Archive for September, 2012


Metal: The true global music?

In class we were analyzing music videos from other countries and people continually commented on if they would succeed in American culture. That stuck me as interesting as I had never viewed music that way. I thought about my favorite bands and what countries they were from and noticed that the majority of them were from outside of the United States. So, is metal the biggest “global force” in music? I assumed that most people listen to music mostly from the United State or England as styles are generally similar. I polled my close group of friends to see…

I can’t say I’m all that shocked as to the data I collected from my group of friends. I was spot on in my assumption that the majority would be from the United States or England. In fact, not a single one of my four friends put down a band that was outside of those two countries.

Friend T is a buddy of mine who actually works in the music industry. I expected him to be the most internationally diverse but was clearly wrong. Out of his 10 bands only one was outside the US, and that was in England. T‘s list follows my first assumption and closely mimic’s another friends list.

Friend S has a list that is similar to T in a few ways. First, S was split the same way – 9 bands from America and 1 from England. Also, 4 of S‘s bands were also on T‘s list. The note added gives a glimpse as to why.

Friend P is a little most internationally diverse, but not by much. P‘s list shifted one from America to England as compared to previous two lists.

Friend M follows P‘s pattern, moving one from America to England to finish with 3 England and 7 America. Friend M secures his spot as the most ‘internationally diverse’ of my group of friends, which is unfortunate because none of the bands sit outside of the assumed America/England domination.

Up until now the genre’s of choice were mostly indie-rock, alternative and punk styles of music. Notice how metal is absent? Let’s take a look at what a metalheads list would look like:

This list is vastly different. I have a total of 8 different countries on my list alone, and only two countries has repeats. England isn’t even included on my list. Now, I could just be very internationally diverse. I polled a metal friend to see if his list was similar.

Friend J‘s list is quite similar to mine. 7 different countries make the list with only 2 having multiple. What is also interesting is that J’s list has 5 countries that I don’t have on my list. So, the two metalheads had a combined 12 different countries compared to the 2 countries chosen by the others. The same pattern can be seen in other magazines. NPR’s most popular list has 3 countries and NPR’s metal list has 5.

This is far from an exact study. But, in my quick little experiment it looks like metalheads seem to be less bound by international boarders.

Randy Blythe

The international metal scene took a big hit this summer when Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe was arrested in the Czech Republic. On June 28th, a Czech news website reported that Blythe was arrested in Prague on charges of manslaughter. In 2010, Blythe was allegedly involved in an incident that resulted in the death of Czech fan Daniel Nosek who, after falling into a coma, died about a month after the concert. Many Czech blogs accused Randy of attacking Daniel. Roughly translated, SicMaggot says that Randy “hit [Daniel] a lot, then jumped on him and held him down while he continued singing? When the fan got up, Randy took him by the hair and threw down again – quite quickly…. It took him a little while to realize what happened and as he struggled to get his breathe back.”

Lamb of God’s publicist quickly commented on the matter: “Under no circumstances was there a fight of any kind involved. This incident deals with a fan that three times during the concert jumped the barricade and rushed Randy during the performance. It is alleged that the third time, security was not able to reach him and that Randy pushed him back into the audience where supposedly he fell and hit his head.”

Based on footage of the show in question, it seems clear that a security guard is to blame for Daniel’s injuries. Debates quickly popped up regarding the whole situation. What rights do fans have while attending shows? What was security doing? Most importantly, what rights do performers have to protect themselves while on stage? At a metal show it is commonplace for fans to be physical and crazy. It is normal for fans to jump on stage and jump off into the crowd – stage diving is part of the scene. It gets tricky when fans try to directly interact with musicians.

Metal Injection notes that “musicians can get quite defensive if they’re feeling attacked on stage, especially after the tragic shooting of Dimebag.” This refers to the death of Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell in 2004 when a crazed fan shot him onstage. Randy’s manager makes an excellent point: “What’s [he] supposed to do? How does he know the guy’s not coming at him with a gun or a knife?” Disturbed vocalist David Draiman also commented on the situation, saying, “I feel for the child and for the family and for Randy, but you have to understand that ever since Dimebag Darrell was assaulted, shot, and murdered on stage by a ‘fan,’ all of us have been very defensive/cautious of anyone jumping up onstage.”

Many international tours are worried about setting up shows in the Czech Republic, or skipping the country altogether. The Czech government didn’t help their case by doubling Randy’s bail twice and holding him even after bail was paid.

Eventually, Randy was freed and returned to the United States. He has stated that he will return to the Czech Republic for trial when necessary.

Black Metal: Breaking the Stereotype

Agalloch

If you’ve read my previous blog post (which you can find here), you’re well aware of the tainted history of the Norway-inspired birth of black metal. While the past may be ugly, it paved the way for an entire scene. I’d like to take this time to break some of the myths regarding black metal and introduce you to some of my favorite black metal bands.

