Awards bang gong for heavy metal

THIS was the music awards ceremony from hell. Held with delightful inappropriateness in the crypt of a church and sponsored rather more appropriately by Jack Daniel, K Cider, Carlsberg, Black Death Vodka and Death Cigarettes, heavy metal had its moment of glamour last night.

A boozy, sweaty, overweight glamour. And for Joe Elliott of Def Leppard (best British band) and veteran decibel cruncher Ozzy Osborne (kudos award), the occasion was too much.

'We'd been around such a long time,' said Elliott, with genuine tears rusting his iron cross, 'and it's the first thing we've ever won.' Nico McBrain, of Iron Maiden, was a more archetypal heavy metal hard man when he presented the best new British band award to Terrorvision. Unversed in the etiquette of award-envelope opening, he tore it and could not read the winner's name.

There had not been an awards ceremony before for music's most politically, socially and fashionably incorrect genre. And yesterday it was easy to see why. The musical excerpts killed off any attempt at conversation, both in the hall and through much of Soho.

Heavy metal is aggressive not just in its ear-splitting feedback, its chauvinistic song titles 'Long Stick Goes Boom', 'Open Up And Say Ahh', but also in the sub- genres it spawns - cock rock, thrash, doom and death metal.

At yesterday's awards ceremony below the Notre Dame church, off Leicester Square, some of England's finest, loudest, oldest and greasiest were present, names like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osborne. Even Alan Freeman was present to bear witness to metal's longevity.

No group of heavy metal fans is complete without the air guitar players. Paul Elliott, a long-time metal fan who is now features editor of Kerrang, the heavy metal magazine presenting the awards, was leading the headbanging. 'I have a cardboard guitar in the office. It's an executive perk. I play it whenever Judas Priest are on.'

Not though when Black Sabbath are on. As Elliott puts it with the judgmental harshness of a proletarian metaller: 'They got rich and lost their primal edge.'

This touches on a more deep- seated concern that he and thousands of other aficionados over 18 have: is the music that they loved because it was, in his words, 'loud and obnoxious and annoyed your parents', being sanitised by the mass teenage appeal of the loud but melodic and therefore ideologically questionable American heavy metal bands like Guns N' Roses and Metallica?

Other major award-winners: Bon Jovi (best international live act): Aerosmith (creativity award); Almighty (best British live act); Sepultura (best album); Peter Grant, former Led Zeppelin manager (special award); Pantera (best new international act); Paradise Lost (best video); Therapy (best alternative metal

album).

(Photograph omitted)

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