Editorial News

The First Ever World Metal Congress Comes to London

It’s an early spring day, as I make my way to Shoreditch London to attend the inaugural World Metal Congress. Like many of the attendees I would speak to over the course of the day, I do not know what to expect, but I’m positive it will be an interesting day. As I arrive, it is clear that I am among my people. Regardless of colour or creed, we were united today with a common cause – to support the Metal industry, and show our love for it.

The room groans with the sound of leather, as we wait to go into the auditorium. Countless members of the Metal faithful mill about getting to know each other over a coffee, or a smoke (or maybe both). When the doors finally open, there’s a mixture of excitement and relief. It’s all about to kick off, but frankly, I don’t think any of us, including the panellists, truly have a sense for how the day will unfold.

The brainchild of ex-Metal Hammer editor and Twin V Ltd. Founder Alexander Milas in conjunction with Dr. Lina Khatib of world-renowned policy institute Chatham House, University of Central Lancashire’s Dr. Niall Scott and independent promoter Josh Retallick of Old Empire, the World Metal Congress was conceived as a two-day celebration of Heavy Metal and its global appeal. Combining feature panels, film, live music, and debate, the dominant theme of the event was most certainly one of inclusion.

Friday featured a number of panels which sought to challenge the accepted norms of the Heavy Metal industry, and open a wider discourse on what can be done to see it through the future. The first panel, Global Metal Sells, But Who’s Buying?, featuring Sammy Andrews (CEO of Deviate Digital), Steve Strange (Co-founder of X-Ray Touring), Walter Hoeijmakers (Artistic Director of the Roadburn Festival), Julie Weir (Label Head of Music For Nations), Kamran Haq (Promoter for Live Nation UK), and Vicky Hungerford (Booker & Director of Bloodstock Festival), examined the current state of the industry, its relationship with distant markets, its embrace of social media and technology, and the impact of Brexit.

This gave way to The New Mob Rules, featuring Sahil Makhija (Vocalist of Demonic Resurrection & host of Headbanger’s Kitchen), Dr. Aysa Draganova (Lecturer in Media & Communications at Birmingham City University), Tom O’Boyle (Freelance Journalist and University Lecturer at UCLan), Zaher Zorgati (Vocalist of Myrath), and Flower KC (Director of Nepal’s Silence Festival), which examined the challenges faced by non-Western bands to be truly included in the global metal scene, and what the industry itself should be doing to be more inclusive. Up next was Communication Breakdown, featuring Daniel P. Carter (Hose of BBC Radio 1’s Rock Show & Someone Who Isn’t Me podcast), Dom Lawson (Music Journalist for Metal Hammer & Prog), Kim Kelly (Freelance Journalist), and Richard Burgon (Labour MP Leeds East & lifelong Metalhead), they examined how the popular media portrays the metal genre, particularly in conflict zones and countries with oppressive regimes, and how this can be improved. Additionally, they examined the impact that the internet and social media has had on the relationship between fans, bands, and artists.

The Final panel of the day, Spreading The Metal Disease, featured Barney Greenway (Vocalist of Napalm Death), Yousef Shah (Ex Distruct Unknown, Vocalist for Afreet), Lina Khatib (Middle East Metal Impresario, and head of the Middle East at Chatham House), Sabina Classen (Vocalist for Holy Moses, & Temple of the Absurd), Lisa Meyer (Founder of the Home of Metal, and CAPSULE), and explored what the next 50 years of heavy metal might look like. Pitting the existential question of “what now, and what’s next?” to the panel, it made for one of the liveliest debates of the day. And what a day it was. I left having learned more than I had ever imagined I would going into the conference. I was also challenged to take a deeper look at the metal scene and understand that in my capacity as a writer and editor for an online metal magazine, I could be doing more than I already am to ensure that we are providing a platform for bands who do not have a voice in the heavily crowded and incentivised mainstream media.

