I moved to LA from New Jersey a year ago. As a visitor, the novel spark of spending a short amount of time here can be escapist intoxication at it’s best. Playing shows in LA always stood out; you put a pin in the date on the calender. That’s where the labels, agents, and managers were, and that’s where you took the party up to the next level. It was the one place where the “Rock N Roll lifestyle” was the de facto way to live. This was all learned of course. All of us had read about Mötley Crüe’s sordid tales in The Dirt, and watched the countless Behind The Music episodes and documentaries detailing that same stereotypical story about the Strip, the girls, the drugs, the money, the arenas, and the inevitable descent.
By the time Sam Dunn’s metal history documentary series, Metal Evolution, aired on VH1 in 2011, the glam episode was by far the most boring to me because these stories had become clichés. Now, as someone who lives in LA, the degree to which many people here prop up and deify the glam era has somewhat baffled me. Don’t get me wrong, the upper tier like Crüe, Skid Row, Ratt, and the Scorpions were excellent bands, but the ranks get pretty thin after that, and I refuse to put it on a pedestal, free from critical analysis. There are some great bands, a bunch of awesome, fun, party songs, but a checkered legacy. I refuse to hang my hat on ANY genre that’s best day are 30 years ago. I’d rather look forward for innovation.
Glam metal never really went away 100%. You had bands like the Darkness strike it big a decade ago, and a successful power metal band like Dragonforce that welcomed the inherent cheesiness that is in lockstep with the glam ethos. The stars of the era like Sebastian Bach, Tommy Lee, Dee Snider, and Bret Michaels maintained a healthy celebrity on television and various other outlets. Poppier fair like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard survived in the mainstream, and Guns N’ Roses transcended the entire genre and burned the rule book becoming the most important rock band of their generation (if you don’t count Nirvana). Despite my mixed feelings on the genre as a whole, I have noticed a resurgence of the sound and imagery with a collection of new(er) bands. There is a reason so many have held this genre so close to their hearts in recent decades, and it’s important to acknowledge the passion and staying power.
In many ways, Steel Panther deserves most of the credit for bringing anything resembling glam metal back into the limelight. Sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and they are just as much a comedy troop as they are a metal band, but that is where the genius truly lies. Not acknowledging the overt silliness in the glam tradition, shows blind spotted daftness to the obvious. They aren’t making fun of the music, they are just fully embracing it because they love it so much. Their list of accomplishments just keep piling up: they recently headlined Wembley Arena in London, and served as the direct support for Judas Priest on a recent US tour. Steel Panther might be hilarious, but the waves they are making in the music industry are no joke.
Discovering Santa Cruz was actually the inspiration of this article. I actually received a single EP from the band while they were visiting the bar I worked at in Brooklyn, Duff’s, but I didn’t really pay attention until I heard some of the recent buzz and checked out some of their videos. The Finnish band contains virtually all of the old-school glam hallmarks: very pretty boys, flamboyantly colorful regalia, and exploitive, over-the-top music videos. The overall feel of the music is a nod to classic Glam, but Santa Cruz have updated the riffing style to be aggressively modern, and the Zakk Wylde, Alexi Laiho inspired scorching lead guitar work really gives them a unique slant on a well worn genre.
We Are Harlot
Based on music alone, We Are Harlot are not really a glam band. I would say they are slightly blues-ed out party rock more akin to the Damned Things. But something about the overall package just hearkens to the Glam value system. I’m sure some of it has to do with lead vocalist, Danny Worsnop, and his history with ex band, Asking Alexandria, whose public persona was drenched in Hollywood debauchery. Like him or not, Worsnop is a real rock star who embraces the role in an era of feigned humility. If glam was about anything, it was about charismatic stars who did not shy from the spotlight or the camera. We Are Harlot have a bright future.
There must something brewing in Finland as Reckless Love are 2nd Finnish band to appear on the list. This band is peculiar as they are almost playing on the fringes where Steel Panther operates. They are silly with a nod and wink with a deep tip of the cap to all things ’80s and American like this new soon-to-be-released film, Kung Fury (coincidentally being produced in Sweden). I have a soft spot for output that is blatantly unapologetic in it’s delivery. I’m not sure if I would listen to this band a whole lot in my spare time; Reckless Love is more on the Poison side of things than Skid Row, but the brashness is infectious. The singer’s pursed lips and sculpted abs, the absurd cowboy hat, I think I’m on board. Don’t judge me.
Black Veil Brides
Much like We Are Harlot, based on music alone, I wouldn’t call Black Veil Brides a glam retread. Their roots lie in the post emo, goth inspired Warped Tour Metalcore sound trailblazed by predecessors, Avenged Sevenfold. Although Black Veil Brides don’t pack the metallic machismo or Progressive flair like Avenged Sevenfold, they are heavier than most glam fluff, and lead vocalist, Andy Biersack’s baritone croon has more in common with modern active rock. Their alignment with glam is mostly evident in the fact that their image has been directly inspired by Mötley Crüe’s early years. This is not controversial, and has been applauded by Nikki Sixx himself. Black Veil Brides are probably the biggest and most successful of all the bands in this movement. Time will tell if the glam revival will continue to spread due to how much influence a band like Black Veil Brides has on the youth.