Metal Monday: Heavy Metal “Fans” are Garbage

In these crazy days, when so much calamity can be live-streamed directly from anywhere in the world, it’s unlikely anybody will make the time to read about the state of ‘metal’ music. Fortunately, I don’t give two shits and I’m going to write about it anyway. One of my favorite bands is recording an album and the bulk of their genre’s supporters is banding together to let them know how displeased they are– and it’s a big part of why that genre is a dying art.

The genre is ‘heavy metal'(as coined by some radio dude trying to describe the sound of it a long time ago- like heavy metal falling from the sky) and the band is Sepultura. Sepultura made a name for themselves over 25 years ago as a band that pushed the boundaries of aggressive music. Hailing from Brazil, they evolved from a founding powerhouse in the death metal genre into something unique, incorporating tribal elements, groove drumming, unique guitar riffs, and a sense for pressing social and ‘rebel’ issues in their lyrics. Their charismatic front man, Max Cavalera, seemed to embody what they were about, with his emotional but accessible delivery, his mastery of several languages, and even his heavily-accented, guttural English.

Then, in 1996, he had a falling out with the rest of the band, including his brother. He made it a very public, messy divorce, and left the band permanently. Lots of people (including myself) were pretty bummed out. What would come next?

The band continued with a new front man (who moved to Brazil to learn Portuguese and totally commit), and surprisingly, continued to evolve. They pushed boundaries with each new album, experimenting with different elements musically and lyrically. They made a stripped-down, powerful protest record. They wrote a concept album inspired by Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and another one inspired by “A Clockwork Orange,” which fully explored the issues of choice and its inseparability from true morality. Not all of it worked, but one thing was for sure: Sepultura never grew canned or stale in their sound.

Naturally, their resurgence was celebrated, right? Wrong! Many of their former fans refused to accept that the band could exist without its former front man. Many of them refused to even listen to the new material: “No Max= no Sepultura” was a common thread. And it still is. Their guitarist gets asked all the time about the possibility of a reunion. Dude, it’s been TWENTY YEARS since they split up. TWENTY. YEARS. Get over it! Get a life! Listen to something new! Are you the same person you were twenty years ago? It’s pathetic.

Max Cavalera has long-since become a washed-up has-been. He founded a new band called “Soulfly,” in which guest appearances from other artists and riffs from other guitarists have been the center of attention. His band members are in constant flux because he is apparently extremely difficult to work with. Even his supporters admit that his live performances are not anything close to what they were. Yet if Sepultura’s guitarist and main songwriter, Andreas Kisser, ever wants a big paycheck again, he’s probably going to have to screw his awesome and dedicated front man, Derrick Green, and reunite to play a bunch of songs that haven’t had real chemistry to them for 25 years. It’s sad, man.

‘Metal’ fans are garbage. Every genre has their reactionaries, of course, but as metal becomes less and less relevant, its reactionaries cling to nostalgia harder than ever. You see it on “news” sites, where absolutely nobody ‘up-and-coming’ is getting any press, and you see it when you go to shows, where puffy, aging 40 year olds in denim jackets and long hair (interrupted with bald spots) stand around chanting for thirty year old songs we’ve all heard thirty million times. Fear Factory just did a tour in which they played their seminal “Demanufacture” album from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, I love that album, and it really grabbed a hold of me…in 1994. The concept of a whole album set is really cool, but when asked why the band did it, their front man Burton C. Bell explained (in quite passive-aggressive fashion) that “fans aren’t really interested in anything new.” Bitch move, but amen, dude.

Metal music began and was supposed to continue as music on the edge and the outlet for extreme thoughts and exhilaration. In times like now, when so much is changing so rapidly, it should be an expanding art form. Kids should be attracted to its rock roots and its simple, garage elements. Instead, screamo and other image-obsessed garbage stole that audience. There’s a metal influence to what my students hear, but at its roots, a lot of it is lifeless and conformist. Cold production, screaming vocals alternated with pop choruses, polished, studio-heavy sound, and loads of triggered percussion– it’s loud, but it doesn’t have identity or soul.

Metal needs a true resurgence, both as a return to garage rock and as an art with which musicians can experiment, and we can’t keep mistaking history for relevance. I read Slayer moved over 50,000 copies of their latest (and definitely NOT greatest) in the first week– massive numbers for a metal album, and the best of their career! The interest is there. Why are we waiting around? Metallica is recording a new album? Who gives a shit?! Metallica has released one album in the last thirteen years! Is there anything less relevant to extreme music than James Hetfield’s leathery, alcoholic old face? Than Lars Ulrich tracking shitty, fragmented drum takes in between rounds on his private golf course? It drives me nuts that Torture Division, a really great death metal band that kept pushing the envelope, had to throw in the towel for lack of funds, while people are basically standing around waiting to give Metallica their money.

Metal fans should have been supporting the evolution of the art over a decade ago, so the new kids had something awesome to grab onto and carry. When the art evolved beyond Black Sabbath, that’s exactly what happened. Instead, starting in the late 90s, they put their fingers in their ears, cried over their Max Cavalera posters, and let rap rock, nu metal, and screamo happen. Now, the kids are buying Skillet albums. Ugh.


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