Note: Holidays

I guess many of you go on holiday right now. Since I will do the same on Friday and travel around here and there for about two weeks, my blog will take a break as well. Hopefully, I’ll collect some Metal news on the journey.

Enjoy the summer! If you need the right background music, take a look at the Happy Metal post…

Bang your head and take care.

Summer at Wacken Festival (source: myspace)

Summer at Wacken Festival (source: myspace)

13 Facts you might not yet know about Metal

Alice Cooper: The man behind the make-up (2007)

Alice Cooper: The man behind the make-up (2007)

Alice Cooper’s civil name is Vincent Damon Furnier. Furnier’s band was called Alice Cooper before he adopted the name himself.

 

Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” is said to have been written quicker than it is played.

 

James Hetfield considered Lars Ulrich a crappy drummer before they started jamming together.

 

In 1967, Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister worked as a roadie for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

 

Ozzy Osbourne’s record “Diary of a Madman” is named after a short story published in 1835 by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol.

 

James Hetfield’s first bands were called Leather Charm and Phantom Lord.

 

Dave McClain, drummer of Machine Head, was born in Wiesbaden/ Germany.

 

The devil horn Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Rainbow) is said to have brought onto the Metal stages is a traditional, superstitious hand movement Italians use to protect themselves against the evil eye.

 

Lars Ulrich’s family originates from Denmark.

 

87% of Norway’s population belongs to the Lutherian State Church, but Norway’s biggest cultural export is satanic Black Metal.

 

Among the suggestions for the band eventually called Metallica was Thunderfuck.

 

Machine Head recorded their first demo tape in a bedroom.

 

Black Sabbath were originally called Polka Tulk, which was the name of a Birmingham carpet vendor.

 

 

The Medieval Pagan Viking’s Folk Metal

Medieval Horsemen: Ensiferum

Medieval Horsemen: Ensiferum

The late nineties and early 21st century saw a number of Metal bands emerge who were clad in armour, sang of beer, trolls and the gallows and stamped on the floor in time with their bagpipes’ rhythms. Their exceptional musical combinations were (and often are still) greeted with scepticism and treated as Metal only more or less. The Metal world’s uneasiness appears to be one reason for that hardly any reference work or Heavy Metal encyclopedia enlightens the curious Metalhead with regard to fiddle-driven Humppa music. By the way, Humppa is a jazz-related, rather fast foxtrot and originates in Finland. Treatises on “Folkish“ Metal are frequently littered with the term. Up to the present day, the respective bands are hard to categorise. Since the 1990s, several subgenres have been coined. I want to bring some light into the tangled matter, attempting to distinguish Folk Metal, Viking Metal and Pagan Metal.

Not too fond of trousers: Finntroll at Monsters of Rock, 2007

Not too fond of trousers: Finntroll at Monsters of Rock, 2007

Among the first to arise was Folk Metal. The fusion of traditional Folk music and Heavy Metal includes the use of equally traditional instruments and, at times, vocal styles. Skyclad, an English band, are often mentioned as the pioneers of Folk Metal, having released their famous “The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth” in 1990. Only in the mid-nineties did the ranks of Folk Metal swell. Subway to Sally was founded in 1992 and has created 12 albums since. The German band became the pioneers of what is nowaday termed Medieval Metal and employs a violin, acoustic guitars, bagpipes and poetic lyrics which are always sung clearly. Clean vocals and, in many cases, a positive atmosphere characterise this style of Metal. Folk Metal is not exclusively branded by a special type of lyrics, although Medieval Metal bands frequently broach issues of (surprise, surprise!) the Middle Ages. In the early 2000s, the genre exploded –particularly in Scandinavia: Finntroll, Ensiferum, Korpiklaani and Turisas are only four of the many great Folk Metal bands born in the northern part of Europe.

Whyever there is a car involved instead of the obligatory troll king, I don’t know… Enjoy Finntroll’s “Häxbrygd” (from “Blodsvept”, 2013):

Very Folkish: “Herbstzeit” from Subway to Sally’s 1996 record “Foppt den Dämon” (sorry for the simple lyrics video, nothing else available):

Viking Metal, as the name indicates, focuses on Norse mythology, paganism and Vikings. Similar to Folk Metal, the Viking style weaves traditional instruments into its Metal. Pioneering musicians were the Swedes of Bathory. Musically, Viking Metal dashes past, supported by dynamic keyboarding and a certain tendency for the dramatic.

