Fade To Black

Hmmm…I stopped writing for a long time because of time-restraints and depression. I took a few jabs at writing for The Metalist and other metal zines during the 5-year absence from this blog.

But, now that I’m in a better frame of mind, let’s rock and roll into a new adventure.

I’ll be accepting band submissions for review from local South African and international artists. There’s plenty of space for interviews and of course, for guest writers to share their opinions. Also…there are a number of surprises along the way.

  • Metal Duchess

 

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Black Metal And Brews

BMB

When I started Heavy Metal Duchess, I thought I had all the time in the world to update and post regular content. As you can see, that plan didn’t work. So my humble apologies to the few that actually read this page. A bigger apology goes to Ben from Black Metal & Brews. I did an interview with Ben almost 4 months ago about metal, beer and mental health. Thanks Ben, for being honest and willing to open about things that society takes too lightly. Here is what Ben had to say:

According to the Black Metal and Brews mission statement; you want to listen to every album possible and drink all the beer. How is that going so far?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve set an impossibly ambitious goal for myself with this one. I have neither time, patience, nor budget to accomplish this (and I think I’d get alcohol poisoning along the way). However, I have kept true to this in ways. Even though I only end up featuring a small fraction of the music I receive as submissions, I listen to at least ten minutes of everything that comes my way, as even things that sound potentially out of my genre have surprised me in the past. I tend not to like power metal and thrash metal, yet even some of the submissions I’ve received from these communities have been engaging and worth my time. In terms of beer, I do what I can but don’t really have the budget or desire to drink too frequently. I think this surprises some readers, but I appreciate beer as an occasional treat, not as part of a daily routine. With this in mind, I try to make sure that I pick beers that are either classic recipes done to perfection or beers that are completely off the wall and unique.

Black Metal and Brews began as a means for you to combat depression. You put out a personal post a few months back explaining how the website helps you conquer depression and moves you out of your comfort zone. Can you elaborate on that?

Depression is a personal thing, yet it’s not something that is unique to a given individual. I think many people who suffer from depression feel more isolated (either by society or as a symptom of the depression itself) than we actually are. Sometimes isolation is healthy for growth, but sometimes it can be the most suffocating feeling imaginable. As someone who is fortunate enough to be able to get by despite this ongoing issue, I realize that sharing my struggle might encourage others to seek help, support, or whatever it is that they might need. I know that by continually making myself visible and by doing something other people care about, I have created a system for addressing certain aspects of my depression. My primary desire is to withdraw from the world when I feel frustrated, inadequate, or overwhelmed. While sometimes the large amount of emails I receive for BM&B can contribute to this stress, the attention and positive reactions of my readers ensure that I won’t stay away from writing for too long.

It’s important for me to elaborate on this here: for me personally, positive attention can sometimes intimidate and overwhelm. Sometimes people send me messages of support that I just completely ignore because they catch me off guard and scare me. If I do something that people like, I often imagine it as an expectation, a pressure to repeat the positive performance. So please don’t view this as an ego thing or seeking approval nearly as much as it is knowing that something I do regularly brings joy to others. I like knowing that I’m making a difference in the creative communities that inspire me. If you’re depressed and the only joy you have comes from the approval of others, please realize that this is only a small component of life and that the best feelings of all come from approval of yourself.

Depression and other mental issues are taken too lightly in society. If the public cannot see a scar, then it’s not worth talking about. What do you think it will take for the media to open up about mental health especially media in the metal/punk/alternative areas?

What will it take for people to address depression and mental illness properly, especially in media? I honestly don’t think it can or will happen. Too many people who haven’t suffered from a given issue like to pretend they can easily erase or redefine it. We all know that the end result of cancer, AIDS, or heart disease is often death. The topic of suicide as an outcome of depression is often referred to as a “choice,” which on a purely technical level might be accurate, but a choice made during the depths of a sickness that alters the brain’s chemistry is not a choice at all. The unwillingness to acknowledge depression as a sickness only perpetuates and stigmatizes the suffering and isolation that folks with any sort of mental illness experience.
Additionally, in extreme music, there seems to be a disconcerting trend of romanticizing depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. Art needs to reflect reality, which can at times be an uncomfortable place. Still, it bothers me when I see artists glamorizing their own mental health issues without opening up a dialogue on the very real effects of mental illness. A small handful of extreme acts, especially in the depressive/suicidal black metal niche, seem to encourage and celebrate self-harm and suicide. While this may be an artistic expression to some, I have a hard time knowing that bands have sold special editions of albums with razors and syringes to a fanbase that may take this message too far. As a result of this romanticized melancholy, I often feel people in extreme communities may cling to the acceptance of their mental illness in lieu of seeking help. It’s an incredible thing to be accepted as you are, but to wilt away in the grip of mental anguish instead of taking steps to enjoy life more fully is a tragedy. I realize that we do not all experience this in the same way, but I do know that rolling over and accepting depression (or anger, or whatever else may trouble you) as a permanent state will make it that much harder to see opportunities for improvement when they arise.
I realize I didn’t touch on what coverage can be done, because I don’t know what can be done on a broad level. I feel that the first thing would be to start questioning artists whose art is self-destructive. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them would share the messages I’m trying to convey if they were only asked. Instead, the press seems eager to play into the drama and appeal of “dangerous” and “explosive” personalities without examining the repercussions. So…I guess the media should start asking better questions instead of going for the easy headlines, but that’s a general issue with media across the board.

