Antisocial behavior is necessary

Despite 20+ years of experience in the music industry, I remain a deliberate outsider. I cannot be bought; if I like your band, it’s because it’s good, and not that I want to get paid, care about you personally or expect you to like me. This is why I’m an outsider. I’m not part of the paycheck chain that seems to influence peoples’ judgment and make them whores. – “Home taping is killing music — mp3s are saving it” @

It’s true though: being social gets you screwed.

People expect you to be a whore, so that if they treat you like a friend, you’re obligated to support their band.

The problem is that this cuts out quality control.

Instead, it’s a bunch of false friends sitting around supporting each others’ go-nowhere do-nothing make-work local bands.

Hobbyists versus people who have talent, in other words. The hobbyists have nothing better to do; their day jobs in service industries aren’t going to get any more exciting. Might as well be a big cheese on stage for a few minutes.

They have one dogma, and it’s that people should be rewarded for participation, not excellence.

This is why local scenes are cancerous morasses of ethical quicksand that suffocate any band or musician of quality. (A quality band will rise above the herd, and when people look at the herd so far below the other band, it makes the herd look bad. For that reason, the herd tries to squash any band of quality that rises.)

At first I just wanted to know how it drew the shapes so fast without flickering. Then I wondered how it made sounds. Before long I had disassembled and printed the entire game. I penned colored lines to signify the loops. Named the anonymous routines. Reconstructed many of the shapes on graph paper.

Astonishingly, I could read thought processes as easily as their results. I was seeing into the mind of the developer! The process was invigorating.

Euphoria is half wasted if not shared it with others, so gathering up my early printouts, I headed for campus. I gleefully flagged the first CS guys I knew from the hallway and bent their ears for twenty minutes. I explained the color coded arrows, memory location notations. Showed off my bitmap grids and shared my new insights into high speed blitting. Both nodded in appreciation as I spoke.

When I finished speaking I didn’t get the response I had expected. The first said something to the effect of, “Wow! But are you allowed to do that?” The second followed with, “I thought it was protected? I mean like company secrets.” The odd non sequitur was a bit deflating. They hadn’t empathized at all. They recognized my triumph as something akin to a salacious conquest. Gossip to be discussed in hushed tones. I could see curiosity in their eyes yet wariness on their face. As if they risked ostracism just for knowing. I’d peeked through a forbidden window to lear at someone’s naked code.

These were upper level CS honor students. Geeks in most regards. But unlike me they hadn’t grown up fighting to learn computers. They had gone to college because that’s what high school honor students do. Once finished with their core classes they had to choose some major and computers seemed like the future.

Only Loyd actually shared my feelings. I brought my printouts into his office almost as a last resort. He looked at my diagramming with a Cheshire grin commenting on each page before I could complete a sentence. He shared a couple of disassembly stories of his own. It wasn’t a long talk, five or ten minutes, but it was re-inflating. Loyd and I were totally different on the outside but inside we were somehow alike. – “Detente”

The problem with the music industry isn’t the industry. Money-grubbing suit-wearing bastards? Yep, they built the modern world, especially the good parts. They operate very consistently by making sure they provide what people want to buy.

The problem with the music industry is the flakiness of the people in it, specifically musicians, and specifically, all those local bands and supporting acts who drama- and karma-whore for attention so that you have to consider their trivial band alongside any that might be good.

This process drives away quality musicians.

The only solution is to be an outsider. Seek no friends, take no cash, expect everyone to hate you.

It seems harsh, but that way, you not only keep your soul, but get to keep your ability to tell garbage from gold intact.

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Thread of the stupid

Metal has always had a dual nature. Part of it wants to be epic soundtracks that transport us away; part of it wants to be rockin’ party tunes.

Metal is both Ennio Morricone and Spinal Tap. At the same time.

While much of the rock-n-roll influence can be blamed on moron magnets like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, or even the doofus metal writers who insist that metal began with The Who and Cream, a lot of the blame needs to fall on Black Sabbath as well, although they almost escaped. When their songs fail, it’s usually because they gave up on creating some kind of mood and went for more warmed-over rock music vapidity.

