Monday, May 30, 2016

LET THEM EAT CAKE! A rant about Maryland Deathfest XIV

The tone of the title of this post probably indicates where I’m heading here, so let me try to ramble on about some context first. I’ve been to more than a handful of festivals besides MDF, which I’ve attended each year since 2003 when it was held at a dump called the Thunderdome and the headliners were Devourment, Suffocation, and Sublime Cadaver Decomposition. I remember the year where they tried to have the fest in White Marsh at the House of Rock and how that venue wasn’t very good. I remember watching Baltimore City Curfew cutting off Dismember the first year at Sonar. I also remember the headaches that resulted from the fest growing to two venues, then outside stages, years of “security” that was more dangerous than drunk festival attendees, including the near riot that happened when Venom had their set cut by city curfew. I’ve also been to each edition that has taken place at the Edison Lot (literally, a parking lot just beyond the Inner Harbor of Baltimore) as well as the two other venues a solid hike away.

Other festivals I’ve gone to include those large and corporate (Ozzfest, Mayhem) and those smaller and more DIY (Ohio Deathfest, New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, etc.) It’s basically a guarantee that when organizing a festival, with so many moving parts and expenses that concert goers don’t even consider (imagine hiring a lawyer to process visas so your favorite international bands can come play or having to pay for liability insurance in case something crazy happens at your festival; that’s just tip of the iceberg!) you can pretty much expect Murphy’s Law (not the punk band…) to manifest itself. Someone you wanted to see will cancel at the last minute. A band you really looked forward to will just have a terrible sound mix and you’ll be completely let down. Beer vendors will charge too fucking much for a can of fermented piss drippings and you’ll discover that nearby parking options cost an arm and a leg (festivals usually do happen in a city, after all.)

Underground metal festivals have a way of seducing fans. They promise lots of great bands, often obscure bands you’ll never see on tour or otherwise see unless you attend. You get lured in, forgetting all of the headaches that come with attending a festival; once you’re there you bitch the entire time about the assorted first world inconveniences like port-a-johns and unanticipated expenses and Mother Nature. Yet if the lineup of bands mostly delivers, and you get to run into enough friends, you tend to forget that and when it’s all over you’re all too excited to do it again next year.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Of course, sometimes promoters have a habit of using social media irresponsibly and showing fans what they really think:

The neat thing about the internet is that with a simple screen shot, stupid yet enlightening comments publicly made on social media live forever even after the comment thread is deleted by the poster who a few hours later realized it was a bad idea and makes them look bad.

Important note: that wasn’t directed at me personally but at group of festival goers who were initially just complaining about beer prices. I have worked my way thru university as a manager for a company where I engage in sales and customer service. I have felt frustrations with complaining customers countless times. You don’t condescend them publicly. That usually gets you fired, or at least tells people who are buying your product or service that you don’t give a fuck about them or their experience with said product or service. As someone sells stuff for a living, I can tell you if you let people know you don’t give a fuck, they will look someplace else for that product or service. If you need to vent, at least do it behind closed doors to a coworker or friend… or if you’re going to use social media at least use a personal account and keep it private and vague.

If you really care about the product or service you produce, you present a good face to the public no matter how pissed off you are at them sometimes.

The organizers of MDF can set whatever price they deem to be fair for the festival they’re providing the public. Though M and I often grumble at the fact a 3 day weekend will set us back as much as a grand (tickets, beer, merch, parking, food, gas…remember it’s for 2 people) it’s more of an annoyance than an actual hardship and we end up begrudgingly paying for all of it. After that comment from the promoters, M decided she’d only buy a ticket off of someone who was selling theirs to prevent MDF from getting additional ticket sales. I can’t say that I blame her; I ended up attending 2 days solo. Which was fine; my ticket was already previously paid for so I was going to make the most of it.

So about that...

Disgorge (from California, not Mexico or whereever else, though they are fronted by the most swole hispanic dude ever.)

