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Metal Stuff

The title pretty much sums it up. This is where you can read about metal stuff. Woo.

I noticed that the internet seems to be severely lacking in anything even resembling a dialogue about metal culture.

I also have a lot of free time.

Thus, Metal Stuff was born.

And I saw that it was good.

Featured post

Rock Radio Stations Across the US Mourn Passing of Chris Cornell in Spontaneous Display of Mediocrity

This is the one time I won’t write an article about metal on this site. Cherish it.

In a mass display of (what I like to refer to as) “the Amy Winehouse Effect”, the internet is collectively pretending they were huge fans of the life and career of Soundgarden/Audioslave front-man Chris Cornell.

And with such deep, thought-provoking songs as “Spoonman”, which I assume is about a man who uses spoons as a musical instrument, how could you not like them?

I’m guessing the number of people who called their favorite radio station and requested their favorite song featuring the late front-man yesterday (while he was still alive) numbers in the high 10’s. Nay, the low 20’s.

Not that this stopped every goddamn clear-channel radio station from playing the same fucking 4 songs featuring this guy 20-some-odd times per day.

And that was while he was alive.

In fact, the only people not pretending their mourning the loss of this singer are the DJ’s for the aforementioned rock stations (who tout their “modern rock” format while never seemingly to play anything written after 2005). That guy is indirectly responsible for approximately 20% of their fucking paychecks over the past 20 years (assuming they get paid to play his songs, which they did/do), so I can see them genuinely being a bit sad.

To these DJ’s I say, “Don’t worry guys, you’re already overplaying his music. You don’t have to change a fucking thing.”

Seriously though, if everyone was as big of a Chris Cornell fan as they’re pretending to be today – his solo album wouldn’t have fucking flopped.

trent-reznor-chris-cornell-twitter-fued-scream-album-2009

On the bright side, people who were bashing Cornell in 2008 are free to pretend they liked him and are going to miss him.

metalsucks cornell

 

Perhaps I have an over-inflated sense of dislike for this man’s career.

Partially because Chris Cornell + Rage Against the Machine = Sadness. Partially because, like all grunge, he is partially responsible for the rise of Nickelback. Partially because he was a large part of the movement that made mediocre apathy “cool”. In large part because I think he was completely overrated.

He wasn’t that talented – he surrounded himself with talented people and made a career out of that and his charisma.

And if you were a real fan of his, you shouldn’t be that surprised he committed suicide. For fucks sake, he’s been singing about depression for like 30 years.

I take no joy in his passing – anytime a human being takes their own life, it’s a sad event. Cornell’s death is no different.

Equally as sad, however, is the strange cult-like movement of people who then immortalize said person, because in so doing they turn that person into something they weren’t before.

Cornell was a flawed human being, born with a slightly better than average set of pipes. The stars aligned for him and he happened to write song lyrics about being depressed at exactly the right time in history.

This combined with the aforementioned tendency to surround himself with talent turned him into a shooting star in the musical landscape.

Metal Stuff Reviews: The Metalhead Box April 2017

What is the Metalhead Box?

A (monthly) subscription based service catering to fans of extreme metal (in it’s various incarnations) by delivering high quality music and merch.

Subscription options include:

  • the standard (classic) metalhead box (a few CD’s, a poster, a shirt, and various high quality swag)
  • the budget (mini) metalhead box (shirt, cd’s, and a little less swag than the standard box)
  • the vinyl LP box (3 versions – 1 LP and a shirt, 2 LP’s and a shirt, or 2 LP)

Seriously, check these guys out. This shit is legit.

On to the Review

blasphemy shirt(stolen from the metalhead box trade group/forum, where members exchange items they received for items they wanted)

First, let’s bask in the fucking excellence that is this Blasphemy shirt. This isn’t available from their official band/merch site – this is exclusive to the fucking box. I love this fucking shirt.

blasphemy

Who is Blasphemy, you ask? Formed by vocalist Gerry Joseph Buhl (Nocturnal Grave Desecrator and Black Winds) and drummer Sean Stone (Three Black Hearts of Damnation and impurity) in 1984, the band started making waves in the extreme metal community with their demo tape Blood Upon the Altar (1989). They went by a few names (Antichrist, Desaster, and Thrash Hammer) before settling on Blasphemy. The band member’s lengthy pseudonyms were related to/the outcome of secret initiation rituals performed in the famous Ross Bay Cemetery.

The inclusion of this cemetery in the Satanic ritual abuse book, “Michelle Remembers” (which helped trigger the satanic panic of the 80’s), and the band’s association with the location helped their rise to infamy in the extreme metal scene.

They even name check it in the song Blood Upon the Altar (Ross Bay Grave/Black Mass Begins)

I would have gladly purchased the shirt alone for the price of the entire box. Keeping that in mind, the rest of the contents only add to overall value the guys at the metalhead box offer.

The other contents of my box included;

metalhead box review

  • 4 Cd’s (2 black metal, 2 death metal)
  • A Venom Poster
  • An Autograph from the guitarist of Gorguts
  • An official live bootleg of Hungarian Symphonic Black Metal act Sear Bliss
  • Gorgoroth coozie (fucking SCORE)

Final Thoughts on the Metalhead Box

For those of us who have been listening to metal since before the internet was a “thing”, I think it’s safe to say there’s been something missing for a long time.

Remember that feeling you got when you went into a record store and purchased an album purely because of the cover art? That feeling right up until you actually listened to it – especially if it turned out to be as awesome as you hoped?

Or responding to an ad in the personals of a metal magazine, checking the mail every fucking day? The day your packages finally came? Ordering label direct (because nobody in the fucking country carried the albums you wanted), having it imported, and then finding in the mail? That sense of eager, hopeful anticipation, followed by cathartic release?

That feeling that has slowly ebbed out of the lives of (many) metalheads over the past few?

Yeah, if you want that feeling back – get the fucking box. If you’re a newer recruit to the dark side, and you’re wondering why all the old-heads remember these events fondly – get the fucking box.

It’s mail-day times approximately six hundred and sixty five plus one.

Is all Heavy Metal Based on a Single Act of Plagiarism?

Stupid click-bait title?

download

Check
(you won’t believe what happens next)

I can’t believe people still fall for that shit.

