Around 1990, Florida was rapidly put on the international musical map by an obscure phenomenon. Bands like Death, Deicide, Obituary or Morbid Angel established a regional music scene starting in the suburbs of Tampa Bay and Orlando that around 1992 was finally labelled “Florida death metal.” Although this upcoming scene has been much discussed due to its musical and praxeological characteristics or its occasionally strong use of satanic imagery, and to this day includes some of the best-selling extreme metal bands, its history nevertheless has been less of an issue in popular music studies or metal music studies.
On these grounds, this article addresses itself to the historization of the “Florida death metal” scene from its beginnings around 1984 to the peak of its fame around 1993/94. With the aid of different concepts of scene and using fanzine/magazine interviews and newspaper articles, it suggests a modified approach of categories to contextualize the scene’s development as a mixture of structural, social, cultural and experience-based evolutions. Beyond that, the article shortly investigates another neglected issue by arguing that the scene was not as exclusive and obscure as widely believed. Instead, the death metal scene obtained a disregarded media coverage in regional newspapers that—together with other progressions—launched a slow rethinking, which epitomizes some important links concerning the shift to postmodernism.
In 1991, The Tampa Bay Times published the article “Princes of darkness” and asked uncomprehendingly, “Oddly, the music scene thrives on the conservative Suncoast. Many experts call this area the death metal capital of the world. […] Why here? Why are young men in sunny paradise singing about dismemberment, murder, suicide and Satan?”1 And indeed, this astonishment was intelligible. Between 1984 and 1990, and starting in the suburbs of Orlando and Tampa, the metal scene in Florida underwent an amazing transformation: The region had been left mainly unaffected by the thrash metal movement of the early 1980s (thriving, e.g., in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York), although punk music definitely played a great role in Florida.2 On the contrary, the region came to be a hotbed for glam metal bands, influenced by the Sunset Strip scene in Los Angeles.3 As a reaction to glam metal’s musical characteristics and impressed by bands such as Savatage from Tampa or Nasty Savage from Brandon, a small network of youths emerged from high school or neighborhood acquaintances in search of a harder sound similar to their thrash metal paragons. The bands that came out of these modest beginnings—e.g., Mantas/Death from Altamonte Springs, Executioner/Obituary from Brandon, Heretic/Morbid Angel from Tampa, Amon/Deicide from Clearwater, Atheist from Sarasota—spearheaded an arising scene in the second half of the 1980s and helped create Florida’s, and especially Tampa’s, international reputation as a death metal stronghold. Down to the present day, the label “Florida death metal” provides a specific setup of musical features that arose from this early scene between 1984 and 1994, commonly perceived as the heyday of death metal.4
The reasons for Florida’s rapid ascendency in death metal music have often been queried, especially in fanzines and magazines but never researched scientifically.5 The situation is compounded because one of the main methods of contemporary historiography, the questioning of witnesses, has produced few results due to the utter concentration on the music in the extreme metal discourse.6 Metal musicians only reluctantly speak about (infra)structural conditions, social life and hierarchies, and their feelings about non-musical issues. Therefore, the very few answers in fanzines or magazines tend to be mono-dimensional, and some actors even pretend to have no idea at all. For instance, Obituary’s ex-bass player Frank Watkins professed: “I really don’t know why Florida was the hot spot for Death Metal. I can only attribute it to the heat.”7
In the following, it is the aim to expose the formation conditions of the Florida death metal scene in the 1980s and to explain its assertiveness and persistence. Based on the different concepts of scene, on comparative studies and with the aid of fanzine interviews and local newspaper articles, I suggest some extensions to the formation conditions of extreme metal scenes and propose my own set of categories concerning their preconditions and further development. Subsequently, I will examine those categories in the light of the death metal scene in Florida. The concluding thesis is that—besides the highly dynamic social relations, the pioneering role of local bands, and the infrastructural conditions, etc.—the local press played an important role for the dissemination of the label “Florida death metal” into the non-scenic public sphere. Although metal scenes and middle-class print media usually have been conceptualized as separate social fields due to mutual detestation, Florida’s death metal bands were not met with pure refusal, but rather launched a slow rethinking: While bands such as Deicide, Death, Obituary or Morbid Angel had been loathed by the non-initiated in the middle of the 1980s, ten years later they had a few more fans in the mainstream, but were rather perceived as a welcome opportunity to demonstrate the cultural diversity of the Tampa Bay or Ft. Lauderdale areas. The local population had learned how to deal with the vibrant youth culture, and (with the exception of some church officials and PMRC-supporters) had understood that violent lyrics did not accompany corresponding acts in everyday life. Hence I presume that the connections between the extreme music scene and the public were not as obscure and exclusive as believed.8 Beyond Florida, other regions such as San Francisco, Newcastle or Birmingham are examples of metal scenes that developed despite being refused admittance into to the local cultural memory.9 Subsequently, the conclusion sums up the findings and focuses on their broader importance in the context of the shift to postmodern society.
2. Concepts of (metal) scenes
The concept of scene has not remained undisputed in the past, but based on the research of Will Straw10 and on some inspiring applications in the field of metal studies,11 the term became increasingly popular for studies regarding the interdependence of the cultural and the social in metal music. Due to its many advantages, such as spatial and temporal flexibility, openness to social and cultural dynamics and change, and its ability to generate empirical analysis,12 the few drawbacks, such as the conceptual fuzziness,13 are accepted more and more frequently. Concepts of scene stimulate research not only in popular music, but also in historiography, where they have outpaced the concepts of subculture or neo-tribes.14 Furthermore, the flexibility of the term provides an important connection among different disciplines, e.g., cultural science, sociology, psychology or historiography, and their scholars’ aim to describe and explain the shift to post-modernism that has been taking place in industrial societies since the 1970s.15 By this means, the concept of scene helps to conceive the social power of music as a part of a broader social transition.
German sociologist Ronald Hitzler defined scenes as “thematically focused cultural networks of persons, who share specific material and/or immaterial forms of collective self-stylization and stabilize and advance their commonalities in typical places and to typical times interactively” [translation].16 Although this definition applies to scenes in general and not only music scenes, especially the “immaterial forms” and the “typical places” constitute crucial aspects that were of huge importance for the early Florida death metal scene and other metal scenes—especially as shared experiences. But there are nevertheless two aspects missing. First, most definitions naturally problematize the question what scenes are and not how they emerge and change gradually. Regarding these questions, in 2013 Jeremy Wallach and Alexandra Levine published the most elaborate concept for research on metal scenes yet. Besides the “typical” preconditions of metal scenes—institutions, amateur musicians, the “border control”/relationship to the imagined “mainstream”17—they make crucial specifications by stressing three points. Metal scenes start with the consumption of extra-local artefacts and subsequently are dependent on cover versions before providing their own musical material; they need to bridge the “generation gap” in order to stand the test of time; and they are characterized by various connections with other scenes simultaneously, e.g., the global metal scene, neighbor scenes and/or overlapping with other scenes.18 These points introduce crucial insights to historize metal scenes and have benefited deeply from the seminal work of Richard Peterson and Andy Bennett on music scenes, which leads to the second precondition: by bringing in the categories of local, trans-local and virtual scenes, and by stressing their aim of social distinction, the authors indicate the absolute necessity of the communication between scenes for a sufficient definition and point out that—in most cases—metal scenes are formed against an imagined “other” and obtain their strength out of a socialization through individualization.19 I incorporate those ideas and specify them in reference to extreme metal scenes like the Florida death metal scene. As already mentioned, the main goal is to include the aspects of change, of distinction and of individual experience in the following list of characteristics in order to historize the transitions of metal scenes.
