Uncensorship is still censorship

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Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider, who famously spoke at the PMRC-induced Senate hearings regarding obscenity in music during the 1980s, recalled the era with a warning toward our current time of the dangers of what we might call “uncensorship,” or the use of “soft” pressure to eliminate speech that is perceived as dangerous:

Sadly, the aftermath of the debacle was even worse than I feared. Our First Amendment constitutional right to freedom of speech had been eroded, yet the average record buyer was apathetic. The most typical comment about the sticker was, “Now we know which records to buy!” The music consumer just didn’t understand how that sticker would be used against them. (And used against them it was.)

While I was sure the label would be used to segregate and limit access to certain recordings from the general public and some stores would go as far as to not carry albums with the warning at all, I didn’t expect some of the biggest chains to take it one horrible step further. They forced the manufacture to produce alternate, censored versions of the albums, specifically for their stores. The average adult or young-adult record buyer (and even parents buying them for their younger kids) had no idea that the album they were purchasing from Walmart had content either “bleeped out” or completely removed. The “stickering” of recorded product wasn’t giving the buyer the knowledge to make an educated choice, it was being used to decide for the record buyer what they could or could not listen to. This is the subversive nature of ultra-conservatism. If they can’t manipulate you overtly (through the passing of laws, regulations or restrictions) they’ll do it without your knowing it’s being done to you.

The history of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) showed us an important pattern: by creating mass fear, people can compel even large corporations to essentially censor their material. As Snider points out, stickered albums quickly became second-class citizens, much like controversial speech on the internet today is flagged as “offensive” and removed or quietly hidden on social media. This happened not through laws but through actions of the market once they realized that a large enough group of people would complain.

We have seen this before. Think about how American buildings rarely have a 13th floor, not for any logical reason but the perception that thirteen is an unlucky number. Or the Great Vaccination Debacle of 2013. People, like a herd of cattle, can be stirred into terror by a few loudmouths. Companies fear this. For that reason, they bow down to any group that can show it has victim status. With the PMRC, the victims were children. Now there are more groups — gays, ethnic and religious minorities, women, neckbeards — in whose name an outrage can be fabricated.

This misses the point of free speech, which is that what we do not want to hear is often what we should be hearing. Not always, since nonsense is perpetual within humanity, but often. History is full of examples of good ideas being shot down because they were unpopular or offended some group, even if that group had relatively little power in society at large. Make yourself a victim and you can force others to pay attention to you. That means that you can tell others what they cannot say be implying that they are mean, cruel, extremist, fundamentalist, bad, whatever. In fact, we often need opinions that scare us and the irascible, ornery people who promote them.

In Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America (2010), Barbara Ehrenreich maintains that getting rid of all of the “negative people” in your life is a recipe for disaster: “What would it mean in practice to eliminate all the ‘negative people’ from one’s life? It might be a good move to separate from a chronically carping spouse, but it is not so easy to abandon the whiny toddler, the colicky infant, or the sullen teenager. And at the workplace, while it’s probably advisable to detect and terminate those who show signs of becoming mass killers, there are other annoying people who might actually have something useful to say: the financial officer who keeps worrying about the bank’s subprime mortgage exposure or the auto executive who questions the company’s overinvestment in SUVs and trucks. Purge everyone who ‘brings you down,’ and you risk being very lonely or, what is worse, cut off from reality. The challenge of family life, or group life of any kind, is to keep gauging the moods of others, accommodating to their insights, and offering comfort when needed.”

Just as ecosystems become less resilient, and more fragile, when you reduce their biodiversity (by eradicating species), epistemic communities become less resilient, and more fragile, when you reduce their intellectual and ideological diversity (by eradicating radical ideas). Numerous studies have demonstrated that the only thing worse than thinking through important political matters alone, is thinking through important political matters amongst people who share all of your assumptions. We need to be exposed to challenging unorthodox ideas on a fairly regular basis. But social media (and search engines like Google) are making it easier and easier for us to silence radical voices (by dismissing them as “trolls”), and retreat into homogeneous online echo chambers.

