I was trying to put together a hair metal playlist to jam while writing this, but after looking through my half-terabyte of digital music files, I realized that I don’t have much any more.
My library’s stocked with tons of other forms of metal. As far as hair metal, though, I found almost none, unless I counted a few already established bands who briefly adopted some or all of the spandex, makeup, and hairspray trifecta during the ‘80s (or, in the case of Pantera, young bands who jumped on the hair metal bandwagon in the ‘80s, then found success later on playing next-gen thrash). All I could find in my music collection overall was ‘Stay Hungry’ by Twisted Sister, and a couple dusty greatest-hits CDs from Motley Crüe and Van Halen. In 20 years, I’d hardly ever listened to these CDs, much less bothered ripping them into digital files. This in spite of these albums being among the very first metal bands the early ‘80s version of me owned (I first had them as tapes, though). You’d think there’d be more of a nostalgia factor at work, but as far as hair metal goes, it’s not really there for me. Though I do now plan on ripping those CDs; between them, there’s maybe an album’s worth of good songs—more on that later.
Back to my playlist dilemma, I ended up expanding it to ‘80s metal of any genre,’ being careful not to cheat by just dumping whole albums in and hitting shuffle (I’ve found the shuffle function on virtually every music device or app I’ve ever used to be consistently non-random, anyway—the machines all have their favorites, it seems).
(My self-imposed, OCD playlist guidelines, by the way, include:
- No more than two songs by any one band, and two only if:
- the band had more than one singer and the chosen songs feature both,
- one song is instrumental and/or an intro to the other,
- they’re from a band that only has one album, or
- the band is Black Sabbath, in which case I allow myself one song per singer (they’ve had four, plus another—Glenn Hughes, no slouch by any means—from a solo album turned into a Sabbath album by record company fuckery)
- No more than two six-minute-plus songs in a row, and two only if the band is Black Sabbath and one of the songs is “Into the Void”
- For playlists intended for, say, road trips or day-long house painting projects from Hell, dumping and shuffling whole albums can be permitted, as long as:
- those stupid back-loaded “hidden” tracks that were so prevalent in the ’90s; boring filler tracks—even some of the best albums have one (I’m looking at you, “Electioneering” by Radiohead); intro tracks; live bonus tracks; and live, over-extended-to-the-point-they-become-boring songs are deleted from the final playlist with extreme prejudice
- there’s a general common theme to the albums included (e.g., “‘80s metal of any genre,” though “chaos” also counts as a common theme if I really do want a completely random mix of music)
- no more than two albums from the same artist are included, unless of course the band is Black Sabbath)
Quickly, my playlist grew from 28 minutes to over three hours. And considering how it only covers the ’80s, you might be surprised by how many distinct sounds and developing sub-genres are in there. Metal is truly the genre that keeps on giving—to those who continue exploring. And I’ve been exploring since I was 10.
A person’s discovery of music of any kind is a journey, and while for some pop music fads these journeys are relatively brief and uncomplicated (see: disco; fuck: disco), metal is not. It’s been around for almost 50 years now, its mainstream popularity fluctuating like a sine wave but never quite disappearing, just slinking away into the stygian underground to mutate as new hybrid sub-genres and styles emerge. After 50 years of this, things get messy. So unless you were lucky enough to be there at the beginning, your discovery of metal and its offshoots is bound to be just as non-linear and complicated as a particular sub-genre’s influences. Complicated, but still traceable for those who are more forensically inclined, as metal scholar Fenriz of Norwegian black metal pioneers Darkthrone shows in this earnest reconstruction of that particular genre’s lineage.
This complexity might be one reason why metal shows are so … friendly. There’s a sense of community, of comfort and relief in the air. Here, many fans whose backwards employers don’t allow them to wear rock shirts, or display piercings, or grow their hair, or otherwise express themselves in the Holy Workplace are finally among their own kind. Everyone’s there for the same reason, but they each got there a different way, and therefore offer new perspectives on the genre. While waiting in the beer line, complete strangers compare notes on whatever bands they’re repping on our t-shirts. I’m sure this happens at other types of shows, too, but it always happens at metal shows (and I’ve been to more than a few “other” shows where nobody talked to anyone outside their social circles). Anyway, these beer-line conversations almost always include “Dude, if you like [Band A], you’ve got to check out [Band B]” moments, which often lead to momentous discoveries. And momentous metal discoveries are important to explorers like me.
