The Polishing of Metal
Part 3.5 - The Witchfinder General: The Story of The PMRC

By Derek McDonald

Yes, Metal, the lumbering dinosaur of the '70's took an evolutionary step into popularity when it collided with the 1980's. But its evolution wasn't complete. During the 1980's it would no longer collide with itself but its growing popularity and shrinking secrecy would make it collide with society. A society, for the most part still run by closed-minded conservatives. It was the Reagan/Cold War Years.

As Metal's popularity grew ever more apparent, Reagan-era special interest groups began to voice their opinions.

The biggest foe of rock will be recorded in history as the PMRC - The Parents' Music Resource Center - (aka "The Washington Wives" by those who don't care for them).

The PMRC is the watchdog organization founded in 1985 by US Senator's wife Tipper Gore and US Treasury Secretary's wife Susan Baker after they discovered that Pop star Prince was singing songs describing acts of masturbation and oral sex and that some Heavy Metal seemed to extol the cause of devil worship. Though the group claims its primary aim is simply to make parents aware of the provocative themes and raw language that characterize much of today's rock, the PMRC has, in fact, courted both the media and lawmakers as it has relentlessly pressured record labels to impose rating systems on their artists.

Indeed, the PMRC has become the most effective adversary that Rock & Roll has ever faced. The PMRC thrived and had such success because of the times in which it was founded. The Reagan administration was determined to bring back conservative beliefs into American society. This "Conservative Ideal" made rock a prime target.

But rather than address the issues -- the fact that Heavy Metal, in particular, not only spoke to the simmering discontent its listeners felt but provided an alternative source of personal pride and cultural identity -- these groups homed in on the more superficial forms of subversion: dirty language, devil lyrics, reverse messages, inappropriate dress and any other nonsense they could spew forth. As history shows, they were bound and bent to stop the show and spoil the fun. They tried to muzzle Metal. Many of these groups acted very much like children and kept files on suspected artists and lyrics and were determined to undermine the constitutional Freedom Of Expression, an ideal held sacred in most of the Western world. Frank Zappa lectured them on this very principle at hearings they held.

Fact of the matter is very few of these charges were ever substantiated. Foul language was maybe the only issue that any action was taken against and this was very minor with the addition of a warning sticker on albums with questionable images or lyrics.

This minor change in the way rock did business did not come easily. Almost half of the 50 US states considered a stickering law and a congressional hearing was held to discuss this matter. Several well known rockers appeared to defend their art form. Two of the most vocal was Dee Snider of Twisted Ssister fame and Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. In attendance also were several other Metal artists as well as countless pop rock artists who named themselves "The Music Majority.”

The laws never happened. Instead, the major record companies, 24 in total, rolled over and volunteered to sticker such albums on a self censoring system. Over time all record companies fell in line with Virgin coming in last, choosing instead to put a quote from the US constitution's First Amendment instead of the black and white warning sticker.

This kind of controversy is not new to rock and roll. Through the '50's and '60's, "scandals" of every sort were occurring. From Jerry Lee Lewis making a cousin his bride to Elvis Presley who dared to wiggle his hips or the Beatles with their "long hair.” Rock & Roll has been around the block more than once with this matter.

But this; this was different. This hatred of the music genre went deeper than just the music and lyrics. Figuring that they wouldn't win by attacking the entire musical genre, and calculating that two plus two made five, the special interest groups chose to try to divide and conquer. Iron Maiden was an early example. They were accused of being devil worshippers because of their song The Number of the Beast with the lyrics: "666 The Number of the Beast.” Fact is Iron Maiden are far from having anything to do with the devil and that song was based on a nightmare a band member had but to the zealots a single song and album cover was enough to condemn its authors of hideous crimes.

It didn't stop there. Nobody and nothing was sacred. Some came up with even worse. Before the decade was out, both Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest had been accused of inspiring teen suicides either by the PMRC directly or private citizens on a political crusade. Both cases were dismissed and both artists walked out of court free. But the deciding judges warned that other such cases may not get off so easy and to expect more in the future.

