Society wants to scare you into quitting headbanging

July 7, 2014 –

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The relationship between heavy metal and mainstream society, with the burst of popularity of metal among those who seem to accept society at face value and like, has come to resemble a bad relationship. It reminds me of the girl who dates a rocker and starts making suggestions: wash those jeans, cut your hair, stop raging like a maniac, read The New Republic and listen to some Sarah McLachlan with me on Saturday nights instead of drinking blood in cemeteries. Soon he complies, and after that, she ditches him because now he is just like all the other guys.

In the same way, they humbled metal by making it repeat happy statements about how everything will be just fine if we are just nice to each other, then worked in their favor hackneyed and dead genres like lite jazz and indie rock. Now they are attempting to remove its sacred rituals by instilling fear in us that we will damage our brains by headbanging. As Jordan Lite (get it?) at Scientific American writes:

Head-banging can be hazardous to your health…McIntosh and Patton got down to business. Based on the popularity of the up-down style of head-banging at the concerts, and the average tempo of 11 songs deemed the best for head-banging by a minion of local musicians, the scientists developed a mathematical model of how violently you’d have to shake your noodle to hurt yourself. Their conclusion? Head-banging to a song with a tempo of 146 beats per minute can make you dazed and confused (read: give you a headache and make you dizzy) if you’re rotating your head by more than 75 degrees.

…A 15-year-old drummer in his neighborhood band suffered an aneurysm in his cervical vertebral artery, according to a 1991 case report in the journal Pediatric Neurosurgery, and Evanescence guitarist Terry Balsamo had a stroke three years ago that his docs blamed on his head-banging tendencies.

Summary for Realists: One guy suffered an aneurysm, and based on looking at the data, two guys — who have interest in writing an eye-catching paper so they can get known in their fields — theorize that headbanging may cause neck injury if done too quickly.

These masters of the obvious miss the point that we all know this. Headbanging is rarely done constantly and not always to the exact beat of the song. They tell us that “popular heavy metal often has a tempo of 180 beats per minute” neglecting to mention that banging your head three times a second is a physical impossibility. Further, metalheads rarely bang their heads exactly to the tempo, which is why this activity is often described as “chaotic.”

Rest your fears. This study is the usual fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that people have used to control each other since the dawn of time. We do not know what physical conditions the one guy who had a brain aneurysm after headbanging had before headbanging. But what they want us to believe is that heavy metal will be the best boyfriend ever if we just turn it into nice, respectable lite jazz and indie, and start behaving like all the other guys, even if it removes what makes us unique and makes us boring as concrete in the process.

Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground by Jason Netherton

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Jason Netherton (Dying Fetus, Misery Index) created his history of death metal called Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground by letting members of the community tell their stories. This book compiles interviews with death metal bands, artists, writers and label owners. It organizes these into five topic areas which makes it easier to find specifics in the book, and by grouping like stories together breaks up the repetition that massed interviews normally have. The result provides a good background in the history and experience of the rise of the death metal genre.

Netherton’s use of topic areas allows band statements to be taken as a whole on the theme and to expand upon it without becoming repetition of similar questions and answers that un-edited interviews tend toward. Some may be put off by the lack of narrative tying these together, but the upside of that situation is that there is little extraneous text outside of what the actors in this scene said themselves. The only weak spot may be that since the highlight is clearly the old school bands, the inclusion of newer bands becomes extraneous when compared with the old.

The following and others contributed to the content of hte book: Luc Lemay (Gorguts), Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse), King Fowley (Deceased), Stephan Gebidi (Thanatos, Hail of Bullets), Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity), Doug Cerrito (Suffocation), John McEntee (Incantation, Funerus), Marc Grewe (Morgoth), Ola Lindgren (Grave), Kam Lee (ex-Massacre, ex-Death), Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Lock Up), Robert Vigna and Ross Dolan (Immolation), Esa Linden (Demigod), Dan Seagrave (Artist), Rick Rozz (ex-Death, Massacre), Steve Asheim (Deicide), Jim Morris (Morrisound Studios), Terry Butler (Obituary, Massacre, ex-Death), Mitch Harris (Napalm Death, Righteous Pigs), Robin Mazen (Derketa, Demonomacy), Ed Warby (Gorefest, Hail of Bullets), Andres Padilla (Underground Never Dies! book), Donald Tardy (Obituary), Paul Speckmann (Master, Abomination), Phil Fasciana (Malevolent Creation), Tony Laureno (ex-Nile, ex-Angelcorpse), Alan Averill (Primordial, Twilight of the Gods), Alex Okendo (Masacre), and Lee Harrison (Monstrosity).

