When discussing the current state of our music collections the other day, a good friend of mine had the revelation that getting into metal was a slippery slope. The sub-genres are myriad, there are cross overs and purists, and it’s a worldwide talent pool.
“Metal,” he said, “is an international currency.”
And he’s right. But for right now, fuck the world. It’s hard enough keeping track of this stuff stateside. There are two clear categories, too. Purist metal groups that grew up on Sabbath, Metallica, and Iron Maiden who don’t really understand punk (and many times despise it), and then there are cross over bands that acknowledge The Greater Influence, a sort of demi-God that guided Toni Iommi and Greg Ginn’s hands one and the same.
But even that’s hard to break down. Alternative Tentacles and SST, two of the greatest punk/hardcore labels to spur out of the first generation of independents, had a clear metal bent to them from the start. Jello’s favorites groups were consistently cross-pollinating (and even Dead Kennedys stuff was built more off of riffs like a metal song than a 12 bar rock ‘n roll punk staple). SST was the original home of Saint Vitus.
The Gray Area of The Greater Influence encompasses hardcore/punk/metal hybrids, but also purist metal bands that populate the punk/independent mindset of indie labels, touring, and politics.
And that brings us to modern day bands like The Sword and Baroness. It’s an interesting situation. Both bands worship at the alter of Riff and Lore, and you’d be hard to find traces of direct influential hardcore and punk in their music. Baroness is on the roster of Relapse, probably the most well known modern independent metal label, and The Sword is on Kemado, an indie that has a wide scope. Their entire business model is rooted in some semblance of DIY ethics, and they both started playing small shows on decidedly more hardcore/punk rosters, yet both have been tapped to open for Metallica, and the fan base is evenly divided.
It’s an interesting situation. Even when I was in high school at the early turn of the last millennium, you could either like hardcore or metal, and the scenes in the hallways were much different than today. We also have a mass-market dedicated to whatever post-screamo genres have gestated with an allegiance to haircuts and tight pants.
It’s safe to say that more bands and labels deserve a spotlight in accordance to these new rules, and that will come in future months. The Internet is a strange tool that has opened up doors to many new ways of hearing and collaborating on music, and not only has it grown the sphere of influence, it’s also given an audience to columns such as this one. Where this ends up going, who knows.
Gray Area Score: The Grayest Gray, Grayer than Gray Could Ever Be