by Hannah Levin
From the first day I was brought on board at KEXP just over two years ago, I’ve been a vocal (read: periodically obnoxious) advocate for an increase in our programming of hard rock and metal. KEXP has a de facto emphasis on independent artists, while hard rock and metal are historically perceived as the major label fodder of repetitive, mainstream radio programming. Because of those dovetailing factors, it can initially be difficult to see why it’s so important that we begin pulling harder stuff into the mix.
However, as any devoted fan will tell you, metal never dies. In fact, it’s experiencing a massive renaissance at the moment — and one that is perfectly in line with KEXP’s mission to bring listeners the best new music you won’t hear anywhere else. Over the last several years, there’s been a huge influx of progressive artists who have synthesized punk and DIY elements with their love of classic metal, resulting in a gold rush of bands with as much brain as brawn. Acts like Pelican, Isis, Mastodon, The Sword, Kylesa, Torche and SunnO)) are all examples of this phenomenon, as is the bumper crop of Northwest artists leading this charge, including Helms Alee, Red Fang, Akimbo, The Valley and Mico de Noche.
This is not to say that we’ll only be focusing on the new, indie and stateside: a sense of historical appreciation for metal’s roots and recognition of its international community is important as well. Co-host Tanner Ellison and I plan on scouring the globe for unearthed gems in all of metal’s subgenres, from thrash and grindcore to death and black metal (the later of which is definitely Tanner’s area of expertise). We’ll also regularly re-examine the classics, including the key players that made up the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) back in the day, and important U.S. regions, such as the Bay Area and Midwest, which nurtured groundbreaking scenes during metal’s formative years.
Metal is a genre with obscenely passionate, opinionated fans, so I have no doubt we’ll soon find ourselves in, ahem, spirited dialog with our listeners. We welcome the dialog and hope you’re as excited for the Halloween launch of Seek and Destroy this Saturday, October 31, from midnight till 2AM, and every Saturday thereafter. I will continue to host Audioasis every week, with Tanner and I trading off S&D hosting duties every other week.