takes over the summer touring season. What else will follow?
pretty sure summer has begun. And no, the record heat,
scantily clad women and baseball games didn’t tell me
that. How did I figure it out? Well, there are a number
of half-naked men dressed in monster suits on stage at
the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie. They are,
well, whipping and spraying and writhing and pumping their
fists and generally being very metal. This is Gwar, and
they happen to be singing “School’s Out.” So it’s official.
just arrived from work, and I’ve missed nearly three hours
of the bill. I feel out of place. An angry metal chick
walks by me, her white shirt turned green with slime,
her lips smeared with fake blood. She looks at me and
my just-got-out-of-work clothes and flings some of the
smelly green substance my way before flipping me the bird.
Somewhere behind me, the biggest dude with the longest
hair you’ve ever seen is singing a song called “Fucked
With a Knife.” This is my welcome to the angry summer.
had been concerned that I might have to go elsewhere to
kick-start a proper summer metal celebration. I even started
frequenting Metaltravelguide.com in case I would have
to get my metal fix in other states, or even other countries.
But as it turned out, I didn’t need to use the site’s
catalogue of the thousands of underground metal fests
taking place around the world this year (from the Fuck
the Commerce metal fest in Japan to the United Metal Maniacs
meeting in Germany). I didn’t need it because metal fests
have started hitting our area hard and fast.
fact, metal festivals seem to be the only large touring
packages taking place this summer. Gone are the Lollapaloozas
and Lilith Fairs of old.
Alesis, lead singer of As I Lay Dying, says metal fests
are succeeding as a natural extension of what it is to
be a metal band. “I think the entire fan base behind metal
and hardcore was built by constant touring,” he says,
“because the first metal bands and the ones out now never
had tremendous radio support. The only form of promotion
they could control was how often they toured. That has
been the lifestyle of the heavier bands since day one;
page one of the handbook is you will spend nine months
of your year on tour. Those bands are used to it and their
fan base is used to it as well, and they are more supportive
as a fan base than a lot of other forms of music.”
you want to get technical, summer started in late June
when some band called Slayer, with what I guess you could
call a devoted fan base, tore through the Armory. I couldn’t
make it out that night, but I couldn’t forget I had missed
it, either, as I returned home from work late that evening
to find a fat, hairy-chested hooligan vomiting in my intended
parking space. He managed to scream “MOTHERFUCKING SLAYYYYER!”
through the chunks of vomit clogging his mouth before
stumbling into Central Avenue. That’s when I thought to
myself: There’s something going on here. Things have changed.
was only a year or two ago that that puking metal dude
and the slime-flinging chick probably were dressed in
Slipknot shirts and Limp Bizkit caps, and sporting black
Jnkos and spiked Hot Topic arm bands.
over the past couple of years, underground metal acts
have cultivated their fan bases through tools such as
MySpace and frequent touring to get themselves into spots
on large tours—spots bands like Crazy Town, POD and Papa
Roach used to occupy. And as Justin Longshore from Through
the Eyes of the Dead (an up-and-coming national metal
band currently on the Sounds of the Underground Tour)
puts it, “Things just keep getting more brutal every year.”
the Eyes of the Dead are part of the next generation of
metal bands being launched by MySpace, and summer tours
like Sounds of the Underground and Ozzfest. In 2004, Through
the Eyes of the Dead released an EP titled Scars of
Ages that featured machine-gun drumming, death-metal
guitar runs and snake-spit vocals on the small, independent
Love Lost Records label.
Longshore explains, while the band were off touring in
support of their EP, they began blowing up online. “We
were on the road and we didn’t realize what was going
on. We got back, and we had tons of MySpace messages,”
relates Longshore. Thanks to a track distributed on a
few different metal Web sites, a buzz began to grow up
around the young band, and soon they were being offered
record deals and slots on tours. The band who seemed poised
to be an underground gem are now the opening act on a
national metal package tour.
and As I Lay Dying have also reaped the benefits of the
shift from nu-metal to underground, metal and metal-core.
In the space of two years and through the span of three
large metal package tours, his band has skyrocketed in
sales and bill placement.
2005, As I Lay Dying headlined the second stage on Ozzfest;
later that year they headlined the Taste of Chaos tour
(a metal/emo package tour), and now, this summer, they
are the top-billed band on Sounds of the Underground.
The 5-year-old band now find themselves headlining over
groups they grew up idolizing. “It’s a huge honor,” says
Alesis. “We’re a young band. We recognize how young we
are in the scheme of this overall genre. A band like Cannibal
Corpse has been playing for over 15 years, and it makes
our success seem relatively recent.”
I Lay Dying are among the first of the new (not nu) metal
scene who have succeeded in creating a sizeable amount
of mainstream appeal with their dramatic, sing-along choruses
mixed with their Gothenburg-influenced metal sound. Bands
like Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage have seen similar
success in radio, and both have major-label record deals.
However, Alesis says he doubts metal bands will fully
cross over onto radio despite what their record labels
may hope. He notes that the metal songs that do succeed
on radio are edited to remove most of the screaming, leaving
catchy, clean, sung choruses. But some of the newer, more
intense metal acts like Through the Eyes of the Dead would
have their entire songs edited out, if edited for screaming.
says he is inspired by the fact that metal bands are getting
as far as Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying in the
industry, but he is not sure his band have the same appeal.
“Part of me says we will be as big as that. But people
like simplicity, and we are a little bit more complicated
then those bands, and we don’t have singing parts. I don’t
see us being as big as Killswitch, but bands like Cannibal
Corpse have been doing it for 15 years and they haven’t
changed. They are doing their own thing. We look up to
Cannibal Corpse, and we will make music for ourselves
and make ourselves happy. And, hopefully,” Longshore concludes,
“other people will like it and they will be happy.”
there are other indicators that suggest the mainstream
may be headed for a permanent metal vacation—indicators
other than the puke left in my parking space or the slime
stain on my work shirt. Bands such as Mastodon and Lamb
of God, bands who are similarly brutality-oriented, who
do not bother to sing and who play complicated metal,
have signed major label deals.
end of this year and the beginning of the next should
determine how well real metal does in the mainstream,
with new major-label albums expected from Shadows Fall,
Mastodon, Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God. Longshore
says, “It’s exciting to see major labels can pick up bands
like us. It gives us something to look forward to.”