Anti-tourism (Or how I learned to get off the sofa and learn to love the mosh pit)

As I was sitting at the breakfast table, enjoying my morning cuppa, I found myself perusing Creative Loafing. For those who may not be familiar with this publication, it focuses on local politics, local music, local food and other noteworthy local events. Many large cities across the US are home to their own Creative Loafing office. I’ve been reading it for over twenty years for two reasons: 1) it has a great rundown of the upcoming concert choices for the week and 2) it’s free. As I have aged, I typically only read the food and music reviews, but this morning an article on political activism caught my eye. It encouraged readers to get involved in their local politics. Sure, national politics determine your taxes military, but it’s your local political crap that will determine how your day to day life is lived. Such is the same of metal bands.

As I come off the weekend show of Slipknot/Lamb of God, I now turn my eyes back to smaller clubs for my metal fix (there are more major metal tours coming to Atlanta, but I’m not interested right now). Instead of going to the Ticketmaster website to pay horribly inflated prices to attend shows, I turn to Creative Loafing to see what’s cooking on the club level.

There are quite a few benefits to this plan. Tickets are much cheaper, the venues are often limited to less than 1000 attendees, the locations are more convenient, parking is usually free (or only $5) and last, but not least, the opening acts are mostly local bands. It’s that last part that has become more important to me. I’m finding myself more and more eager to see what bands are carrying the torch for metal in Atlanta, a city not typically known for it’s metal community.

Oh sure, we have our constants. The Masquerade has been hosting metal bands for as long as I can remember. Clubs like The Earl and The Drunken Unicorn are nicely picking up the slack. Goatwhore has chosen to visit The Earl this time around, scoring a small coup over The Masquerade. But, in general, Atlanta is known for it’s hip-hop culture, it’s love of country music and it’s transient population, not for it’s metal.

I could go off on a Mastodon tangent, but I’ll spare you that. Instead, I’ll focus on the need areas with a small metal community have for it’s members to show support to upcoming acts. It’s hard. I get it. It’s easier to sit on the sofa and watch the thirtieth re-run of THE BIG BANG THEORY or THE SIMPSONS or SOUTH PARK while wearing your metal shirts you bought online and listening to bands on Spotify. I’ve been there. The misses the point of a metal show.

Bands (both established and up and coming) use shows to market their new and old products (using business terms). The more established the band, the more product there is to present. Younger bands use these shows to hone their skills at interacting with the audience and to improve their songs/product. No one plays their first show sounding like a 20 year veteran. It’s to be expected that some of these bands suck. Some have zero redeeming quality to their music, no matter how nice the members are. Others have great musical potential but are total jerks and have zero social skills. This is where the metal community comes in. It is our job to teach them how to entertain us. That’s right: it’s our job, our duty. We teach them with our reactions to their music and interactions with the crowd. We reward them with praise when they do a good job. We boo and heckle them when they fail. We reward laconic presence with apathy.

I watched this with great interest Sunday night. Motionless in White opened the show. They really tried to invigorate an already hot and tired crowd, an uphill battle on a steamy Georgia summer night. MIW failed on every level. Oh, they had a smattering of fans scattered through the crowd, but no one was really buying their particular brand of music.

Bullet for My Valentine was next and only slightly more successful. This crowd was their for something heavier and to subject bands like MIW and BFMV to a crowd that was mostly there for Lamb of God wasn’t fair. (I would have loved to have seen King 810 and Black Tusk open for LoG instead; are you listening, Mr. Tour Planner?)

It wasn’t entirely the heat. LoG and Slipknot had zero difficulty in amping up the crowd. It was the lack of music and interactions that were accepted by the crowd, a crowd that swelled to over 10,000 by the end of the night. Such is the same on a smaller scale at your local metal club. By getting off your sofa and attending the shows you do your metal duty and teach bands how to entertain you.

For a lot of folks, this is a foreign concept. We have become such a consumer society, readily taking whatever is offered. We forget it is through our support and encouragement that bands live and die. Sure, do support the bands you like by purchasing t-shirts from their websites. Do buy their CDs. Do add them to your Spotify or Apple Music playlists, but more importantly, GO SEE THEM LIVE. And, take an interest in your local metal scene. Support those up and coming bands. They are the future of metal.