The topic division of the book begin with the origins of death metal and then branch out to its diversification, and then areas of experience such as recording and touring. The final section addresses the future of metal. The material of most interest to me personally was at the front of the book where the old school bands talked about what inspired them and how the scene came together. It was like witnessing a revolution secondhand. In these sections, the most compelling accounts come from the people who are longest in the game as they are explaining the literal genesis of the process. Within each section, individual speakers identified by band write lengthy revelations to which the editors have added helpful captions. The result makes it easy to read or skim for information. Many of this book’s most ardent readers will find themselves doing a lot of skimming because the information here works as an excellent concordance to many of the other books on death metal or metal history and can reinforce or amplify what you find there.

We were all very much into underground music. Early on we were into Venom, Angel Witch and Motorhead, and later it evolved into bands like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Slayer. We wanted to play like them, and that is pretty much why we picked up the instruments in the first place.

With Massacre we were calling the music death metal pretty much from the beginning. We liked a lot of thrash, but to us a lot of it was just a bit too happy and the rhythms were a bit “too dancey.” Of course there were darker thrash albums like Bonded by Blood from Exodus, but even by the first demos we were calling it death metal. I mean, it’s not death metal as you know it today, but those demos were certainly founding releases in the death metal genre in terms of style. Of course, there are no blast beats or anything, but it was a combination of dark rhythms, the dark lyrics, and rough vocals that separated it from thrash. The term death metal had started getting kicked around with Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. We also knew of the Possessed demos, and it was in that tradition that we were referring to ourselves as death metal.

Some of the statements by later bands or bands that are not really death metal seemed like revisionist history but that is to be expected, since every band has to self-promote and include itself in whatever it can. This book utterly shines in the lengthy statements by founders of the genre that explain how it came to be, the thought process at the time and some of the experiences bands underwent. Be ready for blood, vomit and death in the touring section, and prepare yourself for some gnarly old school history in the other parts. By the rules of information itself, it is impossible to craft a metal history that pleases everyone. Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground takes the approach that Glorious Times did and amplifies it by getting longer statements and not relying on pictures, and it adds its unique and vital voice to the canon of books on the history of death metal.

New “Hanneman-class” metal stars discovered

July 6, 2014 –

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According to a recent survey, one in ten thousand stars may be made of metal. This information was derived by examining the process of star formation.

Those of who are metalheads may find it relevant to suggest a new name for these stars: Hanneman-class stars. For if anything was ever made completely of metal, it was his mind and music.

No news yet on where to agitate for the adoption of this name.

Morgue Eroded Thoughts re-issue pre-orders begin

July 2, 2014 –

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Classic Midwestern death metal band Morgue sees release on Dark Descent and The Crypt in the coming months. This band hovered at the periphery of death metal in the early 1990s, essentially filling in stylistic gaps and creating a unique testament to the power of death metal that inspired more musicians than fans owing to low visibility in the market.

Now the band gets a second chance with this release of their only full-length Eroded Thoughts with the “Random Decay” and “Severe Psychopathology” demos as bonus tracks. A 16-page booklet includes classic photos and a lengthy introduction explaining the band and its place in history.

King Crimson releases teaser of new album

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1960s progressive rock band King Crimson whose evolution paralleled that of Black Sabbath in developing melody-based, complex song structure music using moveable chords and other techniques, have returned with a new recording that at just over a minute shows the direction they will take on their new tour, which will cover the US starting September 9.

The recording shows the new seven-member incarnation of King Crimson which includes Robert Fripp (guitar), Tony Levin (bass) and drummers Bill Rieflin and Gavin Harrison. Observers will note the venerable Crimson fusing its 1990s style of complex atmospheric improvisational music with its more acerbic 1970s work.

War Master “Lust for Battle Tour 2014″ launches

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Texas old school grinding death metal band War Master takes its influences from old school death metal and melodic grindcore like Bolt Thrower. Since its launch in 2009, War Master has built up a following for those who like underground metal in the feral and atavistic way that distinguished the old school from the imitators.

