METAL IS NOT JUST METALLICA AND IRON MAIDEN
by Andreas NEUDI Neuderth
My favourite band is MANILLA ROAD! But I also love two styles of metal in general: NWOBHM and classic US-Metal. MANILLA ROAD started in the same time when in Great Britain the N.W.O.B.H.M. was beginning. A lot of people have problems with classic NWOBHM stuff because it sounds not "up-to-date" in the year 2000. Often the sound quality is limited due to financial problems or a loss of studio technic. For other people this freshness and the raw sounds is what makes the NWOBHM so exciting. And I donīt talk about IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST! These are great bands but the underground is much more exciting!
You also should never forget that there would be no METALLICA today without the british bands like SAVAGE or ANGEL WITCH. But I think everybody knows this story...
For me the first two MANILLA ROAD recordings sound similar to the old NWOBHM stuff. Itīs the same feeling, like 3 guys want to rock hard. And what is very funny is the fact that the heavy riff of "Dreams of Eschaton" (MANILLA ROAD, Crytal Logic) and the guitar riff of ANGEL WITCHīs "Angels of Death" is very similar. I am sure that nobody copies from each other - they just had the same great idea!
Noone can say what was the year of birth of Heavy Metal, actually nobody knows what the term Heavy Metal exactly means. STEPPENWOLF sung the phrase "Heavy Metal thunder" in their song "Born to be wild", but this is sure no metal song (or is it for you?). A lot of people say that "British Steel" by JUDAS PRIEST was the real first metal album. The idea is good because of the music, the cover and the outfit of the bandmembers. But what is with the song "Fireball" by DEEP PURPLE with its Doublebass-Intro? Isnīt this a uptempo heavy tune? What is with Black Sabbath - hasnīt Toni Iommy played heavy riffs?
Today bands tend to create their own names for their style like "bombastic intense metal" or "weird metal" etc. Every band wants to prove how unique they are (most are not...). Why should the word Heavy Metal be better than this? It is just a name that was also just created after people used the term Hardrock a long time. Today nobody says Hardrock anymore, they say AOR or Melodic Rock...funny.
Most people call the style of Manilla Road "Epic Metal". I think this fits good to most of their songs but it also just a word. I donīt think that you can their music in words. And in fact these are the best bands that you can hear all your life: Those who are really unique in style.
If somebody would ask you "What is Manilla Road?" and you would answer "Itīs a cool Heavy Metal band!" then the person may say "Oh, like Iron Maiden or Metallica?". Then you have to say "No, not exactly...they sound different!". The person could go on asking: "Are they heavier or faster?" and you can answer "Well...sometimes but they can also play very slow!". The person would look at you and ask: "Is it a doom metal band like Candlemass or old Black Sabbath?" and again you have to answer "Hmmm....sometimes, yes! They often have long songs where they tell stories!" The guy would ask you: "Ah, itīs proggressive like Dream Theater, or?" and you find yourself starting to get nervous "Yes, they can play very proggressive in some songs, but they still sound different...".
You will not find a good answer unless you play some music of MANILLA ROAD. And even then it is not easy to understand MANILLA ROAD...which record would you choose?? The thrashy "Out Of The Abyss" or the classic "Crystal Logic"?
MANILLA ROAD is unique, definitely, but this makes it not easy for the band to be accepted by the masses. Most people just listen to music, they are not "interested" in this. They want to feed their CD-player (vinyl - no way!) with music that entertains them while they clean the house, talk to friends or whatever you can do in 45 minutes. But if you are really interested in hard guitarmusic, then you will search for unique bands and most of the "famous" stuff is boring to you. Am I right?
I really like the first four records of METALLICA. But why do I never wear a Metallica shirt?? Wear is it fun to me to wear a Manilla-shirt or a CIRITH UNGOL-longsleeve? I feel special in it! And sometimes you meet someone who comes to you and sais: "Cool - you know THEM?" And often this is the beginningof a friendship.
The old metal stuff sounds fresh and strong. In the early 80ies this music was something new and everybody had to give his best in the studio. There were no computers in the studios, there was not too much time to work on a record until it was "perfect" and the musicians seemed more "hungry" than today. Since a few years you canīt hear ANY mistakes on CDīs of big record companies. The productions are powerful but they have lost the live-feeling of the old days. I am afraid to say this but I think that a 15 year old metal-fan, who owns CDīs of HAMMERFALL or new METALLICA, doesnīt know how a natural drumkit sounds. Thatīs sad!
The NWOBHM stuff and the classic US-Metal-records have all this freshness and natural sounds. Some may say that these records donīt sound perfect and they may be right but I can hear a band playing on it! When I listen to MANILLA ROADīs uptempo song "Whitechapel" from "Out of the Abyss", then I hear a band play. Why? They start real fast and then there is a slower middle-part. After this middle part they continue to play the fast opening part again, but this time a lot faster (when I hear this right!). Nowadays nobody would let this happen in a studio, but why? The band was in the mood to rise the speed of the song in this part and I WANT TO HEAR THE BAND, not a high-tec-studio.
