No stranger to danger

by Alun Thomas

If there has been a worse year for new music than 2000 then I would like to know about it. Never before has such an uninspiring selection of metal confronted itself to the public -- or rather myself. And it is called metal fatigue. Faced with such dull selections from no hopers like Helloween and Morbid Angel, I really do despair. Mainly because it was only three years ago when new recordings from these acts and many others were must-haves.

Now I could not care less. A random survey of bands and artists who have released new albums in 2000 include Dio, Mötley Crüe, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, AC/DC, David Coverdale, Deicide, Napalm Death, UFO, Sammy Hagar, Pantera and various others. The only three worth a toss were Maiden, AC/DC and Napalm Death. Apart from these three it is all stale.

Once upon a time I thought I was missing out if I was not hearing the new music. Now I hope they rot. When you are a youngster and really into the whole scene there is an obligation to buy anything new -- no matter how bad it may be. I would buy CD's by Biohazard and Machine Head in my more foolish days. If it was remotely associated with metal it must be bought!

But as many of you could testify, money gets tighter as you start working and there are other things to worry about. How could I give a shit about some Helloween album when I have to pay my rent? It is a sad-but-true fact of life. But I refuse to believe that anyone is that consumed by metal that such an insignificant band could be considered more important. That is not an attitude many have in their teenage years, but it soon happens.

For years I thought metal was everything. But that was in a time where I had nothing better to do. Buying tapes and CD's consumed my money and it did not bother me. Now I will probably buy two CD's a month if I am lucky. The strange thing is it is by choice. I do not see anything out there to excite me. Nothing coming out today anyway. The bulk of the music I elect to buy and listen to now is mainly 70's boogie and 80's AOR and metal. To me an album released in 1983 might as well have come out yesterday. Just the other day I bought Shooting Stars ''Burning,'' one of their many acclaimed sets. It has a triumvirate of songs in a row called ''Go For It,'' ''Burning'' and ''Winner.'' Of course, I am going to want to hear that rather than some dodgy death metal by Morbid Angel, released only two months back. Death metal is fine when you are a teen and entering your 20s, but I guarantee rarely anybody sticks with it. It is music for kids with aggression to burn, who want to be the proverbial ''hard man.'' At a point, that was all I listened to. But there comes a point where one blast beat sounds like another and the impact is lost.

However musically accomplished extreme metal is, AOR is more adult in its effect. These days, death metal reminds me of some awkward adolescent with an oversized Cannibal Corpse shirt and long greasy hair.

On another level is the problem with metal's identity. Scanning numerous bulletin boards, many younger fans think ''true'' metal is only linked by brutal black, thrash or death metal. Acts like Nile, Opeth, Incantation, Immolation and Dark Tranquility are their benchmark for what metal should be. Remember, however, these youngsters are no older than 17 so have hardly broadened their outlook.

What annoys me is their refusal to accept stalwarts like Kiss, Mötley Crüe and Van Halen as metal bands. ''They are just hard rock bands'' is an accusation I have heard many times. What they do not seem to know is that in the early 80s this is what was considered metal. Around 1982, Kiss' ''Creatures Of The Night'' was as metal as it got in North America. So was Mötley Crüe's ''Too Fast For Love'' and Van Halen's ''Fair Warning.'' And with other heavyweights like Manowar, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Krokus and Accept, that's what metal was. This is the music I think of as real Heavy Metal. Not Nile. No matter how fast or extreme it is, it has no spine. It has not one ounce the true force of The Who live or Saxon's ''Street Fighting Gang.''

When you get to a certain age, the temptation to flirt with new styles of metal disappear anyway. I have no urge to discover the music the (puke) kids are listening to. I have heard the best. Now I want to hear the best music I haven't heard. That is the only remaining thrill. All that undiscovered 70's and 80's rock and metal just gathering dust. Still try and tell a punk kid this and he will tell you you're not true to the faith, that you are not a metal believer. Many of these misguided fools believe they are the last metal rebels. And that metal is still the scourge of society. They assume the public still think of Iron Maiden as devil worshippers and that troubled youth still commit suicide listening to Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest. That was an 80's phenomenon that is hideously outdated now.

Metal today has no enemies. It is safe in its little corner. Like many things, it is irrelevant. Its glory years are gone. But so is everything else. Popular culture has grown boring and burned out. Everything has been done and better.

That goes for sports, movies, literature, politics, you name it. There will never be another Glenn Hoddle. No Ted Priors or Charles Bronsons. No Charles Bukowskis. Not even another Ronald Reagan!

And this is what makes metal no different. The Maidens and Krokuses were one time deals. Their likes will never be seen again. And the likes of Alun Thomas will never be seen buying a Helloween album ever again.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online December 20, 2000

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