From Hell's Heart
"From Hell's Heart..." is an editorial column written by the Metal-Rules.com team. Every other month or so we
pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it.
Why does glam metal have a place in metal-rules.com while mallcore never will? (July 2002)
"Why does glam metal have a place in metal-rules.com
while mallcore never will?"
This question has been circulating around the Metal-Rules message board for ages. Why do some bands seem to fit the definition of "metal" and others don't? For those of you who do not participate in our excellent discussion forums, this month's topic will give you an idea of some of the opinions of the staff.
It would be simple to degenerate this editorial into mallcore sucks vs. glam rocks. That would be a disservice to both. I have decided to write about some of the inherent differences between the two and why I feel the melodic hard rock and glam metal is a closer akin to true metal than mallcore.
This is a tough question. One of the most common arguments is based on "heaviness." Taking a time-worn but classic example, some argue that Slipknot for example is heavier then Poison because of their guitar tone and therefore qualify as metal, moreso than Poison. To me that is an oversimplification of a complex issue. Let's look at several factors that ultimately in my mind help define "metal" why hard rock and glam meets these requirements and/or possess these desirable characteristics.
Before I really begin it is important to note that I spent a lot of time thinking about this topic and took time to try to articulate my thoughts rather than just do a knee-jerk reaction based on some perceived, teary eyed nostalgia for the "good old days" or the "golden age of metal" an inaccurate term that gets thrown about and one that I strongly disagree with. I feel it is important to be able to logically explain, why, without getting accused of being "old-school", "narrow minded" "out of date", "old fashioned", "livin' in the past" etc…well you get the picture…
"History is written by the winners"
Historical revisionism is a scary thing. People often like to re-write history and or frame discussion in a modern context so as too prove a point that maybe far removed from fact. History is written by the winners, it is said. Well, in this case, there is no technical winner and so it would be unfair for a mallcore fan to say, "glam isn't metal" without any accurate historical context just the same as it is not fair or accurate for older fans to claim "mallcore isn't metal" just because they don't like it, which unfortunately is common in some hard-headed circles. However, people who arrive late into a genre do not have the right to automatically redefine that genre just because they don't like it or lack appreciation of the origins of the genre.
Back in the day journalists, fans and critics alike adopted a fairly wide-ranging term called HEAVY METAL to describe a certain type of music, one based on distorted guitar, rebellion, defiance and many other factors. As the genre expanded, matured and crystallized, so did the definition. Punk for example, while based on electric guitars and defiance was not metal. Melodic hard rock including glam was embraced by the media (mainstream magazines like Hit Parader, Circus and others) as METAL. Rolling Stone magazine did their first METAL cover story with Motley Crue on the front. Just because certain media has identified or labeled a musical form does NOT automatically make that the defining factor. Eg. Hit Parader in 1985 said "Dokken is metal" so it must be true. No, However, at that time of crystallization and definition of a fairly new genre, almost all media, world-wide had adopted the definition of metal, one that includes hard rocking bands and glam.
Fast forward to today. There are still mainstream commercial publications and media groups that identify mallcore and alt-metal, nu-metal etc… as METAL. Their reasons are obvious, financial gain, cashing in on the good name of metal to sell derivative product. If for example the global media (mainstream and underground) accepted and defined mallcore as METAL, I would be inclined to agree. However most metal publications, web-sites are adamant and defiant that the new music of today is NOT metal.
What does all this mean in short terms? The vast majority of people (Media, critics, labels) who originally identified and defined METAL have rejected the mallcore as metal.
History is written by the winners and in this case the very people who defined METAL as to include glam have rejected mallcore. The new mainstream media driven by commercial purposes are vainly trying to define mallcore as METAL and reject glam as not a part of the definition. (Eg. Rewrite history)
One of the foundations of metal is well played distorted electric guitar.
