There remains a massive confusion in mainstream media, society, and culture regarding metal as a truly separate genre of music. The mainstream media and leftist-controlled academia regard metal merely as a subgenre of rock music, rather than its own distinct genre. This is of course absurd. If metal isn’t its own entirely separate genre of music then jazz, folk, country, and blues are all rock ‘n’ roll too as they can all be played with the same basic set of modern instruments. Since this topic is well-documented in Death Metal Underground’s extensive Heavy Metal FAQ, in this article I will merely layout some basic musical differences between the genres and provide a few appropriate examples to hammer it down into the brains of the ignorant.
Why write bad reviews at all? Good music is rare, and bad is everywhere, but if you do not explicitly identify the failings of bad, most people will find it appealing because it does not interrupt their steady stream of self-centered thoughts and is easier than seeking good. If you like good music and want more of it, you must bash as well as praise, as Machiavelli would tell you. And with that, the latest installment of the Sadistic Metal Reviews…
“Nothing gold can stay,” Robert Frost famously wrote, referring to the tendency of all things in life to break down and become eroded versions of themselves. In addition to the obvious tendency of aging and death, we moderns have become familiar with the term “entropy” for the proliferation of possible options that then then renders choice almost impossible. Underneath all of this a more virulent tendency lurks, which is the human habit of destroying everything we encounter, including — especially — our own best creations.
In heavy metal we think of this through the decline of bands from excellent and striking to a version of what we already know is popular, like the steady unraveling of Metallica from the band that made Ride the Lightning to a country-fried version of Motley Crue or Led Zeppelin. We see it other places as well. For the last two decades, I have relied on a certain British company that makes teapots as a source of reliable gifts. People friggin’ love a quality teapot. But a few weeks ago, the company was sold, and the MBAs moved in and quickly figured out how to add a stylish handle to the teapots and make them of cheaper material and less of it, translating into fragile and less-effective teapots.
This parallels what happens to interesting movies from Highlander to The Bourne Identity which is that after an interesting premiere, the sequels emerge and they are of not only lower quality, but outright stupidity. The decision-making and leadership choices behind these movies are just of a radically lowered degree, such that if the first movie was a genius the followups have the abilities of a moron who works as a bureaucrat. For example, The Bourne Identity gave us a fast-paced and intricate but interesting script which maintained the emotion of a character lost in a world where he has no roots, but the sequel managed to not only hit every Hollywood cliche but present them in a series of improbable scenes which were clearly derived from better versions in the earlier film, all while creating the emotional flatline that is the result of cardboard characters and nonsensical motivations. We might even target Star Wars which, after an initial foray which mixed humor, sci-fi, religion and a classic quest narrative, dove into the edgy but pointless followup and then threw in the towel and headed for the gift shop and standard Hollywood dreck with the third.
It would be nice to be able to blame Hollywood, whether of the movie or music industry variety, but the grim truth is that this pattern shows up in more than teapots and speed metal. It appears anywhere humans attempt to organize themselves. The large tech companies who were visionaries and rebels a generation ago are now stodgy corporates, albeit with the appearance of being insightful and life-positive, whose products are designed to manipulate us to buy more of their high-margin offerings. Even the most necrotic of underground metal bands fall prey to this syndrome, but for miniscule amounts of money and fame, suggesting that the classic narrative of “selling out” — changing your sound to be more like Motley Crue or Led Zeppelin, both rock/metal hybrids that allow people to purchase edginess of metal within the familiar and non-threatening music of the herd, like jeans or Jack Daniels or other “extreme” products that in fact reflect extreme conformity — is incorrect and money and fame in itself do not explain the motivation for this choice.
Considering the nature of this problem as universal or nearly so, it makes sense to analyze it at a level lower than the reward itself, and instead to look at motivations. People are fundamentally social creatures; we are pack animals, allegedly at a higher level of evolution than the apes but retaining their most fundamental behaviors (and if you disagree, I’ll hurl a turd at you while beating on my chest and howling). We motivate each other with social guilt and shame, but that is only the stick; the carrot is that we offer inclusion to others who do things that please us, and create “heroes” out of those who do what many of us find appealing. This is the underlying mechanism of the sell-out, which is not so much profitable — since it exists as attempt without certainty of reward — as it is sociable.
When Metallica switch from “For Whom the Bell Tolls” to “Nothing Else Matters,” they are offering a simplified version of their edgy sound that more people can understand. This gives everyone the warm fuzzies, since it offers peace through pacification of others, and makes Metallica appear more altruistic and friendly. It also retains the surface appearance of extremity, which lets ordinary conformists play the charade of extraordinary (and possibly visionary) non-conformist without any risk to themselves, since what they are actually doing is buying a product which is just another flavor of the same ordinary rock everyone else litens to. Selling out is offering a product that is designed to please more people by giving to them what they already think they want, and by not challenging them, allows them to confirm their status as having valuable lives without raising the bar and forcing them to exceed their normal, self-interested and self-referential or narcissistic behavior. When you see something good go bad, it is almost always the result of this phenomenon, which consists of self-interested producers expanding their market by lowering the different-ness of their product, and in turn allowing the social group to feel pleasant illusions about its togetherness.
Some time ago, musicians from the Chicago area gathered to form a tribute to Led Zeppelin. Instead of creating a new band to imitate the sound, they created a stage show called “Led Zeppelin 2” and tour with it playing the songs of classic Led Zeppelin, which along with the UK heavy guitar rock (The Who, Cream, The Kinks) who predated it was an influence on the early days of metal both through progressive bands like King Crimson and Jethro Tull, and directly on Black Sabbath, a contemporary.
Vocalist Bruce Lamont, who also performs with Corrections House and Yakuza, was kind enough to give us some time to ask him questions about his musical past and the influence Led Zeppelin had and continues to have on heavy metal and heavy music in general. Take it away, Bruce…
You’re currently touring with Led Zeppelin 2. How’s that going? Is this harder than touring with Yakuza, Corrections House, Bloodiest or any of the other bands you’ve been in? What’s different?
Led Zeppelin 2 is a more of a musical theater production: a stage show with costumes, lighting and musical actors. It’s not harder than touring with the other bands, just different. So far 2015 has been going well for the Zep2 show. We have had some good crowds and folks seem to be enjoying themselves.
You’re known for a modern metal background and yet here you are lending your talents to 1970s songs. Have Led Zeppelin always been an influence for you? How did that influence show up in your music?
Led Zeppelin has been in and out of my life since the days of WLS radio here in Chicago. They played Zep tunes long before I even knew who Led Zeppelin was. As far as a creative influence, I appreciate all the musical corners they have touched. From blistering hard rock, to blues-influenced songs, to the acoustic numbers and even dabbling in synth music in the later years. The willingness to push themselves to the extent they did is what I took from them.
In your view, what musical style or genre are bands like Yakuza and Corrections House? What would you say were the primary musical influences on those bands? Do you think they’re closer to metal or hardcore?
I am never one to settle comfortably into any type of label when describing the music from any of the bands i play in. Is their some metal elements to both bands mentioned? Yes. Hardcore? Somewhat. But also many other definable and indefinable sounds come to mind.
What do you think has changed in metal, on a musical and not aesthetic (production, vocal tone, guitar sound, distortion type) level, since the 1970s? Since the early 1990s?
Musically, 70s metal was more recognizably derived from, say, electric blues or the pop rock n roll formula with a little touch of the psychedelic (with just had a harder, heavier edge). This evolved rather quickly even by the end of the 70s with punk rock coming at the same time the name of the game became “speed.” This evolution excelled rapidly through the 1980s.
By the 90s that blues structure from the early 70s could barely be heard, but the speed, intensity and the heavy went into the most extreme ether. I mean compare Suffocation to Budgie. Wow, what a leap ha! As far as modern metal goes, many of the sub-genres that were firmly established in the 90s still exist (even some from the 70s have been brought back around and there are hybrids of both etc., etc.) and by all indications we are at a time where the lines are being blurred now more than ever.
Bands today are bringing in elements from all over the sonic map, keeping the heavy but embracing styles and sounds generally found outside of the metal world and from that many bands have a more realized sound that’s all their own. I like it.
How did you get into music, and what inspired you to take the path that led to Yakuza and Corrections House? Does this inspiration also lead to being in Led Zeppelin 2?
In a nutshell…I listened to the radio quite a bit as a young kid (as I mentioned Zeppelin was one of my favorites). I asked my mother for a guitar but instead was enrolled in school music programs. I first played the viola, then started on the tenor saxophone at age 9. I became a metal junkie in my early teens; got a guitar and played a bit. I started working at an independent record store during my junior year of high school. This opened my world up and I began listening to all sorts of music.
After high school I started playing in bands. In the mid 90s I picked the saxophone back up and went to a ton of jazz/improvisational shows at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. At the same time I heard bands like Neurosis and Meshuggah and wanted to get into something that was heavy but had room to reach beyond the heavy. I joined Yakuza in 2000. Within a year I played my first show with what would become Led Zeppelin 2. There ya have it. Full Circle.
How was the Houston show? I’m told Houston is a flat, hot, humid city filled with Californians who think the houses are cheap and are willing to overlook the roaches, snakes and mosquitoes for 2300 calorie diner plates. What as your impression of Houston?
Houston is huge for us. It was one of the first places we played outside of Chicago and has always been great. Killer crowds, killer energy. Gotta love that.