Following my interview with Howie Abrams, co-author of The Merciless Book of Metal Lists, I have been brooding over the fact that they feel Rage Against The Machine is NOT METAL. It’s one thing to say you don’t like a band, but an entirely different thing to claim they aren’t metal when clearly they are. To quote Abrams after me telling him Ghost is not metal, “Feel free to dislike whatever band you want, but you can’t pick and choose who is, or is not Metal based on that alone.”
So with that in mind I decided to explain with a few reasons why Rage Against The Machine is indeed a metal band. Behold:
Musically and lyrically, RATM are very aggressive. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen the pits at a Rage show? Have you ever seen their demeanor on stage? The overall aggression being called for and being demonstrated by the band is enough to call them metal alone. In my mind, if there’s one thing that ties most metal bands together, it’s aggression, and Rage has mountains of it.
Another common ground for most metal bands is Anger. Rage Against The Machine is packed to capacity with anger and that is undeniable. Anger against political systems, anger against injustices, anger against anything / everything that keeps the common person held captive in any form. These guys are fucking angry, and that makes for some awesome metal music.
We can debate this one if you want, but for me, Political Activism is far more metal than what these fucking hippies would have you think. Political Activism is about using whatever platform you have to support a political cause, or to rage against one. (see what I did there?) There’s not much that’s more powerful than the response from those who aren’t willing to sit idly by while humanity is taken advantage of. It takes balls to do something about it. Metal balls.
Distortion, Speed & Songwriting
Okay, let’s get technical for a moment. There are a couple of scientific things we can examine if my ‘opinions’ are still not satisfactory enough for everyone. Listen to the distortion. Listen to the speed of the songs and the way they’re designed. These are written to have breakdowns, to have heavy guitars and to have a style that is different. These songs are not written to be rock, or rap or any of your typical, radio-friendly genres. These are metal songs, written to get people moving in the pit and to get you to bang your head. If you listen to Killing In The Name Of and don’t bang your head and want to raise your horns then there’s something mentally wrong with you.
Nope, I don’t like the name and I don’t like any of the bands who have come since Rage in this genre who are trying to do anything even remotely similar. In fact, I would even say that RATM is a razor’s edge away from being something I wouldn’t listen to… but guess what? They dance that edge perfectly, keeping this metalhead who loves progressive death metal primarily, interested at all times. Rap metal today might be one of the worst things in the scene, but it is indeed a part of the scene, like it or not.
I could go on but much like a metal song from RATM, I’ve made my point and I’ve put enough fuel on the fire. If you still don’t agree, I invite anyone to respond to me intelligently. Hell, if you come up with a great rebuttal I’ll post that shit right here on the site. But guess what? You can’t do it because I’m fucking right. Rage Against The Machine is a metal band, like it or not.
After reading “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” by Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins I thought the best way to ask them about it was to question pretty much everything in the book. This is probably my favorite interview in many years. I want to say thanks to Howie for not physically harming me during the making of this email (the fact that it was over email helped) and for taking the time out to answer my questions.
At the end of the day, no one is going to ever agree on everything, especially when it comes to opinions in metal, and while you can read below where I disagreed, the book is very well-rounded and written with an air much like Howie’s,‘take-no-bullshit’ answers. “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” is exactly what a book of metal lists should be and more. I took a chance at walking the line of insulting the authors, without the intention of doing so, and the response was everything I had hoped it would be. Enjoy:
Howie Abrams: Real talk – when I received these questions/comments about my beloved The Merciless Book of Metal Lists, I was ready to get all MS-13 on your ass, and lop your hands off with a machete! It was hard to tell if you were simply trying to be clever…or just being an asshole. I quickly realized that you presented me with the exact type of response I expected (and hoped for) when writing the book in the first place. It’s about spirited debate, and while I have some serious questions about some of your opinions, I have to respect them no matter what. As the saying goes, “opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one,” and these are yours. You’re certainly entitled, but don’t recklessly fuck with an OG who saw all of this in front of his own eyes firsthand. Rage on and respect your elders motherfucker!
