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From Hell's Heart

"From Hell's Heart..." is an editorial column written by the team. Every other month or so we pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it.

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Does metal need to have local scene in every city to be a viable genre? (December 2001)

Does metal need to have local scene in every city to be a viable genre?
By Rick

With the local metal scene here in my city getting bigger every day this is something that I have thought about over the last little while. Does metal need a local scene in every city or town to be considered a viable music genre? I think the answer to that question is a bit more complicated than just a straight forward yes or no. A metal scene is an important building block for the metal genre. It is here that many of the metal musicians are spawned for the bands of the future. Even Judas priest, Sabbath and Helloween started out playing in someone’s garage or basement, then moving on to small club shows before they became popular. In today’s metal world where our beloved music is shunned by the ignorant masses a local scene firstly lets everyone know there are others that are interested in similar music to them and that with a little work they too could be in a band. Musicians get to know each other, exchange ideas, start and dissolve bands and often have their first small taste of recording and releasing CDs. Along with that comes the thrill of playing live in front of people who are true fans of the genre and who often act as if they are seeing Death or Judas Priest instead of a struggling local band.

While local scenes are important to the genre does every city need to have one to make metal a viable genre? I think that the answer is no. It would be great to have scene in every city for the reasons I listed above but metal has proven that even without a local scene it has still become form of music that is widespread with support, albeit small, from many areas. There is no denying that local scenes spawn great bands. The Bay Area in California was, and still is, known for its great thrash bands. Metallica , Testament and now Imagika all have come from that scene. Gothenburg in Sweden has also given us some of the best metal bands in the last few years and surprisingly they have all come from a small local scene. But for every Gothenburg there is a town or city where there might be a couple of bands that slog away in obscurity with no one to come see them. There might be metal fans. There might be some musicians but it seems that things never come together, for whatever reason,. to develop a scene.

The point is , local metal scenes are great for metal but every city does not necessarily need a local scene for metal to thrive. A local scene in every city would be nice as it would indicate that there is a growing fan base for our beloved music. But metal right now has lots of bands and fans and even though most bands don't sell millions of copies of their CDs there is enough interest to support a hundred labels and thousands of bands.

Does metal need to have local scene in every city to be a viable genre?
By EvilG

Having a local metal scene in every city is in all probability not going to happen any time soon. To be honest, EVERY single city out there doesn't need to have a scene for the heavy metal genre to exist. I do think that having a local scene is very important. My perspective on this is probably going to be different from others considering my geographic location (an island). The size of the local metal scene here is never going to mean that we end up on the tour path for the larger "global" metal scene. Therefore, the local metal scene is all we have thus making is pretty important. Of course I can and do enjoy metal via the albums, interviews, videos, the Internet, traveling to see the bands, etc…but what of the local scene?

Being able to experience metal with a group of people at a club or a gig is a lot different then sitting in your room playing air guitar and saying "this is the shit!!" At a good gig there is the feeling of comradery, to be around people who like the same music or who live the metal lifestyle as you do. That might not mean a lot to some people, but it is a part of what metal is about…being able to see shows, see bands, hear good music, etc.

In the early to mid 90's there was a decent heavy metal scene here with a few very good bands. There was a following and there were albums from local bands to buy. Beginning in the mid 90's the scene began to fall apart and the few shows I went to I was not at all happy with as most of it consisted of kids playing noisy crap and not heavy metal. Trends come and go for many I guess. So wearing huge baggy pants, dressing like a whigger and all that that entails became the in thing. Recently things have been picking up. There is a local heavy metal scene beginning again that is not about mallcore / hardcore / punk / alternashit music…some heavy metal bands seem to be developing a scene again. That's why the topic of this month's editorial meant something to me personally. Since I feel that having a local metal scene means something, I have begun to involve myself within the scene to some degree. The beginnings of that was the development of a knowledge base of information on metal bands from my local scene (visit if you're at all interested). Myself and Rick also have talked about putting off some club shows here for real metal bands and to play REAL heavy metal all night between the bands. I was at a local gig in late October and I was surprised at the number of people that turned out. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that there is an audience here who were there to see some metal. I took care of the music between the bands and made sure that what was played between bands was real metal. From Lost Horizon to Death…a nice change for a local gig as usually the club will spin non-metal, rock and even dance shit between bands! Hopefully this is the beginning of better things to come!

Does metal need to have local scene in every city to be a viable genre?

Interesting question! Technically…No. Every single metal band could "in theory" be a non-touring, recording artist based in Antarctica and metal would still prevail. What I mean to say is that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley put it best…"Until they think of a way to put flash-pots in our records, people will still buy our records for the music. " This is true. If you strip away the entire image, the tours, the videos, the festivals, the hype, and the gimmicks…the music would remain. So hypothetically, no you don't need a scene.

