It's about this time of the calendar when we look forward to a new year of Metal and also look back on Metal from preceding years. Like most of us, I believe that Metal evolved in a natural path from rock and blues, through the Gods Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, as described in the Gospel of Bon Scott (Let There Be Rock, verses i-iii).
I believe that the earlier prophets of rock 'n roll such as Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles also played their part which is to be respected but not necessarily worshipped.
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Everyone has their own beliefs and that's fine by me (sort of). My beliefs are pretty orthodox and standard I think, but I have met some crazies with out-there beliefs such as the Metal-Came-From-The-Moon Cult and several varieties of Creationists.
For example, my friend Jay Graham (drummer for Ravens Creed and that death Metal session I mentioned last year (click here), is a form of Creationist. More specifically, he is a Post-Puppeteer.
Post-Puppeteers believe that Metal was spontaneously formed during the recording of 'Master Of Puppets' and that it had never existed before then.
Showing a Port-Puppeteer a copy of 'Ace Of Spades', 'Restless And Wild' or even 'Ride The Lightening' is a bit like showing dinosaur bones to a Christian Creationist. They can see they're there but will deny the proof before their eyes till their dying breath.
Now, I'm not saying Christian Creationists or Post-Puppeteers are mad. Jay is a nice normal chap (actually there was one time he was thrown out of Metal club on the bus for his extreme beliefs. On that occasion he denied that 'Van Halen I' was the greatest debut of all time. In fairness, that kind of blasphemy will lose you friends anywhere but most of the time Jay and others like him are alright.
In the same way that a Christian Creationist will sometimes point at holes in Darwin's Theory Of Evolution, Metal Creationists and Post-Puppeteers will sometimes find fault in the theory of Metal evolution. There are admittedly some unexplained missing links in the theory.
One such missing link that Creationists use to prove their case is the so called 'Mutt Lange Mystery'. For those of you who don't know, Robert 'Mutt' Lange is a very successful record producer who has worked with Bryan Adams, Foreigner, Def Leppard, AC/DC and many others. It is his work with those last two bands that give Metal theologians such a hard time.
While his AC/DC albums like 'Back In Black' are awesome slabs of rock, clearly created by a live band rocking out in a room together as the Gods intended, with the backing vocals done in a similar manner, all round a mic gang-style, no doubt with a couple of beers to hand, other albums he's done such as Def Leppard's 'Hysteria' are the complete opposite.
Hysteria sounds like it was recorded with a programmed drum machine (fair enough their drummer, Rick Allen had just lost an arm in a car crash), programmed bass (no excuse there for the fully limbed Rick Savage), layered guitars (rumour has it they recorded string by string rather than playing whole chords at a time even) and backing vocals which sound suspiciously like they're sung by the same one or two people again and again layered up in harmony many times over then drenched in reverb. "Pour some reverb on me", as they say.
Metal Creationists leap on chance incidents like this to prove their case that rock does not evolve gradually but rather takes leaps and bounds caused by divine intervention from the Gods of rock, be they good or evil, for good or for bad.
Metal evolutionists are generally at a loss as to how to explain anomalies such as these beyond unsatisfactorily shrugging them off as co-incidence.
Recent research by evolutionist expert 'Hot' Stevie Firth has however thrown up a direct link between the two. By tracking both bands back to their earlier albums with Mr Lange (respectively 'Highway to Hell' and 'Pyromania') a link has indeed been spotted. Have a listen to AC/DC's 'Touch Too Much'...
We can clearly hear the band in a very similar style to how they had always played and indeed continued to play on the follow up 'Back In Black', albeit with Brian Johnson replacing the late Bon Scott on lead vocals. This was Mutt and AC/DC's shot at a chart hit. It didn't chart too well in the end, just about scraping the top 40 in the UK but not even denting the top 100 in the US, through no fault of the song or performance as it is clearly awesome.
Note the backing vocals. While they're not the same as 'Hysteria''s multi-tracked harmonies they are a step aside from the usual AC/DC gang shout-along vocal. They are high-register, layered, sung in harmony and given a fair bit of reverb while still retaining AC/DC's gang vibe. Nice touch, Mutt!
Now listen to Def Leppard's 'Photograph' from 'Pyromania', the predecessor to 'Hysteria'.
At this point Def Leppard still have a quadrupedal drummer and are recording more or less as a live band. Now listen to those backing vocals. They not the one man layered 'Hysteria' vocals, they're the same trick Mutt used with AC/DC a couple of years before - high register, harmonies, gang vibe and reverb.
Examine the two tracks further if you like. Note after the first chorus both songs have a pause and a similar guitar lick before entering verse two. Note the similar guitar and vocal play during the first verses building up to open chords and pumping bass for verse two. The songs are not the same at all, the bands are not the same, what is the same is the arrangement and production styles - Mutt's missing link!
The Mutt Lange Mystery is solved, the missing link between both later albums 'Back In Back' and 'Hysteria' was there all along! Like Cro-Magnon man and the Neaderthals, the two styles and bands clearly co-existsed in Mutt's vision at one time.
Now this has clearly been proven as a case of evolution, Creationists like Jay will still just shrug and say; "Def Leppard aren't Metal anyway." There's no helping some people.