A Legacy of Metal

This week Adam gives us a heavy metal primer…

Metal is an undeniably massive force that cannot be reckoned with. There are many different types of metal, all defined based on the sound and overall theme of the music. One of the most common types is heavy metal. Heavy metal was started in the ’70s by Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath differed from the bands before them because they had a much darker, more ominous sound to their music.

At that time, rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones were staying with the classic rock elements. Other groups, such as Pink Floyd, incorporated a psychedelic rock aspect into their classic rock sound. Until Black Sabbath came around though, these bands were for the most part on the “safe side” of rock. When Sabbath released their first album, critics instantly accused them of being evil Satanists. This was due to front man Ozzy Osbourne’s gloomy lyrics about the occult. Another component was the use of the flat 5th in the song “Black Sabbath.” This note was always referred to as the “Devil’s note,” and it was even at one time believed that by playing it, one could summon the Devil. Black Sabbath uses this note time and time again in their self-titled track “Black Sabbath.” More bands would soon follow, such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Def Leppard. These groups were all British, so it is commonly stated that England is the birthplace of heavy metal.

RattOnce the movement hit America, it started undergoing changes. It began with a more pop-friendly commercial sound, which became known as glam metal. This genre was responsible for bands like Ratt (pictured at right), Poison (below left), and Mötley Crüe (below right). One of the common themes of this genre is the way the bands would dress. The members would wear feminine clothing and makeup; this is what started the name glam metal or glam rock. This look, mixed with the poppy lyrics about love and relationships, created a highly mainstream sensation. The music consisted of simple time structures with high pitched vocals. The guitars would sometimes offer good riffs and technical solos, but for the most part the appeal of the genre was lost on the metal fan base, who wanted something heavier.

Glam Rock

A lot of people got tired of the Glam scene and began craving a harder, heavier sound. It was out of this that speed metal was formed. The first band that revolutionized this movement was Metallica. People were instantly drawn to their heavy sound and musical integrity. Musical integrity means the integrity of the song writing and overall performance; it relies on the energy level of the song and its connection with the audience. The relationship between bands like Metallica or Slayer with their audience was much more aggressive and loyal than any other form of music up until that time. These bands played faster, heavier, and with more energy, and as a result made a much stronger connection with fans in the heavy metal scene. They gripped the heavy metal underground and quickly became legends. Soon to follow were Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. These three bands, along with Metallica, became known as the Big Four.

Thursday Three #3: Age Will Not Weary Them

Today’s Thursday Three, our weekly assortment of oddities in triplicate, falls on April 25th, which is Anzac Day down under—a national day of remembrance. The acronym ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, whose members fought for the Allies in the First World War. And the date marks the start of the (disastrous) Battle of Gallipoli, the first major campaign in which the Anzac forces took part. (In total, 100,444 New Zealanders would serve in the war—roughly 10% of our population at the time—and we suffered one of the highest death rates per capita of any country involved.)

ANZAC DayFollowing the Second World War, Anzac Day’s commemorative scope was broadened, and it became a day of general remembrance for all those lost in battle. Every year on April 25th, people all over New Zealand and Australia don red poppies, attend dawn services, and trade stories about great-uncles who never made it home. So, if you’ll forgive this soppy antipodean disruption to our regular services, let’s do our bit with an Anzac Day Three.

1. When I was a kid, the BBC sitcom Blackadder was my favorite TV program, and my father and I watched every episode together (my mother found it too silly). For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it follows the exploits of Edmund Blackadder, a cynical and cowardly chap who attempts to improve his lot in life through a variety of “cunning schemes.” Each series was set in a different historical period: Blackadder first does his wheeling and dealing in the English royal court at the end of the Middle Ages; in the next series he reappears (as the great-grandson of the original Blackadder) as a Lord during the reign of Queen Elizabeth; and then he pops up again as the Prince of Wales’ butler during the Regency period. Finally, for the show’s fourth season, poor Blackadder must serve as a Captain during the First World War.