And so it continued, debate after debate and case after case.. This may make it seem like it was an all encompassing hobby of Americans during the '80's but the fact of the matter is most fans didn't know or care much about the politics of success.

By the beginning of the early 1990's, the music which was designed to allow people the freedom to enjoy what came out of the record player was now telling society that the show will go on regardless of what "the establishment" thinks of it! And it did just that - go on.

The story on the PMRC does not end here, however. The PMRC did survive. They continued to attack Metal but not with such force as they once did. A new enemy of mankind had come to their attention: Gangsta-Rap. Their attacks now centered on this new demon. By 1995 they were once again trying to restrict the rights of others, this time by claiming they were helping society by stopping children from hearing explicit or violent lyrics. They took advantage of their small victory with the warning labels and tried, in 6 US states, to stop the sale of stickered items. They have thus far failed to make it law.

This dragon would raise its ugly head again in 1996 when the Thrash band Slayer would be sued for (as news reports claimed) "inciting two teens to conspire to commit murder and devil worship."

As well, the US retail giant would attempt to ban records because of the warning sticker and cover art. But WalMart spread the hatred out to all music genres.

But the PMRC, although the biggest, was not the only pundit that Heavy Metal and Rock & Roll in general has faced. Many churches have also attacked the genre for extolling the values of devil worship, its language and encouraging sadomasochism. Their excuse for violating the rule that church and state are separate is that they are speaking in the name of the lord.

Like the PMRC, the churches had little to defend their opinions with. To say that all Heavy Metal extols sadomasochism and devil worship is like saying all Blues music encourages poverty, all classical music is listened to only by rich snobby people, country music attracts only the attention of redneck hill billies, all bikers wear leather and beat people up or all computer users are mathematically smart. Although these are commonly accepted principles they are clearly false and, quite frankly, insulting! Although there are some examples in Heavy Metal which can be used as examples to attempt to prove devil worship and sadomasochism, there has never been clear and absolute proof, nor is it easy to accept that the musical genre and its fans have collaborated over 30 years to promote such things. Such a conspiracy on such a grand scale is most certainly a mission impossible and it doesn't even make a good fictional story plot.

In all fairness, in some cases the church is doing what it thinks is indeed the will of god for the good of the people, but most times they are clearly acting in self interest. It leaves no question as to why so many young people these days do not regularly attend their houses of worship.

When it comes to the evils of the world, Metal seems to rank very low when you consider the plight of the hungry, homeless, war and diseases which attract so much more of man’s energies and are by far more serious issues to deal with.

Ask any sadomasochist and they will tell you that it wasn't music that got him or her interested in sexy costumes, whips, chains and alternative forms of lovemaking. Ask any kid in any town where he learned to cuss and swear and chances are he learned it on the street or at home (like I did), not on a record. Ask most people if they know what devil worship/Satanism really is and they will have no idea. Such things do not need the help of Metal to promote them, they seem to do a fine job on their own as do sex, violence and drugs. Take Metal away and you will still have these problems. Contrary to the beliefs of many churches most people seem to think that what feels good must be good and Metal is no more evil or good than society at large and unlike religion, which does still have a place in our modern society, Metal has never started any wars or prejudice and also serves a purpose.

All Men Play On 10: The Super-Bands

During the 1980's there was more than one movement in Metal.

Underground, there were other deeds brewing.

Firstly, there was the big bands of the '70's that had survived all of this shifting around and became bigger. They, for the most part, kept their own style of Metal. Such bands as Judas Priest, AC/DC, Van Halen and Rush paved their own pathways to success and to this day still entertain people live and loud. They crawled from the underground to become pop icons.

Rush is Canada's biggest contribution thus far to Metal. Their 1976 concept album 2112 has become a standard in the world of Heavy Metal. With many successive hits they were named Canada's Official Ambassadors of Music by the Canadian government in 1979 and won The Order Of Canada in 1996. Despite being accused of being pretentious and now rarely performing outside Canada, Rush is still clearly a marketable commodity for record companies.

In 1970 they came from England and have rocked hard ever since. By 1980 they boasted sell out US and UK tours. Judas Priest is the perfect example of a Heavy Metal band; screaming guitars and a screaming vocalist, all clad in studs and leather. Although more recently their popularity waned they remained a top notch Metal outfit who had set standards for the genre. Some of their best works include the singles Living After Midnight, Ram it Down, You've Got Another Thing Comin' and Breaking the Law.

After almost 24 years the great ship that was Judas Priest ran aground. Disagreements amongst the band members and the loss of their singer Rob Halford to other projects left them with a situation that they could not recover from. By the end of 1995 the talk of breakup was in the air. But, almost six months later a new singer, was found and the differences between the remaining members was settled just in time thus giving new life to an old band. No matter what anyone says, 1995 marked the end of an era for Judas Priest for they left behind a 25 year legacy of studs, leather and hard music. Maybe the next 25 will be as promising.

Van Halen started in Passadena California, USA and by the 1980's had become one of the most successful and marketable Metal bands. It was founded by Eddie and Alex Van Halen with David Lee Roth on vocals. Originally called Mammoth they changed the name to Van Halen when they discovered Mammoth had already been taken. Several other band members changed but this basic line up remained until 1985 when Roth was replaced by Ex-Montrose vocalist Sammy Hagar who would be replaced by the returning Roth when artistic differences with Hagar outweighed those of the failing soloist Roth who returned on a temporary status, only to leave after 2 songs in 1996. It was the biggest piece of industry news of that year.

1984 was a big year for metal. Nuclear annihilation was once again on the popular minds and the entertainment culture, so was George Orwells book 1984 and the idea of “big brother.” It was supposed to be either the Armageddon or the coming of the age of Aquarius. Neither happened. Leather, spikes and chain-mail were back in fashion for Heavy Metal stars and fans alike (the style would return in the late '90s) but Van Halen kept a steady pace with a return to their old format and on new years eve kicked it all off right with their album of all new material called MCMLXXXIV (1984). The album would remain on the charts for the entire year. It debuted at #2 on the US charts and the single Jump hit #1. It effectively put them on the popular map. Many critics however believe their best work was the following album: 5150.

The Faster The Better: The Evolution of Thrash

During 1981 Conrad Lant, then an employee of Neat Records, an indie that had made its mark on the NWOBHM movement in Wellsend (Newcastle) England, started a band called Venom and created a demo tape. David Wood, the big wig of Neat, was frustrated by Lant's constant requests to publish this work. In despair Wood took the tape to Geoff Barton, a guru of the NWOBHM movement and editor at Sounds magazine. Barton loved it and raved about it in print. Lant was rewarded with his record contract and Thrash was born!

Well, not so fast! It isn't quite that easy. The style that is Thrash had been experimented with before. In 1975 Motorhead had come on the scene with Ian (Lemme) Kilminster at the Helm and by 1979 with their On Parole and Motorhead LPs they became big news with both the Punk and Metal crowd. The sound that would result from this band as time went on was an embryonic form of what we now call Thrash long before that name meant anything to anyone. This seed would later give Lemme Kilminster the title "Grandfather Of Thrash.”. Although Motorhead, it could be argued, came up with the idea of Thrash, an idea alone does not constitute invention. Their contribution was very important, however, for it left a seed by which Conrad Lant and Venom would grow from and become recognized by history as the inventors. Exactly where Venom and Conrad Lant (aka Cronos) fit into the history of Metal is a sticky point for it is with this band, one of the few in history, that we can clearly pinpoint a crossing from one sub-genre to another. The exact point where idea met action and created invention. Were they simply a NWOBHM band taken to the fullest extremes or was the plan to invent a new genre and use the NWOBHM movement and fans to do it? Well, probably neither or is that both? They fit nicely in between both sub-genres and can be easily classified in both.

