return of headbangers ball

Forum for the New, Not Nu, Metal Masters
By Tammy Moore

Stand up and listen all ye who would silence the “sound of the beast.” A musical movement dawned in the late 1960s upon the impulsive creation of a song called “Black Sabbath.” It was a song based on only three tones, two of them D notes.

The essence of the song was dark and eerily gloomy, but the protagonists of that day could hardly resist the strange power of this mournful sound. It came on the heels of a path that had been forged by bands like the Yardbirds, Ten Years After and Cream. Those artists took jamming on standards written by American blues artists to new heights. But as most of us know by now, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Terry Butler, and Bill Ward expanded upon that sound by warping the blue notes through screaming amplification against the backdrop of a frenzied rhythm section. When the sound was unleashed on the masses in 1970, it was as though a long empty void was being filled. The new sound was christened with a name, and that name was Heavy Metal.

Heavy metal has morphed into many different forms over time since its inception. The legions of devotees of the dramatic music are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. Record sales prove it. And like all movements that are seemingly without end, it ebbs and flows in recognition within modern consciousness. In 1987, after the meteoric rises of metal innovators like Slayer, Metallica, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Anthrax, MTV launched a weekly specialty show called “Headbangers Ball,” which was to showcase the much adored music. It was a wildly successful show and ran a long course until its cancellation in 1995. It died with all things hair related when the grunge movement surfaced.

But heavy metal fans are notoriously faithful, and even though their musical heroes might have been pushed from the so-called limelight of civilization, the intense movement was never in any real danger of dying. This music didn’t embrace fluff. It examined the human experience and was unafraid to exist between the extremes of elation and horror. It has many critics who fear it and claim that it has wrongly influenced the youth of the world into sins and crimes against humanity. But the reality is that there is a lot of pain in this world, and because the authors of heavy metal were brave enough to proclaim that truth, people connected to the music. They rejoiced in its honesty. Any fan of metal knows that to listen to it means to feel the full embrace of empathy. And then there are the forceful driving melodies of the hard rhythms and the burning wails of the guitars. Love it or hate it, heavy metal moves us all.

And now there is a whole new generation of metal thrashers—both artists and fans alike—and now that heavy metal is again finding its place at the forefront of society, “Headbangers Ball” has been reborn on MTV2, hosted by Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed. It can be seen every Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. The show highlights the best classic and new metal videos, interviews with the artists, and showcases the new metal talent. “With some of the most loyal and diehard followers in all of music, the return of ‘Headbangers Ball’ once again gives hard rock and metal fans a place that is all their own,” says Joe Armenia, VP of Music Marketing and Promotions for MTV and MTV2. “And with the show’s new home on MTV2, we wanted to take it one step further by bringing some of the best metal bands seen on the show each week such as Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and Lamb of God straight to the fans for an unforgettable live concert experience.”

The Headbangers Ball Tour launched October 28 in Montreal, Canada with the three aforementioned heavy metal heavyweight bands serving as a triple-headlining bill. The bands will rotate in the headlining slot, and as this article goes to press, Century Media’s God Forbid has joined the tour as the featured opening act. Eulogy Recordings’ Unearth opened for the first leg of the tour.

The tour will serve not only to support the on-air return of the “Headbangers Ball” TV show, but also to support the release of the first-ever “MTV2 Headbangers Ball” CD-set that was released on October 7 by MTV2 and Roadrunner Records. The double-disc album includes forty tracks from the cream of the crop of established metal bands, along with acts on the rise. Along with Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and Lamb of God, just some of the artists featured on the album include Godsmack, Slayer, Hatebreed, Cold, Marilyn Manson, Mushroomhead, Ill Nino, Spineshank, Chimaira, Stained, Eighteen Visions and more.

According to singer Brian Fair of Shadows Fall, guitarist Doc Coyle of God Forbid, and vocalist Howard “Howie” Jones of Killswitch Engage, the tour is going smashingly well, no pun intended. The guys called in from Vancouver to report that they were having a blast on this tour. All the bands on the bill have known each other and toured together before and as Fair relates, “I can’t imagine a better tour than this. These guys are all our friends. Every night is a party. We’re all in this together.” The parties are rolling, for sure, but the band members, admittedly, have to pace themselves. Playing in the company that they are, each band knows that the other three will slay night after night so they all take care to be able to keep playing at peak performance levels.

When asked what the crowd response had been like so far, Jones said, “Great. You never know what to expect but this has been pretty amazing.” Fair’s response was “Brutal. Unearth did the first half (of the tour) and from the first second of Unearth’s set until the last second of whoever headlined, every night, it’s been non-stop insanity. We’ve seen some seriously energetic crowds. Bring your neck brace and make sure your health insurance is paid up because it’s pretty crazy!” It turned out to be the first night for Coyle and company to join the bill and they were anxiously awaiting joining their metal brethren on stage and initiating the auditory onslaught.

Each of the four bands performing on The Headbangers Ball Tour has carved a niche for themselves within the realms of metal mania, and they are poised to reign as the new metal masters. Ironically, though influenced by artists who have taken darkness and terror to what some view as an all time low with their lyrical verses, this new hybrid of metal creators has managed to capture every ounce of the fierceness of the shock instrumentation necessary to be categorized as part of this genre but, in addition, are boldly adding lyrical messages of unity among the masses and declaring the importance of giving thought to and taking action on issues relevant to the social condition today. These boys refuse to go unheard. They are using their forum to scream their messages. Some are educated, some are impassioned, and all are unrepentant in their love for and portrayal of Heavy Metal.

A powerhouse bill like this doesn’t come along every day and it is a show, indeed, worth watching. The Headbangers Ball Tour hits Texas on November 24 in Dallas at Trees, November 25 in San Antonio at The White Rabbit, and November 26 in Houston at The Engine Room.


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