Before I even started thinking about doing this web site, I played around with the idea of creating a site dedicated to one of the strangest and most fucked up phenomena in Metal history: The infamous Metal Enterprises record label. At the risk of ruining my dead-serious, True Metal reputation, I'm wrapping up some of the most intriguing and compromising material I've collected on the label, as well as a discography index in this article. After reading this, you might not want to throw around the "False Metal"-moniker so lightly in the future.
I can't really pinpoint the exact moment when I
"discovered" this surreal record label. In my early years
of HM collecting I started noticing how many of the worst/strangest/ugliest
Metal and Hard Rock records I came across had one thing in common:
the German, Usingen-based Metal Enterprises/Music Enterprises record
company. The mastermind behind the label was one Ingo Nowotny. Unfortunately
I know next to nothing about the guy, apart from that his name has
popped up on various other record sleeves as manager both before,
during and after the labels' heydays. A shady character who I've
long since given up hope of tracking down for an interview, however
interesting such a project would have been.
Blame it on the onkelz
In 1987 they released their first record by the sordid "White Power light" Oi-punk band BÖHSE ONKELZ. They had made a couple of albums on the Rock-o-rama label earlier in the 80's and were on it's way to become one of the best selling independent rock bands in Germany. Cash was suddenly flowing into the ME-machine at an increasing rate. Now what could be the best way to invest these new unexpected earnings? Well, to record an endless stream of studio-albums of all your friends and their hopeless projects with a rate of about 1 album a month of course! Here's where the real ME-story starts and things get really interesting.
Metal Enterprises came to define the term Metalploitation, the shameful metallic version of the exploitation-phenomenon (google on Sexploitation, Blackploitation, Psycheploitation etc for further reference). Starting out at the absolute peak of the 80's Heavy Metal wave, Ingo & co. must have discovered that you could easily unload a 1000 or so copies of anything with the Metal-stamp on it, and if you keep production and design costs to an absolute minimum you could even get your money back and then some. "So what's new? didn't every second indie Metal label at the time have the same agenda?" I hear you ask. Sure, but none of them ever came close to the hideous sounds spewed forth from the darkened pits of the Tanit/Woodland recording studios, where the majority of the label's most suspect albums were recorded. At best these studio stool-samples were plain, utterly boring-beyond-belief rock/hr/melodic metal. All fillers no killers, plus the odd (odd!) cover or 2. (POINT BREAK, 1st GODZILLA, SUPER BAD, NILE TEMPLE, SATAN'S SERVANTS etc are perfect examples of these hopeless 1-weekend ventures.) At it's worst, they went far beyond regular crapness and into the dimension of the Incredibly Strange.
The Fake Follow-ups
The finest/worst examples of this very special "ME-sound"
are to be found on their infamous Fake Follow-ups. They contain
what is probably the most retarded music ever released under the
banner of Heavy Metal (which doesn't necessarily mean that the music
itself is Metal.) They never bare any resemblance to the
original bands or projects, but are pretty similar in-between themselves,
especially the "2nd" KILLER FOX, GODZILLA, THRASH QUEEN,
KALASCHNIKOV and FUCKER albums, and could very well have been recorded
on the same occasion. It's really hard to describe the sound on
these abominations. If you've ever experienced how comedy-shows
on TV or radio sometimes can parody Metal music it will give you
a faint idea idea of what we're talking about here. It's the music
of someone who might have heard a few minutes of Metal at one point
in their life and years later trying to recreate it with gleeful
intent. Drum-machines, ultra-generic riffing, strange vocal effects
and/or improvised singing. Any dumber than dumb idea you can think
of and more, it's in there. Like the sudden burst into whistling in the intro of KALASCHNIKOV's "Czarewitch". A venture
so terrible and eerie it honestly made me jump out of my chair in
terror the first time I heard it. Or the improvised, operatic wailing/screaming,
atonal female vocals with a heavy French accent on THRASH QUEEN's
"Ashes To Ashes". Or the haunting robot-voices on many
a KILLER FOX-cut, or etc etc... On several
records they fill up space with strange, lengthy experimental pieces
and sound-collages, often sounding like cock-eyed, hapless versions
of CELTIC FROST's old cult-pieces of weirdness, "Danse Macabre"
and "Tears in a Prophet's Dream". Listening to these specific
tracks you get the impression that these guys didn't find it enough
to lure innocent people into buying crap music, they really had
to rub salt in their wounds by exposing them to pure, torturous
noise. Evil, evil men be the men of Metal Enterprises.
quite neat logo, which has for years has adorned a homemade T-shirt
of mine, turned out to be yet another shameless act of theft. It first appeared on the labels' 15th release, the
self-titled FUCKER-debut, released some time around '87-88.
