Metal, the most extreme form of rock, can sometimes attract extremists. Nasty ones. Like racists. Metal fans must always be on guard for this. Check out this article from JacobingMag called “Metal’s Bleeding Edge.”
For Americans of a certain age, there was time when heavy metal was synonymous with Pantera. In the early 1990s, bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax were playing in a more hard-rock, mainstream style. Slayer was just about the only of thrash’s “big four” adhering to some semblance of their original sound, and later in the decade, even they were for a time pulled into the embarrassment of “nu metal.”
There were groups like Helmet, Faith No More, and Tool mixing metal influences with everything from punk to prog rock, often with brilliant results. And of course there were the bleak calls of black metal from Scandinavia.
But if you wanted a metal sound that was un-diluted and un-nostalgic, music that could plumb the abyss of Clinton-era America, Pantera was essential.
That the group remains such a mainstay, such a central presence in popular music, reflects that there is something in the world maintaining its relevance, something well beyond the confines of heavy metal.
That is why the controversy around former front man Phil Anselmo has captured the attention of so many over the past two months. Fans and detractors alike have been debating Anselmo’s racism for two decades, and attempting to fix a meaning to his comments about “white culture” and other such dog whistles. Footage of the screamer sieg-heiling and bellowing “white power!” from the stage at a recent show doesn’t leave much room for interpretation though.
Anselmo eventually apologized after days of denying it was anything but a joke. His current band Down was disinvited from at least one festival, and the group’s “homecoming concert” in New Orleans was canceled. The damage has been done, but people will continue to excuse and justify Anselmo’s actions and listen to his music.