So, tell us, did you successfully complete The Complete Beer Course: Beer Boot Camp for Beer Geeks by Joshua M. Bernstein? What can you tell us that we may not know about beer?

Oh gosh, no. This book is a hefty read and I have every intention of going slowly with it. Each chapter focuses on a style and has a lot to digest. Each section comes with suggested beers that are top examples of the style, so that the reader can sip along and understand what things to look for in a specific beer. My goal is to drink the beers while I read through the book, which will not be a cheap or easy experience, but will hopefully add to my comprehension of the material involved. It’s taken me years to understand extreme music as well as I do (and I still have a lot to learn) so I don’t anticipate I’ll have all the answers about beer any time in the near future. What I do know is that I’ll have a blast while I learn and hopefully impart some of my enthusiasm and excitement to the readers and viewers who are following along with what I do.
With craft beer culture as visible as it has ever been, it’s really hard to say something that other people don’t know. I’m not trying to dig deep for super niche trivia, but I’m frequently humbled by the classics. For all the fun and experimentation that’s involved in the modern craft beer community, especially here in the United States, I still find myself impressed by timeless recipes from Bavarian and Belgian breweries. Revisiting age old beers in between craft brews with peculiar ingredients and angles has been a healthy way for me to remember the purpose of everything I do.

From all the beer reviewed so far, which one still stands the test of time and why do you say so?

Most beers I’ve given favorable reviews are probably worth visiting again. However, I’ll admit I’m not often one to revisit beers frequently. This is partially because my budget doesn’t allow me to keep a six-pack (or bomber) on hand for fun very frequently unless I want to cut into my list of beers that I plan on reviewing in the future. Some old favorites that have held up nicely are North Coast’s Brother Thelonious, Delirium Nocturnum, and the seasonally appropriate Pumking from Southern Tier. Brother Thelonious was the first beer I ever had served at room temperature, possibly one of the only bar experiences I remember so vividly. It’s been a favorite since that day. Delirium Nocturnum is just simply great. All of the beers coming from Brouwerij Huyghe (makers of Delirium) are top notch, but that’s the only one I’ve reviewed. Finally, Pumking is probably the best pumpkin beer I’ve had aside from Southern Tier’s other autumnal offering, Warlock. There are a few other mighty beers I’d really like to include here as top picks, but I haven’t reviewed them yet and don’t want to reveal any impending plans.

Let’s talk music. I know we are a few months away, but what’s on your top ten lists for 2014 so far? (NB. This interview was conducted four months ago…)

Top ten lists are hard even at the end of the year. Damn, let’s see. I feel like I fall in love with a new album every other day, and I’m sure I forget important albums left and right because my brain is more of a sieve than it is a container for thoughts. Lots of great music comes in, gets heard once or twice, and then floats away to other people who actually retain things. If I were to draft it off the top of my head, I’d surely forget things that are crucial and include things that aren’t as noteworthy but are currently in my head. Here’s a tentative list that will likely be seriously altered come December:
Lasher Keen- Mantic Poetry, Oracular Prophecy
Beach Pneumatic- Beach Pneumatic
Body of Light- Limits of Reason
Yellow Eyes- The Desert Mourns
Thestral- Y Canu Brud
Grafvolludr- Promo 2014
Ill Omen- Enthroning the Bonds of Abhorrence
Paramnesia- Paramnesia
Urzeit/Akatharsia split
Rotting Sky- Sedation
 
To be honest, I know I’ve got dozens of cassettes on hand that might threaten to enter the list but I’ve got a lot of time to dig through my shelves between now and the end of the year, plus there are a few releases I’m itching to hear but waiting until they arrive in physical format instead of in my email. The greatest frustration about running a website that features music I love is knowing that for every incredible release I feature, I’ve neglected to feature at least two or three other great albums that deserve to be heard and loved by a broader audience.

What is your biggest pet peeve in the music industry right now? 

My biggest pet peeve in the music industry? Man, I may be shooting myself in the foot here, but since it’s my field of choice it’s the thing I notice the most. I really don’t like lazy music writing that caters itself more towards turning a profit than actually engaging the audience with quality words about exciting new music. I won’t name names, although unexciting websites about underground music are a dime a dozen, and they’re typically the ones that are profiting from advertisements. That’s not to say that money inherently ruins writing, as many of the best metal writers right now are definitely seeing some income, but I feel a lot of sites with ads give in to temptation to put out Buzzfeed-esque articles or crappy gossip pieces instead of really putting something of merit out there. I could rant about this for ages and it would do me no good, but seriously…some days the only thing keeping me writing is the knowledge that a large majority of the metal press lacks integrity and quality control.

