This year through my involvement in the Wacken Metal Battle Canada and the Headbanging For A Cure cancer benefit I decided to reach out to the Toronto mayoral candidates to gauge their support for underground and subcultural arts in the city. The most sensational result of which was a video of support from Olivia Chow for Headbanging For A Cure, where she does a great job of throwing the fabled metal horns, despite admitting that she’s “not much of a headbanger”.
Candidate Sarah Thomson took things a step further and actually appeared onstage at the second night Headbanging For A Cure at Toronto’s historic El Mocambo to do her own horn throw while introducing legendary Canadian thrash metal band Razor.
Photo by Danielle Griscti
It was through these events that Metal For Mayor was born. An organization dedicated to the promotion of underground music and subcultural events. Metal For Mayor believes that nothing is more important than having a good time. That’s why you work, go to school, and generally drag yourself around this city. You do it because your reward is a good time, in whatever shape that takes. For many hard-working folks in Toronto, that good time involves music. Whether it’s rock and metal, dance and electronic, hip-hop and r&b or anything in between, Metal For Mayor believes that this is the lifeblood of Toronto.
The major candidate support has been incredible, but the most pleasant surprise I’ve had is my acquaintance with candidate Dewitt Lee. Dewitt agreed to appear at the first night of Headbanging For A Cure and surprised many with his enthusiastic embrace of the heavy metal community and his recognition of the genre as an intricate and diverse art-form. As a music publisher and community activist he understands the need for diversity in the arts and how a variety of entertainment is essential to the city.
With this in mind I am proud to accept Dewitt’s invitation to appear as a guest-host at his campaign fundraiser this evening (Saturday October 25th) to officially have Metal For Mayor endorse his candidacy. Check out all the details on the event here and please like Metal For Mayor on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
#MetalForMayor logo by Jennifer Pilles
Zombitrol Productions and Blacktooth Entertainment are proud to present a 100% FREE evening of some of Ontario's finest purveyors of black and doom metal.
Sortilegia (raw/grim black metal)
Empyrean Plague (acoustic-inspired black metal from North Bay)
Godstopper (Toronto doom/sludge heroes)
Völur (new ambient folk/doom)
Saturday November 29th
Smiling Buddha – 961 College St. – Toronto
DOORS 9PM – FREE: NO COVER – 19+
Check out my new video interview for A Journal of Musical Things with guitarist Juan of the Dead and drummer Ill Will from Ice T's legendardy rap-crossover act Body Count, shot backstage at the Toronto stop of the Rockstar Mayhemfest tour. Watch it now in the Interviews section.
For the first time in eight years I’ll be missing Wacken Open Air, the largest heavy metal festival in the world. Wacken itself is a tiny village of fewer than 2,000 people located about two hours north of Hamburg, Germany. But every summer at the end of July they are inundated by over 80,000 headbangers over four days. The vast majority of the village takes it in stride with many of the residents running businesses out of their homes during the festival.
Since my first trip to Wacken in 2007 I’ve at times been criticized for attending, usually by someone who says that the festival has grown “too big”, with more youthful modern sounding bands playing side-by-side with the masters. The problem with that view is that while heavy metal exists in an underground state, it’s also extremely inviting. Like horror films the music offers a more enhanced diversion than average entertainment, and that attracts an eclectic group of people.
Despite that, for a subculture of outsiders it can sometimes be incredibly judgemental. While some may be born knee-deep in nostalgia, most young metal fans cut their teeth with more popular acts. Bands like Trivium or Avenged Sevenfold who play a more accessible version of their metal forefathers are essential to the genre’s growth. The idea that everything within heavy metal could somehow be perfectly underground is ridiculous. It’s too damn big. The ideas are big, the music sounds big, and whether they’re high-pitched and melodic or extreme and guttural, the vocals sound big.
It’s just impossible for there not to be bands that become well-known just by sheer numbers. Especially within a genre that elicits such passion. These bands are often regarded as somehow more accessible. The latest Arch Enemy album is extremely melodic and catchy, that is if you’re into extreme vocals. Some fans seem to be out of phase with the notion that even at its most poppy, extreme metal doesn’t jive with most other audiences. Accessibility is not a guarantee of success in metal either. Listening to Mayhem’s “Live In Leipzig” (which, if you don’t know, sounds like the band are zombies performing to a zombie audience inside a crypt), it’s hard to believe that they’ve now played the Wacken “Black Stage” in broad daylight.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand in the world of heavy metal it’s any illusion of exclusivity. Metal by nature is nothing but inclusive. It’s a clubhouse with the door eternally open. Yes the music may feel like it belongs to you, but you have no control over it. It will reach out to whomever it wants. The worst thing to do in any subculture is to reject someone because they’ve just discovered it.
That’s the main reason I’ve continued to go Wacken time and time again. However this year as the festival celebrates its 25th anniversary, it will be without my presence. I can’t complain. Most heavy music fans in the world would do a number of ridiculous things to even attend once. I will simply have to sit back and be satisfied that a whole new group of people from around the world will attend Wacken for the first time this year, and feel as excited and accepted as I did nearly eight years ago.
Wacken Open Air runs July 31st – August 2nd. Check out the full line-up at the official site, and have a listen to my interview from last year’s festivities with Ihsahn, frontman of Norway’s Emperor, who are headlining this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their album “In The Nightside Eclipse”.