The Onslaught of Sound
October 31, 2012
In an interview in the 2005 Sam Dunn documentary Metal: A Headbangers Journey (which you can request through WorldCat), music and film maker Rob Zombie had this to say about the metal music genre: "It’s outsider music for outsiders. No one wants to be the weird kid; you just somehow end up being the weird kid. It’s kind of like that, but with metal, you have all the weird kids in one place." I say he hit the nail on the head! I felt like the weird kid growing up, and sure enough, in my early teens, I found the music of my people: heavy metal!
I think some folks tend to find heavy metal a bit scary, to say the least. I remember my parents being pretty freaked when I asked them if I could go see Danzig, Korn, and Marilyn Manson (this was before the latter two bands were well known) with a bunch of my buddies. With their guts in knots no doubt, they reluctantly let me go and I will forever be thankful. For one, I finally found a like-minded group of people to hang with, and secondly, I met my future husband. Since then, my hubby and I have seen many metal shows together. Ozzy, Pantera, Metallica, Tool, White Zombie, and Van Halen, just to name a few. And, we’re far from through. Yeah, we’re older and wiser, but so are the metal bands we grew up with. In fact, we will be seeing one of our all-time faves later this month at the Midland Theatre in downtown Kansas City: MEGADETH (one of the Big Four of the thrash metal genre along with Slayer, Anthrax, and mighty Metallica)!!!
The metal genre got its start in the late 60s and early 70s with bands like Black Sabbath (some say this was the first heavy metal band), Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple. By the late 70s, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) had started up as a reaction to the decline of the afore-mentioned bands. Some of these bands include: Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard. These dudes toned down the blues influence of their predecessors, added punk elements, increased tempo, and an all-over rough 'n' tough sound. NWOBHM was the influence for the American heavy metal bands that formed in the late 70s and early 80s such as Motley Crue, Van Halen (Eddie shreds!), Guns 'n Roses, Quiet Riot (kind of an ironic name, don’t you think?), and the Big Four. And from there, a whole lotta subgenres of metal came to be: thrash (my personal favorite), glam, hair, death, black, power, groove, Christian, extreme, metalcore, alternative, industrial, nu metal, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This would be a pretty long blog if I were to list all the metal bands and genres that are out there!
Shredding guitar solos, melodic vocals, scorching bass lines, and loud and fast drum beats are the essentials of any good heavy metal band, and the musicians that play in them are very good at their craft, most having picked up their instrument of choice at a young age. A lot of them cite classical music composers as inspiration, some were classically trained. This may sound odd, but go listen to some of the songs and you will surely hear it. As for the lyrics, they range from dark and depressing to sociopolitical to fantastical and mythological. There’s something for everyone, I tell ya!
So, I hope I’ve eased some of the fearful minds out there when it comes to the subject of heavy metal music, and maybe even to have spurred your inner headbanger. I urge you to race to your nearest MCPL branch at thrash metal speeds and rifle through the 781.66 section of the CD racks for any of the bands I mentioned above (and more), or check out one of the many books on the subject such as Mustaine: a heavy metal memoir by Dave Mustaine; Eddie Trunk’s essential hard rock and heavy metal by Eddie Trunk; and Sound of the beast: the complete headbanging history of heavy metal by Ian Christe. Also, be sure to check out the new FREE music website, Freegal Music. You can download 3 songs per week. And for those about to rock, I salute you!