You can see this thread of rock-n-roll — jaunty, bouncy, offbeat, ironic, pentatonic, simplistic — running all the way through metal. It’s like a congenital trait marring a family line. Among other things, it’s easy to tell because rock-n-roll is exclusively on the surface. It tells you what it’s thinking and what you should think; it may be cryptic, but there’s never another level of interpretation. It’s made for mass consumption.

Metal at its best is more something you absorb, then intuit meaning from. It tends to be chaotic, using chromatic scales as its base for ultimately melodic and rhythmic freedom, but then trades away that freedom when it makes the ongoing narrative of song structure trump all else. It is both anarchistic and the anti-anarchistic in that it insists on reality. It’s not about personal drama, love affairs and how you feel after some trivial event. It’s about the breadth of existence, the big picture, and how interesting life is if we just quit that personal drama.

But the thread of dumb bouncy music remains. What do these have in common?

  • Pantera – Far Beyond Driven
  • At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul
  • Lamb of God – Ashes of the Wake
  • Meshuggah – Chaosphere
  • Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin
  • Opeth – My Arms, Your Hearse
  • Alestorm – Back Through Time
  • Gojira – From Marths to Therius
  • Mastodon – Leviathan
  • The Haunted – Revolver
  • Baroness – The Blue Album

All of the above are basially rock albums using metal technique. These don’t expand your mind; they put it into the rock mode of personal drama, bouncy drums, familiar and yet not really exciting pentatonic noodling. Since the music is unexceptional, the aesthetic must be powerful: they trick out their music by playing it at different speeds, adding weird instrumentation, adding weird imagery, and the like. But it’s not really musically different. Baroness is closer to Hootie and the Blowfish and the Dave Matthews band than metal; Gojira is closer to Fugazi and Mudhoney than metal; The Haunted and Pantera are closer to Biohazard and Sick of It All than metal.

Do we ever get bored of this? The audience for it obviously does not, but they pass by so quickly.

The lifetimer metal fan is a better bet if you’re a band. Make seven quality albums and metalheads will buy them for the rest of your life.

It’s better than taking a one-time lump sum by recording your five sold-out metal-flavored rock albums, and being forgotten by your witless fans within two years.

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The chain of wisdom

From an unlikely source:

“It is to symbolize the end of the American dream and the beginning of the decline and fall of the American Empire. America is falling apart at the seams for a variety of reasons and so in order to call attention to that, we call attention to what the catalyst was; why people are so self-centered these days and totally in it for themselves. This is how every single empire fell throughout history, when the people get too rich and stuck up and snotty…”
Jello Biafra-The Dead Kennedys (via Folk and Faith)

This perspective is correct, but only a part of the truth needed.

Metal completed the picture: the problem is humanistic morality, which keeps us from looking at the transcendent, as we’re too busy trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Our society is awash in cowardice and pandering to the fearful.

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Thoughts of a Metal Hipster

If you don’t like CYNIC, you’re homophobic.

If you don’t like ARCH ENEMY, you’re misogynistic.

If you don’t like GOJIRA, you’re racist.

If you don’t like NILE, you’re Anti-Semitic.

If you don’t like SUFFOCATION, you’re classist.

If you don’t like LAMB OF GOD, you’re religiously intolerant.

If you don’t like CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, you’re elitist.

If you don’t like CRADLE OF FILTH, you’re closed-minded.

If you don’t like OPETH, you’re not intellectual.

If you don’t like MESHUGGAH, you’re not one of the good guitarists.

If you don’t like DEVIN TOWNSEND, you’re arbitrary.

If you don’t like JIMI HENDRIX, you’re uncultured.

If you don’t like SIX FEET UNDER, you’re not in touch with the common man.

If you don’t like BORIS, you’re unimaginative.

If you don’t like JESU, you’re insensitive.

If you don’t like ANIMALS AS LEADERS, you’re unintelligent.

If you don’t like MASTODON, you’re unartistic.

If you don’t like BARONESS, you’re uptight.

