I visited the ancestral homeland of American death metal for my first vacation of 2015. As my girlfriend and I walked around, enjoying the sunshine, seafood, palm trees, beaches, and excellent craft beer and cigars, one thought was omnipresent in my mind: this is where death metal was born.
Every time I went to the beach, I imagined guys like Chuck Schuldiner lighting up a joint and looking skyward, philosophizing the ideas that would form his lyrics. Every time I walked into a bar, I imagined the guys from Morbid Angel and Atheist drinking, writing, and arguing. Every time I drove by a church billboard, I imagined Glen Benton of Deicide spray-painting some blasphemy over it. When I drove by a high school athletic field, I imagined teenagers dressed in their band shirts comparing the sickest and most gruesome death metal album covers and lyrics they could find, as though they had stumbled across a cardboard box marked “Music for Adults – DO NOT OPEN.”
Indeed, I felt the legacy of extreme music in the very air of this “other” Bay Area.
The presence of Scott Burns at the area’s Morrisound Studios was key in Tampa’s development as a death metal mecca. Because most producers at the time had no idea how to create a balanced, quality mix of this new extreme death metal (particularly for double-bass drumming and blast beats), Burns was one of the first (and best) to create that process (though over in Europe, Harris Johns had pretty strong credentials too). Cannibal Corpse even relocated from their hometown of Buffalo to have Burns produce their records. So many of death metal’s biggest names worked here: Death, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Atheist, Obituary, Cynic, Malevolent Creation…
And it occurred to me that if there was to be a Death Metal Hall of Fame with a physical location, a central gathering place to enshrine and showcase the very best that this music has to offer, Tampa would be the prime location. What an addition to the city it would be. And what an important undertaking it would be: to create a place where death metal music and fans would always be welcomed, rather than ostracized, where their favorite bands would be honored rather than dismissed by the vapid mainstream.
The Death Metal Hall of Fame would be located in a converted warehouse or similar structure in or near Tampa’s historic Latin Ybor City district. Visitors to the Hall could partake in such headbanger-friendly delights as spicy Cuban food, record stores, fantastic local craft beer, cigars, strong espresso, and late-night entertainment. It would be an entire weekend in which Tampa would be flooded with headbangers, one of the few extreme metal events of its size and stature in North America.
This Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony would be a pilgrimage or rite of passage for the truly passionate death metal fan. In its main hall (which would serve as an extreme music concert venue other nights of the year), fans would annually witness two bands receive the honor of being inducted into the Death Metal Hall of Fame. Current and former band members and their families would be invited, and similar to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame format there would be an induction speech, an acceptance speech, and of course a band performance. It would be the only thing that this Hall would have in common with that other credibility-bereft institution. No sanitized, “good clean fun” here!
Death and Possessed would be the first year’s inductees by default (and hopefully Schuldiner’s mother would feel up to making the trip from Long Island to come down and give the very first Hall of Fame talk). The mainstream media will of course refuse to cover this event (they’ll be too busy salivating over Beyonce), but no matter: it’ll be streamed online so everyone who can’t make the trip to Tampa can watch and listen anyway.
After that first year, a group of inductees would be chosen by a panel of death metal musicians and writers–a group of four or five bands. Fans would then vote for two of them by popular vote into the Hall of Fame–no arbitrary, Rolling Stone, head-scratching corporate BS like that other hall has.
After the speeches and just before the inductees’ show, a large plaque or portrait would be unveiled–one for each inducted band. The plaque’s final design would be the result of a contest between submissions by artists and fans alike. Winner to be chosen by popular vote and displayed in another area of the hall, in the literal “hall of fame.” Only requirement is that artwork contain the band’s name and that it fit a certain panel size for display.
There would be a small museum attached to the Hall, featuring rare posters and artwork, instruments, handwritten lyrics, and archive footage–and of course, an extreme merch store with a large death metal collection. Young musicians could take lessons in onsite practice rooms, and an extreme-metal podcast or internet radio station could be operated from there as well.
Imagine…a death metal mecca. A true ground zero of music, mayhem, and camaraderie.
I’d hit that up every year, wouldn’t you?
Written by Matt P