Get Smart about metal

by Cyle Talley

Face it, your iTunes catalogue could use a shot in the arm. Let Cooper Stapleton, manager of Southwest Sound and the man behind the metal/electronic band, Thrall, tell you a little bit about metal and recommend some fresh tracks and albums.

Give us a brief history of your history with metal

It’s my mom’s fault. She was into Guns ’n’ Roses and Def Leppard – the whole glam thing – and my dad was into anything guitar rock, and so when I started to form my own tastes, they just got faster, louder and more intense. Some friends and I started a band in high school called Icepick Gag Reflex, and now I make weird, experimental electronic music as Thrall.

What was the first band you loved?

Hate Eternal. I’d been listening to what I thought was aggressive, hard music, but a friend introduced me to Hate Eternal and it just blew that notion to smithereens.

Use some broad strokes to define metal as a genre

I guess the easiest way to say it is that there has to be an element of aggression, an element of theatricality, and, well, not giving a f*&%. Metal is about rebellion, but not in a punk rock sense where it’s about a message or politics, but rebellion against life in general. It’s anti-everything. Sort of nihilist, to a degree.

How about some broad strokes to define metal’s sound?

The Wikipedia page lists 200-plus subgenres, so the broad strokes are really broad. Distortion, obviously. Fast drums. There’s a lot of experimentation in metal, but no matter what Middle Eastern scales are used, or strange tunings the guitars are in, metal is always heavy. It’s not supposed to scare people – well, maybe the conservative Christian mom. It’s supposed to make you feel 20 feet tall. It’s about catharsis.

Metal diverges from punk in that it’s a lot more technical, right?

Totally. Punk has that basic three-chord structure, and there have been punk bands that pride themselves on not knowing how to play their instruments. Again, punk has something to say. Metal is instrumentally technical and pretty demanding. Of course, there’s also subgenres like Beatdown, which is one chord strummed a whole bunch.

What are you listening to lately?

Thy Catafalque, a Hungarian black metal group that just put out their first album in 10 years. It’s got a lot of folk and electronic influences, and it’s eccentric and weird, and really great. Tengger Cavalry from Mongolia is pretty great, too. They’re incorporating traditional throat singing, and traditional stringed instruments – it’s totally unique. That’s what makes metal so special, I think. It can co-opt elements of everything and make something new.

What should someone expect when attending a metal show?

A lot of large, drunk men spinning around in circles and trying to hit one another – but in a non-violent way.


The mosh pit is a beautiful place of catharsis. It’s not about malevolence, it’s about getting out your aggressions. The best part is that there is a level of respect surrounding the mosh pit. Even in the most aggressive pit, if someone falls down, other people pick them up- and that’s true anywhere in the world. You lose your keys or your wallet, and people will hold them up in the air so that you can find them again. It’s a feeling of belonging, of connection with people in the room. For being a supposedly “scary” place, a show is oddly safe.

Cyle Talley


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