As I plan my day, I will head down to the Masquerade to pick up tickets for Trivium and Tremonti. I look forward to the show. Trivium puts on a class act, but I’m just as excited to have the chance to meet newer, younger bands. And it beats watching reruns anytime.

Revolving doors

I read that Arin Iljay is no longer with Avenged Sevenfold. Not earth shattering news, but it makes me think of line up changes I have watched bands endure over the years, as I sip my morning coffee and watch my dogs play. Some bands are rock solid; they have had the same line up (with perhaps one or tow changes) for 40 years or more. Some change lineups frequently, making the list of people of former members resemble a small town telephone directory.

Rush has had the same three guys since 1975. Before that, John Rutsey was on drums and depending on what the criteria is for being a member of the band, there were a couple of other guys back at the initial forming. However, they have stayed a power trio, the same power trio, through the years. As a guy who changes jobs every few years on principle, I find this interesting. It also explains the separation between the members in their personal lives. After spending 40 to 50 weeks together on tour, it’s probably nice to not endure little idiosyncrasies that wear down pleasant life life water eroding rock. When I watch documentaries about Rush, it’s amazing that these three guys have remained intact this long.

Motorhead is the other side of the coin. Today, Motorhead is synonymous with Lemmy, but there was a time when Motorhead was not just Lemmy’s love chaild, but was a band who’s members were all seen as equal contributors. Fast Eddie Clarke and Philthy were as iconic in their own ways as Lemmy’s boils and warts. The years took their toll, however, and the line up changes became constant. Robbo, Wurzel, Mikky, The Beast and others were marched through. Philthy even got a second shot. In the end, Motorhead is more like a stew, where the addition of multiple ingredients makes it better, instead of simple dish, where the limitations on ingredients forces the consumer to educate their palate.

Yes (the band…and I am well aware they are not metal) has seen massive success in spite of (or even because of) massive changes in the line up. Recently departed Chris Squire (bassists: if you have not investigated Chris’ playing, do so now) has been quoted as actually wanting Yes to be a merry-go-round of music, with players dropping in and out, always keeping it fresh. This would explain the existence of two Yes eras: the late 60’s and 70’s prog Yes and the 80’s prog-pop Yes. Different guitars, drums, keys, even vocal changes as Jon Anderson left the band). While I am more of a creature of habit, I have to admit (30+years later) that the changes were helpful and allowed new and exciting music to continue to be created.

Some changes have been nearly disastrous for bands. Both Judas Priest and Iron Maiden saw this when they changed frontmen. Blaze Bayley and Ripper Owens are fine singers, but will never be the equals of Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford. Both bands tried to move forward, but neither saw a return to success until they brought their key ingredients back into the fold.

Other bands have thrived with the changes. Metallica saw major changes with the loss of Cliff Burton and the addition of Jason Newsted. Without trying to open a can of worms, it can be argued that Newsted era music was the most successful (in number of albums sold and ticket sales) but also some of the most infuriating (LOAD and RELOAD remain on my list of albums I refuse to purchase). Would we have seen “the black album” with Cliff in the band? Who knows? I say it’s probably doubtful, based on anecdotal information from people who actually knew him, but as I am not him,never talked to him and will never talk to him, it’s all theory. For all we know, “the black album” may have been Cliff’s baby, snippets and riffs and ideas that stemmed from the last meal they all shared. Or, it may have been Newsted’s influence that allowed the Bay Area Thrash Masters to finally step away from what made them famous and stretch their horizons. One final bit on Metallica: love them or hate them, the changes they endured had major effects on modern metal. Period.

For some bands, change has been constant. KISS exemplifies this. Old guys (like me) still see KISS as Ace, Peter, Paul and Gene. However, the reality is that KISS when KISS became a business (instead of a band), they hire and fire at will. Gene and Paul openly talk about KISS being their cash cow and they refuse to allow anyone to remain if they hurt the profit margin. Sadly, they seem to be firing the people with the musical talent and songwriting abilities. I’ve tried to give KISS a shot for nostalgia’s sake over the years and they insist on producing some of the worst crap to ever filter from my speakers. Oh well, I still have CREATURES OF THE NIGHT to keep me happy.

No discussion of band changes would be complete without AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Both bands suffered world shattering losses in 1980. AC/DC lost the amazing Bon Scott. Zep had to say goodbye to the thunderous John Bonham. Two losses that were dealt with quite differently.

