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

Stupid click-bait title?

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(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 Geezer Butler (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, Exactly, is Groove Metal?

Introduction

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the sub-genrification of metal. There’s just so much metal out there, they’re kind of necessary. A sub-genre is essentially a quick label used (mostly by fans) to describe bands with similar sonic characteristics.

For pretty much every major sub-genre, most fans will be able to list a couple big name bands that exemplify the sound. With Thrash, you’ve got the big four (bay area) and the big Teutonic four (Germany).

Death metal has bands like Death (obviously), Morbid Angel, Deicide, Nile, Obituary, and Suffocation bringing up the oldschool end of things – and (being the most popular sub-genre in the world) probably several thousand other bands branching off into even more subgenres.

With Black Metal you’ve got the first wave guys like Bathory, Celtic Frost, and Venom. And then there’s the second wave guys who pretty much defined the genre as most people know it today – guys like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, etc.

Power metal, Doom, Melodic Death Metal, Glam, Nu Metal, Grindcore – they all have very distinct, easily identifiable sounds. Within a couple of second of listening to any song within these genres, it’s easy to identify where it belongs in the metal family tree.

Except for one. Groove metal.

It’s weird – this is one of those genres that a lot of people know about. Everyone I’ve ever talked to about the topic can list off a few Groove Metal bands. Which is great – except there’s almost zero overlap. If you talk to three different metalheads about Groove Metal and ask for a list of Groove bands – you’re most likely going to get three very different lists. Even the definitions of Groove Metal vary from person to person. It seems like the only band that people can consistently agree falls in the Groove category is Pantera.

pantera

Now, there is a pretty big group of people who argue that Pantera (post glam, naturally) is a thrash band.

The argument has some merit, but I have some problems with it. Pantera, like most thrash bands, is a very aggressive riff oriented outfit. However, while thrash is typified by fast tempos, Pantera is generally a mid tempo band by comparison. Also, they generally tend to ride what’s known as “the money riff” for the majority of a song. While this isn’t unheard of in thrash, in my experience it’s not the norm.

Fleshing out a Genre from the Middle Ground between Genres

So seeing as Pantera is a generally agreed upon forefather of the Groove genre, their relationship with thrash metal makes defining Groove Metal much easier.Bearing this in mind, I would like to express a few opinions that will (probably) be a tad unpopular.

Because of the black album, I contend that Metallica were as influential as Pantera in the consolidation of Groove Metal as a genre. Think about it, the things people complained about on the album – catchy riffs, predominantly mid-tempo (as opposed to the breakneck pace of Thrash). They ride the money riff for the majority of songs. It’s mid-tempo Thrash. It meets all the criteria of Groove Metal.

Sepultura’s album “Roots” is widely credited as a Nu Metal album. Interesting thought, but there is nothing remotely rap/hip hop oriented about the album. I would argue that Groove metal and Nu metal developed side by side, and ended up having a lot of similar qualities in terms of sound. I don’t think anyone with half a brain cell can lump this album in the same category as the Linkin Park discography – I lump Roots squarely in the groove metal category.

Slayer’s misfit album, “Diabolus in Musica”, is described by the band themselves as an attempt to jump on the Nu Metal bandwagon. The only problem is, all they did was down-tune and ride some grooves. No DJ’s, no rapping – I also classify this album as Groove.

When it comes to fleshing out and discussing Groove metal nobody does it better than Banger. Check out their episode discussing Groove Metal below (then like and subscribe to their youtube channel, facebook page, etc). Seriously though, these guys know what’s up when it comes to metal. I would argue any list of the most important people in metal today that excludes Sam Dunn is a total crock of shit.

Groove’s Influence on Other Genres

We’ve already touched on the Nu Metal/Groove connection a bit, but now might be a good time to reiterate. Groove and Nu Metal share a timeline (and in many cases, an audience) – they formed a genres around the same time, and they influenced each other heavily. Example – it’s no secret that Sepultura were heavily influenced by Korn’s first album when they released Roots (another reason people try to lump the album in the Nu Metal category).

Nu Metal is very groove-heavy, and it’s safe to say there’s a significant amount of overlap between the genres.Example: Machine Head did a one off nu-metal album before returning to Groove Metal. This is a perfect example of the overlap between Nu Metal and Groove Metal:

Nu-Metal Machine Head

Groove Metal/NWOAHM Machine Head

Which leads me to the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (which was as much a movement in metal is it is a genre). Besides Machine head, bands like Lamb of God and Chimaira (flag-bearers of the NWOAHM) also fall squarely in the Groove Metal category.

