Friday, January 25, 2008

A fair reconsideration

I believe we have all been unfair...

By we, I mean the legion; the nation of metalheads out there.

Unfair? But how?

Mel subscribes to the Napster music service; has for years. It's not exactly the old Napster we all loved so well; this one you actually pay for, and download your music legally, but if you stop paying your monthly fee, your license to play the music expires.

I have about 10,000 someodd DRM free mp3s; but for the most part, for new music (or new to me music anyway; because I almost never buy new music), I generally just grab it off Napster.

I think DRM is stupid; but I have no problem paying royalties for music. People who insist that all music should be free, and it's OK to steal it (and yes, you are stealing it) are either idiots, or morally deluding themselves.

Yes, the record companies suck, and they don't deserve your money; but it's still stealing.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

A few months back, I was watching one of those VH1 flashback shows, and it made me want to listen to a particular song. Because I can (with Napster, it's all you can eat), I just downloaded the entire discography of the band in question.

I ended up not listening to it at the time; but the other day I was re-organizing my collection in iTunes (I've resisted using any kind of collection software for a long time, but between the living room PC, my pc, Mels laptop etc... keeping everything organized has become difficult), and I came across the songs I had mean to listen to (unfortunately not in iTunes, because Napster and iTunes don't play nice with each other), and said "what the hell".

In listening I realized something...

Since the early 80s, metalheads have hated the hair metalers. Hair metal was never real metal. Sometimes it was good hard rock; but it was never really metal.

Motley crue made some kick ass, fun hard rock... but anyone who calls them metal is completely full of it.

Hair metal is the metal that your girlfriend liked if you were in high school in the late 80s; not the stuff you seriously mosh to. Hair metal is pretty boys with big hair, and power ballads, and all the stuff that REALLY SUCKED about MTV in the 80s.

Real metal blows your brains out with sound. Be it anger, or beauty, or speed, or energy, or explosions or whatever; metal is a music of raw power.

The band I'm thinking of has been classified as hair metal... partially just because of their timing; but also because they did have the pretty boys with the hair, and lord they had a doozy of a power ballad....


listening to their entire discography...


Listen to this OK:

That's Skid Row... and that's metal.

Seriously, you can't say that isn't metal. It's got kick ass rhythms and riffs, solid guitar work, driving energy... It's metal. Sebastian Bach may be a pretty boy, but he's metal. Snake Sabo is downright ugly, and he can play as good as anybody else, and better than most.

Is it great metal? No... But it doesn't suck; and it is definitely metal, and it isn't the only one by a long shot. Like I said, I listened to the entire catalog, theres a few really Solid metal tunes in there; and a lot of what isn't is really good hard rock, rather than cheezy hair crap.

"Midnight" could easily be a Priest tune; not one of their best, but seriously, I could see Halford doing that song (it would of course be a lot better done by Priest). "Mudkicker", or "My Enemy" could have been done by a dozen different metal bands.

In fact the entire "Subhuman Race" album from '95, is either right on the edge of, or far over into metal territory. In fact, a lot of the album sounds like the first generation of grunge influenced metal (like Soundgarden or Alice in Chains before MTV got a hold of the "Seattle sound" though not as good as either of those bands). "Bonehead" is straight up thrash. "My Enemy", "Beat yourself blind", "Subhuman Race", all straightforward 90's era metal. The songs that aren't metal are definitely on the hard edge, like "Frozen", "Firesign", or "Face against my soul".

Also, from what I understand, although a lot of what ended up on the albums was written as much harder and nastier; it was produced on the pop/hair metal side of things (and yes, the producer absolutely makes a huge difference here). A lot of their stuff sounds overproduced; with vocal doubling, and harmonies thrown in to soften and fill the sound where a single vocal would have been much more intense and hard.

Well, there's no pop record company producer on the stage; and in their live shows they were MUCH harder.

In "Subhuman race" they deliberately dropped much of the pop production values to make something harder (though not completely); and as a result ended up with their lowest selling album of the Bach era (the girls didnt like it). They also ended up breaking up (they've reformed with different members since); but I expect that if that album was released today, it would be a success (tastes have changed from the mid 90s).

So I'm saying we have been unfair, as metalheads, in classifying some bands exclusively as hair metal; and saying that hair metal couldn't ever be real metal. Because Skid Row were both (at least at times).

Oh and Whitesnake? They kick ass too; and Scott Ian agrees with me (he said so on VH1).