Nowadays, experts (if these exist within my field of studies) and laymen alike agree on the integrating term Pagan Metal. “Pagan” means heathen, but also rural. It designates a powerful Metallic style founded on cultural heritage, and embraces Medieval, Folk and Viking Metal – perhaps even more substyles. Folk Metal bands compose songs about their culture and history B.C., while their Viking or Celtic Metal counterparts do exactly the same, albeit focusing legends, myths, gods and heroes of their personal cultural past. Flutes, trumpets, fiddles and bagpipes feature most of these styles, but Pagan Metal is influenced by Black Metal as well. Clean vocals as employed by Eluveitie, the famous Primordial or Falkenbach, are sometimes complemented by Black Metal caws. While Pagan Metal is way more epic than Black Metal in its constuction and performance, Viking Metal’s speciality is a dirty sound and a Viking storyline. Folk Metal differs by the exclusion of any vocals but clean singing.

Fast and fantastic Metal from Switzerland? Enjoy Eluveitie’s record with (perhaps?) the longest song title in the Metal world, “Everything remains as it never was” (from the 2012 album of the same title):

All of these styles, however, are more or less united by a particular idea of nationality and culture. There is a distinct practice of honouring one’s cultural background that borders on worship with some musicians. Their creation of euphemisms for war and violence, celebration of victory and of sword-brandishing heroes appears to find the approval of right-winged minds much too often. This is why Pagan Metal is frequently associated with rightist ideology. However, we might do well to keep in mind that creativity is no crime: not necessarily every Pagan Metal band secretly craves for racial discrimination. Pagan styles are further united by a trait much more positive: they carry unceasing energy and can make the crowd dance. If in a bad mood or tired, give it a try…

Happy Metal: Light Songs for Cloudy Days

Heavy Metal is generally associated with gloom, lyrical violence, a nihilistic perspective on politics, society and respective norms, and frequently with a certain seriousness. While this is true for many heavy songs, the Metallic waves have washed ashore some quite positive musicians as well. Any Metal decade has produced bands with a distinctive potential for cheerful rebellion, party songs, records with a tendency for fans to chant along – those songs, in short, which upon hearing the first notes make you nod appreciatively, shake your backside, waggle your head and grin. There are days when we need some cheering up and it is a good thing if you have some musical choice at hand.

If I feel gloomy or anxious, I love to put a record of Scandinavian Pagan/ Folk/ Viking-Metalists Finntroll into the player. This classification sounds somewhat weird, but actually the borders between the three styles are so blurred that I couldn’t go for one category without stepping on someone’s toe. Finntroll came into existence in 1997. Their vocalist Jan “Katla” Jämsen was forced to retire for treating a tumor in his vocal chords after the release of their second album “Jaktens Tid” (2001), and many turns of the line-up carrousel resulted in Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns to join Finntroll in 2006. Generally, Finntroll like to growl tales and legends of (fictional) ancient kings and trolls, and they do so in Swedish, because Katla was part of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. I only know the band’s latest albums “Nifelvind” (2010) and “Blodsvept” (2013), but these are rich in hymns. Watch “Den Frusna Munnen” (from “Nifelvind”) live:

Lighter material also fills the ranks of Nu Metal. If he is not shouting complaint or f-words (sorry for the abbreviation, but I don’t know how frank I can write in public) at his listeners, Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit performs loads of songs inspiring good mood, at least in me. Their renowned “Chocolate Starfish and Hot Dog Flavored Water” (2000) is furious, amusing, dynamic and can actually make you dance. It’s still Metal, whatever industrious critics might argue. Just keep rollin’… (from the above-mentioned album):

Equally energetic are Skindred, whom I already have mentioned once in a while, but not honoured in the fashion I deem suitable. The Ragga-Metal-Punk-Hip-Hop combo (vocalist Benji Webbe’s personal description) stormed the stages in 1998, fascinating and confusing the average Metalhead with their bizarre mixture of elements from many musical realms: Metal, Punk, Dancehall, Hardcore and Ska are only a small choice. The dynamic group around the black front man of Welsh origin is known for their critical reflections on youth and gang violence, power abuse by the police, racism and drugs – but at the same time for their party songs brimming with energy, an intense communication with fans when onstage and their firm belief in love and unity as expressed in countless lyrics. Fans can be ever curious as to which new musical elements will contribute to Skindred’s next record. Tap your feet along to “Rat Race” (from “Roots Rock Riot”, 2008):

Going further back into Heavy Metal history, some of the happiest Metalheads were definitely Twisted Sister and AC/DC, both through their peppy sound and rebellious lyrics. These bands governed the 1980s and nested in the young and innocents’ heads. Twisted Sister taught their fans: “You can’t stop Rock ‘n’ Roll!” (from their album of the same title, 1983)

Do you grin just now?

Light Update on Heavy Details

Over the past few weeks I have been busy updating details of this blog in order to provide consistent information. Every song recommended is now accompanied by the corresponding album title, and any album is completed by its respective date of release. Moreover, I have embedded all the youtube videos, thus you don’t need to leave the blog if you want to listen to exemplary hits and insider tips.

