photo by nacrowe
fans often have a misconception that bands are democracies.
perhaps this has to do with the very nature of being a fan, which entails the capacity to project yourself and your feelings, fears and aspirations onto an external entity like an artist, band, politician or even a sports team. the payoff for this projection is the reciprocal confirmation of whatever narrative we like to tell and delude ourselves with. in this manner being a fan is very much about you the audience and not the artist.
so when you learnt that bands have less than savory internal dynamics where power, creative control and finances are not co-equal, for some this is a hurdle. an autocracy like SMASHING PUMPKINS with the pumpkin king BILLY CORGAN is hard to stomach given the open ethos and message of exclusivity of his music. its easier to come to terms with the fact that NINE INCH NAILS is the front group of auteur TRENT REZNOR in my mind because of the singular misanthropic nature of his lyrics and sonic palette.
enter DEATH METAL and the legendary namesake band for the genre DEATH. a recent documentary DEATH BY METAL (MENTAL PICTURES, 2016) delves into the life and legacy of frontman/songwriter/guitar virtuoso CHUCK SCHULDINER and his pioneering sound which further refined THRASH METAL into a whole world of technicality and brutality.
through 7 albums over an 11 year span he did not repeat the same recording lineup twice. keep in mind that all these albums absolutely slayed which is testament to his vision, passion and technical abilities. it also gets into the nature of megalomania and the challenges of maintaining a singular focus. there are lots of bands that function on a high level with a seemingly regular interchanging of musicians around one visionary artist, namely QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, BLACK SABBATH, MEGADETH, KING CRIMSON, THE MISFITS, ANTHRAX, and GUNS N' ROSES to name a few. with the exception of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, most of these groups have one lineup from which they derived their cult status and later permutations were meant to maintain some semblance of legacy stature on subsequent tour packages.
not the case with DEATH. if anything their music became more progressive and technically demanding as the "band" continued onward. people have several arguments for which lineup was the definitive "classic" permutation of the band, which to me is amazing. this documentary really gets into gritty details of how SCHULDINER pulled off this streak and how his singular focus was both an inspiration to his former band-mates and the bane of their existence while in the eye of the storm.
highly recommended this documentary and for the record, personally i'd put SCHULDINER on the REZNOR end of the cultural spectrum as CORGAN has been exposed as a joke and a fraud in recent years. definitely dont want to confuse that issue.
photo by nacrowe
recently i finished reading this book CHASING DEATH: THE IMPROBABLY HISTORY OF DEATH METAL & GRINDCORE (BAZILLION POINTS, 2016) by DECIBEL MAGAZINE editor-in-chief ALBERT MUDRIAN. it very much gets into the weeds on how both these genres developed out of teenagers in the mid-80s who were looking for a more intense expression for their rage in the wake of the HARDCORE and THRASH METAL scenes in both the industrial midlands of britain and the eastern seaboard of the united states.
my impetus for exploring this genre was partly to provide context to a host of bands i've enjoyed over the years including PIG DESTROYER, NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS, DEATH, THE LOCUST, MORBID ANGEL, SUFFOCATION, CANNIBAL CORPSE, BOLT THROWER, GORGUTS, NILE, IMMOLATION, AUTOPSY among countless others.
what i didn't expect to find was the relative obscurity of bands that made a truly global impact due to the international tape-trading scene of that pre-internet age. case in point: DEEP WOUND from western massachusetts and the pre-DINOSAUR JR harcore band of J MASCIS. despite their relatively minor status in the BOSTON hardcore scene of which they were on the periphery stylistically, socially and geographically, their music which was more intense, uptempo and chaotic made them a must-have for tape collectors seeking their next fix of more extreme music as far away as JAPAN, SWEDEN, HOLLAND, GERMANY and the UK. despite being a regional act, their influence abroad far outweighed their geographic limitations and proved to be influential in the scene. that cross-polination of the HARDCORE, INDIE and extreme metal scenes wasn't something i was aware of but makes sense given that their supporters (american college radio, JOHN PEEL at BBC1) were equally open-minded, even during this formative stage.
even the amount of label infrastructure that came about to support and profit from this burgeoning yet seemingly hopelessly unprofitable scene is staggering in its own right and has benefitted countless other extreme genres in its wake (and, er, NICKLEBACK). this includes most predominantly:
COMBAT RECORDS (DEATH, POSSESSED)
METAL BLADE RECORDS (CANNIBAL CORPSE)
RELAPSE RECORDS (AMORPHIS, NILE, ICANTATION, DYING FETUS, SUFFOCATION, PIG DESTROYER)
EARACHE RECORDS (NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS, BOLT THROWER, MORBID ANGEL, TERRORIZER, BRUTAL TRUTH)
NECROSIS RECORDS (REPULSION, CARNAGE)
PEACEVILLE RECORDS (AUTOPSY, AT THE GATES, OPETH)
ROADRUNNER RECORDS (DEICIDE, OBITUARY, PESTILENCE, IMMOLATION, SEPULTURA)
CENTURY MEDIA (GRAVE, ASPHYX, ARCH ENEMY)
NUCLEAR BLAST (DISMEMBER, IN FLAMES)
the book is definitely worth looking into if you are interested in getting a broad overview of the history of the scene. like any comprehensive book on a given genre, reading this has helped me rediscover stuff i hadn't thought of in a while and made me consider how diverse and complex fringe music can be.