You hold down a full-time job, play dad to an inquisitive cat and still manage to churn out quality pieces for Black Metal and Brews. What would you like to say to aspiring music writers? Also, what myths would you like to debunk about being a music writer?

Aspiring writers should write because it satisfies them. If you do it for love and passion, you’ll always do your best. That’s not to say that your best today will be as good as your best next week, but that’s the whole point. Anything you do regularly is a craft and regular practice will make it improve. I’m not embarrassed by any of my mediocre writing, but I use it as a touchpoint for my own planned growth and improvements. I’m always looking forward to new music and new opportunities to expand my voice. I encourage others to do it as well. Also, don’t do what I did and name your site with a genre in mind unless you’re 100% positive that’s all you’re going to want to do. In retrospect, I’d probably have chosen a name with less limitation, but I write about whatever I want on Black Metal & Brews and know that my audience will follow because I’ve developed a reputation for pushing stuff from out of left field. Also, don’t read what others write about an album until you’ve written your own review. If possible, don’t even discuss it. If your opinions are formed on the basis of others’, you’re inherently selling our own judgment short. Readers want to know that you back everything you say in writing. While it may be an easy grab to write high praise of that hot new album, you’ll regret it when all those new readers you gain realize they don’t have much in common with your typical fare. Carve your niche and your audience will eventually find you, even if it takes a few years.

What can we expect in the future from Black Metal and Brews?

The future of Black Metal & Brews is a strange and nebulous beast. Work and life throw me in many directions I don’t always anticipate. Sometimes I have a prolific month or two. Sometimes I go weeks without a blip. This is still just a hobby but I’m slowly laying groundwork to make this more of a self-sustaining project. I’ve purchased art to eventually make some merchandise and do plan on finding a few fun ways to possibly make a small income from this without diluting the purpose of my writing. I’m also hoping to launch a podcast and get back to making beer and tape pairing videos in the near future, hopefully by the year’s end.

Would you like to add anything?

What can I add here? I’m not the most exciting or brilliant person, but I’ve found something I’m good at and done it for a couple years and some folks have taken note. I’m sure some folks can’t stand what I do, and that’s okay too. So, I guess if you’re reading this and you’re maybe in a rut like I was in when I began my site a couple years ago, just find something you like doing and do it a lot. Do it by yourself. Do it publicly. Just do something and do it until you either lose interest or develop a following. The world needs its bankers and chefs, but it also needs people who create custom fridge magnets on etsy and nerdy dudes who write about beer and underground music. If you think your niche doesn’t exist, it’s only because you haven’t created it yet. Thanks for taking the time to ask these questions and wait for my responses.
Thanks Ben!
Check out Black Metal and Brews and chat to Ben on Twitter!

Firsts with Slayer

Remember the first time you discovered Slayer? How did it feel? Who was there? What were your initial thoughts of the band? Whatever your reasons are, Slayer ruled at one point because of their ability to shock crowds; both in artistry and philosophy.

Here is a question for the two (maybe three) people that read this blog: If Slayer did not exist – which band could have fulfilled their legacy?

My first experience with Slayer was Reign in Blood. It took me a couple of years to hear it, as I had a legitimate fear of the cover art the first time I saw it at the age of 12. All the blood drenched on the bottom of the artwork, as a goat king sits on a throne ruling over the disfigured faces around him, chilled me to the core. Once I got over that hurdle, I was in awe from the very opening riff of “Angel of Death.” I had never heard a band that fast before, and it definitely took a few dozen play throughs to become acclimated to it. I felt like I had ripped open a new side of metal that I had never heard previously. All the death and thrash metal I got into as a teenager was partially thanks to this album. Though it’s not my favorite Slayer album (that honor goes to Hell Awaits), I wish that I could feel as mesmerized all the time with music as I did with my initial listen of Reign in Blood. – Dan Marsicano (@heavytothebone2)

The first time I saw Slayer was at Belgium festival, Graspop, 2 years ago. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. We waited at the front of the stage for at least an hour to get the best spot. I was standing only a few metres away from Dave Lombardo, one of my idols. The show was really intense, and even though they didn’t run around much, there was this sinister feeling in the air, the band knowing that they make their fans lose their shit in the mosh pit. The played an awesome, varied set http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/slayer/2012/boeretang-dessel-belgium-2bdf14e6.html and when they played Chemical Warfare, my life was complete. There was loads of headbanging and moshing and some serious crowd surfing. Afterwards, I was speechless with the biggest smile on my face. – Luci V. (@MrsVillain)

Photo Credit: Lucinda V.

Photo Credit: Luci V.

What was your first time with Slayer like?

– Lav

Adrien, Iron Maiden and ‘Ed

I’m not saying that I know Adrien Begrand. Oh, no. I’m quite far away from Canada. However, I know two things about Adrien: 1) He is a superb music journalist 2) He is an Iron Maiden fanboy (Goldfrapp coming in at second place)

So, I put Adrien to the ultimate Iron Maiden test.

Source: Wikipedia

If you had to give a guest lecture on Iron Maiden to a junior class, what would your lesson plan highlights be?