Many mallcore bands do not have that key element of well-played guitar. The riffs are simplistic, chord progressions uninspired and in many cases a total lack of soloing! How a genre that tries to identify themselves as metal but reject the basis of metal is beyond me! Many melodic hard rock bands and glam bands have guitarists (and drummers) that were extremely talented and would showcase that talent in solos, both on record and live. (Eg. Frankie Banali of Quiet Riot or Steve Vai of David Lee Roth and Whitesnake.) These artists can play circles around 99% of the mallcore (ahem ,cough) "musicians" today. METAL has often (but not always) been about progression, virtuosity, and experimentation and so many of the mallcore bands do not meet those concepts. Dull songwriting, simple beats and just a general lack of songwriting skill and technical ability are major strike against mallcore, as being defined as metal.
Conversely, melodic hard rock and glam had these attributes often in large quantities. Glam and melodic hard rock, when well executed, is written and played with passion and strength. Mallcore bands have not fully embraced the fact that true heaviness is derived from the riff and song structure, not from yelling, swearing, jumping up and down, silly masks, drop tuning and multi-layered drumming. I have heard some power ballads that have more balls than the montone, songs of many mallcore bands. Mallcore does not even hold a candle to most metal genres (Thrash, Black and Death) when it comes to aggression and power! If glam bands can blow away most mallcore bands and glam are the lightweights of the METAL genre, it is not a glowing endorsement of mallcore as a heavy music form.
True defiance for artistic gratification or manufactured rebellion for commerce?
Another key element of metal is defiance and rebellion (call it what you will) Back in the fairly conservative days of the late 70's and early 80's METAL defined rebellion in terms of dress, attitude, lyrics, image and so on. There was a naïve, sincerity about young people who railed against social convention by wearing ripped jeans, long unkempt hair and so on. Today's rebellious youth of the mallcore circles lack that sincerely defiant attitude. When a young person/artist of mallcore persuasion talks of anger, hate, frustration (all common themes in music throughout the ages) it seems very insincere and contrived when they have a very specific set common images in terms of what brand name to wear and what colour to spike your hair. To me it is as simple as, the 80's glam fan/artists said, "The establishment prefers short hair so I'll grow mine long." compared to the modern mallcore fan who says ""The establishment prefers short hair so I'll dye it a certain colour, spike it with gel, by a brand name toque and grow a little beard in a certain way." Manufactured rebellion. They (mallcore) think "Rebels look like this, so this is how I'm going to look, so people think I'm a rebel." That is the crux. The mallcore group use pre-packaged defiance to identify themselves as a certain group, (to make friends) where as METAL uses rebellion for pure, undiluted reasons, to NOT belong to a certain group. (to make enemies or assert individuality).
Overall there seems to be a lack of true passion and integrity in the mallcore bands. The adherence to formula and commercialism derives them of the sincerity of purpose, which is a key element in metal. For some reasons many mallcore artists don't see the inherent hypocrisy and conflict of interest in speaking about rebellion, defiance and hate while fully embracing commercialism. A few of the more astute mallcore bands try to act defiant and rebellious adopting outrageous images but they are derivative of METAL bands that did it 10, 20 even 30 years ago. In the realm of mallcore, it is cool to say you like metal and cite it as an influence but not to play it. Lip service to gain credibility fails when the deeds do not follow the words.
To summarize and answer the question why glam has a place in the hallowed halls of metal (and Metal-Rules) and mallcore never will? Mallcore, unlike glam, lack the basic tenants of metal, namely talent, virtuosity, power, sincerity, passion, integrity. The question in retrospect is very simple to answer. Mallcore is not metal. Glam is.
Glam fully embraces all the metal attributes and conventions and mallcore does not.
Why is glam metal accepted when mallcore is not?
Glam metal, "hair metal," MTV metal...we're all familiar with it. Its day has passed, perhaps fortunately or unfortunately, but it remains with us even 10 years after the last Winger or Trixter video disappeared from MTV. Every family has a member who's out of sorts--the guy they keep locked up in the west wing of the mansion and hope nobody remembers he's there--and glam metal is the metal family's "black sheep." So why is it in the family, instead of outside of it, as metalheads fervently insist mallcore music is?