The problem for us now is that we live in a time ruled by commerce, not governments. You buy your music from somewhere; you find it through some search engine, on some streaming site. What happens if Google receives a few million complaints about Satanic or un-PC music? Or if Bandcamp does? Or Facebook? These large corporations fit into a role a lot like that of government because they are the sole providers of a service valued because everyone else is using it. Sure, you could hunt down a Facebook alternative, but it has 1/10 of the people there. So you go to Facebook. If they decide, based on complaints by a small angry group, that what you are trying to say is “bad,” then you will not be heard.

In the same way, free speech has become a mockery as the amount of information has risen. The question now is not whether you can publish your free speech, but whether it will find an audience. The people who control that audience — now a “big six” of corporations — can decide at will to censor your content through a process called uncensorship because it is not direct censorship like through a government, but it silences voices from reaching the audience they need nonetheless. Companies react to complaints even if they do not represent what most people want or need, simply because small highly vocal groups can create a media frenzy and cause a tacit boycott of those products.

We already know there is reason for concern when companies merge and one of the parties has a strong political agenda:

Rupert Murdoch has just bought a controlling interest in all of National Geographic‘s media properties. The move turns the long time non-profit into a for-profit media corporation in the process….Murdoch has famously not been quiet about his denial of climate change. National Geographic gives grants to scientists… so, is anything going to now change with the focus of National Geographic‘s organization?

If we worry when a media magnate who opposes global warming buys a science magazine, we might worry as well about companies that do not have an explicit agenda, but can be manipulated by people who have an agenda and a voice, such as the one that victimhood bestows. We already have worries about corporations and their control of information. This can be most challenging when their control intersects with the ability for an audience to request removal of information anonymously, as happened with Google in Europe:

The Guardian protested the removal of its stories describing how a soccer referee lied about reversing a penalty decision. It was unclear who asked Google to remove the stories.

Separately, Google has not restored links to a BBC article that described how former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Officer E. Stanley O’Neal was ousted after the investment bank racked up billions of dollars in losses.

Anonymous complaints — or complaints by anonymous groups — can tear apart public information. If, as is the case with Google or perhaps Bandcamp, most of the public uses a certain service, this means a loss for us all. This “uncensorship” means that a group of Offended Victims™ can easily yank down any data they find fails to support their point of view. Even more, they can destroy anyone who fails to agree with them, even bringing major media outlets to obey the raging herd:

Nicole Arbour, the YouTube personality whose “Dear Fat People” video sparked a massive online backlash, has been fired from an upcoming film she was working on…

“‘Dear Fat People’ is an unfunny and cruel fat-shaming video that guises itself about being about ‘health,’ ” Mills said. “It’s fat-phobic and awful. It went on for over six minutes. I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

“I’m gay. I was bullied a lot as a kid,” Mills added. “I am no stranger to ridicule and loneliness.”

When a large corporation finds itself under assault by victims groups, the best strategy is to find another victim, which is what this producer is doing here. Most likely the higher-ups had a conference, decided that they did not want to risk alienating the plus-size audience, and dispatched this little guy to remove the problem. Our future under corporate information control resembles this situation more than we know, and thanks to “uncensorship,” can silence us without even the recourse that Dee Snider had back in the 1980s.

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Suffocation working on new studio album

Interview video sourced from Metal Wani

The legacy of Suffocation continues, at least in some form, as the band is currently writing material for a new album, possibly to come out some time in 2016 if all goes well. Suffocation’s recent works have lacked the strong organization of their 1990s peak, and it seems unlikely that this one will be a significant improvement. However, a fiscally successful album release may lead to a new cycle of touring, and possibly a chance for our readers to see the band perform some of their old classics in a live setting. An actual review of the as-of-yet unnamed album will probably show up on this site closer to its release date.

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Margaritaville Brewing Co. – Landshark Lager (2015)

LandSharkLager

When a friend and I hit the local liquor shack and saw these hanging out, I was skeptical because of the hip name. Marketing and quality tend to work in inverse proportion to one another. Then again, a new brand has to fight hard in this over-populated beer market especially with all of these idiots buying hipster IPAs.

