Saturday, April 30, 2011

Inauguration Day: Musings on Metal

The best way to describe my intention with this blog is to define its two primary terms, "Musings" and "Metal."

The word "musing" allows me to accomplish several things at once. First, the term suggests thinking and thoughts. This blog allows me to articulate my thoughts about music. But I didn't call it "Thoughts on Metal," because there's something about the term "thoughts" that sounds too final. That is, the thoughts presented here are provisional. I will usually be writing about new albums, and because these albums are new, it's difficult to give a complete, polished, and final assessment of them.

This site allows me to express my thoughts about music as I'm experiencing it. I may even provide contrary interpretations or assessments of the same album in the same review. If it comes to me I'll try to fit it into these posts. Given the provisional nature of these comments, I'll try to refrain from being too declarative. These are tentative thoughts. At the same time, I won't write about a piece of music unless I hear it at least five times. There no sense for me to start yapping about things I'm not even familiar with yet.

"Musings" is actually pretty straightforward. It's "metal" where I might run into some trouble. Everyone who likes metal music has a strong feeling about what's metal and what's not. I'm no different. However, it has come to my attention that I have a somewhat more expansive idea of what "metal" is than most people. In this day of increasingly specific sub-genre labels, readers might complain that something about which I'm writing is "not metal." Well, sorry. I apologize in advance.

To me, metal is an aesthetic term more than a content-driven term. For example, it is more true to me that most metal music involves distorted electric guitar than that most metal music "involves a high degree of aggression." I'll probably focus more on formal and musical elements in my evolving definition of metal than emotional content.

Some things are obviously metal, like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Love 'em. The heavier bands from the 1980's are also, clearly, heavy metal: Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, Overkill, Metal Church, etc. Yeah, metal!!! From my perspective, other bands from the 1980's are also metal: Skid Row, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Cinderella. I like these guys, too, and think they're worthy of the label "metal." I probably won't get TOO much argument there (although some will always quibble).

It's important to realize, however, that metal didn't die in the 1980s. There's been great metal since. Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden...these guys were metal. Sure, it was different. Anyone who lived through the transition to grunge was aware that the underlying aesthetic -- and the cultural ideas -- of grunge were extremely different. Nirvana and White Lion were a billion miles apart. But my argument is that they're in the same universe. I may have lost some people here, but I call them as I see them. Same thing with so called "rap metal." Papa Roach, for example, is a different beast than Metallica, but I can rock out to them both.

And metal surely hasn't died in the 2000s. There have been some awesome metal released in the 2000s: Avantasia, Firewind, Circle II Circle, Dream Evil, Symphony X. These guys all rule and are worthy of some serious musings. Count them in, they're what this blog is all about.

Finally (and this is where I diverge most from the common understanding of "metal") I will include bands that get lumped in with "emo" or "hardcore": bands like Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, Funeral for a Friend, Finger Eleven, etc. To me, there is more that is metal about a band like My Chemical Romance than there is anything else. So they're in, too.

I should also mention that there is some metal I probably won't talk about much: anything with growly, Cookie Monster vocals. This stuff is totally metal, but I just can't seem to get used to it. This means most death metal is out. I won't argue that it's not metal; I won't say that these aren't talented bands; I won't say that there isn't a place for this kind of music. I just don't like it.

So let the musings on metal begin!