Thursday I decided to see the caveman death metal show at the Baltimore Soundstage. Highlights were basically every band that played (Infernal Revulsion dropped, then Malignancy cancelled at the last minute) but Visceral Disgorge, Waco Jesus, Dehumanized, Disgorge (USA) and Severe Torture all delivered great sets. I skipped on Putrid Pile (aka one lonely man and his drum machine) for dinner, but I did have the misfortune of coming back in time to see Jungle Rot, who complained about the backline they were provided by the organizers and the festival itself…it came across as they thought they were rockstars that should be praised for playing “old school” death metal. Fact: Jungle Rot sucks. Not because they’re “old school”, but because they play boring-as-fuck music. You wanna hear good “old school” death metal; I picked up records by Blood Freak and Embalmer while at the fest. That’s good “old school” death metal. Jungle Rot is just a bunch of boring lunkheaded garbage performed by entitled old men. Overall though, it was my first time at Soundstage, and I thought it was an enjoyable experience.

Friday was the day M was interested in, so we managed to get to the Edison Lot in time for the very end of Centinex’s set. November’s Doom was an odd choice for a 4pm slot, but they sounded pretty solid. Unfortunately Sinister cancelled because of flight/immigration issues, and Gruesome filled in their set. Highlights this day included everything about Wormed, hearing Paradise Lost play an old school (re: mostly death/doom) set (they played “Pity the Sadness”, holy shit!) and catching The Haunted with Marco back on vocals. Truth is, nothing about any of the bands that played this day disappointed.

The unfortunate social media post by the organizers came Friday night, so M was adamant she would only buy a ticket second hand for dirt cheap because she rightfully decided the organizers didn’t deserve her hard earned money. Something about it not being worth the asking price relative to the marginal rate of substitution or meeting her personal utility function or blah…I dunno. That’s what happens when you cohabitate with an Economics major =D

Deranged being all brutal and shit.

Anyhow, that meant that since I wasn’t being forced to operate on Brazilian time, I was able to arrive early enough to catch Demonical, a second set by Gruesome, and most importantly, Deranged. I’ve been a fan since some chick I used to hang out with told me to buy their “Plainfield Cemetery” album from the old Tower Records in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. Yeah, that long ago. Anyhow, those guys put on an astoundingly brutal set of raw Swedish death metal that made standing outside roasting under a 90 degree sun in a black asphalt covered parking lot entirely worthwhile. Atrophy and Tulus I could give or take; Hirax was pretty good energetic thrash, but the highlight of the day was witnessing Hail of Bullets with their new vocalist, the legendary Dave Ingram. With all due respect to Martin Van Druen, their previous vocalist, Ingram takes that band to another level. His growl is a tremendous fit for the Hail of Bullets sound and his stage presence is off the charts.
Yet another band where Dave Ingram replaces the original vocalist.

After witnessing Impaled Nazarene’s set, I decided that since I didn’t give a shit about Exciter and I honestly never listen to Nuclear Assault (I have a copy of “Handle With Care” sitting on my shelf…collecting dust…); I ventured over to the Baltimore Soundstage to see General Surgery and Haemorrhage instead.

That walk sucks; the walk between Soundstage and Edison Lot is just about 20 minutes, which means you have to miss part a band’s set in order to traverse between venues. So in order to see the headliner at Edison Lot, Testament, I was obliged to walk out of Haemorrhage’s set a few songs early. Which was a huge mistake; Haemorrhage was brilliant in their goregrinding glory. By contrast, Testament suffered from an awful mix that sounded thin and “tinny.” Chuck Billy, the fat man with skinny bird legs, sounded okay but his generic, rehearsed stage banter was annoying to me in the same David Vincent of Morbid Angel was a few years earlier. When I realized I could’ve just walked to Rams Head Live and saw Grave Miasma instead; I felt like a total fucking tool. The craziest thing about Testament being such a letdown beyond their awful sound is that the sheer amount of talent on that stage…Gene Hoglan, Steve DiGorgio, and Alex Skolnick are all in that band in 2016. Those are ace fucking players. What the hell?

