Tag Archives: Is it Metal?

Is it Metal? – “Stone Cold Crazy” by Queen

After another long hiatus (this time caused by too many factors to mention – mostly other writing deadlines that I prioritized over blogging), I feel like I need another short, easy blog post to get myself into a groove. It seems like these ‘Is it Metal?’ posts are perfect for just such a thing.

This week’s challenger? Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy.”

Wikipedia says: It’s not metal.

My take: Sorry, Wikipedia. For once, you’re dead wrong. This is pure, unadulterated metal. This song, released in 1974, preceded the emergence of speed metal (late 70’s) and thrash metal (early 80’s) by several years. It’s cited as a seminal influence in both genres, and was even described by Q Magazine as “thrash metal before the term had been invented yet.”

Don’t believe me? Listen to this Metallica cover of “Stone Cold Crazy” and tell me the original isn’t every bit as fast, intense, and powerful. If Metallica can’t make a song more metal than the original, that’s saying something.

A final note: Queen has to be one of the most versatile, most influential, and most creative bands in the history of modern pop music. They basically created whole genres without trying or even realizing it. Their influence will be with us for decades to come. Hats off to them!

Image credit: Featured image by Thomas Steffan (CC BY-SA 2.5), via Wikimedia Commons.

Is it Metal? – “American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad

First off, my apologies to any and all readers for the long hiatus. My wife and I recently had a new addition to the family, and those of you who are parents surely know that babies are massive time vortices, sucking in any and all free moments from your sleep-deprived, zombie-like clutches. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised babies haven’t been the subject of more testing by experimental physicists, as they surely bend the laws of time and space in their near vicinity. Besides the time thing, their gravitational pull is also far higher than it has any right to be, as my leaden, baby-lugging arms can attest to.

Anyway, I figured the best way to get back into the active blogosphere was to ease myself in slowly, and what better way to do so than with a short ‘Is it Metal?’ post. This week, I’m featuring Grand Funk Railroad’s 1973 hit “We’re an American Band.”

Wikipedia says: It’s not metal.

My take: This one is pretty clear-cut. The song is heavy and certainly loud, but it’s not metal. From lead singer (at least on this track) Don Brewer’s gruff, bravado-infused voice to the prominent funky bass to the thematic elements, this song is full on American hard rock from the start and dang good hard rock at that.

However, that hasn’t stopped heavy metal artists such as Poison and Rob Zombie from tackling the song in cover form. I’ve included some links for your perusal, but honestly, I wouldn’t bother listening to them if I were you. The covers are poor at best. Grand Funk Railroad’s gruff, hearty original  is hard to beat, but beyond that, the song as a whole just doesn’t lend itself very well to a metal version.

One note to end on: I’ll try to start a more regular posting schedule again, but quantity will probably not reach pre-baby levels anytime soon. Still, you should expect more than one post every other month from here on out.

Image credits: Featured image by Ben Schumin (SchuminWeb) (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Flickr.

Is it Metal? – “Hocus Pocus” by Focus

In ‘Is it Metal?’, I take an old rock song and ask the question, can it be considered metal or not?

This week, from 1972, the song “Hocus Pocus” by Focus:

Wikipedia says: It might be metal.

My take: This is a tough one. The song is just so completely off-the-wall bizarre and strange. I mean, what kind of metal song features an organ, an accordion, a flute, yodeling, whistling, and jazz-style scat singing? But you could ask the same thing of a rock song, could you not? It’s a harder question to answer because there’s a significant difference in the way the song was played live, as I’ve linked above, and the album version, which was considerably slower and more structured, if still just as eccentric.

If I had only the album version to judge, I would say it’s hard rock. But the sheer speed of the live version makes it feel a little bit more like metal. I mean, it’s just so brutally, unrelentingly fast.

Again, I’m torn here, but I think I’m going to give it a hard rock nod, purely based on the studio version of the song. However, there is no doubt that “Hocus Pocus” had a huge influence on heavy metal, based on the number of heavy metal covers of the song that can be found. My personal favorite is Helloween’s version, which, while not as fast as Focus’s own live version, gives it a heaviness and guitar-centric focus lacking in the original.

So, what are your thoughts? Is “Hocus Pocus” metal, hard rock, or just plain bizarre? While you consider it, enjoy Helloween’s cover below.

Image credits: Featured image by AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki – Gallerie: Toppop 1974) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Is it Metal? – Budgie’s “Breadfan”

Here’s a fun little game to play. I’ll dig up an old song, say at least 30 years old, one that rocks really hard. I’ll link to a YouTube video of it, preferably an actual video recording of the band performing it, and then pose the question, is it metal, or not?

As I’ve mentioned before, whether or not something is ‘metal’ is not easy to define, and it has more to do with style than substance. In the 1970’s and early 80’s, heavy metal was just starting to emerge and evolve, so it’s especially hard to determine whether or not some of the heavy songs from this era could really be considered metal or not. But it’s fun to take a guess.

This week, Budgie’s “Breadfan” from 1973:

Wikipedia says: It’s metal.

My take: Yup, it’s metal. It features fast, distorted, grungy guitars, distinctive thumping bass lines, and a simple drum pattern. If I had to classify it, I’d say it sits somewhere between speed metal and progressive metal, thanks to the lovely melodic interlude in the middle of the song that makes me think that perhaps Opeth listened to a little Budgie in their youth.

Such a great song. I think that fast, dirty guitar alone qualifies it as metal.

Your thoughts?

Image credit: By @abrunvoll (Own work) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), via Flickr.