When Bon died, AC/DC reportedly considered burying the band with their singer and starting over. Instead, they famously hired Brian Johnson and we have excitedly listened to the same album being repackaged for the next 34 years. (I love AC/DC, but after Bon died, the majority of their stuff sounds the same). They went on to international fame and massive fortune and show no signs of stopping, no matter that the idea well ran dry around 1982.

Led Zeppelin took the other route. With the loss of Bonzo, they buried the band. Robert Plant went on to release a string of successful albums, each compared to his work with Zep. Even as an elder statesman of music, he will never step out from under the Led shadow.

Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones weren’t quite as lucky. Pagey released the odd album here and there, participated in some books, traveled and gave the rare interview. He showed up at the Olympics a few years ago and shocked the world. But the majority of his time seems to be spent finding ways to repackage worn out Zep albums for a new generation.

Jones hasn’t been quite as lucky. A very successful producer, he has been ignored by Plant and Page for most reunion one offs. Shame, as he is musically brilliant.

I suppose I could prattle on about how member changes have sunk or saved bands. I won’t (I have to work today). The reality is the Arin wasn’t the right fit for A7x. When the Rev passed, they lost a huge part of their driving force. Jimmy’s creative input didn’t become so glaringly obvious until he was no more. HAIL TO THE KING isn’t a terrible album, but it lacks excitement. Arin’s playing on the record is simplistic compared the gonzo fills and time changes Sullivan would provide. Live, Arin ably filled his role, but he was the new guy. For a band formed from high school buddies, that creates a huge burden. When the other four guys have toured together for ten years, he couldn’t have hoped to have seamlessly stepped into the family. And now, we see him step out.

I think A7x will endure. They’ll go through a few more changes (and maybe get Mike Portnoy to fill in for a bit, again) and will try a little more before calling it quits. At least I hope. Another love them or hate them statement, they have been a great gateway band for more than a few metalheads today. And that’s ok. Because it’s not about who’s sitting behind the drums; it’s about the throng of metalheads who are cheering that person on. The more the merrier.

Reading labels

I remain baffled by the relatively new concept of subgenres in metal music. I imagine other forms of music face the same dilemma, but I don’t read webpages about pop or country or alternative music, so I don’t really know. I read metal pages, however, and there is a plethora of sub-genre labels.

When I was a young metalhead (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), we had Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. There was no argument between the two groups. It was not an insult to call a metal band hard rock or vice versa. We were one big happy family, at least in the circles I traveled through. Fans of Maiden, Priest, Motorhead, Ozzy, Dio and Sabbath hung out with fans of Crue, Ratt, Bon Jovi, Poison, Winger, and Helix and no one argued over what constituted metal. We traded tapes, shared metal magazines and hung out listen to the latest finds. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Rush, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Nazareth, AC/DC and Kiss were accepted in both the hard rock and heavy metal camps. We thought nothing of making a mix tape (currently called a playlist) that contained both Y&T and Rainbow.

Things changed when I got to military school in 1985. In the midst of this Spartan environment that was located in the center of rural Virginia, I discovered the other side of metal. Metallica, Venom, Slayer, Mercyful Fate, and Megadeth led the way. I learned about Thrash metal (my first subgenre). Over the next four years, I was exposed to neo-classical (Yngwie was riding high), prog metal (Queensryche and Fates Warning) and Shred metal (pretty much the metal blade catalog). Even with these burgeoning new forms of music, there was no argument. We called it metal and either liked it or didn’t. (Threadjacking: I personally think insulting someone regarding their taste in music is beyond moronic. You like what you like. Some like blue, some like green, some like neon fuschia with sparkles and glitter)

During my years steeped in the blues, there were certainly separate genres (Delta, Chicago, Texas, Piedmont, Boogie, Country Blues, Atlanta, etc), but as a whole, the blues community supported all genres. Quite frankly, there weren’t enough of us to fight over labels and even when the blues boom was happening, we were too busy playing clubs, having fun and trying to get our names out there. As a result, I missed some of those important years when metal suffered schism after schism.