Wombbath. I don't really have anything clever to say about them but their vocalist liked to go on LOOOOOONNNNGGG rants in between songs.

The guitarist from Desaster might have had the most impressive skullet at MDF.

M found “someone willing to sell his ticket cheap in exchange for crack money” so on Sunday she returned with me. Sunday featured Wombbath (great when they just played instead of the on-stage chitchat), Desaster (dirty blackened thrash; my first time hearing them…good stuff) and Bongzilla (replace Eyehategod’s heroin and I guess that’s what you get?) I could have done without Interment…they suffered from just being a bit boring live. Incantation played a unique set as a three piece for most of it; one of their guitar players had a family emergency. In a cool moment, old vocalist Mike Saez (played on The Infernal Storm) joined them on stage for a few songs, which all sounded awesome as fuck. Incantation took lemons and made lemonade on a miserable, rainy day. The reunited Demolition Hammer followed with a brutal, ferocious set.

Incantation and friends!
Demolition Hammer wasn't a band I ever thought I'd get to see live, and to think MDF only booked them after Destroyer 666 cancelled....probably should have headlined instead of Testament!
I didn’t hate Satan or Venom, but presented with the alternative of seeing two bands I like a lot more in Phobocosm and Mitochondrion, the decision was obvious so I went to Rams Head Live (at this point, M decided she’d rather buy a ribeye and a margarita at Cheesecake Factory than buy a $40 dollar ticket for 2 bands…) Phobocosm played an intense set of doom/death that fans of Disembowlment and Incantation could get into. Mitochondrion followed that with the best set that I witnessed all weekend. Just absolutely vicious and breathtakingly brutal yet atmospheric death metal. If Mitochondrion comes to your town, you stop what you’re doing, donate blood if you have to so you can buy your ticket, and you go.

You could go see a cartoon band like Venom who sings about being in league with satan, or you could see Mitochondrion, the band that wrote the actual soundtrack to hell. The choice was obvious.

With nothing else that could follow that, I tracked down M and called it a weekend.

My final observations were that I managed to see almost nothing but great bands all weekend (Jungle Rot and Testament excluded.) The merch tables, particularly Sevared and Deepsend Records, had quality items for purchase. The beer in the cooler in the trunk of my car stayed sufficiently cold enough that the excessive beer prices and poor selection inside of the Edison Lot complex were a nonfactor for me personally. The rain on Sunday was a welcome respite from the scorching heat of Friday and Saturday, which left me a bit red. That was the good part. 

The bad part was the sheer expense of attending so many days of the festival, and the price/value calculation of what I was seeing for what I got. Truth said, only a handful of the bands I saw were bands I hadn’t seen before (Mitochondrion, Phobocosm, Demolition Hammer, Deranged, Desaster.) Between tickets, parking fees, beer, and food, the festival has grown to a ridiculous scale in its cost. To suggest that the organizers are doing what they can to control costs ($68 bucks a day plus $20 bucks to park your car got you into just the Edison Lot; the 4 day all venues pass I was fortunate to acquire from a friend who couldn’t go retailed at a whopping $302 bucks) is laughable. Even after accounting for the exchange rate, tickets for the gold standard of metal festivals, Wacken Open Air, are cheaper. Of course, European festivals have advantages in logistics and border controls; international bands playing the United States have to deal with expensive airfares and USCIS. Still, the point is that MDF is charging a lot for their product relative to other festivals that also compete to attract attendees. Other US festivals may lack the sheer number of high profile bands of the level of Mayhem and Venom; but festivals like the Las Vegas Deathfest are delivering bands like Disavowed that are significant within their niche genre (which incidentally, is the subgenre of metal I spend the most time listening to in 2016.) That’s what MDF is competing against. What MDF has had to its advantage for me personally was geography; it’s about an hour drive from my door step to the fest. 