As we walked in the door, I finally connected “Margaritaville” with that guy who made the funny music. Not really a fan of country, or of entertainment, I felt my spirits sink. This was probably just a commercial con and we bought into it (for $4.99 for four sixteen-ounce beers, roughly the price of half a Starbucks latte downtown). “Ah, what the hell,” I said. “How bad can it be?”

The surprising answer: not bad at all. This is a well-designed product and as part of that, Margaritaville Brewing Co. has included quality beer. The name is cool; the logo is cool; I hate cool because it means an avalanche of tools who buy stupid stuff and drive the good stuff off the market, or into niches where it is hard to get and far more expensive. But the beer is good. The short review is that it is like a sweet, natural-tasting and high alcohol (4.7% ABV) version of Corona, with the kind of harvest time sweetness that 1664 has. This is a beer for drinkers and not people who like lite beers and lite cigarettes. You can actually put yourself into giggles and drooling with Landshark Lager, which immediately makes me appreciate it more as a beer designed to beat back the idiot beers from the beach scene or wherever people drink Corona, probably the same place they smoke Marlboro Lights and eat fat-free Ranch Dressing, both of which are proof the Communists won back in ’54 and they just never told us.

This is a thin beer with no alcohol taste, but like the best of the pale lagers it captures the yeasty and bready flavor of beer, just gently and hidden behind sweetness. I am not the world’s biggest sweet beer fan, or sweet things fan, since those belong in childhood with candy and people saying things like “it will all be all right” (obvious mental cotton for cuck beta bottoms). You can pour one of these and enjoy a beer that reminds you it is a beer, not just a wine cooler with suds, and the increased alcohol makes it fit in with the powerhouses of any well-stocked pub. Beer has been knocking up the ABV to compete with wine, which is now the preferred tipple of the average yuppie wannabe and so has hit the optimum price points, probably because some idiot in Congress regulated it less in exchange for hookers ‘n’ blow from a lobbyist. Either way, this beer is refreshingly free of hipster marketing that tries to be cute and artisanal (pronounced “artist anal”) even if it has mainstream branding and appeal. Especially at this introductory price point, it’s worth considering for casual drinking.

Quality rating: 4/5
Purchase rating: 3/5

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Sadistic Metal Reviews 09-15-2015

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Dismember is dead, Fred Estby was d-beaten to the cross, and not even Dave Blomqvist can sweep away these recent Swedish metal sins.

Black breath
Black Breath – Heavy Breathing (2010), Sentenced to Life (2012), Slaves Beyond Death (2015)
Smegma crust derivative deathcore. There’s sludge in here too as this was released by Southern Lord, the idiots who brought us Kim Kelly Kore like Nails and Wolves in the Throne Room. No Swedes are spared by these gang rapists. Black Breath even spread apart the cheeks and felch the fecal matter from Wolverine Blues’ asshole. Listening to any of their releases is hearing them play metal hot potato by passing around that firm bowel movement mouth to mouth like a mother bird feeding her babies. Black Breath lick that shit up and down to get the turd glisteningly slick before shoving it up Kim Kelly’s meat-hooked Hellraiser cunt. From there it will be squeezed out like soft serve ice cream for Pitchfork and Vice’s hipster cones.

Demonical
Demonical – Black Flesh Redemption (2015)
Demonical wants to play with the big boys. They have Boss HM-2 pedals and riffs Dismember rejected when writing the not-so-classic Death Metal. What they don’t have is any idea of how to write an adequate death metal song; these guys can’t even hammer out an effective two and a half minute verse chorus verse thrash basher. The four tracks each attempt to pander to a different lowest common denominator metal audience with their individual use of breakdowns, doomy interludes, and cheesy keyboards. The rhythm guitars take a backseat to the cheesy Amon Amarth vocalizations. There is about a minute of semi-enjoyable generic material on this record.. Snort the line of borax on the floor failure.

Entrails
Entrails – Obliteration (2015)
Three strikes is life in many states. Singapore will hang anyone who walks off a plane with enough junk. Medieval England executed children caught stealing anything worth more than two loaves of bread; mercy meant limbs lopped off. This is Entrails’ fourth offense. These recidivists need to overdose in a Cambodian shack on a cocktail of liquor, Valium, and chloroquine.

