by 4th Horseman
On a scorching hot summer day I was driving home from work with the air conditioner not working. Four windows down, sunroof wide open, and Metal Church's "Start The Fire" blasting. Generally, I am not one to drive with music cranked for the outside world to hear, but this was an exception. Under the prevailing circumstances, and the fact that when cranked, "Start The Fire" is just about the best damn song on Earth to drive to, I broke from my quiet Samaritan-like norm. Upon reaching a red light however, a few pedestrians crossed the road as my song hit the chorus - the most badass part of it. Instinctively I turned the volume down as if to respect their right to walk freely without being polluted by Satan's whisperings (or screaming in this case) to burn everything down and start this brawling fire. But in reality, that was not the reason at all. Yes, it had more to do with a sense of self-embarrassment at not only listening to something so cheesy and childish, but also having the audacity to crank it and let everyone around me hear it.
Now, this song is not even remotely in competition for the cheesiest slice of metal. NOT EVEN CLOSE! But why? Why is cheesy metal so damn good? Then I came to terms with a shocker. The majority of what I consider great metal is in fact cheesy and foolish and immature as hell! For the purposes of definition, by "cheesy" I am referring to anything corny, silly, ridiculous and juvenile in metal. In the cleaner sounds, like traditional, power and perhaps some thrash, the vocals are clearly understandable and the impact is harder. But even on the extreme end, we have mozzarella and cheddar dripping from every facet of the spectrum. And that is when I realized that the cornier and cheesier it is – the better!
I picked up an album called "Thrash Assault" some time ago - an album title which obviously took no more than 5 seconds to come up with. It's as basic as it could possibly get. The lyrics on it weren't thought provoking either. But fuck, it's also one of the best damn album titles I could ask for! In two measly words, it told me exactly what I am going to get. And that album thrashed my world. A few months later, imagine my joy when I saw a different album (this time from Finland) called "Deathrash Assault". "Oh good God" I thought! "There must surely be others out there that think such titles are cool." And needless to say, Deathchain's "Deathrash Assault" is one mean piece of metal and is everything the title says it is. I don't know about you, but I see a pattern here.
Now, I don't masturbate to scenic tourism videos or album covers with cold winter forests. I don't get excited reading lyrics about ingenious ways to impale a woman's body. And I really don't fucking want to know what "Octavarium" means! Thank you very much Dream Theater. But when I see a title like "Pure Fucking Armageddon", you better damn well believe it that I want a piece of whatever is on that plastic. And most times than not, a title as ridiculous as that means the music on it is going to rule just the same. It's an unreal connection.
No discussion of stupid metal covers, titles, lyrics and images can be complete without a visit to the wonderful world of black metal. It must be said that pretty much all BM photos have some comical value to them. Particularly the idiots that take themselves too seriously – like this well known retard on the right. Surely, Mr. Fudali is not re-enacting the battle of dead transvestite sluts here. Don't let that kinky dress and posture fool you! He's trying to sell records by wearing that. And it works! It's a little much for me, but I never said I can stomach everything. But there is one outrageous band in the black metal camp that has no equals. And that is of course, our beloved Norwegians - Immortal. Now, despite them having the lamest, crappiest, cheesiest promotional material and "image" ever conceived, which metal fan has the nuts to say Immortal doesn't rule? As cheesy as their photography is, their music is equally boot-to-ass. There is usually a connection between how outrageously ridiculous a band is, with how good it will ultimately be. If you notice, generally the bands that are cheesy and immature are pretty confident that their music is good enough. In a sinister sort of way, they are saying "I can prance around in my undies with a sword in my hand, but that won't stop you from liking my music because it is that good." Cocky buggers! And that's pretty damn metal. This may not be the case for everyone, but judging by the sheer quantity of ludicrous lyrics, photos, titles and band names out there, I know damn well I'm not alone in this assessment...
Look at early Venom, Celtic Frost, or Sodom! That's what you call molten mozzarella! But they rule just as much. Not just that, these bands were also the defining future, the platform of what extreme metal would later be. So don't even deny it. Manowar are the poster boys of cheesy metal because they are so shamelessly open and in your face about it. And perhaps because Eric Adams has such a grand and clean voice that every word hits you like a sledgehammer. But that doesn't mean they are the only culprits. All our big boys are often just as bad. And I love'em for it! "Bestial Invasion of Hell"? "Scream Bloody Gore"? "Welcome to the slaughter… I hope you are having fun!" I can go on forever. Even bands like Iron Maiden who have well thought out songs… even they feel the need to throw in a little bit of fun sometimes. Or just look at Eddie! Can you take him seriously even for a moment? Shall we dig into some Rhapsody, Dream Evil or Dragonforce? Bear in mind that with the exception of perhaps Deathchain, all names, albums, images and lyrics mentioned thus far, aren't from some unknown and obscure bands. These are big names. The biggest! Just the very surface of metal's pride and glory! So you can just imagine the goodies that lay underneath. So don't kid yourself. Metal is cheese. A massively huge chunk of it is anyway.
Clearly, I'm not making any scientific point here. I am just penning some random thoughts that were derived from one summer afternoon – the crux of it being that the cheesier and cornier it is the better. Maybe it's the same for you. And it's not about being thick and brainless to have tastes like this. Most metalheads, including myself, do enjoy more serious and stimulating albums as well. But they are two very different kinds of entertainment. There are boatloads of great bands that I love that don't have a shred of silliness about them. But the joy in childish lyrics, album titles, and band names has more to do with just being basic, straightforward and fun. Because really, the cheesy stuff is where the fun is at. Even if you are singing about Satan and his infernal armies coming to destroy the Earth; when you keep it blunt and straight to the bone, it's better than the clowns that take such concepts a little too seriously. You know… don't try too hard on the "image" or "gimmick" or "shock value". Because that is really what cheese is about. Once you start taking your gimmick too seriously, you've ventured out of the realms of cheese and into something totally else. But that's another rant for another day. The whole point is entertainment; and ultimately it is your music that will do the bidding. These gimmicks are just enough to spark interest or create distinction. If you keep it direct like the founders did, then you're set. That's where the molten mozzarella comes in and that's where the fun begins.
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