Almost since its inception, the Basement was known as the home to Pantera: the band members hung out there as though it was a second home, and the hard-rock club was used as a backdrop in three videos. So as the Basement (and On the Rocks, and even Z-Rock) closes its doors and owner Ed Kilmer promises another, more "alternative" venue (with Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott as partner), so, too, closes an era: hard-rock as it once existed, as the domain of young white males who hated their lives and hated your life even more, has been shoved further toward extinction.
Metal's themes of chaos and violence and aggressive apathy, once absorbed by punk, have again been snatched by the likes of Green Day and the Offspring, and the excesses of metal/hard-rock seem startlingly ridiculous in 1995. If all bands are parodies or cheap knock-offs of what preceded them, then metal, which was almost an exaggerated cartoon since its inception, has similarly reached an inevitable conclusion. After the cartoon metal of the mid- to late '80s, the death- and speed-core of the early '90s, the so-called political metal of Metallica and Megadeth, the genre has exhausted its options.
Jon Pareles in The New York Times recently wrote that music is returning to the suburbs--"Newt Age Music," read the headline, a reaction to the reemergence of the far right-wing. But metal, with its apocalyptic and often sexist lyrics of angst and hatred and disillusionment, has always been in the 'burbs, to be absorbed by "angry youth...who don't feel like they've had their shot" (as Pantera drummer Abbott told the Observer once). In the song "25 Years" off Far Beyond Driven, Pantera's third record and one that enjoyed a split-second stay at Number One when released last spring, the band even refers to itself as "the bastard father to the thousands of the ugly, the criticized, the unwanted."
But it's telling, perhaps, when even Pantera's staunchest defenders--Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-head--mock the band's intensity while watching a video, wondering if singer Phil Anselmo is so agitated because his father threatened to kick his ass if he didn't take out the garbage. It's almost as if these two imbeciles who want to believe in the power of rock, who thrive on the joke, see through the empty rage of new metal--Like, why are they so damned angry all the time?, Butt-head wonders, and heh-heh-heh, damned if he knows.
Pantera performs February 3 at Fair Park Coliseum. Type O Negative opens.