I knew that the Ouroboros funding story had gone mainstream when my mum called me up to ask if I knew them. No, mum. I haven’t met them. I’ve heard two of their tracks and it didn’t do anything for me. I like my heavy metal to be ridiculously heavy.
For anyone not familiar with the story, it goes like this: Midweight Aussie melodic deathmetal band Ouroboros get $20k of arts funding from the government to spend on using a real dinky-di orchestra on their next album. Conservative radio host pensioner Neil Mitchell rants on his popular radio slot about how death metal is not music and how this is a waste of taxpayer money.
Metalheads around Australia then react like this:
Now, you can either read the comments section on the link I posted above or you can check out this article “in defense of metal music” which thoughtfully summarises and articulates the position of Australian metal to Mitchell’s hatchet job. And it’s to Australian Metal I want to say the following very important thing, which everyone seems to have forgotten:
People like Neil Mitchell aren’t supposed to like or understand death metal.
Now maybe it’s my age showing here but when I grew up, metal OFFENDED THE FUCK out of everyone. That was its purpose. It wasn’t meant to be a safe little burlesque Alice-Cooperish shock. Deicide were burning crosses into their fucking heads. Cannibal Corpse were releasing songs like “I Cum Blood”. Even softcock hair-metal crap like W.A.S.P. usually featured a picture of Blackie Lawless dismembering himself with a chainsaw.
Gigs could get intimidating. You were a gutsy chap if you went to some of the shows. My mum nearly had a heart attack whenever she walked past the old “Extreme Aggression” shop in Flinders Lane, and I was forbidden from consorting with such people. The music was fucking angry. What struck you first about ‘Reign In Blood’, huh? It’s delicate instrumentation, or the 100 gigaton explosion of great vengeance and furious anger that reached out from the stereo and violated you?
And now we all get in a strop because some old fogey announcer doesn’t understand the artistic nuances of death metal? Give me a fucking break. Man, I grew up when Couchman had his shock-horror episode about death metal featuring live performances from Necrotomy. It seemed every six months, there’d be another special on TV warning about Satan in metal. I take it as an indication of how far metal has fallen that it has taken this fricking long for the usual mainstream commentators to find something in heavy metal to complain about. The day the Neil Mitchells, Andrew Bolts, and Alan Joneses of the world start appreciating metal’s fine, hard-won technical musical skill is the day I switch shit up and start sampling babies getting fed into woodchippers for distorted 30,000 BPM remixes. Metal is not meant to be safe, it’s not meant to be liked, it’s not meant to be understood, and it is supposed to fill every non-metalhead in listening distance with a violent urge to flee to quieter, dumber music.
STOP WITH THE IMPASSIONED SPEECHES ON THE MERITS OF THE MUSIC. You all remind me of that idiot english kid who thought it would be a laff to wear the Cradle of Filth t-shirt of the nun having a wank to school, then got in a tizz when they suspended him. I happily applaud anyone who provokes, but if you complain about receiving a reaction to your provocation then you are an idiot who deserves mockery. It’s the same deal if you’re listening to death metal. It’s wonderful music that provokes. Upset that people don’t get it, but still want to be an arty-farty airy-fairy musician? Then go listen to some Frank Gambale, you skirt.
Despite me ripping on almost every single person who has commented on this 3AW funding wankathon, this doesn’t make people’s arguments about the merits of the death metal any less valid. It IS funny to hear normals complain about not understanding metal lyrics (quick, off the top of your head what’s the chorus to Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”? The verses to Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box”?) But make no mistake, the roots of death metal are in shock, awe, and offense so don’t be surprised when people are shocked or offended by it. Furthermore, if you’re in an extreme metal band and people AREN’T getting shocked by what you’re doing, take a good hard long look at yourselves.
To anyone frabjous enough to think that Neil Mitchell’s commentary might impact arts funding for death metal, I’ll firstly say WHAT?! And secondly I’ll inform you that a number of high profile Australian metal bands have received government funding before, usually in the form of small business loans. Not quite as juicy as a freebie $20k, but still a nice little assist. These have always flown under the newsworthy radar and unless funding rules change these loans will continue to be available. See, it’s all part of the trade off of having to register an Australian Business Number when you start gigging, isn’t it? …NOT.
And a huge high-five has to go to Ouroboros. They may have got $20k in funding but they’ve managed to get $250k in publicity. I’d consider Neil Mitchell an honorary metalhead for the amount of exposure he has managed to get the genre this week. All Hail Neil.
* obviously a doctored photo. Neil doesn’t wear blue shirts