In my opinion, extreme metal scenes in the 1980s and 1990s were characterized by
Experiences of youth actors, which lie close to each other, are remembered as a musical awakening, and encourage them to pick up an instrument or to improve their playing;
The experience of absolute contingency, which is remembered as “everything is possible” but decreases in the wake of the consolidation of the scene and its musical characteristics;
The global interconnectedness via the tape trading network, which is not a consequence, but a precondition of the emergence of extreme metal scenes—the communication tends to be local, trans-local and virtual from the beginning and facilitates the local wish for distinction;
A pulling effect for actors in other, partially far away, regions, which initiates migration movements;
A growing range of places for communitization like venues for live music, bars and rehearsal spaces, whereas the oldest ones often gain an iconic status for the scene;
An intact and growing economic and media infrastructure of record stores, fanzines, promoters or swap meets, whereas the local existence of record labels, recording studios or magazines is no prerequisite, but can nevertheless wield great influence on the development of the scene;
Dynamic social relationships between the actors of the scene, whose parameters shift as a result of an increasing professionalization;
The formation of hierarchies and competition in the scene as a result of the limited economic and media attention—few actors gain interpretational sovereignty, whereby a delimiting setup of “rules” is established and gets completed by a labelling process;
The overcoming of the “generation gap” without which it is not possible to solidify the scene beyond a generational experience.
In the following, I will investigate these criteria exemplarily in reference to the Florida death metal scene between 1984 and 1994.
3. The Florida death metal scene
Extreme metal scenes featured specific local mixtures of the categories mentioned above, especially in infrastructure. Whereas San Francisco’s thrash metal scene can be described as a club scene for good reasons, Oslo’s black metal scene and Gothenburg’s death metal scene emerged around record stores or record labels (Helvete/Deathlike Silence, Dolores), and Stockholm’s death metal scene was based on the Sunlight Studio and the record store Heavy Sounds.20 Florida’s death metal scene, by contrast, definitely ranks among the studio scenes—not because there were no record stores or venues, but based on the discursive importance of one recording studio. In 1981, Jim, Tom and Laurel Morris and Rick Miller incorporated the Morrisound Studio in Temple Terrace near Tampa and combined several benefits for young extreme metal musicians in the following years, which could be found only at very few studios at the time. The studio, and especially producer Scott Burns, early on built up the know-how and reputation to produce extreme metal out of the love of experimentation. Burns listened to metal himself and therefore did not generate feelings of alienation between the bands and the studio.21 Thus, Morrisound gained an advance not only in technical understanding, but also in production attitude for several years. Furthermore, the producers considered themselves professional service providers and not artists like many other well-known producers in the 1980s, and the production was affordable for most bands.22 So, the studio fit in with the do-it-yourself mentality of the young musicians, who in the beginning often were not able to play their own music properly, but nevertheless tried to fulfill their musical visions. Jim Morris summed up the underlying mentality:
“They were playing like half a song, and then they couldn’t play anymore. They were playing just beyond their level of competence. […] They had the vision in their head and they knew what the music was supposed to be about. […] because death metal, especially when it started, was played not because you thought you were going to get paid; you played it because you had to.”23
The studio facilitated the straightforward realization of musical visions of the young bands, which were initially often recorded as tapes inside of the garages of their parents’ houses. From 1989 on, Morrisound served as a kind of channelization of the youths’ energy based on the collective musical awakening between 1982 and 1985: For instance, Mantas (later Death) discovered Seven Churches from Possessed (1985), Executioner (later Obituary) discovered Celtic Frost’s Morbid Tales (1984), and Morbid Angel discovered Napalm Death’s seminal first record Scum (1985).24 Until 1994, for literally all the Florida death metal bands, Morrisound was the first choice (except Death’s first album Scream Bloody Gore in 1987). So, whereas the discovery of new influences between 1982 and 1985 laid the foundation of an emerging local network that spawned several bands, in the second half of the 1980s, local cores of scenes evolved around those bands, which continued their mutual networking. In this time, the bands improved dramatically and gained prominence in the international tape trading network, where they also gained the attention of young A&R-managers, such as Monte Conner, who signed bands such as Obituary or Deicide for Roadrunner Records simply based on their tapes and thus facilitated the death metal breakthrough of 1989/90 at Morrisound in Tampa.25 In these two years, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse released their first LPs and popularized death metal music beyond the tape trading underground, but also launched substantial transformation processes for the scene that started to become perceived as a Florida phenomenon and stepped out of its amateur status.
The crucial experience in the scene in the second half of the 1980s and even until 1992 was contingency. No stylistic rules had been established yet, and the period is described by the extreme metal musicians all over the world as the most intense and exciting phase of their lives. Kam Lee, vocalist of Mantas and Massacre from Orlando, reckoned: “It was not an identifiable genre yet,”26 “it was more driven by sheer enthusiasm”27 (Tomas Lindberg/At the Gates from Gothenburg) and “it was still more of an ‘open book’ with what you could do with it”28 (John Gallagher/Dying Fetus from Annapolis). Unlike in the San Francisco Bay Area or in the German Ruhr, where strong thrash metal scenes prevented the formation of vibrant death metal scenes, a mid-1980s thrash scene had not emerged in Florida.29 In this regard, the Tampa Bay area strongly resembled the Stockholm region in Sweden: Based on local roots in punk music and without a thrash movement, the early death metal bands did not need to have consideration for established hierarchies of a scene that would have defended its core issues against the new musical style. Consequently, the first metal bands from Florida in 1981 and 1984, Savatage and Nasty Savage, played neither thrash nor death metal. In addition and from a youth cultural point of view, the local success of glam metal bands provided an outstanding opportunity for the young extreme metal musicians to ostentatiously dissociate themselves from a trend they called “poser rock.”
Both the formation of the Florida death metal scene and the later success of its pioneering bands would not have been possible without the global transfer provided by the tape trading network. This specific form of communication—the last analogous global network before the internet30—not only connected the bands in Florida with the like-minded youths in other regions and thereby made the experience of contingency glocally available.31 The tape trading also enabled participation in an internationalizing music scene based on mutual distinction, and encouraged the developing of a specific niche among the growing number of bands. Moreover, the network frequently laid the foundation for record contracts with indie labels such as Roadrunner or Combat (USA), Earache and Peaceville (England) or Nuclear Blast and Century Media (Germany), since it brought together bands, fanzine authors, fans, promoters and the label staff, quite often in personal union.32 Tape trading erected an informal and dynamic global market on the basis of shared musical passion that acted like a big distributor for ideas and opinions, but also for consumer goods—a testing ground upstream to the indie labels. So, the network, coincidently a local, trans-local and virtual scene according to Peterson and Bennett, functioned as initiator, as circulator and as an economic factor for the Florida death metal scene. Of course, not all musicians participated actively in tape trading,33 but the opportunities of the scene were nevertheless deeply determined by this efficacious institution.
