Thursday, March 08, 2007

yet more from the metal mailbag

Ari Abramowitz of takes issue:

1) Metal/Hard Rock: I think you and Woebot are barking up the wrong tree here. The distinction between hard/heavy music with black influences versus hard/heavy music without those influences is more of a function of time period than genre classification. Basically, most rock of all kinds had strong black influences in the 70s (the rock was funky and the funk was often rocky), while almost no rock--metal or otherwise--had much black influence in the 80s (or even the 90s). I personally feel that the difference between hard rock and Metal resides in the essence/drive/core of the music. That's vague, so let me be clearer: hard rock, just like rock but harder, deals with sex, drugs, and, yes, rock and roll. This is the central reason why Zeppelin is *primarily* a hard rock band (except for tracks like "Immigrant Song") and why AC/DC and Motorhead (except on tracks like "Iron Fist"), are almost entirely hard rock bands. This is why "cock rock" is totally Rock, not metal. Metal deals with strength, power, and either the heroic or the foreboding. This is the essence that carries through the most archetypal and influential Metal bands: Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Metallica, Slayer. You are correct to notice the non-sexual aspect of Metal, but it is not due to the absence/presence of blues or any other black influence, but to the essential characteristic of Metal being largely about Life & Death, itself. That's why Sabbath is a Metal band, despite its blues roots (I personally think their bluesiness is overplayed by the press. I still haven't heard any blues lines that sound like "Into the Void" or "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". Even when they do get bluesier, their consistent emphasis on the "tritone" warps the blues sound into something different, something almost medieval).

2) Hipster Metal: Suffering, endurance, battling the world are all elements of the Metal essence. Hipsterism tends to fly in the face of all that. For the metal faithful, you have to have put in your work, paid your dues, and proven true solidarity. No one likes a tourist, a poseur--especially not an ethos infused with the life and death struggle. A hipster will be there for you one day and mocking you the next (maybe both simultaneously, if given the right crowd). The major bone of contention is that hipsters do not actually *like* Metal, its essence, its spirit, and likely not even its sound. Rather, the appearance is often that Metal is a mere pawn in the hipsters' arms race for coolness. That's why literary attributes must be ascribed to Mastodon to make them acceptable (as if their compositions were not sufficient), or references made to Tony Conrad and Terry Riley for Sunn O))), or overexaggerated claims to experimentalism on the part of Boris (neither of whom I would classify as Metal) (as for the Sword and Wolfmother, etc the problem is less with pretentious/pandering packaging as much as with stultifyingly unimaginitive derivativeness. Sleep and Kyuss showed that "retro" elements can be explored very effectively). If people could somehow experience music *as music* more than as a social badge/signifier, this probably wouldn't be as much of a problem and critique would be much easier (though, to your point, the critiques would not necessarily be longer or more interesting).


Ted Hill from Houston, Texas notes:

“I remember when Guns and Roses came out, many black kids I knew who hated most rock really liked them...they had this sort of "groove" behind them, they didn't seem phony. I was heart broken when that "One in a Million" song came out. They were on the verge of being a huge crossover band with a lot of respect from black rap fans, at least here in Houston. Nirvana ended up with that honor. “

Yeah the thing about GnR is that they did have that undeniable groove thang going for them, especially “Welcome to the Jungle”, and especially the funk freak-out fast bass-run helter-skelter haywire bit two-thirds the way through. It wasn’t all rehash, there was something fresh there.

On the rave/metal overlap, Ted-- who deejayed (still deejays?) on the Texas drum’n’bass scene says also that D&B in the Houston area went downhill when “a new crop of kids came in who were into nu-metal and maybe industrial, and they worshipped Andy C/Ed Rush and Optical/Dieselboy/Bad Company.They were white kids who talked faux gangsta slang, and tried to look real hard and tough at shows while punching the air and stomping around the dance floor, yelling at each breakdown.” I think I once described Bad Company (which is a hard rock if not quite metal name, after all) as the Motorhead of D&B, which was meant as a compliment, but also as a diss on everyone else in D&B circa 98/99 (the analogy being Motorhead versus NWOBHM).

Someone told me that Photek of all people is now peddling an ultra-fast ultra-hard nu-skool D&B sound that is equal parts metal and gangsta--he calls it "thugfunk" or something like that. Rupert Parkes, the last time I checked, wasn't he making house music?! What happened? Did he need dough to buy another Ferrari?


On the metal/gabba overlap, Marcus Scott notes:

“Jason Medonica - the lead singer of satanic metal group Akercocke --was responsible for the Disciples of Belial project and also the Dead by Dawn parties”

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