I like Heavy Metal.
Well Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Grind, Crust, Metalcore and Hardcore to be specific.
Hi, my name is Richard Rhys Jones. I’m 44 years old, married with two kids, a house and two cats. I consider myself to be an upright person. I don’t smoke but I do drink, sometimes passionately, when in company. I should also add that my hair is halfway down my back, I play the drums in a Hardcore band and I listen to music that most people think is a live recording of an M60 machine gun being used in an abattoir.
A lot of people don’t understand why I like Metal, (my wife especially) so I thought I’d slap down a couple of words to explain it all.
There was a time when I thought Metal to be childish din played by guys in tight spandex; sad dudes who couldn’t deal with growing up and needed an outlet for their impotent rage at life.
I was more into great lyrics, or how a song carries a mood or ignites a memory and raw sounding guitars just didn’t do it for me.
The Smiths embodied for me what a band should be about during the Eighties and I followed them religiously from 1985 through to the early 90’s. I loved their anti Rockstar stance on, well everything really. Dressed in old shirts, baggy jeans and ripped sneakers, Morrissey, (the singer) would take to the stage with a large bouquet of flowers IN HIS BACK POCKET and soulfully wail away to the crowd, very often out of key. The lyrics tended to touch on common teen angsts such as the fear of social rejection, the terror before a hesitant declaration of love or the misery of unrequited adoration; and it was this slant that appealed to a whole movement of tremulous teenagers. They also dabbled in comedy and political observation but it was their tender lyrical handling of the affairs of the heart that set them apart for me.
This is one of their songs from their 1986, “The Queen is Dead” album. The lyrics are on the video as well and it typifies for me The Smiths in all their nerdy, wretched glory.
The years moved on and in January 1992 I left the army. By this time I was interested in playing the drums. A mate of mine had shown me the rudiments of a basic beat in the barracks and I was hooked, even though I didn’t have a drumset!
The idea lay dormant until I moved into our first flat and discovered to my delight that we had Music Television. The MTV of 1992 was different to how it is today and actually played music twenty four hours a day. There was no reality junk, no over-opinionated presenters and no game shows, it was just music. One of the weekly programmes was Headbanger’s Ball, presented by the very talented Vanessa Warwick. As a fop to the army of metalheads around Europe, MTV crammed all they could into three hours on a Sunday night and it was heady stuff.
Every Sunday from ten until one in the morning, I’d sit glued to the telly and watch the vids Vanessa played. I took to playing along with two drumsticks, building on what my mate Deeks had shown me as a soldier. I was always so horribly put out by how fast the drummers in the harder bands could play, but in that disappointment at how difficult it was and how easy they made it look lay inspiration.
One of the first groups to capture my imagination was a band called Carcass. The first video I caught of Carcass, “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” absolutely blew my mind. Melodic guitars over a drummer that sounded like a recording of a bionic woodpecker on speed. Even the guttural vocals seemed to fit and I loved it; it was the first time an “extreme” song really caught my imagination.
You have to understand something; I was alone at home on my sofa in Germany. I wasn’t in any “Scene” as all the lads I knew who liked Metal were in Britain at this point. There was no internet for instant research, no YouTube to get wise with. I was simply watching a video on my own that nearly all of the lads I hung around with at that time would call crap, AND I WAS LOVIN’ IT !! I remember showing this video to two mates after a session and they looked at me as if I had just danced a naked Tango in front of them.
The video, now tame with age and familiarity, looks cheap and I suppose to the uninitiated almost comical. But at that time, when the hardest thing around was Guns and Roses, this seemed like a soul ravaging monster of a song and it hooked me. Vanessa had played other Death Metal songs before but “Incarnated” was the one that tipped me over the edge… much to my long suffering wife’s disappointment…
Check out the vid, don’t laugh and listen to the life changing drumming and excellent guitar solos.
In 1992 we were married and our honeymoon was Donington Rock Festival. Not as romantic as most, I give you; but we were saving for a proper holiday and the festival seemed like a good idea for the time being. Donington was host to a whole pantheon of Rock gods and there was no denying their quality, but the band I wanted to see was Slayer.
