Music

Bluffer’s Guide to Metal

Metal is a strain of rock that refuses to bend to the will of others. Stonewash jeans come and go, X-factor winners burn out, political U-turns are made, but metal stays constant. Outsiders might find it easy to poke fun at the genre’s ‘hairy headbangers’ but their taunts fall on deaf ears. Possibly because metal is only ever played with the stereos cranked all the way up to ear-splitting…

WHERE AND WHEN WAS METAL BORN?

In the fire and brimstone of hell, metaphorically speaking that is. It was in fact born in the Midlands (where Black Sabbath and half of Led Zeppelin hail from) around the early 1970s but Brum Rock didn’t sound as good as ‘metal’. It grew out of blues music and the myth of Robert Johnson (who made a Faustian pact with the devil), took inspiration from the likes of The Kinks, Steppenwolf and Jimi Hendrix and finally found itself in Gibson Flying V guitar solos, long puffy hair and a love of all things occult.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT TO HEAR?

Loud noises in quick succession. Metal is not for the faint of ear drum. Though it might be hard to pick out anything at this decibel this genre of rock has fractured considerably over the past 40 years. There are now a huge number of sub-genres, some of which are thought of as ‘real metal’ and others (god forbid) as ‘false metal’. Make sure you know the following styles: thrash/speed metal (ie. Metallica and Anthrax); hair metal (think 80s and Motley Crue); death/black metal (obsessed with the study of Old Nick); sports metal (an unsuccessful alloy of metal and hip-hop which manages to miss the point of both genres).

WHAT METAL BANDS SHOULD I NAME DROP?

Metal is treacherous terrain for bluffers because exponents of metal know metal. There are no turncoats hiding in amongst the leather-clad diehards at a metal concert. But whilst staying abreast of the latest bands and sub-genres is near impossible, you should at least know the four pillars of the musical genre.

Black Sabbath: Hard-core doom and gloom. Ozzy Osbourne, now a mainstream icon of metal, used to be employed in an abattoir and his vocals prove it. And guitarist Tony Iommi lost the tips of two of his fingers to a factory accident and still played like a madman. No wonder they shout about war, the occult and insanity.

Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin, formed by one-time session guitarist Jimmy Page, owned the 1970s music scene. They led the way in hell-raising tours and helped topple the popularity of the standalone single, only producing full-length albums instead.

Metallica: For an insight into this dark and stormy band see the documentary, Some Kind of Monster. (The clue’s in the name.) But for all their dysfunctional tendencies, they can host a night of thrash metal better than anyone else. Think sell-out stadium tours but with fewer screaming tweens and a lot more anger and black denim.

AC/DC: Like a loud broken metal record, AC/DC found their sound and refused to change it, or turn down the amps. Even at 58, lead guitarist Angus Young won’t swap his schoolboy threads for a proper suit and tie.

MAXIMUM BLUFFING VALUE

You might not think it, but branding is a huge deal in the world of metal. Not that sort of branding, forget business buzz-phrases like ‘brand consistency’ or ‘linked-up thinking’. This is about distilling all of the noise, all of the insanity and the unabridged version of the manifesto into one iconic logo. And the more it looks like a tattoo of barbed wire choking tangle weed, the better.

DO SAY ‘Try as its critics might, you can’t beat metal: it’s bigger than you.’

DON’T ASK ‘So would Jake Bugg count as metal?’

 

Happy Bluffing from Bluffer’s!

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