Looking back over the course of the day, there were many key points that left a lasting impression on me. The first was the discussion on the fact that the metal genre has been very slow to embrace social media, and the full effect of streaming services. Spotify can be a much bigger tool than many would think. Labels and PR firms are looking at the metrics from all this to actually determine where bands go on tour, how they should distribute their marketing, and so forth. Also Spotify curation is a backdoor to huge amounts of engagement beyond the platform itself and into social media. However, it does appear that there is a disconnect between the PR companies, the labels, the ticketing agents, and occasionally the artists themselves, which means that bands (particularly up and coming bands) aren’t always getting the coverage or exposure that they require and deserve. However, there are great strides being made here with initiatives like Metal 2 The Masses, which was established by Vicky and the team behind Bloodstock, to ensure they’re doing their part to increase the exposure of up-and-coming artists and bands. Obviously the elephant in the room at this stage was Brexit, which we learned was already responsible for the cancellation of tours, and an understandable concern over how bands proceed in the case of the removal of the current freedom of movement. There are few good outcomes here, but Music 4 EU is working around the clock to do what they can to protect musicians and artists interests. I wish them every bit of success.

The next revelation was global metal itself. There are huge emerging markets in Indonesia, India, Syria, China, Nepal, Tunisia, Eastern Europe, New Zealand, South America, and countless others. In fact, the WMC was exhibiting the music of 80 different bands from 80 different countries over the course of the two-day event. Many of the bands from these places are not getting any attention. If they do, it’s virtually a National Geographic piece that concentrates on the conditions they’re living in, but when it comes to doing a follow up on the music, it doesn’t happen because the big publishing conglomerates are bored and ready to move onto the next quaint story. This leaves the bands and the journalists who have worked so hard to get their stories heard, frustrated and sometimes wondering what it will take to change the colonial Western attitudes towards covering them. A band should be examined on the merit of their music, not where they come from. Yes the latter does have an impact on the sound and often the content, but it is not the measuring stick for what makes them good or interesting. This all ties in with discussions throughout the day about the mainstream media and their myopic view of the metal industry and what gets the coverage and what doesn’t. In this sense, I’m glad to be writing for an independent outlet like My Global Mind, as we have the freedom to explore everything. If it’s good, we will spread the word. We honestly care more about the music than where that music is coming from.

These themes also play over into the flourishing and vibrant underground scene. As has always been the case, there aren’t clear connections between the underground and the mainstream. It’s imperative that more is done here, as both would benefit from a stronger relationship to foster a greater transfer of ideas and support. On the overriding theme of inclusion, there was a heated discussion over the actual inclusivity and diversity of metal, versus how it is perceived to be. While it is true, that metal is one of the most inclusive forms of music in the world, it is far from perfect. While significant strides have been made over the past twenty years, and the past five in particular, there is a long way go to. People should feel safe regardless of gender, colour, creed, or sexuality when they go to enjoy their favourite band or festival. Additionally, bands that are fronts for nationalism, racism, and homophobia should be exposed for what they are. Any sub-culture is going to be a microcosm of the society we live in, so while these elements are still rife in our daily lives, they are of course going to be on the fringes of the music we love. We are well past the time to say enough is enough and make the next 50 years of metal about positive change, rather than living in the past.

Sadly I was unable to attend the Saturday, but it comprised of an equally diverse, challenging, and powerful line-up, opening with the UK premiere of film Syrian Metal Is War, which shows that, “bombs, snipers, and power outages have done nothing to dampen the metal spirit in Syria. Sticking a finger to the ferocious civil war there, Syrian metal musician and filmmaker Monzer Darwish shot this captivating documentary on location during the ongoing conflict and smuggled the footage with him as he fled on a rubber boat to Europe. This film is testimony to the trials and tribulations of the metal community in one of the most dangerous countries on the planet today.”  

