did has always politics, I have always seen stuff like my association with the church of satan to be an artistic and political movement and NOT a belief or a religion, more of a political expression… everything I express is based in politics… so one of the major reasons I wanted to do the trip was to let our politics/art speak for themselves and, not in such an abstract way as art sometimes expresses itself, I wanted our misunderstood expression to be communicated through visceral, real life, in the flesh action… so, it was time to hit the streets and meet the enemy.
AMY: We were terrified! But even more terrifying was the thought of canceling after months of planning, and being failures. We already felt we had so much to prove, we’d just been shunned and run out of a town, we were sleeping on my in-laws basement floor. When our sponsor pulled out and left us every reason to cancel, the alternative of having to eat crow, and find shitty jobs, and get a shitty apartment, and be stuck in some awful suburb of Chicago while the in-laws gave us the “I told ya so” speech daily was more than we could deal with, if we died on the road that was just as well. Better to go and die than stay and be failures.
Plus, when we were tipped off Adam Curry was going to take our idea and replace us with some of his contract podcasters as soon as we signed the contract (he had it in the fine print thinking we would not read it), there was no way we were going to let that false metal loser do that to us.
I understand that you were involved in a community, and were accepted and valued there, until people found out that you’d written — not worshiped, written about — the dark lord himself. They ran you out of town. Oprah wants to know “How do you feel about that?” but I want to know how you think this reflects on the nature of religion and dogma. Does it make us into monsters, or does it take one monster to turn a town against people?
SHANE: one of the main questions we asked of americans was “is there a difference between religion and spirituality?”
I felt strongly that it was the religious, not the spiritual who were the flock of blind and ignorant followers who are ultimately soldiers for corporate buffoonery… maybe a simple question, big deal, the years leading up to our road trip and this question I assumed any and all religious/spiritual believers were harmful to the future of human evolution, but at that point in my life I had met a handful of decent christians and others who were spiritual and unshakable in their beliefs and it was always these kind of spiritual folks who would have no problem hanging out with amy & myself, but the religious… beyond fearful, so afraid, they didn’t want to know.
so, our trip and the “is there a difference between religion and spirituality” question, along with all of the great answers confirmed my thoughts that religion is for weak minded scared little sheep, but, now I was able to add to my philosophy a compassionate thought about the spiritual, those who find and define a personal spirituality are thoughtful, they think, they work at it, they listen to others, the exact opposite of the closed off religious. as far as the human animal being a monster, well, the human can be scary, and if enough of us humans get together with an idea to control and manipulate people we can certainly create a monster or two for use as a tool of fear, but you need blind followers to give a monster life, so I’d say it takes a manmade monster and a whole lot of ignorant followers to turn a town against people.
AMY: It did not matter that we’d moved to the northern Minnesota wilderness because my father, who had retired up there some 15 years earlier, had had a stroke. Everyone in my family wanted to put him in a home or stick him in their basement, and I knew either choice would kill him, the only chance he had to recover was to be where he loved to be – in his home near Ely, MN. We gave up a lot to be there for him, we had just sold our house and were planning to move to NYC. This was the total opposite of that plan, but Shane made it work, he came up with a gourmet Blueberry soda pop and soon we were bringing in semi-trucks of it. It was really taking off.
Then, we decided it was weird a tourist town had not updated their visitor’s website in over three years, so we made our own, and that expanded to doing a podcast — the first one in the Northwoods, we started an arts paper. We didn’t make a dime off that website or paper, we did it to help.
We donated a pallet of soda to help the hockey team keep their ice maintained all season, and we were trying to save the school’s art program with an event for the movie A Christmas Story when the shunning began.
None of those good deeds mattered to anyone. Those good Christians cared not for our deeds that they could see right in front of them, or the positive relationships we had built in the community. They decided we were bad based on online work we’d done, websites in the virtual world, interviews Shane had done, some a decade old.
Even the so-called artists and thinking people of the community turned on us because they did not want the finger pointed at them.
It all came down to an anonymous letter that three or four people were behind, it called us devil worshippers. Because of it, stores pulled our soda from shelves, I was unhired from a new job, not because people even thought what was in the letter was true really, but because they did not want to go against the grain.
We really did not have a chance. The worst part of all was leaving my dad.
It has had terrible long lasting effects for us. I’ve still lost jobs over this stuff, it really follows you, it scares people, and it makes us seem paranoid.