Or did it? By share luck I stumbled upon the origin of this insignia
on the first "Iron Tyrants" compilation, released by Azra-sublabel
World Metal Records (another very suspect label - do these
guys share a Masonic lodge or something??) 3 years earlier.
Sphinx or sphincter?
Many of their below-average but musically more regular
acts comes with such atrocious cover art they can be fun to pick
up for that reason alone. The perfect example is the mind-melting
RANDOM debut. It would be too tiresome to dissect the origin of
every single piece of "art" this label has regurgitated,
but let's just pick this one as an example. I'm pretty sure it it
all happened something like this:
Incredibly enough the band released a 2nd album on ME a few years later. They are still active today and considered something of a cult band (not so much on musical merits I'm afraid), evolving around the legendary Fred "Nitenpapf" Otto, the only man in Metal bold enough to wear a studded leather tie!
Black candles in the dark
Unavoidably there's gonna be a handful of records on such an industrious label as this one that doesn't quite match the profile. Yes, there are a few decent ones to look out for, especially the BLACK VIRGIN LP, which I hold as one of my all-time American favorites. A handful of other bands also deserve a mention for not being totally abysmal: REAPER is above-average classic German Metal, HAMMER'S RULE have some great moments but are uneven, THINK OF MISERY is great Thrash and the FUCKER debut includes plenty of cool HC cuts if that's your thing. The first KALASCHNIKOV LP may be corny as hell in the lyrical- and graphics-department, but musically it pretty darn catchy. As is the SIMON LP (the only listenable studio-outfit), even if the music is so diverse it borders on annoying. Bands like SYNTRA, HEAVEN WARD and ESCAPE might also appeal to the undemanding Melodic Metal fan and ASGARD's "Dark Horizons" is as great a german Power/Heavy album as you'd ever wish for, but that's just about it. However, if you're looking for cheap laughs and mind-boggling "musical" experiences, you've got a lot of things coming to you. Stuff like JAY JAY TULL, THRASH QUEEN, KALASCHNIKOV etc are likely to heighten the mood on all your parties. Unless you and your friends are humorless twats that is, in which case you really shouldn't throw parties at all.
So remains the ever reoccurring question of "Why?" Why so many incredibly boring/awful, fly-by-night releases? Why such extremely ugly graphics? Why does an album like NILE TEMPLE's even exist?! It's like they tried really hard to intentionally release the worst hard rock albums ever - and they succeeded with flying colors! What motivates someone to do this? Money? Surely there must be easier ways to cash in in the music industry. Malice? Despite all his shenanigans, Mr. Nowotny still gives the impression of a real Hard Rock and Heavy Metal fan, so I don't think so. A few laughs? Yeah, perhaps that's it. Perhaps it's all one big in-joke and Ingo & his merry men are the ones laughing at us and not the other way around. Or maybe they're just a bunch of complete morons. It's this enigma that has had the most impact on me and has made me into such a fervent collector of their catalogue. (It certainly isn't associated with my "normal" Metal-fetish.) When I've finally collected all the pieces of the puzzle, perhaps it will reveal it's mysteries to me and I'll finally be free of this obsession. Hopefully, time will tell.
DaN Edman 2005-01-17
ME bits & pieces
Here a complete discography up until the early 90's. None of the releases I've come across after
these 61 first ones have been Metal, so these are of course of no
interest to me. Cheers to Rainer Krukenberg, Sasha Glaeser, Peter
Daub, Roman Greindl, Kev and everyone else who has supplied info and
records through the years.
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