Now there’s a good question. I’d probably talk about how the band revolutionized the way metal is marketed. Sure, KISS pioneered the idea in the 1970s, but Maiden did it on a more grassroots level. Their artwork was the most striking album art imaginable at the time; when you saw a Maiden cover, you just HAD to find out what the actual music sounded like. Coupled with a highly identifiable logo and t-shirts featuring that logo and art, the band advertised its music better than anyone. It had mystique, even though at the end of the day they were just a bunch of blokes from London’s East End. The entire New Wave of British Heavy Metal took the band logo to new levels – if you couldn’t afford a good album cover, at least you had a distinct logo – but Maiden perfected it. All aspects of that band, music, art, performance, created a bond with the fans that’s very unique in music today, and never has Maiden shown an ounce of cynicism.

What Iron Maiden track/artwork/album converted you to a die-hard fan?

The first Maiden artwork I saw was The Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind in early 1983, when I moved to a much bigger town and kids were wearing Maiden shirts bearing those illustrations of Eddie. The first time I actually heard Maiden, however, was in the summer of 1984 when the video for “2 Minutes to Midnight” started making the rounds. At that time I was huge into Twisted Sister, Ratt, Van Halen, and Scorpions, and that song was so different, catchy yet a little complex, featuring a singer with one hell of a voice. I loved the elaborate stage set-up in the video, too. Then when I saw the Powerslave album cover, loaded with intricate Egyptian themes and coloured in that appealing sky blue and yellow, I was drawn to it even more. So once I got the album on cassette, that was it. Ruined for life.

It goes without saying that Derek Riggs is an integral part of Iron Maiden’s development. Which is your favourite art piece and why? 

 As I mentioned, that would be Powerslave. There was a big poster of the cover – that I never bought! – where you could see all the small details, little in-jokes in the hieroglyphics, which I just loved. It’s so detailed, but so distinct and refined, beautifully rendered. Of course Somewhere in Time took the in-joke to crazy extremes, and we’d spend hours looking at that elaborate cover and figuring out each reference that was there, and there are dozens.

As someone who works in the artistic field, has Iron Maiden ever influenced your work or a part of your personality?

Maiden has soundtracked my life for 30 years now, so it must have influenced me somehow! It got me reading Coleridge at 14, for crying out loud. The music introduced me to Robert Heinlein, The Prisoner TV series, social realist fiction/drama. It planted seeds in my young mind, and I branched out from there, it got my own imagination going. I got more out of this band than anything I studied in high school. If anything, the band has been an enormously positive influence on my life. It’s as simple as that.

Iron Maiden have sold more than 75 million records worldwide and counting. What fun facts can you tell us about the Iron Maiden empire?

One fun thing I learned when I interviewed the band in 2010 is that Adrian Smith could never play a certain part of “Alexander the Great”. It was a kooky mental block he couldn’t get his head around, and the only way he could get his guitar track down was to be walked through it again and again and again by Steve Harris. So even though Harris and Dave Murray have always wanted to perform the song live, Smith wants no part of it!

– Lav

*Side Note* (Thank you to Craig Hayes for bringing this to my attention) It seems Derek Riggs’ artwork is in demand after all he did start a generation of Zombie-loving fans. He also boosted Iron Maiden albums sales (the album art caught your attention first, right?). Maiden fans launch a Riggs petition! Read the full article at Classic Rock

The unofficial dissertation of Terminatryx

Paul Blom, guitarist/bass player/keyboard ninja and programmer, always had a clear vision for his band Terminatryx – he never doubted his efforts and it has paid off.

I’ve been keeping in contact with Blom for the past two years for an article on the roots of heavy metal in South Africa. Unfortunately, the article got lost in a pile on an Editor’s desk and only made publication in the latter of 2013. Since then, Blom and I have discussed his musical projects, specifically Terminatryx.

In 2002, Blom walked out on a growing pop culture and laid out the foundations on what is a developing alternative scene. His eclectic persona made way for a band that combines science fiction, horror, hard rock and electronic music. This infusion was grand, almost improbable and definitely too far out for a fresh post-millennial South African market. Yet, a minority of alternative fans found solace in Terminatryx’s existence. Despite the messy politics of the music industry, Terminatryx evolved and pushed through. Their fans grew, their performances made news and they are now established figures. Of course, nothing like this happens overnight – it took Terminatryx twelve years of dedicated hustle.

Hustle. This word conjures images of rappers and hip-hop moguls counting money in a dark dingy smoke-filled basement. The truth is most people hustle, and they do it in daylight in public spaces. In other words – they work tremendously hard. Terminatryx have put in the hours too. They have seen many South African bands walk-on and walk-off. They have made many mistakes as a band and learned what works and what should be thrown away. They also know that this is their way of expressing their art. As most individuals find out, being in a creative industry is not easy. I get the idea that most individuals think being in an artistic business is all about building new structures and walls. I disagree. For me, art is about breaking and dissecting everything in order to reassemble new perspectives.