However, when the promotors appear to have such a cavalier “take it or leave it” attitude towards fans who WANT to support their festival and who WANT it to succeed each year….maybe it’s not surprising that at least to my eyes, this was the least attended MDF in several years, even going back to when they held the fest at the old Sonar complex. It seems certain that just like in previous years, next year’s tickets will increase again another 5-10% for a lineup that’s more or less the same as this year in terms of profile and name recognition. That’s faster than the rate of inflation. If the promotors don’t respect their patrons any more than that, and can’t discipline themselves on controlling their ticket prices, then this will be the last time I make the effort to take the weekend off or drop the coin. I’m not going to say I’ll never, ever go again, or anything like that. But unless I see a “holy shit” band like say, a reformed Acid Bath, on the bill, I’m not going to make an effort to be there either. There’s just too many other festivals that want my money too

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Best Of...

Wow. A whole fucking year. You’d think I just abandoned this or something. The truth is that I’ve had ideas and motivation to write from time to time, but real life stuff like work, grad school, and internships sucked up most of my time. What little free time I had this past year wasn’t time I really felt like spending in front of a computer. I’d like to think that I’ll update a little more frequently in the next year, but who knows?

With that said, here’s my best of list for 2015…

Biggest Disappointment:

RIP Lemmy. Nothing else even comes close. Metal will survive post-Lemmy, but it just isn’t going to be the same without the genre’s most revered figure around. There are countless people who have already eulogized him and done so far better than I ever could, so instead of writing my own lame attempt at paying tribute to a truly one of a kind man, I will just say that starting at Ozzfest in 1998 through many shows at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC that every single time, Motorhead delivered and lived up to the motto of “Everything Louder Than Everyone Else.” It sure the fuck changed my life. Godspeed.

Honorable Mentions:

Amorphis Under The Red Cloud 
Enslaved In Times 
Ghost Ship Octavius Ghost Ship Octavius 
Glaciation Sur Les Falaises De Marbre 
Gruesome Savage Land 
Hanging Garden Blackout Whiteout 
Ingested The Architect of Extinction 
Nile What Should Not Be Unearthed 
Panopticon Autumn Eternal 
Shape of Despair Monotony Fields 
Sulphur Aeon Gateway To The Atmosphere 
The Man Eating Tree In The Absence of Light 
Torturous Inception Headfirst into Oblivion 
Vattnet Viskar Settler 
Vehemence Forward Without Motion 
Year Of The Goat The Unspeakable

Top 10:

10.) Napalm Death Apex Predator- Easy Meat

This album came out really early in 2015 so it was an easy one to forget about, but as Napalm Death’s members reach into their 50’s, they haven’t lost any of their aggression or venom. This one has a few moments that I wouldn’t say are “experimental”, but on songs such as the industrial nature of the opening title track, they don’t mind exploring the unconventional. The vocals mix it up a bit, perhaps a reminder of their late 90’s era, but for the most part it sounds consistent with their turn of the century output. It makes you want to floor punch and shit. 


9.) Motorhead Bad Magic

I’m sure with Lemmy’s death and the recent release effect Bad Magic that some people may be tempted to elevate this album higher than it deserves or otherwise put it on their list if they’re doing it late as I am. Truth is, on its merits this album belongs on any top 10 for 2015. It’s nasty, gritty, and snarling rock n roll and represents Motorhead’s best effort since 1995’s Sacrifice. One hell of an epitaph for the band. Given how undervalued I personally believe Mickey Dee and Phil Campbell have been to Motorhead’s success (they were vital to not just the longest but also BEST lineup Motorhead ever had), hopefully they find a new musical venture and keep the metal coming for a few more years at least.

8.) Iniquitous Deeds Incessant Hallucinations

Brutal. As. Fuck. New Standard Elite is becoming the sort of label where if you love brutal death metal, that the NSE imprint means quality. 


7.) Abhorrent  Instransigence

Ex-members of The Faceless and Spawn of Possession form a band better than either of the aforementioned acts. Grisly vocals, plenty of clangy doodly-doo but also sufficiently raw and honest to satan death metal. Hopefully they don’t prog out too much on future releases, because this formula works.


