All this Mayhem! Aesthetics of Metal and Punk

“It’s an honour to be a part of the Home of Metal. I am just a guy from Birmingham who’s been blessed to have had such dedicated fans throughout my career. Like I’ve always said, I am nothing without them.”Ozzy Osbourne

This summer the city of Birmingham (England) has celebrated what is, arguably, its most important cultural gift to the world — Heavy Metal.

Home of Metal describes itself as a festival whose “exhibitions and events join the dots between music, social history, visual art to produce a new perspective on Heavy Metal.”  Well, we can’t argue with that.

The headlining act is the exhibition, Black Sabbath: 50 Years. It’s a brilliant altar of worship to the legendary Dark Lords who, in the late 1960s, changed the history of music forever with their uniquely uncompromising, dark and heavy sound. A paradise for Sabbath fans visiting from around the world, this show is a treasure trove of memorabilia, historic archive material and music – HEAVY music.

From its origins in the industrial grit, grime, and working class communities of post-war Birmingham (and its suburbs) the ‘birth of metal’ is described in the words and music of the original band members themselves (Ozzy, Tony, Bill, and Geezer) and many musicians inspired by Black Sabbath’s unparalleled legacy.

To inaugurate the festival, one of the bridges in the city centre was proudly named Black Sabbath Bridge in a special tribute to the band. We can safely assume that hardcore metal fans will now (quite rightly) be demanding the addition of Judas Priest Bridge and Napalm Death Bridge.

“I’m really proud to be a Brummie and to call Birmingham my home. Your surroundings and experiences influence your music so it’s important for people to know where that music came from.” — Tony Iommi

Home of Metal has taken place at numerous cultural spaces across the city such as Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Eastside Projects (new work by Monster Chetwynd), and New Art Gallery Wallsall (a group show including artists Jeremy Deller, Jim Lambie, Sarah Lucas, and Mike Nelson).

Our friends mac Birmingham (Midland Arts Centre) have also hosted one of the main exhibitions for the festivities with, Ben Venom: ALL THIS MAYHEM. It’s the first solo show in the UK of the acclaimed American artist whose subversive textile-based art embraces the DIY aesthetics of Heavy Metal, Punk Rock and skateboarding culture. If you couldn’t get to see Venom’s show then his catalogue is certainly the next best thing. It’s very cool indeed.

Maybe you’re looking for some more Punk, Metal and Skating related inspiration? OK, well we definitely recommend that you check out these three juicy tomes:

Skateboard Studies proved very popular at Tate Modern when we exhibited at the Offprint Art Book Fair this spring. It’s an unusual and fascinating theoretical consideration of this urban subculture. As we all know, skateboarding is almost as much a core ingredient of Metal/Punk culture as headbanging, tattoos and air guitar. So, this book is a perfect fit which we’re sure Ben Venom would approve of.

LOUD FLASH: British Punk on Paper pretty much does what it says. A superbly designed catalogue for an exhibition of printed material from the Mott Collection, curated by the artist, designer and Punk connoisseur Toby Mott himself. From the Sex Pistols to the Buzzcocks and beyond, it features so many iconic posters created for the bands who made the movement.

AUFWACKEN is an awesome photobook dedicated to world’s biggest Heavy Metal music festival — Wacken Open Air. Black Sabbath (by name) never played Wacken although Heaven & Hell did in 2009 (and that band was basically Sabbath without Ozzy anyway, so near enough, eh?). But don’t be expecting standard documentary photos of this German extravaganza of heaviness, because Jens Nolte’s images are often beautifully elusive and poetic, really capturing the cathartic spirit.

There’s only one final thing left for us to say… Hail Sabbath!

[Disclaimer: in case you didn’t already guess, all this was written by a true Heavy Metal fan]


Image credit: Ben Venom, Killers. Custom fabricated jacket. Collaboration with Jason Redwood, Truth Never Told, and Lucien Shapiro (20" x 25"), 2019
Posted on 6th September 2019
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