On hearing the recent news that ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted has been diagnosed with long-term whiplash and has been instructed to cease head-banging with immediate effect, I quickly realised what a rarity this actually is.
Heavy music is, at its core, aggressive. It is an expression of hostility in all its forms. Those that create it should exude it and those that listen should absorb it. It is, after all, what each side would expect. Put even more simply than that, the moment Amon Amarth headbang, metal fans worldwide windmill the crap out of everything.
Sports stars are always getting injured – it’s an inevitable part of their job. However, with the notable exceptions of Tom Araya (Slayer), Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) and now Jason Newsted, the stories of musicians completely knackering their neck muscles and introducing lifelong instability to the musculoskeletal structures of the upper thorax are, without question, sparse. And I want to know why? And, what’s more, what I really want to know, for me and for millions of music fans – are these people even trying?
Surely we should hear a gruesome story every week – tales of neck braces, traction, aneurysms, blood clots and even early dementia. This is what the science tells us and yet we watch a steady stream of serious ‘metal guys’ swan in and out of the limelight without so much as an ingrowing toenail.
Tom Araya, and of course it would have to be Tom Araya, has shown us all how it should be done – surgery, intensive physiotherapy, early retirement. Tom tried, Tom tried really hard – then again Tom was the frontman of fucking Slayer so he had little choice or he would have risked being eaten by his fans – and, over the years, the more people the Slayer fans ate, the more people became Slayer fans. As a result, Tom tried harder and harder, and his spine bent further and further until it very nearly snapped. He didn’t get eaten though.
Corpsegrinder, the frontman of iconic death metal band Cannibal Corpse, isn’t trying. He looks like he is but he isn’t. He uses a ‘neck double’ every gig to protect his own neck which he leaves backstage in a carrier bag. They had to use the flesh of two human corpses to create the double but it protects old George’s real neck. Similarly, other bands will employ a variety of methods to make it look like they are trying even though they’re not – take brutal slamming death metal – the bands are all made of latex. None of them are real.
We need to start demanding more effort from our musicians. It is crystal clear that none of them are putting in anywhere near the required effort. Whiplash should be the ‘industry norm’ – not confined to the odd has-been and the ways of music should be littered with hunched, decrepit forms who once stood tall in the name of ‘metal’. Look at the Instagram feed of our most extreme band members – there’s too many people in the gym, in the swimming pool, sticking bits of cucumber on their eyes and sipping daintily on a pomegranate flower smoothie. Fuck off – that’s no way to risk serious spinal misalignment. You’re not even likely to chip a tooth.
It’s time for us all to be Jason – especially as Jason can’t be Jason anymore. We owe it to him. And to Tom. And to Dave.