“Fenriz! Tom G! Help me, Steve Harris! Get me back! Get me back, I don’t care what happens to me! Get me back to my black, doom and death! Help me, Nergal, please! Please! I wanna live again. I wanna live again. I want to live again. Please, O Father, let me live again.”
What a metal-listening George Bailey would have said in It’s A Wonderful Life.
It’s been a horrible time recently for heavy metal – ugly stuff in all the wrong ways. Browsing message boards, Facebook, and Twitter, you can’t escape the feeling of a miasma that has (hopefully temporarily) descended on the scene.
But listen here earthlings, there is so much to be proud of in the metal scene, and so much to look forward to. In the end, this stuff is not even background noise. It’s a temporary glitch in the vocal mix at an otherwise killer show. So, now that the debris of the festive season has been mostly cleared away, let’s craft our own twisted and sinister little redemption story. Here are seven reasons to be proud and happy to be a heavy metal fan in 2014/15.
1. We actually reflect and think about our scene.
Surprise everybody – we have a small minority of very unpleasant people amongst us. You know, I knock on a lot of doors doing political campaigning, and I have lost count of the number of times I have faced some highly unpleasant individual spouting racist and/or sexist nonsense. There are fewer of them than you think, but they’re present in every walk of life. The root is usually some form of paranoiac’s fantasy, psychotic sometimes. But these people are few, and it’s how they are handled that defines us. So actually the way heavy metal in general has responded to many of its recent issues has been awesome. Witch hunts of things people may or may not have said decades ago in private are boring and irrelevant – young people can be angry and they misdirect their furious alienation in all kinds of directions. That stuff is not worth the attention. Likewise, though, much as football in the UK is dealing with violent harassment of fans and professionals, we are doing the same. Personally, my response has been to give The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do The Heathen Rage  another spin: extremity par excellence – and the angrier some people get about it, the more my point is proven. So there.
2. There are some exciting albums coming our way (and soon)
Hey everyone, Napalm Death are bringing out a new record, and it is bound to push the creative boundaries. Isn’t it just the best, that a band that has been around this long is still hungry and as extreme as ever? Kreator are releasing a new record. Testament. Even as I write, Craig Hayes has just popped me a message telling me that Pepper Keenan is writing and recording again with Corrosion Of Conformity. Black metal fans can rejoice in Dark Funeral, Marduk, Leviathan and Enslaved bringing out new ones. For the metalpunks out there, Poison Idea return in 2015 with new material. Torche will cheer everyone up. Apparently half of you have already heard the new Caïna already, so well done for that – I can wait patiently.
3. From zero to hero
Thanks to people like Kim Kelly, Craig Hayes, Max Metalbandcamp, Kez Whelan, Cheryl Carter and Tom Saunders, we are bound to discover some great new bands. They will trawl Bandcamp for months and I will fall in love with some obscure German collective crusty black metal troupe or something. It’s going to happen. And it’s going to be great. I’m just grateful that I’m not the one who has to do all the sifting.
4. There’s some newly energised bands hitting the road
Bands are announcing 2015 touring dates all over the globe. One band that comes to mind is Eyehategod, who have already toured the US extensively, and I hope will be coming to the UK shortly. It’s great to have them back and still sounding vital. In other news, there are mixed opinions on Electric Wizard, but I loved the new album and love having them around, especially in their revitalised form.
5. We’re a diverse scene
I take diversity here not as tolerating the Other, but as embracing the Other. That’s the difference, and the challenge posed by our most challenging and exciting contemporary philosopher, Slavoj Žižek. Tolerating someone else is not enough – you have to come to terms with your own fantasies about other people. Or something like that.  You know that feeling of irritation you get at a show and there’s a total scenester-type present – sometimes even faux-moshing? Or the post-work people in suits at a show who have wandered in drunk from an office drinks session to enjoy metal ironically? But, you know, they have paid to be there, and it’s great that new people are discovering metal. Welcome in one and all – enjoy us for a while, and the bands can pocket the extra dough. My new year’s resolution is to actively hug a hipster and/or ironic fan in 2015. Really do it. A big, warm and extended embrace. Now that’s extreme. I am confident in my identity as a metaller, and frankly couldn’t care less what other people think of it or why they’re at the same shows as me. At least we’re interesting enough for other people to take a peek at our sordid little gatherings.
6. A second chance at redemption
Much like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, there are some bands who will get another chance in 2015. Venom, Slayer, Metallica and Black Sabbath will all get the opportunity to produce records that are not only unrubbish, but actually really strong records that energise their fan bases. Come back from the bridge, guys. Imagine what life would have been like without you. Imagine 2015 without the sounds of these bands peppered into the music we love. It is just unthinkable. OK, enough of the Wonderful Life analogies.
The tapes drew me in, but the shows kept me there. Back in my teen years in the early- and mid-90s, I oscillated between alt-rock and metal, in that wonderfully open and naïve way that we do when we remain blissfully unaware of genre boundaries and politics. I was hooked by Slayer, Pantera and Carcass as much as Faith No More, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. How cool is it that youngsters can turn up to metal shows and be welcomed in as fellow brothers and sisters? My defining moment of 2014 was that point at which Behemoth‘s Nergal told his London Forum audience that it was ‘wonderful to be alive’. What an energising moment. It is all that is great about heavy metal. We’re all in this together, and I would have it no other way. So when life gets you down, when the background noise starts crawling under your skin a little too much – pop on ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’. It’s a great time to be alive and a part of heavy metal.