2016 has been a tough, disappointing and perhaps even tragic year for many people. Despite some very real bright spots and positive innovations, there is an ominous and uncertain feeling among many of us as the year draws to a close. But luckily enough, great art is always there as a refuge, and great writing about great art always helps as well.
So with that in mind, here are my five favorite Decibel articles from the website in 2016. Most of these were actually interviews or discussions. This isn’t meant as a slight against any of the excellent editorials, premieres or news items that came out. Rather there were genuine cases where I felt like I’d learned something new or interesting about the artist. But anyway, I won’t belabor this anymore, you’ll have plenty of reading to do with the list below:
1. Death Metal vs Black Metal: Book Authors Face Off
My favorite article of the year was probably the interview/back-and-forth between Decibel editor Albert Mudrian and author Dayal Patterson. The two were talking about their respective books, Choosing Death and The Cult Never Dies: Volume One (part of Dayal’s series on black metal). I’ve interviewed Dayal a couple times myself and I was stoked to see him chat with Albert about the two pillars of extreme metal. One interesting tidbit was Dayal’s discussion of Lords of Chaos:
I think it’s a somewhat flawed but often interesting read. There’s some engaging ideas and some good interviews in there but it’s also unfortunately presents a rather distorted picture of black metal. It only focuses on the more controversial aspects of the early to mid nineties scene and a lot of statements made by the bands were essentially posturing for the benefit of an outsider and so it became something like a caricature.
2. That Tour Was Awesome: Ministry/Helmet/Sepultura (1992)
If only I’d been old enough to go see this tour. Granted, I got to see Ministry in 2008, but to see them in the Psalm 69 era must have been something else. My favorite moment of this article was of course Max Cavalera recounting his experience throwing up all over Eddie Vedder outside a show in Seattle:
In Seattle there were the Soundgarden guys and Pearl Jam. And I got out of control. It was one of those things where I was drinking right after our set and went to the Ministry bus and kept chugging rum and one more chug of the rum and it all came back up. Eddie Vedder was sitting next to me and I unleashed all over his legs. He was surprisingly very friendly about it.
3. Krieg’s Neill Jameson on Antifa and the Danger of Self Righteousness
Perhaps harkening to our country’s puritan heritage, the internet outrage machine was in full effect this year. This certainly includes the world of heavy metal. Usually this consists of innocuous sniping on social media and hot-takes that apparently people think will endure beyond the unremarkable incident itself. But sometimes people take things a step too far. Neill Jameson of Krieg had a lot to write about this year, but I thought this piece was his best:
I’m entirely for freedom of speech and expression, I think it’s one of the only principles this country was founded on that will always apply. But I’m also a firm believer that freedom of speech does not come without freedom from consequence. If you spout off something someone finds grossly offensive, then don’t be surprised if they don’t shove your teeth down your throat. But this didn’t really hit its target, did it? Instead it punished people who were there to see a few bands, get drunk and probably piss in their Uber on the ride home. And it did it after the largest mass shooting this country has seen in our lifetimes. That’s indefensible no matter how much you can argue about the perceived morality of the intent.
4. Back to School Special: English & History with Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates
Funny, I had no idea Tomas Lindberg was a teacher! Here he is talking about what connects his musical life with teaching:
I would say both jobs [are] about reaching people, meeting people in a way. Of course, with metal music you reach people in one way, with a certain direct emotion, hopefully, with your music; in teaching, you’ve got to reach them more intellectually, and grab their attention. I guess, in every teacher and/or singer there’s a little bit of some need to be seen always. It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with because I don’t see myself as that kind of person really. But my students say I talk a lot [laughs] and that I like my own voice a little bit. I think it’s kind of like getting a point across, opening eyes, opening minds… It’s an important thing for me.
5. Norma Jean Get Different on Polar Similar
Corey Putman gives a good interview. He has a very thoughtful approach to talking about his music, his faith and how the two are intertwined. A lot of people may expect someone from a “Christian” band to have some sort of wide-eyed, country-bumpkin kind of outlook, but that’s not the case at all:
I never really saw it as this separatist kind of thing. But I think what more or less has happened is that it became more integrated into the heavy-music scene… for the most part. We’ve been on tour with bands that were Christian, and some that were very, very against it. And everyone got along, and the music still had this bond. Everyone still heard the music the same, and that’s the coolest thing to me. I always say music can’t have a belief; it’s a sound. A sound can’t have a belief. But I still sing from a place where my faith comes into play, but, really, I’ve always written about more personal experiences.
Have a happy, safe and heavy new year in 2017!