Five Popular Audio & Video Metal Releases @ Amoeba Music SF
1) Iron Maiden Flight 666 DVD
2) Metallica Death Magnetic CD/LP
3) Mastodon Crack The Skye CD/LP
4) Metal: A Headbangers Journey DVD
5) Nyktalgia Peisithanatos CD/LP
If, like me, you suspected that heavy metal music had been going through a bit of a renaissance in recent years and that the decades old genre born out of hard rock in the late 60's/early 70's seems more popular than ever these days, you would be correct, according to longtime metal fan and Amoeba employee Stevil. "The state of metal is healthier than ever. Plus it is more diversified than it has ever been," confirmed Stevil, who works at the San Francisco Amoeba Music, and who has been a dedicated metal fan since the early 80's -- a time when the genre, while popular with certain crossover bands, was generally not nearly as widely accepted as today. "It's cool and acceptable to like metal these days. That's good," said Stevil. He recalled the bygone era when he first got into the genre, when it had a certain "excitement and camaraderie" due to being a relatively smaller and more insular scene. "It was like a huge worldwide gang," reminisced Stevil, noting that, "Nowadays there's a lot of bands, a lot more bands, but with more and more fractured sub-genres" beyond the once standard classic, thrash, and black metal musical divisions which remain his personal favorite types of metal. "A lot of bands have come over from the hardcore punk scene, so there is a whole new fanbase to it, a wider fanbase than ever."
From his firsthand experience working at Amoeba, Stevil contends that generally metal fans are much more intense about their music than the casual pop music fan. Hence, like passionate music collectors & fans of other genres, metal fans too insist on vinyl pressings in addition to CD pressings of albums. "Back around 1990 when the music industry was making CDs the prevalent format and widely replacing vinyl, metal was one of the first genres to kick it [the industry] in the butt and let labels know that it needed and desired vinyl. People preferred vinyl. That's why punk and metal will always be available on vinyl." Is this because of the collectors thing or the audiophile thing? "Both," answered Stevil. "Underground genre people, be it metal or any other genre, are more passionate about their music. Plus there's a lot of metal DJs out there and they demand vinyl too. There's a lot of metal DJ nights. The fan base has increased. Hipsters embrace metal, especially stoner metal and black metal...the hipsters like all those bands so there are a lot of [metal DJ] nights popping up here in San Francisco. The Make Out Room had a good metal night there for a while." Stoner metal is more Black Sabbath influenced; it's slower and blues based metal, a style that has seen dozens of such bands popping up in the Bay over the past few years.
Knowing the Bay Area has always been receptive to metal and has given the world some of its greatest metal bands, I asked Stevil to name some of the best local bands, especially up and coming ones. "Of course there are the well known longtime groups like Exodus and Testament. And Hammers of Misfortune are one of the bigger acts locally. The group Ludicra is very popular, and Saros is an up and coming group that plays around a lot." See video below of the SF band playing in their hometown last year at the Hemlock Tavern on Polk St.
And as for some of the best selling metal records, CDs, and DVDs at the San Francisco Amoeba in recent months -- as with the Hollywood store, both the Metal: A Headbangers Journey and the recently released Iron Maiden Flight 666 DVDs are also popular at the Haight Street Amoeba. Metallica's Death Magnetic, released back in September by the veteran Bay metal group, is still selling well, as is the March 09 release by popular Atlanta, GA group Mastodon, Crack The Skye. Also popular with Amoeba customers is German death metal band Nyktalgia's latest album Peisithanatos.
For another taste of metal, check out Amoeba's interview and performance videos with Earth, High on FIre, Om, and Saviours.