Shortly after Lemmy (as in Lemme a fiver) Kilminster (real name: Ian Kilminster) got the sack from Hawkwind he started his own band which he described as, "The kind of band that if we moved next to you, your lawn would die." Originally to be named Bastard, Motorhead debuted at the Roundhouse in London in May of 1975. Lemmy obviously knew what he was doing for in 1981 Motorhead’s live album, No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, went immediately to number 1 on the UK charts. The first Metal album to ever do so. On Lemmy Kilminster's 50 th birthday he was crowned the King Of Metal.

Venom were no strangers to the night. They became famous for their occult Metal antics and were known only by their stage names: Cronos, Mantas and Abbadon. Many people argue that the band isn't worthy of honorable mention because they weren't that good. In their own admission they were meant more as a joke in answer to the NWOBHM movement that was sweeping the metal world in the early '80s rather than a serious effort.

At the time of its founding, Conrad Lant (aka Cronos) was an employee of Neat records, a small English record company responsible for many NWOBHM group publications. Notoriety was struck when Geoff Barton of Sounds Magazine heard their demo and told the world about it. The result was powerful songs, stage shows like never before, a loyal following of fans and Venom being recorded into history as being the crossover point of NWOBHM to Thrash.

So, essentially almost as soon as NWOBHM was born, it reproduced and although it started in England it didn't stay there for very long. As an answer to the British Metal movements the Americans would embrace Thrash as their own and perfect it.

The American answer would become modern Thrash-Metal. It wasn't really until the arrival of Thrash, Speed, Black or Grindcore (whatever you want to call it) that music sped up to what it is today. Thrash was a retaliation to the Glam Metal that came out in the 80's and made MTV rich as well as an answer to the influx of British bands. Thrash used the speed and complexity of NWOBHM, along with the tonal shaping of classic Heavy Metal to express itself. Speed was dominant in the construction of most early Thrash-Metal.

Such bands as Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax (the big three Thrashers) were early starters in this genre but were by no means the only. These bands, in general, took a more direct stripped down approach to performances by leaving much of the theatricals behind and concentrating on the product, their music, rather than the elaborate dress and bright lights of their NWOBHM counterparts.

As Punk and NWOBHM helped the British record companies with fresh talent so did Thrash for the Americans. Many new “Indie Labels" such as Metal Blade and RoadRunner were started to promote this valuable asset to Metal. The impact wasn't immediate, however. It would take until the mid 1980's before thrash would be recognized by the Metal populace who, before then, were living in a world saturated with NWOBHM and Glam. The Thrash sub-genre did come unto its own and dominated the late '80s and 1990's Heavy Metal scene. 85% of all Metal made during that period was Thrash or Thrash related.

Chances are when someone says the name Heavy Metal to you, you think of the Thrash sound as the stereo-typical Heavy Metal music it has grown to become.

If each star in the night sky represents a distant sun then Metallica was the fastest moving and maybe the brightest. This Thrash quartet started with the intention of being faster and louder than anyone else. And they were! Their success happened so fast that by 1991, only 10 years after their founding and 8 years after their first publication Kill 'em All (Originally to be called Metal Up Your Ass) they were outselling everybody in the rock field and by1994 had won 3 Grammies.

Metallica used their great volume and Thrash speed not just to make lots of noise but to enhance their music. During the past decade they experimented and perfected their sound to the point where it became palatable to a large audience.

They were (and at time of this writing are) the most popular rock band to ever walk the earth, followed very closely behind by Guns N' Roses, a band who will probably become known for their character as well as their music. Metallica's sound is best described as Motorhead meets Iron Maiden (two of their influences).

Iron Maiden and the NWOBHM movement managed to standardize Metal and turn it into a professional and respected musical art, but outside of its own fans and performers Metal received only modest respect and this is where Metallica’s legacy will be forever recorded into history. Metallica made the record industry and general populace outside of the genre respect the music. In fact they almost single-handedly forced it into the popular culture in the early 1990's, a trick that had never been achieved by any other Metal band!

Slayer is a band who never lost their hard edge. The band set standards for the Thrash Metal flavor of Metal and stuck with it. Very few bands in this extreme form of music ever make it big but Metallica as well as Slayer did manage to gain wide popular appeal. Record collectors consider Slayer publications as some of the most valuable and challenging to find because of its extreme sound which caters to a very specific ear. Formed in 1983, near Los Angeles USA, this band became most popular for their ground breaking classic Thrash album Raining Blood.

Anthrax came to the fore in New York in 1982. Managed by Johnny Z., founder of the indie Megaforce Records label they released Fistfull Of Metal in 1984. Despite its tasteless sleeve the album received fair reviews. In 1985 they redid a lightning fast version of the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. For a time they co-existed with SOD (Storm Troopers Of Death), a spin-off band by sharing their rhythm guitar player and bass players, Scott Ian and Dan Liker respectively. Liker later left Anthrax. They also became good friends of the members of Metallica. In 1987 they commissioned former Kiss and Whitesnake manager Eddie Kramer which resulted in the albums Among The Living and State Of Euphoria becoming classics.

Pretty Boys: The Age Of Glam

During the 1980's Metal also experimented with so called Glam Metal which had more of a Pop style sound, not suprisingly because glam came from '70s pop. Many people jokingly say that the easiest way to tell a Glam band from a regular Metal band is by the clothes they wear. This statement does have some truth to it, but exactly how much is hard to say because it has never been put to a scientific test. Musically, many of the bands were able to make some listenable noise, but visually the best description would be "cheesy.” The whole fashion of guys looking like girls and girls looking like guys was probably started here. Long blonde or pink died hair, circular-saw blade codpieces, spandex and puffy clothes and a more than ample supply of leather and spikes took the Heavy Metal warrior image and pushed it beyond the envelope tolerance levels. The Glam style became probably as big as the NWOBHM sound did. Unfortunately, Glam's fame is not as well deserved. At first Glam bands were original but in its later years the music industry had made it into a cheap and cheesy assembly line musical form which destroyed its initial appeal.

Slade was founded in the UK around 1971 although it existed under other, less successful, names as early as 1966. Their singer, Noddy Holder, once declared "the fans are tired of paying to sit on their hands, while watching musicians who clearly couldn't care less about their customers. What's wanted is a more party atmosphere.” With this expression and what many felt was a move towards so called 'progressive rock,’ where old men with beards and long hair put their heads downcast from the audience and played long dull solos, Glam was born. Marc Boland (of T-Rex) was probably the first Glam rocker but Slade shifted that fad into Metal which caught on by the early 1980s. And so off they went to stardom with hit singles: Cum On Feel The Noize (which would later be redone by '80s Glam rockers Quiet Riot), Look Wot You Don, Run Runaway (Later redone by a Newfoundland folk group) and so on which took music back to the basics and clothes into the direction of Christmas trees making male rockers look like 'male peacocks' as it was termed. Slade lasted well into the '90s even though only two singles ever charted in the US: Run Runaway (at #20) and My Oh My (at #37) in 1984. Both singles were back to back on their Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply LP. In the UK they fared better; everything charted in the top 20.

Quiet Riot, founded in 1973, met their biggest success in 1984 with a redo of Slade's Cum On Fell The Noize. They were Slade fans. The band topped the US charts with their album Metal Heath with the single of like title, the first debut Metal album to reach #1 on US charts and something that even bands the size of Kiss never managed to do. This success was to prove brief after several other flop albums with only one other, Condition Critical, breaking the top 20 at #15. The band broke up in 1988.

