Satan Wore Spandex! A Perspective on Thrash Metal’s 25 Year (+) Anniversary- Part 1
What was it that made the 1980’s such an outstanding time period for thrash metal? Was it just because that’s what it all started, or was there something more? Every genre DOES have its golden era. But what really mattered so much that separates THEN from NOW? Let’s take look by breaking it down into some common similarities, and some huge differences:
What hasn’t changed? Long hair! (see footnote at the end of this article). Mandatory in any era. Today, an ‘unkept’ style with the goat-tee is a given. In my era, we were still hanging on to a little bit of that David Cassidy/ Keith Partridge feathered back layered hairstyle. No matter what we tell you, having chicks looking at us was important, it just that wasn’t the GOAL. What about balding dudes? Of course just shave your whole head before you get tagged with the Fraser Crane look, tattoo-up and turn the goat-tee into an colorful, braided amusement park that has Z.Z Top going “hmmm…”. There MUST still be the ‘hey look at me’ element.
What else? Marshalls. Palm-muting. Volume. Tribal loyalty. Wearing black. The pit (more on that below). Rebelliousness, and just a slight lean towards the darker things in life…’nuff said.
But what HAS changed? What are THE biggest separators from the old school and the new school?
ONCE SINGING WAS GONE, IT NEVER CAME BACK. Every death metal screamo holding a microphone in front of their mouth CLAIMS to be a Ronnie James Dio fan. But it baffles me on what they’re missing…DIO SANG! To sing, there must be a sequence of notes assembled into something commonly known as a melody. This creates the content that can be expressed through the chest, throat, and in today’s case, altered timbre by an enlarged adam’s apple.
A lot of the screamo guys today are actually good vocalists, and they enjoy singing. The fans enjoy singing. EVERYONE wants to sing. SINGING IS FUN. If it made sense to just scream for THE WHOLE SONG than why didn’t James or Tom Araya or Paul Baloff just do that? Because they used it SELECTIVELY as a tool to bring in CONTRAST and call attention to certain parts only! If you’re just gonna scream through the whole song…or pump out a continuous 16th note barrage of double bass drumming at 480 bpm…WHERE DO YOU GO FROM THERE? You’ve backed yourself into a corner; and there’s nowhere else left to go! You CAN be extreme and use extreme parts; just give that extreme something else to be compared with!
THE HOOK. Also traditionally referred to you as the chorus. I don’t care how anti-mainstream or defiant of traditions you may be, (as I was) but there are just a few mandates that cannot be overlooked, such as tuning your guitar, no matter how low it may be, singing (if desired) in key, and THE HOOK. Think of any given Dio or Black Sabbath song…chances are you’re thinking of the hook! It’s not something you have to think about too much… You’ll just feel it.
THE PIT. Okay… Everyone agrees it was an element extricated from the hardcore scene that contributed to the crossover. Shirts off, shorts and bandannas on. BUT, in the thrash metal ‘circles’, it was more of a combination of playing air guitar and head banging, while running around in a circle. No tae-kwon-do demonstrations. No punching. No deliberately lifting up your elbow to clock a guy in the face because he hurt you on his last pass by. Now it’s just plain fighting. It hurt the bands, it hurt the fans, and it left the club owners with no option but to beef up security… Which completely shut down the possibility of stage diving. The venues have to cover the increased cost of their liability insurance, so they raised ticket prices. Yes, a few bad apples DO spoil the whole bunch. Granted, the natural progression of a touch football game is to become a tackle one.
THE MISSION. Yes, we WERE out to prove something. And we did. But as some of us were subliminally pigeon-holing at ourselves into a box where the extremes were more important than the song, well…that race caused thrash metal to burn itself out rather quickly. So ask yourself a question… Is your mission really just to be more evil than the next guy? Does your logo have an iconic marketability or does it look just like a bigger ball of string dropped on the floor? You’ll find true enjoyment and individuality to what you do if you stop watching what everyone else is doing. If you watch too much of them, you BECOME them!
FUN! As serious and mission-driven we were, we still never lost sight of the fun we had. Bands today try WAY too hard to prove something. They try so hard that a fake sincerity just screams “bandwagon-jumpers!” Look at death metal pioneer Cronos of Venom. The would be evilest man on the planet wore new-wave striped shirts and red boots daily. That in itself was scary. Even Slayer sported some nice shiny spandex. Great to display the package, if ya had it, and just plain comfy!
Oh yeah, THE HORNS. Sadly, what was once metal now screams MAINSTREAM. When my wife’s grandmother was having some hard luck, she showed her front teeth, wrinkled her forehead, and did Ronnie’s “scatta-maloik” while hanging garlic cloves above her doorway. As Slayer said, “Evil Has No Boundaries”… Not even the kitchen. You make the call.
HAIR is a difficult thing to comb through. My confusing conclusion is actually rather freaky/ weird/ disturbing…Despite what ANY 80’s thrash (or any) musician may tell you, your hair WAS a chick-magnet that could solely determine your evening. The chicks naturally gravitated towards the hair-bands, some of whom “had hair nicer than them”, so chicks liked chick-hair,,,and spandex and eyeliner and ultimately males with hidden transvestite tendencies who exaggerated the “turn-on” attributes inherent in their own gender.
Never a dull moment….
Are my views unfounded? I’m just gettin’ started…stay tuned for part 2!
THERE IS A SOLUTION.
Please help make it happen.
PROBLEMS CAN’T BE SOLVED WHEN YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM.