MY PERSONAL POGROM: MIKE GITTER ON HIS DESCENT INTO THE WORLD OF METAL
So what was your entre into the world where denim, leather n’ demonology reign supreme? Where you adore the goat and sway to the symphony of deee-struction? Every man (or woman) has a tale to tell. Here’s mine. You’re gonna hear a lot of names you might be unfamiliar with, especially if you’re a member of Attack Attack! (Or just plain anyone under 23!) You’re gonna be thinking, “Damn, this fucker is old!” Yeah, well just remember that I’ve seen seen stuff that would make you shit Perrier with jealousy. I’m definitely old enough to have seen Minor Threat, Cliff Burton-era Metallica… the list goes on… before most of you were a tadpole in yer pappy’s population paste.
Let’s start at Discharge. I could go back and trace the whole history of early 80’s hardcore for you, but neither of us have the time or attention span. Let’s just say, the minute I heard these Stroke-on-Trent monsters of the nuclear reactor riff on the monstrous Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing album, I nearly pissed my pants. It was the gateway to something far heavier than I had ever heard on a scratchy 7” from the new record store that had opened in Boston called Newbury Comics.
Now I forget if the song “State Violence State Control” was on the vinyl version of the record or if I simply had the single version, but regardless, there was nothing accommodating about the way guitarist Bones riffed like no one else I had heard up to that point or vocalist Cal howled with an urgency about what was really happening over in Jolly old England. It made the politics of the Clash records I had already heard seem positively cheery by comparison. Let’s put it this way: there was not one single trace of color to be found on any of Discharge’s record sleeves. That fit the music perfectly.
My first immersion in the works of Discharge – most of whose records were recorded by a young metal uber-producer-to-be Colin Richardson – was that brilliant moment where music takes you beyond your surroundings. Sure, they would later slow down and adopt more of a trad-metal style on some later singles and the fairly awful Grave New World album, but discovering Discharge whilst in high school was a revelation. An inspiration. Those early records still sound as fresh today, and I will go down as stating that the early single “Fight Back” is hardcore’s finest 1:21 bar none.
Yes, the more in-the-know types out there will understand exactly what I’m talking about; Discharge have spawned a near-genre of bands whose name includes the “Dis” prefix. They also spawned what folks like to refer to as the “D-Beat”, a rat-a-tat at full-tilt. Tomas Lindberg’s (At The Gates, everybody else) Disfear is the best of the bunch. You’d be a damn fool to let your life go on without their Live The Storm LP.
I would be remiss to not mention GBH (Grevious Bodily Harm for the unaware). Fellow earslaughterers with Discharge on the mighty Clay label. A little more punk in the traditional sense (never stopped Burton or Hetfield from donning the shirts), GBH had near the same guitar whallop with vocalist Colin – oft referred to as the Billy Idol of Brit-punk’s second wave – shouting about necrophilia, rats eating unsuspecting children, and sundry unpleasantries from Thatcher-era Grey Britain.
Now, this was just a view from the opposite side of the fence. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal was already in full swing by the time I was getting blasted by these apocalyptic visions. I had heard a thing or two about Maiden and Def Leppard, but the real bands that were being mentioned in fanzines (the equivalent of today’s websites, blogs, what have you…) like Tesco Vee’s Touch & Go (soon to be re-issued in its entirety by Bazillion Points) and Boston’s Forced Exposure.
Motorhead came first. A copy of Iron Fist purchased at the Salem Record Exchange sold me forever. I had read about Lemmy’s merry bunch as “the band that would kill your lawn… and your pets” with sheer volume, should they move down the street. First off, the cover was bitchin’… like one of those liquor ads you’d see in Heavy Metal magazine. An iron fist. The title track was just as heavy as anything punk and hardcore had to offer. The power. The glory. The warts.
What came next I wasn’t prepared for. VENOM. Can I say it again? Fucking VENOM! My bud Al Quint (of Suburban Voice zine). First off, the mighty “Die Hard” single was like nothing else I had heard circa 1984. “Satan, father, help me from this grave Demons, warriors, forever be my slaves!” intoned one Cronos. Not only were these guys (Cronos, Mantas and Abbadon) the real fucking deal, hard-living, Satan-worshipping badasses than definitely got the nastiest poontang out there, but when Venom got down to business, they were just better than any hardcore band out there. Noisier, heavier and more shrouded in mystique than any band I ever heard.
Shit, you could tell who they were by just a look at the smiling ibex on the cover of Venom’s first two albums: Welcome To Hell and the genre-defining Black Metal.
You got the feeling that when Venom threw down live, it wasn’t a mere gig – they did call a British tour they did once the “Seven Dates In Hell,” after all. It was an invocation. Led Zeppelin, Negative Approach and Alice Cooper couldn’t hold a candle to this…
The gates had just opened. I gladly stepped into metal’s mighty maw.
Most recently Sr. Director of A&R at Roadrunner Records, Mike Gitter has signed and worked with bands including Opeth, Megadeth, Killswitch Engage and Bad Religion.