This was published November 1st, 2009 in the Donnarc Magazine webzine at www.donnarc.com
If you’ve ever wondered how Metal music divided into a countless number of sub-genres, the answer is that God said, “Let there be sub-genres”, and it was so! Absurd, isn’t it? Lately, I have been reading about Creationism vs. Evolution, or in other words denial vs. logic, and when I examined the subject of Metal sub-genres, I found a very clear pattern of Metal’s evolution. I began pondering- evolution and music; survival of the fittest and sub-genres. Until now, I never connected the two. Evolution is ironically omnipresent- even in the world of music. Literally, it just takes time to notice the progression. Let’s rewind to the beginning of music, shall we?
It all started with a stick tapping on a taut piece of leather… Too far? Okay, we’ll fast-forward to good ol' Rock 'n Roll.
Metal stemmed from Rock 'n Roll starting in the late 1960s. I think of it as screeching tire-guitars careening towards car-crashing percussion, followed by gut-wrenching screams of agony and terror…but in a good way. It can sound like chainsaws on a chalkboard to some, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart. What those people do not realize, however, is how much creativity it takes to pull off this type of violence as art. It is liberating and destructive, opinionated and hateful. It began with fragile seeds from genres like blues, rock, and pop and it bloomed and hardened into the dense, malleable alloy we call Metal. Three pioneers stepped out onto a limb of creativity to try something new, launching the cathartic genre that the music world would not be the same without. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath are immortal legends, and set the foundation for the trunk of the ancestral Metal-tree. Soon the genre branches began to grow.
And God said, “Let there be big hair,” and it was so! Remember when Glam Metal first started? That was one of the first Metal sub-genres to emerge in the late 1970s early 1980s. It was established by bands like Motley Crue and Poison and unfortunately made make-up and long, poofy hair a quality of early Metal. One would think that today’s theory of the Greenhouse Effect and the dangers of destroying the ozone layer would be enough to inspire a decline in hair-care product consumption. If only the hairspray and eyeliner would selflessly be cast aside to retire in an effort to save the planet. A lonely, dust-collecting vanity table could be all that remains of the narcissistic element to music, and we might be able to populate the Earth a little longer.
However, there is a lot more to metal than leather pants, dark sunglasses, and studded gloves. It runs deeper than the Mesozoic Era fossils. The lyrics convey messages as penetrable as being impaled by a fork, or they can read as pure poetry, or both. It is an expression and release of all emotions; it is a catharsis, it is a drug. The early 1980s introduced our newly-shaped musical drug to cocaine. After copulation, Thrash Metal was born breech, kicking and screaming. Angry and irritable, Thrash Metal was gnawing away at the umbilical cord to break free, baring its baby fangs and shaking its little fetus fist at the world from day one. Metallica, Anthrax, Megedeth and Slayer are known as the “Big Four” of Thrash Metal and are the androgynous parent of yet further sub-genres. From deep within the bowels of Thrash, two more prevalent categories were excreted: Death Metal and Black Metal.
Death Metal is the namesake of the band called Death, and can you guess what their songs are about? Death. Deep, guttural growls characterize these songs, like dirty nails clawing from the underworld through one’s throat. Have you ever tried to imitate noises like this? It’s not easy. I’ve tried, and everything comes out sounding like a meat sandwich. Morbid Angel is another original band of this genre. Some of their songs are about Hell’s fire and the devil. Suffering and torture. Such happiness! It almost reminds me of some of the verses in the Koran…almost. Death Metal’s brother, Black Metal, did not stray too far from this style. Black Metal is more widespread in Norway and is kicking up quite a storm. It is associated with church-burnings and murder, but that’s another story. It is Satanic, yet ambient. Dark, yet melodic. It is epic and evil and I have two words for you: Dimmu Borgir.
There is no end to the number of sub-genres in existence. It is impossible to keep track of all of them. Like many unknown species, there are genres in the world, waiting to be named. One last genre necessary to mention is Philosophy Metal- music whose lyrical content “matches the violence and fury of the deliverance and vocals” ~Rhiis D. Lopez. Rather than using a morphed combination of genres like Powercore Black Glamdeath Metal, to falsely name an example, the term Philosophy Metal was created for a genre never heard before. People have attempted to compare other bands or describe it with other sub-genres, but Ana Kefr is a band that stands alone. This is music that requires you to think. It stretches deep down to the roots and asks you to question who you are and what you stand for. The lyrics are fierce and address real-world issues. Now, there are other bands who have written about political, social, and controversial issues, but not many have the determination and motivation to act upon the words they scream. They are not stepping out on that creative limb to take a risk with their music. Philosophy Metal is not music for the sake of music. Philosophy Metal is the message, and it is living that message. As for the sound, there is no all-encompassing set of adjectives to describe it. As a fan, I am stepping out on the aforementioned limb by saying they are the greatest band I have ever known. I’ll admit, I’m partial, but let the music speak for itself by listening. For now, let me clarify my bias by introducing myself. My name is Sara Heitman, and I am the Merch Girl for Ana Kefr.
In my opinion, the Merchandise Representative, or less politically-correct term, "Merch Girl" for a band must know a little about a lot of things. Knowing the band inside and out allows me to answer questions anyone may have. I need to have contact information and future show dates ready for reporters and other bands who are interested. It is necessary to know about the message behind the music, what certain songs are about, how they came up with their name, and what the hell it means! Commonly I am asked questions like where did these guys come from? And, how long have they been together? Then there’s the occasional drunk bitch who toddles over asking where the bathroom is. I prefer to be educated, updated, and informative about the band rather than a dumb post behind a table. By knowing, I am effectively selling as well as representing while they are on stage rocking the joint! I am a big part of the band, yet I’m not a part of it at all. So, I have taken the role of Merch Girl and am renovating it. I can’t tell you how many concerts I have attended where the Merch Person looks distracted, uninterested, half-dead, or is just plain rude. Not I. I am friendly and professional, but when Ana Kefr steps on stage, the hair comes down and the middle fingers warm up. You’ll consistently see me screaming along with the lyrics and flipping off the so-called heavens, despite the people walking past with strange looks. Sadly, not many Merch People do that. Personally, I continue to educate myself with research. I am learning about various aspects of music to increase my value as a representative of Ana Kefr and, of course, because it is interesting. So, with this, I share my research and my perspective from the outside. I present The Merch Girl’s Guide to Mostly Music, discussing these various aspects and whatever else I feel like throwing in.