(Case in point, though not from a beer-line conversation, I might never have discovered one of my all-time favorite bands, doom metal icons Cathedral, if a friend’s older brother hadn’t insisted on playing their “Soul Sacrifice” EP on repeat in the car while driving us to see them open for Rob Halford’s Fight. He told us, sage-like, “If you like Sabbath, you can’t not like this band.” Dude was right—while tons of bands have tried to ape Sabbath’s sound directly over the years to varying degrees of success, what immediately hooked me on Cathedral was how they didn’t just take that doom-laden Sabbath sound and make it heavier, they mixed it with elements of something completely different—‘70s-style funk—and made it sound completely natural when combined with their Hammer-Horror-meets-H.P. Lovecraft lyrics. Because this discovery is so important to whatever part of my brain that processes music, whenever I hear the bone-crunching-yet-somehow-groovy opening riff from that EP, I flash back to an image from that car ride—a view of one of Cleveland’s flame-topped smokestacks off I-77 as we drove in from the suburbs. Cathedral’s performance that night—beginning with purple-bell-bottommed singer Lee Dorrian strolling from where he was sitting at the bar to the stage, wrapping the microphone cord several times around his neck until his eyes bugged out, and groaning, “All right!” as they ripped into the toe-tapping dirge “Autumn Twilight”—completely outshined the Metal God we had all come to see, and remains one of my favorite concert memories. But, as “just an opening band,” I might not have been right up front paying attention if my friend’s brother hadn’t tipped us to them, and Cathedral are obscure enough that who knows when, if ever, I might have discovered them otherwise in those dark pre-internet days …)
Whether they come from chance conversations at shows or advice from older and wiser metalheads, moments of discovery like these are, of course, huge milestones in anyone’s metal journey.
My own metal journey began just over a decade into the genre’s existence, and it had already morphed, mutated, and evolved quite a bit since Sabbath’s first barrage in the early ‘70s. This would be 1984; i was in the 4th grade. That’s when MTV introduced me to hair metal, forever changing my musical direction. Before then, I mostly listened to classical music since that’s what my parents always had playing (oh, and because it’s good). In an attempt to fit in somewhat with the other kids at school, I listened to the local mainstream rock station. My favorite song was “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” by Joan Jett, and the only tapes I owned were “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, “Sports” by Huey Lewis & The News, and a bunch of movie soundtracks. I had no idea that something called heavy metal existed.
On this particular day, I was taking an alternate route home from school to avoid some kids who wanted to beat me up (I might have given them wrong answers when they threatened me into doing their math homework). We lived in Groton, Connecticut, near the nuclear submarine base and a big Pfizer plant. Whenever I took this route home, the air would be thick with a stench similar to wet, rotting wood (what the adults told us was the plant making penicillin, though that seems like an awful lot of penicillin). I’d also sometimes hear protesters outside the sub base’s razor-wire fence, rhythmically chanting, “No one survives…a nuclear war,” while many of my neighbors worked all day inside building submarines, each of which was capable of firing 24 Trident (like the gum!) nuclear missiles with 475-kiloton payloads from under the ocean to vaporize cities 4,000 miles away. The way those protesters all droned these words as one reminded me of a cross between the brain-craving zombies in “Return of the Living Dead” and the animated, face-slapping monks in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” I couldn’t get them out of my head. Maybe because, around this time, we’d have school assemblies where our vice principal would veer off from telling us about Stranger Danger or the Evils of Drugs to explaining in detail how a hair trigger works, and how, at that very moment, Russia and the United States had their nuclear arsenals aimed at each other on the equivalent of said hair triggers, ready to wipe out all life on earth at any given moment (so go home and hug your mom tonight, kids!).
Doom was in the air. And while it was scary, it was also kind of cool to daydream at school about having fucked-up Mad Max-like adventures in a post-nuclear wasteland that, for all I knew, might happen before our next math test.
I’m sure that if the internet had been available, this environment—and my increasingly apocalyptic, gallows humor headspace—would have first led my musical interests where they should have gone. To the beginning of metal; doom metal in particular. To Black Sabbath, Trouble, Saint Vitus, and all the others that built on their blueprints. Instead, on this particular day in the fall of 1984, I ran into one of my neighborhood friends whose family had just gotten cable.
Cable was, of course, a big fucking deal in 1984. So we spent the afternoon watching MTV. Some kind of a metal countdown show was on. Cue watershed moment.
