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IS THE 'BALL BACK?

A Report on the Return of Headbanger's Ball - Premiere Broadcast: May 10, 2003

by Christopher J. Kelter


Well, what do you know? MTV has brought back Headbanger's Ball. Looks like that petition from a few years ago to get Headbanger's Ball back on TV might have actually had some impact on a certain corporate musical media conglomerate.

Well, to be exact, I should say that MTV2 has brought back Headbanger's Ball; we all know that the original MTV hasn't shown videos for a long time. So, if you have MTV2 you're in luck you can see the new Headbanger's Ball. If you don't have MTV2 you'll have to have someone you know who has it to record the show for you. And it might be silly for me to suggest that if you don't have MTV2 that an upgrade in your media package might be necessary. That or you'll have to crash one of your friend's houses. It doesn't matter what you do because it's all in the name of metal. As I understand it, the new version of Headbanger's Ball will air on Saturday nights from 10pm to 12midnight EST. Plan accordingly.

For a few years in the '80s I was able to enjoy the Headbanger's Ball nearly every Saturday night. It was a great opportunity to catch some of my favorite bands and hear/see some new bands. What I was really excited about during the airings of the Headbanger's Ball was that I could hear/see bands that wouldn't necessarily be on my local radio stations. Back in the day, bands from England (Iron Maiden, Motorhead) and bands from Germany (Accept, Helloween) regularly got airtime on the original Ball. Hell, even Switzerland got on the Ball (Krokus) as well as Ireland (Thin Lizzy) and Brazil (Sepultura).

Once I got over my initial excitement about the return of the Headbanger's Ball I realized that the new Ball would probably be playing videos of bands that I really wasn't interested in hearing (i.e. mainstream acts). My heavy metal tastes have changed over the last 20 years or so and it's not hard to see how MTV2 would try to stick to the tried and true as well as more mainstream acts. But I was hoping that MTV2 might carry a bit of a rebellious streak and break some of the established rules of videos.

Basically I was wondering if Headbanger's Ball would really show a diverse set of metal bands. How many Scandinavian bands would be shown? How many European bands would get a chance to display their musical talents? How many underground bands would have the opportunity to cut through the mainstream? Or would hardcore, gothic metal, and many of the other sub-genres of hard rock and heavy metal get any exposure?

For those of you without access to MTV2 or just happened to miss the show here's the complete list of videos shown:

Metallica: "One"
Godsmack: "Straight Out Of Line"
Killswitch Engage: "Fixation On The Darkness"
Powerman 5000: "Free"
Disturbed: "Remember"
Mudvayne: "Not Falling"
Hatebreed: "Perseverance"
Suicidal Tendencies: "You Can't Bring Me Down"
Stone Sour: "Inhale"
Shadows Fall: "Destroyer Of Sense"
Staind: "Price To Pay"
hed(PE): "Blackout"
The Datsuns: "In Love"
Black Label Society: "Stillborn"
Superjoint Ritual: "Fuck Your Enemy"
High On Fire: "Hung, Drawn, and Quartered"
Metallica: "Fade To Black"

Since Metallica were the guest hosts they got to show two of their own videos. Fair enough. Even if "Fade To Black" isn't really a video from the good ol' days, I'm guessing many metal maniacs will take Metallica in any form they can and using footage from "Live Shit: Binge & Purge" is acceptable. I suppose a video from Suicidal Tendencies would have eventually been shown on the new Ball, but with Rob Trujillo having just joined Metallica it looks like Suicidal Tendencies got their exposure sooner rather than later.

So, after two hours what are the answers to my questions? Headbanger's Ball did not show any videos by Scandinavian bands or European bands for that matter. In fact, only one non-US band was shown New Zealand's retro rockers The Datsuns. If I remember correctly, the only Scandinavian/European band to get any press was In Flames who were briefly mentioned in Iann Robinson's first news segment.

However, I was impressed with the inclusion of Shadows Fall, High On Fire, and Killswitch Engage in the Ball's debut episode. I was happy that at least one band from Century Media, Relapse, and Roadrunner made it onto the premier broadcast of the new Headbanger's Ball. Hardcore got good representation in the form of Hatebreed and even the stoner genre got some press with High On Fire. As you might expect, hearing/seeing mainstream acts such as Staind, Godsmack, and Powerman 5000 wasn't exactly what I hoped to see but I was impressed with the performances provided by Stone Sour and Mudvayne.

True to form, Headbanger's Ball basically stuck to the format of showing two videos and then commercials. This formula, with one exception, was repeated ad nauseum. Personally I think if the guests hosting the show could keep the chatter to a minimum there could be at least one if not two additional videos shown on each Ball.

Overall, I have to admit I was moderately disappointed with the premier edition of Headbanger's Ball. However, I'll keep watching because I want to see where the "new" Headbanger's Ball is headed. And I'll be looking for videos from the likes of In Flames, Soilwork, Dimmu Borgir, and similar acts in upcoming episodes.

Finally, do what you have to do to support metal. Watch Headbanger's Ball and let the executives at MTV2 and your local cable carrier know that you appreciate MTV2 and their hard rock and metal programming.


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Copyright 2003 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12 Mar 2014 20:08:56 -0600
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