Some of this I blame on the internet. Before the internet, we were just metalheads and all of us had similar album collections. Maiden, Priest and Zeppelin were the base and we moved from there. Some guys were able to hang out in the metal clubs and had the funds to order albums from the back pages of Hit Parader and Circus magazines. Some, like me, were content with what we heard on MTV and saw in the local record stores. The internet changed that. It opened the world to the not so savvy user computer users and the proliferation of music began. DSL and other high speed internet increased this proliferation. Napster made it free (for a while) and YouTube made it easy to find. Suddenly that guy who had been the metal guru, reading the magazines and buying the unheard of albums had company. Everyone became an overnight expert.

One thing I have noticed about human beings is that as much as we are drawn to like minded persons, we also crave individuality. Enter the refined subgenre. When you have a group of folks with long hair, piercings, tattoos, black t-shirts, jeans and boots, how else will we make ourselves seem different. The pre-existing subgenres were promoted to their own major music group and new sub-genres were created. As these sub-genres gained popularity and more groups and people were included in them, they were again subdivided. It’s gotten quite silly now. I have seen arguments where people promote Mexican Djent Deathcore (you can’t make this crap up).  It baffles me that the need for individuality is so high, yet no one realizes that turning off the computer, going to hang with actual metalheads in your area and comparing likes and dislikes would promote much more individuality than becoming an internet troll who bashes anyone that doesn’t like Laputian Harmonic Black Metal.

I bought into the sub-genre bit for about a week. I tried to figure out what bands were in each one. When I was told bands like Dio (yes, he’s a man and it’s a band) and Judas Priest were reclassified into something called Power Metal, I gave up. I gave that nerdy metal finger to the folks promoting this craze and I insist on calling it metal.

Do subgenres help? Yes. If someone tells me something is Death metal, metalcore, black metal, thrash metal or prog metal, it gives me an idea of what to expect. I’m still going to give the band two to three songs to convince me to listen, but at least I know what i am getting into. It ends there for me. There is no need to argue if Slipknot is metal or not. I don’t care Suicide Silence is metalcore or Peruvian Marching Metal. It’s either pleasing to my ear or it is not. If i like it, I keep it in my collection. If I don’t, I delete it from my memory banks. Period.

As I look forward to several new albums coming down the pipe and a few concerts, I don’t ask about what genre they call it. Call it metal, call it good and have fun. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.

Sundays (they’re not just for polyester)

Humans, in general, are creatures of habit. Ever since we gave up the hunter/gatherer form of society, we have become increasingly indoctrinated that it is an unchanging schedule that brings peace of mind. We find a home we like (or can afford) and decorate it to our tastes (or in my case, to my wife’s taste). We find a job and live by the schedule said employment requires. We develop our favorite foods, stores, places to go for walks, seats on the sofa and so forth. For me, I include time for controlled chaos in my busy and rigid schedule.

Sunday mornings have become magical moments. I dedicate them to the drinking of coffee, the consumption of a home cooked breakfast (perhaps I should add that it is a self cooked breakfast) and the perusal of music not yet attempted. I take these precious hours of solitude and create a playlist of several albums that I have not yet given a spin. Some are great and go on my MUST HAVE list. Some are cut short and never heard again. Not all are metal (variety is the spice of life, right?) and some that are metal ride the line between metal and some weird creation that defies labeling.

This morning was a trip through albums by bands I am familiar with, but albums that I am not. Prong, Korn, Baroness, Mastodon, The Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic, John Mayer and George Benson made the line up and I just let it roll. Yes, there’s an awful lot of non-metal being tried this morning, but that’s ok. The more different the music seems, the more the influences seem to become apparent, at least in my demented mind.

Prong is the most interesting of the list. I will admit I am late comer to the Prong party. I came to them after having a nice discussion about King 810 with a friend in Michigan. As I was excitedly gushing in full fanboy style over King 810’s brutality, she stopped me dead with,”If you like them, you should check out Prong.” I immediately went to YouTube and listened to “Snap you fingers, snap your neck”. I was hooked. For a trio, they make an amazing amount of music and it’s got a working class feel to it. No sustained arpeggios, no diminished 6th chords. It’s speed, power chords and rough vocals that don’t go the Cookie Monster gargling aspirin route.

