On the Demise of American Head Charge

In news that will surprise precisely no-one, extreme metal death-obsessed drug addicts American Head Charge have finally called it a day, leaving behind them a trail of smashed guitars, empty hypodermics, aggrieved former band members and two fucking awesome albums. Accused by some (some idiots that is) of leaping on the nu-metal bandwagon, the band were criminally underrated; the sheer brutality of their industrial metal assault mixed with hardcore punk ferocity took no prisoners and put most other bands in the shade. Singer Martin Cock had an amazing ability to alternate between death metal growls, hardcore rasps and stunningly beautiful melodic singing on a whim and the band were equally as adaptable, moving from vituperative vitriol to tentative beauty and back again. Aesthetically the band were everything rock stars should be, looking like a cross between Saturday morning cartoon villains and sex offenders.

Truly a band that thrived on chaos, AHC built a reputation for intense performances onstage and insanely debauched behaviour offstage. In between smashing instruments one song into their set at Ozzfest, deliberately getting arrested, firing shotguns onstage, pissing into each other’s mouths and taking truly heroic amounts of hard drugs they managed to record two masterpieces in ‘The War of Art’ and ‘The Feeding’. These albums are everything rock and roll should be: intense, passionate, beautiful and very very angry. ‘The War of Art’ is a sprawling bile-filled epic which manages to combine the best parts of Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and Faith No More while transcending these influences to create a sound that’s powerful and unique. ‘The Feeding’ is a rather different beast, riff-driven, lean and mean, clocking in at a mere 40 minutes. Martin Cock’s drug problem seems to provide most of the lyrical fodder for the album but there’s none of Pete ‘Peter’ Doherty’s solipsistic self-pitying whining here. His approach seems to be that he’ll bellow his problem into submission and by Christ, he nearly succeeds.

Thrown into disarray by guitarist Bryan Ottoson’s death while on tour, the band slowly fell apart, releasing the odds-and-sods compilation ‘Can’t Stop the Machine’ as an obvious contractual obligation stopgap while they tried to regroup. Two years of silence followed during which Martin Cock fell off the wagon and disappeared. No-one in the band has heard from him since.

The rest of the band have vowed to continue, albeit under a different name, and are currently searching for vocalists, but without Martin’s unique voice it’ll never be quite the same. In the meantime, while we wait for them to regroup and for Marilyn Manson to stop releasing weepy breakup albums and return to his former fire, why not dig out your old copies of AHC’s albums and remind yourself just how powerful good music made by bad people can be?


Alun Thomas