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The rise and fall of New York's 90s metal scene

In the mid-90s, New York was a hotbed of freaks and weirdos. From Unsane to Prong, we look back at the metal scene that thrived in the city’s dark underbelly

It was not like it is now, that's the important thing to remember. Upon his election in 1994, newly minted mayor Rudy Giuliani promised – some would say threatened – to “clean up” New York City. And that’s exactly what he did. Over the course of the ensuing decade, Giuliani and his deep-pocketed benefactors scrubbed the streets clean, washing away any vestige of the grit, grime and lawlessness the city had become notorious for. Times Square is safe as milk now, a Disney-fied tourist Utopia built on the backs of all the artists, musicians, writers, poets, dead-end dreamers, pill-poppers, sex workers, hustlers, midnight movers, low-rent gangbangers and manic street preachers that were sacrificed so that moon-eyed gawkers can stroll around the big city munching on hot pretzels without fear of getting mugged, hassled or propositioned. But the music and the art and the memories of old New York remain. And they are intense.

“My roommate back then was a guy named Brian Moran. He was a performance artist guy who would do this thing where he’d be standing there naked, and then he’d pour cow’s blood all over himself,” explains Unsane guitarist Chris Spencer, speaking of the band’s early days in the late 1980s. “So I knew the places to buy the blood, they were close to my apartment. We were extreme gorehounds in Unsane. We would set up these circumstances, for album covers or whatever, and just do what we want, using real blood. So it wasn’t any fake shit. We called it ‘Going on a Blood Run’. We were like street vandals with cow’s blood instead of spray paint. A lot of these places you had to hit and run, because if the cops catch you throwing blood around, you’re fucked.”


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