Back in the late 80s, my brother and I would head down to the local supermarket in search of the newest issue of Metal Hammer on a monthly basis. Metal Hammer was the only publication available to us which had anything to do with music aside from Menudo, although thinking back, Menudo were pretty rad and almost metal looking themselves.
Look, the colors on the pants might be a bit much, but the guys from Manowar have dressed in outfits that are pretty similar to this.
South America in the 1980s being what it was, the "newest" issue of Metal Hammer in the supermarket's newstands would always be two years old, had pages ripped out, and would cost nearly three times what a normal magazine would cost. Still, being able to see pictures of the bands that we listened to was so rare, that no price was too large to pay. It was a bit annoying to read articles written in Spanish from Spain (a bit different from that spoken in other countries), referencing the recording process of albums that had been out for nearly two years. Nevertheless, the pilgrimage to the local supermarket was part of our metal routine, and we loved it.
Having only recently unearthed the Metal Inquisition archives, seeing our large collection of Metal Hammer magazines was a pleasant surprise. Seeing those magazines was like welcoming an old friend back into your home during a snowstorm. As such, I welcomed these beloved Metal Hammer's back into my life, and began to flip through their pages. As I turned each page, I was amazed by how many of the pictures, articles and ads I remembered perfectly. I must have looked through each of those magazines millions of times, and thus I still remember details from every page. I remember perfectly that the article about Slayer came after the Robert Plant picture (the selection was iffy at best) and before the Uriah Heap concert review. Among all the articles and reviews that I remember perfectly, the one you can see above, detailing Charlie Benante and Scott Ian's love of crossover and hardcore music is perhaps the one that (as awful as it is to admit) had the most profound impact on me. Look, I've already opened up about my embarrassing past to all of you, and even shown you the horrible drawings I made as a kid, so sharing yet another stupid aspect of my life seems like no big deal. It's kinda' how the anthrax (not the band) scare seemed like no big deal after September 11. It's exactly like that...but kinda' different. Anyway, back to the article. Around the time I saw this picture, my brother and I had already heard Cryptic Slaughter and D.R.I., and loved them both. I had trouble placing such bands within the metal spectrum, but enjoyed the fact that some of the band members had short hair, and dressed kinda' like my mom made me dress back then. Yes, I certainly tried hard to rock a vicious mullet (and I did from time to time), but whenever my mom took me to the barbershop at the mall (the one in front of the ice cream place, by entrance #7) my mullet was chopped off, and with every snip I cried tiny metal tears. Like Samson, I too lost my powers once my plumage was removed. For that reason, seeing pictures of guys in bands with short hair made me feel empowered, I could now tell other kids at school that my look was planned out, and not simply as a result of my mother's overbearing, tyrannical parenting style (any latino readers, or jewish readers for that matter, probably know what I mean). In contrast to the more relaxed approach of crossover bands, seeing pictures of Venom made me feel rather disconnected from them based on their attire. I simply couldn't relate to what they were wearing. As an 11 year old, my only thoughts were "How do they get their mom's to let them wear those outfits?" and "Does Mantas realize how phallic those nunchucks look?"
Thigh-high red leather boots, phallic nunchucks and a spiked girdle. Wow, you have to love 80s black metal.
In contrast to Venom, bands like DRI and Cryptic Slaughter looked (at least in their early albums) more like me. I remember seeing the picture below in a Cryptic Slaughter album, and being amazed by the fact that this guy's mom also made him cut his hair and wear white t-shirts. Though it may seem silly and superficial to be drawn to a musical style for aesthetic reasons, please remember that I was 11, and most of these bands seemed to play as fast (if not faster) than most metal bands did at the time. Also, how could you not love the DRI mascot? Which reminds me, was I the only kid who would run and try to stop suddenly in order to hold the DRI pose? Hmm....maybe it WAS only me who did this.
Now check out this picture of the Crumbsuckers at the beach, and compare it to Venom. What a fun bunch of guys!
For the very reason that some kids were attracted to Slayer (aesthetics), I was attracted to these other bands. That, it would appear, was enough to make me like them at first. Yes, I realize that crossover amounted to little more than many bands sucking at two musical styles at once, instead of one. But hey, what can I tell you, I like pickle and peanut butter sandwiches too, and as far as I know, I'm not pregnant. In the end, it was no different from the people who were drawn to Venom because of their leather pants. Another aspect appealed to me was their lyrical content. Although I couldn't speak English at all back then (see my "welcome to the hell" drawing here if you need proof), I could make out some of their messages, and could easily see that the devil played no part in their lyrical content. Don't get me wrong, I too thought Eddie and Iron Maiden's visuals were cool as a little kid, but growing up in South America during an insanely violent time, songs about the devil didn't scare me or make much of an impression on me. Skulls, pentagrams, even Venom's whole thing on the back of Black Metal about raping nuns or whatever didn't seem all that evil. Real evil was the insanity that surrounded all of us in that area of the world back then. I had no proof that satan existed, but I did have proof that actual human beings had the ability of being insanely brutal and were murdering each other around me all the time in ways that Slayer and Sabbat could only dream of. Although I'm aware that many metal bands came from modest backgrounds in European and American cities, the levels of comfort they enjoyed were unheard of to most people in South American countries. Wealth and luxury, it would appear, afforded teenage minds the ability and time to wander and dream up these silly scenarios. Confronted with reality, South American bands (at least where I lived) largely sang about real topics, even if they looked a whole lot like Venom. Even having grown up in a comfortable setting, at just five years old or so, I saw a man's body after he had been shot in the face only minutes before. I remember his face and body being covered by a white sheet, as the sheet automatically soaked the blood from his contorted face. This happened outside a Chineese restaurant in the outskirts of the city, and I'll never forget how customers continued to stream into the restaurant, unfazed by the fact that a murder had just taken place. Similarly, for a short period of time during the mid 80s, the highway that my schoolbus took on its way to school would have bodies hanging from the trees along the route. Suicide was on the rise, and even six and seven year olds like me who were on that bus paid little attention to the bodies swaying in the morning breeze. When you see those things at an early age (and I saw way more, though in comparison to many I had a fantastic and easy life) Eddie was justy not as scary as it seemed to some American kids. Dead bodies, shootings, bombings, mass murder, these were the sort of things I had proof of. Humans, not the devil were way scarier to me...but I'm getting off topic.
