Five Distinct Uses For Your Hëavy Metal Umlaut

The problem with metal is dominated (albeit not exclusively so) by reputation. That ungainly mix of bravado, testosterone and inadequacy. Listened to by pimpled males; their long hair dank and greasy, their frequent jerking off sessions backdropped by unfocused anger and a Megadeth CD on repeat.

The route to stereotype is tedious. Tiresome in the extreme. Yet such is the pool of accessorisation that metal in all of guises wears (and occasionally flaunts). The hair. The proud, uncultured riffs. The heavy metal umlaut, the comedy devotion to Satan or Voldemort or that Captain Spalding character from House Of A 1,000 Corpses – you’d be forgiven for concluding this is music designed exclusively for Beavis & Butthead, apprentice killing spree enthusiasts, and those unfortunate wretches who measure their life by the amount of rock star cock they’ve ridden home on.

If only Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer had made a movie on the subject…

Two points before I continue:

I have long hair and own Megadeth vinyl. Admittedly, it doesn’t sit comfortably beside the Belle & Sebastian records, but you’ll relieved to learn this is a music blog – I’m not going to sleazily expose any masturbatory habits, at least today.


Writing this rubbish brings me back to that distrust of genre and categorization I mention with a cloying degree of regularity. As if glib generalisation of deep spectrum metal – speed, thrash, death, goth, doom, glam, spandex, and a thousand other (occasionally forced) variants – should attract such lazy, hackneyed analysis as that featured in my first two paragraphs.

I’m not even entirely certain what metal is, any more. Such is the generic and subjective nature of how and what we label, any boundary between catch-all nomenclatures is not so much blurred as inserted into the tour bus crack pipe and inhaled eagerly by the drum technician.

And as you’ve probably guessed, metal is also a genre (however wide that is) that I’m not entirely in league with. Many of the tropes are pinioned to degrees of unsophistication – or even anti-sophistication. Which is not a comment that music has to be intricate to be compelling; one of the tracks beneath the words should help dispel that myth. It’s more an aspect of relentlessness, of music transmitted over a single wavelength that fails to excite over any extended period.

That said, I’m certainly not ashamed to be giving sounds heavy and slanted its spell on the turntable. Beneath the words, five records that interest, excite, perform those myriad tasks upon perception that this blog is continually hammering on about…

Black Sabbath / Black Sabbath

If heavy metal genuinely is a derivative of blues – some bastard child being all bad and insular up in the attic; if Black Sabbath genuinely are the at fault for genre definition, then you can hear so on this track perhaps more than any other. Brooding, atmospheric, something where the posture is never entirely revealed, as if something (and we’re never certain exactly what – could be the demonic take upon sinister, or it could just be Ozzy, wired on booze and cheap pills again) is about to pounce.

One word that’s difficult to append to the malilluminated chambers of heavy metal is iconic. And yet the first few Black Sabbath albums certainly qualify.

Ministry / Reload

Stop / Start. Dead air. False endings… such cheap tricks. But also effective (see also ‘Supervixen’ by Garbage), subverting the momentum behind the composition, monkeying about with the default energy.

This is the first track on the Filth Pig album. Which yes, I exchanged for a handful of genuine money. Perhaps not my most prudent investment, but I do still like this track. A sharpness that almost gloats.

Misery Loves Co / Your Vision Is Never Mine To Share

Melancholic metal as something awkward. Riffs that don’t always segue. A discernible clunkiness coiled around the execution. And yet there’s a hazy allure to all this, a seam of richness, of poise.

This is the opening track from their final album; more introverted than previous material, but still with a kick. Listen loudly.

L7 / Shitlist

Call it a penchant for dumb music. A complete disregard for pretension. A record that knows exactly what it’s trying to say, and doesn’t give a fuck about nuance, or invention, or the fact that it’s dripping with uncouth sleaze.

It’s easy to dismiss L7 for the simple reason that lacking the agenda, verve and intelligence of contemporary all-female rock bands (Huggy Bear, Bikini Kill, etc), their template was aligned to that of girls playing at being boys. On the other hand, such is the energy lurking in the bandwidth that I can listen to this with a clear conscience and a smile on my chops.

Tool / Lateralus

Pushing at the boundaries of what constitutes metal with these final two tracks; if you’re looking for the depth and invention of a Scorpions tune, or Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, you might just be reading the wrong blog.

Tool records deserve something far greater than a throwaway hundred words or so, spun out in the dead-zone between Judge Judy and alcohol.

Which is perhaps another way of saying there’ll be a post in the near future diving into the complexity and the passion bedecked across the Tool mainframe. Stay tuned. 

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