Intro:

Seriously though, for all the try-hards who fall back on the “I like metal because the artists are so original” defense, here’s a bit of a history lesson.

First, we need to establish a few things.

  1. Black Sabbath was the first metal band. This is a given (people who say Coven was the first metal band are like people who say Possessed is the first death metal band – they’re wrong and just trying to make themselves look credible because they can do a fucking google search. We get it, they had a song called Black Sabbath and a bassist named Greg “Oz” Osbourne – and released an album before Sabbath’s self-titled debut).
  2. The first heavy metal song was also called “Black Sabbath”. I have no idea what order they were written in, this was the first track on the album. It was also one of the first songs they performed live. They released a cover of “Evil Woman” as their first single, but that’s certainly not the first heavy metal song. For the purpose of defining the first metal song, my money is on Black Sabbath.
  3. Black Sabbath didn’t “write” the main riff for the first metal song. I’ll expand on this in a minute.
  4. I’m going to use bullshit American Millennial logic. You know, the kind of faux wax-philosophical logic in articles like this one, which asserts that you’re cheating on your girlfriend by checking your fucking facebook in the morning.  To be fair, my argument is a bit more sound.

Having established the first metal band and the first metal song, we can safely say these two things in conjunction were the fucking genesis of heavy metal.

Like, in the beginning there was Black Sabbath – and I saw that it was good.

Sooooo, what was the creative process behind writing the infamous first song off the self titled debut? Legend has it, Ward (their bassist) was playing a theme from “Mars, Bringer of War” from (The Planets by Gustav Holst) – specifically, the part with the tri-tone. No big surprise there, they were pretty musically diverse in their interests and influences. Iommi hears it, and then comes in the next day with the riff for “Black Sabbath”. They’re not identical, but they’re pretty fucking close.

Like, almost exact. Check it out.

(for the impatient, skip to 4:30 into the song to hear the theme I’m referencing)

(the song starts at about 27 seconds in, listen for it…)

Not quite as exact as Nile

But you get the idea.

So, if you’re going by the “college paper” rules of plagiarism, every fucking word on the planet is an act of plagiarism (including, but not limited to, Black Sabbath – and by association all of metal). Every fucking musical note in history is blatantly copying the first ape to bang two rocks together.

Plagiarism, Influence, and an Homage are NOT the same thing!

There is no such thing as an original thought. Every goddamn thing that has ever gone through your brain or come out of your mouth (the two are not always connected) has been done before. Everything.

That’s why we have a thing called influence – a concept to explain the natural progression of human expression based on the sum total of all the information they’ve processed in their miserable existence.

You do have to kind of draw a line in the sand here – there’s a clear distinction between a strong influence and completely robbing someone’s art and calling it your own.

Influence:

In the example of Sabbath and Holst, we’re looking at influence. The guys in Sabbath took the idea of a tri-tone, and worked their own into a song that (eventually) helped define the band’s signature sound. And by correlation, helped to define metal as a whole. That can easily be confused as plagiarism, but it’s different.

Homage:

In the example of Nile and Holst, Nile was paying an homage to Holst. It’s a public tribute – they adapted it to their own work, but instead of writing another into to a song about a god of war, they opted to use their own version of his into (paying tribute in the title of the song). This is a form of flattery.

Plagiarism:

If you want plagiarism, look to Papa Roach or some shitty tier 2-3 band that stopped being relevant the second they entered the music scene.

Example 1) The entire career of Papa Roach

Last Resort? Try Genghis Khan

Dead Cell? Try Sanctuary

Between Angels and Insects? Try Prowler.

How about that time the band ripped off Keane?

I seriously hate this fucking band. I think they have more accusations of plagiarism than they have singles.

Example 2) Annihilator’s “Snap” riff sounds suspiciously like Rammstein’s “Ich Tu Dir Weh”

And by “suspiciously like”, I mean note for fucking note.

How do you tell the difference?

How can a person say one band isn’t ripping another off, but another band is?

Influence is using a similar pattern to the person who influenced you. Homage is admitting you’re playing the same thing as another artist in a sort of tribute to them. Plagiarism is just stealing another artist’s work and calling it your own.

Papa Roach didn’t play something similar to Maiden – they played exactly the same riff as Maiden. At least 3 times. In 3 different fucking songs, 2 of them from the same album. And once you’ve hit 2 songs from the same Iron Maiden album, you’re already crossing from homage territory into copyright infringement. Especially when you give no mention or credit to maiden until you’re caught red handed in an interview, and try to pass it off as an homage.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand:

You could make a broad argument that Black Sabbath launched their career (and all of metal) through plagiarism – and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

Well, no, you’d be entirely wrong.

But seriously, metal is full of people borrowing other people’s riffs/lyrics. Just ask Iron maiden.

What is Heavy Metal Fatigue?

What is it?

It strikes without warning.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, your favorite bands don’t do it for you anymore. It all sounds stale, bland, and boring. (I’m not referring to things like lead poisoning in this article, it’s just a fun coincidence)

Who does it happen to?

It happens to every metal fan at some point (including, nay especially, metal artists). Particularly if you’re a fan of the darker, more brutal forms of metal. You don’t get that rush of adrenaline, the hair doesn’t stand up on the back of your neck.

Getting burnt out on metal, needing a change, metal fatigue, “hitting the metal wall” , etc. People have different names for it, but pretty much every metalhead I’ve talked to experiences it.

What to do about it.

There are a lot of different way to deal with it as well. A common way is to listen to something other than metal.

That stopped working for me like 5 years ago. I’ve just hit a point in my life where anything but metal sounds like utter garbage. So when the hard stuff starts to sound stale, I turn to new sub-genres.

What I do about it

I can only speak from personal experience here. When I hit the metal wall, I generally turn to either Funeral Doom or Atmospheric Black Metal. Occasionally I’ll hit up some prog, but that usually sounds like garbage to me even on a good day.

Funeral Doom is the king of the dooms.

The logical progression of Death-Doom, Funeral Doom can be a refreshing change of pace (sic). When you’re burned out on 320 bpm full on sonic assaults – but don’t want to sacrifice the guttural vocals, low tuning, and general heaviness of death metal… Funeral Doom is the way to go.