FYI, Slayer brought out an album in 1986 that helped start the extreme music juggernaut a-rolling. It was called “Reign in Blood”. Their drummer, Dave Lombardo, was/is a personal hero of mine. I clawed my way to the front of the crowd, (no mean achievement, I can tell you) and watched them from about four rows from the stage. After WASP, (once considered to be a very heavy band indeed) had played their set, Slayer exploded on to the stage like the rage of Shiva. Unfortunately Lombardo didn’t play that gig, (I have never actually seen him play live… bummer.) but I didn’t care, I was converted and still love Slayer to this day, even though they don’t seem as evil as they once did.
This is a video of my fave Slayer song, “Raining Blood”. Listen to what the drummer, (Paul Bostaph at this point) does around the 30 second mark. Also, check out what both guitarists are doing with their left hand around the 55 second area. That’s rhythm guitar they’re playing!!
I’ve just noticed how many people have looked at this video on YouTube. 17 Million!!
“Yes Reggie, but why? You still haven’t explained why you like Heavy Metal?” I hear you cry.
Yes yes, I’m getting there.
Well, it’s the honesty of the music that appeals to me. No computers, no over dubs, no messing with the speeds. If you can’t bring it off live in Metal then the crowd will know, as 60% of the crowd are also musicians to varying degrees. There is no room for fakes in Death, Thrash and Grind; for weirdoes, alkies, druggies and psychos yes, but not for fakes.
Listen back to all the songs, (except for The Smiths) and think about what the drums and guitars are doing and you’ll see musicianship at a breathtaking level.
This is something that has been honed over hours and hours of practise. These songs aren’t written in ten minutes at the computer desk, they’re melodies, harmonies and riffs that have been crafted and welded together to rip your gizzards out.
Yes, there are a lot of people who only like it for the aggression and raw violence of some of the shows. But I look at the guys behind the drumsets and see only great artists who rate up there for me the way Yehudi Menuhin does for violinists or Dizzy Gillespie for trumpeters. Musicians who can play a perfect beat at eye watering speed, with metronomic consistency, don’t deserve to be sneered at because the band they play in sounds to some people like scaffolding being tipped over the Niagara Falls.
Then there’s the mindset of the bands and fans. At a festival once, I and another mate bumped into Karl Willets, the lead growler from the band Bolt Thrower. As inebriated as I was, I said the first thing that came to mind, “Willets you W####r!” and stuck out my hand.
You might well think that the world stopped for a moment in an uncomfortable instant of disdain, affront or anger, but no. Karl Willets, front man for the headline band of the festival, laughed, walked over to shake our hands and said in a broad Brummie accent, “You know what? That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day that is!”
Imagine the same situation with ANY front man of a headlining band for a Soul, Blues, Pop, Reggae or Rap festival. It just wouldn’t happen. And that’s not a one-off example, that mindset goes for 80% of the bands in this scene. They know they’re not brain surgeons, they’re just musicians and they know that if they can’t deliver to a crowd what they’ve promised on a CD, then they’re in trouble.
There’s also an unspoken brotherhood among metalheads, we tend to gravitate together. My clique of festival buddies, (The Wangers as we call ourselves) come from all over Germany and Britain. We try to make it to festivals together, (work, money and wives allowing) but it rarely works out that we all make it to one at the same time. However, we make the effort, year in year out because the choice of music that has set us apart from the main stream, also bonds us together.
Heavy Metal isn’t just a musical direction, it’s a state of mind. Outward appearances can be deceptive, integrity can only be found in the heart and with most Metal bands what you see is what you get. I hope dear reader that that message has come across in these wanton ramblings.
The songs I put on here are tame to a lot of what I listen to nowadays, so if anything, I’ve grown worse with age, (or more set in my ways?).
Whatever, I’ll leave you with one final video of a band I’m listening to at the moment.
Sylosis are a British band and would be PERFECT if their singer didn’t sometimes sing “cleanly”. However, brilliant drumming, great melodies and I likes it a lot, see? They’re definitely not the most extreme and I’ve left out an awful lot of bands that I’ve listened to over the years purely to keep this as short as possible, (Napalm Death, Entombed, At The Gates, The Crown and Macabre to name but a thimbleful of the groups I like) but at least you now know why I love Metal.
As individuals we all take from music what we want and though I chose a path less well trodden than most, it is my path and my choice so deal with it 😀
Thanks very much for reading this piece and thanks to Hinnuh for letting me prattle mindlessly on in her Blog.
All the best.