If you don’t like THE SWORD, you’re celibate.

If you don’t like WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, you’re just no fun.

If you don’t like ULVER, you’re uneducated.

If you don’t like ISIS, you’re illiterate.

If you don’t like BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, you’re shortsighted.

If you don’t like KVERTELAK, you’re antiquated.

If you don’t like SUNN O))), you’re obsolete.

If you don’t like AGALLOCH, you’re one-dimensional.


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A followup to the much-hated Half a mind

When people say they detest elitism, it’s easy to show them that this is not the case.

Slocrates: Tell me, Thrashmyasscus, why do you think elitism is wrong?

Thrashmyasscus: Clearly, it prioritizes some people above others.

Slocrates: But were you not opining that Justin Bieber sucked cock earlier?

Thrashmyasscus: Yes, but that’s Bieber. His music is beyond bad.

Slocrates: Ah! So we agree that some music is good, and some music is bad.

Thrashmyasscus: Yes, but —

Slocrates: And so we also fuckin’ agree that it’s just a matter of degree between hating Bieber because he’s a useless talentless faggot, and hating “Radikult” because it’s a moronic Marilyn Manson ripoff fifteen years too late?

Thrashmyasscus: Of course. Both of those are worthless.

Slocrates: So then it is only a matter of degree when I say that Necrophagist, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth, Pantera, Meshuggah and Craft are douchebag low-IQ trailer-dwelling shit, and that Demigod’s Slumber of Sullen Eyes is a work beyond compare?

Thrashmyasscus: That’s not the point. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

Slocrates: Fine, then. What about if I say that black metal from 1990-1994 produced many great bands, but that since 1994, black metal has produced very few?

Thrashmyasscus: Then I’d say you are being judgmental.

Slocrates: And yet when we pointed out that Cannibal Corpse was whale dreck, and Bieber was shit, and yet praised Demigod, you did not mind?

Thrashmyasscus: Slocrates, these are night and day differences. You’re splitting hairs.

Slocrates: To someone who disliked all metal, the differences might not appear so great.

Thrashmyasscus: Well, that’s true, but the point is that elitists are too discerning.

Slocrates: In your view, elitists are not wrong because they choose good music over bad, but because they raise the bar too much?

Thrashmyasscus: That’s not what I mean at all, — but I take your point. Music is subjective, Slocrates. You can’t judge it.

Slocrates: It seems we are having a different debate. If music is subjective, why are any bands at all popular?

Thrashmyasscus: It’s purely random.

Slocrates: And yet both of us agree that Justin Bieber is a cock-horfing turd of a musician. How do we know this?

Thrashmyasscus: The simplistic songs… the moronic lyrics… his wailing voice… I must rape…

Slocrates: As you say, it’s then a matter of degree. Much as from a distance a man and a dog appear closer in height, from a distance “Radikult” and “Chapel of Ghouls” appear closer in quality. Then what you think is wrong with the elitist is that he is too close to the music at hand.

Thrashmyasscus: Fuck you!

They have no idea why they detest elitism. At first, it just seems unfair; next, the standards are too high; finally, they accuse you of being an elitist so you sound cool to the kids at school. They will probably do this while holding an Opeth or Obscura record, which they will just have finished beating about the heads of their friend group, telling them how enlightened and musically proficient it is in contrast to whatever crap those morons are listening to.

I have a different supposition: they hate elitism because it says participation alone is not enough.

The participation alone people want to believe that all music is basically the same, and if you learn to play guitar and make some songs, then record them, you’re part of the club.

Elitists say “not so fast” and demand instead that you do all of the above, and also make quality music.

For an elitist, the focus is on the music; it’s on the end results. Who cares about the rest?

The problem with this of course is that it means participation is not enough. One has to get good. That requires that one have certain innate talents, and apply oneself.

Naturally, this isn’t popular with the Crowd. They’d rather hear that you can get out there with a guitar, record whatever sloppy and incoherent crap runs through your mind, and then be part of the club. Everyone else then owes it to you to support you, because you tried. Everyone is equal on the level of participation.