I gave Korn’s THE PATH OF TOTALITY a spin. Meh. the more I listen to Korn the more I am reminded of when I saw them in 2010. They put on a musically brilliant show that was boring. They managed to alienate an excited crowd (we were all pumped up from Rob Zombie’s set, just fifteen minutes before) by not addressing the crowd at all. I swear that Tool’s Maynard was more engaging than Jonathan Davis. Anywho, back to the album. It’s not horrid. I wouldn’t throw myself from a moving vehicle to avoid it, but it’s not my bag of Oreos.

I’m fairly well known as a supporter of Baroness. Their RED and BLUE albums are darn near genius, weird without alienating. They challenge the listener and reward that challenge. I decided to give the YELLOW album another try. Meh. Not great, not terrible but left me wishing for something better. So I put on something better.

Mastodon’s THE HUNTER gets slammed by metal purists as straying too far from the metal fold. I saw ignore those pundits and dance to your tune. In this case, it’s an album that helped open Mastodon to a new audience (“Curl of the Burl” is undeniably radio friendly), but still delivered enough sludgy goodness to satisfy regular fans.

I realize I’m a fairly opinionated fellow, but that’s the point of this exercise, right? you get to take my opinion and either use them as a guide map to suggested music or ignore them entirely. No harm, no foul.

I’m now relaxing to the Grateful Dead’s BLUES FOR ALLAH. Not metal in the slightest, though some of the basslines would not be out of place on a Baroness or Black Tusk album. A fresh cuppa Colombian coffee is steaming by my laptop and my dogs are asleep on the floor. It’s a good life, made all the better by musical experimentation. And lot better since I got to give up the old rituals of rayon, polyester and forced travel (Southern US readers will relate to that).

Enjoy your Sunday and do some musical experimenting of your own. You never know what you may find.

Tied to the whipping post

Long time readers will know one of my favorite gripes is modern redefining of what constitutes metal music. It’s a topic I have used and abused more than my fair share in this blog. I suppose it’s because of the individuals who continue to form the genre to fit their beliefs, instead of realizing it’s a broad spectrum that accepts a lot of styles. It’s like those who try to limit anything in society, attempting to exclude those they believe don’t meet the criteria for whatever they have become (misguidedly) passionate about. Sigh, I initially wasn’t going down this road.

Slipknot is coming to town next week and i have tickets. Lamb of God is on the bill with them, with Bullet for My Valentine opening. It’s a full evening of metal, cranked wide open and promises to be one of the summer’s best shows. All three bands have the chops and the tenure to prove their metal credibility. So, why are metal groups online still filled with haters? Everyday, some fresh faced urchin is eagerly belittling all three bands as ‘a poseurs delight.’ And everytime I read these comments, i’m baffled.

I have seen BFMV and LoG live before. BFMV was at the Project 96.1 Family Reunion in 2010. It was a great show, with Sevendust, Buckcherry, Shinedown and BFMV heating a an unusually cold September night. Sure, all four bands lean more to the hard rock side of the equation, but BFMV delivered the goods live. They’ve toured with KIllswitch Engage and Trivium. They’ve played multiple metal festivals. They still collect hate like dung collects flies.

Lamb of God opened Mayhem the year I saw them. They fired up an exhausted crowd that was on the verge tearing the amphitheater down by the end of their set. They’ve produced a steady stream of violently brutal albums. And they endured Randy Blythe’s trial, an event that would have ended many other bands. All this and they are only slightly behind BFMV in the most hated department. It’s baffling.

Slipknot managed to stay off my radar for quite a few years, mostly by personal choice. I have never doubted their metal credibility, but after seeing a lackluster Stone Sour show, I lost my desire to follow Slipknot. Plus, “Snuff” was not my favorite song to have played over and over and over by the local rock station. I became a hater without giving them a chance (a-ha! the central point emerges). It has been over the past six months that i have changed my opinions. IOWA and Chapter 3 are fantastic. I finally gave Chapter 5 an honest listen and love it. They have stayed true to their sound, endured the loss of Paul Gray and promise to be one of the summer’s best draws. And once again this falls on the deaf ears of the self appointed metal elitists.

I have tried to appreciate the zeal with which elitists hold their opinions. In the end, I can’t. most are jackasses who would ostracize people for racial or sexual differences if they didn’t have music at the center of the argument. Yes, I just went there. It’s ok. They don’t read my blog and those who do require  dictionary and a friend to figure it out.