That being said, why do you think it is that metal is fascinated with evil, Satan, murder, war, sodomy, disease, power, control and torture? It sounds like the musings of either an abused child or a child abuser. Is there any connection to how our society chooses to organize itself?
SHANE: our tribe/clan may have been broken up by war or natural catastrophe, maybe metal is a base and visceral sound for the underclass tribe/clan we all seem to belong. … or maybe metal is the sound of war and those who are attracted to metal are either natural warriors or those individuals that have stepped into a mind for war based on circumstances beyond their control… I’ve always seen metal as a life force, a clannish beat that has once again brought us together by empowering the used and abused. so maybe you have a point, I’m not sure, for me, metal is in my earliest memories… it seemed natural to me and I was abused as a child and as I recall, the early metal shows did seem to be a place where all the abused and lost met up… either that or the punk rock shows, though, it’s always seemed to me punks have very different politics vs. metalheads so, maybe it’s not the abuse, or the warmth of a parent, or the lack of attention from a teacher that drove us to leather, spikes and denim, maybe it was our natural politics of might makes right/survival of the fittest that has brought us together.
AMY: That is just who we are as metal heads, we are the people from the wrong side of the tracks, we’ve seen too much too soon, and no one in society holds out any hope for us. We are the throwaways.
Bands sing about what they know and where they are from, and they sing to kids who know the same. If death and destruction is what you experience, that is what you will be attracted to musically.
I never liked pop music, it just meant nothing to me. AC/DC’s ‘Problem Child’, now THAT I could relate to. A happy kid from a nice community is not gonna want to listen to Venom.
A few years back I read that more than half of the kids in “gifted programs” listen to metal, and maybe that is just it, even metal it seeks its own level, there is metal for the not-too-bright, and there is metal for the kids who are too smart for the world they were born into. I think many kids who are super smart are pretty cynical about things, and if you are sensitive or compassionate the suffering of the world is crushing. You got to get that out somehow, and aggressive music is as good a way as any.
I started going to a lot of metal and hardcore shows when I was in high school in the mid to late 1980s, the scene then was really small, and everyone knew everyone. There was a kinship there because we were all messed up. In those days, if you fell in the pit someone always picked you up. There was a unity in the metal scene, it felt safe. I can remember the most outrageous hardcore people being worried if we would get home okay, driving an hour out of their way to take me home, or offering a place to stay.
Sure there are exceptions to every rule, but I would say most metal heads are smarter than their opportunities in life provide for, and that creates frustration. Not only are they smart, but they are sensitive, maybe more sensitive than most, kind of like how tribes can pick out the kids who will become the shaman, they have that added ability to feel the world around them, I think metal heads are a lot like that. Perhaps that is where the connection comes from.
If you had any advice for teenage metalheads, based on your successes and failures (we’ve all had them), what would it be?
SHANE: dream, but do the work to manifest the dream.
through out my time producing and publishing, a lot of folks will meet me and it seems they look me up and down and try to understand how I, a person they automatically discounted could, let’s say, own his own soda company or, publish books, and the big difference between me and them, I work long hours at it, I’m totally dedicated, and when the project no longer becomes fun, I continue to struggle through it and I work even harder.
as far as my failures go, they all stem from childhood issues that took me far too long to figure out, so I would advise the metal youth to understand themselves and the reasons they are angry and then work on re-directing those energies into something creative or at the very least productive… depression is for the food of the world, don’t be food.
AMY: The best advice Shane and I got on the road – “You don’t have to be what people say you are”. That came from an 88 year old lady who really knew about the world. It may be the best advice ever.
The world is vast, and the teen years matter so little once you get out of them. If your life sucks read a lot, learn how to manage your money, and plan your escape. The kids I knew who had no goals are mostly dead.
Don’t let yourself be trapped in stagnation from fear, we are all scared. Standing still is way scarier than moving forward if you are on a tightrope, just keep moving forward.
And, you know that saying “You got to have something to fall back on if ___ doesn’t work out?” It’s a lie. If you have something to fall back on you will. Give your true passion 100% then if it fails, and you have exhausted all possibilities, that is when you work on plan B.
Deceased are an incredibly longstanding band from Virginia, US. They’ve run full-circle in their career, from over-the-top metal and hardcore of the mid 1980s (Discharge, Voivod, Slayer, Sodom) later merged with the energy of emerging death metal in the late eighties/early nineties and back again to rediscover themselves in the context of their heavy metal forebears. King Fowley, whose enthusiasm for the music he plays and what it represents seethes through everything he does, has lead the band’s charge since their inception.
Originally for Heidenlarm e-zine #5.
Cursed productions recently issued The Radiation Years, a collection of early demos. Is this the complete deceased pre-label discography?
Actually it’s not! ‘The evil side of religion’ our first demo still needs to surface complete. And will very soon! Probably on Cursed Productions as well. Actually in all honesty there was a home studio demo before ‘luck of the corpse’ l.p was recorded. With ‘Fading Survival’, ‘Terrifying Spectres’, ‘Industrial Tumor’, and ‘Psychedelic Warriors’ that is ‘lost’ to me and the band. The master was lost in my pile of cassette tape hell, that is my collection. I only know one guy who may have it and it’s a guy named Yoshio Cain who plays for the Japanese band Shadow now! He was a die-hard Deceased freak and i sent it only out to him back in 1989! I hope it is ‘found’ one day! It’s got some wild stuff on it :)
Other then that, only rehearsals and stuff like that is floating in ‘the vaults’ :)
When you started out as a band, it seemed you were one of the first to bring technical and speed metal elements, like Voivod and Razor (?) influences, to the music. was this a planned decision, or a natural culmination in the ways metal was being made at the time?
We were so fucking high on any drug we could get our hands on we were off in ‘freakout’ zone. We were honestly just trying to be the most ‘over the top’ band ever. We were taking speed from Sodom, Slayer, DRI, punk, thrash, etc. And mixing it with distorted styled lyrics of dread and death ala ‘War and Pain’ era Voivod, and Venom, Blessed Death, etc. Then ‘attempting’ to put in some Voivod weirdness guitar chords, and some Mercyful Fate ‘evil’, just all of it on hand! We had no idea where it would take us! It was very straight forward and insane! It was basically just a bunch of long- haired teenagers in Slayer and Venom shirts going nuts for metal and aggresson in 1985!
The first Deceased I ever heard, Luck of the Corpse, had tight and fast rhythmic arrangements and workout drumming; what atmosphere were you intending on that album? How did it turn out relative to your expectations?
Well ‘Luck..’ was an experience! I got good and bad memories of that ‘era’ of Deceased. Original guitarist Doug Souther and me were completely on different levels as to where the band needed to go both musically and personality wise at that junction in the bands life. So it ‘clashed’! Neither of us was right or wrong. Just ‘different’ in our beliefs! I think the other guys (Mark and Les) wanted to go with my ‘angle’ more so, and Doug took offense. He was really ready to move on and away from the band. So recording that record had it’s ‘negativity’ to it. Musically it’s just too fast for it’s own good! Trying to still live up to our ‘faster then you’ attitdues and trying to release something ‘good’ for death metal fanatics the world over to bite into. Everythnig was ‘rushed’ and in the end it sits a bit ‘dissapointing’. I loved the songs and I loved the chance to release a record with Relapse and be thought of as ‘competent’ enough to record and be on a record label. That was great! It was ‘neat’ to see your face and music on a cd and vinyl, cassette. It felt ‘good’! We were ‘growing up’ a bit and we had to start somewhere ‘fresh’ as a band.
When you think of the people who enjoy your music, is there anything they have in common (besides enjoying Deceased)?
I’m sure there is! I personally like to call Deceased music supporters, ‘friends’! I don’t like the word ‘fans’. Makes you think you are ‘better’ then them! We are all ‘even steven’ in my eyes. We all get up out of bed, eat, drink, sleep, love music, got our hobbies, families, etc. That’s all it is to me. ‘Seperation’ between bands and their music supporters is pretty ‘high ego’ to me. No need! Let’s all just have fun and keep on laughing through as many good times as we can!!! Look out for each other and keep on keeping on!
People sometimes ask me if I feel I’m being disrespectful to the dead by celebrating morbidity through music. What do you think about this question?
Hmmm — good question! Morbidity through music. I don’t personally see any disresect in it. Death is imminent to all and we all have to challenge it daily, every day on earth. No one knows the exact moment they will leave this place and move on to life beyond. Is there life beyond? Is it peace? Is it despair that awaits? No one truly knows. It’s life’s biggest mystery!