The first video I remember was “I Wanna Rock,” by Twisted Sister:
My sadistic 4th grade teacher preferred communicating with her classes by screaming at them, to the point where a blue vein would stand out on her forehead. So I of course identified with the kid in the intro sequence, getting the hairdryer treatment from his teacher for “desecrating a defenseless textbook,” and enjoyed seeing that teacher get brutalized throughout the rest of the video. The song itself, simple as it was, did what it had to do—it rocked. I especially liked the cheesy call/response thing between Dee Snyder and the backing vocals, which were a layered repetition of the very word “rock.”
Next came “Shout at the Devil,” by Motley Crue, the original video for which has become recently unavailable online. Similar to the “rock” chorus in the Twisted Sister song, but much more evil sounding, the “shout…shout…” chant here, mixed with all the flames and pentagrams in the video, tapped into my morbid fascination with the chanting nuclear protesters. It also started a lifelong interest in pentagrams; I just thought they looked cool, especially when carved into school desks or drawn on “defenseless textbooks.” But most of all, it was the music—the buzz-saw, crunchy sound of the guitars, the thunderous drumming, the screaming vocals—that hooked me.
To this day, there’s nothing in music that beats the sound of a heavy metal guitar for me. It’s the sound of danger, of adrenaline, of stuff our parents and teachers and preachers warned us about, of pentagrams and the forked “devil horns” hand sign. Yeah, I happily went right down that rabbit hole. My pop rock tapes were forgotten, replaced by Crue, Twisted Sister, Ratt, and Van Halen. However little I might listen to them now, they surely were my gateway drugs to the infernal kingdom of metal …
Rabbit hole descended, it wasn't long before I realized that 'heavy metal' had been around longer than I had been alive, and encompassed a whole lot more than what I had heard from Motley Crüe. Even though the term ‘heavy metal’ was coined in Steppenwolf’s 1968 song ‘Born to be Wild,’ and you could hear the beginnings of metal’s crunchy, distorted, power-chord-driven riffs in songs by The Kinks (‘You Really Got Me’), The Who (‘Young Man Blues’ from ‘Live at Leeds’), Led Zeppelin (‘Whole Lotta Love’), Jimi Hendrix (‘Spanish Castle Magic’) and a few others, heavy metal didn’t become fully self-aware as a genre, or develop its darker, more subversive approach to rock music until Black Sabbath recorded their debut album in October 1969. That changed everything, roughly 15 years before my fateful alternate route home from school.
Sabbath’s success took the music industry by surprise, but when did the music industry have a clue, anyway? Tony Iommi’s detuned power chords and devil’s-tritone-derived riffs that weighed a million pounds, combined with Bill Ward and Geezer Butler’s improvisational rhythm section and Ozzy’s plaintive, impending-doom vocals scratched a deep itch for millions of rock fans that all the hippy-dippy, all-you-need-is-love music saturating the airwaves couldn’t satisfy.
That this “darker” type of music wasn’t (and isn’t) for everyone is a given, as well as a point of pride for many fans. Horror movies aren’t for everyone, either. But there is and always has been a place for them in pop culture, and I think that place is at least partially Venn-diagrammed with the void in rock music Sabbath (and, eventually, the overarching metal genre) helped fill.
Ozzy described once in an interview how they changed their name to Black Sabbath after seeing a line of kids waiting to see the 1963 Italian horror movie of the same name, and wondering if horror themes would work in rock lyrics. From that came a little tune (also of the same name) that would routinely scare the hell out of me when I finally discovered the band. I’d be playing their greatest hits tape, “We Sold Our Souls For Rock and Roll,” on my Walkman during my Wednesday evening paper route, and if that song came on after dark, I’d break out in a sweat. Every shadow became a “big black shape with eyes of fire” as soon as my head was turned. I’d soon be flat-out sprinting down the last couple of side streets, flinging papers in the general direction of houses, certain that, right behind me, “Satan’s coming ‘round the bend.” It was exhilarating and awesome and I wanted more of it, just like I wanted more horror movies like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” that also scared the shit out of me. Listening to that song was like being in a horror movie. It still gives me chills.
It’s my opinion that, if you’re one of those people who maybe looks at the dark side of things, has what proudly normal people might consider a socially unacceptable sense of humor, and whose favorite songs tend to be in minor keys, then listening to Sabbath or any of the myriad styles and crossover genres it inspired is an ideal way to safely release (not cause) the accumulated angst and frustration that comes from living in this increasingly self-destructing world.
