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The Gods Made Heavy Metal

In the thirty odd years of heavy metal history, there has been a overwhelming wealth of inspired, beautiful and bonecrushing music being made from countless thousands of artists and enthusiasts around the world. From the gaudy, psychadelic 70's to the modern "degeneration" of metal into metalcore and other derivative forms we see today, metal has always been a vibrant, diverse genre of music that has attracted praise from fans and generated debate as it's legitimacy as a true artform by music critics, academics and fans alike. Assuming that heavy metal is an artform, we must be able to discern who are the true artists from the imitators - those who stand apart as true heavy metal legends in spite of hoards of derivative wannabes that metal seems to be permeated with these days. Thus I propose that there are such men and women that stand upon the annals of metal history as distinct in style, innovation and arse-kickery who may rightly be called "Heavy Metal Gods."

A Heavy Metal God (HMG), in my opinion, must be at the forefront of his or her (sub)genre and must be instantly recognizable in his or her choice of instrument and compositional style. A HMG is a talent in his or her own right; a talent who can spontaneously write original music without overdependence on input from producers or band members; without drawing too heavily on material from external sources which cause his or her compositions to be derviative, devoid of creativity to which an album or song would instantly lose it's credibility as a true artistic creation and are usually seen as the innovators of the genre or style they choose to play. An HMG is at the height of his or her craft, their musicianship unparalleled which would give them credence as a master of their chosen instrument. HMG's are to be identified individually, and are usually the focus of the band that they may be in - they are more than usually the principal songwriter and arranger of the group and would be considered the brains of the band that they are in. They are also partial to extending and developing their multifarious tastes by self-producing project bands of varying degree and musical experimentation. Bands can also posess a collection HMG's in their manifest which would give way to the theory of Heavy Metal Supergroups, to which progressive metal masters Dream Theater could rightly be catagorized as.

Those that could be classified as HMG's are few and far between, however I shall provide a few examples to further my theory. Kai Hansen could be considered a HMG due to posessing nearly all of the aforementioned attributes;

  • He carries with him a diverse and distinct compositional style;
  • Contributed to the innovation of metal in general; - he is credited, along with Michael Weikath as the inventors of power metal
  • Is the principal songwriter and composer of the groups he has been in, i.e., Helloween, Gamma Ray, Iron Savior
  • Is recognized by other heavy metal artists as an important figure in heavy metal, and has given creative direction to other groups (Blind Guardian)
  • Posesses an immense technical skill that is acclaimed and recognized as one of the best in the genre.

Others who fit these criterion for being an HMG are Dave Mustaine, Tuomas Holopainen, John Petrucci, Alexi Laiho, Vintersorg, Ishahn, Arjen Lucassen, Daniel Gildenlow, Andre Olbrich, Steve Harris, Mikael Akerfeldt, Timo Tolkki, Chuck Schuldiner, Jon Schaffer, Dimebag Darrell, Devin Townsend, Jeff Loomis, Jesper Stromblad and Michael Amott to name a few. All are regarded as the locus of the bands they are/were in, and are seen as the ones who posess the creative force that places their respective bands among the higher echelons of metal culture today. What about X or Y, you may say? You must ask yourself, would they stack up against these criterion? Surely Herman Li is a lightning-fast and technically proficient guitarist, however his lack innovation and creativity do not stack up against a direct comparison of the HMG's mentioned.

My HMG theory is only a framework to praise the work of those worthy of being praised - those who have furthered the creative output of the genre and to venture beyond the boundaries and limitations to provide something amazing, new and musically unsurpassed that can be enjoyed by all. Rock on! \m/

August 5, 2005
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