Saturday, December 9, 2006

Musings On Metal Mania

As I write this I'm watching a show on VH1 Classic called Metal Mania which is mostly comprised of music videos from 80's metal bands (Iron Maiden, Skid Row, Whitesnake, Ratt, etc.). Right now a video for Testament's song "Over The Wall" is on. It is very low budget --as most of these videos are-- and it alternates between close-up shots of the band playing to a black background and sepia colored footage of them hanging around an abandoned prison, their knuckles tightly clenching the bars. The music is best described as a mediocre attempt to sound like Kill 'Em All-era Metallica or early Slayer. I guess the overall message that they're trying to convey with this video clip is their feeling of confinement; because you know, they're in a prison and stuff.

That's another trend that I'm noticing with all these videos besides the low budgets and very unspecial effects; none of the imagery is subtle in relation to the lyrics. In fact, it's pretty much spot-on literal with no room for interpretation. If the character described in the song has a troubled home life then you will surely see a shot of his dad throwing him out of the house for listening to loud heavy metal music only to be sent down a downward spiral that will ultimately lead to him serving "18 and Life".

And the bluntness is not just in the interpretation of the lyrics, but the bands themselves. The bassist from Warrant wears a shirt in their video for "Big Talk" that says LICK ME and I'm pretty sure that his plan for wearing such an indiscriminate advertisement of his promiscuous nature is completely self serving. He plans on getting licked in all the right places, make no mistake about it. Short, sweet and to the point. No confusion whatsoever about his intensions, the girls in the crowd will surely know what to do after the show is over and they find themselves backstage (even though, what self respecting groupie would go after the bass player?).

I feel that that describes the existence of all those bands, everything had to be overblown and in your face and extreme, from the hair to the songs to the clothes and the music, leaving absolutely nothing below the surface. But that's also why some of these bands sold millions of records. Like, millions and millions more than you would ever think that they were capable of selling. We're talking Jay-Z numbers for some of the bigger ones like Bon Jovi and Skid Row. People wanted them for the shallow pricks they were and they gave it their all, no matter how ridiculous as that got. However, something tells me that most of them haven't felt any shame whatsoever for what they looked like, acted like or represented, it just doesn't fit their profile. They saw a million faces and they rocked them all because it was their destiny. What's a little spandex to get in the way of that?

Right now, a video for Overkill's "Hello From The Gutter" came on. The name of the band completely encapsulates their image. Leather pants, ripped shirts, poofy hair, spiky guitars, wall of amps behind them; complete and utter visual and aural overkill. I'm sure they sold millions of records as I'm sure that all that money they made is long gone and spent by now; it went up their noses or into fast cars and/or fast women. I hope they got some stories out of it and not just a wardrobe filled with neon green spandex and fringed white leather, that would be the real shame.


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