You can laugh now if you want but another example is the first IRON MAIDEN record. The title-songs starts with a guitar but a few seconds before the guitar starts to play you can hear the some noises of the guitar, the plectron on the strings. This was and still is so exciting to me because I always know that this killer songs starts in just one second - this is like a thriller! I hope you donīt think I am crazy now... Just listen to RAVENīs first longplayer from 1981 (Rock until you drop). These three crazy guys talk and make jokes before they start with the songs - all the time. They make me feel that I am in their rehearsel room. This is a band playing on this record!!
Sure the songs are the most important thing in Heavy Metal. For some ears the early metal stuff sounds like standard rocksongs just played a little harder and louder. Maybe they are, especially in the NWOBHM. But often you find out how good a song really is after you heard it the third time or even more. When I listened to the band SHIVA for the first time I really was not very thrilled. Then I drove in the car and I song came into my mind. It drove my crazy and I found myself looking through all my records for hours just to find this song. It was SHIVAīs "Wild Machine" and since then I like all their stuff.
I also remember when I listened to MANILLA ROADīs "The Deluge" album for the first time. Wow! All those bombastic epic songs, "Taken by Storm", "The Deluge"... I was thrilled and I still am. But there was that one song "Divine Victim". This songs seemed so unspectacular compared to the rest of the material. I always listened to the long and complex songs. After a few weeks I knew every note of these songs and I decided to listen to "Divine Victim" again...and...bummm...today this is one of my all-time-faves of MANILLA ROAD. A really good song, just placed on a record which owns a lot of songs that are much more attractive when you first hear the record.
Sometimes a small thing can make a good song for me. I know it is not metal, but when I listen to "In the air tonight" by PHIL COLLINS I canīt wait until the drum break comes in the song. Three minutes of this song I donīt like but I need them to have the full enjoyment of that (stupid but great) drum-break.
The same with MANILLA ROAD. There are so many great "moments" in a lot of songs. The vocal-line of "Metalstorm" from "Open the Gates" "....some they learn, some they burn...." or the melodyline of the intro of "Dreams of Eschaton". Sometimes I just listen to the DELUGE-song "Taken by storm" because of the drumbreaks when the song begins.
There are a few bands back then and today that have a special spirit. First of all MANILLA ROAD. There is absolutely no comparison to them! Another band that was able to setup a unique style was CIRITH UNGOL. They are often compared to MANILLA ROAD, but that it is absolutely bull***t! They just compare them to the ROAD because you canīt compare MANILLA ROAD to any other band...if you know what I mean. Even the best journalists are helpless when writing about the styles of MR and CIRITH UNGOL. CU made four records in the early 80ies and they were never succesful. I think they have sold more re-released CDīs in 1999 and 2000 than when the original vinyl-records were actual. Donīt expect clear melody vocals in C.U., Tim Baker was a strange singer...but very unique. Most hate the band because of the vocals. Others love the band because of the vocals... They never fit into the metal-scene, because you never found a word for their style. Except of "Frost and Fire", their debut, the music was really heavy but not in the sense of SLAYER or early METALLICA. No, they played mid-tempo songs, often very slow doomy songs that can reach 6 minutes or more. The drum sound was very flat, the sound of the bass was always between a normal basssound and a guitar sound and the guitars were flanged most of the time. It sounds a bit like 70ies rocker try to play Heavy Metal but not in a negative sense. Just listen to their masterpiece "King of the Dead" which was re-released by Metal Blade a few months ago. It is a fact that a lot of MANILLA ROAD fans also love CIRITH UNGOL (especially the fans from Greece!). The same with me even I still canīt understand what they have in common except of being highly unique.
One of the newer bands in this section is the THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG. They already recorded three CDīs (also available as vinyl what seems to be VERY important to the band) and they are hard to discribe... It is metal but not the so-called true metal as you may know it. They own folk influences but they donīt use folk instruments (Thank you!). They sound raw and powerful on their CDīs and the songs contain a lot of killer refrains. It is worth it to check out this band. Their latest CD is available on Dragonheart Records.
So, Heavy Metal is much more than than just the big ones - Metallica, Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Do you know if one of the best metal bands maybe comes from your town but they have no record deal?? Maybe it is like this! I would miss a lot of great bands if I just buy my CDīs in a regular CD-shop. A lot of my actual favorite bands have NO big record deal. Do you know ENERTIA? TEMPLAR? MIDEVIL? TWISTED TOWER DIRE? KRATOS?
After talking so much about the USA and Great Britain I feel that I also have to mention how great French metal was in the 80ies. H-Bomb or Sortilege were killer-bands and even most of the classic TRUST material was cool. VULCAIN were really heavy and BLASPHEME was good too.
For me Heavy Metal is a lifestyle, a hobby, a term to talk about, a way of learning English (I try to!), an inspiration, a history lesson, a form of high-quality music (not always of course!), a way of making friends... When I wake up I think about which CD I will hear in the car when I drive to my job. In the evening I listen to new CDīs I got for my radioshow (thanks god there is a promotion department in every record company!). I talk with other people about the latest released and I read all the mags. I sit here and write an article about my thoughts about Heavy Metal in a foreign language... Of course I will not forget that my first records and my father made me playing drums and now I still hit the skins.
...to be continued...
I am always looking to get in contact with other metal people! Here is my email: firstname.lastname@example.org