Under The Skin: Is Heavy Metal in rude health, or just rude?

Download Festival 2013
Photo: Download festival

Following this year’s Download festival, Skin Back Alley’s Founding Editor pens some thoughts – and poses some questions – about the heavy metal community, the perception of it within other segments of society, and how it wants to be seen and understood in the future.

I read an article in The Guardian last week about heavy metal that, if you’ll forgive the music related pun, struck a chord with me on many levels.

Timed to coincide with the advent of this past weekend’s Download festival, the thrust of the article was ostensibly that whilst trends in the popularity of certain genres of music may come and go, metal’s popularity has remained remarkably consistent.

The article notes that, according to data from the UK’s Official Charts Company, metal’s share of UK album sales has varied by no more than one percentage point, from a high of 7.3% in 2006 to a low of 6.3% in 2009. So, despite many declaring that rock is dead, one particular strain seems to be doing just fine, thank you very much.

Stuart Galbraith, chief executive of Kilimanjaro Live, organisers of July’s Sonisphere festival at Knebworth, is quoted as putting this down to “…the vast loyalty of the audience, and that’s engendered by the enormous sense of community. It’s much more avid in its love of music, much more likely to spend money to see it live, and music is much more likely to be part of their lives and something they talk about in the pub. If you look at the social media stats on a festival such as Sonisphere, the numbers engaging us are far ahead of any other genre.”

That seemed to chime with my recent thoughts about the maligning of heavy metal as a genre in the wake of the recent furore surrounding Metallica’s headline appearance at this year’s Glastonbury festival. I argued here that at it’s best “…Metal is supportive of – and promotes – education, intelligence and critical thinking, in order that you might make the best of yourself as an individual, and help those in the world around you make the best of themselves, too… For all it is seen as an aggressive form of music, the metal community is actually extremely tolerant and open-minded.”

I would stand by that summary and defend metal as a genre to anyone who chooses to attack it, but a few things have made me sense-check my own thinking in the past few days.

The first was a response to my previous article from a very close friend, suggesting that their experience of metal and it’s fans was very different. Speaking as black, Jewish female living in the Caribbean, she had been subject to something much less than my experience as a white, male fan living in the UK.

Secondly, whether I like it or not, outside of it’s fan base, there is a perceived conservatism within the metal genre; a perception of a resistance to change. But yet again, as the Guardian article notes: “…metal is actually one of the most restless of genres, with a profoundly experimental outer edge.” So why is that perception of metal in the wider community there?

Finally, I’ve been amazed, appalled and pissed off in recent days by the grumpy prejudice I’ve seen amongst the metal community about popular and mainstream events such as football’s World Cup. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course they are. You can reject the wider public, sport and football in particular if you so wish. But at the same time, just as I was recently highly critical of ill thought out, over-simplified and clearly prejudiced arguments against heavy metal, football fans are just as likely to be pissed off at the metal community for the comments I’ve seen of late.

So what is my point in all this? Essentially, that as a community of fans we need to practice and promote what we preach. Individual expression, freedom, tolerance, love, acceptance, equality, a progressive attitude: these are all things that, at it’s best, I still believe heavy metal values, supports and encourages. But do we outwardly project that?

Metal has historically actively positioned itself in opposition to the mainstream, providing an alternative experience for those who do not feel they can accept, or are a part of, the dominant hegemonic models. That’s great; amazing. But we also need to be careful that we don’t become over-zealous in criticism of those who do feel a part of that mainstream. Remember, for some, sport and football, pop music, religion, fashion – all the things I've seen metalheads stereotype and be simplistically critical of in recent days – have provided exactly the same solace, comfort, acceptance and purpose for them as metal has for us; for you.

heavy_metal_liveLet's be what we want to be; let's live outside of mainstream culture in the dedicated and loyal community that we've built; but let's do that in a way that is respectful and tolerant of those who don't wish to join us.

Rock on. Horns up. \m/

You can read the entirety of the Guardian article referenced here.

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Mastodon unveil video for new track “High Road”

Mastodon

Atlantan metal titans Mastodon have released the official video for new track, “High Road.”