As soon as you’re born you’re dying. I talk about it and ‘subject’ it cuz it too intrigues me as a human being. That’s why ‘deceased’ was such th eperfect name for our band. Being the lyricist of the band i know in my heart how i feel and what my words are being meant when i write them. I am a very ‘up’ guy in my living personality. But death is always looming in the back of my brain for sure. It’s just something that truly intrigues me! Death to some is sadness. To others it’s joy, a time of celebration. To me it’s just ‘death’ and it’s unknown what will be ‘next’!
Metal has gone through huge changes since the middle 1990s. With the internet and the personal computer, it now seems everyone has a label or a zine or a band, and there’s tons and tons of metal “information” with perhaps very little data. What do you think the next stage will be?
Well it is always ‘evolving’ with the times and technology. Some for the better some for worse. But that’s ‘life’! I appreciate anyone who sincerely sits down to write an article or passes on msic to a friend to possibly enjoy. It’s ‘word of mouth’ to me that still runs the metal ‘underground’. I dont like label created ‘hype’ and ‘buzz’, never did! Let the music do the talking is my motto. Too many people sadly fall into the ‘live for the press’ mentality. Bad reviews send off interest to some people. While a ‘shining’ review makes them instantly ‘love’ it. Too weird to me!
I got my own mind, and I think and choose for myself what works for me musically as a music supporter! Sure, take all ‘aspects’ into consideration. Cuz a review can ‘help’ in your selection, but in the end let it be no one but you who decides what ‘you’ like! As for ‘next stages’, hmmm?! It’s hard to say! The internet/computer is definitely running the show now. It’s quick, updated at any given time, right there for anyone to take in! I say that will run the gament for some time still!
I was talking with Ray Miller of Adversary, a band from Indiana, and I said that in many ways I respect most the styles from when the styles we have today were newly forming. He suggested I listen to early Deceased, and I did and heard many influences in the music. What do you think each style of metal (heavy metal, melodic heavy metal, speed metal, death metal, and crossovers like hardcore, etc) represented to the generation that produced it, in terms of both music and attitude? When you brought together these styles, could you recognize each distinct impulse in your work, or did they gel into a new language?
Well i’ve always loved music. I mean anything and everythnig that got me ‘going’ i loved! It is my life’s greatest ecstasy. Early on I fell in love with the Beatles,. I was literaly 3-4 year sold. The choruses… the ‘greatness’ was quite easy to understand to me. Then I got into the ‘hoopla’ of Kiss. The blood of Simmons on the covers, the ‘image’ and visuals. It’s perfect for an 8 year old to sink his/her teeth into! It got me into wanting and craving more outlandish and more ‘over the top’ music. Trying to conquer the ‘extreme’! What is now tediously ‘mellow’ in music standards of today (Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Heart, Benatar, etc.) was once ‘over the top’ and pretty darn ‘heavy’ stuff! I just kept poking my head around in mags, record stores, all of it to ‘find’ something to fix my craving. This got me to the ‘gory’ Eddie and Maiden, razor blade through fingers artwork of Priest, the ‘devils and witches’ of Sabbath! All of it! Which in turn got me to Motorhead, Ramones, Plasmatics, Venom, etc.
It’s all a big ‘turn of the screw’! It just continues to move on and no one can slow it down. So when i got into deceased and we formed the band we knew deep down all of us had a common bond for ‘muis’c first and formost. Sure, we were ‘caught up’ in th eheavy metal mania of the times. We died for sodom, exciter, venom, fate, manaowar, all of it! But we still had our ‘elders’ of musical uprise (The Cars, Kiss, Journey, Blondie, Foreigner, etc) in our hearts as well.
We were living the life style of ‘full blown heavy metal’ but we had our hearts set in music!
So when we started writing we just blew it out as fast and furious as we could. Beyond “caught up” in the times of aggression and drug- fed energy. The ‘attitude’ you speak of was just 100% ‘us’! It was ‘Deceased’! We just got in and ‘did it’! We took all of the aspects of music we loved, speed of hardcore and thrash, melody of traditional heavy metal, choruses and ‘structures’ of traditional kiss styled rock n roll, and the ‘zaniness’ and off kilter of punk and the ilk.
