So one of the first, and almost invariably last questions I get asked before I gravboot my about-to-be-smooshed foes is "how did you get here". Well the simple truth of the matter is, we flew. That is to say, in mortal terms we flew here inside the hyper-titanium belly of what is known as the GSSPE Doom Fortress, an inter-astral multi-diemensional craft capable of destroying universes in an instant. Th The basic design concept, scrawled by Jon on the back of a "Space Pizza Hut" napkin was very basic.
Words by Jonny Helwinter
I feel I should start this piece with a couple of disclaimers: firstly, I speak only for myself and no-one else in the band, these are my opinions and mine alone. Secondly, I have always been a terrible metalhead, I only really like a couple of Sabbath songs (yes Paranoid and Warpigs), I really don’t dig Judas Priest, when it comes to Maiden it’s just Piece of Mind and even then it’s more for nostalgia than real love of the music. I was massive into Metallica in high school, though now it’s just Master of Puppets, and even after I tried Megadeth, I didn’t get the fuss about it. I got into metal the same way of lot of kids in our generation did, through Nu-metal. I went from Linkin Park to Slipknot and from there it was Korn, Disturbed, Drowning Pool, etc. Finally, Dimmu introduced me to black metal and my tastes took a turn for the darkness. For a few years I was still a rabid Lamb of God fan and I was keeping up with Trivium and Killswitch, but in the last couple of years a change has occurred and it has culminated in the gradual distancing of myself from the wider metal genre and scene. I can lay the blame squarely at the feet of one Adam “Nergal” Darski, The Satanist being one of the most important releases for me since Opeth’s Ghost Reveries or Ghost’s Opus Eponymous.
The Satanist changed the way I felt about metal, especially the way in which an album is delivered and marketed. Every aspect of that release was cloaked in the shroud of magic and mystery and came complete with esoteric and occult references and a heavily stylised aesthetic that ensured that no bit of promotional material released for it was banal or generic. It was special, it was art, it was pure wankery and I loved every second of it. I’ve always had a penchant for the theatrical (except actual theatre or musicals which I strangely hate with a passion), and I realize now that the albums that are closest to me have always been the ones which went beyond a mere collection of songs with designated hits and ballads and blah blah blah. When I think of Slipnot’s Iowa, it wasn’t just an album, it was hate on record, it was visceral and dangerous and all of the imagery that accompanied it was also dangerous. Watain’s Lawless Darkness still resonates with me on a fundamental level, the pure songwriting on that album and the masterful blend of black metal aggression, groove, and melody combined with the truly incredible album art and the DVD that came out not long after, place it among my personal firmament of astronomical albums that I consider true art. And Behemoth raised the bar, their stage show fully encapsulating everything that was magical about the album and inspiring me on so many levels that even now I am filled with awe as I recall their set at Wacken 2014. But Behemoth were only the beginning of the death of metal in my heart, that torch is now carried by many and I feel I owe you an explanation.
I still love playing and listening to metal, it is still the genre that I listen to the most, I still worship bands that are distinctly metal. I just don’t identify as a metal head anymore. I see posts on Facebook or what have you about “how good is heavy metal?” and how this band has “riffs for days” and I indulge my curiosity and every time I am disappointed. I have heard it before, recycled pap with a slightly new twist of lemon, or a band that is quite ordinary and doing paint by numbers –insert subgenre-metal, but metal heads are so gee’d up on the idea that anything you can bang your head to is worthy of your time that they’ll make a fuss over a band that wouldn’t make a splash in a kiddie pool. I understand that this seems disrespectful or arrogant, and it is, you are right, I am a snob and a wanker self-confessed, but you didn’t start reading this without expecting that did you? I guess something I take issue with is this whole concept of the “brotherhood” or “family” of heavy metal. Time and again we read or hear this vapid platitude that metal is just a place for everyone to get along and head-bang, and we’re better than all the pop music idiots, and we’re all a big family of misfits and even if the world hates us, we have metal and blah fuckin blah. Well you know what? I dare not to agree. I see the same mindless adherence to formulaic crap in metal as I do in commercial pop, I see punters putting mediocrity on a pedestal because the beer is cheap and the band played riffs. I see album covers that would make the 80’s blush. I see promotional art and video clips that are straight out of high school multimedia class. This isn’t just local bands, this is international level bands who have a chance to reach millions of people with a new era of artistry and innovation and instead they churn out another album that is either the same drivel that made them famous (but never as good, coz you know, context and timing an all that), or they do go in a new direction, except it’s the same new direction as everyone else, the same scales, the same drum beats (doubling the snare or putting off the beat ain’t that new fellas), the same lyrical themes. Yes, well done, you have strayed from the beaten path of your own back catalogue, and onto the wide road of “we used to be relevant and now must compete with a new generation of bands who are more technically able than we ever were and have access to facilities and technology that make the old ways we cling to obsolete”. Whew, that got me sweaty. I’m tired now, but stay tuned for next week when I explain how in my humble opinion, Nergal and Myrkur killed metal.
Alright Earthlings, it’s been a while so let’s get straight into it. I have received transmissions aboard the I.S.S. Lupus In Astra, regarding a certain “band” from Japan, three tiny earthling girls singing sweet overtures to the backing of popular metal. They are known on your planet as Babymetal and to be honest, this space warlord is entirely won over, though there are many in the heavy metal scene who are not so convinced. They divide the community and this polarity is a subject of interest to me so I have decided to offer you my thoughts to read.
I was hesitant when I first heard of Babymetal, I wasn’t sure I was ready for such a thing. I am quite bad at trying new things - it took a lot of convincing to get me to listen to Ghost, but when I did, I was immediately entranced, fan for life. But this is beside the point. While we were earthbound in the land of the rising sun earlier this year, I happened to be exposed to this new blend of super kawaii j-pop and down-tuned, riff-heavy, slightly industrial metal. I was intrigued, I was curious…I forgot all about it until we were once again in the Hellbourne Nebula. Hesitantly, I acquired their music, the self-titled album from 2014, and listened to it four times on repeat whilst catching public transport to what ended up being a very dull night of standing on the periphery of a club dance floor and wishing they would play Babymetal. I was hooked, I had bought in to the craze, the phase, the mania that was a fake band fronted by underage Japanese girls singing anime theme songs to a backing track of genre-switching pop-metal. I knew what they were doing, I could hear where they were cheating, I could tell that the gimmick was more important than the soul of the music, and yet I was 100% for it, a devotee. And you know why? Because it’s fun. Because I enjoy the works of Katy Perry and Gaga, of Queen and Skynyrd, Muse and Sevenfold. I refuse to believe that just because you are a metalhead, you can’t enjoy other genres, or variations. I love the sound of the music and that’s enough for me.
Now the water starts getting a little murky when I talked to a friend of mine who is a metalhead of the tech death persuasion, as well as a PhD in Japanese linguistics (so he is quite familiar with Japanese culture and language and such). He is vehemently against Babymetal and everything it stands for. He believes that it is a project designed by 60-year-old corporate fat-cats in Tokyo who had an excess of J-Pop stars and decided to try to explore and exploit a new market – metal. I said, yeah, I get that, they are totally manufactured and designed gimmick and all by a marketing team in a big fancy building. I agree with him, that when they started, it was all a mockery of metal and craftsmanship and soul. But having watched a few live clips of them at big Euro metal festivals, and seeing the response they got, I had to ask myself, and my friend, does it matter how they started? Does it matter that they were designed? Shouldn’t it matter more that they are playing to huge crowds of white, male, down and dirty metal heads who worship everyone from Sabbath and Motorhead to Slipknot and Lamb of God, and these moshers don’t give a shit that Babymetal is a product, they just care that they can bang their heads and mosh and dance, coz that’s what they came for. My friend told me that it is wrong that they had the opportunity to play in front of that crowd, that it should have gone to a real metal band who wrote their songs on real instruments and weren’t just a plastic corporate project. I told him that we don’t know where these girls are gonna go with this, they might bail on it after a couple of years or they might realise that there is a real call for what they do and be inspired to continue the project as a real band and break away from the corporate nature of their origins.
We agreed to disagree, he remains resolutely against Babymetal and I stand by them, especially since the new album is an absolute killer and proved that they took the group to new grounds in metal, no longer an overlay of J-Pop, but a truer fusion of styles. I am interested to hear what people have to say about Babymetal, and if you have an opinion you’d like to share, feel free to comment on the blog or Facebook and let me know, coz I am always down for a spirited debate as long as everyone remains civil (otherwise I activate your tracking chip and execute a drop pod landing in your backyard and emerge from the haze of smoke and flashing red light, axe in hand, ready for vengeance!!!!!!) Ahem, excuse me, I get a little worked up when I think about people being rude. Until next time Earthlings, take care of yourselves and All Hail The Obelisk!
We will be supporting Be'lakor on July 23rd at the Corner hotel.
Buy your tickets here: http://hybridnightmares.bigcartel.com/
You can also grab our 4 CD box set and ticket in a combo, and receive a free Sacred Geometry patch
Having recently graced the stages of the European festival circuit - and fresh from signing to powerhouse label Napalm Records - BE’LAKOR is set to tour Australia this July/August. Hailed as one of Australia's most creative and captivating metal acts, the melodic death metal titans return to Australia's major cities on the back of their latest album 'Vessels'.
Get your tickets now ➤ http://hybridnightmares.bigcartel.com/
With three acclaimed releases already under their belt, 2016 marks the start of a new chapter for BE’LAKOR. The band's newest effort combines the melodies and atmospheres so loved by BE’LAKOR fans with more textured and challenging song structures and sounds, telling a sprawling story across eight epic tracks. Their fourth and finest album, 'Vessels' hits Australian stores July 1st.
BE'LAKOR's moving and deeply disquieting songs, held close to the hearts of a rapidly growing international fan base, both unsettle and inspire. Don't miss the opportunity to witness one of Australia’s finest metal talents as they perform alongside power-packed line ups across the country.
Treat yourself to a night filled with relentless energy, headbanging and the unmistakably somber atmosphere of melodic/progressive death metal at its finest. This is a band at the top of their game - we welcome you to the BE’LAKOR Experience!