You see, when I first came upon this article in Metal Hammer, I read it slowly, picking up every band name that was mentioned. I also made a mental list of the albums that were being held up in the picture, the ones that Scott was giving his decidedly positive thumbs-up to. Am I/was I a complete douchebag for taking musical advice from a godamned picture in Metal Hammer? Absolutely, but hey...as an 11 year old, it's not like I had that many other sources from which to derive musical suggestions. So with the list of albums from the picture, I would go on to buy every one of them (minus the Inferno one). I have to admit, it took me years to realize that the album which I thought was by a band called "The Wacky Hi-Jinks", was actually by Adrenalin OD. When I figured this out, I cursed Charlie for having hidden the band's name on the cover by not holding it at the very front. Had he held it up at the front, instead of the DRI album, I would have saved myself years of searching, and stupidly asking older dudes in my school if they liked the band "The Wacky Hi-Jinks". Oh well.
So over the years, I made my way through the list that was endorsed by these two metal titans. Much like I first listened to the Misfits purely because so many metal bands wore their shirts, I first listened to the Cro-Mags because of this picture. Unlike the first time that I heard the Misifts, which was a bit of a let down, most of these albums delivered the goods quickly. See, the Misfits were tough for me to like at first. I thought that if all metal bands liked them, and their skull looked so damn evil, they must surely sound like the fastest, heavist thing in the world. Having heard Napalm Death's Peel Sessions in 1988, I thought the Misfits were probably even faster and crazier. Imagine my surprise upon buying a Misfits cassette and hearing some mid-tempo music with a Jim Morrison impersonator singing. Sure, I grew to love it...but that first experience left a bitter taste in my mouth. DRI, on the other hand, delivered . Fast, short songs that came in bursts and made Metallica seem dopey and contrived.
The Crumbsuckers were perhaps my favorite among the bands I discovered because of the Metal Hammer article . Although my love affair with the Cro-Mags (who I also first listened to because of this picture) has lasted longer and been more intense, the first time I heard "Trapped" by the Crumbsuckers, I nearly pissed myself. That's not saying much, since I had a propensity for pissing myself back then at the drop of a hat. Unable to get their album, I first heard and saw them on the Hardcore video compilation, which was put out by Jettisoundz Productions. My friend Nicolas had a beta dub of it, so my brother and I made a dub of his dub. Our beta machines didn't have RCA connections, so we hooked up the two machines via coaxial cable, resulting in a dub of the poorest quality. You can see the tape below, complete with dot matrix printer song listing (circa 1988).
Although most of the bands on the tape were decidedly punk, The Crumbsuckers stuck out, as did their look. Like the singer from Cryptic Slaughter, Chris Notaro rocked a haircut I knew well, the very bowl cut that my mom had forced me to wear for so many years. The intensity of the video seemed crazy to me and as a result, upon visiting New York City for the first time I tried to look for CBGBs right away. Sadly, when I first went to New York City, I was 12 years old and my mom and grandmother wanted to go to Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue instead of looking for CBGBs....what a bunch of posers! But let me get back to crossover, as this could easily go down the path of hardcore and punk...and this is neither the time or the place. I'll simply say that it's a bit embarrassing to admit that you first listened to the Cro-Mags, not because you saw them at CBGB's at an early age, but rather because you saw Scott Ian holding up one of their records. Oh well, such is life.
Look, this is by no means a definitive post about the subject of crossover, which was such a hot musical topic back in the day...but merely a quick exploration about my first exposure to the genre. A more thorough post will have to be made one day, one that follows the fallout of this type of music (Pro-Pain, Biohazard, Scatterbrain, Downset etc) as well as the use of skateboards as photographic props by bands like Anthrax and Metallica. Crossover was a way for bands to show their street cred, and was something that punks and metalheads could both hate. Who knew that this musical style would later on create an entire sub-genre filled with denim vest-wearing hipster douchebags (complete with ironic haircuts, guitars, backpatches etc) that would basically add up to a Civil War reenactment.
So where does that leave me? I'm not really sure. I'm getting older, and thus find blending my enjoyment ("love" would be a bit much at this point) for this type of music with my mature lifestyle to be a bit of a challenge. Luckily, DRI has just released this very tasteful polo-style shirt, which is equally at home on the golf course, or in the pit at a Ritz matinee (sweet Lalapolooza tribal armband not required). Why let the guys in the IT department have all the fun? Along with an nice pair of pleated Dockers, you'll be representin' your metal roots, and pleasing your boss all at once. Everyone wins!