One of the major consequences of such forms of communication was their role as an initiator for migratory movements. For instance, Metallica moved to San Francisco, Grave moved to Stockholm, and many individual metal musicians relocated due to their musical activities to more vibrant places. In this regard, Florida’s death metal scene is an extreme case: In my opinion, no other extreme metal scene has ever caused similar transregional pulling effects. In 1988, the members of Malevolent Creation from Buffalo moved to Tampa, after the family of their guitarist Phil Fasciana had relocated there. According to Jim Nickles, guitarist of the band, “half of our friends from North Tonawanda seemed to move to Fla. also. After we went, everybody followed.”34 In 1990, the band Incubus relocated from Metairie, Louisiana, to Tampa to become a part of the scene.35 Morbid Angel, who had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1986 to join David Vincent, returned to Florida a few years later due to the active metal scene.36 Cannibal Corpse, who themselves spearheaded an active metal scene in Buffalo around 1990, relocated to Tampa in the early 1990s because of the prospects of the Florida scene, they had recorded at Morrisound since their debut LP Eaten Back to Life in 1990, and partially due to the weather.37 Vincent Crowley, former member of Tampa’s Nocturnus, founded Acheron in Pittsburgh in 1988, and in 1991 moved to Orlando again.38 Tony Laureano, who played for many metal bands in his career as a drummer, moved from Orlando to Tampa because of the better music infrastructure.39 In the most cases, those relocations had multiple reasons, but the appeal of the scene was nearly always the critical factor, as Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse and others) has formulated prototypically:
“I was jamming with a few other guys in Buffalo in the late 80’s, when we collectively decided to move to Florida. […] It was Cynic who actually told us about the scene in Florida before we came down. […] So we moved down in December of 1989. […] But when we first moved to South Florida, the scene was just killer for metal. That was a big reason why we moved down. […] Most of all, I was looking at the relocation as a way to get myself started as a musician, to sort of kick start something, because nothing was really happening in for me in Buffalo.”40
The significant immigration of metal musicians to Florida in the late 1980s and early 1990s illustrates that the growing appeal of the Florida death metal scene was not just bound to the trans-local movement of music and ideas via tape trading, but that external influences were incorporated into the Florida scene also by the movement of persons. Basically, this migration between metal scenes constitutes an exciting area of further research, especially for musicological and sociological studies.41
Once they had moved to the Tampa Bay or Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, the immigrating musicians encountered already existent, small networks of committed metal fans, who normally became acquainted with each other in high school or whose parents were neighbors.42 As a generic attribute of all extreme metal scenes since the 1980s, the socialization process began at school age—with a tendency to a decreasing starting age. Another crucial feature, which besides Florida also concerned the scenes in Stockholm, Gothenburg or Oslo, was their focus on youth from the middle-class suburbs. So, unlike some publications on the social roots of metal music assume,43 there was no plain connection between extreme metal and the so-called working class in Florida. The scenes recruited from a mixture of socio-economic backgrounds, with an obvious tendency to target middle-class homes, and thereby can be rated as evidence for metal music’s disentanglement from the “working-classes” during the 1980s and 1990s.44 During a death metal concert in Tampa in 1991, a journalist of The Tampa Bay Times observed an emerging discussion between some musicians and fans, which made clear that death metal did not seem to match the stereotypes:
“’Most of us don’t come from happy families’, says Kam Lee, vocalist for Massacre, who has traveled from Orlando for the show. ‘Our parents are split up. I was abused a lot. At 15 and 16, you get rebellious, sometimes too wild, then you learn self-control.’
‘No, man! You can’t generalize about our backgrounds like that,’ says Mark Odechuck of Paineater, sparking a chorus of agreement.
An irony is emerging. These are metal musicians and aficionados who hang out on the tip of society, yet part of them wants to be considered, well, normal.”45
The seminal place of socialization for those youths and their bands in Florida was the garage, since they were not allowed to drink alcohol in bars and, around 1984, there were only a few venues in Florida that permitted extreme metal music. Rick Rozz characterized himself and his bandmates as “a bunch of mellow guys. There was no substance abuse - hardly any alcohol.”46 Their band Mantas (shortly afterwards named Death) played in restaurants to gain practice and attention, since local promoters by this time only booked glam metal bands.47 The initial spark by which this situation changed, came along with Savatage and Nasty Savage. James Murphy, who played in Death, Obituary and other bands, like many others stresses their importance for the Florida scene: “Nasty Savage and Savatage got all the Florida bands going because they were making records, playing clubs, and going to Europe, and they showed us, ‘Hey—you too can start a band and get signed.’”48 Michael Borders (Massacre) recalled the specific nexus between those two bands, the feeling of contingency and the growing do-it-yourself-infrastructure in Tampa:
“There really wasn’t a scene. […] The local bar bands were still playing what was called Poser Rock. Around 1985 NASTY SAVAGE started breaking out, and all these fanzines were flying around. […] Also, SAVATAGE was playing a lot of shows in Tampa, and every Metal slut in town had their bumper sticker on their car. NASTY SAVAGE was playing a lot of shows at a place called Ruby’s Pub and was packing them in. […] The rest of us (MASSACRE, MORBID ANGEL, EXECUTIONER) were about a year behind them and we started playing ‘all ages’ type clubs. Some shows went really well while others bombed. We would get together and play shows to try and attract a big enough audience to break even. Not a lot of out of town Metal bands made it to Florida then.”49
Ruby’s Pub, located in Tampa, during the middle 1980s became one of the regional flagships of the emerging death metal scene—Death played their first club show as a supporting act for Nasty Savage there in 1984, and thanks to bootleg tapes, the venue became important in the international tape trading network, serving as a quality seal like Ruthie’s Inn (Berkeley), Mermaid Pub (Birmingham), CBGB’s (New York) or Zeche Carl (Essen). By 1985, bit by bit, the local promoters realized that the nascent extreme metal united a loyal and growing number of supporters, with the result that more and more local venues included metal concerts in their programs. For the young musicians, fanzine authors and fans, all socialized in small local groups, the shows since 1985 changed the perception of the music’s outreach dramatically. Shows like the concerts of Morbid Angel, Executioner, Nasty Savage and Massacre at the Rocky Point Beach Resort in Tampa (May 25/26 1985) facilitated the knowledge about other local bands and networks, and the increasing contacts between the bands from the Tampa Bay area and the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area transformed the local and modest beginnings into an inter-regional phenomenon. Between 1985 and 1989, the trans-local connections of Sun Coast and Gold Coast intensified: For example, in 1988 Death played in the Cameo Theatre in Miami in front of 30 people. Among those were the members of Cynic, Atheist and Malevolent Creation, who in turn paid a visit to Tampa and met the members of Amon, Obituary and Nocturnus. From that point on, concerts on the other coast were arranged mutually on occasion, e.g., at the Treehouse in Hallandale Beach, which became one of the well-known venues on the Atlantic Coast.50 As a side benefit, the growing scene in Florida gave occasion to foreign bands to tour Florida—thus, in the early 1990s, places like the Tampa Bay came along with an impressive offering of metal and punk concerts in close succession.51
During the second half of the 1980s, the contacts between the bands among themselves and with the intermediaries of the burgeoning death metal scene expanded beyond the concert situation into steady social connections like friendships, bitter enmities, business relationships, mutual help or joint rehearsals. One of the distinctive places of this change was the People’s Storage in Tampa around 1992, a complex of garages, which were rented to more than 40 bands that came from Tampa, Orlando and Largo. For instance, Morbid Angel or Eulogy rehearsed there and the death metal bands formed the so-called “death row” inside the system of roads between the garages.52 The appeal of the place benefited from the close-by University of South Florida (another indication for the middle-class structure) and the Skipper’s Smokehouse, a music shop and venue. Furthermore, the remote storage avoided a problem especially linked with extreme metal and the suburbs, since there was no option to blame the bands for public disturbance anymore.53 Another element of the expanding social contacts, which constituted the scene, was the thriving fanzine landscape in Florida that provided reviews, interviews, the necessary knowledge for the members of the scene and contacts to other regional scenes. Therefore, fanzines played an important role by unifying simultaneous but different local approaches of musical change into the regional label “Florida death metal.” Beyond that, their global circulation had facilitated the international reputation of Florida’s death metal bands and their sound even before they became popular at home.54 For example, Kim August, who played in the Pittsburgh-based band Derketa for a short time and published the Ultimatum ‘Zine, brought Morbid Angel in contact with Immolation from Yonkers, NY, in 1988, which enabled them to set up a small tour in New York and New Jersey before they released their seminal first album Altars of Madness in 1989, and to get in touch with other bands from the Mid-Atlantic scene, such as Revenant or Necrovore.55 Bruce Davis edited the fanzine Ripping Headaches, wherein he especially covered Morbid Angel, but also popularized Nocturnus with an interview. Jim Pedersen and Kam Lee published Comatose ‘Zine in Orlando, which wielded influence in Europe and got them in contact with bands like Darkthrone from Norway. Alan Moses edited Buttface ‘Zine to report about the Tampa scene, Ed Farshtey published the Book of Armageddon ‘Zine and John Verica issued Decaying Visions ‘Zine, by what he maintained contact with other circulators like Anne Marie Bowman from Philadelphia, who for some time managed Goreaphobia and wrote for Metal Maniacs Mag.56
In the history of all local extreme metal scenes there existed usually one specific record store that in the beginnings supplied the small group of metalheads with national and international releases, demo tapes, information on concerts and swap meets, and that for some time provided the single point of contact beyond the socialization in the young bands.57 While this role has been filled by Dolores in Gothenburg, Heavy Sounds in Stockholm, Helvete in Oslo, Record Vault in San Francisco, Home of the Hits in Buffalo, Shades in London and Insider in Essen, the crucial record store in Tampa was Ace’s Records, managed by Frank Dances.58 Located at the Oldsmar Flea Market in West Tampa and open only on weekends, Ace’s is referred to as the most important record store in the American South by the most protagonists and, due to its success, could relocate in spring 1992 to Fowler Avenue in Tampa on a permanent basis.59 Other than Morrisound Studios, which strengthened Florida’s fame as a death metal hotbed immensely but “only” worked up the potentials of the scene that already existed, Ace’s Records was a prerequisite for the scene. Dances and his employees succeeded in the task not only to provide the seminal and latest records to local fans, but also to act as organizers and facilitators for shows, distributors of demo tapes, promoters of unknown European labels like Earache in the USA, and above all to be the center of information concerning metal music in the whole region, even attracting fans from Orlando and other places. Therefore, Ace’s played a role similar to the tape trading network by connecting the worldwide local demo approaches, but also provided the important record imports from Europe. What is more, Dances employed young band members such as James Murphy or fanzine authors like Alan Moses and thereby used the connections of the tape trading network for his store. Members of local bands, e.g., Brutality, and well-known pioneers of the scene such as David Vincent, stopped by regularly, and Dances built up a network of contacts for employees of the record industry and important journalists and producers, such as Borivoj Krgin, whose sampler Raging Death was instrumental in signing Executioner/Obituary to Roadrunner Records in 1987.60
All the above-mentioned developments involved the single most crucial aspect of an emerging scene, which is the consolidation and compression of communication between people on a local level, bound up by mutual passion for the music. The dynamic social relations that were accompanied by those changes in the mid-80s, in the following underwent a shift on different levels, most notably inside the bands and between the bands. The critical factor was competition, whose parameters changed from the early scene (contingency) to the mature scene with its distinct regional label. Between the members of a band, this change occurred mostly in the context of a proceeding professionalization, which those involved often recall as “becoming professional” and as a period of dramatic realignment. Previous social fundamentals of the band, usually mutual friendship and/or appreciation of technical abilities (sometimes kinship), were expanded by the entry of economic factors, such as sales figures, the influence of the labels on the music and the lineup or the challenges that resulted from touring obligations. Musicians often refer to these changes as a “learning process” and as a challenge of getting to know the bandmates once again, as Donald Tardy emphasized:
“That tour [Complete Control in 1992, M.S.] was the learning process of how to be a band, how to be a good band member, and being responsible enough to not get left behind and miss shows, lose passports, or just become a complete idiot and get fired from a band. It was one of those things where it was a learning process but it was a great experience just to figure out that it’s awesome being on stage together, but it’s that travel, living together, you’re basically married to four other people in your band and you have to make that work for it to be successful.61
The prior aptitude of each member underwent a reassessment in the light of the new conditions and in the most cases initiated a personnel carousel, until the bands had found a suitable lineup to meet both social and economic needs. In this regard, some bands, such as Obituary, succeeded relatively quickly, whereas Jason Blachowicz described Malevolent Creation as a “revolving door for death metal musicians coming and going, returning, quitting, firing, revamping.”62 Although a little disguised by the unconstrained interaction in the youth culture, the casual approach to the band and the music became more limited due to the future prospects and the guiding principles of the “business.” With respect to this perceived change, Obituary’s Donald Tardy remembered:
“If you have ever been in a band for a year or more, it’s fun, but there are some strange relationships that come along, After you get signed, and the business aspect of it becomes a factor, that can be both stressful and frustrating when you are trying to just write and play music.”63
“Fun” intermingled with work and activated the pressure to commit oneself to the bandmates and to technical and personal self-optimization even more severe than before—with the result that some of the young musicians were overwhelmed by the new requirements or simply realized that there were no good prospects in their current band, with the actual lineup or for a professional musician in general. In other cases, the changing social practices of the touring or the recording process led to a reevaluation of the mutual relationships. For that reason, a lot of friendships were abandoned in the extreme metal scenes—due to the youthful lack of self-control often in a not very fair and proper way.
Those conflicts were mostly and implicitly tied to the struggle for supremacy in a band, negotiated as a question of ownership. Especially in their early careers in the second half of the 1980s, the social dynamics inside the bands were just as unpredictable and contingent as the development of the musical style. In most cases, the proactive founder(s) of the bands possessed the interpretational sovereignty over the further course and determined the lineup changes. Individual technical aspiration and development and a vision of the band’s stylistic evolution decided on band-intern hierarchies as well as functional social relationships. Therefore, Trey Azagthoth (founder of Morbid Angel), due to his stylistic ideas, fired both the drummer and the bassist in 1986, and in 1988 made vigorous efforts to convert Pete Sandoval from the East L.A. based band Terrorizer to Morbid Angel. Subsequently, Sandoval’s blast-beat drumming and Azagthoth’s technical abilities on the guitar became trademarks of the band’s sound and gained great influence on the “Florida death metal” style.64 But the best example for multiple lineup changes caused in the band leader’s stylistic visions has to be the band Death: Until his early death in 2001, co-founder Chuck Schuldiner, who masterminded the evolution from early death metal to progressive death metal between 1990 and 1998, was responsible for a large number of short-dated band members and session musicians. Addressing the question, if his personal behavior and general idea caused the lineup changes, he wrote in Slayer Mag in 1988:
“Yeah, even I think that. The people I used to work with did not even know each other. […] I’m not gonna get somebody who just get the job done, it has to be the right person. They have to have the same style as me. […] Everyone have to fit in together.”65
Although there always remained differences between the bands in this regard, the social friction and the dynamic lineup changes nevertheless decreased principally in the early 1990s. In most bands, a core of members built a stable backbone, around which only from time to time changes were made. The consolidation of these bands and of the scene can be traced back to an amalgam of musical, social and economic aspects, which all reduced the initial contingency in the early 1990s: With their growing age, the musicians gained experience not only with the requirements of the music business, but also with the needs of a band as a social unit. The mentioned “learning process” helped the individuals to resolve possible conflicts of the production and touring processes, which moderated the transitory nature of the early band’s history. Simultaneously, in the late 1980s and early 1990s the stated bands all discovered “their” specific sound, which gave them their unique characteristic and a successful niche in the globalizing metal culture. So, mostly after the release of the first two albums, their sound developed only gradually—cementing the affiliation to a stabilizing set of regional musical features that went down in the term “Florida death metal” and since then has not changed literally. Economically, some bands were incorporated in long-term contracts with record labels, whose heads wanted to stick to a successful formula but (especially major labels) could otherwise exert pressure to musical changes when success came to nothing.66 Eventually, around 1992 the labels, like the fans, expected the bands to sound their distinct way; also, most of them produced at Morrisound Studio with Scott Burns and therefore shared a similar mix, which only reinforced the stabilization of the “Florida death metal” setup.
While most regional death metal bands and the Florida death metal scene as a whole consolidated and some of the bands gained record contracts, the competition between some the bands—and particularly between some of their members—took a conflictual shape during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They all competed for something, which they deemed a scarce resource: attention from the record labels and a recording contract. James Murphy recalled in this context:
“To be honest, the early Tampa scene was very divisive, and a lot of the bands didn’t like each other or talk to each other because it was extremely competitive. No one knew that literally every single one of their bands was going to get signed.”67
While there always were bands that got on well with one another, the high concentration of strong characters in Florida death metal could create an atmosphere of mutual dislike and conflict, especially alongside some well-known inter-personal relationships. Particularly the leader of Death is assumed to be the embodiment of the competition between the bands.68 The underlying reason for the antics, which were argued out in fanzine interviews and less face-to-face, was the wish for distinction. The prominent leaders tried to mark their band’s territory in the struggle for “subcultural capital”69 while maintaining rivalries with other bands, circulating rumors, and first and foremost developing a unique feature to gain and sustain the necessary attention. Therefore, those strategies have to be interpreted as a continuation of the musical competition by other means, and can be read as a display of contingency and insecurity.
