Death metal, the sound of Tampa, won't be heard at Republican convention

WASHINGTON Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:00pm IST

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally at the Long Family Orchard and Farm in Commerce, Michigan August 24, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally at the Long Family Orchard and Farm in Commerce, Michigan August 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When they convene in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney for president next week, Republicans will not hear a note from the city's most notable musical exports: death-metal bands such as Deicide and Obituary.

The South Bronx hatched hip-hop and Seattle birthed grunge rock. Tampa gave the world death metal, a boundary-pushing style of heavy rock that features lyrics that can be decidedly anti-Christian.

Some say it's ironic that a party that includes large numbers of religious conservatives would hold its convention in the city that fostered a musical genre known for album titles like "To Hell With God" and "Butchered At Birth."

"It's kind of like having a group called Abstinence for the Sexually Anxious holding its convention in San Francisco," said Steve Huey, a critic at AllMusic.com. "Or a group called Society for the Hatred of Corn deciding to meet up in Iowa."

Homegrown acts such as Hate Eternal and Morbid Angel are not booked for the plaza-filling concerts or high-dollar fundraisers that will keep conservative and evangelical Republicans occupied in the convention's off hours.

That is not surprising for a style of music in which "brutal" is a compliment. Drummers play at breakneck speed, guitarists peel off dense, atonal riffs, and vocalists sing lyrics about gore and Satan in a low-pitched growl.

Death metal has gained followers worldwide since it emerged from Tampa in the late 1980s, but its appeal is far from universal.

Bob Dole, then a Kansas senator, blasted death-metal act Cannibal Corpse as immoral in 1995. He won the Republican Party's presidential nomination a year later.

The U.S. military has found the music handy at times. According to Mother Jones magazine, a song from Deicide's album "Scars of the Crucifix" was played during interrogation of detainees in Iraq. The band said it was proud to do its part for the war effort.

NOT A SELLING POINT

Local boosters did not play up their city's musical history when they pitched Tampa as a convention destination. Several said they were unaware of the genre altogether.

"Maybe I'm just a really boring human being, but I was not aware of Tampa being a death-metal capital," said Tampa Bay Host Committee president Ken Jones. "Maybe had I known that, I could have used that to raise a few dollars."

Likewise, death-metal bands are greeting the Republican convention with a collective shrug.

A planned concert to coincide with the convention did not materialize, as various bands' touring schedules and recording sessions intervened.

Death-metal musicians and fans do not spend much time talking about politics, several musicians said.

"There is usually something far more creative and worthwhile happening that distracts our focus from the ever-important empty suits who promise everything and deliver nothing," said David Vincent, lead singer of Morbid Angel.

Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster said he held no grudge against the Republican Party, even though Dole, its one-time nominee, singled out his band for criticism. Democrats also have targeted the band, he noted.

"The kind of people that are going to listen to Bob Dole's opinion are not the kind of people who want to listen to our music in the first place," Webster said. "There are plenty of Republican death-metal fans. I'm sure we have fans on both sides of the fence."

Deicide drummer Steve Asheim, no fan of Christianity, said he will not be fazed when thousands of religious conservatives descend on his city, which already has a heavy evangelical presence.

"It's just like they're all coming home anyway," he said. "Down here every other block it's churches and strip bars. It's nothing new for us, man."

(Editing by David Lindsey and Mohammad Zargham)

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