Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Metal Evolution a review

Last night i watched a couple episode so Sam Dunn's series Metal Evolution.  Obviously this is a subject close to my heart and a metal fan.  I have blogged several times in the past about early metal bands and was really surprised how few were mentioned.  In this post I want to review some of my thoughts on the show so far.  I will also try to call out a few element that seem to rear there head a lot in early metal bands.

First off this is a great series, that I think any fan of metal should watch.  Young metal heads should be forced to watch this series.  Metal as a community has always had respect for where it came from.  Knowing Sabbath and Priest is mandatory for any true fan.  Everyone should know how important Maiden is to Metal and not just think Eddie is cool!

The presentation is good though it uses interviews with musicians a bit too much.  You almost need a music historian to be talking or a professor of music.  Just to all out some of the specifics of the music.  We hear Bill Ward mentioned as a jazz drummer but we don't really get it.  Drumming at the time was more keeping a beat, metal broke away with using drumming to theatrically underpin the performance.  Ward was using drums to ad tension to Ozzy's dramatic performance, which was less singing and more melodrama.  They talk about the sounds moving away from blues, but they don't often say well they have moved from this sort of chord structure to this other.

While the show has a clear focus of showing the evolution of metal, i wished they would have shed light on a few of the one off bands.  Sir Lord Baltimore specifically is a band that really was doing some early metal in America.  They deserve more mention than someone like Aerosmith.  Aerosmith sucks! Fraction is another band that comes to mind the deserves attention.

My last criticism is the lack of mention of progressive rock.  I see they have that saved for the last episode, but I think perhaps it should have been with these early episodes.  Progressive Rock and Metal are sort of like kissing cousins. They both were birthed in roughly the same time period and often were tackled by the same bands.  King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man is often mentioned as a metal song.  The rest of the record is clearly prog.  Deep Purple often flirts with progressive rock.  Would their even be Dream Theater without Perfect Strangers.  Kraut Rock often concurrently developed metal only to forget and move onto industrial in the same song.  I really just wish they would have moved this discussion up a bit.

Moving onto a few things I kept noticing in the show that were not clearly called out.  Sam Said this is in A Headbangers Journey but industrial areas very often spawn these metal bands.  I am not sure if its a rough and tumble sort of populace or the bleakness or even the machinery itself.  But time and time again metal comes from a town associated with heavy industry.  Birmingham in England, Detroit in America, Jonquière Quebec, Even the thrash bands hail from Oakland, Martinez and Richmond here in California.  Most people say San Fransisco but really it was the industrial east bay that birthed the thrash scene.

Watching the show and focusing on the performances another element that kept cropping up was the equipment.  The Rickenbaker 4001 was almost always the bass of choice, as it was for Progressive Rock.  The guitars were split but very often these early metal guitar men were playing Gibson's with marshal amplification.  I think there may be a relationship with the increased sustain these instruments brought and the sonorous sound early metal used.

The final element I noticed as a commonality between these early metal bands was a sense of dissatisfaction with the counter culture.  Metal shares this a bit with the Hell's Angels and since that while they are not main street American they are not Haight Asbury either.  Metal always has seemed to react with a sense of suspicion to youth and traditional culture alike.  In this since Metal sets itself up as a Counter Counterculture.  Truth is a cardinal virtue of metal, as such it often finds fault in they contrivances of youth.  The hippies look like self serving frauds, preppies and jocks look to be towing the line.  Musically metal is very structured which can be seen as a reaction to the free form psych of the 60's.  Thrash was a reaction to the Glam rock of the 80's. I desires to be direct ,powerful and to the point.  While there is a side of metal that frolics through a sylvan glade we hide in deep in our records.

A last though before I sign off, Dio and Lemmy are perhaps the two embodiments of Metal.  Lemmy for direct in your face excess and Dio for the inviting and open nature of metal.  The latter of these is a crucial element of Metal that I am not sure has been said on the series.  In metal you are welcome to join us, everyone is.  You just need an honest love for the music and you are welcome, and this is extended perhaps most to those of us who feel out of place elsewhere. Dio was the greatest ambassador for this aspect of metal.  RIP RJD

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