Metal Music since Led Zeppelin

Is it Pirate, Symphonic, or Death?

Since 1969, Led Zeppelin has been considered the seminal "Heavy Metal" band. Doubters need only listen to "Dazed and Confused" to realize the roots of contemporary metal. And serious baby boom rockers know that heavier metal bands like Black Sabbath came later. We listened to hard rock at very high volume, on vinyl albums and 45 rpm records at every party,home visit, and tavern. Eventually cassette tapes became the norm and music became portable, adding to its permanent tattoo on our brains.

Most of us stayed true to classic or hard rock, as metal morphed into something heavier, louder, and much more aggressive. Peace, love, and granola were too passive for "heavy" metal fans. There were cross-over fans for bands such as Metallica, which had more musicality than mayhem, compared to what came later. While we rockers were mainly mellow hippie types who were content to just lay back, mellow out and listen, metal fans wore mainly black, wore their anger like a badge, and sometimes pounded the crap out of each other. Their music developed its own genres, which mostly repelled us. But some, like glistening fresh road kill, is difficult to drive by without taking a look.

For example, there is Death Metal, which sounds like a revving muscle car being fed into a junkyard shredder as the driver screeches lyrics while being eviscerated. Band names ooze teenage angst combined with rage, anomie, and chronic depression. Dance styles look like zombies caught barefoot in burning gasoline. Atonality and multiple tempo changes make the sound more complex.

In contrast, symphonic metal, like the Finnish band Nightwish, combine different types of music such as Finnish Folk or classical, with an operatic female lead vocalist who has a range and appeal that audiophiles can appreciate. It's still metal music, but a family can get into it on a long road trip without being shocked into simultaneous fetal position.

Then there is Viking Metal, which comes from Vikings and Paganism. My Norwegian ancestors are cheering for this glorious genre as it celebrates what they were known for: berserkers kicking everyone's butts who were stupid enough to live near water. Killing people and breaking things never goes out of style. If only we could convert cars to long-ships at the shoreline and bring back the tradition when things become a little too routine along the inter-coastal waterway. We could crank up the tunes and bring back our pillaging tradition! With the price of gas going up, that might become necessary.

Then there is Pirate metal. Yo ho ho and all that! Being an ex-sailor, I find myself swaying and chanting along with to Alestorm songs on long road trips and wishing I could have been on a pirate ship, Johnny Depp-like, swilling my daily ration of rum, avoiding scurvy, shooting guns without a permit, and climbing the mizzen mast.

I can't differentiate between which fans listen to which metal genres. My children are musicians who understand every type of music, so they roll their eyes when I try to differentiate between emos and goths. To me, they look like morose, masochistic sad kids competing with black costumes to show who is the most angry at the world taking their spite out on their bodies, marring themselves with piercings, burnings, and tattoos. I worked with one who lost several teeth head-banging in a mosh pit. The last time I saw him, he was riding a floor buffer to earn money for his next concert ticket. I wonder if he launched a software empire?

I'm becoming more like a typical old guy, longing for the old tunes. Modern metal vocals pierce my ears like the shrieks of a guy being castrated without anesthetic while being forced to listen to Pat Boone records. Screamo singing may have originated in the Spanish Inquisition.. Listening to it makes my ears, and other body parts, want to shrivel and withdraw deep into my body.

But, my parents used to cringe listening to my music. Maybe that means these newer metal bands must be very good. If I liked them, my kids would not. Like my parents warned me, you will learn what it's like some day! Ok mom and dad, you were right! I can't wait to hear what my grandchildren end up listening to. It will probably make Slipknot and Seether sound like Disney cover bands.


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