I think there are a few main reasons for it. First of all, glam came from within the heavy metal subculture. It was born, bred and raised from within our own house--Kiss and Mötley Crüe are its fathers, arguably--and the descent of glam metal from the "family tree" of metal in general is undeniable. Mallcore's lineage is much murkier. People blame a lot of influences within metal for the rise of mallcore--Anthrax's collaboration with Public Enemy, or Sepultura's "Chaos A.D." album are two examples of the blame for mallcore being placed squarely on us--but mallcore actually arose outside of our culture. Korn is the father of mallcore, and people argue whether Korn ever was a metal band. Yet no one argues that Mötley Crüe was not a metal band.
Mallcore is alienated from metal, musically, because it is based on alien musical influences, namely rap. Glam metal may have been "watered down" for commercial consumption, but it never pretended to fuse metal with anything. To change a Poison song into something that would be universally regarded as traditional heavy metal you need only speed it up, thicken the guitars, change the vocals and tweak the rhythms and such. To change a Korn song into traditional heavy metal you have to completely deconstruct it, and remove something fundamental to it--namely, the rap elements. There is thus a great musical difference between glam metal and mallcore.
Finally, although it's not the most important factor, I believe it's fair to say that many metalheads still accept and like glam metal. I realize this opens up the argument of "well, if more metalheads liked Korn then you would say it's true metal"--that rejoinder is nonsensical because it ignores the first two points of my argument, but I offer this third point because I think it's illustrative. I would bet even the "tr00est" metalheads have at least a few glam CDs, and they may even listen to them once in a while. I confess openly that in 1995 I saw Slaughter live-and I'm talking not about the Canadian thrash band, but the Southern California glam band-and it was one of the most fun shows I've ever been to. There's room at least in my CD case for some of the old glam classics side-by-side with Blind Guardian, Dismember and Rhapsody. But you will never find Korn, Slipknot or Linkin Park there-ever!
Glam Metal...IS Metal!
Two things that I take as being very close to fact:
Here at Metal-Rules.com we try our best to cover metal in all it's forms. One of those forms that some people have a problem with is glam metal. As long as there is a Metal-Rules.com, there will be a place in it for glam metal here!
In my experience, the majority of those who have a problem with glam metal being included here are younger fans who have little or no appreciation for the history of heavy metal. Many of them in fact would call a number of mallcore bands heavy metal! I am not going to rant AGAIN about why mallcore is NOT metal, every metalhead knows that this "musical" style has very little in common with our beloved heavy metal.
A big problem that some have with glam metal comes from image. Yes, glam metal bands do have an image. The fact that glam implies image has no bearing whatsoever on the music made. Glam image has meant a style of clothing, makeup, and hair style (most often long and teased). The glam style is not unique to metal, 70's David Bowie and others were seen as being "glammed up." The fact that a band adopts a certain look does not mean they are non-metal. Some examples would be Dokken, Ratt, Motley Crue, and Twisted Sister. These bands ARE metal bands. Of course, at the time they came out there were heavier bands available. This does not mean that what they play is not metal. If you follow that logic to present day then you'd call a band like Jag Panzer "rock" and only extreme bands like Cryptopsy as "metal." That logic is flawed! Just because there are heavier bands and because bands over time become heavier does not mean that what came before is now not metal any longer. Re-writing history based on current sounds is something I am 100% against. When a metal fan says these bands are not metal and gets upset at seeing them covered here, I either ignore them or try to explain to them that heavy metal has a history beyond the last 10 years...and one in which glam does have it's place both back in the 80's and TODAY!
For those who don't agree that glam metal is metal and prefer to call it rock music, I would suggest you are attempting to re-write history. Calling bands from this style un-metal or unworthy of coverage in metal-rules.com will ruffle many feathers from fans who were there all along and who know the difference!
