An intimate look at the patches collected in mosh pits at metal concerts
A French photographer captures the hard-won trophies of true fandom.
Over the last 15 years, the aesthetics of heavy metal have stretched over pop culture like a wad of Silly Putty. Not to call out ‘posers’ here, but it’s just that you may find yourself surrounded by Iron Maiden and Metallica merchandise anywhere from a concert to a family BBQ and you might not be any closer to being surrounded by genuine metalheads. But any headbanger worth their salt is carrying hundreds of dollars and several pounds of torn denim and waffled patches.
The ‘battle jacket’ is a time-honored tradition. A denim vest or army surplus coat suffocated in death, doom, stoner, drone, grindcore, sludge, gothic, new wave of British heavy and thrash metal. If you find yourself staring down a back that looks like the lineup of Maryland Deathfest then you are in good company. Celtic Frost. Diamond Head. Cannibal Corpse. Burzum. Sodom. Witchfinder General. Bedemon. Electric Wizard. Motorhead. Cannibal Corpse. This merch can usually cost an arm and a leg, but fans will pick it up in a frenzy to prove they’re, uh, mettle.
The battle jacket scene fascinated French photographer Melchior Tersen, who put together a book of photography titled ‘Killing Technology.’ Tersen grew up listening to metal in high school. One of his prized possessions is a Show No Mercy-era Slayer patch that he paid $50 for online. In his book, he explores the small shops and stained backs carrying patches upon patches. The contrast between the digital world of fandom and its analogue expressions.
The book has a foreword from Iggor Cavalera, the former drummer for the Brazilian heavy metal group Sepultura. Cavalera claims that his life was once saved by a Hell Hammer patch after getting jumped after a punk show. Just goes to show you that, even if it means having a lady demon splayed across your back, you’ll never know when that Hell Hammer merch might come in handy.