by C.Matthew King
So I am constantly digging through the VAULT over at the DEMOLISH HQ and I recently ran across a late 80’s magazine with the excellent band EXODUS on the cover. I don’t normally keep old magazines any more (although I certainly used too) so I wondered how and why this ancient publication was able to survive after all of these years. I guess my “metal” subconscious told me to pull it out…so, without any hesitation, I set aside the mounds of paper and carefully yanked it out.
I started nonchalantly flipping through the pages and the first random page turn is none other than Sweden’s CANDLEMASS. Ah’ hah, good pick, as I love that band and their brand of slow-mo but heavy-as-hell “Power” Metal. Moving on a few pages later…b*i*n*g*o, a NUCLEAR ASSAULT article—another great under rated band IMO. Flipping to page 47 though brings us a band called ACROPHET. Hmmmmn, I know ACROPHET is an underground Metal band from the greater Midwest Area known as Wisconsin, so that is cool right? Yes, well, OK I see, they must need a token unknown band or two to try to show some “underground Metal credibility.” But why?
*Is this the “Nastiest Magazine on Earth”?
Enter rant here: In my opinion, ANY half-respected rag that features these Bay Area Thrash Metal Legends on the cover has to be decent—right? WRONGO…as it suddenly dawns on me who is really behind this “new magazine” simply called POWER METAL. It’s the folks from HIT PARADER magazine! Yikes…
Now wait a minute, I know what you are thinkin’, they are an established (old school) basic 70’s-80’s rock and hard rock publication right? Correct. As a matter-of-fact this is from the fine folks at Charlton Publications Inc. on the East Coast. So what the heck are they doing printing articles on OVERKILL, TESTAMENT and KREATOR instead of their normal subject matter such as KISS, VAN HALEN and the MOTLEY CRUE boyz of Metal?
Well, I will tell you why—they are obviously trying to ca$h-in on the Power + Thrash Metal scene that is apparently dominating all things Metal these days! Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate them giving up n’ coming underground Metal bands some ink and well-deserved coverage, but something about the mag. just doesn’t “smell” right.
I can see it now. As the Monday morning corporate HQ meeting is taking place at the HIT PARADER offices bright and early at 8AM. The old dudes (you know the one’s that have raked in all the money since the 40’s/50’s but have NO IDEA what is printed in the magazine and haven’t for years) are starting to panic as sales are down and they are wondering what in world is wrong with these kids?
“They used to buy our beloved magazine by the truckloads! What are we going to do? Maybe we should ask our sons and daughters what is popular these days as the old dinosaur rock bands are sure not pulling in the readership that we have enjoyed over the last decade or so. And we thought they would NEVER get sick of FOREIGNER and JOAN JETT pull-out posters! Damn it Jim, get on it and I want an answer and “master” plan by next meeting.”
OK, so maybe it didn’t go like that, but I’ll bet it wasn’t too far off. It “irked” me so much that I jumped on the ole’ IBM Selectric (typewriter) and started crafting my angry “not with MY Power Metal you don’t” letter to send to the editors of this old school “new comer”! More on that later…(see below).
What’s my beef with this magazine anyway?
Well, for starters, let’s have a peep at the advertisements. This is usually an indication of the group that the marketing department has carefully targeted correct? I’ll let you be the judge. Here is the first full-color (rather expensive I’m sure) full-page ad that graces the inside front cover:
*click on images for larger view
DANGEROUS TOYS? These guys are a decent rockin’ band from Texas, but I am sorry as they are NOT “Power” Metal and never will be. I think DT had more in common with Axl Rose and GNR VS German Thrashers DESTRUCTION or KREATOR! You have to wonder sometimes what goes on in major record labels minds in those precious Monday morning meetings. I think maybe this would be a better match for their normal mag. or even RIP or Circus Magazine perhaps.
OK, I am a fair person, I’ll let that one slide. Besides, it was probably the clueless buffoons at the record label anyway right? Let’s flip to the back cover ads. Those are the uber-expensive ones that are usually “reserved” for the hottest bands (or labels with the most money).
So what did we find? SACRED REICH from Arizona? Hell no! What about SANCTUARY from the Pacific Northwest area—they are surely a deserving Power Metal band…nope. The geniuses at Chrysalis Records thought all of you dedicated Power Metal readers might like a new band called THE SEA HAGS!
The SEA HAGS are an (average) hard rock band at best. As a matter of fact, it even says that in their ad (see above pic). It says “Nasty new rock up from the streets and in your face”. This makes me feel sorry for bands like this who are on a major label and the powers-that-be go crazy spending all of this money (that the band has to pay back BTW)…it’s such a waste. It also angers me when companies slap-together crappy product (i.e. this magazine) and try to pull the wool over the readers eyes and think they will convince them that they know what they are writing about!
Believe me, I am more than aware of how many “new” bands that the major label marketing machine signs, promotes, and then kicks off the label for poor sales after wards. For every underground indie band I get here at DEMOLISH, I receive about four times that many major label acts from the likes of Warner Bros., A&M, Sire and Capitol Records etc.
And it’s not the bands’ fault either, they are working hard their entire life to get their “lucky break” and to try to make this happen but their label doesn’t really care about them, unless, they turn into an “over night success” story and sell thousands of records and tapes. It is a business I know, but it just seems lob-sided and or skewed against the band instead of for them.