For me, heavier and darker-themed music has always cheered me up when I’m angry or depressed; the more fast and aggressive and screamy it is, the more it calms me down. Listening to Slayer at high volume for half an hour leaves me full of endorphins, relaxed and euphoric, as if I’d just gleefully smashed up a Kay Jewelers at the mall with a baseball bat (but without the worry of impending jail time). Conversely, nothing makes me feel worse when I’m pissed off or down than hearing an upbeat, turn-that-frown-upside-down-Charlie-Brown song like "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter. Hearing that song at the wrong time might just make me want to smash up a Kay Jewelers for real. (Or just nuke it from orbit; the only way to be sure.) I know, it’s weird, but it happens. Hell, there are even studies about this phenomenon. So there. I’m not the only one. Science.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence, either, that during times of relative (emphasis on the relative) national/worldwide stability, metal music tends to slip underground. It takes a really good, sustained dose of widespread fear, despair, and uncertainty for this kind of music to really thrive in the mainstream consciousness, not just the fringes.
During the ‘90s, when the worst national threats were Saddam Hussein and presidential blowjobs, a new band calling itself “metal” of any sort was commercial suicide. Established metal gods either went from selling out arenas to settling for small clubs (Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Judas Priest), or jumped on the “alternative” bandwagon for a big payola (Metallica). New, more interesting styles of metal were still forming and growing, of course—many as a backlash to the perceived wimping out of older bands. Metal was by no means dead; just unpopular, with the cutting-edge stuff not easily accessible unless you were tapped into underground fanzines, usenet groups, and mail-order demo tapes.
Then 9/11 happened. And the bailouts. And the opiates. And the shootings. And the cops. Over the last decade (but the past few years, especially), I think it’s safe to say the national emotional tide has turned as dark and bleak as one of Darkthrone’s Munch-inspired album covers:
Now, the worst national/global threat is the fucking president. There’s a wafer-thin veneer of “everything’s all right, everything’s normal” around everyone I know, even though we all know it’s not all right, it’s not normal, and it’s not likely to end well for anyone who doesn’t own a luxuriously appointed, well-stocked, underground bunker. We casually talk about how our sports teams have some solid young players who could be superstars in a few years, but the next morning at 5:30 the first thing we do is check the top headlines on our phones to see if Trump’s nuked anyone yet. As if that’s how we’d find out—reading about the apocalypse on the shitter.
Once again, doom is in the air.
About the only positive in this perfect shitstorm of self-destruction is that I’ve seen metal become more popular than it ever has been in my lifetime, including the heyday of hair metal. For several years now, I’ve seen kids at shows wearing Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead shirts. Often with their parents, who are my age or older, banging their heads right next to them. It warms my cold, black heart.
Given the chance, this new generation of metal children will soon be forming their own bands. And since they’ll have gone down their own unique paths in the Lands of Metal (especially since they have the internet and wifi now), some will mix and match different styles in ways that haven’t been done before. If they’re good enough and develop a following, other bands will follow their lead. New metal sub-genres will be born. I’ll probably see one or two of these bands open for a geriatric incarnation of Slayer at some point. And maybe, like Cathedral did for me so long ago, one of them will hit all the right buttons at the right time and become a new favorite.
It sounds cliché, but that’s why metal will never completely fade away (assuming that nuclear war doesn’t happen). With each new generation, metal keeps evolving and mutating into more and more of these spinoff sub-genres, many of which I never could have predicted but are now a staple of my headbanging sessions.
Here are just a few examples:
- Black ’n’ roll / Death ’n’ roll: Fans of black metal and death metal love epic, complicated, non-traditional song structures almost as much as prog rockers. But sometimes, they like to chill and relax in the tried-and-true, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus-repeat structure of traditional rock ’n’ roll. I first discovered black ’n’ roll through Kvelertak, a Norwegian band whose song “Mjod” absolutely crushed the end credits of the equally crushing movie “Troll Hunter.” Between its harsh, black metal style vocals and blast beats, and its stripped-down song structure and old-school-rock guitar hook, it was a style (and tongue-in-cheek attitude: translated, the lyrics are all about Odin kicking ass and stealing mead) I hadn’t seen before in the various forms of black metal. As far as death ’n’ roll, probably the best example is Six Feet Under, formed by former Cannibal Corpse singer Chris Barnes. They’re so good at it that, in addition to their original albums, they’ve now released multiple “Graveyard Classics” cover albums, featuring ultra-brutal yet note-perfect renditions of songs like “Smoke on the Water,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and “Purple Haze.”
