Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Defense of Anthrax: Ravings of a Madman

Thrash Metal is fairly popular, and has seen a resurgence in the past few years, myself one of the victims of this new popularity, no doubt due to the internet. Often in the same breath, the term 'The Big Four of Thrash' is often mentioned. These bands are Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. The first three make perfect sense. Say what you will about Megadeth and Dave Mustaine, it's irrelevant. Some people seem to like him. Plus Tornado of Souls is a sweet song.

The real problem arises around Anthrax. This bunch of moronic New Yorkers rose to great heights within the metal scene in the eighties and even went on to further embarass themselves in the ninties by flirting with rap. It is often claimed that their best album was Among the Living, released in 1986. This is no doubt true, it certainly is there best record. However, based on their other recordings, specifically, I'm the Man, this is no great claim to fame. The best song off Among the Living is Caught in a Mosh, and that is pretty damn mediocre. I will also concede that the song Madhouse has a sweet video clip.

What gets me is the image. Portrayed as the fun guys, when compared to the sincerity of Metallica, the pseudo-satanism of Slayer, and the idiocy of Megadeth, Anthrax did outrageous things like wear board shorts and, later, track suits with mad bling:

To me it strikes me as incredibly put on. Metallica is often accused of playing with image and scene for the sake of record sales. I would argue that Anthrax did so in a far more cynical way. Not to mention they released terrible music. I am liable to forgive Metallica for everything when i hear Shortest Straw...though perhaps not the song Frantic.

In any case, when we compare Anthrax with a band who did not make any ground, and were relegated to the credibility laden, but money bare underground, such as Morbid Saint:

We see just how bad Anthrax are:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqClrI343Bg (please excuse lack of embed)

I would argue that the Public Enemy shirt is sweet.

I realise i am not saying anything fundamental here. Terrible bands 'make it', while excellent ones are relegated to the proverbial trash.

The only thing worse than Anthrax is James Hetfield's current voice, as well as anything written by Municipal Waste. Also, Armored Saint.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Philosophy and Metal: Nothing But Shame

Aside from riding a lot and listening to terrible music i also go to university. There I am doing philosophy. Naturally i find the topic both interesting and terribly hard.
So when two of my interests combine, I always pay attention (cycling and philosophy never go together because pros are too busy saying banal things like: "I gave it 110% but never pulled through with the goods", and amateur's are too busy emulating said pros).
I came across an article on http://www.anus.com/ regarding the 'Philosophy of Metal', which can be found here:

Aside from being over-blown, verbose, and largely wrong, it was a very interesting read. The idea that metal might have a philosophical back-bone, other than drunk men wanting to compose 'sweet riffs', was kind of encouraging. It makes metal seem more like an artistic movement, rather than an anthises to one.

I became discouraged however when i saw this picture:

Aside from being a terrible band, I am sure that Cannibal Corpse has no philosophical backing. The article pointed this out, quite rightly. I am sure that some bands do. Many bands have a pseudo philosophical approach, such as Morbid Angel, but they are about as comprehensible as CC vocals.

The idea that heavy metal started out as a reaction to the hippy music of the 1960's seems too easy an explanation, as it doesn't take into account the punk and hardcore that was so important for its development. There is also the issue that because metal is so broad it encompasses far too many views and espouses to many opinions for it to have a unified philosophy per se. To make claims that metal is the 'strong mans' music, and then relating to Nietzsche and his nihilism seems to miss the point. Metal, if anything, is often the bastion for those who crave belonging and find it in the metal sub-culture. These are the people who are 'metal heads' but clearly don't understand it beyond a superficial, horns in the air way. Beyond that, though it is common to equate metal with depression and despair, i have often found metal to be life affirming. Not simply in the way i listen to it, but also in what the music is trying to achieve. Thrash bands were politicallyy aware (at least for a time), black metal bands explored naturalism in both the human world and in nature, death metal was often not without a social voice, etc, etc.

I have no doubt that much of what the article says is correct in some ways, but to me it seemed overly simplistic, and missed some of metal's finer, more subtle points. Metal, if anything, is a cross section of both social consciousness and complete ignorance expressed in a musical form that is often unpallatable. I have always been convinced that the difference between a good and a bad metal band is the substance behind the music itself, whether it be through good or interesting lyrics, or their actions in life.

When all is said and done though, nothing describes the tingle down the spine when you hear a kick ass riff.

Maybe that is the true philosophy of metal: the animalisitc reaction we all get when we first hear it, before we have a chance to falsely intellectualise what it essentially so much noise.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hammering it Home: Why No One will Admit that Grindcore sounds terrible

I love grindcore. I love the bands:

Look at these guys? Have you ever seen uglier men? Do they give a fuck? Hell NO! Two of them are wearing the same band tee.

I also love them for the songs:

Clearly it has a lot going for it. I love the way it attracts punks and metal fans alike. I like its left leaning anarchic politics. I like its lack of pretension that is so overbearing in death metal. When the mood is right grindcore is brilliant.

But holy god it sounds bad sometimes. To make myself feel more metal, i occasionly listen to Scum, Napalm Death's first album. In between feeling prety metal and enjoying most of the tunes, i realise that this music sounds TERRIBLE! It sounds as if the local band, consisting of 14 year olds, has suddenly won a record deal, thought: "fuck it, let's not tune our instruments, or rehearse" and recorded an album. Carcass released god knows how many albums, none of which i can pronounce the title. Then they suddenly got soft and started playing mediocre death metal.

This is not to detract from grindcore's many benefits. It still is mercifully devoid of posers, it stands for good things, and it did a lot for metal. But holy god it sounds bad most of the time.

All that being said, when it's good, it's damn good. A case in point here is Terrorizer's first album.

Above is a case in point. One day there might be a good grind band that doesn't look like this:

That being said, they look much better than Napalm Death.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nobr Akes: The lies and blindness of the cool

Lately, i have experimented with brakeless fixed gear riding. To some extent, what they say about it is true. You are more aware, you do gain a wider appreciation for the road, and it can be really fun if your doing it right. If you can do it: right on, i admire you. If you can't, put a brake on.
I realise this has been done to death in fixed gear circles, and I am of the firm opinion it should be down to the discretion of the individual. However my concern stems from the habit of people riding brakeless simply becuase it is cool at the moment. Not to mention the myths that come out of it: it makes me safer becuase i am more aware, i ride faster becuase i haev to comit to the line i take, it's the only way to ride, etc. etc.
Of the times i have ridden brakeless in built up areas, i rode much slower than usual due my totally uncool tendency for self preservation. Being more aware is all very well, but that doesn't stop a mad taxi drived coming out of a side street directly in front of you and royally fuckign you over. Basically i was totally fucking terrified. And it definately did NOT make me faster or more commited to my line. It just made me nervous, slow, and incosistent. A fixed gear bike with a brake is, in my opinion, one of the fastest ways you can get around urban areas. You can crank your cadance up to the limit, and the use of a brake keeps your pedalling smooth and constant, with no need for elaborate skids.
All this being said, I'm quite keen to continue dabbling with no brakes simply becuase i do think it improves my riding and i do believe it is a good skill to have. What i don't believe is that it is better than riding with a brake in terms of safety. It sure is fun though.
All i want it for people to recognise their limits, recognise that it is a difficult skill to aquire, and that having a front brake is a GOOD thing. So in the event of a chain/cleat/clip/cog failure your not forced to gulp bravely, and plunge into an intersection taking out various innocent civilians with you.
In conclusion, if you are honestly skilled, go NOBR AKES. If you have doubts, pull your head in, and palp a brake. By all means dabble with both in controlled envrioments however. Just like these esteemed gentleman.