Sam Roon: Thanks for taking the time out to let me tell you where you went wrong with your book!
Howie Abrams: The only thing there’s anything wrong with is your head.
SR: In your list of “Best Metal Blogs” half the list aren’t actually blogs, but news sites. Clearly that’s why SkullsNBones.com didn’t make it into the list. That aside, thanks for promoting our brothers-in-arms in your book!
HA: Funny – your actual URL is http://www.metalnewsonline.com/skullsnbones/ isn’t it? What’s wrong with being CNN and a little TMZ too?
SR: All of your lists are ordered 1,2,3,4,5 and so on… shouldn’t they be countdown style? (5,4,3,2,1) The countdown just seems so… suspenseful!
HA: I’ll take it under advisement and set up a meeting with The Count from Sesame Street in order to do a better job counting next time.
SR: You say that Motley Crue is metal but that Warrant, Ratt and Dokken aren’t. In my eyes they’re all hard rock or even ‘hair metal’ if you must, but how can you call one out but not the others?
HA: Motley Crue began, pure and simple, as a Metal band. I would even say the same for early Def Leppard, who came out of the NWOBHM movement as much as any of the other bands from the UK at that time. Where Crüe went after Shout at the Devil is irrelevant. From moment one, the other bands you mentioned were soft, watered-down, bullshit outfits aimed at American radio. I stand by this one 100%. While Metallica were out here on the East Coast in the early 80’s, re-creating what they’d begun in San Francisco after re-locating there with the help of Jon and Marsha Zazula, Maria Ferrero etc, Motley Crue INVENTED “Hair Metal,” and there’s a big difference between Hair Metal and the rest of the bitch-ass garbage birthed on the Sunset Strip.
SR: Additionally, Ghost is NOT a metal band but you have them listed in the “top ten metal albums played most often during the writing of the book.”
HA: Your opinion is what it is, but Ghost is as much Mercyful Fate as they are Blue Oyster Cult as far as I’m concerned. You’re off on this one homeboy. Feel free to dislike whatever band you want, but you can’t pick and choose who is, or is not Metal based on that alone.
SR: The eloquent and detailed section on “The very best qualities of Metallica’s Load & Reload Albums” was particularly interesting to me. Did it take a long time to put that together?
HA: Am I really supposed to answer this? Every fucking Metallica fan in the world would rather forget those two misguided slabs, so why waste several hundred words that have already been written hundreds of times by hundreds…make that, thousands of people?
SR: You said it right in your “30 of the greatest metal guitarists” when you stated, “there is no topic more vivaciously debated.” It’s totally true and exemplified with me questioning the validity of your list. What drugs were you on when you wrote that monstrosity?!
HA: I’ll try to have an opinion more aligned with yours next time I do one of these. In fact, what’s your blood type, so I can get it cycled through my body to become smarter when it comes to Metal guitar players??? My opinion and I’m sticking to it.
SR: You liked Fear Factory’s cover of “Cars?” Seriously? I love Fear Factory, but come on man!
HA: Not my favorite cover of all time, but yes, I thought it was ballsy to do, and great that they got Gary Numan in on it. Numan is a pioneer when it comes to electronic music and was a big influence on FF. Do your homework sonny-boy.
SR: In your “10 Metal Bands With “Death” In Their Names” list you have “Megadeth.” I call bullshit!
HA: I’ll go to Walmart and buy you a letter “A” birthday candle to throw in there if it makes you feel better. You can send it to Mustaine when you’re done.
SR: How can you call Rage Against The Machine “non-metal?” They’re more metal than half the bands you refer to as metal in the book!
HA: I’m not even sure how to respond to this one as it so far off base! Are you saying that Rage Against the Machine IS Metal???I’ll be more than happy to personally introduce you to the half you take issue with so you can tell them they’re pussies face-to-face. That should go well.