6.) So Hideous Laurestine

Post-black metal from a band I had never heard of before. I was sure this was going to be some sort of Deafheaven garbage or Shining-style proggy bullshit but for the most part it’s like, non-stop epic majestic parts of black metal songs all strung together. Plenty of symphonic keys and soundtrackish elements but it’s tasteful, cohesive, and gets repeat listens. 

5.) Goatsnake Black Age Blues

That tone. Soooo heavy and sludgy. I happen to love Pete Stahl’s voice…perhaps no other band has ever so effortlessly combined the gloom of Black Sabbath with southern rock swagger so effectively. 

4.) Lost Soul Atlantis

Polish as fuck. For fans of Vader and Behemoth. I hear a lot of death metal-era Behemoth on Atlantis, actually, but Lost Soul was playing this style of death metal back when Behemoth was still more authentically black metal. 

3.) Heaving Earth Denouncing The Holy Throne

These Czechs deliver in a style best comparable to Immolation, though there’s a bit of that dark Incantation worship that’s been a trend in the scene for the last few years. Superior songcraft and outstanding production make Denouncing The Holy Throne stand out, and they could be the next band to break out in the same way that Dead Congregation has in recent years. It LIVED in my car stereo for pretty much all of 2015.

2.) Ghost Meliora

Their breakthrough album. Ghost seems to piss off a lot of people who don’t quite “get it”, while others who happen to be into Blue Oyster Cult, UFO, Deep Purple, and such want to write them off as missing “something.” I can’t imagine how anyone who sat down and actually listened to Meliora could reach that conclusion, with such a catchy batch of songs. Yes, there is a certain tongue in cheek nature to their gimmick but to me, that’s part of the fun. Music is supposed to be fun, right?

1.) My Dying Bride Feel The Misery
Not genre defining, but what it happens to be is one of the founding fathers of doom metal delivering one of their best albums. When Calvin Robertshaw left the band in the late 90’s, MDB seemed to become an inconsistent band that never was bad, but only occasionally reached the level of greatness that their early albums achieved (most notably on The Dreadful Hours.) With Robertshaw’s return, it becomes obvious just how important he was to their sound as Feel The Misery features some monolithic, crushing riffage, somber moods, and a healthy dose of macabre. Considering that MDB has been a band I award considerable sentimental value to as my gateway to the underground so many years ago, I feel quite comfortable saying this was my favorite album of 2015. 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top 10 of 2014

I can actually say this was the first year in several where I felt like I'm leaving off a bunch of good releases from my list. 2014 has been one of the stronger years in metal in some time; probably since 2001. Since I haven't updated this as often as in the past years (I have some ideas I might write about while I've got a break between now when grad school starts up again in a few weeks) I'll be covering a bit of ground here.

Biggest Disappointment of 2014:

At The Gates At War With Reality

I think At The Gates was always overrated; yes Slaughter of the Soul is one of the landmark albums of metal history, and everything about it sounds just as vital today as it did in 1996. The problem is the rest of their discography; the only other thing ATG did that I'd consistently reach for to listen to is the Terminal Spirit Disease EP. There's moments of brilliance on their other releases, but also stuff that just bored me and failed to really capture my attention. Sorry, it's the truth. If you're telling me you reach for The Red In The Sky Is Ours on a consistent basis, you're probably lying. There's just too much better stuff out there.

At War With Reality doesn't suffer from songwriting, or technical proficiency, or inspiration. I'm certain these songs sounded great in the rehearsal space, and it could have been a worthy follow up to (if not quite as good as) Slaughter of the Soul. The problem here is that the production on this album is so incredibly wrong, wrong WRONG. It's too pristine and pretty, to the point that these songs lack the urgency and venom that made Slaughter of the Soul so compelling. It's the same goddamned problem that The Haunted had when Peter Dolving rejoined the band for rEvolver. If this album has the production of Slaughter of the Soul or Terminal Spirit Disease even, it's a top 5 album for me. Instead, it's just...there. Listen and tell me this doesn't scream for a more...human production?

