Sunday, 24 October 2010

Satan's comin' round the bend.

I was planning on taking a detour from the FIVE series and doing an old fashioned album review but the Lord of Blogs Turner requested Heavy Metal so I am obliged to oblige him. As you will be familiar with from my previous desperate efforts to save face my choices come with a large caveat; Heavy Metal is extremely vague. I think Hard Rock is generally a better category but less exciting sounding. The reason for my caution is that Heavy Metal as a genre is extremely hard to define. Does there need to be a certain percentage of satanism for bands to qualify? Surely Alice Cooper is HM or is he more glam? Thin Lizzy are loud enough but does Phil Lynott's flair for small town lyricism exile them from the grandiose paganism of Osbourne et al? Can Guns N Roses be pigeon holed as metal when they seem the anti-thesis of so much of its early proponents? I don't have an answer to these questions but I simply propose that the very fact I have raised them be enough for you to forgive any controversy my selections raise.

Heavy Metal

Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden
I certainly feel my opening track to be at home in the genre and quite frankly there are few better at show-casing the uncontrollable adrenalin rush that make this style of music so appealing. As a History teacher I even admire the shamefully hyperbolic interpretation of the consequences of wide-scale population migration in the American West. I would suspect that much of the global sympathy for the Sioux Indians originates from sweaty, long haired metallers. Historical contribution aside, the simple drum beat that starts the track is guaranteed to inspire palpable excitement amongst groups of men all over the planet. When the guitar comes in and Bruce begins any plans you had for the next four minutes can be put on hold.

Child in Time by Deep Purple
An unusual choice perhaps as in terms of volume Deep Purple's finest hour is muted for the majority of the track. It is an extremely measured exercise in control - both in terms of the haunting, mesmerising vocal from Ian Gillan and equally the uncharacteristic restraint of Ritchie Blackmore's guitar accompaniment. I won't go into the gory details of the number of fantastic howling renditions of this song I've participated in after a heavy night but I'd be lying if I denied a smoke machine being involved. Whatever your views on the track - and several of you may find it utterly preposterous and hilarious - you have to admire the composition of simple elements to create such a powerful effect.

Enter Sandman by Metallica
I spent several of my formative years involuntarily listening to Metallica. I never liked them, still don't, and would find it a struggle to listen to the entirety of a Metallica without losing interest around the halfway point. What this song demonstrates is that metal, like all genres, is magnificent one off songs by artists who are otherwise uniformly dire. What Sandman also showcases is how production can still have a phenomenal influence over a style of music fundamentally entrenched in live performance. Bob Rock's production has gone down in history, believed by some to have either saved or killed metal depending on your point of view. I personally think on this track he is responsible for a masterpiece - the intensity of the percussion married to the triple layering of the rhythm guitar creates a gigantic yet taut sound. I will always associate it with the unusual setting of Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Safari park as our 'enigmatic' guide decided to stick it on full blast shortly after passing an elephant crossing a road. Now that's rock n roll. The video I've chosen is a live performance despite what I've just discussed as the reaction of hundreds of thousands of Russians is too good not to include!

Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin
It'd be wholly wrong to focus on metal without including an offering from the great Led Zeppelin. Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones are so widely revered that they are less and less often referred to as Heavy Metal. I think it is part of the accepted derogation of the genre that such a band are seemed too good to be termed as such. It's massively unfair, Led Zep are a prime example of everything that is good about Heavy Metal and wholeheartedly fulfill the mantra of Heavy Metal as 'the sensory equivalent of war.' I could have chosen any of twenty incredible songs such is there back catalogue but I've opted for Dazed and Confused as for me it most effectively exhibits the peerless base of John Paul Jones. If you haven't heard any of his recent stuff with Dave Grohl and Josh Homme I recommend you seek out 'Them Crooked Vultures.' That's not to say they come anywhere near the brilliance of this track but only a select few ever have.

Woman by Wolfmother
Heavy Metal as a description has now widely fallen out of favour in terms of industry marketing. It is rare that a new act - despite fulfilling all the seeming requirements of metal -are described as such. The genre seems to have been the victim of Thatcher-esque diengagment as speed, thrash, dark, black and even the loathesome nu have taken turns in rebranding and distancing metal from its heavy roots. Wolfmother are a classic example of this, for me their style is unquestionably Heavy Metal yet even their wiki entry describes them ludicrously as 'stoner rock' before admitting the term Heavy Metal could be applied. I see no reason to be ashamed.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent choices once again.

    I doubt Heavy Metal will ever be in vogue again (assuming it ever was).