Reviews, interviews, articles, and other blather about music from the mind of Yugoboy

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Heavy Metal Historian

Heavy Metal Historian Podcast

Opening each episode with major riffage, and closing each with a song Australia-born Greg Davies feels solidly encapsulates the point of that week's episode, the Heavy Metal Historian podcast fills the 45-60 minutes in between with an encyclopedic knowledge and densely filled narrative of that week's metal history lesson. No matter how thorough you consider your knowledge of metal to be, there will be bands, acts, and songs you never heard of used to illustrate the theme of the week.
Davies covers specific topics chronologically from their predecessor influences to the most recent examples each week in discrete chunks such that enjoyment of one episode generally isn't predicated on having listened to previous episodes. This is intentional - "Heavy Metal Historian was a concept I had bubbling in the back of my mind for several years: to explore the overall genre with a historical perspective. I heard several metal podcasts dealing with new music or news, but nobody was exploring the history. It ended up being a situation where I wanted to create the podcast I always wanted to hear." Occasionally, such as the Elizabeth Bathory episode, when the topic explores the origins of song content, elements of traditional documentary slide in. Probably the first 15 minutes of the Bathory episode retell the Countess' life and the subsequent transformation of her story after her death. Then the heavy metal part kicked in and the rest of the episode was all about the music.
The topics of four of the first five episodes are not indicative of this trend as the first two tell the story of the origins of heavy metal from the earliest days of Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin and others all the way into the solidly early metal days of the late 1970s. Episodes three and four tell the history of "Shock Rock" as a subgenre of metal from the very pre-metal days of Screaming Jay Hawkins and even going as far back as France's Grand Guignol theater and its prudery-defying expositions of the goriest of stage shows and shocking sexuality. The "subgenre of metal that pre-dates metal" gets a full treatment climaxing (as it were) with modern acts from Gwar and Slipknot and death/black metal acts that seemingly exist solely to poke a finger in the eyes of convention and common decency. When asked about dealing with ridiculous song titles as he had to deal with in that episode, he says "After writing the script, I do the entire read in one take with mistakes and all, and edit them out in post. So, in truth, I don’t avoid losing my calm when recording – it just gets cut out afterwards!"
Other, episodes cover such topics as the Origins of Thrash Metal, Jack the Ripper and the aforementioned Elizabeth Bathory, Vampires and Metal Tape Trading of the Metal Underground. At the time of this writing, 34 episodes exist and "there’s no end in sight. There’s so much more to come for Heavy Metal Historian." Each episode features more than a slice of metal history. Davies "envisioned the podcast [before starting which] allowed it to come out kicking and screaming from Episode One. I always anticipated the inclusion of regular segments like 'Prehistoric Mosh' and 'Metal News', so those features came naturally as I went."
This "labor of love" takes Davies about a week to research, write, and produce. "I usually start with a skeletal outline based on my own knowledge and flesh it out from there. As I progress, I use a variety of sources on the web for additional information and research – so the end result is a combination of both my own knowledge and research." When queried about his source material, he says Encyclopaedia Metallum ( is "an incredible resource that all metalheads should check out;" also various bands' Wikipedia entries help.
Exploring the wide spectrum of metal, Davies is open to an incredibly inclusive definition. So far only one episode covers Punk, "Punk is most certainly a genre that stands on its own, but sonically, it’s close relationship with Metal should not be ignored. Both styles influence each other, and they continue to do so." And, although no episode covers the glam/hair scene yet "for the purposes of the podcast, I try to be as 'all-encompassing' as possible – because every person has a different perspective."
Unlike some podcasts, Davies pursues his for the love, not the money, which allows him to utilize pretty much any clip or whole song under fair use, which exposes listeners to more variety than they otherwise would get were he forced to pay ASCAP or BMI for permission. Other podcasts produces include Blendover and TARDISblend, the second being a Doctor Who show cogitating on various episodes when the show is in season.
Download episodes of Heavy Metal Historian from iTunes: or Stitcher: or do like I do and simply use the browser of your favorite Podcast App (I use Rat Poison: or .)

Since I wrote this article, I have enjoyed significantly more episodes of the podcast.  I will at some point write part 2 of this in response to those.  Keep your eyes open.

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