So the bottom line is, you don't have to like glam metal....in fact you don't have to like any particular style of metal. But to call these bands un-metal because the heaviness bar has been raised in the past decade just shows your ignorance and shallowness of only judging the genre by it's cover! All the essential elements of what makes heavy metal are found in most all glam metal bands: great guitar playing (INCLUDING awesome lead guitar), great vocals, influences primarily come from other hard rock and HEAVY METAL bands that came before them, etc. All this combined makes for some excellent metal. If you are all hung up on if something that is glam is metal or not, then you have a problem...a problem that will limit you from hearing some great music and a problem that will forever mean that you do not have an appreciation for what heavy metal is and where it came from.
Why does glam metal have a place in metal-rules.com
(while mallcore never will)?
Sometimes I think its harder to come up with a topic for our From Hells Heart column than it is to actually write on the topic. This month’s topic is sure to raise a few eyebrows as it deals with situation that some metalheads feel doesn’t even fall into the metal arena. . Why Metal-Rules.com feels that glam metal has a place in the zine while mallcore doesn’t. For me the answer is simple. Many of the bands that got lumped into the glam metal category were either not glam metal at all or they had their basis in metal and appealed to metal fans. This was never so clear to me as when I interviewed Warrant bass player Jerry Dixon about a month ago. Though most will argue that Warrant are not a metal band, and I will tend to agree for the most part, when I asked Jerry what his influences were, they were all pretty much metal. Black Sabbath, Dio, and Iron Maiden to name a few. He was also quite excited to be playing a few shows with one of his favourite bands, Judas Priest. But that was the 80s. Many fans listened to Warrant as well as Priest and Kreator and Megadeth.
I have also alluded to the image. As Dixon also pointed out in our interview: the image was just something that everyone did. Personally I think too many people zero in on the image and don’t listen to the music. Motley Crue is a prime example. They get lumped in with glam all the time and are written off because of it. I say their first 2 CDs are metal and I know many people that will agree with me. Skid Row, especially SLAVE TO THE GRIND and onward, cannot be classed as glam. STTG is one excellent metal disc. "Slave to the Grind", "Monkey Business", "Mudkicker" etc are all excellent songs that often get overlooked cause Skid Row, god forbid, had a couple of hits and the Cd sold well. If every band that had teased or fluffed hair was considered glam then we could get rid of many thrash bands who regularly had "Nice hair". No one seems to remember Booby "Blitz" Ellsworth and his big hair from the early days. They were still an excellent band and still played great thrash. The look didn’t change that. We could forget Priest who did the dress up thing in the 80s. We could even forget one of my favourite bands Riot because they, like many other bands, did the torn jeans, teased hair, fancy leather thing on their criminally under rated Thundersteel CD. The image does not make the band.
I could turn this into a bashing of mallcore but figured, why bother? I don’t think about it enough to bother wasting time bashing it. The topic here is why does glam have a place on Metal-Rules.com Its very simple in my eyes. Glam Metal/Hair Metal whatever you want to call it is a genre that appeals to metalheads. Many of the early bands such as the Crue, Ratt, Icon, Quiet Riot etc had a basis in metal. They put out metal albums. They embraced the metal crowd. Look at any video from The Crue or Cinderella that was shot at a live concert. There are metal t shirts in the crowd, Metallica, Ozzy, Sabbath etc. The look did not make the band. The real problem I see here is that as these bands started selling lots of albums the record companies signed every band they could get their hands on which meant that many there were so many clone bands it just created a backlash against the whole metal scene, not just glam. Glam metal has a place if for no other reason than that many metalheads still have a connection with this genre, and unlike mallcore, it still pays homage to the fact that the genre is rooted in metal and not rap and hardcore.
Glam Metal by any other name is still Metal, and
doth still bang thy head!
Is glam metal, hair metal, or whatever you wanna call it, metal?!! Ah, what a question!! The cause of so much conflict. The source of so much pain and agony. The queen mother of week long forum fights. And yet, such a simple answer lies at the end of all of these battles. Quite simply, yes, glam metal is metal whether you fucking like it or not!!! In my humble opinion, of course.
First off, what is glam? Isn't glam a 70's thing? Well, yeah it is (although one, if so inclined, could go back much, much further in time for the source of androgynous entertainment). David Bowie, Roxy Music, T. Rex, Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls (just to name a few) were all "glam" despite the various styles of rock they played. It was more of a look than an actual music scene, truth be told. Although, the majority of glam bands played straight out hard rock in keeping with the spirit of 70's stadium rock. In fact, David Bowie's Ziggy era (with the legendary Mick Ronson on monster guitar) could compete, in a sonic sense, with the Led Zeps of the day.
So let's flash forward shall we? Imagine, if you will, a young Nikki Sixx, a.k.a. Frank Ferrano. This young man was shoved through one heavy mother of a decade (i.e. the 1970's). So many bands, so much variation and so much attitude, coupled with an extreme emphasis on style. Even the Sex Pistols, for all their anti-style, albeit somewhat ironic, were image centered. Anyway, this kid was forced to process Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, KISS, Judas Priest, The Sex Pistols, Slade, Van Halen and Foghat!!! What was the result, you ask? Motley Fuckin' Crue, of course!! In other words, the Crue was the direct continuation of blues based, hard rock, slammed against 70's heavy metal and conjoined to a biting sense of style and attitude (garnered via 70's glam and punk).
By the early 1980's, the skinny tie scene (i.e. the "new wave") had grown stale. Bands like Motley Crue "rose to the occasion" and helped to define what was to become the L.A. Sunset Strip scene (i.e. glam metal). How did this happen? Basically, the hard rockin' glam look laid dormant during the punk/new wave years, and resurrected itself by co-opting the Sabbath-Priest branch of heaviness. It was cutting, yet retained much of the bluesy swagger of ye old hard rockin' forefathers. Above all, it was image based and a variation of styles flowed through it (much like the 70's glam scene). In fact, you could have a more "classic metal" styled glam band (i.e. Dokken), play a show with a more "hard rockin'" styled glam band and nobody would think twice about it. To be sure, this was a new beast and it was metallic in nature. How was it metal, you ask? Well, glam metal retained every single aspect of what had become the Heavy Metal recipe, which is to say "over the top" live shows, a stage look and style that usually separated the band from the audience, uniquely crafted band logos, outrageous and often "evil looking" and/or sexually gratuitous album covers, an emphasis on attitude (i.e. good ol' rock 'n roll rebellion) and, last but not least, a direct lineage to the early heavy metal bands (as well as the classic hard rock bands).
Now to be fair, glam metal technically floats between hard rock and heavy metal. However, it is most certainly metal in a late 20th Century sense and should continue to be viewed as metal in a 21st Century sense. However, there is a disturbing trend within the metal world in that there are a growing number of historical revisionist fans who exclude glam metal from metal. Metal has evolved in extreme directions, so much is true. But let's not lose touch with the actual evolution!! To my mind, a metalhead should retain a strong sense of metallic history. GLAM METAL SHOULD BE DISCUSSED ON METAL-RULES seeing as how heavy metal's many sub-genres, including glam metal, basically spring directly from the same source and share many of the same components.
Now this is the part that really gets me. Naysayers will often say that if one accepts glam as metal, then one must accept Korn and Co. as metal. Seriously, I can't believe that one would be so historically inept so as to accept such a belief. Mallcore is not metal...ever. Seeing as how metal is partially a visual experience (band logos, album covers, live shows, stage look, etc.) and attitude. Mallcore shares none of the visual nor attitudinal components. Of course, the actual music is what matters most, and from merely listening one can determine that it's not metal. See folks, the "metal" in mallcore has been diluted via alternative and/or rap influences. It's not metal, period. It's an alien hybrid that has mutated beyond recognition. Moreover, it's a music that has no tie to a past. Metal will always move forward, yet will always hold tight to its origins...forever.