First, there were the Crusades. Then, missionaries tried to spread the Lord's word to savages in the South Pacific. Two Thursdays ago, a new addition was made to the list of Admirable Yet Thankless Endeavors: Jim Hayward presented the Slammy Awards to South Florida's untamed hordes.
The Slammies -- as the name might suggest -- are awards given for outstanding achievement in the fields of thrash, "hard core" (you should pardon the antiquated catch phrase), and their wicked stepchildren. Hayward, who manages Raped Ape and plies the journalistic trade in West Palm Beach, started the Slammies because he "didn't think thrash/hard core was getting the respect it deserved. The awards are just a way of generating interest in the scene. No one had ever tried to put on a show on that scale, so I got everybody I could think of who was involved in the scene involved in the awards." (And, he adds, there will be a second annual Slammies.)
Thus the stars studding this monumental episode in South Florida's musical history included local bands Amboog-a-lard, Meatlocker, and Load, as well as industry luminaries such as Glenn Richards of WSHE-FM, Crimson of the Rag, Chez Pazienza of WVUM-FM, and, curiously enough, yours truly.
Though some fervent fans would greet the opening of most envelopes with cries of "Rig!" and "It's a fix!" when their faves emerged unvictorious, Hayward assures that the Slammies are cleanly tabulated. "It's all open ballot," he says. "The people voted for the bands -- whoever bothered to pick up a ballot. We circulated 5000 ballots. And we had an accountant look over the oversight committee's shoulders while we counted the votes."
To the untrained ear, most of the performances at the presentation might have sounded shockingly similar, much like dishwashers colliding with Mack trucks on I-95. However, the subtle differences from thud to thrash were, in fact, represented by Hayward's choice of performers. "I tried to get the best bands around for each subgroup," the promoter says. "Load represented the hard/alternative side. Meatlocker is one of the last of the hard-core bands, but hard core is coming back a little bit. With one or two exceptions, most of the winners turned out to be bands that played." (Indeed, Meatlocker won Best Hard Core Band and Load for Best Hard Alternative Band, as well as Best New Band.)
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Envelopes were sliced open, paper cuts were sustained, and ceramic skulls -- with, aptly, engraved metalplates in the foreheads -- were handed to the killer elite: Amboog-a-lard, their proverbial cups running over, snagged Best Local Release (for their 1991 demo), Song of the Year ("Overthrown"), Best Lead Guitarist (Dan Fontana), Best Rhythm Guitarist (Geordie White), and Best Drummer (George Kokkoris). Raped Ape landed a pair of skulls, for Band of the Year and Best Thrash Band. The night's headining act, Malevolent Creation, received Best Vocalist (Bret Hoffman) and tied with Roadrunner label mates Cynic for Best Death Metal Band. Former Cynic bassist Tony Choy, who's also thumped for Atheist and Pestilence, won in the four-stringer category.
After a few bodies were thrown in the air and close friends butted bald pates, the crowd of a thousand emptied out of the Button South, bruised, battered, deaf, and eagerly awaiting next year's version of the Slammies.
To the untrained ear, the performances might have sounded like dishwashers colliding with Mack trucks.