This last series starts off much like the rest: finding himself in a bit of a pickle (i.e. in a trench in Flanders), the wily Blackadder employs various farcical schemes in order to achieve his objective, which in this case is to land himself a cushy military desk job as far from the front line as possible. The series parodied the conditions of life on the Western Front, but it never strayed too far from the show’s typical ribald silliness—it was business as usual, comedy-wise, with the familiar daft jokes about weasels and willies and potatoes. (As you’ll see in the clip below, Blackadder takes constant delight in mocking the last name of his nemesis, the upper-class twit Captain Kevin Darling.)

So imagine me and my dad sitting down to watch the very final episode, excited to see how Blackadder will once and for all escape the battlefield. A cunning plan involving a pigeon and a cigarette, perhaps? Or will Captain Darling return to England’s posh green fields and let Blackadder take over his job as the General’s chief pajama folder? Nope, not going to happen. Blackadder’s luck runs out, and in the show’s closing scene the cackles on the laugh track become hesitant, then trail off. The jaunty theme tune slows to a funereal dirge. And my dad and I had to keep swallowing the lumps in our throats as we watched the final moments of Captain Blackadder:

2. Conscientious objectors didn’t fare much better. New Zealand pacifist Archibald Baxter (1881-1970) refused to serve during the First World War—he claimed “all war is wrong, futile, and destructive alike to victor and vanquished”—but they sent him to the Western Front anyway, where he was beaten and tortured by army officers in an effort to get him to cooperate. He steadfastly refused to obey military orders, and was eventually subjected to Field Punishment Number One, also known as “the crucifixion,” an ordeal he recalls in his autobiography, We Will Not Cease:

field[The sergeant] took me over to the poles, which were willow stumps, six to eight inches in diameter and twice the height of a man, and placed me against one of them. It was inclined forward out of perpendicular. Almost always afterwards he picked the same one for me. I stood with my back to it and he tied me to it by the ankles, knees and wrists. He was an expert at the job, and he knew how to pull and strain at the ropes till they cut into the flesh and completely stopped the circulation. When I was taken off my hands were always black with congested blood. My hands were taken round behind the pole, tied together and pulled well up it, straining and cramping the muscles and forcing them into an unnatural position. Most knots will slacken a little after a time. His never did. The slope of the post brought me into a hanging position, causing a large part of my weight to come on my arms, and I could get no proper grip with my feet on the ground, as it was worn away round the pole and my toes were consequently much lower than my heels. I was strained so tightly up against the post that I was unable to move body or limbs a fraction of an inch…

A few minutes after the sergeant had left me, I began to think of the length of my sentence and it rose up before me like a mountain. The pain grew steadily worse until by the end of half-an-hour it seemed absolutely unendurable. Between my set teeth I said: “Oh God, this is too much. I can’t bear it.” But I could not allow myself the relief of groaning as I did not want to give the guards the satisfaction of hearing me. The mental effect was almost as frightful as the physical. I felt I was going mad. That I should be stuck up on a pole suffering this frightful torture, a human scarecrow for men to stare at and wonder at, seemed part of some impossible nightmare that could not continue.

Baxter’s autobiography was required reading when I was at high school, and for that it got filed in the BORING BOOKS section of my brain. But picking it up again as an adult, I’m amazed by Baxter’s courage and resilience. He recounts his experiences with incredible humility, and he makes a point of recording the many acts of kindness shown to him by the ordinary soldiers. His plain, straightforward prose reveals no bitterness, only sadness and bewilderment. It’s a moving account of the consequences of dissent.

I remember before I reached the front meeting men who had been there and thinking they looked hard and strange. Their faces had a drawn look and they seemed to have eyes like eagles. Now that I was amongst them I did not notice this. They seemed ordinary, but new arrivals looked as gentle as sheep.

3. And what do we do on Anzac Day? On Anzac Day we search the house for war memorabilia. There’s a box of medals in the drinks cabinet; no one can remember who the Star of Burma belongs to. There are also letters from my great-uncle Eric, who served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles during the First World War. He spent most of 1915 in Turkey, his horse tethered to a tree. He writes to his mother:

I forgot to tell you in my last letter that we had seen quite a number of swallows; the first we saw was on New Year’s Day, and we have seen them on several occasions since.

We are all hoping and living for the day we shall be in the thick of it, and it shouldn’t be long now—there are hundreds of our infantry boys to be avenged, some battalions were almost wiped out. But you needn’t worry too much about us, Mater, as there is a ten to one chance in our favour, and things are not quite what the papers say. Don’t believe all you read in them.

He was killed at Gallipoli a few weeks later.

My grandfather’s records from the Second World War are kept in the writing desk, beneath the Christmas wrapping paper. He would never talk about the war, and there isn’t much to go on; just an army logbook and a bundle of pay slips. He served in the Pacific for 796 days, and for this he received £39.16. He took with him to war a pocket-size New Testament and a photo of his wife.

His brother Harold also fought in the Second World War, in Tunisia, and tucked inside the logbook is a letter to their mother from Harold’s Company Commander:

Dear Mrs Hill,

I saw your son killed. It happened during an attack on a strong enemy position in front of the village of El Hamma, in the Mareth Line. He was with 2nd Lt. Friend (since wounded), his Platoon Commander, and his section, mopping up German pockets of resistance. He was endeavouring to get some Germans out of the bottom of a trench, but was shot through the head at very close range. He died instantaneously.

On Anzac Day we wear crepe-paper poppies and thank our lucky stars.


Malvern Books recently spent some time in Concord, Massachusetts, and I can highly recommend it as a vacation spot for lit-nerds (and also grape aficionados).

First up, you should plant your feet firmly on the North Bridge, site of the first proper battle of the Revolutionary War, and recite the opening lines of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn”:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

From the bridge it’s a very short walk to The Old Manse, which was built by Emerson’s grandfather in 1770. As a young boy, Emerson’s father was able to observe those first few shots of the revolution from an upstairs window, which must have made for quite an exciting morning.

The Old Manse

In 1834, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) moved to the Manse, and he wrote the draft of his famous essay “Nature” there, which puts forth the foundations of transcendentalism. Emerson married the following year and bought a house nearby, which he named, oddly, Bush. He lived there for the rest of his life.

Nathaniel HawthorneIn 1842, newlyweds Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) and his wife Sophia rented the Manse for $100 a year. Since brushed chrome toasters and Le Creuset cookware had not yet been invented, their pal Thoreau planted a vegetable garden for them as a wedding gift. Nathaniel and Sophia were batty about each other, and on a tour of the Manse you’ll see the poems they wrote for each other etched into the Manse’s windowpanes with Sophia’s diamond ring. You’ll also meet Longfellow, Hawthorne’s spooky stuffed owl, which he would hide around the house to frighten his wife. Alas, after three happy years at the Manse (during which Hawthorne wrote a tribute to the house called Mosses from an Old Manse), the Hawthorne’s were evicted for not paying rent.

And speaking of Mr. Thoreau: yes, his famous pond is not far away. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) did his deliberate living at Walden from July 1845 to September 1847, on land owned by Emerson (and you thought the Austin literary world was incestuous!). Emerson agreed to let Thoreau conduct his “experiment in simplicity” and build a house on the land, in exchange for Thoreau clearing the woods. Thoreau’s one-room cabin is no longer intact (there’s a replica near the car park, and Concord Museum has the cabin’s bed, chair, and desk on display), but the foundations are still there, on the northern shore of the pond. If you’re a raging hippie you can visit the site, say a prayer to the gods of self-reliance, and add another rock tribute to this pile of rocks:


If you’re a cynic, you can sneer at the railway tracks that run behind the cabin (they were there in Thoreau’s day, too), and point out that Emerson and also Thoreau’s parents lived a mere twenty-minute walk away. (To be fair to Thoreau, he does make it clear in Walden that he was not living out in the wopwops.) After his time in the woods, Thoreau moved in with the Emersons at Bush.