Honorable mentions of 2014:

Benevolent The Covenant
Black Anvil Hail Death 
Bolzer Soma
Cannibal Corpse A Skeletal Domain
Decimation Reign of Ungodly Creation
Devangelic Resurrection Denied
Digging Up Disseminated Inapparent Infection 
Jig-Ai Rising Sun Carnage
Misery Index The Killing Gods
Ne Obliviscarius Citadel 
November's Doom Bled White
Septycal Gorge Scourge of the Formless Breed
Sinister The Post Apocalyptic Servant
Woccon Solace in Decay

...and probably a bunch more that have slipped my memory at the moment. 2014 was a GOOD year.

Top 10:

10.) Solstafir Otta

Post metal? I actually missed their performance at MDF in 2014 because of traffic, but I understood that they made quite an impression. The thing with this style is that it can either be majestic and compelling, where bands create moods and keep your attention with subtle hooks while building to epic peaks, or it's just a snooze-fest. Unlike a lot of artists who try this sorta thing but bore me to tears (recent Anathema, Sigur Ros), Otta is a dreary, somber, yet engaging listen. The reason it's only 10th on my list is more to do with my personal tastes than its quality, but this has replaced Pelican and Red Sparrowes as my go-to when I'm in the mood for this style.

9.) Insomnium Shadows of the Sun

When you have a good formula, stick with it. Too many people belly ache and cry about bands needing to take gigantic leaps and stylistic shifts with each album. You know what happens when bands do that, and deviate from what they're best at? They release shit. Insomnium has a clear, confident identity about who and what they are, which is a doom inspired melodic death metal band that draws more from Metallica and Sentenced than Iron Maiden (which explains why they sound distinct from say, Children of Bodom and that yuck.)  There isn't a single surprise to be found on this album, just well crafted highly memorable songs that I found myself listening to an awful lot. 

8.) Vallenfyre Splinters

Greg McIntosh is pretty good at this death metal thing. A bit doomier than A Fragile King was, but it still retains that crusty grind vibe too. And those haunting guitar melodies! This was meant to be played at maximum volume to scare the neighbors.

7.) Hideous Divinity Cobra Verde

What happened in Italy? Used to be Italy only produced frilly froo froo power metal crap, but the last couple years have seen the proliferation of really intense, strong brutal death metal bands. Hideous Divinity took a leap forward from the other outstanding Italian bands with Cobra Verde in 2014, with their Nile-influenced tech death. This is FAST, but still has some brutal grooves and isn't just an exercise in fretboard masturbation. 

6.) Soen Tellurian

This is the album Opeth should have released the last 2 times around. Imagine a combination of Tool, Opeth, and Katatonia performed by top notch musicians who also knew how to write great songs. You'd get Tellurian. It's nerd metal that you don't have to be a nerd to appreciate. 

5.) Dead Congregation Promogulation of the Fall

The best "new" death metal band to come out in the last few years. Nothing new here from their previous efforts; it's dark, dank, and full of inhumanly low vocals and moody guitars. A soundtrack to hell.

4.) Voices London

Some of the Akercocke guys managed to step foot from underneath the rock they had been hiding under, and we're rewarded with London, every bit as ambitious as Akercocke was on those amazing later releases. A disorienting story about a man's descent towards suicide, this is uncomfortable at times, as dischordant riffing leads to furious black metal blasts which again delves into oddly melancholy. Not really a banger, per se, as you'll finish this kinda feeling like "what the hell did I just listen to?" but one hell of a ride. 

3.) Pallbearer Foundations of Burden

Most of the best-of lists I'm reading have this at number one, and I think in an ordinary year it probably is. This is epic, monumental doom of the highest quality. The vocals reek of despair, those riffs plod and crush, there's even a ting of classic rock sensibility in some of the guitar harmonies. Pallbearer in the course of 2 albums has reached "doom metal elite status." That's not hyperbole.

2.) Triptykon Melana Chasmata 

Another album that in most years is a clear number one. This feels like the fully realized, matured vision of Celtic Frost that all of those years of experimentation was striving for. That guitar tone is still absolutely massive and crushing and while there are moments of fury, the strength of this album is in the down tempo, ominous doom. Tom Fischer's croon paired with that haunting female voice on "Boleskin House" creates an unsettling vibe; this album is a tortured vision by a miserable man. 