Formed in 1980, Motley Crew visited fame by self producing and publishing their songs on their own Leathur record label but in 1992 that was to end when Elektra signed them to real fame. Their biggest moment saw them hit the highest Metal slotting on the billboard chart since The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin in 1976. That album was Girls, Girls, Girls. Here they incorporated harmonicas, organs and pianos into their music, taking them in a new direction and moved them up from club sized Glam Metallers to stadium sized rock and roll. The hits would keep on coming with other albums including Dr. Feel Good. In 1987, Nikki Sixx (founder and bass guitar (real name Frank Faranno)) almost died of a heroin overdose. Previously, in 1984, Vince Neil (vocals) was involved in a major car accident in which Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle was killed. But despite the problems the band plays on.

Glam bands were numerous but one of the most popular were Twisted Sister who, shortly after their founding in 1982, made it onto the charts with such songs as We're Not Gonna Take It and You Can't Stop Rock-n-Roll. They broke up in 1987 leaving many fans still hungry.

This form of Metal has gone out of style and, although Slade and some of the older bands survive, many of the bands are no longer around. Unfortunately history has not been kind to these bands and uses them almost as a joke for the excesses of rock in the '80's.

The Bad Boys: Death Metal

Death Metal also saw a rise in the 1980's. It is argued that this form of music will replace Thrash as the dominant Metal sound by the turn of the century. Speculation aside, its roots may stem as far back as Black Sabbath in the early '70s or as late as 1980's Thrash. Wherever it came from, it came to rise by the late 1980s with such groups as Sepultura, Obituary, Carcass, Amorphis and the like. Centering its dark sound on lyrics of carnage and death (in most cases), its name is quite appropriate.

The most noticeable item of Death Metal, beside its hard use of electric guitars and bass drums, is the growling of the vocalist. In Death Metal the voice is almost used as if it were another instrument. The music is a solid wall of sound that would even put to shame the coiner of the phrase "Wall of Sound,” Phil Spector of '60's rock fame.

Death Metal is both an advancement and a degradation to Metal. It de-evolved the music by reducing it back into an often poorly recorded grinding, almost unintelligible noise with heavy use of bass guitars and guttural growls for vocals. But at the same time it sent Metal back to the basics and readdressed its core fan group by giving them the heavy sound they constantly demand.

Carcass is a British Death band formed in 1987 originally consisting of three members: Jeff Walker, Bill Steer and Ken Owen. Their musical approach is one of morbid grunts over a barrage of chaotic, bass-dominated music. The lyrics centered primarily on vomiting, mutilation, putrification and steaming entrails, but using proper medical terminology.

Their first release, entitled Reek Of Putrefaction, was fast paced grind core with lyrics created with the help from a medical textbook or two. Their second release called Symphonies Of Sickness was lyrically similar, but the music had more melodic influences. The next release, Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious, brought Michael Amott aboard and the sound progressed to melodic death metal with grinding influences. The next album named Heartwork saw the biggest change, where the lyrics did not have the "medical" type of theme, and Steer decided to leave all the vocals to Walker. The music was simplified more, and lost more grinding attitude. Amott left Carcass after Heartwork and Hickey took his place on the Heartwork tour. Hickey was gone before the recording of Carcass's last album called Swansong and Carlo Regadas was brought in. Until this point Carcass would have simply remained a cult following to their fans in Europe and the USA but 1995's Swansong introduced new elements to the band that allowed them to be exposed to a wider audience. Swansong sounds more like a hard rock album instead of death but it still contained Walker's raspy death metal vocals as well as allowing lyrics dealing with topics of political and personal interest. But it was too little, too late for the bands break up followed. It was obviously the end of Carcass, but one more album was released; Wake Up And Smell The...Carcass. It is basically a compilation of their work comprising of songs that didn't get on the Swansong release, and songs from their EP's and other compilations.

The remaining members formed a new band called Black Star (named after a song off of their last studio album Swansong - similar to how Black Sabbath got their name).