Ok, so back to the advertisement rant(s) I started.
I have one more “Power Metal” advert to tell you about. This one is finely placed inside the back cover. The “nasty” SEA HAGS appear last, and then when you flip that over, here is what you get (and your gonna’ love this one) on the inside:
Yes, “power metal” boys and girls that is WHITE LION!
And according to their major record label ad, courtesy of Atlantic Records, “Its the Only Game In Town”. Priceless!!! Yes, it may be priceless, but it costs several thousand dollar$ (see some typical ad rates here). Again, not to knock this band, cause’ they do what they do extremely well if you are into that type of sound and style.
I guess they thought they were going to be able to market them to a heavier crowd since (according to the text in the above ad) they were scheduled to tour with OZZY OSBOURNE in the summer/fall of 1989.
There were only three proper full-page adverts in the entire issue:
The Metal heads at Combat (Relativity) know what they are doing.
Notice the ad reads: “Thrash Metal With A Groove“! This FAITH OR FEAR album jams too.
Now that’s more like it.
**The only two other paid full-page advertisements that made sense.
BTW both of these are decent releases as well if you haven’t checked these out. Esp. LEATHER!
So I know what you must be thinkin’, does this guy like anything about this publication & why is he even posting or “defending” Power Metal music? Well, the answer is a resounding “YES”! As previously mentioned, the EXODUS cover + story rocks and for the fact that they featured the following:
CANDLEMASS (by Mike Gitter who is a respectable writer)
WRATHCHILD (the US band, even though they did not list them on the cover?)
SLAYER (a typical shorty “live evil” snip)
TESTAMENT (certainly deserving, but a somewhat cheeky article/writer)
DESTRUCTION (excellent article by Mike Gitter again, of course)
NUCLEAR ASSAULT (worthy article and coverage)
WHITE ZOMBIE (nice piece on up n’ comers. Mr. Gitter calls them a “Bizarre New Band”)
++LIZZY BORDEN — Full Color “Pin-Up” Poster
*yikes, I am not sure what young girl (or guy for that matter) would want to hang this scary shot up!
++ANTHRAX — Side B. Full Color poster
(complete with matching Adidas tennis shoes)
SEPULTURA – totally deserving press for this killer new band!
*(except by a ghost writer named “Weird Waldo”)
SAVATAGE (another great powerful band)
ACROPHET (let the mighty Mid-West underground be known!)
SHOK PARIS – (same as above, great melodic band)
MOTORHEAD and METALLICA (typical)
They actually feature SACRED REICH but they neglected to list them on the cover and, get this, they were too lazy to even have someone interview them and poor Phil Rind (bass + vocals) had to interview the band himself—pitiful! The quote they highlighted from said interview was “We’d like to do a big U.S. tour this year.” Well duh!
HIT PARADER always has a section devoted to song lyrics. I always thought this was cool when I was growing up and worshiping bands like KISS, CHEAP TRICK & VAN HALEN. Well, in this special Power Metal issue here are a couple of the “power metal” songs they printed: “Still Alive and Well” by rockers CIRCUS OF POWER and “Attack of Life” by glamsters BANG TANGO!
They also include random “power-metal” photos throughout, some in color but most in black n’ white/cheap newsprint-style paper. So needless to say, these pages are almost turning yellow and tear very easily and the color pages (which were reserved for ads and a few special features) are few and far between.
Back to the pics, page 13 includes the “power metal” band SKID ROW and includes the text:
“SKID ROW may not exactly play Power Metal, but they may be one of the hardest rocking bands to reach the top of the charts.”
I agree, but why even include them in the 1st place?! It seems that maybe my letter that I sent in (see below) is perhaps “sinking-in” a bit around the offices?
Lastly, their “Faces of Death” photo section included:
THE BROKEN HOMES with the caption “They look like poseurs to us”! German rockers BONFIRE have a new LP coming our way—ain’t we lucky”.
Here is the funny letter that I sent them in 1989 that they actually published in their MAIL BAG section! It starts on scan two below.
*Start here (click to enlarge)
Wow, I feel a lot better now that I got that off my chest! At least they had the balls to print it.
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*in order to transport you directly back to the 80’s we will continue to keep the language in the posts “present tense” even though this is 2010.
So what IS Power Metal?
For some, I guess it’s considered a verb or a descriptive word and for others, it’s a GENRE within the grand Heavy Metal tag. It also depends on when and how it’s used perhaps. I am using it as a GENRE when it started appearing to describe heavier bands in the 80’s that did not fit under the normal “Heavy Metal” tag.
After bands progressed way beyond the generic “HEAVY” tag, then that’s when all the Death Metal, Grindcore, Extreme and or Black Metal tags started appearing to further describe and or help pinpoint the exact sound. I think this is an interesting topic and matter of eternal debate among Metal fans and journalists, so I will not go off and start another rant here. I will save that for a future Part II post on these pages.
In the meantime have a peep here (from the great INVISIBLE ORANGES blog) for a pretty cool debate over Metal terminology and what the term Modern “Power” Metal means to a selection of different fans. You will see that of course I had to throw in my $0.02. Hopefully this post will clear up any questions or concerns as far as where I am coming from in this ongoing (never-ending) “debate” or should I say discussion about POWER METAL…still one of my favorite genres of HEAVY METAL music!