So, the bands evolved different methods to handle competition in Florida and created certain stylistic and/or ideological images, which promised discriminability. For example, Morbid Angel, as one of the first death metal bands from Florida, fostered the pioneering self-image of a leadership due to technical ability. Guitarist Trey Azagthoth increasingly wrote songs based on complex riffs and scales, and the drummer Pete Sandoval was perceived as one of the world’s most technical adept drummers in the late 1980s.70 Azagthoth explained his intention:
“Back then, I really wanted to destroy everybody. I wanted people to have to work a lot harder after the fans witnessed what we had going on. I wanted to smoke people. I really believed that bands were challenging each other, trying to outdo each other and make each other quit—almost like the rivalries with East Coast and West Coast rappers. […] I wanted to write stuff that would make other bands run and hide. It’s not really very nice, but that’s what drove me.”71
Fully aware of the legendary status of their first album, Altars of Madness in 1989, in the following years the band dedicated itself to the race for technical complexity and brilliance. Against this background, especially Azagthoth and Vincent developed a claim to sole representation. In 1997, Vincent declared, “There is no scene. There is only Morbid Angel, period”72 —while the guitarist explained:
“I’m devoted to be the best extreme musical guitar player there is […] And I’m not being a guy that sits here and just talks, but I got this guitar playing on these CDs and I think it’s the best! I think, it’s beyond words!”73
Another musician who concealed the pressure of competition with statements that denied the existence of a vibrant scene and therefore also debauched self-referentiality, was Deicide’s Glen Benton. At the peak of Florida death metal’s reputation, he declared in 1991: “The Tampa scene, I didn‘t know there was a scene.”74 In the case of Deicide, this denial was supplemented by the image of a credible Satanism and some media-effective actions of Benton, who burned an inverted cross into his forehead on stage and allegedly shot at a squirrel during an interview with an gun.75 In contrast, Death’s Chuck Schuldiner ranked among the more placid persons, but cultivated a successful strategy of distinction that musically was progression-orientated and socially backbit those who did not belong to an self-imagined avant garde. With this in mind, Kelly Shaefer (Atheist) said: “Chuck Schuldiner was a really competitive guy who was very protective of anybody being trendy.”76 Shaefer’s bandmate Steve Flynn even emphasized the above-mentioned atmosphere of contingency as the root of Schuldiner’s “insecurity complex” in the Japanese fanzine Satanic Death in 1988.77
Of course, the severity of the implied strategies in the struggle for subcultural capital did not continue for many years, but diminished in the early 1990s as part of the social consolidation of the scene into a hierarchy of musicians that set the stylistic agenda. By gaining the prerogative of interpretation due to their sales figures and media attention, they actively reduced the initial contingency of the further musical development in Florida and facilitated the creation of the “Florida death metal” subgenre. The previous insecurity and competition had been directed into more predictable channels. Ironically, it was this role model function of the aforementioned bands that between 1992 and 1994 led to the decline of the death metal scene in Florida, since the upcoming new bands now were oriented towards the successful stylistic setup. Jim Morris, co-founder of Morrisound studios, realized this change due to his experiences in music production:
“When the death metal thing began, the bands intentionally were trying not to be like each other. I am talking about the original bands that I saw, like Death, Obituary, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse. […] Later, those original bands became standards, to the point where people would come in here and tell me, ‘Hey, we have to sound like these guys, or nobody is going to like us.’ […] I think that is what actually ended up killing the market for death metal: the bands just all ended up sounding too much alike.”78
On the part of the established musicians and the upcoming bands, this downfall was perceived as a heavy crisis, but as a result of different perspectives: Even the well-known bands realized that the sales figures were decreasing and the audiences dropping, since supply and demand were thrown out of balance. The peak was reached with Obituary’s The End Complete in 1992, which sold between 100,000 and 125,000 copies, and with Morbid Angel’s Covenant in 1993 that went on to sell more than 150,000 copies in the United States alone.79 Around 1992/1993, “Florida death metal’s” popularity was successfully challenged from two sides: The attention of the tape trading underground partially shifted towards “fresh” sounds, such as Norwegian black metal, since death metal bands were blamed for a sellout of the music to the major labels and for an alleged dilution of brutality.80 On the contrary, indie labels, such as Roadrunner Records, abandoned death metal for the exact opposite: It became apparent that death metal music could not be sold in the desired amounts, whereas the major labels heavily invested in the upcoming grunge euphoria.81 Thus, Phil Fasciana recalled:
“After a while, I’d say by the early-to-mid-90s, there was just a glut of bands. It was like it was becoming a fad or something, it became over-saturated, and the popularity began to fizzle away. It was like any band that had a guy growling and a cool-looking logo was getting a record deal, or somehow was getting an album out.”82
For the new bands trying to participate in the appeal of “Florida death metal,” however, the erected hierarchies of the scene turned out to be unsurmountable, and since then only very few bands gained continuous acceptance in the scene that had not been active in the formative period in the middle of the 1980s. The pioneering bands like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel or Obituary still assert their position. The regional label “Florida death metal” therefore still is a blessing and a curse, and why questions concerning the self-location of death metal bands in Florida can be sensitive and tend to reveal the ambivalence of the label. For example, the band Brutality from Tampa, founded in 1986 and due to their demo tapes an important part of the contingent period, not until 1993 gained a record deal with Nuclear Blast Records. So, they were too late to successfully link their name with the stable regional label and therefore tried to master an argumentative balancing act:
“I don’t think that we fit in with all that same old stuff, we’re trying to be different. We are heavy and we’re from Tampa, so that people are possibly saying we have a Tampa sound, but we were one of the first, even though we got recently signed, we were one of the first death metal bands from Tampa. I think, if there’s a typical Tampa sound, BRUTALITY probably helped create it a little bit. We constantly try to stay away from sounding like other people though, but eventually that’s up to the listener to decide what we do sound like, you know.”83
Between 1993 and 1998, the decreasing attention of record labels, the underground network and the media entailed the disbanding of Atheist and Nocturnus (1993), Cynic (1994), Massacre (1997) and Obituary (1998). Florida death metal, like the extreme metal from New York or Stockholm, withdrew to the extreme metal underground again, where it nevertheless has been appreciated since then. But after 2000 all the above-mentioned bands reassembled, and in addition to the bands, which had not disbanded, again spearheaded a vibrant scene. Though, the crucial difference to the scene of the mid-80s consists of its musical perspective and social structure: Whereas the established bands still gain the most attention and sales figures for their releases, there indeed are some bands from Florida that formed after the death metal heyday of the early 1990s (such as Hate Eternal, Diabolic, Paths of Possession, Order of Ennead), but which were formed by musicians who already had been active around 1990 in the established bands (e.g., Antar Lee Coates, John Fisher, Eric Rutan). Therefore, the Florida death metal scene has not only aged with its musicians—the underlying momentum or idea has changed significantly from the contingency and openness of the 1980s to the 2000s. As we can observe in Bay Area thrash metal or Stockholm death metal, most of the well-established older bands from the scene’s beginnings are now bound by tradition. By playing in their successful style, they consider themselves no longer as stylistic revolutionaries, but as defenders of a stylistic setup they once had helped to create.84
To go into the changes caused by the developments in production technique, communication (internet) or business in detail would take us too far afield. Nevertheless, we can locate four different phases of the Florida death metal scene since 1984 that could be adapted to other extreme metal scenes: An initial period of contingency is followed by a phase of consolidation that opens into a determination of a more or less fixed setup of stylistic features and facilitates a regional labelling process, such as “Florida death metal.” The success of some bands leads on to a broad orientation of upcoming bands towards their musical style, which eventually is followed by an oversaturation with similar music. Therefore, not only the attention of the recipients, but also those of the record labels, which had been instrumental in consolidating the scene, diminishes. After its withdrawal to less sales-orientated underground structures and a shrinkage of active bands, the scene—now more committed to tradition than (r)evolution—resurges to a new attention.85
4. The scene and the public response
The development of a regional death metal scene in Florida with international reputation did not pass unnoticed and yielded different reactions of social groups and news media representatives. Because of the heaviness of the music, lyrics that dealt with extreme violence, death and frightening fantasies, the imagery of Satanism and practices on stage like scarification by cutting, the leading opinions—at first—ranged from fear and rejection to hostility. Of course, from a youth cultural point of view, those reactions mattered and strengthened the feelings of a shared identity and solidarity in the scene. It seems as if the regional metalheads could be assured of being loathed by an imagined social and media “mainstream.” Since then, this subcultural spirit has not only affected the mutual perceptions, but also gained crucial consequences for the academic research on metal scenes, which have been described as exclusive and obscure.86 In doing so, it has been ignored that there nevertheless existed many coherences and overlaps between metal scenes and everyday life, and that the burgeoning scene aroused interest that found its expression in media coverage—not only in magazines like Kerrang!, Metal Hammer or Metal Maniacs, but also in middle-class newspapers like The Tampa Bay Times, The South Florida Sun Sentinel, Florida Today, The Tallahassee Democrat, The Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post, The Tampa Tribune or the Orlando Sentinel. By analyzing the coverage in these newspapers, it rapidly becomes apparent that the perceptions of the regional death metal scene were not unambiguous and stable, but instead changed over the years and turned out to be crucial for the scene’s formation and reputation.87 I assume there were three important reason for the slow and partial shift in public response: First, the scene’s tendency to draw attention to itself via media-effective events like award ceremonies—second, the beginning academic research on heavy metal in the USA and its influence on newspaper reports—and third, the influence of outsider’s views on the cultural landscape of the Tampa Bay area.
