Slayer is my favorite band of all time, and I’ll love them forever, but let’s not pretend like I listen to Undisputed Attitude every day. That record isn’t the worst, but it’s not great, and there are very few songs on it that I’m suddenly inspired to blast (“Gemini”, occasionally). The same can be said for many other Slayer songs—am I ever going to put “Americon” on the jukebox? That doesn’t make me less of a Slayer fan (though I do get weird about that kind of thing). My love of Slayer has surpassed simple adoration; I like that band enough now that I’m honest with myself about their shittier moments.
At a certain point, loving a band means confronting their flaws. To pretend as though a musician’s worst moments are solid gold does an injustice to that musician, and if you’re a journalist it’s a middle finger to your readers. I’m not sure any great artist has a flawless career, because lesser material helps nurture and form those really incredible pieces of work. To act like an artist can do no wrong turns them into the type of inhuman figure he or she probably doesn’t want to be (I made a similar argument regarding the portrayal of dead metal musicians as angels).
After my recent review of the new Lamb of God record, multiple MetalSucks commenters claimed that I obviously didn’t like the band, and that people who don’t like bands shouldn’t be allowed to review their albums. Both points are incorrect. Regarding the latter, if blogs and magazines only assigned reviews to super fans, it would be an endless parade of fellatio. Meanwhile, I love Lamb of God. If anything, I repeatedly mention throughout my review that they’re an amazing band. But I didn’t like this new record as much as I’ve liked others in the past, so I didn’t give it a five-star review because I respect Lamb of God enough to hold them to my musical standard.
Certain bands don’t like that idea, because questioning their ability might make them Just Another Band. Take the Kiss Army, for instance. It’s interesting that Kiss would name their fan club after a group of people whose primary objective is to follow the orders of their higher-ups (one can also point out the Slaytanic Wehrmacht, named for the German defensive forces–yikes). That’s Kiss’ whole thing, though—“It doesn’t matter if we take off the face paint or release a disco track, if you’re a real fan you’ll just fucking go with it.” But come on, Paul Stanley’s just a dude—he goes to the bathroom, pays his bills, and sometimes writes lackluster songs because he’s on a deadline. Real fans acknowledge this without considering it a fatal flaw.
That’s the backbone of this blog, really. Nothing’s funnier than someone who gets angry at us because of the name. To think of metal as infallible is shallow and foolish. Sure, it’s louder than Hell, it’s stronger than all, and it’s never gonna die. That’s a given. But it’s also full of know-it-all dickheads, image-conscious hipsters, willfully-ignorant rock stars, and snarky bloggers. Metal isn’t the refuge of the dark overenthusiastic weirdo because it’s beautiful and pure, which I’m not sure any of us want it to be. Quite the opposite—metalheads love having an antagonist within the scene. We enjoy saving the thing that made us whole from those who would pervert it for their own means. And at the end of the day, we hope that all these tribes would be able to unite under the banner of the horns. But there will always be something we can’t stand. There will always be a filler track.
In his autobiography, Lemmy Kilmister mentions that above all, he tries to be an honest man. Metallica has a similar reference in “Damage Inc.”—Honesty is my only excuse. We love this music because we love it, whether we like it or not. So let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that none of it is lackluster or silly or boooring. As a loyal fan of a band, it’s your duty to acknowledge when certain songs are better than others, and when some are just plain bad. That doesn’t mean your favorite band doesn’t warrant your total devotion. Quite the opposite—they’ve shown that they’re flawed, which makes them more like you. They’re not on a pedestal deigning to look down on you, they’re in the pit right next to you, singing along.