What irks such people is that to history, and any sane observers, participation is nothing. Achievement is all. And not all can achieve, and this upsets them to learn, because they came to metal to get away from the achievement-requiring standards of (life|school|social groups above 105 average IQ|the Dayton-Hudson Corporation employee handbook).

Metal is their escape, and you’re ruining it for them.

But if you don’t, they’ll ruin your metal by inundating the scene with low quality music.

When that happens, no one will find the good stuff, and good musicians will go elsewhere. Why work hard to make good music so a bunch of participation-is-everything fans can blow it off?

Participation is nothing; the end result is all.

If you were playing basketball, you wouldn’t want a guy on your team who thought “trying” to get the ball in the hoop was enough. No; you want the guy who gets it in there.

When someone fixes your roof, you don’t want some guy who “tries” to do it right. You want someone who succeeds.

Music is no different, and it’s a secret hidden in plain sight that this is true, because there are so many participants (who have nothing else in life but a job making sandwiches, a dingy apartment and a string of failed relationships) who want to force us all to believe that participation is equal to achievement.

It sounds like they have a mental health problem, doesn’t it?

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Sorcier des Glaces – Snowland Reprise MMXI

You could be dicking around with:

  • Faux old school death metal
  • Metalcore
  • Necrophagist style random “tech death” that is metalcore
  • Deathcore
  • “Open minded” black metal that sounds like REM on a banjo

Or, this track from Sorcier des Glaces’ re-envisioning of their aetheric black metal opus, “Snowland.”

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New reviews: BEHERIT, CIANIDE and Ejacula radio

Some new reading for y’all:

  • Beherit – At the Devil’s Studio 1990: more like the later EPs, a sonically-experimental take on these songs that were more Blasphemy like on The Oath of Black Blood but gained some power in their austere, minimal, aloof presentation on the second album.
  • Cianide – Gods of Death: A big improvement over Hell’s Rebirth; a more self-conscious album, this one deliberately merges their Motorhead, Celtic Frost and Master origins in a new, streamlined form of the oldest of old school.
  • Ejacula radio on KPFT 90.1: for those of you in Houston and awake from 3 am – 6 am on Friday mornings, this is the dark and shadowy metal show that has stalked this realm for 19 years.

These made it to Examiner to keep that source alive; despite having terrible software, distant editors and mostly celebrity content, Examiner is a great place to promote metal and make it into mainstream news.

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Half a mind

We live in a world that preaches dumbing down: be equal, be safe and mediocre, pander to others by making everything very, very simple and similar to the other stuff they like.

If you can imagine a long line of sheep, chasing each other through the night, and as the night goes on and starlight flickers across them, you see in their faces the features of wolves…

But one thing that cracks me up: the notion of quality.

Most people, dumbed down by this society and perhaps by their genetic code, can understand quality of tangible substance. For example, a jazzy beat. Good guitar tone. High speed chaotic songs. Really sick vocals.

They can even identify that it’s harder to play than average, or that it has “different parts,” like a melodic slow part and then an acoustic part, then some high-speed guitar, etc.

What they can’t do is string any of this together.

To them, a band like Necrophagist that plays fast riffs in a random order, and whose songs literally signify nothing, is just as good as a band like Camel who carefully string together melodies to tell a tale — and make sure it’s a tale that draws us in, has emotional and intellectual substance, as well as a good rippin’ gut-hitting theme, like the battle for independence or to find a holy grail of some sort or another.

These people literally cannot tell the difference between random riffs bands (Cradle of Filth, Cannibal Corpse) and well-architected, sensible patterns that tell a story (Massacra, Atheist, Incantation). To them it’s all the same, because the parts are the same.

It’s as if I build two structures out of plywood:

  1. A reproduction of the Palace at Versailles
  2. A standard suburban home

These people will walk up to them and say something like, “Well, that first one’s bigger, but they’re both made out of plywood. Over here, I’ve got a house I made from sugarcubes. That’s totally unique, dude!”

When we talk about modernity as a time of shallow thinkers…

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