Interment
Interment – Into the Crypts of Blasphemy (2010)
Yet another fourth rate band from the early nineties finally recorded an album. The songs are again dick beat punk and the metal riffs were pilfered from Entombed and Carnage. Just like Entrails no label gave these fools money to record an album back in 1993 for good reason. Now that they’re adults with jobs, this garage band can afford studio time to bore us. Interment need to quit trying to live out their delusional teenage heavy metal dreams and spend time with their kids on weekends.

Verminous
Verminous – The Unholy Communion (2013)
Verminous return with more punk rock masquerading as death metal. More bouncy hardcore riffs, more lame samples, and more gang chants. Whatever catchy riffs are on this CD are quickly worn out through strict verse chorus verse pop punk structures that make three minute long songs drag. I want to throw it at a homeless person. The lyrical themes are inconsistent too. Pop Satanism? Okay. Bukkake? Barbatos? Verminous are the Blink-182 of Svensk Döds Metall. Repeatedly listening to The Unholy Cumunion is equivalent to fucking your girlfriend wearing a used condom picked up off the sidewalk.

Drowned
Drowned – Idola Specus (2014)
Soulside Journey simplified into pop music. Drowned grokked the underground’s current nostalgia for the early nineties and rehashed a beloved classic into an easily digestible rock format. Pointless introductions and incongruent atmospheric verses are thrown in to appease doom halfwits and bore everyone else. Darkthrone is being bowdlerized for hipsters just as early rock ‘n’ roll whitewashed rhythm and blues for suburban teenagers. Truly Katy Perry death metal.

Tribulation
Tribulation – Children of the Night (2015)
Tribulation first moved from Grotesque and Merciless worship to Rust in Peace meets Queensrÿche on The Formulas of Death. Children of the Night abandons metal altogether, becoming Moog synth laden regressive goth rock. Tribulation aren’t horror score Goblin now; Tribulation are strict, just out of the closet Lestat cosplayers. Where are the clean vocal hooks for the Cradle of Filth faggots? How the hell are Tribulation supposed to get into Hot Topic next to Deafheaven? They need to put away the Vampire Diaries, pull the buttplugs out of their rectums, and hire a real singer. Then go to Safeway, buy four gallons of bleach, and chug them like forties in the parking lot. That will clean out Tribulation’s gastrointestinal tracts.

Ghost
Ghost – Meliora (2015)
Repugnant failed miserably at death metal. Now Repugnant fail miserably at Duran Duran. Ghost have no musical influences from Blue Öyster Cult or Mercyful Fate; rather they play vocal pop with occasional speed metal riffs. Pop music centered around singing that makes Dave Mustaine sound like Ronnie James Dio. This has to be trolling: the vocalist sounds like Seth Putnam on Anal Cunt’s indie wuss rock parody Picnic of Love; grown men are playing dress up pseudo-metal like little girls having a Satanic tea party. Tobias Forge should lick lead paint chips off the floor and bash his brains out in the back of a police van.

Cut up
Cut Up – Forensic Nightmares (2015)
Cut Up? What kind of lazy band name is that? What happened to metal bands whose names actually referenced death? Treblinka? Autopsy? Immolation? Cut Up wondered what Dismember meant and looked it up in the dictionary. “What does Dismember mean bro?” “It means to cut people up.” Cut Up cuts up old death metal riff phrases into licks and rearranges them into death ‘n’ roll forensic nightmares. Songs are structured like Cannibal Corpse filtered through the randomness of metalcore. Ample slams and breakdowns disorient into a brain cell holocaust. The target audience is those australopithecines who believe death metal a more extreme version of beatdown hardcore. Go cut up your vegetables.
Dismember : Lethal Weapon :: Cut Up : Samurai Cop minus the amusing bits

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Even Barack Obama disagrees with SJWs

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They called him a secret Muslim, and they called him a crypto-Socialist, and those may or may not be true, but even America’s most liberal president thinks SJWs are bunk:

Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” That’s not the way we learn either.

