On The Origins of Heavy Metal and Assimilation

From a recent publication of Perfect Sound Forever, some information echoing our FAQ about the origin of heavy metal:

Leaving out the blues element in the late ’70s, metal pioneers Judas Priest and Mötörhead had used their heaviness while keeping in line with the attitude of punk to create a sound that was heavy rock n’ roll punk filled with economic guitar solos, much like those heard in the Ramones and Sex Pistols. In fact, Mötörhead’s 1977 self-titled debut, which had included the element of speed, had often mixed the sound of classic rock with punk and the ’70’s glam rock of Bowie and Slade. This would soon would be followed by ’80’s metal pioneers Saxon, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Diamond Head and Girlschool who had added a great amount of guitar dexterity to the mix becoming a prime characteristic of ’80s metal music from the beginning.

In addition, the article addresses some of the concerns with commercialization and assimilation that came straight out of the 1980s:

When considering ’80s metal, one has to recognize that although the spirit of punk from which it came had mainly focused on anarchy, anti-consumerism, anti-corporate control, much of it, particularly glam, had taken on a strong commercial aspect in the rise of a particularly increasingly commercial period. Mixed with a sporty look and big hair when an enormous mix of different music and styles had existed, after following on from punk and much that was derived from classic rock, metal music in the ’80s had flourished as corporate rock in a period when the commercialization of music saw the rise of an unstoppable corporatization on a wide international scale- indeed, major U.S. record companies were selling themselves to media moguls in Japan and Europe. In fact, metal was a music engulfed by a “give me the money decade” full of excess – drink, women, hair, drugs in a period which saw the beginning of fragmentation in music when the rebelliousness that once seemed to possess more innovativeness and originality from which it had originally stemmed from became swallowed up by commercialism.

In fact, one of the original ANUS articles, now lost to time, was about the difference between commercialism of a non-commercial genre and being within a commercial genre like Queensrÿche or Iron Maiden, who did their best despite coming from the aboveground.

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SAD HIPSTER WREST EVICTED FROM WAREHOUSE

Leviathan mainman and convicted domestic abuser Jeff Whitehead (a.k.a. Wrest) is being evicted from the Portland Oregon warehouse he maintained as a storefront for his Devout Rcrds label/record store and the “anarchist print shop” Eberhardt Printsop. Whitehead is the victim of allegedly evil capitalist landlords who want to commit the horrible act of leasing their hard earned property at market price, which happens to be double that of what Wrest can afford. Therefore, Wrest has tapped his neo-communist friend Neil Jameson (who is publicly living out a similar midlife crisis) to help beg for moneytarget=”_blank” rel=”nofollow external” from “the miserable collective workforce” a.k.a. you, the consumers.  Yes, you have read correctly- Wrest is so desperate to save a commercial “Anarchist clothing line” from having its free-market commerce shut down by other free market commerce that he has stooped to digital panhandling.target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow external”
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Should metal be a hobby or a career?

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A recent article on Gene Simmons observed the following:

Rock star Gene Simmons says that when it comes to making money he is like a great white shark.

And that despite being worth more than $300m (£200m), he will never stop wanting to make more.

…”I’ll never stop hunting more money, I’ll never have enough.”

On the other hand, many excellent metal bands are probably clearing $300/month in royalties or less. At that point, we tend to call the making of metal a hobby and talk about their day jobs. The advantage to that approach is that the metal can remain un-tainted by commerce and with consumerism, the need to appeal to an audience by jumping on trend bandwagons or otherwise showing them what they already know they like, sort of like how baby food is ground-up vegetables.

Looking at the other side, it must be nice to be worth $300m and to have the power to do great things with that. Maybe Mr. Simmons has done so. But one might think that at some point, the money becomes more important than the music, which turns metal away from its mission of brutal realism and makes it a friendly, happy, warm and fuzzy product like your average American beer or hamburger.

Perhaps a middle ground exists, where fewer metal bands make $300m but also fewer worthy metal bands subsist on $300. Most metal musicians would be very happy with $60-80,000 a year. They tend not to be materialistic, except for collecting vinyl and guitars, but in the grand scheme of things those aren’t very expensive.

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The problem of commercialism in metal

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Some will tell you that metal cannot sell out because metal is not a large financial enterprise. The question then is, “What is large?” because if a genre supports dozens of labels, has top-grossing tours, and tens of thousands of bands, it seems that someone is getting paid more than they would otherwise.

But don’t take it from us. Look at what commercialization has done to another genre:

I was so blown away by the first “Star Wars” film when I saw it in 1977, I went back two more times the same week to wallow in its space age fantasy. But here’s the thing: George Lucas’ creation, basically a blown-up Flash Gordon adventure with better special effects, has left all too many people thinking science fiction is some computer graphics-laden space opera/western filled with shootouts, territorial disputes, evil patriarchs and trusty mounts (like the Millennium Falcon).

“Star Wars” has corrupted people’s notion of a literary genre full of ideas, turning it into a Saturday afternoon serial. And that’s more than a shame — it’s an obscenity.

He has a point, and reveals a situation parallel to that of metal. Sci-fi was too hardcore and dry for most readers, but then if you add in princesses in skimpy costumes, wookies and light sabers, suddenly it’s… an action movie with soap opera aspects. The audience can tune into that, and so can all the basement greebos who will cosplay, imitate and nerd it to death.

Metal was also originally too hardcore and dense for most listeners, but then if you added in the drama of burning churches and murders, people could really get into that wacky far-out identity. Suddenly it’s hard rock with distorted vocals and Satan. The audience can tune into that, and so all the basement neckbeards emerge to record collect and/or emo it to death.

Two sides rapidly form in any debate: one side says we should have purity of essence of what is being done, and the other side thinks that this principle should be more malleable in order to support social popularity and commerce. I say stick with the purity of essence: metal was built on years of accumulated knowledge, and turning it into entertainment flushes that all down the drain.

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