“But, TNMG, aren’t you just as guilty as they are?” some may ask. No. I have never belittled someone publicly for disagreeing with my musical tastes. I realize it’s not all about what I want. I proudly own my unconventional love of bands that many have turned their backs on. I happily attend these shows, knowing the secret isn’t in division, but in unity. Metal is the music that brings us together. We spend hours chatting online, making phone calls, hanging out in music shops and record stores and make friends based on our mutual enjoyment of metal music.

Perhaps that’s the secret: turning off the computer and hanging out in the shops and making phone calls. Spending an afternoon with like minded friends sharing musical interests. Realizing you don’t have to like exactly the same things to be friends. You just need the attitude.

And it’s why I willingly step up to the whipping post and take my lashes and smile. I have a goal. Not one of fame or fortune, but one where the metal community heals the divisive wounds and once again stands together.

Me and the Devil Blues (with a lifetime of thanks to Robert Johnson)

I despise discussing religion. The only thing I hate even worse is discussing politics. Two of the quickest ways to end a friendship. People polarize and cling to political and religious beliefs like iron filings to a magnet. Wars are fought over such beliefs. Marriages begin and end based on these systems of thought. I could list hundreds of other examples of the destructive divisive powers religion and politics hold, but I won’t. It’s pointless. I prefer to discuss music.

However, it is the ingrained religious beliefs from my childhood that affected my musical journey. Some bands were ‘safe’. Not in my parents eyes (who viewed all modern rock music as evil), but in my own. Rush, Triumph, Deep Purple and Helix were ‘safe’. There were no overtly questionable songs about Old Nick and his happy bands of demons. My mother wasn’t a fan, but she tolerated my endless playing of “The Spirit of Radio” and “Perfect Strangers” (we will politely ignore the church challenges presented by Rush’s “Freewill”).

Other bands walked the line, but I could argue they were harmless. Judas Priest and Iron Maiden may have been the most attacked metal acts of my youth (Sabbath was on a dimensional plane of their own; we will discuss them next). Priest with their misunderstood lyrics of “Saints in Hell”, “Hellbent for Leather”, “Devil’s Child” and of course the PMRC target of “Eat Me Alive”. Maiden had “Number of the Beast”, which I argued verse by verse to show it wasn’t praising Satan. Mom caved on Priest. Bruce and the boys lived in a box in the bottom of my sock drawer and were only listened to with headphones.

Black Sabbath was deemed beyond evil and it wasn’t until i arrived at military school in the hot as Hades September of 1985 that I was exposed to Tony and Geezer’s brilliant creations. Most guitarists learn “Iron Man” first; I learned N.I.B, followed by “Paranoid” and “Sweet Leaf”. The discovery of the Dio fronted Sabbath albums launched my brain into overdrive and I began reading Heinlein, Stephen King, Frank Herbert and Piers Anthony. Ronnie’s lyrics lit a fire inside me that wanted to learn about the world beyond my personal limitations.

Mercyful Fate and King Diamond were overt in their belief systems, but that didn’t stop me from cranking up “Melissa” repeatedly, much to the chagrin of my roommates. It wasn’t evil, in my mind. King Diamond had (and still has) an amazing voice and his backing bands were hot. The production could have been better, but that’s a common complaint friends and readers hear from me (hey, I’m a picky). I can honestly say I never had the desire to change religions after listening to a King Diamond album.

Most readers know to just enjoy the meandering and eventually we will get to the point, as soon as I make one up. Today’s point is the confusion with the overt embracing of various religious beliefs. Perhaps it’s just a different world. People are encouraged to not hold anything in private. The belief is that if you are offended, it’s your fault. I disagree. Heinlein wrote it best,”You should wear a hat in a synagogue, take it off in a church.” His point was not about headwear, but about not going out of the way to create a religious debate. The metal rooms I have been administrator for were swept clean of the slightest mention of religion…by me. I was unwilling to tolerate the pseudo-educated babble of wannabe evangelists trying to convert the opposing side. If people sitting next to each other in a movie are apt to come to blows, imagine the meltdown level chaos of unbridled passion online.

I wear my Sabbath shirts and I crank up Dio with pride. I even saw Ghost in concert (fantastic band, musically. Utter crap for lyrics, but what a stage show!). I do not, however view these as religious displays. I see them as displays of musical appreciation. I have had some high minded individuals attempt to discuss their opinions of my attire. I walk past them and don’t stop to chat. I’m not interested in what they’re selling. I’m more interested in getting to where I’m going at that moment. Any discussion of my soul is not on the table.

