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Critic Center: My Metal Rant / by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell

Added 22 October 2014, 10:11 PM

I feel the need to talk about Metal for a little bit here. One of the great things about the music is that it gets embraced all over again with the coming of new generations of fans. Another wonderful thing is that the genre has diversified and has been taken in so many new and different directions. As an old Metalhead dude, I was alive when the genre was created, and have listened and enjoyed the oldest and newest bands alike. For many younger fans, I don’t feel they have a strong sense of the older bands and/or an appreciation for the metal in the 1980s in particular.  Let me break it down into the simplest terms I can here, and I realize I am making some generalizations.  BLACK SABBATH created Heavy Metal, but it was very basic music at the time. JUDAS PRIEST took it to the level we hear today. They built the music into strong compositions, twin guitar attacks, and created the look of Heavy Metal. IRON MAIDEN finished it out from there, and remains in my opinion the biggest and most important Heavy Metal band in the history of the genre. They are consummate musicians; gentlemen with an intelligent approach to song and lyric writing. They are adored rabidly by countries most Metal bands will never see. Their live show is second to none, and many bands in the budding European metal scene of today cite IRON MAIDEN as their primary influence. There isn’t a band around today who would not drop everything for the chance to open for IRON MAIDEN because it would mean maximum international exposure. No band.
DEF LEPPARD was the next big band in the early 1980s as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.  Here is where we have the first big problem. Metalheads of today do not consider DEF LEPPARD to be “Metal” when in fact THEY ARE.  Slayer or Lamb of God is not the standard by which Heavy Metal is judged.  You had to be alive at this time to appreciate what DEF LEPPARD did for Heavy Metal.  They made Metal cool to listen to, pushed Metal into suburbia everywhere, to the radio and MTV and to females, a market that many earlier metal bands were not able take advantage of.  They preceded the wave of LA Glam bands that came shortly thereafter.  Let’s talk a bit about Glam in the 1980s.  Pussy music, right?  That’s what I hear all the time from so-called “real” Metalheads. It doesn’t make you cool to like something that is “harder” or “heavier” than someone else.  If you don’t like it, that is fine. But you need to understand and appreciate the impact glam had on carrying heavy metal into the future.  Further, make no mistake that despite their over-the-top image (which was used simply as marketing), most of these bands had real talent. You could not get signed at that time unless you could play your instrument. Some of the best singers and guitar players in metal music history played in glam bands.  Find me a singer better than Michael Matijevic or Tony Harnell, or a guitarist that shreds better than George Lynch. Was the music primarily aimed at a female audience?  Maybe.  But all that did was garner more of a fan base than Metal had at the time.
Glam succeeded in pushing a product that was just heavy enough to be called Metal, but maintaining enough melody to be played in the radio and on MTV.  It was very important at that time to have that market available to you. Even the early 1980 Thrash Metal movement took advantage of making videos and radio edits. This does not make the “uncool.” Without this, metal may have died during this stretch of time. It was precisely the focus on melody and sing-along choruses that made glam great. So, stay hardcore and blast your Thrash and Death and whatever else you like, but do not think for a second that glam metal was unimportant in shaping much of the music we listen to today. Stay strong in spandex, my friends.

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