It ‘worked’ for us! Sure some ‘genres’ worked better for us. But it was still all just a big band blender and we kept feeding it with more musical vegetables :)
It seems to me much of the metal from 1978 onward would have lost impetus and extremity if it weren’t for the influence of hardcore music. How do you think on this issue?
Yeah, I can see that indeed! ‘Extreme’ standards have gone ‘haywire’ n the last 20 odd years. It is the ‘way of the world’ on all accounts. Everything is faster paced in the world. More ‘raw’ and much less ‘polished’. No one has time to ‘stop’ anymore. Alot less ‘love’ in the world, sadly so much hate and destruction. A total ‘kill or be killed’ mentality!
No one has time to ‘relax’. It’s just ‘go go go’! So obviously the people creating the music are gonna ‘release’ it in the same way. It’s all humans jsut ‘being human’! That’s just how it is!
Do you read any zines or websites today?
All the time! I’m always taking in the words and wisdom of others. Knowledge is man’s greatest gift, and at times our worse enemy.
But it to me is food for thought and impossible to not ingest.
As I said anyone who sincerely takes time to put up a musical related site or a fanzine, magazine and you read it and instantly fall in love with their ‘personality’ or the ‘charm’ of the crafted entity, that’s just a great feeling! More power to ya’! I know i’ll be reading and searching it all out.
Do you think the political climate in the USA will be more or less tolerant of death metal in five years?
I say it’ll be the same as of today. It seems to ‘stay’ under the radar al lthe time. It seems no one’s minding the ‘smaller’ people of the earth and globe right now, music or non music related. But i see a slow but steady ‘rising’ of this around the world and in time it will outnumber or truly challenge the ‘theories’ and practices and beliefs of alot of the world. Geesh remember when Dee Snider was ‘sooooooooooooo bad’ in the governments eyes?! Wow! How far we’ve come in 20 years!
Around Fearless Undead Machines, it seemed to me that your style as a band shifted from aspiring to a death metallish sound to more of what you were doing with Doomstone’s first album, namely making heavy metal using some of the techniques from death metal. Rhis to me was a brilliant move, as it put you closer in touch with your roots, aspirations and musical loves. How is it that you as a band can pull something like that off, and Immortal could, but virtually every other musician appears mediocre when they attempt something like that?
Well, that’s some nice words coming from you, and we truly appreciate it! All I can say about that ‘time’ is that we as a band had decided we needed to complelty build on our ‘musical strengths’! To sincerely cut the ‘fat’ and ‘extras’ of our sound up to then (‘Blueprints..’ l.p was very bizzare and ‘all over the place’ musically) and do what 100% worked for us! We were still ‘searching’ for our ‘perfect identity’ in music and we at that time, I beleive, found it! Guitarist Mike Smith came forth and said ‘i write guitar riffs this way and this is what i want to write in this band’. I took it into consideration as the band’s ‘arranger’ of songs. Mark and Les (guitar and bass) also put their ideas and words into persepctive and it really felt ‘right’. It was a sincere ‘bonding’ of the band both musically and spiritualy! We ‘got on wth it’ and delivered our finest record up to that point in our eyes. It was very well recieved by the industry and that felt good to us. Doing it completely ‘our way’ and being accepted for it! From there it’s all just ‘fell into place’ since.
I’m told that King Fowley is still a very active tape trader. How do you find the time? And what do you trade?
Well tapes are now cd’rs in our ‘technologically advanced’ world! Haha
I love to ‘pass on’ the music to others who care to listen!. I trade with anyone that wants to spend the time to burn and learn as much as I do. I got so much music I can not afford to buy at this time sadly. And I got tons of music I have collected through my many, many years in the music field in return.
There’s no greater feeling then passing over a Demon Flight cd burn to a friend and watching them get the same smile I got when i first heard it! Or the ‘cheer’ from the guy who says ‘man that fucking Griffin you sent me is bad ass’! It just feels ‘right’ and makes me smile every damn time. I find the time cuz there’ s always time for things you love to do. That’s one of my personal ‘life’ ways of the world!
Were there any other Deceased side-projects besides Doomstone?
