By: Brady Lavin
One of the many common misconceptions about Death Metal is that people think Death Metal musicians and fans are all about violence and death. It makes sense really; the genre is called DEATH Metal, and one look at the lyrics of any song is enough to make any God-fearing man crap his pants. What outsiders fail to realize is that the so-called “headbangers” do all this in good fun, for the most part. There are always the black metal bands who burn churches and torture people, but they are NOT Death Metal. They are just lumped in to this genre by people who don’t know better. Death Metal is really all about having a great time.
This sentiment is constantly echoed throughout the entirety of Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991). Edited by Alan Moses and Brian Pattison, Glorious Times is exactly what it says it is. Moses and Pattison have compiled hundreds of photographs from fans, promotional materials, and the musicians themselves that display the underground death metal scene in its heyday, before the corporate world realized that there was money to be made off of these “long hairs.”
Organized by band, Glorious Times covers everybody from Acheron and Autopsy to Vomit and Where’s the Pope? Any band that was significantly involved in the scene is included, even some bands that ended up being hugely successful, like Sepultura and Cannibal Corpse. No, Slayer is not included, BUT BEFORE YOU GET ANGRY AND LEAVE you must realize that Slayer wasn’t a part of the underground death metal scene. They were already big names and being listed as huge influences on these lesser-known metal bands. They weren’t trading tapes and being discovered by metal ‘zines. This book is about the undergound; it just so happened that some of the bands popped their banging heads above ground.
Part of what makes Glorious Times such a great read/look is the sense of community that pervades every blurb about every band. A book of just pictures would be cool, but it would be better to have the musicians themselves write about their fond memories of touring and partying, right? That’s exactly what Moses and Pattison did. The vast majority of the writings are from members of the band being written about or another band close to them, with a few here and there from the writers of metal fanzines as well, which give another interesting perspective.
So much of what these death metallers write is about how this band is a bunch of cool guys and how it was so much fun touring with these other dudes. After reading about a third of the book, it is obvious that almost everybody knew almost everybody else and they were all friends or at least friendly acquaintances. The 80′s death metal scene was quite incestuous, in the best way possible of course.
What is really interesting is how they all ended up knowing each other. How could Deceased, from Virginia, be great friends with Autopsy, a band from the other side of the country in San Francisco? Well, apparently before this Internet thing was invented, people had to find cool new music in creative ways.
One of the ways was the tape trading circuit. Kids would send their tapes and tapes of cool bands other people already sent them across the country so other people could discover whatever brutal new death metal band was up-and-coming. They would often continue writing (on paper!) back and forth and forge friendships that way. Of course this would end up with people meeting at festivals and bands touring together and getting into all manner of trouble.
This “all manner of trouble” is the main reason why Glorious Times is so goddamn entertaining. It seems like every person writing about their band wanted to convey the craziest touring story they could, and the result is pure gold. For example, when one member of Buffalo’s Malevolent Creation couldn’t make a show, they decided to go on anyway, but go a little crazy. They all played each other’s instruments, wore only cloth diapers, made up ridiculous song titles (like “I’ll Suck Your Toes, But Then You’ll Die” and “If It Smells Good, Eat It”), and played nonsense for 40 minutes or so. The kicker is that the underground magazines gave them rave reviews, saying they were a sick new hardcore band!
While all the crazy stories are exciting to read, it really is the community of the scene that brings this book together as a whole rather than a hodgepodge of metalheads talking about their glory days. Ross Dolan from New York band Immolation says it best: “You heard news through fanzines or letters, and you would travel up to 18 hours to see a show. This is what made these times so ‘Glorious’, the passion the camaraderie and the love for extreme metal. We made so many great and lasting friendships during these years and always cherish the times when we can reconnect with all these great people that cleared the way for this music in the years to come.”
Glorious Times is, all in all, a must-have for any metal fan. Everyone should know the history of their favorite genre, and Glorious Times is an uncensored, untamed look into metal’s dirty, drunken past. It comes straight from the mouths of those who were there, right to the ears of those who wish they were.