Hot potato of the week in metal seems to have been the 154-year-old American Civil War battle standard of General Lee, of all things. The Confederate Flag is surely best known in the UK as the Dukes Of Hazzard’s snazzy car roof design, but it has long been interpreted as a contentious symbol of race hate, oppression and slavery in the American South. This recently came to a head with its use by Dylann Roof, who has been charged with the murder of nine black people in a South Carolina church last month, leading to the flag being removed from the grounds of South Carolina’s statehouse and mounted as an exhibit in the state museum.
The image was proudly displayed as an icon of America’s rebel past by Texan metal gods Pantera in the ‘90s – often bearing the slogan ‘Heritage Not Hate’ – but Phil Anselmo was the first to comment publicly on his regrets about using the beleaguered design. “I think where the use of the Confederate flag with us really came from was from our love of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd,” explained the singer, who added: “In hindsight I would have not used it.” He insisted that his use of the flag had a “tongue-in-cheek” element, and that “I wish fucking everyone would get along.”
He’d have an argument on his hands with his ex-bandmate Vinnie Paul, who’s not so mellow on the issue: “All I’m going to say is it’s a big knee-jerk reaction to something that happened,” the drummer announced. “It’s unfortunate that people are like that, they want to point a finger at something. Honestly, this country was built on freedom of speech and freedom of expression. When you can no longer do that, then it is no longer based on that.”
Slipknot and Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor was also drawn into the debate, declaring: “I don’t get it. It’s 2015. It’s not like it’s fucking 1901. If you can’t figure out why it’s wrong to put a Confederate flag in front of a place where you’re supposed to have fucking equal justice, then you need to go back to fucking sleep, man, because you’re never gonna figure it out.”
Meanwhile, Randy Blythe weighed in with some even-handed reasoning: “I don’t believe in censorship in America,” the Lamb Of God frontman affirmed. “The minute we start clamping down just because we don’t like something like that, if it’s not directly hurting someone else, that opens all sorts of doors.” Although he concedes the flag has no place on government buildings: “I think it’s really good that that flag is down, and I think if some people are gonna wave it and all this other stuff, they need to realise what it symbolises to other people… I live in Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. They don’t equate it with hate. But publicly displaying it and all that stuff, it’s offensive to people. Just use some fucking common sense.”
Elsewhere, the week in metal was equally dominated by intriguing non-metallic pursuits: Iron Maiden announced a stronger version of their Trooper beer – Trooper 666 (6.6% alcohol by volume) – to celebrate 10 million pints sold since 2013. Bruce revealed a fascinating connection between the band’s favourite number and the true story behind The Trooper’s lyrics: “Despite the links with our song The Number Of The Beast, the name has come about as a result of some research by historian Terry Brighton. He’s shown there were 666 soldiers who rode in the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 – and not just the 600 of Tennyson’s famous poem.”
Also, Trent Reznor is reported to be working on a “rock opera” version of Fight Club alongside the book’s author Chuck Palahniuk and the 1999 film’s director David Fincher, and Fear Factory frontman Burton C Bell is to release a graphic novel based on the band’s 2012 album The Industrialist – although it’s limited to 500 copies and will only be available from the singer’s website.