Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mutank, Annihilator, Bison: more metal from me!

Not sure why but I seem to be going through my third metal phase lately. The first was in the early 1980's, where - after spending some time proclaiming that the Who were the best band in the world, for a brief period, my favourite bands were Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, and the Blue Oyster Cult (fuckit, folks, I am not hunting umlauts down for this blogpost). I saw some some killer shows, mostly at the Pacific Coliseum, including Van Halen touring Diver Down (the "lock up your sheep" tour, with the original lineup of the band, including a cartwheeling David Lee Roth); Black Sabbath (with Ronnie James Dio) on the Mob Rules tour - which was maybe my third-ever stadium show, which I got my Dad to take me to; Judas Priest on Screaming for Vengeance (where Rob Halford rode a chopper onto the stage); the BOC on Fire of Unknown Origin (with Aldo Nova opening!); and Maiden on the Piece of Mind tour, complete with a really amazing 9 foot tall Eddie (I still don't know how they do that). I saw a lot of peripheral bands as opening acts, too - Saxon, Fastway, and I think even Kickaxe. I wrote lyrics for a teenaged metal band with a friend who could play guitar, poring over the dictionary for cool words for song titles and the band name (we settled on Epicurean Nightmare, and designed a cool logo, with interlocking E's and N's at either end. Then that dude - named Greg; no idea what he's up to these days - discovered punk, turned me on to the Sex Pistols, and I became - with the "fuck this and fuck that" chorus at the end of "Bodies," especially - indelibly impressed and fascinated with this new (to me) and dangerous-seeming genre, more than I'd ever been with metal: whatever metal was to me, punk was more of it, made even more compelling by the near impossibility of FINDING any artifacts of the form out in Maple fuckin' Ridge - and especially not bands from Vancouver, where the first wave of punk was just winding down.

Within a couple of years of discovering punk, I'd gotten rid of all my metal albums except for the BOC and Motorhead, who I discovered a bit later. Metal became the music of the people who drove by in their Camaros and chucked empty beercans at punks, or yelled abuse at them, or occasionally shitkicked them. I frequently site a story where the stoners in the park near our high school chucked rocks at me ("stoned by stoners") as I walked by with a funny haircut and a small Realistic tape recorder playing The Exploited. As much as I'd once loved metal's music, I realized that the people who liked it were to some extent stupid thugs, and I started to take issue with some of the lyrics (especially the sexist, rapeheaded lyrics - see "Squealer" - of AC/DC). Their tribe was at war with my tribe, and - since punks didn't actually go out there and shitkick people, at least not as a habit - all I could do was feel totally and utterly superior to the headbangers at my high school. Iron Maiden? Judas Priest? Fuck that shit - it's music for morons (that was how I felt around 1985, anyhow).

When the crossover happened - with Suicidal Tendencies, the Bad Brains, and D.R.I. all releasing albums that took them in a much more "metal" direction, circa 1987 - it made me sad. Maybe punk could get wider appeal because of it, but these were all bands I liked. I could recognize - with some festering tribal ambivalence - that there was some great stuff going on with the Bad Brains' I Against I - but I was so disappointed with D.R.I. that, not only did I not buy Crossover, I sold my copy of Dealing With It and stopped listening to them. Tribal loyalties run deep, you know? I tried, as I recall, to listen to Annihilator at the time, but only because Rampage was singing; when I found out it was just more metal, I tuned out (enjoying their new stuff a lot, tho'). I was pretty closed-minded and probably blocked out music I really would have enjoyed, as a result. I kind of wouldn't mind revisiting Suicidal Tendencies' Join The Army, because at the time I absolutely hated it: what's this shit? This band had been GREAT, and now they were making this crappy, lame metal... yecch.

I didn't come back to metal in any real sense til around 2008, when two things happened: I interviewed Lemmy Kilmister - eventually even met him in person - and, in doing my homework, discovered that I liked a lot more than just classic Motorhead; and learned that a free jazz/ noise musician I liked and had seen live, at gigs at the Sugar Refinery and 1067 and elsewhere, was joining a metal band. That guy was named Masa Anzai, then known to me as a saxophone player; and the band was, of course, Bison; I still remember being surprised when he told me, at a Mats Gustaffson concert during the jazz fest ("I can always play the saxophone when I'm older," he reasoned. Okay, I guess that makes sense...).

I actually saw Bison, with Masa, at the Plaza, when their current album was still Earthbound. I didn't know what to make of it at the time, but by damn did they look like they were having a good time. I still have a t-shirt from that show, actually...

Anyhow, Masa was up there with Lemmy, for me, in other words, in terms of getting me to get interested in metal again. Turned out that so much had happened in the genre since I'd walked away back in 1986 or so that there was a lot to hold my interest; it didn't hurt, either, that I was starting to interview people. For a year or so, I plunged deep: I watched every Sam Dunn film I could find, I read Lords of Chaos - an excellent book, even if it looks like it's going to be a deeply suspect movie - and bought maybe a hundred different metal CDs, taking in movements (death metal, black metal, folk metal, sludge, doom, etc) that I had completely ignored to that point. Believe it or not, until about 2008, I had never owned or listened to classics of the genre like Slayer's Reign in Blood. It really didn't take much for me to fall in love with it all over again, especially since even the most derivative, genre bound, and mediocre death metal and black metal bands sounded completely new and strange to me. How was I to know that there were a hundred other bands out there that sounded exactly like them?

It lasted for awhile, and then petered out. Death metal, with all its technical prowess and showoffery, lost me first; black metal - much of which sounds the same to me - came a close second, though it still interests me as a phenomenon (it seems to have inherited the old puritan "underground" spirit of punk rock, taking it even more seriously in some cases). To my surprise, the bands I found myself enjoying the most were folk metal (which sounded utterly ridiculous on paper, before I saw, say, Arkona and Korpiklaani live) and, yep, exactly the stuff I'd liked as a kid: Maiden and Priest and Sabbath.

Eventually I kind of lost that second wave of enthusiasm, and went back to listening to punk, mostly. I haven't spun much metal in the last year or two; I've listened to some Unleash the Archers and Amon Amarth and other bands I've written about, but I haven't been digging like I was just a short time ago. (I didn't even buy anything at the Scrape closeout).

Anyhow, I don't know why, but I'm wanting to listen to metal again more. I'm totally excited about the MUTANK/ Annihilator show this Thursday - today, maybe, by the time I publish this, and have interviewed MUTANK for an online article at the Straight. And in print, I've done a feature on the second most significant band in getting me back into metal, the cherished Bison, formerly Bison BC. I am so keen to see Friday's show I can't believe it. I actually didn't care that much for that last EP they released, so I'm really, really happy to be lovin' their new album so much. I was afraid without Masa - the guy who got me INTO the band in the first place - my feelings about their music would change, but nope, it hasn't.

Really enjoy interviewing James Farwell, too. He's a very articulate and honest man, an interesting dude to talk to. Maybe I'll post some outtakes here sometime...

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