“This is the end!” This is the emphatic, anthemic line in the God Forbid opening track from the album IV: Constitution of Treason, which was released during the peak of our powers in 2005. In fact, it wasn’t the end. The end came much later. At the time, it felt like we were invincible, destined for heavy metal immortality. And we were in the lower tier of the NWOAHM (or Metalcore or whatever you want to call it) in all metrics for determining the success or popularity of bands. If you look at album, ticket, and merchandise sales, Myspace friends, Youtube views, Facebook “likes”, or the ever mystical buzz on the street, God Forbid was probably never half as big as any of the rest of the Big 4 of Quitters (I should trade mark this) including Bleeding Through, Shadows Fall, and now Chimaira. Knowing that, even we felt invincible. That’s how intoxicating achieving any discernible success with your art can be. Shadows Fall and Chimaira hanging it up in the last couple weeks have brought an outpouring of sadness, shock and disappointment from fans. It seems like the end of an era, and maybe it is.
Hearing that these great bands are moving on makes me sad and disappointed, but not shocked. The truth is that amongst peers a good majority of our conversations have to do with figuring out how to stay relevant by finding new audiences, getting great tours, signing with the right label, writing the next game changing album, and more. Teetering on the edge of existence has been much of our collective realities for half of our careers. As the O.G. quitter, I’m here to explain why this is happening and why you shouldn’t be surprised.
It’s only been a week since we closed the door on God Forbid, but with so much outpouring of affection, sharing of memories, disclosures of sadness bordering on mourning from friends, fans, fellow compatriots in the music industry, and my own reflections burrowing their way from my subconscious to the surface, I thought I should share some of my thoughts about what kind of legacy we left.
In all honesty, it feels silly to use a word like legacy when talking about my own band, but I was actually having some sentimental feelings about the musical catalog God Forbid has amassed when I was preparing for the last couple shows we did, before I decided to leave the group. I was practicing a few songs I hadn’t played in a while, and in that time, I started listening back to some songs and albums I hadn’t heard to in quite some time. And in that moment, I felt a deep sense of pride and accomplishment. For perhaps the first time, I heard a distinct sound that permeated from our first album to our last. Although that sound had evolved over time and become more nuanced and composed and lost some of it’s teeth, much of the feel was there. The groove was consistent. Dynamics always played a part. Darkness and melody persisted and coexisted. The words spoke about pushing through and striving for better.
I am truly shocked and saddened to hear of my buddy Mick “Deth” Morris’ passing. I wasn’t aware of his heart condition. It’s increasingly weird as the older you get, the more people you know die before their time.
I met Mick when 18 Visions opened up for Mushroomhead and Lamb of God at the Birch Hill Nite Club in NJ in 2001. He was always super cool, humble, affable guy. Although we never did extended touring with 18V, we got to do some spot dates together like Furnace Fest 2002, and a show later that year w/ Everytime I Die, Bleeding Through and Avenged Sevenfold opening.
18 Visions deserves credit for being a trailblazer. For better or worse, they brought style to hardcore scene. They wrote the script for bands like Motionless in White and Falling In Reverse to follow. And when 18V did it, they were playing with real hardcore bands, and it was not always cool with the status quo. That takes some balls.
We stayed in touch over the years as he started to work for Hatebreed, and even chatted about jamming together at some point. Unfortunately, it never happened. I was just enjoying his Instagram feed last night. This sucks. I’ll miss you dude.
There seems to be a firestorm in the metal world regarding the state of the industry, Spotify, illegal downloading, and the philosophical struggle between capitalism and artistic integrity. Lines have been drawn in the sand and it’s getting fucking personal. I have remained rather silent on the sidelines but all of this action has inspired me to enter the fray.
But I’d like to approach this discussion from a different angle than the one that has been taken thus far – one which deals with some issues that are beyond music. Perhaps you could call it a political discussion, or a cultural discussion, or even a philosophical discussion. I want to talk about the idea of ownership, and what exactly that means in our modern, western paradigm, which is one rooted in competition-based capitalism.
I was inspired to put some thoughts down after reading Sergeant D.’s post about what a terrible decision it is to commit yourself to the band life at a young age, because eventually the wheels will fall off and you’ll end up just like some morose version of the Anvil story: Sad, old, broke, and disillusioned by shattered dreams of rock stardom. I know his blog was supposed to be funny and sarcastic, and was even sprinkled with a hint of sour grapes: Not getting to be that “cool band guy,” but justice being served down the line by seeing how those guys ended up. But I have to say that post hit home for me, because in many ways it was about me. I mean generally, not specifically. I’m pretty sure Sergeant D. didn’t follow me around and base his post on me autobiographically.
I graduated high school mentally unprepared for the real world; I never really grasped the idea that I would have to get up everyday and work a job I didn’t feel connected to for the rest of my life. Being a “grown up” was something I didn’t want any part of and couldn’t relate to. Music was the only thing I really loved, and I seemed to be good at it, or, at least, it seemed to come easier to me than most of my peers in the local scene I was involved in. I didn’t picture myself being a musician for a living, either. My heroes, like Pantera and Megadeth, were mythical to me. The idea that you could actually do that with your life just didn’t seem real at the time, so I just went with the flow and didn’t really set any long term life goals or follow any solid decrees. I only lasted one semester in college, and left to work to focus on God Forbid because it felt like we were on to something. Within a year of leaving school, the band was signed to Century Media, and within two years, we all quit our jobs and transitioned to being a full-time touring band. That was ten years ago.
For my opening salvo, I suppose I should mention that it has been a long break between blogs. I’ve been meaning to get back to it, but this summer has been a very busy one filled with the musical composition of the new God Forbid album as well as a new project I’ve been working on, in addition to the daily pursuit of living life and getting by. I hope to contribute more frequently in the near future.
If you’ve followed my articles in the past, you may notice that I often address music history, and pertaining to this site, heavy music specifically. I have a great respect for artistic pioneers and the roots of where the most admirable and brilliant music stems from. I was the type of kid who would read liner notes and interviews by my favorite bands to find out who influenced them. I would always want to climb that musical family tree to see where it lead.
I am going to assume that a decent portion of the followers of this site are themselves musicians with bands of their own. That is generally how it goes with metal. There are seamless lines blurred between the “fans” and the “bands” because, like myself, many metal patrons represent both categories. Without this large sector of musician fans, technically proficient bands that cater directly to this base (like Dream Theater, Meshuggah, and Necrophagiast) would be much less successful. So to those musicians, I would like to use this blog to shine a light on one of the harsh truths in all music and entertainment that many musicians choose to ignore –
Image matters a lot in this industry. In fact, it’s probably just as important as the music.
When it comes to music (and other things really), I tend to play devil’s advocate. If everyone is shitting on a certain band, for some reason, I become more attracted to that band and seek them out. I don’t know what it is about my personality, but I think it stems from the same perspective that inspired me to write the antagonistic blog about rethrash. It may be a character flaw, but I’m sure it has something to do with a need to be an individual. From what I gather, this website is inhabited mainly by “true” metal heads. What I define as “true” are people whom are purists in the realm of metal and usually scoff at any band or trend that reeks of premeditated commercialism or an overt play for popularity, and who usually demand a certain level of musicianship and underground credibility. These fans usually hate every Metallica record after …And Justice For All, and for that matter always prefer any particular band’s older releases, which usually have a more raw and unrefined recording quality, as well as more abstract, less traditional song writing. For example, they will prefer Carcass’s Necrotiscim to Heartwork, or Morbid Angel’s Blessed Are The Sick toDomination. Oh yeah, and these guys gave up on In Flames and Soilwork years ago.
I have a good deal of that purism in my bones, but it always seemed short sighted and close minded. You have no idea how many arguments the Adler brothers from Lamb of God and I have gotten into over the merits of a particluar Metallica or Megadeth record. If you even bring up Disturbed or Limp Bizkit on MetalSucks, it is mocked and disregarded 100% of the time. I think metal heads often have a sheep mentality because of the fear of being viewed by their peers as less credible for liking bands that aren’t considered “true” or “real” enough. We all have guilty pleasures, but the real question is “Why should we feel guilty about something we enjoy?”
We’ve all been there. Tensions are high in some packed, sweaty venue, sparked by feverish excitement and the potential for violence. These people paid good money to enjoy some type of cathartic release. The frontman for whatever hard-nu-death-crab-metal-core outfit is brazen and demanding. Can you believe this shit? You PAID to be entertained, and this guy is telling YOU what to do! The speech goes something like this: “I want everybody in this room moving! Front to back, side to side, NO ONE STANDS STILL! When this part kicks in, I want total [Insert destructive word here like “chaos,” “mayhem,” or “bedlam” if you’re witty]. If the person next to you isn’t moving, MAKE THEM MOVE!” Than, if the action is not adequate, this screamer/pep rally organizer calls YOU some variation of “pussy” or “faggot” or really anything to make you feel like a soft, womanly bitch of a man in order to get in that pit and kick another grown man in the face, all in the spirit of making this band look like they are awesome. But then something happens, as if the air is sucked out of the room at the moment of impact – when those glorious staccato chugs kick in, the crowd is almost always powerless to its charms regardless of the obvious lack of substance. Like junk food and reality TV, we have a love affair with breakdowns.