For Blom and fellow band members, that is exactly what happened. Blom took a gamble in the early 90’s to live his heavy metal dream with South Africa’s most influential metal band, Voice Of Destruction (V.O.D). A German label plucked V.O.D from their hometown in South Africa and set-up tours around Europe with like-minded bands such as Katatonia and In The Woods. Soon after, Blom decided to take a detour and began creating art [Terminatryx] by taking everything that he had learned to be everything that he can be.

In any band, communication is pivotal. The relationship between Blom and Terminatryx vocalist, Sonja Ruppersberg, has always been smooth and co-operative. Both their personalities seem to compliment musically – perhaps it has something to do with their ten years and counting of matrimonial bliss.

Personal life aside, Ruppersberg is the face of Terminatryx. In the early years of South Africa’s music scene, women in metal were pushed and nudged out of the way but Ruppersberg stood up and stood out. Her clean vocals contrast her macabre characters. If there is one thing that you can take from this band is that they don’t emulate any specific style. The same goes for Ruppersberg’s vocals – best described as stagnated silk. The lyrics penned by Ruppersberg occupy dark spaces and exude dark emotions. She is a Goth at heart but Terminatryx do well to blend all those influences in and create something original.

Originality in the music business is debatable. If you listen to Terminatryx, you can play a game of ‘spot the influence’ but here is the thing, it’s a mixed bag of indulgent killer metal. Mind you, quality indulgent metal. All of this is evident on the latest offering from the band which is entitled “Shadow”. Throughout the preview of the album, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a South African band. The level of professionalism is outstanding, the production quality is excellent and I fail to see the blurry line between home-grown metal and international metal. It feels like Terminatryx have broken the glass ceiling and joined international standards. A glance at the album’s special guests and album mixing credits can tell you that South Africa’s alternative music veterans played a major role in getting Terminatryx to this level. It’s easy for me to label those credited as ‘alternative music veterans’ but in South Africa, these are the people who roll rocks up mountains so that up-and-coming bands have clear pathways to walk on.

The guitarist of Terminatryx, Patrick Davidson, can be added to the above list of ‘alternative music veterans’. Not only are his musical skills on par since joining Terminatryx in 2008 but so is his passion for all things heavy metal. Davidson is involved with much of what we know as the Cape Town metal scene.

Tangent aside, the crucial addition to Terminatryx is drummer Ronnie Belcher. Belcher has been involved with the band since its core inception and has a number of side-projects that utilise his visual and musical talents.

The last unofficial band member is not a musician. Nor does he work in the sound production department. I liken him to a young Ross Halfin. If you don’t know who that is, I suggest you leave the room. What Dr-Benway has done for Terminatryx is more or less the same of what Derek Riggs did for Iron Maiden. Of course, the difference here is everything is in a smaller budget and scale. Dr-Benway (Thomas Dorman) is a professional photographer that indulges in the macabre, avant-garde and degenerate art. He has contributed his lens to many of Terminatryx’s shoots, concepts and as of late their “Shadow” album artwork. You may have noticed I introduced him as the Riggs of the band. Without his input, I might have given Terminatryx nothing but a passing glance at the record store. I imagine that this may be true with most new listeners. There is something about the manner that Dr-Benway uses to portray Rupperbserg on this album. There is a hint of science fiction marries Greek mythology but there is this ‘otherness’ too. It stands out in a pile of South African albums and it most certainly has sexual characteristics. After all, no matter how hard you try to deny it, sex sells.

The biggest question is will Terminatryx’s “Shadow” sell a good number on the South African market?

In my mind, “Shadow” rates on the high-end of quality. Its opening industrial metal tracks are reminiscent of earlier Terminatryx albums but this time there are encapsulating guitar solos and less prolonged electronic efforts. I’m particularly fond of the title track and its haunting mimics. The whole album seems balanced and the lyrics are very deep creating that tense atmosphere. There are a few embellished riffs and sounds although none of the tracks stand empty.

Terminatryx’s pinnacle coincides with a number of exciting metal events in South Africa. The band will join heavy weights Belphegor, Septic Flesh, Alestorm, Fleshgod Apocalypse and V.O.D at Witchfest in April 2015. Prior to that, I know that Terminatryx has been confirmed for Metal4Africa Winterfest 2014.

Now that’s what I call hustle.

 

 

 

 

Somewhere In Time

Parental advisory ruined my life. So, it’s not as extreme as I make it out to be but anything marked “Explicit” and “Parental Advisory” on an album automatically registered as getting in trouble with my Mom or Dad. My parents were strict with me while growing up, always sneaking a peek into my latest entertainment purchases. Hell broke loose when I was a teen and purchased an Evanescence album. Can you imagine if they saw my Dimmu Borgir collection? Lucky for me, pirated albums didn’t get any fancier than a blank disc in a transparent cover.

If I could turn back time, I would ask my parents to read Full Metal Parenting. Now that is…kvelt! [Kudos Craig and Matt!]

Craig Hayes from Full Metal Parenting, a music journalist and New-Zealand metalhead hopped on board to chat about Iron Maiden.