As far as emotional qualities of the music – FD trades the brutal anger of death metal for the hopelessness and despair of a funeral march or dirge. As such, there’s a lot of room for classical influence.

One of my favorites is a solo project called Frowning from Germany. He does a fantastic cover of Frédéric Chopin‘s infamous funeral march.

I really love the genre because there’s a high-brow and cerebral quality to it – without succumbing to the limp-wristed, artsy fartsy trap that a lot of smart musicians and fans fall into (cough prog and jazz influence cough).

In other words I can listen to it, enjoy and discuss the classical influences, and not sound like a snobby fucking hipster or a djent-fag.

Atmospheric Black Metal

A little more ambient and a tad less brutal than Funeral Doom, Ambient/Atmospheric Black Metal is another go-to for me when I’m taxed on the brutal stuff.

If you’re interested in something like this, Saor is right up your alley. Another one-man metal project (sometimes they’re the way to go, honestly), this guy is fucking brilliant.

Also, American hipsters have ruined atmospheric black metal with that abomination we call blackgaze. A lot of people like it, but in this writer’s opinion it is utter garbage.

Utter garbage.

Other Atmospheric/Ambient Metal (Prog)

Prog is hit or miss with me (mostly miss), but one branch of the prog-metal tree that I absolutely love is ambient/atmospheric metal.

For the most part, prog (to me) sounds like a bunch of musicians jerking themselves off in a recording studio.

I understand wanting to flex the creative muscle, and the desire to play technically challenging stuff. In fact, I think the majority of prog probably happens when musicians get burnt out with their respective genres. I totally respect that, but there’s a negative side. Prog spawns prog-snobs, and nobody likes a prog snob.

Djent

No.

What metal musicians do about it.

One word – side projects (ok, that was two. this isn’t a fucking math blog)

When an artist feels the need to explore a bit more than their current projects allow (i.e. they’re a bit burned out on their current style), a side project gives them the freedom to get all that out of their system and return to their main gig refreshed and renewed.

Bill Steer from Carcass has a classic rock side project called the Gentlemans Pistols. Michael Amott (also formerly of Carcass) has a classic rock side project as well, Spiritual Beggars. Christian Älvestam has his self titled side project (as well as participating in roughly 9 gajillion side projects and lending vocals to bands all the fuck over the place) that’s pretty ambient and chill, and definitely not metal. Phil Anselmo is another one with a plethora of side projects (i.e. Down, Superjoint Ritual, Scour, Razor White, Viking Crown, Necrophagia, etc). The guys in Anthrax had S.O.D., Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed has Kingdom of Sorrow and Icepick – you get the idea. Even Ivan Moody from Five Finger Death Punch is getting in on the side-project thing.

What the metal media does about it.

They write about Suicide Silence, Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), or Robb Flynn (Machine Head). Or bitch about metal elitism with click-bait articles designed to generate revenue.

(On a serious note, Metal Sucks has improved their writing quite a bit since the flop of Suicide Silence. I will continue to rip on them for the same reason I continue to rip on Metallica)

What do you, the reader, do about it?

Fucked if I know.

You’re the only one that can figure that out.

We all Know Oppobrium Didn’t Issue a Cease and Desist order to Metallica

I think it’s safe to say people figured out pretty quickly.

This wasn’t just a grab for attention from an obscure Thrash band. I believe the best proof of this fact comes from the band (Opprobrium (formerly Incubus, no not that Incubus) themselves.

metalsucks lied

 

This was obviously a publicity stunt. A publicity stunt claiming that songs off “Hardwired” sound like obscure 80’s thrash metal.

I can count the number of people who want people to think that the new Metallica album bears any resemblance to obscure 80’s thrash on one hand.

Four of those fingers would be members of Metallica, one would be the guy who filed the suit on behalf of Metallica.

I’ve written about PR stunts before, but I have to say even in the world of metal publicity stunts this one stands out a bit. Not because of the actions themselves, but because of the desired results (and the target audience).

 

Who They Were Targeting

Think about it for a second – when Sharon Ozzbourne went on the view holding a glass of lemonade to promote Ozzfest meets Knotfest, she was targeting people who were fans of Beyonce (or at least mass popular culture). When Five Finger Death Punch are publicizing one of Ivan Moody’s very well scripted “meltdowns”, they’re garnering attention so their fans are more likely to see the new snippets of their forthcoming album (or upcoming tour-dates, or whatever the fuck it is that they’re doing at the time).

Mindless rock fans and people who follow Beyonce don’t give a fuck about obscure 80’s thrash. In fact, almost nobody does. It’s a very niche thing to follow or care about. Metallica was targeting a very specific, very narrow section of the population.

Their original fanbase. The group of people that made them who they are. Real metalheads. The most loyal, dedicated, fanatical fanbase in existence. The group they originally belonged to (Lars and James were NWOBHM metal elitists – surprise!). The one group of people who have been consistently shitting on Metallica for years for “selling out”, who coincidentally are huge fans of obscure 80’s thrash. Like this dude.

oppobrium

Who the fuck else is going to care that Metallica was ripping off some obscure thrash band? Thrash bands rip each other off all the time.

In fact like 90% of every fucking metal genre consists recycling another bands riffs (arguably, all of metal is just recycled Sabbath riffs).

 

What Was the Intended Effect?

I would argue that Metallica wanted a few things to happen with this publicity stunt (OK, disclaimer here – I’m entering the realm of (educated) speculation).

First – they wanted to knock themselves off the imaginary pedestal everyone places them on. Following a cease and desist order on a Metallica tribute band filed by their lawyers, the band did their best to reconcile and show that this was not something they intended to happen. This establishes the pattern of behavior that I am arguing went one step further – Metallica is trying to show that they, too, are a band that can be sued for trivial shit by a bunch of guys in suits. In other words, they want to be “one of the guys” again – not the untouchable monolithic juggernaut they’ve been made out to be. Can’t say I blame them.

Second – they wanted to utilize the metal media, and make it worth their (the media’s) while to do so. This wasn’t a record label paying them to promote the album – a lot of metal websites had spoken about the record so much that, at the end of the day, they were probably sick and tired of writing about it.

I guess that’s a downside of doing this for money.