You can watch it below.

The video appears to be inspired by live action role-play gaming, otherwise known as LARPing.

The song is taken from the ‘Don’s forthcoming new album Once More Around The Sun, scheduled for release via Reprise on the 24th of June. The band will also be playing at set in the UK at this year’s Sonisphere festival.

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Bruce Dickinson to lead WW1 dogfight over Sonisphere festival

Bruce Dickinson Pilot

Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson is to lead a World War 1 dogfight re-enactment above this year’s Sonisphere festival, just hours before he is due to take to the stage to headline the event.

Dickinson, a qualified pilot, is part of a group called The Great War Display Team, who fly replica aircraft to commemorate the actions of those who fought and died during the 1914-18 conflict.

Iron Maiden said in a statement: “The show around 6pm features nine aircraft of five different types – all exact replicas of the planes used in combat.

“Bruce will be flying his very own Fokker DR1 triplane – the same model used by infamous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.”

Dickinson adds: “The show over Sonisphere is something I’m really excited about – we’re determined to put on an unforgettable display for everyone.”

“We’re planning an extravaganza of derring-do; the manoeuvres we’ll be performing are all based on true-life battles from a hundred years ago.”

“What some of these fighter pilots achieved back then was nothing short of miraculous given the conditions they were working under and the seriousness of what was at stake.”

Last year Maiden arranged a Spitfire flypast just before headlining the Download festival. Dickinson, a qualified commercial pilot, regularly flies the band plane when they’re on tour.

Sonisphere takes place between July 4th – 6th at Knebworth Park. The event marks the 40th anniversary of live music shows taking place in the grounds of the stately home. The Prodigy headline on the 4th, Iron Maiden on the 5th, and Metallica on the 6th with their “By Request” set.

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Bach doesn’t need Bolan as his friend

Sebastian Bach 2014Sebastian Bach has said in an interview that he and Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan could make great new music together at any time, but that he doesn’t need Bolan to be his friend.

Whenever the subject of a reunion has been raised, Bach’s former bandmates have consistently said that they have no desire to write and record again with the singer, refuting any rumours that have been circulating. Bach himself has implied that only one person is preventing the reunion of Skid Row’s classic lineup, with speculation suggesting that person is Bolan.

Bach speaks to RockRevolt saying: “Rachel Bolan doesn’t like me – but I would work with him any time, because the result of that dynamic is really good music.

“Nothing good comes easy. When I read interviews with my old band and they say, ‘We get along great with our new singer – we have barbecues and drink tequila together,’ You know what? I don’t give a fuck about barbecues.

“You don’t hear Mick Jagger saying he loves working with Keith Richards and that they have barbecues together. You hear Mick saying that he hates working with Richards.

“I don’t think you have to be best friends with everybody to work with them.”

Skid Row have been fronted by new singer Johnny Solinger for 14 years.

Meanwhile, Bach is set to release his new solo album, Give ‘Em Hell, on 21st April, and will play a series of dates in the UK to support it. Confirmed appearances are as follows:

5th July: Sonisphere Festival
7th July: Manchester Academy
8th July: Wolverhampton Civic
9th July: London O2 Academy, Islington

You can see the video for Bach’s new single, ‘Temptation’, below.

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Alice In Chains and Slayer set for Sonisphere 2014

2014-Alice-in-ChainsAlice In Chains and Slayer have been confirmed as part of the Sonisphere 2014 line up in a slew of new additions to the bill announced yesterday.

Sonisphere returns to Knebworth Park this year after being cancelled in 2012 and 2013. Iron Maiden, Metallica and The Prodigy are already confirmed as headliners across the 3 days between 4th – 6th July.

Joining them on the bill will be Alice In Chains and Slayer plus Mastodon, Airbourne, Ghost, Gojira and Karnivool. Two special guests are due to be announced shortly.

Alice In Chains’ William DuVall comments, “We’re very excited to be playing once again at Sonisphere, particularly as this year has us joining our longtime friends in Metallica. It should be a fun ride for everyone – both on and off the stage.”

Early bird tickets for the festival are available now priced at £170.