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Blabbermouth


Somehow, I managed to survive five days straight without Blabbermouth.

For the not-quite so dedicated among us, Blabbermouth, run by Roadrunner Records but otherwise unaffiliated in terms of content, is basically the Reuters of all things metal and rock. I never, ever believe one rumor unless it’s made it to the first page of Blabbermouth. I have examples of stories making it there before the news breaks on the band’s official website, even. Blabbermouth is where all press releases go to…circulate rumors on upcoming releases, upcoming tours, ongoing tours, tour mishaps, reviews, interviews and so on and so forth. It’s everything you think you need to know, not a few things you sorta wish you didn’t, and on several occasions, a source of total hilarity, intentional and otherwise.

Back from the dead, there’s a big stink at what I’ve come to call The Daily Snark. A stink that says a few things, not just about the originator, but also about the two-way street between bands and fans, between news and news-worthy and the running commentary of metalheads who have a soapbox for the opinions that had nowhere to go but other metalheads for so long.

Snark, I’ll have you know, is good. It shows initiative, it shows attitude, it shows that you care, even if it means you care by attacking someone else’s Primeval Forces in no uncertain terms. We all have opinions in this online age, and they all stink.

Enter stinkaroo of the day, Evan Seinfeld of Biohazard.

Never mind that musically, Biohazard just ain’t – my brand of poison, not even if they are from Brooklyn.

Never mind that despite touring in 2009, they haven’t released new material since 2005. Never mind that Evan Seinfeld until recently had a sideline career as an adult film star with his now-ex wife, has participated in a few reality TV shows and in general seems to be doing quite well in marketing Evan Seinfeld for at least one other reason than being the bass player in Biohazard, that reason being he has one thing in common with half the human race, give or take a few.

No, his main pet peeve is attacking the users and commentators of Blabbermouth for being – in no particular order, gay keyboard ninjas who are symptomatic of ‘everything wrong with metal today’.

Interpret that as you please. It gives me infinite pleasure to twist it in the general direction of –

‘You are metalheads, you are our fans, you buy our tickets and CDs (if we’re lucky) and you should henceforward SHUT THE FUCK UP, because we Gods of Metal have better things to do than give a damn about your opinions. (Make porn flicks, for instance) In the unlikely event that you refuse to be silenced, you shall be branded as gay, armchair critical keyboard ninjas without lives because you dare to voice any brand of critical faculty I don’t happen to agree with.’

So – Blabbermouth is lame, gay etc. etc. He never reads it. In that case, how does he happen to know about it?

For so many years, metal was a genre without a voice, a genre regarded as somehow inferior, primitive, intellectually degrading and demeaning. Never mind that not all metalheads are stupid, never mind the clichés of long hair, tattoos, all-black blablabla. In the pre-Net days of metal, information was passed on through newsletters, zines and my all-time favorite Info Central – The Record Store.

Remember those? Where you could while away an afternoon in congenial company and maybe make a few new discoveries, too? Practice your social skills and armchair critic tendencies on your fellow metalheads, doing the exact same thing?

Maybe not. I must be feeling my age.

But now, we have – the Net. Now, we have no shortage of non-stop, no-holds-barred barrages of (dis)information, metal forums, Facebook, Nonelouder, MySpace, metal e-zines and fan sites and.

And. And. And the one-stop Reuters of metaldom – Blabbermouth, telling us everything by constantly updated press release, and not only that – we get to comment on them, too – all wrapped up in a handy, one-stop destination for snark, for info, for edification, for entertainment, for education on anything and everything metal, which makes it to Blabbermouth because – there still are bands and frontmen and bass players, even, who need that kind of exposure to generate that kind of buzz that will make fans former and future aware of the new album, the new tour, the latest, greatest, most grating…metal.

Which is – correct me if I’m mistaken – still about the music, right?

Right, guys? And what with free speech (I use that term advisedly) and the right to comment on interviewed dudes like Evan Seinfeld, who is doing precisely what we’re doing, except he’s Evan Effing Seinfeld, with a right to his opinion – and in his opinion, we’re not, because we’re not – Evan Seinfeld.

We’re just the anonymous, useless, idiot schmos who buy the albums, who go to concerts, who get the t-shirts, who…

The ones who justify the existence of the likes of Evan Seinfeld, in other words.

Metalheads of the world – fuck what he thinks! Be as snarky and as snide and opinionated as you please, because you have a voice, you have an opinion and it matters that you do, it matters because Blabbermouth wouldn’t be Blabbermouth without it.