Well, Deceased-related, no not really! Unless you count a few ‘one off’ sessions with silly named ‘projects’ me and Mark have done like ‘Masbah’, our tribute to Japan’s Casbah and early Master from Chicago. It was a jam session and we just went ‘silly’ haha. I got that on tape somewhere, and i believe that was 1991. Also there’s ‘talk ‘of me and Mark doing ‘rock brigade’ an all 80’s rock thing where we cover Aldo Nova, Gary Moore, Fist, and Triumph songs, etc.! Les Snyder was/is in Doomstone along with me and that was fun. Doomstone has gone all over the place using ‘session ‘guys and just ‘mixing it up’ to confuse us as well as others. Now I do have a side band called October 31. It’s not Deceased-related outside of me being part of it, but i really enjoy the times and music that band has created! ‘Traditional’ heavy metal is what we file that under!
Does metal exist in the mainstream any longer?
It doesn’t matter to me. The music is the same to my ears! The identity of the ‘captivating’ audience has long gone back to the ‘die hards’. And that’s how I personally see it fit. It’s not for everyone and it’s really by it’s own ‘musical law’ not to be concieved as very ‘commercially viable’. It has it’s ‘surges’ and it’s a rollercoaster love affair to some. But to me it’s just music and it’s always gonna be there for those who want it! I know i always will!!!!!!
What do you make of this hip-hop influence in nu-metal – artistic advancement, or tool of the labels to make music more like that which they have trained the sheep to buy?
Wow man! I really am the wrong guy to ‘invite’ this into metal music. That ‘style’ of art never did a damn thing for me. Outside or inside the genre of metal music. Just does’t ‘click’ for me in the least! Some took to it instantly, others it ‘grew on’. To me it just does not work!!! It tries to break down the ‘barriers’ that as I mentioned metal music kinda set its self in firmly many, many years ago! The ‘funkiness’ of it isn’t needed for metal. The ‘ghetto’ vibe is just so ‘out of place’ in the metal genre. Let it be its own ‘entity’ and stop trying to ‘heap’ it in with the trappings and undying spirit of heavy metal music and it wont be a problem with me!
Old metal records seemed to me to be a brilliant project, because each generation of metalheads ages and then the music they found meaningful, especially the rarities, is forgotten and all we know of that time are the bands with excellent advertising budgets. Is there a way to combat this generational loss in metal?
Well, I tried! Sadly human nature came into play again. And what was once a great dream and ambition of mine became tarnished with false promises and greedy people pretty quick. I tried in vain to keep the label going forward from day one. But too many ‘ex band members’ forgot what it was to play and record music and let it be heard by any and all they could. They wanted all of ‘this’ and all of ‘that’. Like I was to reimburse them for being shit on by their record labels of years ago. I’m just a dude into heavy metal music and I was doing all I could to ‘better’ the cult past by re-reelasing and upgrading formats of their music from a time ago. I’d get old band members of bands I loved names out of phone books and call them up and talk about putting their stuff out again. Some instantly ‘clicked’ with me and my ideas and some past and we went our own ways without a problem. But it was the empty promises and sudden changes of thought half wa through projects that got me ‘down’ on it all. I’d press a bands c.d and then they’d ‘change’ their mind. Or something or someone would surface with a not as enthusiastic feeling for the event!
You know if I was to please every person in every band I was in touch with I’d never have released jack shit! Every band has ‘differences’ and years later some could ‘give a shit’ and some don’t wanna know at all. It got old and I just tried to put it to rest. The label’s still around in small spurts but it’s never to be the same. Some bands appreciated my sincerity, and we still remain great friends, while others now knock me in their ‘revival’ interviews from nostalgic metal, retro- mags etc.
It hurts to see that sometimes, but I know what I did and how I approached it. And i can 100% always live with myself for that!
Is it true that most metalheads quit at 30?
Probably! Some call it ‘the music of youngsters’! And 30 seems to stop the youngster ball rolling for some. Not me! Gonna be 35 in a few months. And I find it healthy, life giving, and still 100% a part of every day I exist on! To me, it’s all in the way you look at things.
Do you think paranoia in this time of history is warranted on the part of the citizen?
Yes! Too many croonies and back stabbers, fakes, cheats, liars, out there. Who sleeps with their windows open anymore at night!? Sad isn’t it! Laziness, greed, the need to ‘stay up’ with another persons fortunes plays evil tricks on the mind of many. The ‘whoever dies with th emost toys wins’ mentality is fucking pathetic! I say take what you got and build on it. Some obviously have it easier in their means/ways to ‘survive’. Some deserve it, some don’t!
