This week shone an odd spotlight on metal’s intrusion into the mainstream of popular culture, traditionally a quizzical grudge-fuck that seldom ends well. Tenacious D won the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy for their cover of Dio’s epic barnstormer The Last In Line. This got a mixed reaction; some thought the Grammys were “dissing” heavy metal by honouring a “comedy act”. According to vh1.com, “outrage travelled throughout the metal community,” and “Every other nominee this year was more deserving of this award.”
A heartening counterbalance to this indignation was given by Ronnie James Dio’s widow Wendy: “We’re so excited to see one of Ronnie’s songs be awarded with a Grammy,” she announced. “As soon as Tenacious D were announced as winners, Jack Black called me in excitement to tell me that we won the award. My only regret is to not have Ronnie here in body to see this happen.” The performance was taken from last year’s all-star Dio tribute album, proceeds from which go to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund. So it seems churlish to fabricate outrage on this issue; besides, Tenacious D are as musically on-the-money as any major-selling act in modern ‘heavy music’, and in a better position to inspire new audiences into the lineage of rock – as their frontman was doing via Hollywood family comedies twelve years ago.
Further evidence of metal’s impact on American cinema came from actor Luke Perry, crediting Dave Mustaine with inspiring his role as a rock star overcoming physical and emotional hardship in forthcoming indie The Beat Beneath My Feet. “I thought about the gentleman from Megadeth,” the ex-Beverley Hills 90210 pin-up told the Irish Independent. “He got asked to leave one band and started up his own. Something happened to his arm and he was challenged physically to play the guitar. I thought, ‘There’s something inside that guy that really drives him to overcome all those things and find his way back to making music’.” Megadave’s quite an inspirational figure on the silver screen; last year Daniel Radcliffe revealed that Megadeth tunes helped him get into character for a film role. So when’s Mustaine: The Movie?
Also this week came the news that Cannibal Corpse have scored over two million album sales. 25 years since the Buffalo teens sicked up their Eaten Back To Life debut, few would’ve given money on these sicko stoner freaks receiving a commemorative plaque from Metal Blade marking a quarter-century of continual success and market dominance, weathering the years without compromise or mainstream assistance (apart from that scene in Ace Venture: Pet Detective).
“I think it says a lot about the fans of death metal,” vocalist George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher told Metal Sanaz. “It goes to show what we’ve always been saying, death metal’s not even close to dead… It says to the world we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.”
If it seems odd to see a band like Cannibal Corpse – once the most reviled mob of gratuitously extreme deviants – celebrating this milestone of mass acceptance, it’s comforting to hear a story this week about another band whose provocative aesthetic assisted them to stardom: Cradle Of Filth. Their iconic ‘90s masterpiece of juvenile transgression, the Vestal Masturbation/Jesus Is A Cunt T-shirt, has once again been doing exactly what it was designed to do all those years ago: causing a shit-storm of small-town outrage. Appearing in the design exhibition T-shirts Unfolding at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, the amusingly out-of-order ‘wanking nun’ garment was hung in an area marked for over 18s only. But on Friday the 13th, the conservative Christian lobby group Family First made a complaint to police. “The Museum should show some respect to the many families who will be horrified and offended by this and remove the offensive material,” declared Family First’s ‘National Director’, adding: “Sinking to these low levels is an insult to many families.” The shirt was actually banned by New Zealand’s ‘chief censor’ in 2008, so its status as a contentious artefact makes it a valid choice for an exhibition about t-shirts in street art culture, but Cradle will be chuffed to learn their 20-year-old piss-take blasphemy still has the power to upset mums.