However, one cannot discard the essential elements of what makes metal the monster it is today and therefore I must argue YES! A local scene in each city is necessary for the viability of metal. Here are my main reasons.

-Lack of Mainstream support. Large corporations rarely send in scouts or A&R people to small towns to offer recording contracts to new untested bands. The bands have to work
to develop a reputation to have the chance at getting paid to be a professional musician and create music. The underground network is essential to building reputation until someone with money, (who is usually a few steps removed from the local scene) learns about it.

-Cultural diversity. Each area has unique cultural and social elements that bring diversity into the music. People who observe the various geographical "scenes" can recognize elements of the "Italian power metal scene" or the "Florida Death metal scene" or the "Gothenburg sound" or whatever. These unique elements add flavour and style to various bands. The band doesn't even have to live in that area. Take Nile for example. I'm fairly confident none of them lived in ancient Egypt, but diverse influences from overseas made a North Carolina death metal band a well-regarded innovator.

-As much as we hate to admit it, metal is observed as a cultural phenomenon by outsiders. By having a hundreds of diverse local scenes in countries all over the world, the credibility of the genre is increased because it is not just a few people in one isolated area, aka a musical anomaly.

-Having a local scene creates pride and a sense of belonging in the metal community. Bands can travel and tour and be welcomed by like-minded fans regardless of location on the planet. Metal bands often tragically will not make a lot of money touring but will pile into a van and tour because they get to see the world, meet people and do something and having a local scene makes that sense of community stronger.

Ultimately being part of a local scene is a special snapshot in time of you and your friends and colleagues sharing a common enjoyment of metal music, shared through local venues and shows, through local specialty metal radio shows, local fanzines parties, rivalries, clubs, promoters…all of it combine to make a scene.

A scene is way more fun than if all the metal bands were from Antarctica and everyone just stayed at home listening to CD's in the their room by themselves.

Remember support your local metal band, club, fanzine and promoter. It takes 10 seconds to pick up the phone and thank the leaders in your metal community. It takes 10 seconds to invite a friend to a show and you have probably made another metal friend who can join in the war against crappy not-metal music!!

Does metal need to have local scene in every city to be a viable genre?
By Michael De Los Muertos

I think local scenes are a backbone, and a building block, of the international metal scene. Do I think every city needs to have one? No, because sometimes that's just not possible. You must support the local scene - but if it's any good, the local scene will support itself.

In Portland, Oregon, we've generally been blessed by a healthy local metal scene. In recent months we haven't gotten very many good shows, and that's sad. However, two or three years ago, there were metal bands coming to town nearly every other week - I recall going to metal shows three nights in a row one month (October 1999). From what I hear from friends, and reading on the message board, it's pretty extraordinary to have a metal scene that active, especially in a city like Portland that doesn't have a population base like New York or Chicago. So, while it sucks that the few promoters who bring shows to Portland and who have a stranglehold on show booking don't seem to like heavy metal, I'm hesitant to complain too loudly about our scene.

We have dedicated people in our metal scene, and that's the most important thing. When there is a metal show, the same people turn out time and time again. Many of them play in their own bands, or would like to. The metal people here know each other and keep each other informed. That's the key to a healthy scene. So, while I believe that it's vital to the survival of metal as a genre that metalheads keep in touch with each other, share their opinions and support shows and bands when they can, the fact that there aren't metal shows in a given city every weekend does NOT mean that that city is hurting for metal. Sometimes all it takes is a few good people to get on the phone or e-mail with each other and recognize they have a common interest. How many local bands there are or how many times Dimmu Borgir has played their city isn't all that important.

Metal is about individuals and individualism, and it's also about banding together and supporting each other. Wherever there is more than one metalhead in a given town, there's at least something of a metal scene. We have an innate need to share our music with others and we tend to gravitate toward people who have the same interests we do. I'd like to think that this fact of human nature will insure the survival of the international metal scene, which starts in your own living room.

Does metal need to have local scene in every city to be a viable genre?
By Mosquito

I live in the middle of nowhere. Columbia, South Carolina to be exact. Most of the people here are either rednecks with their country music, or wiggers with their rap music. To each his own I suppose. There really isn't much of a metal scene here except for the poser bands trying to be the next Limp Riffshit or any other band like them. So the local scene doesn't mean much of anything around here.

However, I think that 4 years ago, the local metal scenes in cities were very important because it was the only way to get your music out there. It still holds true for the most part in big cities. Look at Gothenburg and San Francisco if you need proof of that. These days we have these wonderful machines that people are finally making use of. You can get your music out there without too much hassle and webzines like metal-rules can listen to your stuff and help you get it out there to the masses.

The local scene should not die because of it. I just don't believe its needed as much anymore because the purpose of a local scene is basically put your music out there and make friends. All of that can be done on the Internet now. The internet shouldn't be viewed as something out there to destroy music, it should be viewed as something to keep it growing and alive.

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