A brash look at metal’s foray into the lighter side of music as some of the biggest names of the genre serenade and show us they are human beings too.
As a general rule of thumb amongst music aficionados, heavy metal and harder edged rock music are not the typical genres to find heart felt, ballad esque songs to evoke and pluck at the heartstrings. Often considered to be soft and, dare it be said, too emotional for long haired, uber masculine head thrashers, they like their strumming fast, drums thrashing and symbols crashing all the while listening to lyrics about death, hatred, mystical landscapes and of course, Old Nick. But looking back over the past forty or so years it has become apparent that these metal heads have a softer side to them also as the depths of hell are examined to reveal several calmer, more touching numbers from some of metal and rock’s hard men.
Kicking off this tour of the more enlightened and softer side to metal music is, quite fittingly the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy, for most accounts can be heartily considered as one of the all time metal giants, from his groundbreaking work in the genre with Black Sabbath to his solo career and his unfathomable wit that has made him a branded global superstar. So how could this drug fuelled, raging alcoholic hell raiser ever turn his hand to something as soft as a turgid love song. That comes in the form of “Changes” from the Black Sabbath album Black Sabbath Vol. 4. With a lonesome piano from TVs Rick Wakeman, this tribute to a lost love is as far away a change in direction for the Brummy mentalist and his metal mayhem as is physically, psychologically and stomach churningly possible.
Acoustic guitars, tributes to his estranged wife and a tempo and composition that sounds more than a little like the theme song to “The Chipmunks go to The Movies” cartoon from the early nineties. Ozzy’s rap sheet expands with his 1992 effort “Mama I’m coming home”. This overly produced gag fest cannot even be saved by a considerably enjoyable Zakk Wylde solo midway through the gushing lyrics aimed at Sharon Osbourne whom he affectionately calls Mama, a psychiatrist’s field day. Hard to believe this was co-written by old wart face Lemmy of Motorhead fame, three must have really been something in the water.
Up next in the witness stand is American glam and hair metal rockers Poison. Their 1988, second studio album Open Up and Say…Ah was hailed and revered by critics at the time of its initial release. Mixing a devilishly charming blend of sexually driven, good time partying and general carrying on themed songs like “Nothin’ but a Good Time”, “Tearin’ Down the Walls” and “Look but You Can’t Touch”, listeners are then treated to the pseudo country, softest sounding rock ballad, possibly of all time, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” From the bowel busting lyrics, “But I wonder does he know/ Has he ever felt like this” being a particular stand out reference to a DJ playing what can only be presumed to be as wet a song as this one. Poison’s Brett Michaels would later go on to be the self styled star of another sex tape featuring Pamela Anderson, not a considerable feat of genius but it can only be presumed that this song, affectionately and squirmingly known by fans as “Every Rose” for short was kept off of his mix tape for her.
To round off this name and shame list of metalers who, in their moments of weakness go over to the light side are a band who, to casual fans, would not be immediately considered candidates for a list such as this. Dressed in torn boiler suits and hidden behind macabre, hideous masks are Iwoa’s very own Slipknot. The offending material is the track “Snuff” from their typically bleak titled fourth album All Hope is Gone. This song, although admitted by the band’s frontman Corey Taylor as a “slow one” continues the over produced, rather ham fisted approach that this band have made millions from for the better part of fifteen years. Peddled as a post goth and emo anthem that had pubescent metal loving boys and girls the world over clamoring for the single as it out poured the emotions they all thought they had, the track does show a temporal maturity from a band who have now long been past their peak. Their lasting legacy disappearing in a cloud of well polished office jobs as the children who littered shopping canters and public spaces dressed all in black even in the scorching heat have at last grown up.
As bad as all of this may seem, it takes more than a few rotten apples to spoil the cider brewery. In general, metal fans are kept frothing at the mouth by their heroes on a yearly basis which almost makes some of these forays into the softer, fluffier branch of music a little more forgiving. If anything can really be taken from this venture down the industry’s dirt track it is that the vast musical ability and talent of which these musicians possess can be aptly demonstrated by their broad horizons and abilities. It still makes it hard to head bang to them though.
Check out the official websites of all the bands and artists featured here: http://www.slipknot1.com, http://www.ozzy.com, http://www.poisonweb.com