Deathly Fighters: Metal Punk Fusion
By Ariana Black
I’ve explored, what makes punk “punk” and metal “metal” for several days now. And after all the headaches from reading about the dissent I’ve come to the conclusion that there are so many umbrella terms it would be physically impossible to hold a universal sentiment for what we consider these two terms. Punk and metal have different connotations for every single person. I’m not going to spew out a million definitions regarding it though. Whether you view punk stylistically or for the do-it-yourself and individualistic ethos, this is more about the sounds. There are different spectrums of metal-punk but they are all linked through hybridism. The fusion of punk attitude or some sort of social conscience and uptempo metal riffs or vice versa is the stronghold in making up this shadowed over "subgenre". I hate to even call metal-punk a subgenre because it deserves a name of it’s own standing, but for purposes of not knowing what to call it that’s how I’ll refer to it as. In a Sam Dunn Lock Horns band debate livestream I referred to Motorhead being rooted in punk and thrash most of all, followed by Lemmy’s own witty interpretation where he even claims it himself in an earlier interview. In all honesty, as much as I’ve always wanted to stray away from merging metal and punk, they both borrowed from each other in undisputed ways. The similarities in how aggression is presented musically strike the same chord and I think the best bands need to have a punk or metal aura about them. I take a dip into both the extreme, this includes crossover and the more simplistic.
The essence of metal-punk is best summed up by the band Warfare. They are not the pedestal for metal-punk, that spot forever belongs to Motorhead, but they had the ability to effortlessly craft records that were unique and break the sound barriers simultaneously. The DIY nature is for sure apparent in the funny opening track that features a Sound of Music intro off their Metal Anarchy album. Warefare's work is a blitz attack of speedy riffage. Warfare are also NWOBHM pioneers, featuring heavily in the Metal City DVD alongside Venom, Avenger, and Saracen.
Aside from Warfare, this particular blog is born out of my fascination with Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics. Joining the ranks with Lemmy, her no bullshit rebel rouser attitude coupled with some of the grittiest vocals ever contend for one of the greatest bands that ever existed and even this is an understatement. WoW is crowned "The Metal Priestess", rightfully so. The Plasmatics Coup d'Etat was a revolutionary record in the effort of attempting to merge the two subcultures and in my eyes, a heavy metal/punk masterpiece. In proper Clockwork Orange language, Wendy and the Plasmatics erupt in ultraviolence onstage as evident from all the live footage.
My foray into metal-punk starts with the most well-known of the bands, but for good reason. I remember going into the candy shop with my grandmother across the street from my childhood home. She’d go for her chocolate and cola fix, I’d accompany her to bond because of course candy drives any kid nuts, and never had I seen as much as I did in that little confectionery. Sometimes she would give me change and say, “Go on over to Vinnie’s”. I remember, very vaguely, the owner Vinnie being the absolute sweetest old man. The owner once compared the shop to the Twilight Zone and that’s about right, it's a world of itself, likened to a 50s parlor frozen in time. This said candy land is known as Cardy’s Sugar Bowl in Lodi, New Jersey. I didn't know it still existed today, one of the few places that serves as nostalgia for me, but also gave me a glimpse into my future interests despite knowing it at the time. You know it’s a metal place when the slogan is “Have a bad day”. Upon entrance, it wasn't hard to make out the overhead, it was plastered with a barrage vintage posters. You can get a glimpse of this here. Harley Davidson, Action Comics, Maiden, Hendrix, and the Stones adorned that ceiling. Ones that stood out in particular were the Misfits posters. Jerry Only’s devilock resting on his menacing kohl lined eyes and Danzig looking as if he could even topple a giantess like the fifty-foot woman had my total and full attention. It was Halloween galore and I was enamored. Turns out this candy haven was also a go-to place for the bands members themselves. It wasn't until around nine years later that I would ever actually hear The Misfits in their glory. What they contribute to metal-punk almost does not need to be mentioned. They've practically spawned fans from all paths of music, without intentionally trying to step into any genre to begin with
Straying back to the main function of this blog, the tensions between metallers and punks was one I always understood. Doro Pesch describes an incident playing an early live show at a punk club, stuck playing her set with destroyed instruments after some punks ravaged their equipment. To top the story off, all with a gun being pointed at her. The dispute between the two is even detailed many times in early editions of Creem Magazine's letter column. But what exactly were we quarreling about? To distinguish ourselves or to assert superior taste? I never connected to most punk music much growing up if you want the reality of it… if anything some early 70s punk bands was my territory and that was the extent of it, but as I grow older and expand my musical horizons, falling across lost gems that I had been to stubborn to listen to previously, I’ve come to appreciate the world that this subculture has given rise to.
Tank bridges the divide between New Wave of British Heavy Metal and punk exceptionally. The best way to describe Tank is Warfare's little sister (probably not surprising considering the fact these band's members have collaborated in the past). Algy Ward, the bassist and founder of Tank having been in bands like The Saints and The Damned gives the band automatic punk credentials. Off the bat, Tank has an energetic drive that propels the songs forward. It's one hundred percent clear if you upon hearing their work that they aren't about adhering to conventions which isn't easy to boast about in this day and age.
G.I.S.M. joins the leagues with my favorite metal-punk bands hands down. The frontman, and total madman Sakevi breathes life itself into the band. Not to mention, the late, great Randy Uchida unleashes total destruction on his Gibson Flying V. The guitar work is worthy of being turned up to an eleven and a private air guitar-ing session or two. Japan's premier hardcore punk band and Uchida's solo project Randy Uchida Group are straight from the gods of hellfire. Uchida's "Deathly Fighter" is recognized as a metal anthem today. One person describes G.I.S.M. as, "Iron Maiden on acid while Discharge play in the next room. The brutal and schizophrenic vocal delivery of Sakevi makes you feel like bombs are dropping and one could land on you at any second." The broken English is easy to overlook in favor of the captivating rhythm. Of course G.I.S.M. has it's fair share of psycho (special shoutout to The Mentors) with titles like "Endless Blockades For The Pussyfooter" but that's what makes them G.I.S.M.
The Dictators, New York street warriors. In a time where bands on the scene tried to control their image to a point of nausea, they were one of the first that played with vital force. Their gritty East coast street image matched their gritty rock music. Everyone seems to categorize them as punk rock or at least proto-punk, but to hell with that notion. They have more to their sound that lends them to the metal zone as well thanks to the turbulence and excitement, not to mention taking a liking to the more melodic landscape that speaks in all the guitar solos.
D.R.I., Cro-Mags, S.O.D., and Cryptic Slaughter are the irrefutable kings of crossover thrash. Old school at it's finest, merging hardcore and metal, and a production full of blast beats, all have bred bands from the eighties like Slayer and bands of the modern generation like Municipal Waste. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles' album entitled Crossover stemmed the usage of the term. The early Hirax era, in particular the record Raging Violence is an immaculate example of the heavier possibilities in thrash, the brainchild of heavy metal afficianado Katon W. De Pena. Bands like Wermacht and Carnivore who stick to concepts do justice to the genre by supplying their interpretations as well.