|Leather jacket inside - no "image" there...|
I sat on this for a couple days because I wanted to cool down a little bit after reading Will Wallner's "Bent out of Shape" column on GuitarWorld.com. His article was entitled "Has Heavy Metal Become A Joke?" and his opening statement of "Heavy metal has lost all form of legitimacy as musical genre" enticed me into two days of dwelling on how to take his personal vendetta against a genre and shove it down his throat. I decided to pick it apart piece by piece because Will Wallner's revisionist history on the genre left out major points which render his arguments invalid. Also rendering his opinion invalid were the numerous contradictions and hypocrisies. Of course, those reading his column were too full of puff and pomp and not heavy with actual understanding of the confusions portrayed, that most failed to see through the shallow arguments which rang in the air like the sound of a fly swatter on a plastic patio table - also known as Will Wallner's guitar tone.
Wallner begins by laying an escape out of his own argument and he finishes his article the same way - by cooly saying that he is no expert but is just trying to stir discussion. In this latter he is correct; he is no expert. His arguments are about as strong as Pickett's Charge, and while the fanboys on Guitarworld may be impressed by his seventh grade vernacular and those in ninth grade may enjoy his oh-so teen angsty tirades against the "over-monopolization of record labels" and how "ridiculous the majority of so-called metal musicians look and act," fact of the matter is that he exemplifies these exact reprimands in his own professional career by having joined a band signed to Earach records - one of the largest record labels in the world - and which maintains a Metal image in all the band's photo shoots and promotional articles. In his follow up to the original "Has Heavy Metal Become a Joke" article, he expresses the viewpoint that "I may be in a "signed" band, but we're at the bottom of the ladder. When we tour, I am the one loading the gear into the van every night. The most I've ever been paid for a single show is $200." The most he, individually has been paid is $200. That means that a band of five people was paid $1000 for a single show. I don't know a single band that would consider themselves at the bottom of the ladder if they are making $1000 a show. Most bands are just happy to play. I guess Wallner believes that until he doesn't need to load his own equipment, he hasn't made it yet.
While he attempts to explain how his major-label signed band is no better off than the thousands of bands that have to pay to play and that are ignored by the Metal media, he is so confident to make the point that Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath "didn't feel the need to dress up or try to act tough" betrays a deep dank and disgusting recreation of history. Led Zeppelin laid the groundwork in Metal image, their style of ultra-masculine sex appeal carried over in all bands to follow. Black Sabbath created the imagery of Metal with their dark and outwardly occult album covers and bands like Kiss and Alice Cooper imbued a sense of the theatrical into the mix. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin were basically contemporaries in image, an example of image continuity at even the earliest formative stages of Metal's birth. Images of White Wizzard are an obvious homage to Judas Priest and Motorhead, two bands that emphasized the Leather and Denim look we've grown accustomed to. Whether Wallner believes it or not, he is as much a product of this image as anyone else. Why be ashamed of it?
Wallner continues "Those bands had no gimmicks; it was 100 percent about the music. Only inferior musicians need to make a spectacle out of themselves to sell their music." There is a difference between maintaining an image and relying on a gimmick. There are an extremely few bands that rely on gimmicks to sell their music. I would wager that other than GWAR, very few fans actually enjoy the gimmick more than the band. Actually I would wager that most of Led Zeppelin's popularity had to do with their sex-appeal and looks. Women played a major part in popularizing Led Zeppelin as sex icons. Would this be considered a gimmick? Wallner then makes the statement "it's impossible to get a deal with a big label unless you have a marketing gimmick and are fashionable." I guess Earache signed White Wizzard for different reasons then? Maybe Wallner could enlighten everyone on why Earache signed them? I would expect it's those exact reasons - a totally middle-of-the-road cliche image and trendy music / image to match with the influx of Old School Heavy Metal that is becoming oh so popular.
Under the whole surface is a running current of angst against extreme Metal. Wallner seems perterbed that Metal no longer sounds like Thin Lizzy or Diamond Head. "I'm just a fan who loves classic metal bands like Rainbow, early Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, etc." That's all well and good Wallner, but people like you are people I'm intimately familiar with. I wrote all about them in my article on Ignorance, Elitism and Arrogance. One of my favorite contradictions which Wallner makes is when comparing the following two statements. "Today metal has such strict boundaries on how you must look, act and sound that there's little room for creativity or musicianship" and "People could argue that music trends change constantly... but not as quickly or as drastically as metal." Wallner in the same article is saying that there is little room for creativity and experimentation in a genre which is constantly changing. How could a genre in which there is little room for creativity continually ebb and flow? He advocates that Metal that is not based on the blues is getting away from what Metal should be. If Wallner is so fed up with the lack of originality and creativity in Metal perhaps joining one of the most generic Heavy Metal bands wasn't the right decision for him.
Through the whole thing, Wallner uses Metal and Heavy Metal interchangeably in a flurry of misrepresentations. Metal is the overarching genre. The world in which all distortion lives and dies respectfully. It is Death Metal, Black Metal, Thrash, Power Metal, Symphonic, Doom etc. Yes, it is even Heavy Metal. Ironically, the closest the genre came to losing it's roots and legitimacy was not with the absorption of the blues influence into the greater content or the non-issue of image over substance. In the 80's when bands like Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Poison dumbed down and jollied up the genre for the sake of making money, that's when the genre lost it's validity. While those bands and their ilk dragged Metal towards the brink and forced the Grunge and Alternative era in the 90's, what prevented the total dissolution were the Thrash and then Death Metal and Black Metal bands that retained the sense of attitude, rebelliousness and aggressiveness which had become hallmarks of the genre due to Judas Priest, Motorhead and the NWOBHM movement. I don't remember hearing Metallica or Slayer giving much of a shit about the blues. Metal was almost destroyed by Heavy Metal. Not the other way around.
Wallner then courageously states that he no longer wants to be known as a Metal guitarist. There is no need for embarrassed musicians in Metal. If Metal is a joke and has lost it's legitimacy, then Wallner, I suggest you vacate the genre. It's not the genre that has lost it's legitimacy. It's not Metal that is the joke. You are the joke, and Metal is the comedian, setting you up.