I'm pretty excited about the Summer Slaughter Tour, which hits NYC on August 1; ten of the most listener-abusive deathcore and technical death metal bands around, crushing it one after the other. I mean, seriously: Decapitated, The Faceless, All Shall Perish, The Red Chord, Veil of Maya, Cephalic Carnage, Decrepit Birth, Carnifex, Animals as Leaders and Vital Remains all on one bill? Sold!
The one thing that bums me out about the show is that as much as I like the majority of these bands (the only ones I'm not particularly looking forward to seeing are All Shall Perish, The Red Chord and Cephalic Carnage), I know I'm not gonna come home with even one new T-shirt.
Metal shirts, like metal itself, have gotten more and more "extreme" in recent years, with logos getting uglier and spikier, slogans getting more obscene/offensive, and imagery heading into territory that, frankly, I don't want on my chest where strangers can see. There was an awesomeness to metal graphic design in the '80s and even, to a degree, in the '90s that young bands don't care to match. To this day, old-school bands like Judas Priest, Metallica and Slayer offer good-looking shirts that a man in his late 30s can wear with relative dignity.
Iron Maiden used to be the gold standard for this. Their shirts, which almost always depicted mascot Eddie (I have one of the few that doesn't, a shirt from the 2004 Dance of Death Tour with a band photo on the front), were witty and cool-looking; you could wear them on the street and get unexpected nods of appreciation from strangers. I was hoping to buy a new shirt on Monday night. But everything on offer was ugly, and I left the gig empty-handed.
One option a few bands have exercised in recent years, which has pleased me greatly, has been the simple black-and-white logo shirt. I have one from Atheist, one from Entombed, and one that's not quite a straight logo shot, but features a logo and a simple white graphic, from the L.A.-based Native American crust/grind band Resistant Culture. And, of course, Motörhead has been doing that for decades—the classic "Motörhead/England" shirt, with their pig-demon mascot's head in the center, adorns hundreds of thousands of torsos worldwide, so many that Lemmy once told me, "I wish everyone who's got the T-shirt had the albums."
I feel like a lot of young bands are going out of their way to alienate older fans. There are a lot of metalheads in their late 30s who like new bands, but don't want to be walking around in a T-shirt that's been designed to piss off parents and high school principals. I think shirts designed for grown-ups would be a great marketing tool, and a way to bridge what I see as a growing generation gap in metal.
Of course, I could just be old and out of touch. That's not outside the realm of possibility. All I know for sure is that when I go to Summer Slaughter, I'll be wearing this classy, simple garment: