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Arts & Culture

Metal Music And The Promise Of Fu Manchu

Members of the California metal band Fu Manchu.
Members of the California metal band Fu Manchu.

After the Beatles broke up, it became increasingly difficult to find exciting music.

Metal was always an option. Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were the most obvious choices. They frequently delivered, but you also had to put up with the love songs and the ballads. Depending on where it was placed in the running order, it could ruin a whole side in the vinyl days.

The choice became do I get up and lift the needle to the next song or just skip the whole side? Led Zeppelin gave us "Thank You", fortunately at the end of side one on Led Zeppelin II and the unskippable "That's the Way" on Led Zeppelin III.


Black Sabbath struck with "Solitude" on "Master of Reality" just before the epic "Into the Void" and the godawful "Changes" on the same side as the incredible "Supernaut" on "Vol. 4."

Even when I dug deeper into the metal genre and discovered minor classics like Pink Fairies "Kings of Oblivion," Hard Stuff's "Bulletproof" and Nitzinger's first album, they were still usually bogged down with one lousy love song.

This is why God created programmable CD players.

There were harbingers: The Dictators, the New York Dolls, The Stooges. But they were so far off the radar commercially it was hard to think that they could have any kind of impact.

Then the Ramones first album came out (along with the early punkers) and wiped the slate clean. Punk delivered what metal promised; fast, hard and loud. No filler, no ballads, no crap.


After punk hit, I hardly listened to or thought about metal at all. I was aware of Metallica and had Slayer's "Reign in Blood" (which is basically punk with chops) but that was about it.

Then the New York Times Magazine article about SunnO))) in 2005 got me interested again.

I got their "Black One" album and loved it. So again I started digging deeper, finding the good: Boris (who put on a great show at the Casbah last year), AND the bad: Sleep's "Dopesmoker" and the bizarre: Orthrelm's "OV."

Which brings me around to California metal masters Fu Manchu.

I saw them in the early oughts opening for Zen Guerrilla at the Casbah. Now they're here again at the Casbah for a twentieth anniversary show. So to hear what I'd be getting into, I got one of their early releases, 1996's "In Search Of" and one of their more recent ones, 2007's "We Must Obey." And they're both killer!

This is metal with lots (and lots) of guitar, a lot of soloing, a lot of wah-wah (coming soon, top ten wah-wah songs) and fierce vocals (never using the dreaded "death metal" style).

Fu Manchu do it right: punk in attitude, metal in performance. "In Search Of" sounds closer to Black Sabbath while "We Must Obey" shows the influence of more recent rap metal bands. A good cure for the quirky pop blahs.

It's time for some serious headbanging Thursday at the Casbah. And remember, all man eat, but Fu Manchu.