This led into two panels, United Forces, which examined the global metal community and looked even more deeply at how to make it more diverse and inclusive, and Fighting The Powers, which examined the political activism within metal, and whether it’s still as powerful as it once was. Finally, there was the UK premiere of Songs Of Injustice: Heavy Metal Music In Latin America, which is hailed as a “riveting journey of heavy metal’s struggles as it is produced and performed in the extremely challenging context of Latin America. Under the political stresses of colonialism, dictatorship, terrorism and neoliberal exploitation, Songs of Injustice highlights metal artists from Peru, Chile, Argentina and Mexico whose music has helped them to overcome social injustice.”

Throughout the day there were live performances which culminated into an evening of global metal featuring a mixture of grindcore, black metal, and high energy metal, with acts WORMROT, DAWN RAY’D, ZOMBIES ATE MY GIRLFRIEND, and UNYIELDING LOVE taking the stage to bring the two-day event to a close.

What can I say about this event? It was a brilliantly conceived and executed idea. What was small for its inaugural event, I can see growing into a much larger conference that bridges the gap between the industry and the fan, with panels, workshops, merchandise, and live events to rival many of the large conventions that are out there across various genres and sub-cultures. I wish the organisers, panellists, and attendees all the best for the future and see you at W\m/C 2!

If you want to know more about the World Metal Congress, have a look at their website:

https://www.worldmetalcongress.org/

As for the A to Z of world metal that was featured during the event, the World Metal Congress partnered with Global Metal Apocalypse to feature music videos, band photos, album artwork and songs by bands from Afghanistan to Zambia!

Should you want to explore these amazing bands yourself, the full list is as follows:

Afreet – Afghanistan

Aeons – Isle of Man

Amakartus – Mauritius

Apes of God – El Salvador

Arka’n – Togo

Ascendant – UAE/Syria

Asylum – Suriname

Awrizis – Czech Republic

Belos – Oman

Blademark – Macau

Bound to Prevail – Malta

Brunt – Guernsey

Cabrakaän – Mexico

Chaska – Peru

Clandestined – Japan

Corporal Jigsore – Bolivia

Crescent – Egypt

Crescent Lament – Taiwan

Crossbones – Albania

Cultura Tres – Venezuela

Dark Phantom – Iraq

Demonic Resurrection – India

Dividing the Element – Zimbabwe

Dreaded Mortuary – Philippines

Electric Mother – UK (Orkney Islands)

Eluveitie – Switzerland

Emphasis – Estonia

Exile – Iceland

Feed the Flames – Guyana

Follow the Cipher – Sweden

Folkheim – Chile

Forty Legs – Barbados

Gastrorrexis – Ecuador

Heredes – Malaysia

Holy Dragons – Kazakhstan

Hostia – Poland

Jenner – Serbia

Jonathan Steel – Libya

Kaoteon – Lebanon

Kawn – Morocco

Kashgar – Kyrgyzstan

Khalas – Palestine

Lamori – Finland (Åland Islands)

Lelahell – Algeria

Leatherjacks – Brazil

Lynchpin – Trinidad and Tobago

Maanish – Israel

Maysaloon – Syria

Mechanical God Creation – Italy

Myrath – Tunisia

Narsarakh – Brunei

Necrophilia – San Marino

Nekrah – Cyprus

Nervecell – UAE

Nefertem – Sri Lanka

Nemesis – Indonesia

Nightmare A.D. – Cambodia

The Perfect Mass – Greenland

Pitch Black Process – Turkey

Prayers of Sanity – Portugal

Preternatural – Latvia

Raza Truncka – Argentina

Redsphere – New Caledonia

ShadoWhisperS – Luxembourg

Shovel on the Corpse – Turkmenistan

Sons of Solomon – Solomon Islands

Statis Prey – Zambia

Taifa – Spain (Canary Islands)

TarantisT – Iran

Tavú – Puerto Rico

Temtris – Australia

Ten Tonne Dozer – UK (Shetland Islands)

Unburial – Spain (Balearics)

Unlocking the Truth – St Lucia

Upon Shadows – Uruguay

V for Violence – Finland

Váthos – Romania

Wasp Sting Danger – South Korea

Windrunner – Vietnam

Witchtrap – Columbia

Written by: Erik De’Viking

My Global Mind – UK Editor

Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.

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