This Musique Mercredi is being brought to you by Heavy Metal Monday's FJ. Let's get amongst it.
My first taste of metal was thrash. That's pretty much all I listened to for a good two years. Eventually, though, my tastes wanted something more extreme. Louder, faster, filthier. Death metal was the natural choice.
One thing that has always puzzled me about U.S. death metal (for the sake of simplicity, we're going to only discuss American death metal...anything more will get too confusing) is the fact that it almost exclusively came to prominence in sunny Florida, in the mid to late eighties.
Some will argue that Possessed, hailing from California, were the first death metal band, having released the totally rad Seven Churches, containing the song Death Metal, in 1985. These people are insane. Everyone with a clue know's it's thrash metal with a proto-death sound or, if you will, thrashened death. Here are Possessed:
Great band, to be sure, but not death metal.
So which were the the very first real death metal bands? Well, we had Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse (but they suck, so don't worry about them.), Massacre, Obituary...to name but a few.
Not only did all these bands come out of Florida, they came out of the town Tampa, Florida. In a nutshell, a bunch of dudes really dug Slayer, and decided to one up them. I guess they were just a bunch of really dedicated, inspired people. That or they were really bored and listened to Reign in Blood too much.
As far as I can tell, no one really knows why all this ground breaking music came out of a state which is more famous for beaches and babes. Glen Benton, the front man for the more satanic band of the bunch, Deicide, ruminated that it was perhaps because "it was so damn hot all the time. Like hell".
Glen Benton was also famous for branding an inverted cross into his forehead, and telling everyone he was going to kill himself at thirty-four, to mimic the death of Jesus Christ. Well, Glen is still alive, pushing forty five, and still has an inverted cross on his forehead. And his band now sucks.
Anyway, here are some sweet clips from some rad bands, during a rad time in metal history.
First up, Death. The band that arguably started it all, have probably left the biggest legacy. Definitely a 'thinking man's metal', which simply means they didn't write about hell much, and more about madness, suicide, totalitarian states, infinite time and other pseudo intellectual things. Probably one of my personal favorite bands of all time. This band's legacy was cut short when frontman Chuck Schuldiner died of a brain tumor in 2001.
Note that Chuck is wearing bell bottoms. It is 1998. What a ruler.
Which takes us to Morbid Angel. Arguably my favourite band of all time, Morbid Angel's first four records are what I would consider flawless. So enamored were they of themselves, they often made no coherent sense in interviews, so entwined were they in their death-mystic world view, they claimed their guitar tones took you to other worlds. They recently released an album which has been so universally panned, it's being called the 'New St. Anger'. High praise indeed. Here they are in all their glory. Ladies and gentleman, this is death metal:
Holy god, when I saw them live in 2009, I had a chuck of my hair ripped out in the pit, and I didn't even care.
We've discussed Deicide's Satanic ways, so I'll just leave you with the clip. They were dumb, but pretty awesome.
Obituary rejected the fast tempos of their contemporaries, and instead went for this 'dragged through the mud' sludginess that just pummeled your head. More political, there was none of the other worldly pretension that so characterized Morbid Angel. They were pissed.
That's right. Obituary were into saving the planet way before it was cool.
As was the case with a lot of small but influential music scenes, there were a lot of bands that never quite got the hype they deserved. Enter Massacre.
What a bunch of kings.
These kids from Florida tried to change the world. They succeeded insofar as they made some pretty awesome music. I would go so far as to call it high are, but I happily admit I'm a little biased. They failed insofar as almost all the bands that were inspired by them totally sucked, making the metal scene in the 90's a barren wasteland, where the only famous band was Pantera, and everyone kept whining about Kurt Cobain. What was it about Tampa, Florida that was so conducive to the creation of perhaps some of the best metal ever written? Was it a reaction to the plastic culture, the babes and beaches? Was it simply a matter of the right time and place, like Washington D.C. in the early eighties, that brought bands like Minor Threat to the kids?
I, for one, have no idea. Maybe Glen from Deicide was right, maybe it was just too god damn hot down there.
Doesn't explain the amount of cowboy boots and leather jackets though does it.