Source: Wikipedia

If you had to give a guest lecture on Iron Maiden, what would your lesson plan highlights be?

Well, you’ve come to the right place with that question, because I have a great deal of experience in delivering lectures about Iron Maiden. Admittedly, all of those lectures have been entirely unsolicited, and delivered to the disinterested parties who made the mistake of sitting down with me for a cup of tea, but any rant about Iron Maiden that I get involved in always comes back to the point that the band’s early years really define what it means to have a staggering work ethic.

I mean, look at Iron Maiden’s first ten gospels. You’ve got, The Soundhouse Tapes, Iron Maiden, Killers, Maiden Japan, The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Live After Death, Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. All of those are 100%, no-holes-barred, classic metal. BUT, more importantly, Iron Maiden delivered those albums in a scant eight years. There are few bands that could ever claim to have issued such a consistently solid and highly influential series of releases in such a short amount of time. Amen.

Think of those songwriting sessions. I mean, the pressure on the band must have been fucking enormous. And yet, one after another, it was a classic release, filled with timeless tunes, over and over again. That’s a phenomenal achievement. Obviously, some supposed fans might argue that a few of those releases aren’t worthy of canonising; but they’d be wrong. To my ears, each of those releases makes for a perfect snapshot of metal’s progression through the 1980s. From it’s fiery NWOBHM beginnings, through to more sophisticated pomp.

That’s all impressive enough, but then Iron Maiden’s early years have another accomplished element too. Think of all the shows the band played as well. They jetted off for something like eight world tours in as many years, once the band really kicked off. When Di’Anno shuffled off, and the Reverend Dickinson stepped up to the mic, there was a huge increase in the number of dates being played too. Iron Maiden were hugely ambitious, and hungry to spread the word, and if you combine all of Iron Maiden’s live shows with their first eight years of recordings, then that all makes for a formidable and awe-inspiring picture. Name me another band that’s done that? (Well, don’t. I mean, there probably is one. But lets not spoil this sermon with logic.)

Obviously, Iron Maiden paid for all that sustained pressure. The Iron Maiden juggernaut derailed when No Prayer for the Dying turned up in 1990, and we don’t need to talk about what happened with that Bayley fellow turned up; except to say the band deserved to get crucified for the dire albums they produced. But, even so, that doesn’t diminish what the Iron Maiden achieved in those first eight years. That’s where Iron Maiden made their name as a band for the people, because they understood that hype and bluster may be fun, but ultimately it’s meaningless. Straight-up, no bullshit deliverance on stage and on record is what counts, and that’s exactly what you got with Iron Maiden in their first eight years of recording.

2.What Iron Maiden track/artwork/album converted you to a die-hard fan?

I wouldn’t say any single track converted me into a die-fan, although hearing songs like “Revelations”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” for the first time pretty much blew my teenage mind. More than anything, I’d say it was the Live After Death album that truly secured my fandom. I remember buying the LP, and just devouring it. The band were honed to a razor’s edge after months of touring, so the songs on the album capture a critical moment in time for the band, and they obviously play a critical part of its attraction too. However, it’s really the entire package that sealed it for me.

Everything about the album was/is amazing. It had great artwork and photos, and it came with this fantastic insert that listed every tiny production detail about the band’s World Slavery Tour too. That insert was just nerd heaven for me. Still is, to be honest. I love that totally geeky side that Iron Maiden brings out in me. Live After Death is easily my favourite live album of all time, and I own multiple copies of it, in multiple formats. I’ve got all of Iron Maiden’s official live albums, and loads of bootlegs too, but none are better than Live After Death.

3. It goes without saying that Derek Riggs is an integral part of Iron Iron Maiden’s development. Which is your favourite art piece and why? Also, do you think Iron Maiden has given Riggs fair credit over the years?

My favourite piece of artwork from Riggs is the Somewhere in Time cover. I don’t know if that’s his best work or not, but I was 15 years old when Somewhere in Time was released, and super obsessed with album artwork in general, so it was the perfect album cover at the perfect time, for me. It was also the first Iron Maiden cover that made me realise how many background hints and tiny referencing details Riggs dropped into his work. Of course, that meant I went back and looked at all of Iron Maiden’s other covers for other hidden treasures, so I’d have to say, in many ways, Somewhere in Time really sealed my love of intricate album art.

Now, have Iron Maiden given Riggs fair credit? Well, I guess you’re talking about all the hoo-ha with Riggs not continuing on with Iron Maiden to this day. That’s a tricky question. Iron Maiden are inseparable from Riggs. He provided the band with all its iconic artwork, and, of course, he created Eddie, one of metal’s most enduring figureheads. I can’t even imagine how many t-shirts Iron Maiden have sold because of Riggs, and we’ll never know how Iron Maiden would have fared without Riggs’ artwork being such key marketing point for the band. I mean, Riggs artwork was directly responsible for me picking up my first Iron Maiden album, before I’d even heard a note of the band, and I bet that’s the same for a million other fans too.

