I was at a loose end yesterday so I decided to drag Mrs Spartacus down to Birmingham Museum for the home of metal exhibition.
The Home of Metal project (http://www.homeofmetal.com/) has been gathering momentum for some time thanks to those very nice people at Capsule.
When you think about it, the Midlands spawned a whole genre yet up to now it’s been rather shy of promoting itself as the cradle of moshing, flying v guitars and albums dedicated to Aleister Crowley.
(Compare this modest, self effacing Brummie attitude to Manchester’s near religious reverence for it’s role in “The Second Summer of Love”, I think I prefer the former).
The first part of exhibition is a mock up of a typical Aston front room and workplace complete with cacophanous soundtrack of factory machinery, the premise being that it was this high decibel clanking and banging that influenced the sound of Black Sabbath. There is also a little glass case exhibiting a cap from a washing up liquid bottle similar to the one Tony Iommi used to fashion prosthetic fingertips when his own were removed in an unfortunate industrial accident.
The next section focusses on Black Sabbath and the scene they emerged from – as well as some related ephemera of the Birmingham Beat Scene.

Original Ozzy lyrics complete with handy runic translation

There’s Judas Priest’s original mangement contract as well as a rather fetching promo picture of Rob Halford bedecked in studded leather, peaked cap and bull whip. To think that many Judas Priest fans were shocked when he came out in the 1990’s, evidently they were unfamiliar with the work of Tom of Finland.
The rest of the exhibition consists of T-Shirts, magazines, flyers etc, even a pack of Napalm Death Candy.

There’s a set of drums and guitars you can pick up, pose and play with (wigs are kindly available for the follically challenged among us) as well as stage props (sadly no miniature stone henges or dwarf gibbets). Roughly speaking the exhibition focusses on three bands, The Sabs (undisputedly influential) Napalm Death (again whether you like em or not, they prety much spawned a whole subgenre) and Judas Priest (wtf?).
I couldn’t hum you a Judas Priest song if you held a gun to my head. Thinking about it they earnt their place in the history books thanks to the Christian Right’s fatuous attempt to convince people that Heavy Metal records contained subliminal exhortations to worship Satan or blow your brains out. (As Rob Halford pointed out, if you COULD plant suggestions into your records surely it would be better to plant something along the lines of “Buy More Records” rather than commands to kill yerself). It’s frightening to think that at the time this Christian witch hunt was taken seriously rather than dismissed as woefully retarded, so props to Judas Priest for facing them down in the court room.
There is a whole section devoted to the Grindcore scene that emerged in the late 80’s. I had a nice wave of nostalgia seeing those fuzzy xeroxed flyers again. At the time (mid to late 80’s) “metal” was a pretty awful and moribund genre. My mates were metallers of the Whitesnake / Poison/ Heart school of airbrushed soft metal. I would spend many a night at Rock City nurturing a deep sense of misanthropy as various coiffed and blowdried ninnies would shake their tresses, playing the air ukele to the latest airbrushed anthems. Grindcore, the bastard offspring of Anarcho punk and thrash/ speed metal bought back a healthy dollop of scuzz and rage to the table.
I loved / still love Godflesh and their brutal grind, much preferred it to the spazzy faster, harder gruntfest of early Napalm Death. I can remember listening to John Peel under the covers when he used to play their record thinking “This must be a joke”, the sort of “extreme” music you’d play to piss off parents or neighbours. But hey, who am I to judge, they obviously inspired a whole generation to don corpse paint and scan medical textbooks for lyrical inspiration (see Albert Mudrian’s Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore for a good potted history – did you know Jim Carrey was a Cannibal Corpse fan? – me neither).
Also, Mick Harris deserves recognition for the various different and diverse musical projects he’s been involved with and Justin Broderick went on to plough his own very intriguing furrow so I guess they have earnt their place in the rock n roll pantheon.
Other diversions include a section where you can colour in pictures of your favourite metaller or a memorabilia section where you wonder “Who exactly would want to buy a Heavy Metal cookbook?”

All in all it’s worth a visit whether you’re a fan of the music or not (Mrs Spartacus isn’t God bless her).

Succinct and to the point