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Satan Wore Spandex! A Perspective on Thrash Metal’s 25 Year (+) Anniversary- Part 1

Satan Wore Spandex! A Perspective on Thrash Metal’s 25 Year (+) Anniversary- Part 1What 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.  

old school thrash metal, hook, chorus, vocalists, singing, Dio

Godfather to all things truly metal, Ronnie James Dio lines up a fan in the crosshairs of his grandmother's maloik.

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, fun, stage diving, air guitar, headbanging, fighting

A rarely seen field goal attempt in the pit. Vocal teachers preferred this ballsy method of perfecting the Halford-esque high notes.

 
Anthrax followed trends

Moshing, slamming, diving and all around hardcore advocates...Thrash metal trendmasters 'ANTHRAX' in 1983.

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.

Rat Skates drew Overkill logo, iconic marketability

Building identity in the opposite direction of our attention span....LEFT: my original 'Overkill' logo, influenced by Iron Maiden and The Zephyr/ Dogtown scene. Right: A focus group determined it says 'Necrophobic', possibly influenced by a ball of string dropped on the floor.

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! 

Slayer, Venom wore red spandex, striped shirts, layered feathered haircuts

The evilest man on the planet, Thrash Metal hero and advocate of red apparel: CRONOS of VENOM, 1984.

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!  

metal horns, maloik, mainstream, bandwagon

Metals' mainstream tribal gesture...'THE HORNS'. A descendant of the "scatta-maloik", natively demonstrated in defiance of the paparozzi, at a kitchen in Naples.

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. 

80's hair important to metal bands, musicians, girls chicks, Vince Neil, Rat Skates

Motley Crue's Vince Neil: His hair was directly influenced by one of the Thrash movement's pioneers, during the transition stages of the early 'confused' period.

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 AT LEAST ONE MUSICIAN IN OVER 55% OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS.

“Artists and writers experience two to three times the rate of psychosis, suicide attempts, mood disorders, and substance abuse than do comparably successful people in business, science, and public life.”

Study by Dr. Arnold M. Ludwig, a psychiatrist at the University of Kentucky Medical

THERE IS A SOLUTION.

Please help make it happen.

PROBLEMS CAN’T BE SOLVED WHEN YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM.


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6 Comments

  1. Steve V. says:

    Awesome Rat…!
    I’ve been preaching these exact points for a long time now, and I still do…
    Anyway – beautifully stated…!
    Regards,
    Steve

  2. franck says:

    You are totally right and of course u know what you’re talking about! some have difficulties to admit cos they want to be evil or black…well music is just music but some melodies are needed.

    Thrash was a movement that evolved quickly but died quickly first cos of the major who did want to stop it and make more money in 1991 most Thrash bands became money sellers Metallica Megadeth Anthrax they all turned their ego in the bin and sold their soul to the mighty business hence the song from SKid ROw ‘monkey business’ that noone can avoid if u wanna make a living of it.

    Thrash is back cos we love it but for how long cos people are getting old and tired, and most cos it’s not that much appreciated appart from the Metal maniacs.

    Underground has always been the best but who buys the albums?! today it’s more important to have a very designed art cover and lots of guitar solos …

    it helps feeling good

    music is life
    (not a job)

  3. trailer says:

    Great article!!
    For me, the internet has played a big part in killing thrash, and most other music. period.
    Controversial?..sure, Ironic?..perhaps.
    Why do I say this?… well, who goes out of their way in the real world to find some interesting band anymore?? It used to be all about the hunt, rock hunters!! lol, now the hunter gatherer has become the spoonfed dependent … indifferently swallowing up the mass gloop and and watching independent artist fall from the corners of their fat mouths… also known as facebook, and myspace before that.
    Artist spend more time promoting online than making music… it’s overestimated. Get something on the shelves, and let the spark of youth do the rest.
    Rant Over
    🙂

    • Skates says:

      Agreed! See my article about how bands are spending more time ‘clicking’ than ‘picking’: http://ratskates.com/artists-free-to-create-or-slaves-to-popularity/

      • trailer says:

        You’re already on it!!…it’s inspiring to have someone in your position take these stands man!
        I’m a semi-moderately-lesser-known video editor and a/v performer. I recently made to the decision to remove all my online pages, profiles, video, presence, etc in favour of doing it the old way…. let someone find it and spread it. I have a new performance based project in the works, and I want to start by building it up from flyers and word of mouth without any online involvement from me. I never fully knew how to go about promoting and hyping my own stuff, it’s far better coming from someone else 😉
        I’m onto this article…
        Keep up the good work man!!

  4. Rob says:

    had to laugh and agree specially the Satan wears spandex and how much more evil can black be.then I had the hair,the lick’s,the chicks but was just trying to make a living at what I did best, make good music.then you could walk in talk to a club owner and get a gig that paid until pay to play showed it’s ugly head. couldn’t get a deal so started my own and had to learn a whole more than lick’s, most had nothing to do with music. but determined I did it anyway and today glad I did. got ripped off more than most and finally left the biz. today 30 yrs later the fans decided it’s fate and it sits on the shelves all over the world by word of mouth and as a result only now am I recouping all the costs incurred then and the fans acceptance & approval that I did not waste my time. but whats the end game,where is the latter up or pathway,there is none.it’s a closed society with a dark agenda and now I know it always has been. but the new musician has no idea – thanks for shedding some light in a dark void and trying to help the musicians no one else is and good luck

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