It’s hardly worth reiterating the connection between Heavy Metal and dark, often upsetting imagery. The artwork used to push records and merchandise has always been the first talking point in any critique of extreme music and this has both served and damaged its legitimacy in the larger public eye. While the moral outrage has all but fizzled out since the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and contemporary bands now enjoy the kind of immunity not afforded to their peacockish forebears, the recent controversy in the USA regarding the Confederate flag has forced a previously unchallenged theme in Metal to surface, and one that affects the entire scene.
We can debate the validity of the term “Southern Metal” forever, but it can’t be ignored that many bands from the South use their music to refer exclusively to their heritage, and record covers are often emblazoned with The Stainless Banner in either defiance or pride. With the ongoing dialogue on race and history in the USA, it’s hardly unfair or overly-sensitive to at least open up a discussion on what the flag means and what it means to those who fly it. Just last week all images of the Confederate flag were removed from Pantera merchandise in a move that has brought this discussion into the Heavy Metal sphere and will doubtlessly alienate certain fans and disarm detractors.
In the very first edition of The Hefty Fog, we covered a young band called Nuclear Hellfrost, who a month later would go on to desecrate the grave of the late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell, citing the band’s alleged ‘racism’ as reason for doing so. While their juvenile theatrics and sickening disrespect were absolutely deplorable on every level, theirs was a violent anticipation of today’s very serious discourse on imagery and racism, both in Metal and society at large, and one that has obviously been needed for a long time. While it’s highly unlikely that Metal bands will begin to sanitize their themes and images any time soon, it’s definitely time to confront the relationship between the Confederate flag and the uncomfortable history it is washed in.
In the meantime, here’s some bands who probably don’t wash, in general.
Old Witch / Keeper split
Last week we covered Keeper’s monolithic split with Sea Bastard, and the California Doom outfit have gone and done it again, this time alongside the unspeakable gloom of fellow countrymen Old Witch. In a time when splits and collaborations are becoming every bit as exciting as full-length releases, this slab of pure glacial Doom is a welcome edition to the fray.
Author & Punisher
Further blurring the lines between musician and cyborg, Author & Punisher lurches forward once more with a release that crushes the machinery of Industrial and rebuilds it with his own alien technology. Recorded using custom machines that sound more weaponized than musical, Tristan Shone’s vision is as terrifying as it is satisfying.
Profound Lore Records deal in sonic poisoning, and their current roster boasts some of the most uncompromising minds in the Metal underground, the UK’s Abyssal standing testament to this fact. Their latest offering of “Antikatastaseis” is a more careful excavation into the cavernous depths of Death Metal, and as the genre collectively sheds its layers in the journey to abstract horror, Abyssal introduce their own kind of haunting melody to the equation, and it works.
Ommadon are one of those bands that show up every few years and remind you how important the chemistry should be between strings and percussion. A band just as easy to have you nod away as bang your head, the Glaswegian duo do Drone Doom as Drone Doom is meant to be done; with as much sinister energy as possible.