This is a chance for the metal media (websites, blogs, magazines, etc.) to write about a “genuine” controversy surrounding Metallica – one that relates to, and aids in, knocking Metallica off the aforementioned pedestal. As a bonus – the writers get to genuinely critique the singles named in the lawsuit, and to call bullshit. It gives them credibility, and allows them to do what they (probably) got into the business for in the first place.

Third – They wanted to prove James Hetfield isn’t a table.

table

Mission accomplished, you can’t order a cease and desist order to a table.

Well played, Metallica. Well played.

Fourth – I touched on this in the “who” section, but I think it’s worth elaborating. Arguably the most important aspect of the whole “debacle”, Metallica wanted 80’s thrash-heads to listen to both of the singles listed in the lawsuit.

I think it’s safe to say there’s a segment of the metal community who can only be tricked into listening to new Metallica out of nothing spite. And if there’s a chance to rip on the band for plagiarism, they (the guys who would normally boycott the album on principle alone) are going to listen to those songs note for fucking note.

 

Why they did it, and why it’s different.

Once again, educated speculation time.

Let’s get this out of the way – Metallica wants to keep momentum going for their new album. Part of that includes bringing people who haven’t listened to the album into the fold. Considering the massive PR campaign they did before the album was even released, the number of people who haven’t listened to it yet is relatively small.

It’s not like this is the only thing they’ve done for publicity – playing with Lady Gaga (and on various talk shows) was a way to bring mainstream attention to what they were doing. But this is the first publicity stunt they’ve done specifically targeting that very narrow demographic.

They’ve been chasing the old-school metalheads for years now – if you watch the documentary “Some Kind of Monster”, or listen to any of their post-alternative crap, you can see they’ve been trying to outsmart themselves figuring out how to get back into the good graces of the majority of metalheads.

But then, one day, they finally figured it out. Lars admitted he should have practiced the drums more for those shitty 90’s albums. They pretty much left Kirk out of the creative process. The band put their entire back catalog on Napster (for those too young to remember, there was a small amount of controversy surrounding the band and Napster at one point).

In fact, they basically admitted they were wrong about everything they’ve fucking done in the past two and a half decades.

This stunt was the icing on the cake. I’m not a huge fan of publicity stunts – but honestly, the band has pretty much exhausted every other option. They’ve extended pretty much every olive branch they could – and no, they’ll never write a pure thrash album again. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they can’t.

Not that they’re incapable of writing that sort of material, quite the opposite. They can’t because they play fucking amphitheaters and arenas exclusively. They don’t have a lot of choice in the matter – they’re too fucking popular. And the thing about big venues – sound travels differently. I don’t care how much money you have, you can’t alter how sound travels through space, or how it bounces around a large venue. There is no sound guy alive who could make it sound good. Large venues are the stomping grounds of simple music for a reason.

So the fact that they made anything even remotely close to the material they wrote pre-black album ALONE is a huge fucking compromise.

This stunt showed that Metallica knows their fans (and ex-fans) a lot better than most people think.

Where am I going with all of this?

Eh, I dunno. I don’t care who likes Metallica or who doesn’t.

The way I see it, you’ve got two options in regards to them. You can either bitch about them selling out till you’re blue in the face and play the betrayed victim, or you can accept the reality that they went from the top of the underground to the top of the mainstream in metal.

It means they won’t write any more heavy, cutting edge thrash. And they’ve been saying that for years. But it also means that, as a “gateway band”, they’re introducing a crowd that’s much more kosher with metalheads.

One of the best things about listening to metal (besides, well, listening to metal) is talking about it. If you were to run into someone who’s just getting into metal, their knowledge and taste is going to have a high proportion of the more mainstream “starter” metal bands. These bands are more accessible, and generally help to train a person’s ear to appreciate the heavier stuff. So, generally the conversation will be rooted with these bands. I, personally, am able to have a much better conversation with someone who got into metal through post-justice Metallica.

Because at some point, no matter how I feel about the band, I can say, “Yeah, if you think this is good you should listen to Master of Puppets.”

Think about that, and then consider the alternative (other gateway bands, who they’re bringing into the collective cultural sphere of metal, and how much different the conversation about bands with them is going to be).

I like to use Asking Alexandria as an example.

Untitled

I could give a fuck less what he listens to, or what anyone listens to. Whatever you think of the band, the have written nothing on par with Master of Puppets. And, chances are, they never will.

I’d put money on it.

A lot of money.

Gateway bands are inextricably linked with metal – without them, the culture would have a major recruitment problem. And compared to glam bands (puke), grunge bands (at least Kurt Cobain is dead and that other guy OD’d on heroin, amirite?), nu-metal (most people don’t get into metal for the nookie), hot-topic style metalcore (even the bands themselves hate fucking hot-topic mall-core fans), and even deathcore (the best thing about the genre is that Mitch Lurker or whatever the fuck his name is died) – Metallica reigns fucking supreme.

Because it’s not just the quantity of people a band turns over to the dark side, it’s the fucking quality.

Don’t get me wrong, I will rip on Metallica for their shitty albums for the rest of my natural life.

sandman

But at the end of the day, if there has to be a gateway band – nobody is going to do it better than the group that was, for longer than anyone else, the undisputed heaviest band in the world.

yeah

Similarities Between Metal and Celtic Cultures

What Do I Mean When I Say Celt or Celtic?

neopagancrap


Now, for clarification, I’m not talking about that hokey, new age melting pot of wishful thinking that gets associated with the Celts. I’m talking about a very distinct group of Europeans distinguished by common language and artwork (arguably, as more research is coming out, genetics as well).

When I use the words Celt or Celtic, I use them in the same way we use the terms German or Germanic to refer to groups like the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Teutons, Goths, Vandals, and the like. They didn’t refer to themselves as German or Germanic, but we can recognize lingual/cultural similarities that tie them all together into a larger group.

Likewise – when I refer to Celts I’m talking about the Celtic Nations (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, The Isle of Man, and Brittany), as well as the areas referred to as Celtic (from the Hallstatt to La Tene Cultures). All of these areas are culturally connected in some way, shape, or form so as to be recognized as Celtic or having been Celtic at some point in history. Also included in this definition are people from the ‘Celticized’ zones represented on the map, as they all at some point are tied archaeologically to Celtic culture.

celticfromthewest

According to Barry Cunliffe‘s most recent material on the Celts, we can see they are a group who started both linguistically, and genetically, in the Atlantic zone of Europe. They then spread that culture throughout the majority of Europe.

What Do I Mean When I Say Metalhead or Metal Culture?

I’m referring to a very specific group of people when I speak of metal culture. It’s a group that has developed since the first metal bands of the 70’s started amassing a following. This following began to distinguish itself from greater “rock and roll” culture through the following decade, and became a distinctive and separate group in the late 70’s to early 80’s.

metalheads

In the decades that followed the culture has grown, fractured, and diversified into a large bricolage culture of smaller scenes and sects of metalheads. Many of these groups have their own identities, but are still recognizable as part of the greater umbrella culture.

Introduction:

I’ve been looking for an excuse to compare and contrast these cultures (Metalheads and Celts) for a while now. With the exception of metal music and culture, by far my favorite topic is anything Celtic.

newgrangeSo fucking cool

On to the Comparisons:

Cultural Composition:

island tribes

 

 

 

The Celts weren’t a centralized group, they were a bricolage of cultures (similar yet distinct) that were all linked by certain cultural characteristics (art and language).

gaulish tribes

 

metal family tree

Likewise, there isn’t a centralized heavy metal culture. They’re all branches of the same heavy metal family tree, but each branch is distinct and unique.

Sam Dunn

(I take no credit for these photographs – the mapping of the metal family tree is the brainchild of Sam Dunn and company at Banger)

So, compositionally speaking Celtic culture is analogous to Metal culture. Both are overarching terms used to identify multiple sub-groups that make up a larger culture.

Art as a Distinguishing Cultural Feature:

Celtic art is one of the most distinguishing facets of the culture. Generally, people who speak of Celtic art are referring to visual styles deriving from what is referred to as “La Tène” art. It’s a distinctive and absolutely beautiful style (all of my tattoos derive from the La Tène style – I guess you could say I’m a bit biased!).

I could get into my argument as to why it shouldn’t be called La Tène (as there’s no proof the artistic style developed in that region – it’s just the first area where this sort of artwork was found, and has led to some very shoddy theories as to the origin of the Celts that hold very little weight with me), but It’d probably take up the rest of the article. Anyways – here’s a few of my favorite examples of artwork we can call Celtic.

Celtic cultures also have very unique music – Irish music is a testament to this. But generally speaking, you can tell Celts at least lived in an area based on the fact that bagpipes are currently (or ever were) played in the area. This even extends to Scandinavian countries, which certainly had contact with Celtic cultures throughout history.

And it’s safe to say that Heavy Metal Culture isn’t just known for a distinctive type of music – the entire culture is based around a distinctive musical style.

Masculinism:

The Celts were almost certainly a masculinist society. I don’t care how many post-menopausal women (who may or may not have “developed/discovered” psychic powers shortly after a bitter divorce/mid-life crisis) tell you otherwise.

This isn’t to say that the Celts didn’t celebrate the feminine as well – they certainly did. But as someone who’s put a fair amount of study into Celtic folklore and literature – I can tell you (the reader) with some certainty that the overriding themes of the culture were masculine in nature.

Likewise, as I have illustrated in another article, heavy metal is also a masculinist culture.

Examples of celebrations of masculinity within each culture can be found in social norms – one of my favorites is facial hair. Both the Celts and Metalheads are pretty famous for long and rather wild facial hair.

While the continental Celts were noted as primarily sporting a mustache (especially nobility), island Celts such as the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh were noted for the growth of a full beard. In fact, it was often seen as dishonorable for a Gaelic man to have no facial hair.

A good example of this can be found in the Welsh legend of Yr Gywddfa, where the warrior Rhita Gawr shaved the beards of two lords as a punishment for arguing(and stitched them together into a cap, before turning them into oxen who could only work when hitched together).

The news of this quickly spread to the kings of the universe, who took it very seriously, “If we permit Rhita Gowr to do this thing, which is the greatest insult against a warrior that can be made, what beard among us will be safe?” They proceeded to (unsuccessfully) wage war against Gawr, who cut off all their beards in turn and fashioned them into a cloak.

Long story short, Rhita Gawr then went for the beard of a warlord named Arthur (who would later be romanticized into the Pendragon of Arthurian legend). Big mistake. Arthur bested him, and as punishment shaved the beard of Gawr and stitched it onto the final empty spot on the beard cloak.

celtbeard

I took enough analytical literature courses (included analyzing literature of oral cultures) where I think it’s safe to infer that the beard was kind of a big deal to the island Celts.

While metal culture is a bit more forgiving when it comes to a lack of facial hair, for the most part you can expect to see anything from goatees to a full-on Viking (or Celt, haha) beards when you go to a metal show/festival. In fact, apart from a black band shirt I’d say facial hair is the most common thing you’ll see on a metalhead.

 

Also, violent/warlike tendencies. This one’s a little less obvious, but when you see it I think you’ll agree.celtswar

All of the classical writers, when speaking of Celts, at some point mentioned warlike tendencies. The geographer Strabo, who died 24 AD, described the tribes in the interior of
Britain as taller than the Gaulish colonists on the coast and describes the men as warlike, passionate, disputatious, easily provoked, but generous and unsuspicious.

celtscarynx

They were also noted for the use of psychological warfare – before a battle, warriors would shout, beat weapons against shields, and employed carnyx players. The sounds had been described as making the earth shake, and was noted as demoralizing the opposing army to a large degree. You might even say they helped pioneer the “wall of sound” so many bands strive to achieve.

Compare that description with these videos:

There are differing opinions on the subject as to why people enjoy moshing, my personal opinion is that it gives the same sensory overload as a war scenario in a (mildly) controlled environment.

My opinion is supported in (and partially derived from) Heavy Metal literature. An example of this can be found in the book “Metalheads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation” by Jeffrey Jenson Arnett. The title of the first chapter of this book is ‘A Heavy Metal Concert: The Sensory Equivalent of War’.

Also interesting to note, the Celts (at least in Ireland) had some rules when it came to war, first and foremost was the notion of fairness (this, like the value placed on facial hair, is a common theme in Celtic mythology). Likewise, anyone who’s been around a few pits will tell you there are certain rules of engagement  people tend to follow.

Dress and Appearance:

While the plaid of a tartan bears little resemblance to the obligatory black band shirt that serves as a vital part of the metalhead ‘uniform’ – they both serve the same purpose. They serve as a visual representation of membership to that particular culture. The differences here are obvious – a person is born into a clan with no say in the matter, while membership in metal culture is purely based on personal choice. Regardless, the similarity is worth noting.

Also worth noting is the practice and prevalence of tattooing in both Celtic and Metal cultures.While there is some disagreement as to the prevalence of tattooing among the Celts (many people believe groups like the Picts simply painted themselves, as the very name Pict means “Painted People”), there is absolutely zero question as to the fact that tattooing was practiced among the Celts as far back as 1,000 BC.

And there is no question as to the prevalence of tattoos in Metal Culture.

Fondness for Alcohol

Classical writers like Diodorus, Polybius, and Plutarch all remarked in their writing a certain Celtic fondness for drinking alcohol. The barbaric way in which they consumed it was also noted – they drank wine right out of the bottle (as opposed to the Roman tradition of mixing it with water).

Quantity was as important as quality, and this can be seen from the discovery made at the Vix burial site in France. The most remarkable find in the site (and there were quite a few, it is speculated that the occupant was a princess of some sort) is a wine vessel made of bronze that holds roughly 300 gallons. 300 fucking gallons of wine. Herodotus actually wrote about it, and the writing was considered exaggeration until the find was made.

I’m not just impressed that the continental Celts commissioned the Greeks to make a 300 gallon wine vessel in roughly 500 B.C. That’s cool, but the ridiculous aspect of the whole thing is that it would have been transported FULL OF WINE (that’s a gigantic metal vessel with 300 gallons of liquid) over the fucking Alps to France. Stop and think about that for a second. Look at the size of that thing – people would have trouble doing that with forklifts in modern times. That’s a pretty incredible reverence for alcohol.

On the metalhead side of things, Deena Weinstein dedicates roughly 6 pages (at least in the paperback edition) of her book ‘Heavy Metal’ to Metal Culture’s preoccupation with intoxication – predominantly alcohol. On page 132 she notes that, “Metalheads substances of choice are beer and pot, the former taken over from the bikers and the latter borrowed from the hippies…Drugs and alcohol are commodities to be bought and consumed, but they are also symbolic objects, the meanings of which are integrated into the rest of the subculture.”

Arnett’s book ‘Metal Heads’ makes reference in at least 4 instances to alcohol use in his case studies of young metalheads, and alcoholism in 4 separate instances.

I’m sure there are more literary references to alcohol use and it’s importance in the Metal subculture, but I’m focusing on these two books as they focus on metal culture as a whole (and as such are a tad more relevant to the topic at hand).

And in my own experience – I think it is worth noting that in the 20 plus years I’ve been going to metal shows there has never been a single one where alcohol wasn’t consumed (often to excess) by concertgoers.

Preoccupation with Death Imagery

This is where things get interesting. Heavy Metal, especially the extreme metal branches, is almost synonymous with death imagery. Skulls, Skeletons, Grim Reapers, Corpse Paint, etc. Dark religious themes pervade album covers and song lyrics, and the subject matter of songs themselves quite often pertain to death and the darker aspects of life.

Given the fact that most of my readers are probably metalheads, I’m going to assume this isn’t some sort of life altering revelation.

But the Celts were also obsessed with death imagery, and expressed it in their art and decoration, as well as in mythology. One of my favorites is the “Celtic Beast” from France:

celtic beast
(The Beast of Novace statue from territory associated with the Cavares tribe, 3/2 century B.C.)

You can clearly make out the fact that the monster is holding two severed heads with a severed arm grasped in it’s mouth. Pretty morbid. I’m no scholar, but I’d lump this in the ‘death imagery’ category.

Then you’ve got the Cult of the (Severed) Head. There’s little to no doubt that the Celts were headhunters – it was believed to be the repository of the soul, and is speculated that a Celtic warrior believe keeping the severed head not only prevented his enemy from entering the afterlife, it added the slain man’s power to the victor. There are some scholars who doubt the validity of such a cult, but I think the findings at Roquepertus leave little doubt…

cultofthehead

This isn’t some bone Cathedral where people were making use of human remains to make space for more of them. This is a site where figures sitting in poses normally reserved for Celtic gods sit in front of large pillars where severed heads were placedadorned with skull niches. A lot of people speculate that the bird on top of the pillars is a goose – I have a little trouble believing it’s anything other than a vulture (there is a species of Vulture native to Southern France, so it’s not that much of a stretch to assume a carrion bird sits atop a death shrine).

As far as mythology goes – there’s the Dearg Due (literally translates to ‘red blood sucker’ from Gaelic), who was arguably as much of an inspiration for Dracula as Vlad the Impaler (considering Braham Stoker was an Irishman, and his most famous horror character has more in common with and Irish Celtic demon than the supposed basis of the character). It’s been said that locals in county Waterford still pile stones on her grave every year on the eve of her death to prevent her from rising again.

Or, we have the Dullahan (‘Dark Man’ in Gaelic) – the Irish version of the headless horseman. A headless rider on a black horse that roams the countryside as a portent of death. He throws buckets of blood on passerby’s, whenever he calls out a person’s name they die immediately. He uses a human spine as a whip, the wheels of his carriage are made of human thigh bones, and the carriage is covered in human flesh. Interesting side note, a Dullahan is scared of gold – odd considering usually iron is the metal of choice to fend off otherworldly specters in Celtic mythology.

dullahan_by_deimos_remus-d8nwtij

False Accusations of Ritual Sacrifice

Anyone familiar with the Satanic Panic of the 80’s and early 90’s should know what I’m talking about here. Basically, there was this mass endemic of fear in the United States that there was a gigantic Satanic conspiracy threatening the American way of life. One of the chief scapegoats of this was metal culture – I’ve touched on this subject in other articles. A good example of this coming to a head is the case of the West Memphis Three. They were three teenage metal fans who were accused of brutally and sadistically murdering a young child in their hometown – despite a lack of any credible evidence. In fact, plenty of evidence was overlooked to make the case stick.

