Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CONCERNING THE WHOLE "RETRO-THRASH" THING...

Another brilliant and insightful Op-Ed piece brought to you by Professor Cobras and the fine folks at Illogical Contraption Recombinant DNA Laboratories, Inc.


Above: I included this picture for the sole reason that the dude in back is dressed up like Mortiis. And I'm OK with that.

The "retro-thrash" movement has been a popular target for metal writers, metal blogs, and metalheads in general for the last few years now, and for good reason. Metal Inquisition has compared the thrash revival to a Civil War re-enactment, with all of the historically-accurate costumery faithfully in place and all participants playing along to a script written long ago. It's true.
"Retro-thrash" bands aren't bringing much to the table as far as originality goes. The music (for the most part) consists of the same chugging riffs D.R.I., Slayer, Exodus, and Testament wrote 20-25 years ago, and the aesthetic remains unchanged as well. Denim vests with back patches, puffy Reeboks, "death to posers", and cover art by Ed Repka are all still commonplace, and the age demographic hasn't changed much either. Thrash in 2009 appeals to the same disenfranchised high schoolers it did in the 80's, shouting the same gang-chorus slogans over the same 1-2-1-2 beats with the same whammy-barred solos and the same haircuts.
So it's no surprise that the Thrash Clones have become a little bit of a laughingstock for the Internet Metal Cogniscenti. Metal has always thrived on originality and innovation, and it seems that the whole thrash revival is working toward the past rather than the future. Hence the ridicule, I guess. God made the internet to make making fun of people anonymously easier. You can quote me on that.

Below: Retro-thrashers Bonded By Blood. D.R.I., Suicidal, and Metallica T-shirts? Check. Thrasher Magazine-style fisheye lens band photo? Check. From Southern California? Check. Named after an Exodus song? Check and check.



With all that being said, I'd like to get something off of my shoulders:

I THINK "RETRO-THRASH" IS AWESOME.

There. I said it. But before you high-and-mighty metal snobs get your collective "panties" in the proverbial "bunch", allow me to explain:

A) I don't especially dig the music these "retro" bands are creating. I like some of them better than others, but it all seems pretty generic to me. What I do enjoy is the effect that this music is having on the younger generation. As I already said, thrash has always been popular with the 14-21 demographic, and having seen a lot of East Bay retro-thrash-metal bands perform in the last couple years, I can say with a good amount of firsthand experience that the same remains true to this day.
The point I'm trying to make is this: There are SO MANY WORSE THINGS THAT HIGH SCHOOL KIDS COULD BE INTO THESE DAYS. I see absolutely nothing wrong with a bunch of longhaired 17-year-olds running around in parking lots drinking beer and singing along to "Reaganomics". I was into some whack shit in my younger days, and I look back and cringe at some of the music I liked and some of the decisions I made. But as far as I can tell, these kids won't have a regret in the world when they grow up to be old metal curmudgeons like me. I truly doubt that teenage enthusiasts of other metal subgenres (ahem deathcore ahem metalcore ahem ahem) will reap the same benefits.
So what if they're just playing along with a trend that reached its peak 20-something years ago? At least they're not getting themselves killed trying to play out some sort of hip hop fantasy, or even worse, putting on eye makeup and writing love poetry on some sort of My Chemical Romance trip.

Left: Merciless Death, 1989 or 2009? Does it fucking matter?

B) Again, I'm just speaking from my own personal experiences here. But lots of the thrasher kids in my regional area are some of the most dedicated and talented musicians I've ever encountered. My band played a show with some really rocking 17-and-18-year-olds called Invection a couple weeks ago, and much to my chagrin, those little fuckers could shred circles around me. For some reason, metal (especially thrash) inspires a certain amount of obsessive musicianship in certain players, and I see nothing wrong with a kid spending 12 hours a day practicing guitar in his parents' suburaban home. I mean, I've been playing guitar as long as a lot of these kids have been alive. And they're still WAY better than me. Part of me is a little jealous, but a bigger part of me says "FUCK YEAH". Where are they going to be musically in 10 years?
Not only that, but the dudes in Invection (a relatively new band) are opening for D.R.I. next month in L.A., and somehow got Dan Seagrave to do the cover art for their first album. They're living the fucking dream, thanks to the thrash revival.

Invection, "Invection":



C) A certain young-ish "retro thrash" band from the East Bay recently turned down a gig with my band as well, citing the Homecoming Dance as their reason. I'm not sure why, but something about that strikes me as kind of rad.

D) Maybe I'm contradicting myself here, but I can totally get behind a style of music with redeeming social qualities, even if I don't particularly dig the music itself (for specific contradiction, read 'The Dethklok Conundrum'). If thrash metal is teaching a new generation of Hessian Minions the importance of eradicating posers, I say so be it. There's plenty of mediocre music in the world, but mediocre music that can make you 1) BANG YOUR HEAD, 2) FUCKING PAAAAAARTY, and 3) PLAY A WICKED TAPPING SOLO deserves at least a modicum of recognition. The music may not be amazing, but the message is there, and it's the same message that's been there for 25 years: METAL HAS THE POWER TO UNITE, and conversely, METAL HAS THE POWER THE DESTROY.

So take it easy on the thrash metal kids, O Wise And Judgemental Internet Metallions. The thrash revival, as far as I can tell, is having no adverse effect on the metal world at large -- If anything it's giving a proper education to the Metal Warriors of tomorrow. And how can you argue with a picture like this?:

10 comments:

Jimbo said...

Fuckin ay. a+ journalism right here brother. youve really hit the nail on the shred. thrash forever! bonded by blood look exactly like death angel. uncanny.

Shelby Cobras said...

I've got to admit, Jimbo: Part of me was writing this post for you, dude.

PS stoked to see some Blackbird Raum on Salty Boardies. Great band!

Mister Booze said...

You and I seem to agree on the fundamentals. These kids have their hearts in the right place, but I won't be buying their albums anytime soon.

Helm said...

Yes this trend isn't something to get infuriated about and it'll probably lead to some good music and even if it doesn't, it won't damage what is good from the past.

That being said, the problem with today's teenagers listening to made-by-disfranchised-screwups songs like Reaganomics is that Reagan isn't in office and the majority of these kids aren't disfranchised. The exact reason those teenagers play better guitar than you is because they aren't. While you spent half your life getting your shit together and making some sense out of tensions between ambitions and responsibilities, their dad got them a guitar and equipment and lessons from when they were 10 and was cheering them on. This 'metal music' having happened, having been established as some cultural thing, is safe now, their dad will let them practice in the garage. It's a cute hobby or whatever.

Doesn't mean much in the long run, whether you are disfranchised or not (or you feel you are) in the end if you've got something to express with music, you'll get there. The human sentiment rises above hypocritical scenes. It just partly explains why they're technically more advanced than in the 80s. It does ring kinda hollow to preach the 'death to posers' thing while they're all basically posers, but eh that's pretty much indicative of most music scenes.

I wasn't into the 80's thrash to begin with (the only strand that interests me is the more brainy and out there technothrash) and it always seemed to me as the most vacuous of the metal subgenres, especially after 1985 or so. Speed/proto-thrash metal was exciting because it was pushing the envelope while still respecting what came before it, trash proper just got constricting and pedestrian and pretended what came before it didn't exist because it wasn't 'street' enough. Of course there's good material but overly it seems as the most overrated era of metal after scandinavian black metal early 90s.

Shelby Cobras said...

Holy shit, well said. And said more succinctly AND with more detail than I could. I definitely feel you on the whole "ambition vs. responsibility" aspect, it's difficult to watch these kids being supplied with all the equipment/lessons/support they could ever ask for while folks in the past had to struggle for the same things. But hell, if it leads to good music, or at least interest in music, it can't be all bad. Oh, and did I mention that those "thrash" kids arrived at the concert in a brand-spanking-new SUV? I think that's pretty solid support for your argument.

Jimbo said...

Shelby mate you're a rad cunt. as le per your posts are top notch. better than mine haha. helm you really do know your shit! well said, but ive gotta fly the thrash flag here. thrash is fun bra!

Andrew said...

haha thanks for the kind words man, seriously! I'm the vocalist/guitarist for Invection, I randomly found this post on google and yeah a lot of the stuff you said was true and I totally agree with it (I got a guitar when I was 12 and a Metallica cd from my brother when I was 10). While I love aggressive violent thrash like we play now (razor,demolition hammer,exodus) there are so many bands popping up doing the exact same thing that on our next release we're going to be trying some totally new things (while retaining our regular style, we can't just abandon that, it's a part of us) and I bet people are going to fucking disown us for it haha. I love thrash and I love to see new thrash but when you've seen 200 bands do the same thing it just gets boring; bands like Warbringer are pushing it slightly which is cool but I still think there's a whole lot of room for change (who knows if it'll be good or bad but thats part of the fun). Hopefully we'll get to play another show with you guys again soon, sorry we had to cut so early but stuff comes up, hopefully the next show will be better/we can stick around!
-Andrew

Shelby Cobras said...

Hey, sweet, man!

Thanks for your input, I hope we can play more shows together soon also. You guys kicked ass at Your Hauz!

BILLONEY! said...

THRASH INSANE, or DIE IN PAIN!

Michael Wilson said...

Alot of us that lived through Thrash in the 80's criticize these new thrash revival bands, by saying they're not doing anything different to what was around from 84/85 onwards, and perhaps that's true. But they say that like every thrash band from the 80's was different, original, and weren't influenced by Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament or Exodus. Come on, who we tryin to kid with that. I don't disagree with listening to 22 year old Thrash metal muscians screaming:"Kill posers" is cringe worthy, atleast when the music they write isn't worth listening to. Butya know what? Atleast they're out there, playin Gigs, puttin out cd's, however cringe inducing some of it might be. Can their critics say they're doin likewise? Nope, unlikely