But the cards are drawn, make your own dreams! Paranoia is indeed ‘needed’ at this point in life. From this horribly, crummy war, to the indecencies and anger that most of the free world puts on each other daily. It’s fucking sad! Human beings, a dying breed! One day…extinction!
While your early material was urgent, it seems your newer work is more medium paced. What caused this change, in your view?
Urgent was the drugs and the ‘need’ to stay up with the speed factor. Our mentality was speed is ‘extreme’ and we were wanting to be part of the ‘extreme’! We don’t feel that ‘urgency’ in that way anymore! We love fast! Trust me im’ a hyper spazz ‘fast’ guy! Haha
But it’s now ‘called for’ when needed! I do say ‘its alive’ off our lastest e.p is still pretty frantic and indeed ‘fast’!
It’s all in the song and emotion of the day!
How did creating the Doomstone album For Those Whom Satan Hath Joined influence your outlook on songwriting in deceased?
In no real way really! It was just a project that took off in a real bigggg way for awhile. People really liked the ‘Sabbath edge’! The darker substance. The slower ‘brooding’ of the pace of the songs for the most part!
It’s got a great place in metal music. Cuz so many who listen to this genre have that ‘twisted’ underframe.
But as far as Deceased goes, it didn’t really influence me or the band in the least!
Do you listen to any black metal besides Venom?
Well what’s ‘black metal’ anymore? The gurggling, non heavy, non catchy crud of something like Darkthrone? I despise that horrible shit! To me it has to ‘brood’ it has to ‘lurk’ it has to create the ‘dark’ side of things in both atmosphere and personality. That fast insane blast, garage punk/electric shaver styled guitar, and unimpressive or convincing vocals stuff don’t so it for me! I just prefer the ‘trappings’ of a Venom ‘Sacrifice’ or a Mercyful Fate’s ‘Into the Coven’ anyday! I listen to tons of the newer stuff out there and often ‘hyped’ up. And I hope to hear something i can grab onto. But sadly it get sput to the side and discarded over time. Cuz it don’t have depth or stayin gpower for my tastes in music. I think the last great ‘black metal’ record I heard and sincerely appreciated was ‘Ritual’ by Master’s Hammer! And that’s at least 10 years old now! I’m still waiting and hoping for more ‘darkness’ to surface.
What were the handful of most influential bands during the 1980s? 1990s?
Do you mean for me??? Voivod, Venom, Fate, Slayer, Maiden, Queensryche, Motorhead, were big ones for my Deceased musical ‘ideas’ in the 80’s!
The 90’s brought me fewer bands cuz my seeds were set!
I wasn’t as ‘keen’ on ‘influential’ bands like Fear Factory or Deicide or that type!
I am set in the 80s for sure! Though I love tons of music made in the 90’s as well! Just not as ‘influenced’ by it as a player! One band I truly admire from the “90’s” is The Gathering. Beautiful people and gifted as hell musicians and song-writers!
Did these bands differ markedly from the bands of the 1970s?
For me it sure did! Cuz the 70s belonged to the radio for me as a kid! By the time I was into less known ‘album tracks’ by radio artists of my ‘childhood’ it was almost 1980! I was the ‘hit song’ guy! But I quickly learned there’s tons of songs the radio doesn’t play that really got my goose :)
What do you think bands in the 2010 decade will be like? Will there be a resolution to mainstream versus underground, black versus death, funk beats versus metal beats, etc?
Who really knows? I just keep watching this ‘segregation’ unfold from the sidelines and some of it is justified while some is just plain silliness. I really don’t care where it goes really. As i said earlier music is… Music!!! You like something, like it to death! Who’s up who’s down, who’s got the upper hand!
My advice is to just play from the heart with all that you’ve got inside cuz that’s all you have at the end of the day!
Referencing the previous question, it seems to me that metal uses percussion differently than most mainstream music: where mainstream music creates a bounce and an expectation of its fulfillment, metal creates a driving structure which encloses change in harmonic/melodic patterns (by other instruments). What ideas differ between these two groups?
