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
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
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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.