This morning I read a very interesting article about metal “purists” over at VH1. I was very surprised to actually read this specific article as the points made by the author are thoughts that have crossed my mind many times. I felt compelled to actually write an entire blog entry inspired by this specific article, addressing Ageism, Racism, Sexism, Extremism, etc. If you wanna know what I think read on and/or check out the article that compelled me to write this: Awesome Metal Article!
Opposite Ageism..while the rest of the industry seems to celebrate youth, beauty and whatever is trendy…Metal seems to be the only genre that doesn’t. Just take a look at the average age of those who gets nominated for a Grammy in the Metal Genre. For some strange reason it seems that the longer you suffer trying to make it in the metal scene the better. “New-bands” in metal are usually in their 30s or maybe, only maybe in their very late 20s…you gotta ask yourself if this is because someone in their 30s has had more touring experience and therefore branded their band name more…think about how bands play festivals slooooooooowly moving a tiny bit further up on the festival bill from year to year…everything happening at a snails pace of course……in todays social media world you would assume that social media buzz would surpass the old ways of doing things…if you can sell merch at gigs, attract a sizeable crowd, get exposure for your music ( even mainstream media attention, which is highly unlikely for a metal act) sell music and have more social media buzz than other unsigned bands, you would think that this would catch the attention from metal record labels… A bad thing for a “newbie metal act’s” “credibility” ( if you care about the purists) is sounding too modern in terms of production, songwriting and overall sound…if you are young in metal it seems like it’s ok…IF your music sounds completely retro and void of anything modern. As if thought modern is a bad thing.
Sexism. As a female artist I can say that the genuinity of my skills have ALWAYS been questioned when people hear my recordings. Always assuming that it’s a man playing the guitars, shock ensues when the listener finds out it’s a woman. The more plausible theory then is that it has to be a male session guitarist who has done the recording, when doubters then are informed that not only do I play, I also sing, the next comment normally is ” a lot can be done in the studio, no way she can both sing and play this live”…
This is such a sentiment within the community that when I worked with acclaimed, legendary producer Sterling Winfield ( who worked with Pantera for 10 years and numerous other metal giants) he specifically asked for our permission to do an official statement about the recording. This is an outtake from that statement:
“You will also NOT hear “Auto-‐ Tuner”, “Melodyne” or any other vocal tuning software of ANY kind!
That being said, I will answer the burning question looming in your minds… Yes, “The Commander In Chief” played ALL of the guitars you’re hearing, and sang every single note. Not only did she do all of this, but she did it all with more great attitude, and professionalism than a lot of the veteran musicians I know that have been doing this almost longer than she has been alive.”
For the full statement go here; Statement from legendary producer
I know whenever I play that 50% of the audience are musicians who are there to see, IF I can hit those high notes and actually play the guitar at the same time. This doubt towards female talent in the metal community becomes laughable if you take into consideration that the world of classical music is filled with female virtuosos who play Paganini and Beethoven like it’s a walk in the park. For some strange bizarre reason though metal heads like to believe that no other genre can compete with metal in complexity and the mere thought that a woman can handle the masculinity of metal guitar is still something that a number of metal heads won’t believe until they see it for themselves. That’s why it is so good and important that you see more and more female musicians getting attention for their skills in the heavily male dominated genre THAT IS metal.
Shred. You are NOT a real metal guitarist unless you sound like Jeff Loomis. Don’t get me wrong, I know Jeff and I think he is a nice guy. His sense of humour might be hard to grasp at first, simply for the reason that if you befriend someone online, you can never really know at first if their sense of humour is just that or something else. He is one of the nicest people I’ve met in the industry and he is one of the most skilled guitarists out there. BUT, I feel that there is this sentiment in the scene that unless you play like Jeff or Tosin Abasin, then you don’t really know what you are doing. In fact, to the purists you are an amateur writer unless you write some sort of guitar opus…which leads me to my next section……
Extremity. For some strange and bizarre reason you don’t really qualify to be called REAL METAL unless you growl and go full on extreme. This is an interesting thing to note as all the classic hard rock bands who are hailed as the founders of heavy metal ALL had clean vocals. Another interesting thing to note is the catchiness and memorability in the songwriting of the classic rock bands, maybe this is precisely the reason WHY they became so huge? Because people could remember certain riffs and actually sing a long to the melodies. It seems like the best way to REALLY make it big in todays modern metal world is to go full on extreme in the first years of your band, so all the die hard elitists back you and what you are doing, you get credibility and win over the hardest metal heads…. but then….miraculously after a decade or so of touring something mysterious happens to your songwriting, where all of a sudden you finally start writing good, quality music and you finally chart high up on the billboard. This is also when your old fans will rage and claim that the band has sold out completely. If you do like me, and you start out writing catchy songs right away, instead of waiting for the right moment to strike, you might be criticised for being too pop and a total sell out straight away, which means that the purists will instantly hate you, because once again, you represent the “greed” of the industry and everything that is to hate about it. Funny enough. Listen to “Billion Dollar Babies” or “Children Of The Grave” or “Burn” and tell me whether you remember those tracks. Of course you will. That’s why they are good.