It would have been even better if he expanded the scope of his comments beyond college to the everyday life, watercooler talk, casual discussion, public debate, politics and even The Blighted Internet. We either can talk about anything, using polite language and structured argument, or we become an echo chamber. Polite language means that you use synonyms for the angry words you might want to use; structured argument means offering fact and logic instead of emotion and impulse. With those, we can have any conversation and, as our society plummets downward into chaos, clearly we need to.

This extends to me. Metal is offensive because it rejects social pretense. It wants to talk about everything you fear, the spectres that haunt your dreams, the yawning emptiness of death below, and the thought that maybe — just maybe — Charles Darwin was not wrong and we still live in times of strife, predation, extinction, warfare, violence and parasitism. Metal trusts nature more than humanity. It looks at the big picture, tens of thousands of years and the world beyond our immediate locality, and it does not care if old Aunt Mabel (or even little sister SJW Susie) is offended. Reality is reality. Human pretense contradicts reality and must be destroyed, whether that pretense is hippie-yuppie 1960s love-jive, yuppie-consumer 1980s job propaganda, hippie-consumer 1990s peace out palaver, or even 2010s special snowflake individualism. Reality is greater than humanity. Metal is the messenger of that idea, and it will never be flattering to the herd, therefore will always be opposed when found in its whole form.

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Septic Flesh – 1991-2003 (2015)

Septic Flesh - 1991-2003 (2015)

Floga Records is releasing a box set of Septic Flesh’s first era in cassette format. While this box-set is limited to 300 copies and the format is somewhat obscure, much of the content included is of high quality, as Septic Flesh’s early discography is one of the high points of Greek underground metal, measuring up to such luminaries as Rotting Christ, Varathron, and Necromantia.

Septic Flesh began their career playing rough death metal, but even on their earliest demo (Forgotten Path) showed signs of the melodic, atmospheric sound that would become their signature. The abrasive death metal elements would remain for some years, but the band’s heavy keyboard presence, an emphasis on consonant guitar leads, and elaborate compositions make for a a more contemplative experience than, for instance, the generally more aggressive American metal acts. Septic Flesh’s first full-lengths admittedly suffer from flaws in their production that detract from the possible intensity they could reach (like the use of a weak drum machine), but they still capitalize on the band’s ability to create ethereal soundscapes in the context of metal. Mystic Places of Dawn and Esoptron in particular are masterpieces of this style, effortlessly integrating this into the admittedly declining quantities of death metal that this era showcases.

Later albums in this collection showcase the band reaching simultaneously towards higher heights of orchestration and problematically trying to secure some gothic metal money. This niche became enormously popular in the mid-90s despite being so wide as to encompass similar acreage of musical ground. Septic Flesh never discarded their ability to write melodic hooks, but after 1995, they were quick to simplify their style and write more accessible, less cavernous songs. These changes become strikingly obvious on Revolution DNA, which trades in the mythological and occult themes of previous works for sleek, shining futurism. That the band manages to retain their melodic prowess makes it serve as a functional and adequate work of pop music, but it is truly a low point of the compilation. The band’s previous overtures towards the mainstream (primarily in the form of operatic vocalists) were spun off into their own project (Chaostar), and Septic Flesh was arguably sundered. In recent years, partially represented on this compilation’s finale, Sumerian Daemons, the band has embraced the great simplification of their past, albeit overlaid and decorated with modern metal technique and an orchestral presence, creating music that in its strengths resembles that of mainstream film music filtered through the extreme metal mold. The new Septic Flesh is a much louder and brutish beast, separated from the atmospheric voice it was born with, but hints of the past permeate even the band’s latest releases to give it strength in its darkest hours.

1991-2003 is excellent as a historical archive and a collector’s item, at least for those few who value compact cassettes. It is probably entirely useless outside that niche, although it’s always possible that a similar box set may come out in a more accessible format. In addition, like other comprehensive box sets, it comes with its share of chaff and filler. Individual albums by Septic Flesh should not be too difficult to find, though, and some of them have even been reissued with new artwork and bonus rarities. The early full lengths are certainly worth the listener’s time.