Following the success of its EP Blood Dawn last year, itself following the triumphant Pyramid of the Necropolis full-length the year before, War Master unleashes itself on the Southwest with a mini-tour that should bring old school death metal maniacs out of the woodwork.

Tour Dates:

  • Friday, July 4 – Austin (The Mohawk)
  • Saturday, July 5 – San Antonio (Korova)
  • Sunday, July 6 – Laredo (Cold Brew)
  • Monday, July 7 – El Paso (Horizon Bar)
  • Tuesday, July 8 – Tempe (51 West)
  • Wednesday, July 9 – Los Angeles (Redwood Bar)
  • Thursday, July 10 – Bay Area (Burnt Ramen)
  • Friday, July 11 – Oakland (Road House)
  • Saturday, July 12 – Grindcore 2014 Fest

No mosh – No core – No trends – No fun

July 1, 2014 –

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What was the “message” of black metal? Like most interesting things, it doesn’t boil down to x=y format. Instead, we have some images on the surface that we must dig through to find the original idea.

Black metal expressed a love of nature, a dark melancholy, a feral atavism, a seeming joy in death and winter, and an embrace of predation and natural selection as a kind of litmus test for humanity. It loved cruelty, dark and degraded sounds, ancient ruins and ancient cultures. It hated McDonald’s, organized religion, trends, “fun” and social inclusion.

The essence of black metal might be described as anti-social. It loathed every circumstance where social rules — who is popular, who is pitied — took the place of raw personal emotion and a reality-based, nature-informed, history-wide view of actions and their consequences.

For those who love black metal, the genre must be evil. It must embrace chaos and nature and a world outside the “safety” of laws, police, shrink-wrapped products, rights and a social attitude of love and trust. It wants a world in constant conflict with fire to the oblivious and the stronger and nobler rising above the ruins. It wants life to be an ongoing challenge, a battle where great victory and great defeat are both possible. It wants this instead of a mediocre world where everyone is “safe” but there is nothing really to live for, nothing to strive for, only acceptance of the herd.

Black metal rejected the herd. It rejected individualism because individualism — the desire to get ahead by doing what everyone else is doing — forms the basis of the conformity that powers the herd. It embraced instead a kind of individuality of the sensitive thinker in a world searching for meaning that can only be found through self-definition through action.

As more and more people join the great “safe” consumerist society, the wisdom of black metal becomes clearer. It could not save black metal from erosion. It was not destruction of an idea so much as it was subversion of an idea by those who wanted to take part, so contorted the music to fit within a social role where they could be important individualists too. But that has not blotted out the message. Instead it has strengthened it.

No mosh – No core – No fun – No Trends

Metallica’s Lars Ulrich identifies perceived metal class divide

June 24, 2014 –

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Attitudes toward metal differ between Europe and the United States with the UK in the middle. One thing remains certain: until metal started prettying itself up with accepted genres like lite-jazz and indie rock, and adopting socially cherished “civilized” attitudes, it got nowhere on a big scale.

In vaunted music magazine NME Lars Ulrich (Metallica) attacks the perceived class divide between hard rock/heavy metal fans and the “sophisticated” mainstream rock audience:

In an interview for BBC 6 Music, the Metallica drummer and founding member complained about the media’s attitude to hard rock. He continued: “People have short attention spans in 2014… They like things broken down into easy, digestible sound-bites. It’s like, Metallica at Glastonbury, what’s the sound-bite? ‘Here comes the big bad heavy metal band to our precious little festival.’ I don’t think it’s genuinely like that… but there obviously are people who snub their nose a little bit at hard rock, and look at hard rock as inferior or lower-class, some sort of lower music form or something, and [think] that the people who listen to hard rock are less educated.”

Speaking about the same festival, the Glastonbury pop fest in the UK, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) voiced a similar viewpoint but more from another angle — mainly an angle of attack:

He said: “In the days when Glasto was an alternative festival it was quite interesting.

“Now it is the most bourgeois thing on the planet. Anywhere Gwyneth Paltrow goes and you can live in an air-conditioned yurt is not for me.

“We’ll leave the middle classes to do Glastonbury and the rest of the great unwashed will decamp to Knebworth and drink lots of beer and have fun.”

