Chapter 5

The Mutation

Thrash, Speed & Black Metal, Hardcore

 1980s - the years of neon-orange skies


Punk bands the likes of the English Dogs and the Subhumans paved the way for another Quantum leap into new fields of Metal music. These were the crossover punks, who became so extreme, hard and fast, they created a new style beyond the hardest and fastest shit already out there. This trend reappears -- bigger and badder -- in all the future Metal transformations. It's the way of progress in Metal. The shit gets more and more bad-ass, and that's all there is to it!

Results of the Mutation were bands like Anthrax, Motörhead, Slayer, Exciter, Venom, Corrosion of Conformity (C.O.C.), Metal Church and Reverend, to name only a few. New bands like these were overstepping the limitations of punk rock by playing heavy music from the heart, shit that was also more intricate and even incorporated classical styles. The punk era had already broken through all the rock star and record label crap that had been leftover from the sexy seventies. There were indie labels all over the place and the entire industry was topsy-turvy, because iconoclast punk bands like the Sex Pistols had broken the illusion of “The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle".

Take for example: Metallica, who started out sounding more punk on their first album "Kill 'em All" than they would ever sound again. Part of that had to do with their lead guitarist, Dave Mustaine, who co-penned much of Metallica's original material. He was the most hardcore member of the band--just look at what he did after Metallica kicked him out of the band (duh!). When Mustaine left Metallica he formed a new group called Megadeth, which took everything Metallica had, set it in front of an M-18 Claymore mine, blew the fuck out of it, and then pieced it back together as something even heavier, faster, harder and louder than before! This was called "Killing is My Business and Business is Good" for a reason. Now Metal music was more aggressive than ever! What had been learned during the punk era ("Fuck you, we won't take the bullshit and we'll make our own records!") was now married with a recipe for survival. Metal music was ready to stand its ground and take over once again!

So Metallica found some measure of success in combining fast, hard punk style with more melodic, classical-based grooves rooted in heavy metal. All of a sudden heavy metal was back on the charts! Heavy Metal magazines became popular and people could actually make money selling music 'zines again. Stories about Lars Ulrich and "Double-kick drumming at the speed of punk" appeared. And Cliff Burton was playing the fastest bass guitar people had ever seen! Him and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, another band that would have a major impact on Metal for decades to come. Both of them had thrown out the pick and were finger-picking their bass guitars, in the manner of funk bands, but at punk speeds!

There was also a trend towards what might be called "Evil Music". Far from actually being "evil" (whatever that means), bands were simply more open about making Satanic references. No doubt Black Sabbath had a lot to do with inspiring this in the sixties, and now there emerged Satanic sigyls on record covers and the word Satan was risky but OK. Venom did it "At War with Satan" -- ooh, spooky! -- and so did Iron Maiden "Number of the Beast". People understood the success Sabbath had from risking references to the dark, and now it was another way to attract attention, even a "marketing ploy" for some. Of course the truly Satanic groups might still be unwilling to reveal themselves so blatantly or consider it trivial.

Glen Danzig began his career singing for the Misfits, a more punk-like outfit that set the stage for the next incarnation Samhaim. By the end of the eighties Glen's band was simply known as Danzig. A music video of their song "Mother" showed Glen tearing open a live chicken, its blood splattering over the naked body of a young woman strapped down to a gravestone. Metal was realizing the power of music videos, and MTV's Headbangers' Ball aired late at night. Bands like Testament reached a new audience this way. Unfortunately the corporations which ran television broadcasts killed the show and removed heavy metal from their format. It was still too risky for them and would not be reconsidered until the Internet revolution twenty years later.

In Germany, groups like Destruction and Kreator demonstrated precision playing at high speeds, the likes of which would inspire yet another wave in Metal music, the Grindcore and Death Metal Age.

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