SR: Hoya Roc’s list on the “10 Reasons Anthrax Should Never Be Associated With Hardcore” is brutal! What do you think will be the top ten responses out of the Anthrax camp?
HA: You can ask Hoya, but I think his response will rhyme with FUCK WHAT ANTHRAX THINKS!
SR: If I fill out the “Merciless Metal Crossword Puzzle” will my copy of the book lose its value?
HA: It’ll get flagged like when George Costanza took that book into the bookstore bathroom on Seinfeld… No one will buy it then.
Let the games begin. Metal Mark, Jason Lekberg and half of the heavy music world have been trying to convince me for at least the last year that Gojira is this amazing band, that they are this original sound and they have amazing songs. I have never said a bad word about Gojira, but I don’t think of them as anything more than a talented group of guys who sound like a copy of Meshuggah. It’s not good or bad, it just ‘is’.
For me Gojira doesn’t do anything to keep my interest. If you love Meshuggah, you’ll likely love Gojira and that’s because it’s the same stuff. Enter Irish metalers, Chosen. How awesome a feeling that amongst the thousand press releases we receive a day, there is one with a gem inside, just waiting for you to click on it. Today that gem was Chosen.
I clicked on the link thinking it was going to be some folky Irish shit with traditional instruments and when the press release said, “Irish metalers” I expected more of a rock sound that they try to sell as metal. This is not the case. The one song they have available for listening started off kind of weird with a chord progression in the intro I might not have chosen, and then it broke into this furious riff setting the tone for a particularly awesome song. It has the elements of Meshuggah & Gojira, but with individuality setting them apart. The obious influences of Cynic and Death help shape the music, but the kicker for me is how similar it sounds to Gojira & Meshuggah, but with elements that I actually care about.
The band is releasing their album FOR FREE on their website tomorrow (http://www.chosen.ie/), but you can check out the track that inspired this post right now. Stay tuned for our full album review in the Album Reviews section. Let me know what you think. Maybe I’m fucking crazy, which I’m sure a ton of you think I am for saying this, but based on this one song I’m guessing that Chosen is what everyone wishes Gojira could be. The Meshuggah / Gojira sound… but with individuality and songs. We’ll find out tomorrow I suppose. Have a listen:
So when Metal Mark asked me to write something up for international women’s day, the first thing I thought of was all the trouble I’ve caused calling out Revolver, Decibel and some record labels for exploiting women. I’m a very sensitive person when it comes to all issues of equal rights, from sexual orientation to race relations to social class so when I post about any of these subjects it’s going to be very straight forward and real.
Today is International Women’s Day and in celebration of our past ignorance requiring us to create a day to remind the world that we suck at treating everyone equally, I too will feed the fire of activism and call upon every female heavy music fan in the world to visit the SkullsNBones sister-project, HearEvil.com. HearEvil is my contribution to EVERY DAY being ‘international women’s day’ and was created with the sole purpose of having a home where women speak for women.
I dreamed up the idea some time ago but because I felt that I didn’t have the required organs to design and operate this site, I couldn’t put it together. It wasn’t until I met the now leaders of that site, Carol & She-Wolf, that things finally came together. They provided the direction, and I coded it up. Throughout the process I remained, and still remain, someone who answers to them when functionality needs to be updated or added to the site. It’s a women’s site run 100% by women.
I asked She-Wolf why it’s important that women have their own home for metal and her first response was, “because I said so.” Perfect! She obviously knew what I was asking for so she continued, “Last week, I was pop-quizzed by a male acquaintance — someone who knows me, who’s seen me at shows and metal hangouts — on the identity of the lead singer in a legendary band. What’s worse? I answered him, as if it were only natural that I dignify him with a response!
Micro-aggressions like this are why we as metalhead women need a space to ourselves. As long as our authenticity is called into question by the presumptuous masses, we need a niche (digital or physical, preferably both) where we don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone and calling ourselves “metalheads” is good enough.” If that doesn’t tell you what they’re about, nothing will.
