POSTED BY BENJAMIN WELTON
Even considering the mentality of “If it bleeds, it leads,” the press has been especially full of gore the last few weeks. The perpetrators of most of this bloodletting, ISIS and other Islamo-fascist thugs, have set off suicide bombs in Beirut, attacked a high-end hotel in Mali, and have essentially placed the city of Brussels on lockdown for the weekend.
One attack in particular targeted rock and roll. On November 13th, masked men in Paris stormed an Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan Theatre. They killed over eighty concertgoers before they were done. When people consider music a crime, there’s not a lot to be thankful for. For metalheads in the West, this is especially troublesome. While our headbanging kindred in the Middle East and Asia have been facing imminent death for years, most of us here in North America and Europe are far more comfortable with people who consider us agents of the Devil than we are with people who would prefer it if we didn’t breathe. Again, it seems pithy to say it, but the world is indeed a scary place.
Still, let us not overlook the things we have to be thankful for this holiday season. Despite all the negative news, metal remains resurgent and strong. No matter what the embittered guy in the Entombed hoodie at your local dive tells you, now is the best time to be a metalhead in the entire history of metaldom. Here’s why.
Not so long ago, bands had to relocate to either L.A. or New York in order to “make it.” This monopoly helped to make a large swath of heavy metal milquetoast and predictable. Nowadays, thanks to the proliferation of the World Wide Web, bands from no-name towns and villages can make a sizable splash. Sure, thanks to this democratization of music, big-names bands don’t make the type of cashola that they used to, but this is a tradeoff that benefits fans. All you need now is a YouTube account and you can either become an overnight darling or an expert on all types of obscure metal.
5. THE SUB-GENRES ARE BECOMING FLUID
If you have read Lords of Chaos, Swedish Death Metal, Choosing Death, or any other history about the formative years of extreme metal, than you’re well aware of the fact that metal sub-genres once acted like rival sports teams. Sometimes, they even acted like rival gangs, with street violence included. Thankfully, the bad blood has dissipated over the years and most metalheads now don’t hold onto sub-genres like territories in need of physical defense. Again, thanks to the Internet and other rapid means of communication and information, metalheads today can dip in and out of various sub-genres without having to swear allegiance to one in particular. This plethora of choices has seeped into the music, as well. Today’s extreme metal acts are far more likely to experiment with different genres and reject the notion of sub-genre “purity.” This too is a major win for the fans.
4. METAL TODAY ENJOYS WIDESPREAD VISIBILITY
Although I am personally against metal’s acceptance by academia or other so-called “high-brow” industries within our culture, I do cheer the fact that so many websites and print magazines are dedicated to metal. In the supposedly halcyon days, most metalheads had to rely on tape trading and zines in order to find out about the loudest and heaviest bands. Zines are still around and are still awesome.
3. METAL MUSICIANS CAN NOW ENJOY PRODUCTS GEARED SPECIFICALLY FOR THEM
When Black Sabbath started, metal guitarists only had two options if they wanted to have thick, thunderous tones: Fender and Gibson. A metal guitarist now has the option to handpick axes from predominately metal-oriented companies like Ibanez, Jackson, Schecter, B.C. Rich, and others. As for pickups, pretty much every company who manufacturers humbuckers has a line of metal-themed pickups. This wide variety isn’t just for guitarists, either. Bassists, drummers, and even vocalists all now have products and custom gear designed specifically for their interpretations of the metallic arts.
2. THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T CARE ABOUT METAL ANYMORE
Once upon a time, Bob Dole denounced death metal as immoral. Instead of voicing his concerns in private, Dole voiced them very publicly in Washington, D.C. As an FYI, this happened a decade after the PMRC hearings. Since then, metal’s role as Public Enemy #1 has declined. The last time a major political figure mentioned metal in any kind of way that was overwhelmingly negative was in 2004 when John Kerry, who was then running for president, denounced heavy metal in order to show his appreciation for rap. While Washington’s neglect for metal can be read as a sign of metal’s decline in overt popularity (in truth, since the death of FM radio and MTV, few acts today enjoy the type of cultural visibility that was once awarded to The Beatles or even to Nirvana), the truth is that metal’s infamy was replaced by gangster rap years ago. Don’t expect either to come up in next year’s election.
1. SCIENCE HAS PROVEN THAT METAL RULES
Apparently, liking Suffocation means that you’re a candidate for Monogamist of the Year. Also, even though your favorite bands sing about killing, mutilation, and abject darkness, you’re probably happier than the Taylor Swift fan next door. How this all works, I don’t know. Metal just makes me happy and it probably does the same thing to you too. It’s just cool to hear a bunch of dweebs in lab coats confirm my old suspicions.