First, metal and the devil do not go hand in hand. There is this crazy idea that all metal bands, regardless of genre, sing about death, Satan, and generally terrible things. Yes, those bands exist and as a result a stereotype has formed, but by no means is this a majority of metal bands. The media’s portrayal of metal is also to blame for the negative perception. During the Norwegian black metal movement, local news stations painted these bands as being satanists – which were just anti-christian bands. In reality there was no satanic movement in Norway at all.

I would have to guess that a majority of the bands that I listen to don’t sing about overly negative or hateful things. Just because the delivery of the lyrics sounds angry doesn’t mean the content is. You’re probably familiar with Outkast‘s “Hey Yeah” – well, did you know that Andre3000 is actually singing about being in a relationship with a woman he no longer loves? The delivery doesn’t always reflect the content. As a metalhead, that is one of the biggest misconceptions about metal that I experience.

Quick Tip: Black metal, in its simplest form, can be described as raw, fast-paced music with harsh vocals, blast beats and an emphasis on tremolo picking and unconventional song structures. Nowadays bands fuse so many styles of metal that it is impossible to properly label them.

My favorite black metal-inspired band is from Portland, Oregon and is called Agalloch – which sounds evil, but is really a soft, resinous wood with a highly aromatic smell that is used as incense and perfume. They employ an experimental style of metal that combines a lot of folk and black metal tendencies. Their lyrics typically deal with nature, life, winter and so forth. While it may seem odd at first, I actually listen to Agalloch when I want to relax. The slow pace of the songs is actually quite soothing. Below is a link to my favorite song, “In the Shadow Of Our Pale Companion”.

Borknagar is another black metal-inspired band that I quite enjoy. Hailing from Bergen, Norway, Borknagar, in a way, is a super-group made up of members from Norway’s best black metal bands. Similar to Agalloch, Borknagar focus on ‘the admiration and pondering about nature and mankind’s place therein‘.

While both these bands use harsh vocals, they do so sparingly, oftentimes allowing clean vocals to direct the song. If you listen you can really catch the similarities between Agalloch and Borknagar. I think these two bands are accessible enough to those not familiar with metal and do not perpetuate the stereotype of ‘evil’ metal bands.

Norway: Black Metal

Mayhem

Black Metal is what probably comes to mind first when someone unfamiliar with the metal scene thinks about metal. Harsh vocals, distorted guitars and blast beats that sound, to an untrained ear, like a bunch of random noises and shrieking that doesn’t make much sense.  The music goes hand in hand with the stereotypical belief that all metalheads worship the devil and burn down churches. While, like all stereotypes, the origin of that kind thinking may be true, it is vastly exaggerated and skewed.

The history of the black metal scene in Norway was well documented – Mayhem being the dominating force in igniting the whole movement.  Mayhem was composed of movement leaders Hellhammer, Dead, Euronymous, and Varg Vikernes.

Fellow musicians often described Dead, the bands vocalist, as introverted and distant while off-stage, but his on-stage personality was much different. According to drummer Hellhammer, “Before the shows, Dead used to bury his clothes into the ground so that they could start to rot and get that “grave” scent. He was a “corpse” on a stage. Once he even asked us to bury him in the ground — he wanted his skin to become pale.” Dead was the first to wear the paint on his face,  called corpse paint, that the scene soon adopted. On 8 April 1991 Dead committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Guitarist Euronymous, who found Dead dead, first took a photo of the situation before calling the police. This image then went on to be the album art for Dawn of the Black Hearts.

The suicide of vocalist Dead paled in comparison to the forthcoming wave of hysteria generated by the media. Vikerenes, after a period of tension with Euronymous murdered him in the stairwell of his apartment building in 1993.  It needs to be noted that  none of these extreme acts, up to this point, were designed for public scrutiny. The teenagers responsible for the hysteria had their own personal agenda, mostly against each other and the destructive christian faith, that eventually became swallowed up in the media attention that ultimately followed.

Black Metal originally carried a very anti-Christian message. This was a result of the how the bands felt the Christian faith had decimated the history of cultures throughout Norway. In late 1992 there was a slew of church burnings, to which Vikerenes is typically credited. The media twisted the story to present the idea that these were a result of satanic rituals involving members of the black metal scene. However, in reality there was no satanic movement in Norway at all, but what emerged after the media-lies was a subculture consisting of rebellious teenagers who liked metal music and flirted with satanic symbolism to provoke the establishment.

While Black Metal may have an ugly past, it paved the way for an entire scene. USA’s Wolves In The Throne Room sing about radical ecology,creating a nature-based occult worldview and modern society’s lost connection with the natural world.

Mayhem (Norway)- Funeral Fog

Wolves In The Throne Room (USA) – Thuja Magus Imperium

For more information on the history of black metal check out Until The Light Takes Us and Lords of Chaos.