1.) Behemoth The Satanist

As soon as I heard this album, it immediately struck me as the most vital, important album to be released in metal since Opeth's Blackwater Park in 2001. So much of this album is based on the mythology cultivated by Nergal's battles with Polish legal authorities as well as a life threatening ordeal versus leukemia and how, faced with death and imprisonment, he remained completely unapologetic in his personal ideology. Overcoming all of that, he then writes Behemoth's most ambitious album; moving away from their take on Polish death metal to create an epic, defiant statement drawing not just on his personal philosophy and resilience, but reaching across a variety of genres for influences; there's elements of Killing Joke, classic rock, their earlier black metal days, choirs and chants...yet through all of this the band remains familiar. This is still ugly, extreme metal full of blastbeats and ugly vocals that is hardly commercial in any sense; it's just that this time Behemoth managed to delve across the many subgenres of metal and beyond to craft their magnum opus.

The last time a band returned from a long break to this much hype was Dissection, who returned to play shitty melodeath before Jon Nodtveidt did the world a favor and killed himself. Unlike Dissection, not only did Behemoth live up to the hype, they surpassed it, creating what will probably be the album of this decade. 


Thursday, August 14, 2014

My case against Babymetal.

So the most "controversial" metal band in 2014 is a trio of young Japanese teenagers who sing J-pop.

The oldest one is 13, you disgusting pervert.

By now I'm assuming everyone reading this has heard Babymetal, which as much as I can tell is the brainchild of a pop music producer ("Kobametal", according to wikipedia ) who thought he was creating a new subgenre of metal by combining "cute Japanese girls" with angry metal music. The result being Babymetal, and their musical product is unfortunately less original than I think he intended.

Add some J-pop vocals and guitars, and you basically have the themes from Street Fighter 2.

By now it's probably obvious that I am not a fan, and even if Jeff Walker and Bill Steer from Carcass give Babymetal their blessing, that doesn't mean I have to embrace it. However, my disapproval of the band doesn't necessarily come from a metal purist perspective, at least not entirely.

I do confess to disliking the fact that the girls hadn't even heard metal music before being recruited to this band. This particular circumstance doesn't jibe with my idea of what metal is, which to say an authentic form of musical expression by angry, ugly people for angry, ugly people. I appreciate the desire to cross boundaries and redefine what metal can be, but it just seems that every time a band reaches for something commercial (even if it means "commercial in Japan") or "happy" sounding, I feel like it utterly sucks. Babymetal is no exception.

This isn't to say that I'm completely opposed to schtick or gimmicks in metal. Immortal is a freaking meme. King Diamond has been doing the facepaint thing since Mercyful Fate. Ghost, who was the most debated band prior to Babymetal, certainly has gotten mileage out of their quasi-religious imagery and hidden identities. 

Because Immortal never gets old. Just kvlt. And grym. And tr00.

Perhaps Ghost is a great point of comparison. Yes, Ghost is heavy on image, and their music is often derivative of  Deep Purple, Mercyful Fate, and metal of the late 70's. But ultimately, Ghost has also written memorable songs like "Ritual" and "Year Zero". And the whole "Satan" thing, while tongue in cheek, is definitely not commercial in the sense that "Gimme Chocolate" is (because who gets offended by teenagers who want chocolate?)

Nothing sells records like this guy!

Not to mention every song sounds like "Gimme Chocolate". Do you really want to hear this over and over again? It stops being ironic or funny after the second time.

I think that's the biggest problem I have, actually. It's not that they are a gimmick, or that they perform a style of music that I'm not particularly into. It's that everything is the gimmick, and beneath the gimmick there is nothing of substance. Yeah, it's got a slick production, impeccable musicianship by the hired guns, and the girls are choreographed, but do you remember any of their songs the moment they're done? Are we even talking about this band this time next year?

My guess is no.