So, yeah, I think we would all agree that Riggs did play an important part in Iron Maiden’s success. However, at the end of the day, it is the music industry. I do have sympathy for Riggs, but he also made his career off of Iron Maiden, and it wasn’t like he was writing the songs or doing all the work of touring the world like the band was. So, you might ask, aside from reimbursing him fairly for his time and efforts, what does the band owe him? Riggs is a commercial artist, Iron Maiden has always been a commercial entity, and commercial deals go sour all the time. Iron Maiden spent decades promoting Riggs’ artwork on a HUGE stage. Riggs has a legacy, and it’s one that’s been respected and loved by millions of fans across the years and all over the world. He wouldn’t have that without Iron Maiden.

4. As a philosophy academic, do you see a correlation between Iron Maiden and British idealism?

I did study philosophy at university, for a number of years, but I’m definitely not an academic in any way, shape, or form. Also, my speciality areas of philosophical inquiry were in human rights and gender and sexuality studies, rather than any examination of traditional discourses. So, in all honesty, my knowledge of British Idealism is probably not much more than you’d pick up from a cursory glance at Wikipedia.

I mean, sure, Iron Maiden are a quintessential British metal band, home and hearth and all that jazz, so if that’s idealism, I guess they fit the bill in that regard. But, if you want to have a discussion about Iron Maiden in relation to my area of study, we could have a ball chatting about the band’s spandex years; although, maybe best to save that for another time.

I think if you were looking at Iron Maiden through a philosophical lens, then there’s lot about the band that goes much deeper than their working-class roots or aesthetic would imply at the outset. Off the top of my head, and I think this is something most Iron Maiden fans would share, is that the band really taught me a lot about history, religion, different cultures, war, and politics. I’m probably not the only teenager that turned in school assignments directly referencing what I’d learnt about from an Iron Maiden song; hell, I did that at university too. They’re definitely a very philosophical band, both broadly in their subject matter, and in the way the band members are just exploring what life means through their art. So, yeah, as a philosophical tool, or educational asset, I think Iron Maiden’s discography should occupy a place in every school’s curriculum!

5. Iron Maiden have sold more than 75 million records worldwide and counting. Which album would you (happily) be buried with?

Live After Death. The first Iron Maiden album that I really connected with, and the one I’ll take to the grave. Of course, even though I know one life is all we get, there’s also that slither of hope that I will be bursting out of my grave like Eddie does on the cover too.

(Lav: I think we need to talk about lecture posts for Craig Hayes, he has some golden points.)

 

 

Vinyl, Tea, Magazine

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What could Iron Maiden, Iron Fist magazine and a tea cup possibly have in common?

It’s all made in Britain and it’s all smooth entertainment.

How is a tea cup entertaining? Well, I found this Royal Malvern tea cup at an auction and watched older folks stumble to place a bid. So precious just like my Iron Maiden vinyl.

In fact, Iron Maiden may have influenced several thousand people to pick up a music instrument or create their own zombies. This blog is a bit of a quirk but I want to start conversations with the ten of you that read it so I decided to throw some questions to Iron Maiden fans. 

Julian Emdon (Videographer and long-time metalhead):
 
If I could give a lecture about Iron Maiden to a junior class, my lesson plan would be:
 
Start out with the first 2 albums with vocalist Paul Di’Anno, how they had an almost ‘punk’ attitude combined with progressive metal. Then explain how with the introduction of vocalist Bruce Dickinson the sound became more anthem-like and suited for the stadium. I would explain their brilliant use of the twin harmonised guitar, and emphasis of bass guitar brought forward in the mix. I would definitely go into how important the imagery and album artwork is, and the lyrical themes of history and cinematic horror.

I became an Iron Maiden die-hard fan because:
 
 I was a fan of the artwork before I was a fan of the music, seeing my uncle’s Maiden posters in his bedroom as a child. It was only as a teenager that I discovered that it was actually a band! My uncle gave me his collection of tapes, all the albums up to ‘Somewhere in Time’. The song ‘Powerslave’ had the biggest impact on me, turning me into a die-hard fan. That album, ‘Killers’ and ‘Piece of Mind’ became my favourite albums. 
 
As someone who works in the artistic field, Iron maiden influenced me by:
 

I would say Maiden was one of the main reasons I picked up guitar. The driving, ‘controlled abandon’ of the music and themes of fantasy in the lyrics were major influences on my personality. In fact, after the discovery of Maiden’s music at age 12 I would say my entire personality changed to what it is now. I would also spend a lot of time drawing monsters in the style of Eddie, the Iron Maiden mascot. In no time at all I had turned my two close friends onto Iron Maiden, who in same ways became even more rabid in their fandom than myself!

 
My favourite album is:
 
Piece  of Mind. As a whole the album is just brilliant, and it contains a lot of my most favourite Maiden songs.