- Folk metal: A combination of traditional European, particularly Scandinavian, folk music, instruments, and sagas with varying types of metal, typically thrash, power, or black metal. It sounds funny because it is funny, though not intentionally so, which of course sometimes makes it even funnier, especially when bands choose names like Finntroll. But a lot of folk metal still kicks a lot of ass. I love the heaviest of metal, but not if it’s without melody, and, strange as it sounded when I first heard about it, tapping into the melodies and styles of folk music to create wholly original, still heavy music, now sounds like a stroke of genius. Or the result of one hell of a bong hit at a Dungeons & Dragons party in Lillehammer.
- Blackgaze: A combination of black metal and shoegaze. I didn’t know this was a thing until I saw the French band Alcest a few years ago. My reaction: “That’s … basically black metal mixed with shoegaze.” There aren’t a ton of these bands, but they’re out there.
- Math metal: Usually combined with some other style (so, mathcore, being a combination of math metal and hardcore), math metal involves insanely complicated time signatures, atonal melodies, and an overall prog-rock-on-an-acid-trip vibe. Kind of hard for me to take on its own, but elements of this style incorporated into others often work. When they do, they usually adopt the prefix “technical,” I’m guessing to avoid sounding like nerds (see: technical death metal), a real shame since “deathmath” has a nice ring to it.
- Gore metal: This style pretty much started with the band Carcass, who have since evolved into a more traditional death metal band. But their early albums were notable for their explicit lyrics and imagery lifted from the most disgusting pages of medical textbooks (song titles include “Mucopurulence Excretor” and “Excoriating Abdominal Emanation”), combined with raw musicianship, lo-fi production and vocals that sound like the singer is suffering from the very conditions he’s describing. Great stuff, though now I prefer their more digestible later albums. Must be getting old …
- Grindcore: Napalm Death (whose original singer, Lee Dorrian, went on to form Cathedral) laid the blueprints for this genre in the late ‘80s. It’s basically an extreme lo-fi hybrid of hardcore, crust punk, and death/thrash metal, often sped up to a million miles per hour. Many songs on Napalm Death’s debut, “Scum,” don’t break the one minute mark, though subsequent albums and those from later grindcore bands aren’t quite that crazy. Because it’s so extreme in its purest form, the grindcore style is often combined with others, similar to math metal. In recent days, grindcore has been surfacing here and there in the semi-mainstream with phenomena like “Grindcore Granny.”
- Viking metal: An offshoot of early Scandinavian black metal, only instead of the usual satanic imagery and atmosphere, it focuses on Norse mythology (and, of course, mead drinking and fighting). Like folk metal, some bands incorporate traditional instruments like mouth harps and pan flutes into their songs (to mixed results). Other bands, Amon Amarth, for example, incorporate entire viking ship bows into their stage sets (to awe-inspiring results). Oddly, or not, when the whole bearded hipster thing started happening, viking metal suddenly became pretty fashionable for an otherwise obscure sub-sub-genre of metal. The first time I saw Amon Amarth, I swear there were more hipsters than headbangers in the audience. Must be the beards.
- Pirate metal: No, I’m fucking serious. Check out some Alestorm if you don’t believe me. It’s really just another form of folk metal, only with sea chanties, and what I’ve found so far doesn’t seem to take itself seriously at all, but still. Pirate metal.
Bands from all of the above categories are all over my current playlists, and many have been for years (OK, I only recently stumbled on pirate metal, but I love it, or at least the fact that it exists). Yet I outgrew hair metal not long after I was out of middle school. Discovering Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath had a lot to do with that. But it was also because hair metal albums—and I’ve always been an album-first person—were always at least 80 percent filler, similar to pop albums. The other 20 percent was often good—in most cases, it was the one or two songs I had heard on the radio. But that’s still a lot of filler, and it often left me disappointed and frustrated after shelling out hard-earned paper route money for a tape, an album, and winding up with a glorified single. (I think that of all the albums that tend to be lumped into the hair metal genre, the only one I’ve heard that’s filler-free is Guns n’ Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction.’ And it’s debatable whether hair metal is the proper label for them, anyway. It’s simply a great hard rock album, which I re-discovered a couple years ago, prompting a year-long GNR binge.)