In fact, I would contend that most of that wave of metal bands from the 2000-2010 era wouldn’t exist without Groove Metal (specifically Pantera, but all those Groove pioneers played a part in paving the way for the NWOAHM).

These bands have been known, on occasion, to even pay tribute to the late great Pantera…

Not that only NWOAHM bands cover the Groove legends, but there’s enough bands that have paid tribute through the years (even before Dime died) where you can make a pretty solid inference as to the influence of the band (and therefore the genre).

In Conclusion

Probably the strangest thing about Groove Metal is that it just kind of “happened”. It wasn’t like Thrash or Death or Black metal, where you had a scene with several bands that fleshed out the sound and defined it in a short amount of time. Instead it developed over the course of (at least) two decades, influencing at least two major metal movements as it went.

This is the only time an entire genre was (or ever will be) formed in the empty space between extremely fast (i.e Death Metal, Black Metal, Thrash, Speed, etc) and extremely slow (Doom and it’s derivatives) tempos.

The only genre with stranger origins (in my opinion) would be Djent – who the fuck names a genre with an onomatopoeia?

Say Hello to the Face of This Years Summer Slaughter Tour

If you don’t care who funds a festival (as long as the lineup is good) you should have no problem with this article. After all, you don’t care.

But if you’re like me, you know these people…

AA-asking-alexandria-23957158-500-344black_veil_brides_by_bleedingstarclothing

…have absolutely no place representing an extreme metal festival.

Don’t get me wrong, the lineup for Summer Slaughter this year is light years ahead of what it was last year. It’s fucking fantastic… but it’s brought to you by a movie entitled, “American Satan.”

At first glance, that seems pretty cool. The names kinda lame, but at least it seems to be a rock/metal oriented movie. But then, looking at the cast, I noticed it’s starring the lead singer of the Blackveil Brides, as well as a member of Asking Alexandria.

What the actual fuck?!?

When the Summer Slaughter tour started out, it was a force to be reckoned with. They’re continually billed as “the most extreme tour of the year” and have been pretty famously advertised as catering to fans of “extreme metal”. And for the first year of their existence, this was true.

Then came the slow descent – the lineup steadily got worse every year. I would argue that a big portion of this is due to the participation of Sumerian Records. Initially the label brought diversity to the bill, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s what you’re supposed to have at a festival. But I started noticing a pattern – a few big names in death metal were being used to add star-power to a tour that progressively started catering to an indie label (like independent startup label, not to be confused with shitty millennial/hipster Indie rock).

I’m trying to think of another tour that changed their business model to cater to an indie label with a shitty roster.

Oh wait, now I remember. The Mayhem festival.

I’ll take you one further – Mayhem started to go downhill the same year that Sumerian Records got their own stage (2013). The lineup that year was actually pretty awesome (on par with how awesome this years Summer Slaughter lineup is, considering the formats of the festivals). Post 2013, these changes cause the decline I’ve been referring to. Mayhem went so far downhill, in fact, that it literally dampened the concert draw of headliners like Slayer.

Slayer had played the same venues as Mayhem the previous year, selling out concerts. Strangely, Mayhem didn’t. But why?

Kerry King said it best:

“Do I know this tour wasn’t booked correctly? Absolutely I know this tour wasn’t booked correctly. Gary Holt made the comment that usually there’s the Main Stage, a second stage, a third stage, and then that piece of shit record stage…now what they’re calling a second stage is at best a fourth stage and they’re wondering why people aren’t showing up.

In case you’re not familiar with the whole Mayhem festival debacle, I’ll save you the trouble of a google search. It completely imploded and dissolved.

So let’s recap for a second.

Mayhem festival started out with huge names, as a rather diverse metal festival. They had some heavy hitters, and then filled the roster with up-and-comers from independent record labels that catered to scenes that weren’t even fully accepted in the metal community (This is a good thing, it’s how we keep the music going – but there’s a point, I promise. Bear with me). Slowly they allowed said the independent record label to change the business model of the tour – taking creative control. The label (Sumerian) started using this opportunity as a springboard for shameless self promotion. They even changed the business model of the tour, adding a stage exclusive to the label. After these changes, the tour had one more fantastic lineup. The tour continued with the failed business model and completely dissolved within a period of two years. And it wasn’t pretty. Even Slayer couldn’t save it. Fucking Slayer. This is just as much the fault of that complete garbage label Victory Records, but they never would have been included on the tour in the first place if Sumerian hadn’t paved the way.