Louisa May AlcottThe next two stops on your whirlwind tour should be the Concord homes of Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) and her family. When Alcott was a child, she lived briefly at Fruitlands, near Harvard, an agrarian commune founded by her somewhat hapless father, who admired his friend Emerson’s back-to-nature philosophies. Sadly, Fruitlands lasted only seven months—none of the resident transcendentalists turned out to have much of a knack for farming—and the family returned to Concord. In 1845, with the help of a loan from Emerson, they bought a home they called The Hillside; many of the incidents in Little Women are based on Alcott’s childhood there. However, Louisa May’s father was unable to support his family, and in 1852 they were forced to sell the home to Hawthorne, who renamed it The Wayside (Hawthorne had moved up in the world; The Scarlet Letter had been published in 1850, and was an immediate best seller).

The Alcotts moved to Boston for a few years, before returning to Concord in 1858 to purchase the adjacent Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in her room on a tiny half-moon desk built for her by her father.

Orchard House

The book was an instant commercial and critical success, and Louisa May Alcott was able to make good on at least two of the three promises she recorded in her diary at age fifteen: “I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!” She died of a stroke at age fifty-five, and is buried in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, on a hillside near Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau.

If you need a rest after all this literary sightseeing, you can check in at the terribly old (1716) and supposedly haunted Colonial Inn, where Thoreau lived from 1835 to 1837 while he attended Harvard. Have a stiff drink in the wood-paneled bar, and reflect on how Concord’s mid-nineteenth-century literary scene seems a lot like today’s literary scene: it’s a tiny, tiny world where everyone knows everyone else, and for every jammy bastard who strikes it rich—you go, Louisa May!—there are a hundred impoverished scribblers who have no choice but to gift their newlywed friends a bunch of shitty vegetables.

Bloody Good

Today Adam introduces us to a bloody brilliant Brooklyn band…

Type O NegativeType O Negative was a gothic metal band formed after the dissolution of the hardcore band Carnivore in 1987. Peter Steele, who played bass and was the lead vocalist, formed the band in Brooklyn, New York. The band would go platinum in 1993 and eventually go gold in 1996. Few could deny front man Peter Steele’s talent as both a songwriter and a musician. Many eager fans waited in anticipation for the release of his next band’s debut after Carnivore broke up, and in 1991 the wait finally ended with the release of the album Slow, Deep and Hard.

The album contained seven songs but because of their long durations, it still clocked in at an hour’s length. Fans noticed a more solid use of tempos and slow rhythms in contradiction to Peter Steele’s former band, which was known for its rapid speed and intensity. There was a notable difference in the lyrics as well. While Carnivore’s lyrics consisted of highly controversial subject matter, which ranged from hatred of Catholics to the advocacy of violent sexual assault and everything in between, Type O Negative’s lyrics were almost entirely about romance and relationship troubles. These lyrics still displayed the same gritty, nihilistic tone that Peter Steele was known for. The song “Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity” contained such charming passages as “You had cock on your mind and cum on your breath / You inserted that diaphragm before you left… / I know you’re fucking someone else.”

The band released Bloody Kisses in 1993, which would go platinum. Upon its release, however, fans were in a state of shock. Peter Steele’s hard-core influenced screaming was no longer to be heard, and was replaced by a smooth baritone vocal. This low baritone style of singing would soon become one of Steele’s new trademarks in music. It was with this album that Type O Negative was able to reinvent itself as a goth metal band. The band followed in 1996 with the album October Rust, which featured classic songs such as “Love You to Death,” “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend,” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.”

Type O Negative would go on to release three more albums before the tragic death of Peter Steele. All that was released in regards to the cause of his death was that it was due to heart failure. Although he is no longer with us, the music world will never forget the undeniable talents and musical masterpieces brought forth by Peter Steele during his time on this earth.

