Sunday, September 10, 2006

Yet Another Metalmentary

Last night I watched another documentary about metal on VH1, though this one wasn’t one of the standard VH1 shows; it was made independently of VH1 by an anthropologist (and metalhead).
His primary focus was on trying to figure out why, on the one hand, metal is able to inspire such a passionate following among its supporters while at the same time attracting such passionate criticism from its detractors.
Apart from talking to fans, band members, and other industry insiders, he also talked to sociologists and other academics, which added some interesting perspectives.
I wasn’t really a fan of most of the metal figures he talked to, as a lot of them were from some of the newer bands like Slipknot, though their freakiness pales in comparison to the Norwegian Black Metal bands he talked to, the kind of people who burn down churches and wear bits of their frontman’s skull on necklaces after he blows his brains out.
I’m not kidding about that.
He also talked to some of the more pedestrian (in comparison) performers such as Ronnie James Dio, whom he stated is “famous for creating the devil horn hand salute.”
I didn’t disagree with that, but I responded that Dio is also famous for being about two feet tall.
He is a seriously wee little fellow, which was made abundantly clear when he was seen on camera standing next to normal-sized people, which is kind of a rare sight, as Ronnie generally avoids being filmed in such a way that you get any real idea of scale.
It’s sort of like how they used to dress Ann Wilson all in black and put her against a black background, or hide her behind props, in Heart videos so that you wouldn’t be able to tell how fat she was.
Anyway, Dio commented that he didn’t invent “the horns” – it was a superstitious gesture intended to ward off evil that he saw his Italian grandmother make when he was a child – but that he takes credit for popularizing it.  He went on to add that Gene Simmons of KISS often takes credit for inventing it, but that’s hardly surprising as “Gene takes credit for inventing breathing.”
Score one for Mini-Me…err, I mean Ronnie James Dio!
Okay, one last short joke at Dio’s expense:  if Todd McFarlane has his toy company release a Dio action figure – as he has done with several other metal performers – he can make it on a 1:1 scale.
The 37 year old virgin from the documentary I watched last week made it into this one as well.  I’m not sure what his deal is, as he’s pretty much the least metal person I’ve ever seen in my life and most of what he has to say is utterly retarded.
One funny moment came from Dee Snider having something of an epiphany about metal and sexuality as he talked about how he never questioned his own, despite the fact that he performed in make up and lingerie, but then, as he talked about it, realized that while metal acts perform for audiences that are about 90% male, they tend to either lean toward the feminine extreme in their behavior and dress or to the overtly male extreme: bare-chested and wearing tight jeans as they thrust their sweaty man parts at the audience.  He concluded that this was at least food for thought.
A big focus of the documentary was on the “spectacle” aspect of metal, which, quite frankly, was the aspect I always found least appealing.  I suppose that’s because as a teenager I never got the chance to go to any live metal shows to experience the spectacle.
The first concert I ever went to was The Outfield, for Christ’s sake, with Meat Loaf being next up a few years later.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I got to go to any metal shows, and since I’d never been to any metal shows in my formative years I’d never gotten into the bands that really focused on the spectacle or on gimmicks.  For me metal was all about the lyrics, and the music, and the darkness, and the anger, which fit in with my general dissatisfaction with the way of the world –  especially the extremely small world I lived in –  and some deep, primal rage that responded to the pounding, punishing rhythms and thunderous vocals.
In some ways I fit the standard metalhead mold, in that I was an angry, alienated outcast, but in other ways I didn’t fit it at all.  Sure, I had an interest in the darker side of life, but I wasn’t one of those morbidly obsessed with death and serial killers types, nor was I into drugs.
I was more of a metalnerd than anything, which, based on the fact that he had a graduate degree in Anthropology, I would say the filmmaker of the documentary was as well.
My friends and I would engage in “deep” (and endless) discussions about lyrics and their meaning and talk about things like “relevance.”
Like I said, metalnerd.
I still listen to a lot of metal, and there are times when I feel that connection with the music on a primal level, and I still think that there are metal bands that have produced some great lyrics (that have “relevance” and “meaning”), but my headbanging days are mostly behind me, and I have to say that, to my ears, most of the “metal” out there now sounds like crap, and too many acts have come to rely on gimmicks in order to appealing to the lowest common denominator.
And let me just say that said denominator is pretty low.
There is, after all, a reason, one which the filmmaker didn’t address when he asked the question, why metal – and its fans – conjures up so many negative stereotypes.
I’m often reminded of the scene in the live-action Spawn movie when the demonic clown (Is there any other sort?) is in the cemetery showing Spawn the charred remains of his former body and we see a couple of stoner metalheads preparing to sacrifice a cat to the Devil in some half-assed attempt at a Satanic ritual.  The clown, observing this, asks of no one in particular, “Why does our side get all of the retards?”
In any case, it was an interesting little documentary.
To continue on the topic of metal just slightly longer, Metallica made a guest appearance on the season premier of The Simpsons tonight.  At one point they began performing Master of Puppets, which led me to remark, “Yeah, like they really play any of their good songs anymore.”
Apart from the season premiers of Fox’s animated shows, today was pretty uneventful.
I did make a quick trip to Super Target, which would have been a lot quicker if there weren’t so many people turning the roads and the aisles into obstacle courses.
Once I had everything I needed I got in line behind an older lady at the express lane, grabbed a divider, put in on the belt, and placed all of my items – and this is a key point – behind the divider.
The woman ahead of me (eventually) paid for her things and was on her way, at which point the casher reached across the divider and grabbed my bag of oranges, scanned it, put it in a bag, then, rather than either moving the divider out of the way or grabbing any of my other items, looked at me rather perplexed as I gave no indication that I intended to pay for the bag of oranges, and then was even more perplexed when she noticed the other items on the belt and no one standing behind me.
I knew it would take too long for her to figure things out on her own, so I indicated the other items and said, “They’re all mine.”
This seemed to confuse her more, leading her to lift up the bag with the bag of oranges and say, “But you wanted these kept separate?”
“No,” I said, “I didn’t want anything kept separate; I had everything together.”
She gave me a long skeptical look before proceeding to – finally – move the divider out of the way and scan my other items.
Apart from that little voyage into the world of random stupidity, most of my day was spent at home reading and listening to music, with said music played at sufficient volume to drown out the sound of the goddamn worthless piece of shit dog who really, really needs to develop some kind of fatal canine disease barking all goddamn day.
In any case, it will soon be time for another new episode of The Venture Bros., so I guess I’ll bring this post to a close.

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