Words by Liz Ohanesian, photographs by Jackie Canchola. Click images for entire Metal on Metal slideshow.

Chivalry, honor and the spirit of a ruthless Cimmerian god abound

Saturday night at the Steve Allen Theater in For the Glory of Steel, where

tournament battles following the militaristic and societal codes of the Middle

Ages presented by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) met up with the

mosh pit chaos of L.A. band Crom for a night of metal madness. Limbs were

severed, sweat was flung from thrashing chunks of hair and in the end we

weren't sure if we had visited a violently gallant past or stumbled into a

lawless alternate present.

The SCA, an international organization that aims to recreate

aspects of medieval life, came from lands tucked inside the the Kingdom of Caid,

a grand conquest that includes what modern men and women know as Southern

California, Greater Las Vegas and Hawaii. They represented primarily the

Baronies of the Angels (parts of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley),

Altavia (San Fernando Valley) and Gyldenholt (Orange County), dressed in their

battle best and prepared to raise swords in a “heavy metal parking lot”

complete with long-haired guys in cut-off denim jackets.

Meanwhile, Crom emerged from the shadows of L.A. clubs and DIY

spaces with penchants for black metal and Conan

the Barbarian, bearing guitar riffs that actually live up to the album

review cliche “brutal” and manage to leave a trail of blood and spilt beer in

their wake. Vice Magazine loves these

guys. Your prissy childhood best friend probably doesn't. They had come to

brandish axes towards our insignificant skulls.

And so the question was asked, who would be victorious in the

great engagement of Metal vs. Metal? 

Like all good tournaments, this one began with a simple

one-on-one match, with each successive scrimmage growing in complexity and

number of participants until it culminated in a melee. But even when the SCA

members are in the throes of a heated, large-scale bout, they keep their code

of conduct in check. There are no referees here, the marshals at the side of

the ring exist only to protect the crowd of onlookers, and all sword-wielders

must fight on an honor system. If someone strikes your arm forcefully, you must

continue fighting as though you have been maimed. If your opponent delivers a

good blow to your other arm, you're dead. Monty Python cries of “It's just a

flesh wound” don't cut it here.

But there were actual flesh wounds Saturday night. Even though

the swords are made of rattan and duct tape, which approximate the size of a

period weapon without resulting

But something happened on this fateful night. Crom played and

nothing broke. No one was hurt and no cops spoiled the party. Sure there were

commanding growls for “more mead” and guitarist Scott Martin did try to

challenge Sir Philippe de Tournay, a fifteenth century knight from the Court of

Avignon, and Jethro de Calcy des Excurtynyx to “beat the shit” out of him, and

yes, those old enough to know better did mosh as though they were recreating a

medieval melee, but it was, at least by this band's standards, a tame show.

Could a new age of Crom be upon us? Could it be that the SCA is the only group

capable of subduing a band as harsh as Robert E. Howard's fictional deity?

Probably not. We'll call this one a draw.

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