Visibility. Apparently there is nothing that adds more to your metal credibility than if nobody has ever heard of you before. Apparently the martyr idea of a band that never makes it and never gets any fans or praise in the mainstream media is a good one. If you are lucky enough as a musician to receive exposure from the mainstream media…(who of course don’t know anything about REAL metal)..without setting a church on fire, YOU ARE A TOTAL SELLOUT! In my opinion I think it’s good whenever metal gets mainstream attention for the simple reason that I believe that hard-working musicians should get exposure too in an age where people become famous for a reality show. Add to that the magic of pro-tools in the modern music industry and I think it’s good when metal gets the spotlight. A couple of times I’ve been lucky as I’ve had the opportunity to “represent” the metal genre on TV in my home country. Once because I was featured as ” One Of Todays Role Models For Women” due to my contribution to such a male dominated genre and now lately as a coach and judge on the Norwegian Prime Time TV Show “Stjernekamp”. (I’ve also been a guest on prime-time TV talk shows, but on these occasions I was solely promoting myself.) This was the first year that the metal genre was included in the popular TV show “Stjernekamp” and I was there to represent this genre, talk about it and make sure that the performers did the genre justice. Considering how long metal musicians have to hang in there to get credit I felt that what I did was good. I promoted other metal acts and a genre that a lot of times is overlooked, only really catching the attention of the mainstream when the police gets involved and something crazy happens. The fact that criminal acts have come to define what is being viewed as Norwegian metal abroad is nothing but regrettable. There are plenty of Norwegian metal heads who are NOT insane & does NOT have a criminal record. The people who makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons represent a minority. Yet I’m sure that there are people who feel like I’m a total traitor and a poser as I’ve been in newspapers etc..in my home country without killing or raping someone….in Norwegian metal forums it has been said that I could “single-handedly DESTROY the AMAZING reputation surrounding Norwegian Metal”. I will only quote my brother, who’s reaction to this debate was “Flott” which in Norwegian means “great”.
Racism. The author of the VH1 article claims that being a white European adds to your metal credibility. It’s funny that he should mention this as I the other day was actually thinking to myself “Why aren’t there more mixed line ups in Metal?”. I guess I was asking myself this as my family has become quite multicultural over the years and my youngest brother LOVES heavy metal. Why are there so few Afro-Americans active in our genre? And is nu-metal looked down upon so much because it is too groovy? Too black? It might be a controversial question to ask, but I do believe that’s why it should be addressed. Is there just a difference, so the white culture is more likely to fall in love with the aggression of Metal? I mean Hip Hop is quite an aggressive form too??? Do people of other races feel un-welcomed? Or are they just not that interested?
My guitar teacher told me this story for example: They were gonna open up for a band that is now considered to be one of the greats, my guitar teacher had a band member of colour, the first thing the singer/frontman of the headlining band said as he entered the stage was ” We are none of that N****A SHIT”. When I heard this I bounced back…”Really???” I said…I couldn’t believe this. But my teacher said it was true and that it burned, it hurt, it hurt him badly to hear it. They couldn’t believe their ears either. Hate is awful and whenever I see or hear anything racists it hurts, it hurts a lot. I have to say that I cannot watch any movie about racism without it having a very strong effect on me. I guess anyone who has ever loved or cared for any person who happens to be of a different race, knows that love is truly colour blind. And that’s why it hurts so badly. A person is a person. A human is human. A heart is a heart. Period.