Metal-torial: A Tribute to the Metal of Brutal LegendBy JP Shub - Posted Oct 12, 2009
As Brütal Legend prepares to unleash an all-out blitzkrieg on the eyes and ears of gamers around the world, I feel it’s important to take a step back from the controller and turn the critical “Eye of Mordor” on the horn-raising triumph that is the game’s hard-hitting soundtrack. Not only has legendary game maker Tim Schafer created the first legitimate digital romp through the magical world of metal, he’s compiled one of the most amazing tributes ever to rock n’ roll’s most maligned and resilient genre.
Much will be made of the way Brütal captures the culture and grandeur of metal (and rightfully so!), but with more than 100 grade A, Satan-approved prime cuts from over 70 metal masters, the soundtrack of Brütal Legend is a collection that will have even the most jaded metal head banging his feathered mane in approval. From grizzled genre Godfathers like Ozzy and Lemmy to spandex clad pariahs like Firehouse and Dokken, there is no dark corner of metal left unexplored. However, the real triumph of the game is the exposure it gives to bands that never achieved the mainstream recognition they deserved. Carcass, Angel Witch and Saxon are all well-known amongst rabid metal fans, but to the mainstream headbanger who only knows of Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica, they are off the radar (and by no means do I discredit these bands for this, because they rule too). Fortunately, the inclusion of lesser-known acts in a mainstream game will help open virgin ears to a wider variety of penetrating metal, and therein lies the incredible pop culture power of a game like Brütal Legend.
Thanks to the dwindling state of music television, the consolidation of commercial radio and the lingering death of the record store, I believe video games have become the best way for kids to discover new music -- especially metal. The days of a sexy or evil album cover luring a rock-starved teen to pull a record off the shelf are in the past. Nowadays, the angry young masses are discovering the titillating power of stimulating their inner hellions while holding plastic guitars in their hands, or committing acts of virtual slaughter with a kick-ass band driving the action in surround sound. Just look around at any Iron Maiden or Judas Priest show to see the positive effect Rock Band and Guitar Hero have had on exposing these legendary bands to new and younger audiences -- hopefully Brütal Legend will have a similar effect for the many excellently evil, obscure and awesome bands on its soundtrack.
For those of you who are lifelong metal heads and already know the not-so-subtle difference between Megadeth and Manowar -- and have most likely already formed an angry opinion against me and this editorial -- you can skip to the end now and begin flaming the merits of said bands and writer in the comments section below. But for the rest of you, I would like to explore a sampling of some of metal’s lesser-known practitioners included in Brütal and tell you why you need to like and respect -- nay, worship them. They should be appreciated as more than just the background music to your travels in the Deuce, for these are prophets that will lead you down the dimly-lit, left-handed path to heavy metal musical enlightenment.
**Special note: the bands shall be listed in alphabetical order and not ranked on metal importance.**
3 Inches of Blood: Hailing from the frozen wastelands of Vancouver, BC, these crazy Canadians are currently tearing up the metal scene with their unique brand of traditional metal featuring a side order of thrash. They stand head and horns above the pack thanks to their lead singer’s amazing vocal pyrotechnics and their rhythm section’s insane musicianship. They also sing about slaying orcs, and that is just f***ing metal!
Angel Witch: This is one of the defining bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (or as you will see in the game, NWOBHM). Not as well known as Iron Maiden, Diamond Head, or Def Leppard, their influence on future metal bands is no less important. Their brand of ripping guitars, devilish imagery and intricate songwriting helped define the sound of today’s metal. Most of all, they proved that no matter how dumb your lyrics are, as long as they are backed up by a slamming riff and sold in a gnarly-looking album cover you can be metal!
Brocas Helm: Old school Bay Area fantasy metal at its finest. According to the all-knowing oracle of Wikipedia, their unique moniker comes from a piece of armor placed in the Tower of London. So the lesson to be learned here, kids, is that in order to battle the forces of lame pop music with the power of true metal, your band must be named after something that was forged in flames.