HearEvil was launched a little over a year ago and has steadily climbed in exposure and traffic and today can boast over a hundred thousand pageviews with zero paid promotion. Word of mouth is the fire that HearEvil breathes and it’s clearly working! And what is it exactly that people are talking about? Perhaps it’s the fact that these amazing women write with a ‘call it like it is’ attitude? Maybe it’s that they don’t have to show their tits to get attention? Maybe it’s that their support of heavy music is stronger than most metalheads, male or female? Whatever it is that people are talking about HearEvil for, the fact is they’re talking.
So to help fuel the feminist fire I implore the readership of SkullsNBones to check out our sister-site HearEvil. It’s some of the smartest content you’ll read on the inter-webs, and they’re a powerful resource for heavy music. Remember the name.
After a delay in the trial back in February, Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe appeared in the Prague court again to conclude his trial for Manslaughter. The delay was due to an illness of what is being called one the defense’s “key witnesses.” It has not yet been revealed who this witness is but, if his or her testimony will lead to an acquittal, it will have been worth the wait.
Since the court already heard his testimony, it wasn’t required of Randy to be present this time around, but according to WTVR he did anyway, showing tremendous courage and character. He will likely have a chance to give a closing statement at the conclusion of the trail as well.
At this point, it is my belief, given the evidence presented and the nature of the testimony, that Randy will be found innocent. Testimony from the prosecution has been inconsistent and failures in venue communication, organization and security on the night of the fateful show, none of which can be placed on the singer, have been revealed. A verdict is around the corner, we’ll just have to continue to be patient for just a little while longer.
Keep in mind that, unlike in the United States judicial system, in the Czech Republic, all outcomes of a trail can be appealed and about 90% of cases are. So, even once a verdict is reached, it’s not likely to be the end of this case. All we can do is be patient and take solace in every bit of good news we hear.
So the plot thickens. Slayer has released the following statement to Blabbermouth in an effort to keep fans apprised of the situation with Dave Lombardo. Commentary afterward:
“SLAYER confirms that Jon Dette will drum for the band on its Australian tour that starts this Saturday, February 23 in Brisbane. As regards Dave Lombardo‘s Facebook post, SLAYER does not agree with Mr. Lombardo‘s substance or the timeline of the events, except to acknowledge that Mr. Lombardo came to the band less than a week before their scheduled departure for Australia to present an entirely new set of terms for his engagement that were contrary to those that had been previously agreed upon. The band was unable to reach an agreement on these new demands in the short amount of time available prior to leaving for Australia. There is more to the account than what Mr. Lombardo has offered, but out of respect to him, SLAYER will not be commenting further. SLAYER is grateful to its Australian fans for their understanding of this unfortunate last-minute change, and very much looks forward to seeing them at these shows.”
This is the perfect response to Lombardo. Why do I say that? Because it neither denies nor confirms anything with absolute authority. It only says that the only thing they acknowledge is that Dave wanted to change some things about his agreement with them.
To be fair, that’s very much what Lombardo said in his statement, the only difference being that, from what he stated, he wanted to explore why the band wasn’t able to pay him more. Allegedly in that exploration he found the financial mess which he talked about and came to the conclusion that the only way for them to make any real money was to find out where they were wasting it. If all of what he stated is accurate, this leads to Kerry King not being so happy about the exploration, and ultimately to the dismissal of Dave for the tour.
This Slayer comment is clearly written by management, which I figured would happen, likely with consultation with lawyers. In other words this statement if very likely far from the words of the band members themselves so I wouldn’t sit there imagining that Tom wrote that out after his morning exercise.
This situation is probably going to get more intense before it fizzles away, but the statement released is absolutely perfect to alleviate pressure from the band, and to be inconclusive enough to make it so that people aren’t sure what to question. I’m still curious as to what the truth is, and I bet we’re going to hear more before this is all over.