None of my friends wanted to come with me to the mid-July heavy metal symposium at the New Art Gallery in Walsall. The promise of a Friday evening spent listening to lectures on such topics as the Brummie origins of Black Sabbath and the history of grindcore (the extreme offshoot of metal invented in the 1980s by Napalm Death, if you were wondering) failed to attract them, for some reason. They missed out. Four decades after the words “heavy metal” were first used by the rock critic Lester Bangs to describe Black Sabbath, the West Midlands is rightly celebrating its place as the epicentre of a cultural movement that has swept the globe.
Heavy metal has long been sneered at by music snobs for being resolutely proletarian, often aggressive, and obsessed with macabre, occult imagery. Over its 40-year history, however, it has achieved a level of worldwide ubiquity rivalled only by that of hip-hop.
The discussion opened up to questions from the floor. “Why do so many people hate heavy metal?” asked an audience member. This brought a blunt response from the musician and DJ Jon Pickering: “Because most of it is rubbish.”
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