Metal music is known as a driving force so you will find it staying on tap and ‘in the pocket’ most of the time! Metal has a great love for dynamics in the traditional sense ala Maiden or say early Queensryche! But i’d like to see more ’emotion’ in metal music myself! I love to feel and live the song. The ups and downs of the music. Th topics and choice of ideas could be so widely expanded on in music and tempos and all! Mercyful Fate in the early days were masters of this. The percussion of metal also leaves alot ot be desired at times for me as a listener. That’s why me as a drummer go to a Phil Erhart of kansas or a Carl Palmer of elp for my ‘identity’. Cuz that’s more ‘me’ as a player and where I ‘inspire’ from. Sure you got the influences of dave lombardo or a kim ruzz as well. But it’s sadly less common to see really ‘brilliant’ creators in percussion in more ‘extreme’ metal music!
Hope to see that change in the future!
What non-metal makes your playlists these days?
Well 10 things ‘non metal’ I’ve played alot lately include the new Guano Apes record, any and all No Doubt, Benatar, Berlin’s latest record, early The Fixx, Oingo Boingo, Planet P, Laibach, Einsturzende Nuebauten, and some Switchblade Symphony!
Tons of bands I been cranking lately! I’m all over the place for ‘listening’ pleasures! Haha just me being zany I guess!
If you could wish positive things for metal in these areas, what would they be:
A. Bands: to drop the egos alot of them have and be musicians first and formost! Erase the egos pleaseeeeee! To really cherish and hold in heart the honor of playing music!
B. Labels: to be more respectful to your artists. Treat them as hmans and not business cattle. We are all in this together so even up the angle already!
C. Journalism: to write from the heart and always call it the way you see it!
D. Philosophy: to learn by your mistakes, grow everyday, and challenge ‘challenge’ on every occasion!
It seems to me there are now several live Deceased releases, including a few that didn’t make massive distribution. which is your favorite?
There are? I only know of one! ‘Up the tombstones’ live from Thrash Corner! Unless you count the old cassettes we made in the later 80’s! :) I’m confused here. Or drawing a blank! You decide! Haha We are gonna have some live tracks surfacing soon though! As bonus songs for cd releases! :) As for ‘up the tombstones’, I love the live c.d! It’s ‘us’! It’s the energy, live attitude, and songs we played of that time! Thanks to ray at thrash corner for releasing it and ‘phantasmagoria’ club for having us!
Will Deceased ever do a massive tour?
It’s unknown to me truly! Jobs and home security come first with us. Family, rent, etc.
Yeah all bands on some level deal with it. But we are us and we gotta look out for us first off! If we can ‘arrange’ it then ‘yes’ we will indeed be there! Time off from work aint easy to some of the guys. And I sincerely respect that and understand tenfold. I know if we can we willlllllllllllll!
Mr Fowley, I have heard you are recovering from lung troubles that mean you cannot assume your customary position behind the kit. Will this ever change?
It’s doubtful! We have a new drummer in Dave ‘Scarface’ Castillo and to tell you the truth, he’s just perfect for the band and we will carry on with him as brother, family, and friend! It’s the ‘end of an era’ and the beginning of another! Chapter 1 complete! Now onto chapter 2! Wish us luck! We rise from the grave come midnight!
since you gentlemen have survived this long, where most metalheads are in their teens, do you have any advice about “growing up” and “life and how to live it”?
Do your best to keep your head about you! Have your spirit in hand at all time, wear your heart on your sleeve, and keep your elders’ good ways within you. Never look back and never give in! I wish everyone well in their journey!
How would you have me killed for asking so many questions? Or, more apropos to the interview: is there anything else I forgot that should be answered?
Great interview! It came from the heart and so did my answers! Thnaks for caring long enough to type this and i wish you only the best! Check out the website…
(official) Up the Tombstones
And email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any info, etc. you may need!
Long live the loud!
Thanks a million and one
King Fowley 3/20/03
The normal question, the first question is, are these cannibals? No, they are not. Cannibalism in the true sense of the word implies an interspecies activity. These creatures cannot be considered human. They prey on humans. They do not prey on each other, that’s the difference. They attack and they feed only on warm flesh. Intelligence? Seemingly no reasoning ability, but basic skills remain from a remembered everyday life. There have been reports of these creatures using tools. But even these are the most basic, the use of tools as bludgeons and so forth. I might point out that even animals have been known to adopt the use of tools in this manner. These creatures are nothing but pure, motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept that they are our family members or our friends. They are not. They will not respond to such emotions. They must be destroyed on sight!
– Dr. Millard, Dawn of the Dead (1978)