Metalheads vs. Pirates

A Side-by-Side Comparison of Los Angeles’ Metalhead and Pirate Populations

Apple + Tree
Apple / Tree

There’s many reasons that I love Los Angeles. It’s the place where driving 40 minutes for a $1.25 taco isn’t unheard of; where the rumble of jets taking off makes beach bonfires more charming; and where one can experience a metalhead explosion and sexy female pirate wrestling, just days apart…

That’s right, I’m talking about the Revolver Golden Gods metal awards and Lucha Vavoom’s Girlie Girl Catfight.

As a quick two part love note to this fair city I present to you, Metalheads vs. Pirates…

Part one: Metalheads.

The Great American Metalhead

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Tuesday’s Revolver Golden Gods metal awards brought the best and the bearded(est) American metal acts together for a night of celebration and sort of forced debauchery. After all, there’s nothing better than seeing metal dudes a.) in the light, and b.) walking cautiously around the cool-if-you’re-from-Minsk Nokia theater.

Slayer's Kerry King on the Black Carpet / Drew Tewksbury
The totally metal head of Slayer's Kerry King on the "Black Carpet" (Drew Tewksbury)

Regardless of whether you like it or not, metal is big business. Bands like Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, and Protest the Hero, have helped to keep the record industry afloat in new musical webscape. Slipknot’s latest album triumphantly blasted onto the Billboard charts, defeating many albums of kinder, gentler acts who forgo clown masks. The Golden God’s Awards are long over due for a genre that is extremely popular world wide (Anecdotal evidence: Turkish cab drivers / Chilean art students / Danish anarchists all love metal). But is the metal at the Nokia Theater the same metal that blasted from Motorhead’s amps?

Maybe.

Steel Panther

When the show began and classic metal dudes (Lemmy Kilmister, Vinny Paul of Pantera, and most of Slayer) presented awards to younger metal guys (Protest the Hero, blah, blah blah), it was almost a passing of the metal keys to a new generation. Despite the chains and spikes (and the Norweigan guys who make necklaces from skull fragments) metal has always been dorky, to some extent. Made largely by H.P. Lovecraft lovers and technologically obsessed, garage-hiding axe shredders, metal was an antidote to isolation. It was, and still is, a way to create a community that was on the outside. 1980’s metal gained popularity through zines, mixtapes, and DIY concerts. When MTV picked up on the irresistible visual element to hair metal (may I remind you of Warrant), the secret was out. Metal was (more or less) mainstreamed. Of course, that’s when the pissing contest began. As pop music became more commercialized and music videos–essentially advertisements for an album– took the place of radio, the battle for authenticity began. This was the late eighties/early nineties, when rap was emerging and the battle of “real keeping” took off. Gangsta rap was “realer” than the hyperkinetic beats of party girls JJ Fad or West Coast pioneer Arabian Prince.

Valient Thor

Valient Thorr

It was in this era that metal began to “get real.” Pantera eschewed the hairspray and the leotards (sometime after this picture of course), Metallica wrote speed metal anthems about books, and Anthrax was, well, Anthrax. But somewhere after this, metal took a break. Grunge set aside the traditional guitar solo, then rap metal made music for jocks and army recruits.

But why metal now? It’s easy to point fingers and cook up with reductionist theories about the mainstreaming of metal: The endless war, the housing crisis in the suburbs, more mercury in the drinking water. Maybe it’s about the the viral nature of the internet, where metalheads can trade music like the old days, only now with MP3’s instead of Mixtapes?

Or maybe it’s cause metal just rules.

(Peruse more of my photos from the Golden Gods awards)

Tune in tomorrow. We’re gonna talk pirates.

All photos by Drew Tewksbury

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