Budgie: Born on the ancient battlegrounds of Wales, UK, this harmlessly named group was one of the first bands to rock so hard that they could no longer be considered rock! Doing things their way since 1971, they cleared the path for the NWOBHM to take hold in the late 70s and are widely considered to be among the founding fathers of heavy metal as we know it. Fun fact: Rodger Bain produced their first two albums. Who's Rodger Bain? He's just the guy who produced Black Sabbath’s first three albums as well as Judas Priest’s first album.
Carcass: In the mid-80s these British gore hounds stood severed limb and head above the rest of the emerging death metal crowd. Featuring an unrelentingly brutal sound and matching it with equally brutal album covers, they had splatter rock fans bowing at their blood-soaked feet and created an image and sound that would forever stain some of metal’s heaviest subgenres.
Coroner: Ever hear about that raging Swiss speed metal scene from the 80s? Neither have I, but I have a feeling Coroner dominated it! They should be Eddie Riggs’ favorite band considering they were originally roadies for the legendary Celtic Frost.
Girlschool: Proving that metal can be both hard on the ears and easy on the eyes, these British bad girls proved the NWOBHM wasn’t just a boy’s club. In fact, the valkyries of Girlschool could rock just as hard, if not harder than any of the other bands in the early 80s metal scene.
Manowar: Calling these Sons of Odin a lesser-known band will be offensive to any metal head, especially ones outside of the US. They are absolutely huge everywhere in the world except in their homeland of America, which is a crime because they are possibly the most metal band of all time -- or at least according to their lyrics they are! No guitar solo is too fast, no amp too loud, no battle axe too sharp and no loin cloth too tight for these warriors of true metal. To sum up their mission, I shall quote from their song, “Kings of Metal”:
Manowar, Manowar living on the road
When we're in town speakers explode
We don't attract wimps 'cause we're too loud
Just true metal people, that's Manowar's crowd
Nitro: In the raging Hollywood rock scene of the 80s there was one glam band on the strip who out-screamed and out-shredded all others. Nitro featured the bodaciously-coifed Jim Gillette on lead vocals. Jim was known for his glass shattering scream that had the incredible power to both blow eardrums and turn on groupies. Even more rock is the fact that Mr. Gillette later married 80s metal goddess and Brütal Legend star Lita Ford. Nitro’s guitarist Michael Angelo Batio was no slouch either. His blistering solos and signature “only cool in the 80s” dual neck guitars had other guitarists frantically wood-shedding to try and match his monstrous technique.
Running Wild: Weigh the anchor and hoist the sails 'cuz we are heading to Tortuga Bay with the power of metal! Running Wild invented the unique “Pirate Metal” subgenre and keelhauled maximum booty doing it. Long before Capt. Jack Sparrow came sauntering along, these scoundrels owned the high seas. On a personal note, they are one of my favorite bands of all time and I am thrilled they were picked for the Brütal soundtrack.
Skeletonwitch: Another band that is currently blowing audiences away with their head crushing sonic firepower. Skeletonwitch artfully cooks up their own stew of traditional, thrash and black metal. Old school thrash fans who have been chomping at the bit for a new band worthy of a patch on their denim jacket need to give these hellhounds a good hard listen. Technical. Heavy. Awesome!
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Again, this is just a tiny smattering of the lesser-known aural excitement contained in Brütal Legend, so don’t ask me why I didn’t write about the evil misdeeds of Emperor or the melodic death metal mastery of In Flames, or even the numerous kick-ass Priest and Sabbath songs that are in the game -- just be happy they are all actually there! In my wildest dreams I never would have thought I would be playing a video game featuring any of these bands…much less all of them! Hopefully, thanks to the inclusion of non-commercial music in games like Brütal, I will see a bunch of newly-minted metal heads in the pits of future concerts -- just don’t act like dicks when you get there.
In closing, I would like to leave you with this most important final thought: Slayer rules!
Up the Irons,
Along with being a hardcore Metal Head, JP Shub is Supervising Producer of X-Play. As a member of the band Thunderdikk, he can be found melting the hearts, faces, and souls (yes, those can melt) of the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area. Recount their tales of legend at myspace.com/thunderdikk and purchase their fine music from the iTunes Store.