Poetry, F

And now for the fourth installment in Malvern Books’ arbitrary and occasional Poetry Month A-Z series…

F is for Frame, Janet

Janet FrameJanet Frame (1924-2004) is New Zealand’s most acclaimed author. She wrote eleven novels and four short story collections (I recommend her novels Owls Do Cry and Living in the Maniototo, and also Prizes: The Selected Stories of Janet Frame), and was a nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. And she’s also pretty well known for being the big ol’ ginger weirdo in Jane Campion’s film, An Angel at My Table, an adaptation of Frame’s autobiographical trilogy of the same name. (Frame’s personal history makes for harrowing reading/viewing: she was wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia, received over two-hundred electroshock treatments, and was days away from a scheduled lobotomy when news came through that her first published short story collection had won a major literary prize.)

But Frame-the-poet gets less attention, though poetry was very dear to her. She referred to it as “the highest form of literature,” and in a 1979 interview she said, “Poetry is my first love.” However, Frame’s belief that a poem must be perfect—“you can have no dead wood in a poem”—made it difficult for her to ever declare a verse finished, and she published just one poetry collection in her lifetime (The Pocket Mirror, 1967). After her death, her niece, Pamela Gordon, and two fellow poets, Denis Harold and Bill Manhire, released The Goose Bath, a selection of over a hundred of Frame’s unpublished poems (the title comes from the old garden fountain in which she kept her not-quite-finished work). Frame might not have considered her poetry entirely “real” or “successful,” but the work in The Goose Bath is beautiful nonetheless, full of rich imagery, a sense of mischief, a novelist’s inventiveness (we are addressed by a brain tumor, the Guggenheim, a piano), and a profound love of the natural world (birds and cats abound).

I Take Into My Arms More Than I Can Bear To Hold

I take into my arms more than I can bear to hold
I am toppled by the world
a creation of ladders, pianos, stairs cut into the rock
a devouring world of teeth where even the common snail
eats the heart out of a forest
as you and I do, who are human, at night

yet still I take into my arms more than I can bear to hold

* * *

from “Tenant”

No, he didn’t bath. He never turned the radio up loud.
He came from somewhere the back of beyond
where they sit under lemon trees, and ask
riddles of giant vermilion cattle with white faces.

One thing in his life—there was a tortoise.
Like a crude brooch worn across his heart, it sat
brown and flat and quiet—except
it sparkled when he spoke to it.

Thursday Three #2

Today’s happy threesome is themed for your convenience, and that theme is the weekend’s nationwide bookish events.

First up, if you’re in Houston on Saturday you really should stop by the sixth annual Houston Indie Book Festival. According to the press release, “the event serves as a spotlight on the writers, artists, journals, presses, independent bookstores, and organizations that are committed to preserving and promoting the arts and humanities within Houston, Austin, Louisiana, and the entire Gulf Coast region.” There’ll be a ton of literary journals and indie press books for sale, plus live music and OMG FOOD TRUCKS. And best of all, we’ll be there, wearing our Host Publications hat (similar to this), to take part in a panel discussion with Grey Gecko Press, JoSara MeDia, and Write Bloody Publishing. We’ll be chatting about what makes small presses so special (and so challenging), and there’ll be a Q & A afterwards, so please do stop by the tent on the eastern lawn of the Menil building at 1.30pm to heckle us fondly.

The Last BookstoreNext, let’s check out The Last Bookstore in downtown LA, for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books After Party, starting at 7pm on Saturday. The event is open to the public, and alcohol will be served, which means you can get a little tipsy and make awkward small talk with the good people from Granta and Bookforum. You should also explore the bookstore itself, which is an amazing, cathedral-like space; it was recently listed as one of the twenty most beautiful bookstores in the world.

Finally, after a good night’s sleep, let’s pomade our outlandish mustaches and head east for the Brooklyn Zine Fest, which will be held on Sunday from 11am to 6pm at Public Assembly in Williamsburg. More than eighty zine creators (zineators? ziners?) will be displaying their wares, including artist Chris Piascik, whose Typostruction zine features a combination of cool typography, whimiscal illustrations, and… cats.

Chris Piascik