Likewise, Greek and Roman writers liked to throw the stigma of ritual sacrifice onto the Celts. The most famous accusation (made by both Caesar and Strabo) was that a large group of humans and animals were gathered into a “wicker man” and then burned alive as a sacrifice.

The_Wicker_Man_of_the_Druids

Now, one thing I can’t stand is people who pick and choose what to believe and not to believe in terms of classical writings regarding the Celts. And it may look like that’s what I’m doing, but there’s a method to my madness here. Anything written by classical authors that is confirmed by solid archaeological evidence is safe to consider fact. But it’s also good to take what those Greeks and Romans said with a grain of salt – as they were describing an enemy. And demonizing an enemy in the public eye is always a good idea when you’re waging war against them – as the Romans were known to do from time to time.

So, if there was any evidence of mass graves of humans and animals that were obviously burned – this might be believable. But if there is only a written account and no physical evidence to back it up – I consider it akin to putting someone on trial and finding them guilty with no evidence other than hearsay.

There is evidence of humans being killed in a ritualistic manner – but this does not in and of itself point to human sacrifice. The example generally used is the Lindow Man, an Irish mummy found in a peat bog. Forensics showed that he died a pretty violent death – he was bludgeoned, garroted, and then his throat was slit before he was dumped in the bog. Could it have been a human sacrifice? Sure, it could have. I find it just as likely that this was a form of corporal punishment/the death penalty. And unless some record of it comes to light, we’ll probably never know.

Being an American, I do like to stick to that “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” thing we like to pretend is the law of the land.

Conclusion:

So there you have it. I’m pretty sure this is all of the similarities I’ve found between the two cultures (besides the fact that both Heavy Metal and Celtic cultures seem to have formed in the general vicinity of the British Isles).

The comparisons between cultures are neat – but it’s good to remember that all human cultures have a tendency to follow certain patterns. As such, I’m sure a similar article could be written comparing Metalheads to Vikings or Saxons or any number of other cultures – but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fucking cool as this article.

Obligatory Celtic Metal Gallery

Celtic Metal is either hit or miss, here’s a few bands I enjoy.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Metal Stuff!

celtic metal

Relapse Records Offers Vinyl LP/CD Grab Bags, Wins at Life

The title pretty much sums it up. They’ve got 3 grab bags up – a 30 CD deal, a 4 LP deal, and a 10 LP deal.

I saw the link in a vinyl collectors group 2 days ago and nearly lost it.

Shut-up-and-take-my-money

Pretty much something for everyone. The best deal is obviously the 10 vinyl grab bag – when’s the last time you got 10 new metal LP’s for fucking $4 a pop?

Get em here while it lasts https://store.relapse.com/g/1110

Suicide Silence Pioneer “Mediocrecore”, Experience Worst First Week Sales of Their Careers

I really hate to say I told you so.

Fuck that, I love saying I told you so. I fucking called this a month ago.

Actually, if anything, it was worse than I thought (Whitechapel only did 50% as well as their previous album, Suicide Silence soared around 30%). Apparently diminishing returns is a thing in real life. Who knew?

The critical acclaim for this album is completely non-existent.

Unless you count Metalsucks, who seem genuinely surprised the album sales didn’t set some sort of fucking record.

I don’t feel particularly bad for the band – they’re reaping what they sewed. Insulting the majority of your fanbase while you’re in the middle of selling out will get you exactly 30% of the sales you’re looking for.

I do, however, feel bad for the mindless drones who read metalsucks like it’s the fucking bible and worship at the altar of Suicide Silence. Like this kid.

whineyelistdeuche

Who literally unblocked me the day after Suicide silence went on record bashing metal fans at their shows as patch wearing weirdos for the express purpose of quoting the band to insult me (before promptly blocking me again). It was magnificent. But now that the band’s eating crow, who will think of things for people like him to say?

Also, I’ve heard a lot of people saying bad things about the band for talking shit about other deathcore bands. I would like to offer an alternative viewpoint here – the single greatest thing about Suicide Silence’s PR campaign for the new album is the fact that they were talking massive amounts of shit about deathcore bands.

Now, I shit on deathcore bands all day long. So, in my opinion, knowing that even deathcore bands can’t resist shitting on deathcore tickles my irony bone to no end. And that, dear reader, is a silver lining worth noting.

Bear with me here, it gets better. The deathcore scene (as well as the tail end of the metalcore scene) is almost single-handedly responsible for the negativity towards “metal elitists”. It’s been inflated by the metal media, and Metal Sucks is a perfect example of this. I’ve written a few articles dealing with this in the past, and the contradictions inherent in the “elitist dichotomy”. This viewpoint is expanding on the premises outlined in those articles.

You’ve got a metal news website (metal sucks) who is notorious for propping up the elitist controversy, participating in a bland (and played out) PR campaign for a band from a scene that germinated the whole elitist dichotomy. The metal news website (who never misses a chance to bash elitists) is openly promoting a deathcore band who is doing exactly what they (the site and the scene) pretend to hate.

In other words, they’re virtue signaling a hatred for elitists while openly supporting elitist behavior.

Is there a term in the English language that describes this phenomenon? Oh, wait a minute…

hypocrite

Fucking textbook.

Also, Suicide Silence obviously wasn’t being original or groundbreaking. The thing about being an original, groundbreaking artists – it’s like being rich. If you’re rich, you don’t have to tell other people you’re rich. If you’re a creative, groundbreaking artists, you don’t have to explain it to people.

In fact, in both cases – the fact that you need to tell people implies exactly the opposite.

Hiring a one trick pony producer who lost all cultural relevance to metal 20 years ago (and then writing in a style of music that played out and died 20 years ago) isn’t brave, or groundbreaking – it’s exactly the fucking opposite.

Puke.

 

Metal Stuff Interviews Italian Death Metal Outfit LECTERN

“Death metal must be a shockwave,with its aftermaths as lyrical subliminality like a shellshock! No compromise, no mercy!”
-Fabio Bava

 

First and foremost, the staff at Metal Stuff are all fans of the extreme sub-genres of metal. In particular, Old School Death Metal.