Summer Slaughter started out with huge names. They were a specialized festival, but still very diverse. They started making changes and incorporating bands outside the format from a certain scene-catering record label.  Enter 2016. The Summer Slaughter tour lineup is incredible (exactly what happened when Sumerian got their own stage at Mayhem ), but the promoters have allowed Sumerian to use it as a springboard to promote their shitty movie starring members of Blackveil Brides and Asking Alexandria.

The point is…change is not, by itself, a bad thing. In fact, innovation is one thing that keeps metal going. However, when a festival makes changes that have proven to be fatal for their peers, it’s a very bad thing.

Now, I’m not knocking fans of BvB or AA. I personally, despise that style of music, but different strokes for different folks. I don’t have a problem with them, or their fans.

I do, however have a problem with them being the public faces of a tour that promotes itself like Summer Slaughter does (this isn’t the fucking Warped Tour). Especially when you connect the dots and see that this is exactly the sort of business move that shut down Mayhem. I, for one, will not let the majority of my ticket sale go to putting people from Blackveil Brides and Asking Alexandria on the big screen.

A common argument I hear in favor of this sort of sellout move is that the big tours need the money to keep going. Valid argument. Hmmm, is there something they can do to keep the festival in the running without selling out? Maybe they can do what Maryland Death Fest did. They decreased the number of stages to a manageable level, kept all the bands on the bill. A few people might be butt-hurt about it, but they made a sound business move while keeping the integrity of the festival intact. And those guys have been going for at least 5-6 years longer than Summer Slaughter. So, it is not only possible to keep the integrity of the festival intact by not bowing to corporate sponsorship – it might just add to the longevity of the event.Sponsors don’t just give you money and expect nothing in return. The guys at Maryland Death Fest know this.

I think it’s safe to say, if promoters think it’s ok for members of Asking Alexandria and Blackveil Brides to be the public faces of Summer Slaughter they deserve to go down as swiftly, painfully, and publicly as Mayhem. Long live Maryland Death Fest!

Clean Vocals: Partially Selling Out or Completely Selling Out?

Contrary to the title, I actually really like clean vocals in metal. As long as they’re not whiny and angst filled.  This does seem to be a major point of contention in the metal community.

Some people absolutely love it, and some people can’t stand it. Especially in sub-genres like Melodic Death Metal (and it’s American cousin Metalcore), clean vocals have become so commonplace it’s almost camp. Bands like In Flames, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry, Solution .45, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, All that Remains, and the like have been using clean vocals for years – with great success. The list goes on.

And more recently bands like Lamb of God, Whitechapel, Hatebreed, and Amon Amarth have had clean vocals on at least one track of their albums.

The way I see it, there are two things you need to look at when evaluating a band using clean vocals.

  1. Why are they doing it? This should be pretty obvious. If a bands been playing pretty much the same thing for over a decade, sometimes they just want to switch things up. Which is cool, you have to respect artistic integrity and the willingness to branch out and try something new. If the band hasn’t gotten a lot of radio play, and suddenly they have a song with a clean chorus on your local rock station – then you know exactly why they did it. Not cool. I understand wanting to get popular, but if you’re even remotely familiar with heavy metal you should know that you aren’t getting into it for radio play.
  2. Do you like it? I’m actually talking about listening to the song objectively. Maybe this will be the song that makes things “clique” in your head and makes you enjoy a clean chorus now and then. Maybe you just absolutely hate them all, and this will only confirm it for you. If you don’t give it a chance and actually listen to it first before passing judgement – you’re just a fucktard.

Personally, I think there are certain vocalists who should never do clean vocals. I don’t see Karl Sanders from Nile or Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse branching out and doing clean vocals just yet. And that’s cool – if they did I’d be more worried about the world ending.

But clean vocals are a pretty integral part of metal. Besides the obvious Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, guys like Phil Anselmo from Pantera and Warrel Dane from Nevermore have been incorporating clean vocals for years.

And if you have anything negative to say about Nevermore, you’re wrong and I hate you. Those guys fucking rule, and Jeff Loomis is a god.

In fact, even bands like Arch Enemy have been toying with the idea of incorporating clean singing. Alyssa White-Gluz did a lot of them in her prior band The Agonist (they’ve actually gotten a lot better since she left the band, Victoria is a much better fit with their sound).

Also, Manowar has clean vocals. And Manowar kills posers with steel. Your argument is invalid.

In summation, if you don’t like clean vocals pull up your big kid pants and don’t fucking listen to it.

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