Sepultura is a band from Brazil which came to be in 1984. Influenced by bands like Slayer and Venom, they developed their harsh sound but pointed their lyrics into the direction of death and carnage. Their 1991 album Arise is said to be the best selling album in the history of their record publisher, RoadRunner. Their 1996 single, Roots, received wide market appeal as well.

The intense and often disturbing sounds of the death-Metal band Obituary depicts a unique style which took them and music to the outer most extremes of experimentation. Deep bass with a growling vocalist and intense lyrics create a sound which caters to the most intense Metal fan.

Amorphis, from the Netherlands, was the point at which the Death Metal sub-genre grew up and was introduced to a wider market. Using synthesizers as well as the traditional instruments of rock they added a harmony and melody to the traditional bass guitar and growl of Death Metal. The evolution started with the Tales From The Thousand Lakes album in 1993 which was a theme album based on the Finnish national pole book Kalevala, a book of tales and folklore. This album could be described as the future of metal. One could even go so far as to say 'genius.’

Unfortunately Death Metal has a bad side to it. The majority of bands like those previously listed and their band members play their music with the intent on receiving some sort of respect based on their musical talent, like any other music. There is, however, a fringe group of people who live the fantasy. In Norway, a big Death Metal fan base, a true Heavy Metal murder mystery was being lived in April, 1994.

Enter: Bard Eithum (aka Faust) of the Death Metal outfit Emperor. He is, in the end, sentenced to 14 years for stabbing a gay man to death in Lillihammer two years previous. Now enter: Varg Vikernes (aka Count Grishnackh) of the band Burzum. Armed with an axe, a bayonet and seven knives he is convicted to 21 years of killing his one time colleague Oystein Aarseth in Aarseth's flat, stabbing him 23 times in the process. He was apprehended after bragging to British Heavy Metal magazine, Kerrang! about it. He blames the "Jews who killed my father Odin," for the carnage. The satanic terrorist movement, which he and a buddy Aarseth founded in more chummier times, is suspected of the burning of a number of churches, many dating back to medieval times, because they desire the removal of Christianity for the return of the Viking beliefs.

Individuals such as these serve no other function than to fuel the fires of the people in the PMRC. These individuals do not represent everyone and Death Metal does not promote brutal murder; at least not for the rest of us.

Not everyone is out for hatred, however, even though violence comes anyway. In Tallin, Estonia the following month, Napalm Death beat up the Russian Nationalist band Corrosive Metal for their racist and fascist comments. It seems that Death Metal has not yet decided if it is on the side of good or bad.

The Religious Movement

Heavy Metal can be easily described as the old fashioned good versus evil story. On one side you have those who battle to save the world from destruction, carnage and slavery and on the other side you have completely the opposite. The evil side is easily and most commonly depicted in Metal but it would be unfair to not speak of the other side.

All of what Heavy Metal represents is probably summed up in one line by MINISTRY on a quote they sampled for their New World Order song which came from a speech Ex-President George Bush gave: "What we are talking about here is Good and Evil, right and wrong!"

Much of this battle is fictional. In fact a large part of Metal, particularly that of the 1980's, is derived from the imagination and medieval or religious folklore.

Stories of heroic battles or bitter enslavement are common. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son, both song and album, is the one that comes quickly to mind as being one that clearly shows this. Manowar is another band who glorify the spoils of battle (usually involving themselves), The Crown And The Ring being a good example of this.

The stories can also be based on history or the here and now. Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction expressed the urgency of saving the environment without making a protest of it. Master Of Puppets by Metallica discussed the uselessness of drug abuse. Iron Maiden’s Aces High was about WWII Spitfire air battles and 2 Minutes To Midnight was about the threat of nuclear annihilation. Slayer’s Angel Of Death was about the infamous Nazi Dr. of Death: Mengela.

