This Week In Metal (9/3/15 - 15/3/15)

It’s sobering how many of the big news stories in metal these days involve hospitals. As the week began, ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy was at the centre of a furious social media debate about the NHS. In London for a gig with the Neal Morse Band, Mike went to A&E with a still-unspecified illness, but had to leave without treatment, prompting a minor hissy fit on Facebook. “A very special no thanks to the staff at the Whittington Hospital for not seeing me, regardless of telling them that there is an audience waiting for our show to begin,” huffed the percussionist. “I have no idea how the hell I’m going to make it through this show. I can’t even stand up or lift my arms.” The comment garnered nearly 3000 responses in 24 hours, many of them hostile at what they saw as an American prima donna expecting star treatment from our cash-strapped public services. The most eloquent riposte came from Whittington A&E doctor and Portnoy fan Elliott Cheung, who wrote: “The NHS is under-financed, understaffed, overworked. We do have to economise our resources. With all the respect I have for you, it hurts when one of my idols insults an organisation I work very hard for. Waiting sucks, I know – but dying patients suck even more.”

Portnoy issued an apology the next day, explaining “Yesterday was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. Paramedics came to see me at the gig and decided to take me to the emergency room – only for the ambulance to run out of gas. I was then driven to the hospital by a very kind fan. Neal and I calmly waited in the A&E without any indication of when I would be seen. I did not expect any special treatment, or want to be put ahead of anybody else in need, as I have been so wrongly accused.” The fact that Portnoy went ahead and played the show without injury might suggest that the incident wasn’t such an emergency after all, but according to Neal Morse, “The fact that he did the gig as well as he did is a testimony to what a workhorse kind of guy he is.” By unwittingly blundering into the political hornet’s nest of NHS criticism, Mike reminded us all why it’s often best to keep our frustrated aggravations off of social media.

Meanwhile, at a hospital in Iowa, long-serving Slipknot guitarist Mick Thomson was checked in on Wednesday after being stabbed in the head by his own brother during a drunken 4am knife fight. So far the only update is a tweet from Corey Taylor which said: “From what I’ve heard he’s okay. We’re sending him all your thoughts. Thank you for that.” Des Moines police told TeamRock that charges haven’t yet been filed, but even so, this is one of those jaw-dropping stories where you realise that Slipknot really are as fucked-up in real life as they sound on record.

Thankfully, by all accounts Mick’s injuries are not life-threatening. Wayne Static wasn’t so lucky; the cause of the Static-X frontman’s death in 2014 was confirmed this week to be the mixture of alcohol with half a 30mg pill of oxycodone – a medication used to combat panic attacks – which had been prescribed to his wife, Tera Wray. The coroner’s report stated: “The decedent’s mother stated he was a self-admitted alcoholic. She believed his drinking had been a problem for about two years. Both his wife and mother stated that he was not suicidal.”

And finally (awkwardly lightening the tone in classic regional TV news tradition), ludicrous cartoon supergroup Green Jelly have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary and pro live footage of the band’s upcoming tour of Ontario. “Before Gwar, before Slipknot, hell even before Nintendo, there was Green Jelly, the Godfathers of punk rock puppets,” declared GJ drummer Rob Gabriele. “It’s been three years since I joined, playing one or two gigs annually. This year will be different. I booked a four-day tour of Ontario. I’m ecstatic.” Green Jelly Suxx Live will see a strictly limited official release – on VHS. Yes, VHS, those clunky flickery ribbony bricks we were all glad to see the back of 15 years ago. Hats off!

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.