02 Feuer

If there’s something you miss in this blog, a band you’d like me to research, musicians that need to be made known to the public, music I should introduce, or questions on your part, feel free to contact me or comment.

Thanks to those visiting Heavy Metal Infection once in a while: you support something that makes me very happy.

Hardcore Youngsters and Heavy Metal Veterans

Metalheads - The New Generation (Source: flickr)

Metalheads – The New Generation (Source: flickr)

When I count the Metal bands filling my shelf with their records, I find just a handful of albums made by what musical extremists call “true” Metal musicians, or at least traditional Heavy Metal bands. Black Sabbath are among them, Twisted Sister, Metallica, and some more. Among my collection, the number of those bands who have been attacking ears and stages from the late eighties onwards is infinitely higher. Though I am completely satisfied with this constellation, it is inclined to encounter incomprehension and critique in many other Heavy Metal fans. These fans have sometimes been entitled Heavy Metal veterans by eloquent authors, and some of them tend to abuse online forums to denunciate younger Metalheads for preferring Slipknot and Caliban over Slayer and Mötley Crüe. On browsing music platforms of any kind, you might encounter contributors arguing heatedly and in a very disrespectful way about what actually IS Heavy Metal and why ONE type of Metal is better than the OTHER. I could enumerate thousands of Metallic band names, and each of these would fall into one of these fan-made categories: Heavy Metal or “un-Metal”. Veterans judge about youngsters (and I count myself among these), their disrespect or ignorance of classical Heavy Metal bands and simultaneous fascination for the New Wave of American Heavy Metal in all its facettes. I have been wondering how this disparity between lovers of the same kind of music comes to be, and why the credo of “Live and let live” does not survive in the otherwise extraordinarily tolerant Metal environment.

We do not simply decide which music we prefer. There are countless stamps impressed upon us and our musical interest in every realm and period of our lives: the political situation of our adolescent years, social regulations, fashionable items and subcultures, accessibility of hard music as well as the tolerance of family and friends determine what we listen to, and how. The devotion of Heavy Metal veterans to those primal bands who have born and raised Metal, defined and nurtured subgenres and defended their music against the rest of the world, is doubtless and comprehensible. Legends such as Black Sabbath have not only introduced a wholly new kind of music to the eager listener, but also never beat about the bush when it came to their critical view of the current political and social situation.

Classical Heavy Metal has accompanied, criticised and reviewed World War Two, the Cold War, Vietnam, gang violence, racial discrimination, censorship, radicalism of all kinds, conservatism, socialism, capitalism, sexism and intolerance. Countless historical and contemporary events have found their way into Heavy Metal, and the veterans of this music were in need of a voice as well as an outlet for all their pent-up frustration and insecurity. Today’s adolescent Metalhead generation, however, has been born and raised in completely different a sociopolitical situation. In most parts of Europe, revolution is not necessary for the time being, because any gender and race can live in relative peace, wealth and wellbeing. Thus the new Heavy Metal’s spirit is not revolutionary either. Parents do not shout at their children for listening to Rock music and Heavy Metal anymore, because this type of music is just not frowned upon as much in 2014 as was the case in 1980. Heavy Metal is much less depicted as the ultimate source of destruction and doom. We may still be the young and wild, but we do not have to fight for it. Perhaps it is just this which makes our bond to classical Heavy Metal so much weaker. Despite all the comfort of our current secure world, however, I detect a potential for verbal and mental aggression both in Metalheads and musicians. There is as much energy in Metal as there ever was.

Forever outstanding: Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral” (from “Paranoid”, 1970) voices concern about the prospect of atomic wars:

 

Fashion comes as fashion goes. Heavy Metal veterans should actually be old enough to have arrived at this wise conclusion. Heavy Metal long since would have been dead if no one had attempted to develop it. It is the Neo-Thrash bands who have re-erected Heavy Metal when it tumbled, and the musicians heralding the New Wave of American Heavy Metal have upheld the flag of heavy music at a time when the veterans of Heavy Metal were still wondering how on earth their Imperium could have collapsed. Nowadays we enjoy the great advantage to access the whole plurality of substyles: Metal giants declared dead have risen again, newcomers of every kind satisfy any possible taste. We are presented with a vast choice, and above all, we are free to choose, politically unrestricted and socially (albeit barely, at times) tolerated. Wouldn’t it be foolish to the point of senselessness if just now that we enjoy so much freedom we are unfit to live and listen peacefully side by side, regardless of individual taste?

Ragga-Metal-Punk-Hip-Hop, but still critical: Skindred’s “Killing me” (from “Roots Rock Riot”, 2008):

 

I can but advise you once again to keep your ears open and stay curious, because you never know what you might find.