This battle can also occur in your dreams, such as Metallica’s Enter Sandman, or the enemy could be unspent sexual desire as expressed in Girls Girls Girls by Motley Crue. Or it's about rules like Manowar’s All Men Play On 10. The list of enemies is endless. You yourself could come up with other examples. Name it and it has been covered by many bands.

The whole New World Order which was the buzz word to describe the changes occurring in the 1990s had been predicted years earlier by Heavy Metal.

There were also those who didn't fight evil but decided to join it (or at least pretend they did). Venom, Infernal Majesty, Emperor and dozens of others sing of the victories of Satan and his armies or, if not in name, his image is used to express other misfortunes. Most of these battles however are less realistic and depend heavily on the listener’s mind and imagination.

With so many Earth bound and Hell bound battles, where does God fit into all this? The religious bands, that's where. Although not quite as popular or prominent, bands who regularly sing of the victories and glory of God do exist, although usually they remain lumped with the rest of their Heavy Metal peers in the eyes of the church.

Contrary to the popular belief that Heavy Metal fans would rather hear of Satan than God, bands like Barren Cross and Stryper offered an alternate point of view.

Originally named Roxx Regeme, Stryper was formed in Los Angeles, USA by Micheal and Robert Sweet in 1981. They dressed in matching yellow and black uniforms and added to the spectacle by throwing bibles into the audience at shows. They received much media coverage. Their greatest hits were on their 1986 album To Hell With The Devil which reached #32 on the Billboard charts for 3 months. But by the time 1990 came around their albums sold poorly as the fans tired of this particular phase of the religious revolution and decided to go elsewhere.

Barren Cross formed in 1981 and came over as a cross between Van Halen and Iron Maiden. Hard hitting guitar work with metallic anthems would win them some popularity with Metal fans and topics covering drug abuse, terrorism and abortion in a manner not to condemn but to explain, gave them commercial acceptance as well. By 1990 they had provided a much needed credibility injection into the Christian Rock movement which had suffered bad press for several years.

The Next Generation: The New Underground Sound

Death Metal re-introduced the "underground" to Metal. Not all Metal bands make it to stardom and Death, especially, is no exception. Many bands tried and thus far have failed to impress a wider audience. In many cities the bars, pubs and night clubs are once again draining the fans from the stadiums to see the underground acts. Some are good and destined for success, others are not so lucky.

Infernal Majesty is one such Thrash/Death act that had a tough time of it. Calling Toronto's Yonge Street district home (the actual commercial downtown of Canada) is Infernal Majesty. You can find their name inscribed on the walls, billboards and letter boxes up and down the street. Unlike other Toronto Bands, like Rush or Anvil, they just can't get a break. To the truest of Metal fans they do have some redeemable value, but unfortunately the general public doesn't agree and their 1987 debut album with Chris Bailey on vocals, None Shall Defy, although well produced and recorded with Banzai (Canada)/ RoadRacer (USA), did nothing. New copies of this album can be had for $.99! (Many people believe it's worth every penny! But since Chris is a relative it is a prized trophy in my record collection.) It was a wonderful effort, but an example that should be noted amongst all these successful bands that for every Metallica there are hundreds of bands that either were no good or just didn't get a break. But everyone started here. Their debut record would be re-released in Europe as CD in 1996 and sold for a modest $15 CDN. Perhaps their musical style is back in fashion.

Since the arrest of their guitar player for biting the neck of a girl at the infamous Sanctuary club on Queen Street West in Toronto, the band reunited with its singer, Chris Bailey, and have embarked on a new record and tour.

Lodged firmly in the underground also was Hardcore Metal. It actually started way back in the early 80's and as an offshoot from Thrash meets Punk, but by the mid 1990's it had obtained enough of a following to get some radio time on college and late night broadcasts. Unfortunately this sub-sub genre’s sound is hard to distinguish amongst all the others during the 1990's because of the radio media’s insistence on calling everything Hardcore to avoid using the politically incorrect Heavy Metal.