American fans are used to this. In movies and books we are portrayed as the blue collar dropouts who work in garages and smoke too much dope to compensate for failure at life. This reveals both a snobbery against blue collar labor that is unconscionable, and the pretense of those making the distinction. They like to think they’re elevated to a higher grade of person because they’ve choked down eight years of education and work in office jobs (and only smoke expensive dope from exotic locales).

This stereotype both serves media interests and belittles metal. It enables the media to have an easy cue for its “bad boy” characters and to sell products based on that “rebel without a clue” image, but it also lets them subtly inform the rest of us that they, the writers and producers, are obviously much higher in the evolutionary chain than us neanderthals.

Indie rock and lite-jazz appeal to such people. The more precious and deliberately weird their music is, the more “educated” they assume they are. In the meantime, it’s metal fans out there who not only keep music from falling into an abyss of self-congratulatory clones, but also keep our infrastructure running. Whether we’re blue collar or something else, we’re realists… and we make sure stuff works while the rest of these clowns are posing.

Why the art world rejected metal

June 22, 2014 –

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Metal took its time to be accepted by social institutions. At the outset, metal appeared to most as another variety of rock. But with NWOBHM it distinguished itself and then went underground with speed metal. During those years, society rejected metal first for its repugnance to conservative moral ideals, and next for its alienation of liberal social ideals. It thus made itself friendless in a time where having political clout matters.

One reason for a lack of acceptance by some areas, such as the art world, is that metal is not controllable. As Bruce Dickenson (Iron Maiden) said in a recent interview:

The closest the “art establishment” ever came to embracing metal was punk. The reason they embraced punk was because it was rubbish and the reason they embraced rubbish was because they could control it. They could say: “Oh yeah, we’re punk so we can sneer at everybody. We can’t play our fucking instruments, but that means we can make out that this whole thing is some enormous performance art.” Half the kids that were in punk bands were laughing at the art establishment, going: “What a fucking bunch of tosspots. Thanks very much, give us the money and we’ll fuck off and stick it up our nose and shag birds.” But what they’d really love to be doing is being in a heavy metal band surrounded by porn stars.”

During the 1980s, Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) demanded warning stickers on music with content that advocated drugs, casual or perverse sex, violence and mayhem. Naturally this included most of heavy metal (sex) and most of speed metal (violence). Until rap music came along and blew those old standards out of the water by making most of heavy metal’s worst moments look tame, a real threat of economic censorship — forcing up the cost and legal risk of selling heavy metal, thus encouraging record stores to quit selling it — hovered over heavy metal.

Although the transition to online sales (1998) and resulting lack of control helped, another factor changed which put metal into hyperdrive as far as social acceptance: it found an audience in mainstream politics. As the Washington Post wrote in “Heavy Metal Gets Socially Conscious”:

More than three decades after Black Sabbath conjured images of the dark arts, heavy metal is growing up. The genre is increasingly incorporating social and political messages into its dense power chords.

The art world did not accept metal in the past because it could not be controlled. Neither did the moral world, nor the political world. Now metal has created a hybrid of itself — the indie rock, lite-jazz and grindcore infused postmodern metal genres — that is artistically acceptable, morally tame and politically acceptable. The question remains: does that mean that it is now controlled?

Dementium adds voice to Puerto Rican metal revolution

June 12, 2014 –

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As part of an ongoing revolution, Puerto Rico launches a quality metal band every few months. In this case, Dementium — featuring Organic Infest bassist/composer Jose “Chewy” Correa on bass — create a fertile mix of styles from the late 1980s, mixing majority speed metal material with death metal influences. However, the core of this album breathes the more intense varieties of speed metal like came from Exodus, Kreator and Destruction.

Using the tried-and-true German formula of fast verse riffs with periodic melodic insertions balanced against slower choruses full of rhythmic hook, Dementium stack riffs against one another in songs that generally conform to a verse/chorus structure. However, these solid constructions detour into related riff clusters like a person lapsing into daydream, and these variations prove to be varied and to enhance the mood. This kicks the band out of the strident chanting repetition that killed many of these bands.

Although the style comes from the past, a number of updates shine through. For example, percussion fits more into the later Metallica pattern of sparse but energy-inducing rolling beats. Riffs take advice from later death metal and Correa’s melodic bass underscores the compositions like a cross between Sadus and Iron Maiden. Vocals mix the Kreator shriek and the Sodom chant with the bouncy energy of later Exodus. It provokes a desire to see the style grow with this promising new band.

For more information, see the Dementium Facebook page.