Anyway, for me at this point in my life, hair metal has become the Taco Bell of metal subgenres. Easy to enjoy when you’re a teenager and don’t know any better, but all that filler is murder on your bowels later in life.
Compared to other styles, what made hair metal marketable really had little to do with music, which was just a slickly produced, overly histrionic variety of classic metal. It was the look—the big hair, the makeup, the spandex—that got everyone’s attention.
And that’s another distasteful parallel hair metal had with pop music—how the bands looked seemed to be almost as important as the music they played, if not moreso. Sure, a certain look is somewhat important for some other forms of metal—black metal with its penchant for corpsepaint is an obvious example—but it’s by no means essential. It is for hair metal. That’s probably why it flourished in the vain, materialistic mainstream of the ’80s, as perfect a decade for hair metal as the ’70s were for disco.
I guess this explains why I had so much trouble putting together a hair metal playlist I can really enjoy. I do plan on ripping the handful of CDs I found, and look forward to hearing a few of those anthems of the Reagan era again (Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” would probably do just as well today as it did in 1984). But compare that with me putting together my revised ‘80s metal playlist. Instead of struggling to find material, I was faced with the agony of deciding which track from Megadeth’s Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying album to include, or whether Megadeth’s track should be from So Far, So Good, So What, and if so, which of those tracks it should be, because it could … be … any … one … of … those … 16 … songs!
Here the thing, though. As lame as a lot of it seems to me now, hair metal was my gateway drug to the soundtrack of the rest of my life up to this point. I bring up Megadeth because their flavor of metal—thrash, aka speed—is one of my all-time favorites. I’m not sure why, but in general, I really like fast, even frantic music. And no matter what’s going on in my life, listening to some classic thrash is like an instant happiness pill. For one thing, it does carry a strong nostalgia factor—I still remember hearing “Whiplash” by Metallica for the first time on a boom box in the 8th grade band room, and being unable to comprehend how a guitar could be played that fast.
More importantly, thrash directly spawned many of those other, constantly bifurcating and evolving subgenres of metal, many of which are also among my favorites. Death metal, and shortly afterward black metal, are first cousins of early ‘80s thrash, and they each subdivide into bronchial sub- and sub-sub categories, several of which are in my list above.
And in an indirect way, thrash might not even exist if it wasn’t for hair metal.
Basically, if you were forming a metal band in the mid 80s, you almost had to be hair metal if you wanted to make it big. You had to do the hairspray and spandex thing, had to dumb your lyrics down to sex-drugs-rock-and-roll-rinse-repeat, and had to include dopey piano-driven power ballads on your albums. Because that’s what sold. That’s how you got record deals.
Kerry King of Slayer recently commented that thrash began in part as a backlash to the early ‘80s L.A. hair metal scene. Thrash, of course, also had concrete musical influences beyond simply eschewing hairspray (though it must be noted that King’s hair on the back cover of their groundbreaking 1983 debut, “Show No Mercy,” looks suspiciously spry, and is that eyeliner?). For most thrash bands, these influences were NWOBHM (New-WOBB-Hmm, aka New Wave of British Heavy Metal) bands like Diamond Head and Angel Witch, Sabbath, and some form of punk, which is where the speed and aggression came from.
Nevertheless, it’s possible that, in an alternate universe where hair metal never existed, thrash might not exist, either, at least not in its current form. If Kerry King, Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Gary Holt (Exodus), and the rest of those Bay area thrash pioneers hadn’t gotten pissed off seeing everyone flock to Motley Crue shows back in the day, the bands they ended up forming in this alternate universe—if any—might have been … who knows, grunge 10 years before its time? That would mean all those other subgenres, like death metal, black metal, prog metal, folk metal, and all their mutations might also not exist in the same form. The (iron) butterfly effect.
So for that, for unwittingly inspiring a small group of angst-ridden teenagers in California into creating a watershed moment in the history of metal—the birth of American thrash, and, subsequently, just about every other form of metal I currently enjoy on a daily basis—I have to pay my respects to hair metal.
* (to my knowledge, there aren’t any blackened-technical-folk-grind bands … yet)
Andy Segedi failed in his ambition to write The Next Great American Horror Novel, and is now a 'communications specialist' at an insurance company. He lives in Cleveland with the hungry ghosts of two former cats.