That, my fellow metalheads, is everything that is right in metal today!

Image: Sharkforum.org

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Blabbermouth, that instant source of edification and general rock’n’roll snark fests, hauled off another one of my goats today to the slaughter, straight to the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, where I read that a small town in Russia has plans to ban heavy metal music on the grounds that it is “satanic” and “ideologically destructive”.

Small town or no, the morally upright citizens of Belgorod have been newsworthy before, instituting fines for public swearing, dancing and trying to ban the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Oooooh, baby. From Valentine’s Day to forbidding local music venues to play “satanic” music – these latter-day Calvinist killjoys are on a roll. As if living in Russia isn’t bad enough, now they have to take away metal?

The mayor of Belgorod admitted he didn’t know anything about that type of music, but. “If children are exposed to satanic influences, the parents would never forgive us.” He also cited an infamous Soviet-era psychiatric hospital study stating that heavy metal music was “ideologically destructive”.

Ahem. And?

Satanic. Which means what, precisely? If you wanted to play hardball with me, I could tell you that “satanic” music is nothing new. Over two hundred and fifty years ago, the celebrated violinist Giuseppe Tartini dreamt one night that he taught the Devil to play violin, and immediately, the Devil grabbed the violin and played a tune of such fiendish complexity and hellish beauty, Tartini couldn’t wake up fast enough to write it down, and even then, he felt that what he wrote down was nowhere so good as what he heard in his dream. This piece is so difficult to play, rumors were quickly circulating that Tartini had not five, but six fingers on one hand – how could he play it, otherwise?

Carl Orff claimed likewise that the Devil came in a dream and gave him a little something to remember him by. It wasn’t what he heard, but he tried to recreate it anyway – “Carmina Burana”.

Down in the Mississippi Delta a few years later, Papa Legba lay lurking at the crossroads at midnight, waiting to tune the guitars of itinerant musicians. One dreamy-eyed youth – shy, retiring, musically inclined – took up his offer and came back, so the story goes, as the original ur-God of the blues and rock guitar. They all whispered it behind his back. “Sold his soul to the Devil, he did!”

It made for a much better story than simply saying that the mild-mannered young man who sang with such a fury and played with such a passion practiced – in a graveyard.

You didn’t mess with Robert Johnson. The Devil came to claim him for his own soon enough.

These days, nothing is shocking any more. Rock music has been flirting with all manner of devilry – good, bad, benign and not – ever since poor Bobby Johnson drank that bottle of free and fatal whisky.

Of course, things have gotten, well, hairier since then.

For one thing, evil is no longer an abstract principle, a control device put in place by religious dogma to keep us all on the straight and very narrow. It’s all around us, every day. Turn on the news – there’s your Devil in all the thousand and one details of a thousand and two international horror stories, brought to you live by CNN.

For another, much as I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, far too many avatars of Good and Noble, whether they’re televangelists with supposedly God-like powers and all-too human failings or the Pontiff of the Catholic Church – surely the most evil and evilly long-lived institution ever created on Planet Earth – denying a massive abuse of both children and implicit trust –can no longer be considered good by even the most Pollyanna imagination. Good…just don’t cut the mustard any more.

We degenerate, cynical, long-haired, non-conforming, loudmouthed metalheads worldwide know better. There’s no such thing as good. Virtue is an ideal as opposed to a reality, because it’s a lie.

Vice, on the other hand, is…nice. At least it’s honest. It’s certainly real. It’s – fun. Your thing might be vintage Alice Cooper, who always held his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. It might be the further reaches of black metal, if that’s your thing, and you might be surprised to learn that it’s actually far more heathen in its sensibilities than outright satanic.

The Prince of Fucking Darkness is not, in fact, evil, but he’s smart enough to know that if you connect with the darkness in your audience, they will love you for it, love you for articulating and saying what they can’t.

Some of us have a need, near biological in its impetuosity, to look around in the dark of our souls and first of all, accept it. Second, to celebrate it. It keeps us sane, to acknowledge what the rest of the world refuses to see. It keeps us rebelling, in all the best senses of the word, against conformity, against dogma, against a world that prefers to categorize humanity into neatly ordered segments, easily defined and easily contained.

We know it’s dark and hairy and ugly in there. We know. We know no matter where our Devils come from, whether it’s a suburb of Birmingham or Lodi, New Jersey.

And those club owners in Belgorod?

One club owner said that any official who tried to interfere would get punched in the face.

Rock’n’roll, yes. Satanic?

You be the judge!

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