I’ll close today’s ramblings with encouragement: metal is more popular today than ever. It has made it to all corners of the globe. However, it is not a religion. Even Black Metal and it’s overt Satanic leanings, is not a religion. It’s a form of music and people are allowed to dislike it as much as you may (or may not). If you want a religious philosophy to embrace, be nice to each other. Metal is a brotherhood that needs to look after it’s members, instead of trying to beat each other up.

Evolution in action

I’m late on chiming in on this, but it’s still good news. After a five year absence, Disturbed is back and is preparing an album (IMMORTALIZED) for release this year, with hopefully a tour to follow. This is nothing to some, everything to others, as Disturbed remains a band that polarizes metal fans.

I was fairly late to the Disturbed party and at first, I didn’t care for them. My girlfriend at the time was a huge Disturbed fan (and other Nu Metal bands, as well), so I was getting my daily dose of Draiman and the gang, whether I wanted it or not. I bought a few of their albums, she gave me the rest. I grew to tolerate the band as not annoying, but not exciting. I was slowly coming back to the metal fold after years of chasing obscure blues artists. I was still stuck in 1985, listening to Priest, Maiden, Rush, Metallica and Megadeth. Music produced after the Reagan years was a foreign concept to me and I was pretty closed minded about the direction metal had taken. Korn, Lacuna Coil, Rob Zombie/White Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Disturbed seemed light years from the comfortable power chords of KK Downing, the galloping bass lines of Steve Harris and the droning vocals of Ozzy. I listened to the new (Nu) bands with skepticism and it took time for me to appreciate them. Disturbed actually led the charge for me.

After months of accepting Disturbed as a constant in my relationship, I finally saw them live at the Uproar Festival in 2010. I was blown away. My girlfriend and I actually saw them two nights in a row, in both Birmingham, Alabama and in Atlanta. I was amazed. The pretentiousness I had believed existed in the recordings was stripped to an honest outpouring of emotion. Draiman held the crowd in the palm of his hand and they danced, screamed and raised their fists at his command. I was shocked. I had seen other metal shows (some within that year), but no one seemed to have the sway with fans that David Draiman commanded. Women swooned and men were emboldened. When their sets finished, the crowd was drained and resembled an army bloodied by combat.

It seemed that their star burned too brightly after that, drawing derision and insults from “metalheads”. Fans who “eat, breathe and live metal” were quick to turn their backs on Disturbed. They called “what is wrong with metal today”. Fans who had had carried the Nu Metal torch ran away, seeking refuge in death metal, metalcore and black metal circles.

Disturbed announced their hiatus during their 2011 tour. John Moyer quickly moved on to success with Adrenaline Mob. Dan Donegan and Mike Wengren put Fight or Flight together for an ill fated album. David Draiman hooked up with Virus and produced Decide’s debut album and following tour. Disturbed became the punchline to a series of crappy jokes on metal fan sites. I recall being banned from a metal page for posting “Inside the Fire”. The Sickness was no longer tolerated, was eradicated and fans moved on.

2015 seems to be a magic year, however. Fans that had latched on to metalcore have grown restless. I read their posts and they are rediscovering the bands that have become hated by “real metalheads”. Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Halestorm, Lacuna Coil and Disturbed have survived the insults and are still present. Bands that were decried as dead and gone are amazingly not gone and are instead once again heading the charge.

I’m personally glad. I see them all as gateway bands to other metal styles, but that’s ok. Let them be the darlings of 15 year old scene kids. Some of those kids will progress and discover bands like Black Sabbath, Obituary, Prong and Iron Maiden. A smaller percentage will be encouraged to pick up a guitar (or bass or drums or microphone) and will learn to play, leading the creation of the next metal genre. Who knows? The kid you make fun of today for wearing the Avenged Sevenfold t-shirt may produce your favorite album in a few years.

I plan on pre-ordering the IMMORTALIZED package (a rarity for me) and definitely plan on attending the Disturbed shows close to home. It’s not nostalgia for me. It’s watching the evolution of metal with my own eyes feeling comfortable about the direction it is taking.