Very Metal Study

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 12:25 09/05/2014

With the news that you can now study Heavy Metal as a three-year course in The Netherlands I thought we could start a list today - see what the top picks are for the key heavy metal band to be studied. Where would you start it? And what is the band you would be most interested in learning more about? Imagine you could major in one band - go in-depth studying the band’s music and story.

For some The Beatles’ Helter Skelter is the start of heavy metal. For others it’s that overt reference - “heavy metal thunder” from Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf. Do you go back to what The Who was doing or Billy Burnette or Blue Cheer - or do you start with Black Sabbath. Are they the starting point or is it The Jimi Hendrix Experience? Was it Led Zeppelin or Iron Butterfly. And if we’re going to be digging down into the etymology does it start with the writer William S. Burroughs. Apparently it does...

I’ve just seen the documentary As The Palaces Burn (about the band Lamb of God). It’s a must-see film - appearing at this year’s upcoming Documentary Edge Festival in both Auckland and Wellington (May/June).

I couldn’t tell you I was any sort of Lamb of God fan - I know they’re talented musicians. The film is so good you don’t have to be a fan. It might even be so good as to make you a fan - it certainly has me curious to do a bit more listening to the group’s music.

I’m a sucker for a good band story - I buy the books, watch the films, search YouTube footage for the car-crash moments, read up on the failures and failings of groups as well as the highlights and triumphs. And it seems the metal genre has more than its fair share of stories. Bands with colourful back-stories, personalities colliding - just the rather common irony of a band being all noise on stage, playing dress-ups with costumes and make-up and then so quiet and shy when not living it up as the character - that’s a big part of metal’s history; it’s part of the story that interests me. Huge Metal Fan

Then there’s the music.

So much great music - and the debate over what is actually metal. Those early antecedents and the first practitioners - some fans get stuck in furious debate over hard rock vs. metal. You can’t call Deep Purple a metal band anymore, nor Led Zeppelin. Was Cream ever heavy metal? Surely they’re part of the early years. Maybe not.

I’m interested to know when you think metal started. And what band you would be most interested in learning about as part of a heavy metal course.

So - those are the two questions for today for a bit of interactivity.

Firstly: what is the first band you think of when you think about heavy metal and its origins? (Clue: the answer is probably Black Sabbath).

Secondly: what metal band are you most interested in finding out more about?

(For me it would be Deep Purple or Van Halen. I’m fascinated in those bands for their behind-the-scenes stories. I’m a fan of the music too, sure. But I’d like to know more about the in-fighting, the line-up changes, the tour stories. And Lamb of God is on that list now thanks to the awesome documentary, As The Palaces Burn).

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