Much like commercial hip-hop, mainstream heavy metal appeals to us by virtue of its aggressive decadence and infatuation with material and sexual acquisition, albeit with a wide apocalyptic streak. Its rebellious and outlaw tendencies are tempered by a warrior-like bravado displayed through various means from epic mythological swordplay to battling with fists, guns or chainsaws in the contemporary street. Despite radical evolutions in the sound of metal, these basic traits are united by a visual symbolism that has remained recognizable for decades. Within a musical context, razor blades, pentagrams, spiked gauntlets, leather jackets, steeled, unsmiling band poses, long hair whipped back and forth and the infamous horned hand still reek of metal attitude. Heavy metal approaches and presents the tough, violent, reckless margins of functional society, but its creators and fans rarely stray into territory that would actually foster the dissolution of hardwired social and political norms--at least not to the extent that they'd compromise their ability to get laid, wasted and rock out. Fantasy and indulgent escapism are at the cold, grim, bloodthirsty heart of mainstream metal. It's a shit ton of mostly harmless fun. Perhaps that's why, in the wake of numerous recent and heinous international crises affecting the United States, the genre has undergone a radical resurgence here. Symptoms include the exhumation of Headbanger's Ball, Ozzy's ubiquitous, if pruny, face and the repeal of the "exile the long-hairs" amendment.
Interest in metal's formative years apparently hasn't waned given two of the genre's most accomplished and influential acts, Judas Priest and Slayer, are appearing with this year's incarnation of the Ozzfest. Boise apparently isn't quite metal enough to warrant the entire tour, which isn't such a terrible deal. It means we don't have to go out to the parking lot and fellate our whiskey bottles during sets by Dimmu Borgir, Atreyu, Otep, Superjoint Ritual, Every Time I Die and Slipknot, and we still get to see Judas Priest and Slayer. Unfortunately we do have to sit through Hatebreed, whose monotonous bore-core is somehow more annoying than Slayer's post-80s output. The Connecticut quartet will attempt to connect with you using clever lyrics like "If you don't live for something, you'll die for nothing," but death to false metal; you must resist!
Like fellow Brits Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, Judas Priest spent much of the '90s touring CCR-style without their most recognized and most talented vocalist. Like Ozzy and Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford has reunited with his old band now that tensions have cooled and the market is ripe. Compared to their tourmates, Priest will no doubt sound tame and a bit dated with their less vicious proto-metal/hard rock attack, but as the members haven't let themselves fall into total decrepitude, Halford-led classics like "Breaking The Law," and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," "Metal Gods," and "Hell Bent for Leather" should summon an ashen field of horned hands and concealed erections.
Thrash metal legends Slayer were one of the primary culprits behind the introduction of pseudo-satanic and grotesque, gory lyrics and images into metal, and responsible for much of its current speed and discordant riffing. Come 2004, the band is intractably synonymous with mock evil and fatuous blasphemy. Slayer is past its prime. Having never really left the scene or toured without original vocalists or songwriters, it's not fair to say that the band is out on a comeback or reunion tour. However, they haven't unearthed a great album since 1990's Seasons In The Abyss, the last to feature original drummer Dave Lombardo, and their latest record, 2001's God Hates Us All was entirely unnecessary. It might be a stretch to assert that Lombardo's triumphant return this year will have a profound impact on Slayer's future output, but he's undoubtedly the most competent at playing their classics, and hopefully his presence means fewer new songs. Hopefully his presence also means we'll hear "Haunting the Chapel," "Hell Awaits" and "Reign In Blood" in their entireties while a swarm of topless, intricately tattooed women descend on the Idaho Center Amphitheater, gigantic explosions torch the sky with their infernal fire, dark beer streams uncruelly from the heavens, the hair of the faithful horde grows long and straight, Satan and Odin battle for eternal supremacy above the stage with sword and axe and ... Dude ...
Judas Priest with special guests Slayer and Hatebreed, July 26, doors at 5:30 p.m., show at 6:30 p.m., $45 reserved, $35 GA Floor, $29.50 GA Lawn, Idaho Center Amphitheater, Nampa. Tickets at Ticketweb.