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Headbangers’ Brawl 12/10: Who Should Retire Already?

Posted by on December 10, 2010

Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.

This past week, fans were surprised by the announcement that Judas Priest’s upcoming Epitaph world tour would also be their last. It may be sad to see such metal legends bidding farewell, but our friends at
Metal Injection said it best:  “You have to respect a band who have pretty much accomplished everything they are going to accomplish and instead of dragging it out until they can barely move anymore (see:
Motley Crue) they are calling it quits their way, going out on top.”

With that in mind, Bram and Zach debate in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl if there are any other metal “legends” that should be calling it a day.
Zach: One band, one word: KISS. I know they have a devoted fan base that will shell out cash to see them live and play with their toys, but enough’s enough. It doesn’t bother me that there are only two original members still in the band. It’s the fact that their constant touring and product placements have pretty much turned KISS from a respectable band and into a commercial kids’ circus.

To me, if the band is in constant touring mode, they need to also be constantly contributing something new (such as new music). Sure, KISS still puts on a hell of a show and did put out a new album in 2009.
But when new music is overshadowed by what product the band is trying to sell, then you might as well stop promoting yourself as a band. There’s no problem with being a brand. Just stop making me pay over $80 to see your brand perform a song and dance live.

Bram: KISS is really the main band I have that comes to mind too. The band is really just a front for Gene Simmons’ merchandising. With half the original members, they’ve stated that as long as they throw some makeup on other people, it could continue even after Gene and Paul retire. And people wonder why they aren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

That said, here’s another one: This might be a little controversial, but how about Ozzy Osbourne? I don’t mean his backup band, because they’re always solid. And it would be criminal if he completely retired – in fact, he even tried it before. But you’ve got to admit that his performance has been a little lacking lately. From throwing buckets of water at the crowd to lazily spraying them with a super soaker while reading lyrics off a teleprompter, it’s safe to say that the Ozzy we’re seeing now isn’t the Ozzy of 20 years ago. But he even wrote a song about not wanting to stop, so we won’t have seen the last of him for a while now.

Z: As a diehard Ozzy fan, I want to disagree with you, especially since he still performs one hell of a show despite his age (and with his new band appears even more energized than on previous tours). Plus, the prince of darkness’ latest album Scream is arguably his best in a long time. But looking at the state he’s in at his current age (and knowing that he isn’t getting any younger either), I’d have to agree that maybe the time for him to finally retire will come soon. Though as long as long as he has some air in his lungs, you’ll bet Ozzy will be around. Sharon will make sure of that.

I’m not necessarily saying I believe this, but while we’re throwing out suggestions that might stir some feathers: should Iron Maiden consider calling it a day soon? Granted, anyone who has seen them in the past decade can attest that Iron Maiden is still amazing live. They also continue to release strong music, even though they can sell out arenas around the world on music from their past catalogue (which they still do). So maybe, similar to Judas Priest, it would be a good idea for Iron Maiden to retire while they are still at the top of their game. Leave before they worn out their welcome like KISS, in a sense (that’s if Iron Maiden could ever wear out their welcome). What do you think Bram?

B: I couldn’t disagree more. I’m a huge Maiden fan, and the fact that they put out an album seen as one of their best in a decade, are in the midst of performing a sold-out world tour, and still have the energy and stage show of the past suggests they’ve got plenty of gas left in the tank. Bruce runs around like he was 30, and can still hit every note. I love Ozzy, but you can’t say either of those things about him. There’s something to be said about hanging it up before you’re a pathetic old parody of yourself, or even just deciding to go out on a dignified note (I’m looking at you, Scorpions), but I think Maiden has a ways to go before they call it a day.

Z: But couldn’t that argument have been made about Judas Priest? Granted, I can’t say that they’ve had the same success and energy as Maiden has had in the past decade, but they’ve still been putting on amazing shows and still gain a considerably large global demand since reuniting with Halford in 2004.

Remember, I’m not saying Maiden should retire. In fact, I’d probably be more upset than I was when Priest announced their farewell tour if Maiden call it a day any time soon. But you have to think that a band like Maiden would rather go out on the very top than perform night after night in the state that Ozzy is currently in (granted, Bruce is probably decades away from ever becoming in the same shape as Ozzy).

B: It comes down to dignity versus the actual need to retire. Priest don’t need to retire, but with no offense to either album, I don’t think Angel of Retribution or Nostradamus stack up to British Steel or even Painkiller. Maiden’s put out a few bad albums since Bruce returned, but Brave New World and The Final Frontier are solid, and the Flight 666 film has given them a new shot of relevance. Maiden will go out on top, but when they do, it will be after an album cycle and a tour in which they can stretch out and play songs from their entire catalogue, as opposed to the current set that favors their newer material.

Z: I agree about relevance, Bram, but albums shouldn’t necessarily prove that or not. That’s why I partly agree with Ben Apatoff’s recent Metal Injection article. Just because a band releases more “awesome” albums than another doesn’t necessarily make them better than another. But where I disagree with Apatoff is that what makes it important for bands to leave while at their “prime” is that they retire before they rust into dust in front of our eyes on stage. Judas Priest might not have released their best albums in the past few years, but they are leaving while at the top of their game performance wise, hence why I thought Maiden might take a similar route (not necessarily in the very near future).

B: I suppose I can agree, but on the other hand, if you’re a band and you put out an album that people just aren’t feeling, you’ll know it – from the critical reaction, the album sales, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of energy the new material gets when you play it. After so much of all that, I’d think a band would be more likely to continue touring if their new material was more highly regarded.

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