Edward Banchs (Heavy Metal Writer and long-time metalhead)

If I could give a lecture about Iron Maiden to a junior class, my lesson plan would be:
 
I would tell them that they are awesome, though this reminds me of the time I worked as a substitute teacher and I did explain to a group of students that I loved Iron Maiden. I am convinced they did not believe me, so it goes. I would tell a Junior High class of the connection that their music gives to people all over the world, which is something not many pop stars in the US can brag about. A pure genuine connection that is carried throughout their live performances. Almost as if we are in a trance, we all sing, we all hum and we all make sure the band hears us. Name another act who has their guitar solos hummed back to them while they are being performed live? You cannot! Their music is not negative, it is a glimpse into history, and modern themes involving everything from science fiction to the dangers of nuclear war. It is no nonsense music, with powerful melodies and a connection to fans that is beyond powerful. Plus, I would tell them about Ed Force One, I suppose middle school students would get a kick out of that. 
 
I became an Iron Maiden die-hard fan because:
 
My first Iron Maiden record was “No Prayer For the Dying.” It was given to me by a cousin who I guess was not enjoying the record. The songs, ‘Tailgunner’ and ‘Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter’ were stuck in my head for days. As a middle school student myself, I did not think it would get any better. Well, then I discovered their back catalogue! Life got much, much better.
 
It goes without saying that Derek Riggs is an integral part of Iron Maiden’s development and here is why:
 
Powerslave. I drink my morning and evening coffee from a coffee mug with the Powerslave album cover. It rules. I was quite disappointed when I could not find the right size canvas Vans (slip-on) with that album cover. Occasionally I still get on the web and look for those shows, and that prestigious Maiden tee; blue, with the Powerslave cover and Iron Maiden in gold. The shirt exists, I have seen it, and I will make anyone a fair deal with anyone for that tee shirt! I love that album, and that cover just gets me excited. It never gets old. And Riggs deserves more credit. Their imagery, and Eddie have perhaps more to do with their success than they would ever acknowledge. 
 
Also, the Trooper. Before I left for graduate school in the UK, my mother (who makes the best cakes ever!), baked me a cake for a personal going away party and she was awesome enough to decorate the cake with the Trooper album cover. It tasted better than it looked, and it looked AWESOME! (And yes, there are Trooper slip-on Vans too, I would love to own them as well.)
 Iron Maiden has a bit of influence on me when:
 
I do listen to them when I’m writing, so perhaps. 
 
From an academic point of view, here is what I think of the correlation between Iron Maiden and British idealism:
 
Though I will not claim to be an expert on British idealism, I can see a strong correlation. They are proud of where they are from and it is reflected heavily in their lyrics and their artwork. 
 
Hey, Julian and Edward! Cheers for the Iron Maiden support.
 
So, what’s precious to you?
 
– Lav
 

 

 

The Music Journalism Deception

A brief history here: I spent 12 months learning the basics of journalism at the prestigious Rhodes University. I passed my exams with a 72% average but that score was not good enough. I didn’t make the cut for the next journalism year and was asked to choose another degree or another University. So, I spent four years doing the former as an English major and learning about journalism (especially music journalism) in my free time.

Then blogs started popping up like mushrooms. Almost everyone I know has a blog.

That is where the problem lies.

Everyone has a blog. Suddenly, “everyone” is a writer.

Four years of studying the ‘art’ of writing in the English language counts for nothing because “everyone” is now a writer.

At one stage, I thought I could be a music journalist like a less romanticised version of William from Almost Famous. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with such ideas. A lot of Williams started popping out making their début on music based websites. Some of these music journalists are excellent and continue to be. As for the rest of the music journalists, I question their motives.

Unfortunately, music journalism is dying while some argue it’s dead. Either way, it’s becoming a black hole of absolute nonsense.There is a lack of integrity, professionalism and comprehension in the current music journalism market. The tweets that prompted this blog post are from @noyokono:

@noyokono: It’s so nice when reviewers summarize a band’s Wikipedia entry in the opening paragraph.

@noyokono: If a reviewer has no real history with a band, no connection to its lengthy story, why pretend? Why not just focus on the music?

@noyokono: What surprises me is that editors at reputable publications let this sort of shit go on, unchecked. Do they think their readers are idiots?

@noyokono: I don’t expect a writer to do weeks of research for an 800 word review. But summarizing Wikipedia gives me no reason to keep reading.

@noyokono: REMEMBER: Music criticism is a dying form so if you’re going to be a critic make sure you’re making a worthwhile contribution.

All the above are absolute valid points. Take note, rookie music bloggers and wannabe Williams. I might have copied a line or used Wikipedia but I learned the hard way. My friend and fellow music journalist @MarkAngelBrandt has identified 3 problems in the alternative music journalism department. 1) The same bands are covered year in and year out – which is boring. 2) Lack of standards across music based websites that recycle half-baked articles. 3) People are no longer inspired by journalism any more because content is no longer engaging. Mark wants to change that and has something in the works but I am inclined to keep hush about it. (You could always speak to Mark to find out)

I should point out that music journalism is an art! Not everyone is good at it and not everyone can make a living from it but we can talk about it and learn from there.

What is there to learn in music journalism? A lot. As @sethw mentioned: If you think there’s nothing left to teach, remember there are people that still ask “what’s a latté?” at Starbucks.

– Lav