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Tales from the Jugular

Ears Wide Open - Respecting Metal Trends

By: Frank Hill
Published: Thursday, August 19, 2004
JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Glenn Tipton recently spoke to the El Paso Times about the bands that are considered "heavy metal" by today's standards. According to Tipton, all music, even heavy metal, goes through fads.

"Like it or not, it is a healthy process because out of bad comes some good and out of good comes some bad," Tipton said. "I will never put it down. I pay serious attention to it. There is always something to be learned from it and there is always a demand for it, so these kids must be doing something right."

Pressed to name some of the new metal bands, Tipton said, "My son is 18, and I know he listens to some weird stuff. Every week, it's a different band. Some of it is definitely very extreme, but I don't turn a deaf ear to it. I just don't endure it, I try to like it."

So, he couldn't name some of the newer bands, but I still have to give props to Glenn for the open minded statement. Trends will always come along in metal and why people feel a need to automatically be trend-haters, I don't know. Regardless of what the purists say, it's a conservativism that holds back the growth of metal overall. When left to a closed set of arbitrary rules, metal bands become as stagnant as still swamp water with the majority of the bands little more than two-bit copies of the originators.

Innovators in instrumentation and voice fuel the evolution of the genres and new methods feed ideas into the pool to keep it circulating and fresh. Elements from various sources can cross-pollinate into some exciting pieces of creativity and you'll find upstarts shaking the static ways of the establishment in all types of music, entertainment and culture from metal to movies to big business.

Steven Grant in his weekly column "Master of the Obvious" expressed the same sentiments on trends within his own comic book media:

"There's no criterion that makes any group or type of comic inherently superior to any other group or type....Because genres, publishers, designer labels, modes of creation, target audiences, characters, nations of origin, title affiliations, size, print style and even talent names don't matter. The only thing that makes a comic book good or bad – the only thing that matters, that really matters – is the work. Everything else is marketing. "

All you headbangers out there--open your mind a bit and give everything you hear an initial chance; maybe even a second or third spin. If you're a melodic power fan then loosen any genre bias you might have and try some black or death metal. Extreme metal fans consider that being catchy and chart-worthy isn't inherently wrong, just different and spin some sing-a-long anthems--who cares?! Pick up that unknown metal CD in the used bin you've been eyeing with the cool cover that you can trade to a friend later anyway--what's a few dollars spent. Search and sample a lot of the thousands of indy metal bands with MP3s for download on the Net, send them an email and ask for a CD. Many are as good as any major label band.

Even if you don't like a trend or sample, by hearing what you don't like, it serves to remind you what it is you do like. Put some effort into it and I guarantee you'll come away with an extended music collection or a greater appreciation for your favorites.

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." -- T. S. Eliot

--Frank Hill 08.19.04

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