Usually we have to seek it out (through the net, mutual friends, record labels, etc), so when the guys in Lectern got ahold of us and wanted to do an interview – saying we were thrilled might be a bit of an understatement.

These guys fucking rip.

logo

 

You can check out/grab a copy of the album here. Last I checked physical copies were sold out, but you can always snag a digital download for about 6 bucks.

I have nothing but good to say about the music these guys put out – so instead of an album review I’m going to say check out their bandcamp and decide for yourself.

‘Precept of Delator’
LECTERN
Via Nocturna

Metal Stuff: I have to say, I don’t hear about many metal bands from Italy. How is the metal scene there? And how difficult is it for an Italian death metal band to get a following compared to other places in Europe or the United States? Are there a lot of opportunities to play live shows at home, or do you have to travel?

Fabio: “We had and we have great bands here right now, if compared to thirty years ago. Italian outfits are well known if we speak about Lacuna Coil, Death Ss, Labyrinth and others. The scene is full in every genre, from hard rock to grind as we have also, quite good venues for the shows, but most of the bands prefer to throw shit one to the others. It is a very stupid attitude I think, as for the public, they prefer big names to the underground concerts. Mentality follows how the people is, and it is reflected also in the way musicians play and behave. Do you think is it allowable, that famous musicians struggle each other, through stupid comments on the web? If I would be the owner of a record company, I should fire them all in one instant! Music is not a fucking blog, I think! Am I wrong about that?”.

Marco: “I guess, as for every place you live, it gets easier to play time after time. It depends of course by your popularity. Italy has a great problem about metal music, not very much interesting by the public, especially for emerging bands. So it gets even harder. That’s why we prefer to play outside (of Italy)”.

MS: You guys have been around since 1999 now, and it looks like you’ve gone through a few lineup changes. How have your new members influenced your sound on the new album?

Fabio: “I am the main influence, leading the band into Florida old school death metal. We formed with the only aim, of playing that kind of music, with a brutal but not technical approach. Who comes and went off the band, before joining Lectern already knew the musical direction at first. I hate misunderstandings, you know! Lectern death metal must be a shockwave,with its aftermaths as lyrical subliminality like a shellshock! No compromise, no mercy!”.

MS: I really like the fact that you guys stick with an old school death metal sound on Precept of Delator. How would you say the new album compares to your previous work?

Fabio: “We have not to look backwards, to the previous records and songs we wrote. It is not a sort of challenge! It’s death metal, you cannot always label if old school or classic, it’s fucking death metal! Almost all bands, play in the same fucking way, brutal, splatter and slam, there are no recognizing sides, all is the same! Why? Old school is the only way, as I said before! The intent with the new album, was to surpass whatever we ever recorded
in the years. I thought that we needed the best and raw sound, first of all for the guitars. We returned detuning them down of four tones, got the right cabinet and the best studio to record! Essentially, the songs are more brutal, with grunts  and the right harsh attitude. It’s not easy to reach that point, and for the next works expect certainly more and better!”.

Marco: “This new album is for me, more calculated. Not rushed as the first. With this one, we wanted to focus much on the atmosphere than the technique, while in the first one we were a little show-off. I personally took care of the sound effects, introductions and middle sections”.

the-band

MS: I see you guys have played with some pretty big names (Angra, Sepultura, Incantation) is there any chance you will tour the United States in the future?

Fabio: “I hope so! We spoke about that many times, but we never found the real occasion to come along yet. You know, it’s very far from home, as we have to manage everything in all the aspects. Flights, stayings, coach, instrumentation and  amplification, wages, costs, venues, opening bands, merchandise, promotion and whatever. Playing in the United States will be the final leap into a sort of celebrity, and everything needs to be filled in all its forms. It is not just playing into another continent and Europe is different from North America! Yes, we hope to come one day, finally!”.

Marco: “If they call, we answer for sure, just keep that fake pizza away from me or I could kill someone! Anyway, it would be the perfect place for our music, the country where all began”.

MS: I hear a lot of old school death metal influence in your sound, what bands are you guys influenced by?

Fabio: “Sinister, Pestilence, Asphyx and Gorefest of the very beginnings, for the European side. Early bands of 1990’s Florida scene like Morbid Angel, Deicide and Monstrosity above all. Also the New York area is great with Immolation and Suffocation too, also from the American hinterland like Disincarnate, Incantation and Morta Skuld but without the necessity of being so  slow and doomish! I also appreciate some slam and gore bands, their ruthless approach is basic! I often listen to very old  bands like Cancer, Infernal Torment, Baphomet or Lemming Project. They were great combos with undeveloped ideas!
Not for their faults, but the reason was simply that labels begun not to be more so interested to death metal from the first half of the Nineties, from 1996 and on. I remember that Morgoth just the first name that comes into my mind, was another band in such period! If it is not death metal it is just fuck you!”.

Marco: “My drumming is based for the most on power metal of the 1990 and 2000, I got into death metal relatively later. Gamma Ray, Helloween and Rhapsody Of Fire for sure are bands I follow with attention, then some great inspirational drummers arrived later like Jordison, Mancino, Lombardo, Laureano and Kollias”.

MS:  What are your favorite songs on the new album and why?

Fabio: “As for myself, Palpation Of Sacramentarian kicks some Christian asses making me shitting in my pants alone, as for the first riff! Impressive, talented and fucking nasty as Satan!”.

Marco: “Fluent Bilocation is for me one of the most pleasant to be played, but I’m addicted to the final one, Discorporation With Feral. It gets a Slayer vibe that gets me every time!”.

MS: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the new album?

Fabio:
“It is a great record, buy it! Hush!”.

Lectern is:
Fabio Bava: vocals, bass
Pietro Sabato: guitar
Gabriele Cruz: guitar
Marco Valentine: drums

Contact Info:
www.lectern.in
www.facebook.com/lectern666
www.reverbnation.com/lectern
www.myspace.com/lecternband
www.metal-archives.com/bands/lectern
www.twitter.com/lectern666
www.instagram.com/lectern666
lectern@mail.com

Discography:
Bisbetical (1999)
Salvific Of Perhaps Lambent (2010)
Lectern (2013)
Fratricidal Concelebration (2015)
Precept Of Delator (2016)

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