From 1990 on, the above-mentioned newspapers regularly reported on several new award ceremonies in the metal scene. First and foremost, the Tampa Bay Metal Awards (cartooning the Tampa Bay Music Awards) were awarded in the early 1990s for several consecutive years. The ceremonies had been organized by Tony Refugiato (No Clubs Concerts), Frank Dances of Ace’s Records and Keith Collins, who played bass in Savatage, co-hosted Brian Medlin at “The Pit” on WXTB 97,9 FM, published Tampa Bay Spike once a month and co-published Live in Tampa Bay once a fortnight.88 In 1991, the event in the “Ritz Theatre” in Ybor City included 41 awards and shows of Atheist, Obituary, DVC or The Guff.89 Two years later and already in the context of a fading death metal scene, Collins decided to organize the awards in a more wide-ranging way by expanding on two days and including regional rock and punk music. Simultaneously, on the East Coast, Yvette Lam, 18 years old and DJ of “Tea Time,” a metal show on WKPX-FM, organized the Annual South Florida Slammie Awards, 1992 in the “Button South” (Hallandale) and 1993 in the “Plus Five Lounge” in Davie.90 Furthermore, in 1990 and 1991 the annual Rock Break at the “Summers on the Beach Club” in Ft. Lauderdale involved thrash and death metal music on Friday, whereas the rest of the weekend belonged to other music genres.91 It is important to consider that those events and clubs, which included different musical styles to one audience, not only contributed a lot to death metal’s media coverage, but also to the perception that death metal like any other music scene was an integral component of a broader cultural scene in Florida. Venues like the “Cow Haus” in Tallahassee, run by Tod Thompson and Alain Rodgers of the death metal band DVC, in a non-exclusive manner brought a variety of music into their club and redounded to the partial shift of death metal and its fans from lepers to something normal the society is used to.92
While The Tampa Bay Times had asked in 1991 why the death metal scene was thriving on the conservative Sun Coast, the article nevertheless appreciatively pointed out that the scene enjoyed an international reputation.93 In the following year, journalists slowly recognized that this could probably have a positive effect on the image of the region as a whole and that the metal culture may provide a solution for youth problems instead of aggravating them. Influenced by discussions about Deena Weinstein’s study “Heavy Metal. A cultural sociology” (1991) and Robert Gross’s seminal article in the Journal of Popular Culture (1990),94 by the development of a club scene, the embedding of death metal into a broader image of regional music, and the growing discernment in the fictionality of the lyrics, the newspapers increasingly adopted the term “death metal capital of the world” for the Tampa Bay region.95 Just like the fact that the Morris family had belonged to the cultural life of Tampa for 100 years,96 that at Ace’s Records not only sold metal music,97 or that international tourists came to Tampa only to see Morrisound studios,98 had to lead the local population to the believe that death metal and its fans simply belonged to the local reality.
Beyond that, the local newspapers even tended to defend the title against reports that were perceived as contemptuous in 1993. On the occasion of an article in the New York Times which estimated the Tampa Bay region as a possible successor of Seattle’s grunge as the “next big scene,” but spoke of Clearwater as a “white-trash sort of town,”99 the municipal authorities reacted indignantly and demanded a correction from Matt Sweeney, whom the author Paul Tough had quoted—with the result that Sweeney partially retracted his statement.100 In another case, The Tampa Bay Times reacted to the article “Satan in the Sunshine” in Details magazine (1995), excerpted the damning review under the headline “How others see us” and deliberately did not join in.101 Moreover, the columnist David Wilborn in 1994 picked up on the slashing criticism for Obituary’s LP World Demise in The Washington Post under the headline “Loving us to death” and admitting below that “It’s nice to be known for something.”102 Although the journalists did not avow being death metal fans, they obviously were aware that the regional scene had carried Florida onto the cultural map of millions of people all over the world and therefore took the criticism of the high culture with tongue-in-cheek humor.
Of course, this shift to a more moderate perspective took place only partially, since religious movements in Florida dramatized the expected consequences on local youth and incorporated Christian rock or metal bands into the worship service,103 permitted rock bands in church tents at county fairs104 or exaggerated individual criminal cases by linking them one-sidedly to the musical taste of the delinquents.105 Apparently, they were on to an urgent need for action but also implicitly conceded the great appeal of the Florida death metal scene for regional youth. The same applies to pressure groups like the “Parent’s Music Resource Center” and their supporters, who especially focused on bands from Florida, such as like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel or Deicide, due to their brutal or satanic lyrics and stage performance.106
The above considerations concern two related fields of research with respect to the “Florida death metal” scene: first is the question of how music scenes emerge and evolve, which has stood in the center of attention in many studies. By introducing an assemblage of categories for analysis and adapting them to the “Florida death metal” scene, this article aimed to contribute to the historization of this crucial metal scene. I assume that a mixture of experience-oriented, structural, social, economic and of course musical categories will turn out to be a promising approach for further research on the history of metal scenes. Second, the article briefly examined which relations those scenes maintained with the imagined and ominous “mainstream” society—a rather neglected point of view. Thereby, it became clear that the Florida scene by no means was an obscure and isolated communicational network, but exhibited several economic, cultural, social or medial links to the non-scenic world, by which the music scene was perceived “from outside” and apparently had the potential to slowly pass into the cultural memory of the city or region, as is currently the case in Birmingham, San Francisco or Newcastle. Up to now, this perspective in the field of metal studies has focused on the Norwegian black metal scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s,107 as well as on the Finnish and the English cases,108 which is why the underlying reasons for such shifts should be scrutinized to a greater extent concerning other scenes.
Beyond that, the shifts should be traced back to the fact that—beginning in the 1980s—crucial sociocultural changes occurred. Under the terms of a slow conjunction of the artist and the entrepreneur, the “creative industries” emerged as a typical cultural-economic figure of postmodern societies.109 The do-it-yourself philosophy and the self-built infrastructure of the metal scenes epitomized a postmodern subject culture, composed of individual initiative in music and business.110 The shift in public response towards extreme metal scenes up to this day can be interpreted as one part of this broader change from subcultural shock factors to marketable phenomena of the respective cities, regions or even states. It presents the opportunity to display creativity, and I speculate that the above-mentioned newspaper articles are early examples of a change from condemned subcultures to acclaimed individual otherness and regional cultural complexity.
Eric Snider, “Princes of Darkness,” The Tampa Bay Times, 21 April 1991, 65.
Matt Walker, Gainesville Punk. A history of bands and music (Mount Pleasant, N.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2016).
Frank Stöver and Laurent Ramadier, “Massacre,” 15 September 2011, Voices from the dark side online, https://www.voicesfromthedarkside.de/interview/massacre/.
Albert Mudrian, Choosing Death. The improbable history of death metal and grindcore (Brooklyn, NY: Bazillion Points, 2016).
First beginnings: Keith-Kahn Harris, Extreme Metal. Music and culture on the edge (Oxford; New York: Berg, 2007), 97–111; Jason Netherton, Extremity Retained. Notes from the death metal underground (London, Ontario: Handshake Inc., 2015).
Kahn-Harris, Extreme Metal, 53.
Laszlo David, “Obituary,” 19 September 2011, Voices from the dark side online, https://www.voicesfromthedarkside.de/interview/obituary/.
Natalie J. Purcell, Death metal music. The passion and politics of a subculture (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003).
The “Home of Metal” project in Birmingham: https://homeofmetal.com/; The latest documentary movie “Murder in the front row. The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story”; “Heavier, Faster, Louder. The Story of Tyneside Heavy Metal”, https://www.twmuseums.org.uk/news/new-heavy-metal-audio-documentary-to-launch-on-27-february-2020.
Will Straw, “Communities and scenes in popular music,” in The subcultures reader, ed. Ken Gelder (London: Routledge, 1997), 469–78.
Kahn-Harris, Extreme Metal; Emma Baulch, Making scenes. Reggae, punk, and death metal in 1990s Bali (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2007).
Kahn-Harris, Extreme Metal, 19–22.
David Hesmondhalgh, “Recent concepts in youth cultural studies. Critical reflections from the sociology of music,” in Youth Cultures. Scenes, subcultures and tribes, ed. Paul Hodkinson and Wolfgang Deicke (New York: Routledge, 2008), 37–50.
Knud Andresen, “West- und ostdeutsche Jugendszenen in den 1980er-Jahren - ein Individualisierungsschub?,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 55 (2015): 445–75.
Gerhard Schulze, Die Erlebnisgesellschaft. Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart (Frankfurt: Campus, 2000), 465–69.
Ronald Hitzler and Arne Niederbacher, Leben in Szenen. Formen juveniler Vergemeinschaftung heute (Wiesbaden: Springer, 2010), 20.
Jeremy Wallach and Alexandra Levine, “‘I want you to support local metal’. A theory of metal scene formation,” in Heavy Metal. Controversies and countercultures, ed. Titus Hjelm and Keith Kahn-Harris (Sheffield: Equinox, 2013), 118–29.
Richard A. Peterson and Andy Bennett, “Introducing Music Scenes,” in Music Scenes. Local, translocal and virtual, ed. Richard A. Peterson and Andy Bennett (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 8.
Karl Spracklen, “What did the Norwegians ever do for us? Actor-Network Theory, the Second Wave of Black Metal, and the Imaginary Community of Heavy Metal,” in Heavy Metal Music and the Communal Experience, ed. Nelson Varas-Díaz and Niall W.R. Scott (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016), 151–67; Daniel Ekeroth, Swedish Death Metal (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Bazillion Points, 2008); Dayal Patterson, Black Metal. Evolution of the Cult (Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2013); Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew, Murder in the Front Row. Shots from the Bay Area Thrash Epicenter (Brooklyn, NY: Bazillion Points, 2011).
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 222.
Dirk Lammers, “Studio enjoys high-volume business,” The Tampa Tribune, 30 January 1993, 42.
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 219–20.
Mudrian, Choosing Death, 60, 76, 80.
Greg Fulton, “Massacre hopes underground is ticket to top,” The Tampa Tribune, 23 May 1986, 53; Mudrian, Choosing Death, 158, 182–84.
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 34.
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 118.
Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman, Louder than hell. The definite oral history of metal (New York: itbooks, 2013), 473.
Jason Netherton, “Extremity Reframed. Exhuming Death Metal’s analog origins,” in Modern Heavy Metal. Markets, Practices and Cultures, ed. Toni-Matti Karjalainen and Kimi Kärki (Turku: Aalto Univ. Press, 2015), 309–18.
The concept of glocalization: see Roland Robertson, “Time-Space and Homogeneity-Heterogeneity,” in Global Modernities, ed. Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash and Roland Robertson (London; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), 25–44.
In death metal scenes the simultaneous activity on several sides of the scene was a usual phenomenon. Many musicians published fanzines, acted as label founders or worked at venues or radio stations.
Laszlo David, “Malevolent Creation,” 5 January 2019, Voices from the dark side online, https://www.voicesfromthedarkside.de/interview/malevolent-creation/.
Alan Moses and Brian Pattison, Glorious Times. A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene 1984-1991 (Athens: Fryktos Burnings, 2019), 81.
Moses and Pattison, Glorious Times, 71.
Frank Stöver, “Morbid Angel. Slimy little secrets,” Voices from the dark side 7 (1995): 7.
Cannibal Corpse. Centuries of Torment, The first 20 years, directed and produced by Denise Korycki, Metal Blade Records 2008, min. 89.00-90.00.
Moses and Pattison, Glorious Times, 10; Mindaugas Lapinskas, “Acheron,” 9 September 2014, Voices from the dark side online, https://www.voicesfromthedarkside.de/interview/acheron-2/.
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 145.
Although we should ascribe great importance to this subject and despite the fact that there are respective journals, the connection between metal music and migration remains mainly unresearched.
Brett Stevens, “Morbid Angel,” 20 June 2015, Voices from the dark side online, https://www.voicesfromthedarkside.de/interview/morbid-angel-2-2/; Mudrian, Choosing Death, 60–80.
The “working class” thesis starting with: Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal. A cultural sociology (New York: Lexington Books, 1991); In reference to death metal: Deena Weinstein, “The globalization of metal,” in Metal Rules the Globe, ed. Jeremy Wallach, Harris M. Berger and Paul D. Greene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 41.
Significantly more nuanced than Weinstein: Andy R. Brown, “Heavy Metal and Subcultural Theory: A Paradigmatic Case of Neglect?,” in The post-subcultures reader, ed. David Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (Oxford: Berg, 2003), 209–22; Harris M. Berger, Metal, rock, and jazz. Perception and the phenomenology of musical experience (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1999), 289–91.
Snider, “Princes of Darkness,” 70.
Wiederhorn and Turman, Louder than hell, 466.
Frank Stöver and Laurent Ramadier, “Massacre,” 15 September 2011, Voices from the dark side online, https://www.voicesfromthedarkside.de/interview/massacre/.
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 82.
For example, in November 1991 bands such as Death, Atheist, Bolt Thrower, Pantera, Prong, Overkill or The Exploited played in the venues Club Detroit and The Ritz. Anonym, No title, The Tampa Bay Times, 2 November 1991, 46.
Stephen Hegarty, “Jammed Sessions,” The Tampa Bay Times, 26 July 1992, 61, 67.
For young extreme metal musicians living in suburbs, nighttime disturbance was a common threat. Lately: Paul Halmshaw, Peaceville Life (London: Hell Segundo, 2019), 16.
Even The Tampa Bay Times noticed that the support on the “home front” was lacking. Snider, “Princes of Darkness.”
Moses and Pattison, Glorious Times, 61.
Ibid., 86, 95, 99, 115, 137.
Wallach and Levine, “I want you to support local metal”, 121–22.
Moses and Pattison, Glorious Times, 17, 169–71; Netherton, Extremity Retained, 144.
Curtis Ross, “Sound Shopping,” The Tampa Tribune, 4 December 1992, 176.
Mudrian, Choosing Death, 86–88.
Greg Pratt, “That Tour Was Awesome: Complete Control (1992),” Decibel Magazine, January 2019, https://www.decibelmagazine.com/2019/01/31/that-tour-was-awesome-complete-control-1992/.
Pratt, “That Tour Was Awesome.”
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 436.
Mudrian, Choosing Death, 57.
Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, Slayer Mag 6 (1988), 134.
Mudrian, Choosing Death, 223.
Wiederhorn and Turman, Louder than hell, 470.
“Between other bands. We don’t have no shit with nobody. The only person that maybe we have a little fuckin’ beef with is like Chuck.” Phil Fasciana (Malevolent Creation), in Richard Johnson, Disposable Underground 1/2 (1991).
A category based on Pierre Bourdieu’s philosophy and introduced by Sarah Thornton, Club Cultures. Music, Media and Subcultural Capital (Hoboken: Wiley, 2013).
“But when I got to Florida and met Pete Sandoval, it was pretty inspiring. He just pushed himself more than anyone I’d ever seen as far as drummers go. He was on another level. He practiced every day, wearing two ankle-weights on both legs, and he’d go with that for hours. […] There were only a handful of guys in the world at that time really pulling it off, and he was one of them.” Antar Lee Coates (Diabolic), in Netherton, Extremity Retained, 234–35.
Albert Mudrian, Precious Metal. Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces (Cambridge, MA: DaCapo Press, 2009).
Bill Zebub, The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds Magazine 10 (1997), 12.
Frank Stöver, “Morbid Angel. Slimy little secrets,” Voices from the dark side 7 (1995), 7.
Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, Slayer Mag 8 (1991), 207.
Mark Prindle, interview with Glen Benton, 2004, http://www.markprindle.com/benton-i.htm.
Wiederhorn and Turman, Louder than hell, 470.
Satsuki Takashima, Satanic Death 3 (July 1988).
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 218–19.
Wiederhorn and Turman, Louder than hell, 485; Hank Shteamer, “Morbid Angel’s ‘Covenant’: How the Band’s Major Label Debut Raised the Bar for Extreme Metal,” Rolling Stone Magazine online, 22 June 2018, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/morbid-angel-covenant-anniversary-665990/ .
Besides musicians like Øystein Aarseth or Per Yngve Ohlin (both Mayhem), one of the main promoters of this position was Jon Kristiansen, editor and author of Slayer Mag in Sarpsborg, Norway, who posited a “Morrisound sindrome” [sic] and claimed that—like in Stockholm’s Sunlight Studio—death metal masterpieces had been recorded in Tampa, which were unfortunately followed by “clone” bands, just copying these styles. Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, Slayer Mag 8 (1991), 188.
Mudrian, Choosing Death, 214–30.
Netherton, Extremity Retained, 148.
Frank Stöver, Voices from the dark side 3 (1994), 13.
See the labels of the regional subgenres like “Old School Swedish Death Metal” or “Bay Area Thrash,” usually prolonged by the merchandise.
This approach modifies the four-phases-model of Jennifer Lena in regard to extreme metal scenes and to the historic and complex experiences of the participants. Jennifer Lena, Banding together. How communities create genres in popular music (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012). It is important to consider that the above-mentioned four phases only indicate tendencies, which could occur multiply fractured with regard to different bands or members of the musical community. For example, a band like Morbid Angel underwent Lena’s whole “trajectory” of avant-garde to scene-based, industry-based and eventually traditionalist, whereas other bands never made the step into industry-based (which means major label) deals. And yet others like the band Death always clearly belonged to a musical avant-garde, but nevertheless constituted a crucial part of the regional scene. And still others pursued ways back into avant-garde styles or entered the community only to play the traditional style or only to benefit from current industry attention. “Florida death metal” as an imagined whole never fitted exactly into one of the proposed phases, but always overlapped due to multi-dimensional experiences and asynchronicity. Musical communities like scenes feature specific temporal contexts and sequences, which is why it is basically problematic to compare even very similar ones with the aim to categorize them into shared phases.
An important exception: Kahn-Harris, Extreme Metal, 53–67.
The assumption draws on Sarah Thornton’s reflections on the scene-mass media relationship: “While subcultural studies have tended to argue that youth subcultures are subversive until the very moment they are represented by the mass media (Hebdige 1979 and 1987), here it is argued that these kinds of taste cultures (not to be confused with activist organizations) become politically relevant only when they are framed as such. In other words, derogatory media coverage is not the verdict but the essence of their resistance.” Thornton, Club Cultures, 210.
Philipp Booth, “Heavy honors,” The Tampa Tribune, September 3, 1993, 95.
Anonym, “The Tampa Bay Metal Awards,” The Tampa Tribune, August 30, 1991, 89.
Jason Cochran, “Medals for Metal,” South Florida Sun Sentinel, July 17, 1993, 57.
Anonym, “Rock Break showcases area bands,” The Palm Beach Post, May 24, 1991, 121.
Steve MacQueen, “Join the clubs,” Tallahassee Democrat, 27 August 1993, 3D.
Snider, “Princes of Darkness,” 65.
Susan M. Barbieri, “Metalheads,” The Orlando Sentinel, 16 March 1992, 25; Kira L. Billik, “Heavy Metal,” The Tampa Tribune, 21 June 1992, 125; Robert Gross, “Heavy Metal Music. A New Subculture in American Society,” Journal of Popular Culture 24/1 (1990): 119–30.
Pam Noles, “Tampa area reigns as Deathmetal capital,” The Tampa Tribune, 30 July 1991, 40.
Paul Guzzo, “Death metal pioneers seek site to replace Temple Terrace studio,” The Tampa Bay Times, 3 January 2016), https://www.tampabay.com/news/death-metal-pioneers-seek-site-to-replace-temple-terrace-studio-20181211/.
Marty Clear, “This music, these books, deserve second looks,” The Tampa Tribune, 25 September 1993, 80.
Wiederhorn and Turman, Louder than hell, 485.
Tony Green, “Tampa – the next Seattle?,” The Tampa Bay Times, 28 December 1993, 16.
Bob Henderson, “Article was not music to the ears,” The Tampa Bay Times, 22 December 1993, 103.
Anonym., “Tampa U.S.A. How others see us,” The Tampa Bay Times, 17 March 1995, 12.
Paul Wilborn, “Loving us to death,” The Tampa Bay Times, 16 September 1994, 7.
Vickie Beck, “Church: Lord rocks in mysterious ways,” The Tampa Tribune, 29 August 1992, 219.
Sharon Kirby Lamm, “Bands play rock (‘n roll) of ages,” The Tampa Bay Times, 28 March 1992, 99, 105.
Ricky Wright, “Alternative Christian band rock the flock,” The Tampa Bay Times, 5 August 1995, 95; William Yelverton, “Defendant renounces Satanism,” The Tampa Tribune, 24 March 1994, 111.
Claude Chastagner, “The Parents Music Resource Center. From Information to Censorship,” Popular Music 18/2 (1999): 179–192.
E.g. Analyzing Black Metal. Transdisziplinäre Annäherungen an ein düsteres Phänomen der Musikkultur, ed. Sarah Chaker, Jakob Schermann and Nikolaus Urbanek (Bielefeld: transcript, 2018); Torstein Grude, Satan Rides The Media, 1998, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6q8Jwuu1a8; Laura Wiebe Taylor, “Nordic Nationalism. Black Metal takes Norway’s Everyday Racisms to the Extreme,” in The Metal Void. First Gatherings, ed. Niall W.R. Scott and Imke von Helden (Oxford: Interdisciplinary Press, 2010), 161–173.
Toni-Matti Karjalainen, “Tales from the north and beyond. Sounds of origin as narrative discourses,” in Sounds of origin in heavy metal music, ed. by Toni-Matti Karjalainen (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2018): 1–39.
Andreas Reckwitz, Kreativität und soziale Praxis. Studien zur Sozial- und Gesellschaftstheorie (Bielefeld: transcript, 2016), 185–214; Andreas Reckwitz, Die Erfindung der Kreativität. Zum Prozess gesellschaftlicher Ästhetisierung (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2012).
In the form of musicpreneuers, this subject culture has institutionalized: Music entrepreneurship, ed. Allan Dumbreck and Gayle McPherson (London: Routledge, 2016).