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.
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?: