bITS 'N CHUNKS
Dare I say black-black metal.
Well, ship mates, I intended to do this post a LOT earlier in the month, but like quite a bit in my life this cruel quarter of the year it fell by the wayside. BUT I refuse to be late at least in my own time zone, so I wanted to present you all with my favorite subject to digest during February: black people in places we don't usually belong!
As you might realize from my tags and music posts, I'm a big metal fan. Specifically, speed/thrash, groove, some of the early nu-metal when it was still cool and not at all derivative, industrial (and regular Industrial), prog... I could go on. I am and always will be some sort of metal trash.
But in the year of our lord T'Challa 2018, I don't need to tell you that POC representation in the metal scene is... lacking. Ironically, not really in the audience itself, but still on stage. I and many (many) others whether as hobbyists or professionals do these lists of black people in metal every so often and each year it's a struggle. At one point it was so bad that every black-specific list had to be expanded out to include everyone black and brown for coverage. I feel like for every ten years there is one or two more new bands that crop up. A lot of the problem is exposure but a bigger part of the problem that's KIND of getting solved is simply location. For example, a few years ago we learned that many African countries have quite large metal scenes. Do Americans see this? Probably not. Do people in Canada know about goregrind in China or Trinidad & Tobago? I'm willing to bet "no" unless they're on the look out for it.
So, there's that. What do these lists do? Bring attention to the issue and, hopefully, encourage you to go find more for yourself. Finding lists like this and trailing down the bunny hole definitely helped me find my way as a young'un and made the world seem less lonely, so I wish to pass that on to others. For more, I suggest BandCamp and the extremely arbitrary but useful Metal Archives. For reading I suggest Laina Dawes' What Are You Doing Here? memoir.
Now, before you hit the Read More you might be wondering, why black people specifically? There are groupings of all POC in music scenes out there, this seems a little specific. And the true answer to that is, representation and visibility matter E V E R Y W H E R E, I like to see people like me enjoying the things I enjoy, and lastly, why the hell not.
So here we go, a short list of black-black metal artists that inspired my young life. Oh, and song recs.
Fuck what you heard about some Big 4, Hirax and Katon W. De Pena are pretty much the alpha and omega of underground thrash. I don't have a specific rec from them besides "everything", but let's shoot for "Blind Faith".
I cannot rate Living Colour high enough as a black rock/metal act and just as musicians in general, but I know what you're thinking. You definitely need to listen to something besides "Cult of Personality". My favorite tracks by them are actually "Auslander" and "Type".
Damn near a decade ago sites were whispering about a few ladycentric tribute acts to male metal outfits... I do believe Judas Priestess came out the most victorious when Rob Halford himself signed off on them. Militia has her own solo career that is fantastic but please listen to this cover of my absolute favorite JP track, "Electric Eye".
Zeal & Ardor
Zeal & Ardor is quite new so to say they've changed anyone's life yet is pushing it. And they're an anomaly as only the internet age could produce -- a full-fledged, satanic Mars Volta-esque project combining Delta Blues and negro spirituals with chaotic 7-8 strings... started as a complete one off joke. But it's real and it's here, and here is "Devil is Fine".
Unlocking the Truth
I'm not going to lie, Unlocking the Truth was almost a bit too gimmicky to me. Young black boys playing metal and playing it decently well? Blasphemy! Then I took a good long look in the mirror and realized that kind of (racist) gatekeeping is why these lists exists and what keeps fellow POC from accessing this music if they wish. These young men obviously have a passion for their music & while it's not necessarily my lick of metal subgenres, they're not bad at all. Lately, they've shifted from derivative posthardcore to a weird infusion of numetal and Migos and... it works. Here is "My Chains".
At the end of the day, Sevendust was miles ahead of the generation of numetal from whence they sprung and set themselves apart from the pack with mostly clean and soulful vocals, great energy, and beefing with just about every other damn band in the scene (*cough Coal Chamber). For that, and the millions of DBZ AMVs they spawned, they deserve respect. My favorites are "Denial" and "Enemy".
Ice T's metal side project is definitely the most relevant band on this list to me, keeping it truly violent and funky by covering classics like IN-STI-TU-TIONALIZED, going damn near out of his way to employ the best of the best of the Bay Area, and bothering to be somewhat politically and globally conscious. Talk shit, get shot indeed.
This one is big for me because, in the middle stages of my metalheaddom I had finally accepted that the black artists that I actually enjoyed were few and far in between... I was feeling very out of the loop in the wave of toxic white masculinity. Until one morning when, as I was getting ready for school, I saw a music video for a song called "Nobody" for this group called Skindred. My jaw dropped. Not only was the singer black and loc'd out but these guys were clearly from the islands of my father's family. And gasp! A metal video with black people doing black things? White dudes can't even fuck with this group? I don't know what it was, but something in me changed and from then on I've never stopped banging the drum for POC visibility in this scene.
The other big one. Skindred brought you ragga metal, King's X delivers sweet blues and Texas twang and sets it against a progressive landscape with harmonies like the Beatles going to church. Your faves are screaming in agony because Doug Pinnick will NOT take his foot off. Everything is a must but especially "Groove Machine" and "Dogman".
Yes, THAT Nona Hendryx. Formerly of Labelle with Miss Patti (speaking of not letting anyone breathe), Nona is every afropunk kid's dream. Cheating here because she's not metal per se but she gets there on the hardness scale eventually. That being said, here is "SkinDiver".
Alright kids, here we go. Turns out DEATH and Hirax don't necessarily have the strangle hold on the black-led metal scene, and Black Death is an important lesson on why it's important to seek out your elders and realize there's nothing new under the sun, truly. Black Death was recently unearthed despite being something of an early legend in local scenes for a while. YouTube makes sharing things a lot easier these days so if you were thinking all the above is a little soft for you, I implore you to witness the Lemmy-mets-King-Diamond shrieks of "The Scream of the Iron Messiah".
Sepultura is rather... divisive. Were they ever good? Did they stop being good? When? Is Andreas still in the band? I can't pretend to be the biggest Sepultura fan ever regardless of who is fronting the band, but Derrick Green is a mighty fine singer for Sepultura being his second band ever. What a time to be alive. I really love their brutal cover of Ministry's "Just One Fix".
Like Nona, it's a bit cheating to say Skunk Anansie or Skin are metal although they are more than capable of getting up there. But Skin wins for looking metal as fuck. It's not a competition but you win. And "Yes, It's Fucking Political"!
Mother's Finest started making it to these lists when some white kids discovered that there are indeed some rather prominent black goths and not all of them are in their 20s. But as it turns out, Mother's Finest is a funk metal act that your mom remembers and is probably trying to figure out why you're so into them. But listen, listen to "Baby Love" and do yourself a favor.
Animals As Leader
And last but not least, Tobin Abasi emerged as one of the leaders of the djentmeme prof metal multistringed guitar "holy shit you can play bass too?" mountain and to this day will still put you in some kind of way. If you like instrumentals and mind melting pickin' and strummin' please try "Song of Solomon".
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...