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Metal Hammer to release branded mobile game

Promotional screenshot from Metal Hammer: Roadkill (2015)

The heavy metal and hard rock news site Metal Hammer is releasing a mobile game entitled Metal Hammer: Roadkill. So far, screenshots suggest a fairly basic action game presumably inspired by endless runners such as Canabalt; the gimmick this time is that it incorporates rhythm game elements and a soundtrack of prominent metal musicians. Given popular trends in the mobile gaming industry, this will probably be released for free and earn most of its revenue through in-game microtransactions, but until the game releases, any speculation on the subject is empty at best. Roadkill most likely serves best not as a specific promotion (although it might turn out to be financially lucrative), but more as an example of the distance heavy metal news sites may need to go to secure funding and label attention in the future. We probably won’t be seeing the folks at Metal Hammer write any critical reviews of Nuclear Blast’s roster for quite a while.

The game releases on October 15th for iOS and Android devices; you can read the official story at Metal Hammer’s website.

 

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Stratovarius – Eternal (2015)

Stratovarius - Eternal (2015)

Have you ever listened to a metal recording and realized it was trying to be all things to all people? Eternal is like that. One of the most recent additions to the ‘European’ school of power metal, I impulsively jumped into this album before realizing, with a start, that my understanding of this subgenre basically ends at 1992, before the genre became the hyperactive, instrumentally maximalist Goliath it is today. Whoops.

If this album is any indication of the band’s overall approach, then Stratovarius is ultimately descended from the Van Halen school of music. Few moments will pass on this album without some sort of rapid-fire instrumental flourish or (more importantly) a Big Dumb Chorus™. The Big Dumb Chorus™ is one of the stylistic limitations this sort of music labors under – surely, the audience will remember and better identify with the songs if, on their first try, they can sing along with the refrain? It’s slightly more difficult than your standard pop choruses, since to meet their own power metal ambitions Stratovarius has to make everything as epic and melodramatic as possible. Stratovarius isn’t even the worst offender in this regard, since this doesn’t prevent them from showing off their instrumental skills, but since songs are still structured around these moments, they don’t have much else to do.

Because Eternal relies so heavily on conventional pop songwriting, it has to differentiate itself from its companions solely on sound and production. Stratovarius relies very heavily on their keyboard lines to do this, and they do a suitable job of pushing out semi-orchestral flourishes throughout the album. Some of the samples (like the brass at the beginning of “My Eternal Dream”) sound a bit cheap and artificial for 2015, and the keyboardist probably resents you, the reader, personally for not buying enough of their merchandise in recent years. There’s also the occasional vaguely contemporary electronic passage that doesn’t really fit the mood. I suspect such things were carelessly tossed in with the intent to create more “variety”, but they’re ultimately inconsequential and could generally be removed without any significant impact on their tracks. At best, these passages are going to pull in a few EDM drones whose friends are insisting they give metal a chance.

Ultimately, Eternal is literally candy. It’s fine and non-toxic in small amounts, but ingesting too much of it will make you jittery and irritable, as well as spoiling your appetite for dinner. Besides, you don’t expect your chocolate bars and peanut butter cups to challenge your conceptions about the nature of food and its relation to reality, right?

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Elitism is Darwinism for heavy metal

cicada

If you are a false, do not entry. – Sarcofago

Elitism gets a bad rap because it has been appropriated by hipsters to justify their interest in low-quality but obscure bands. The obscurity of those bands makes them rare, which makes them valuable in a social situation, as you can always one up someone else by suggesting something more obscure, connoting greater knowledge, experience and “being in the know” on your part. This is the inverse of elitism however which is a simple formula of quality > quantity, which hipsters confuse with simply measuring by quantity alone in order to find the least popular and equate it with the highest quality.

Inferior substitutes replacing quality originals is after all a trope if not the defining feature of what happens over time in our society. A good idea becomes edgy, then hip, and so a dumbed-down version is made for the masses to democratically share in the hipness, at which point declining quality (dumbing down) destroys whatever made the idea important in the first place. One needs look no further than the progression of Metallica from their second album to their fourth to see this in action. Over time, the complexity and intensity erodes and is replaced by a friendly, vapid and appearance-based substitute. The story arc of black metal shows this most clearly, moving from an outlaw genre that upended all rock and pop conventions to a pale imitation in the form of indie rock with incomprehensible screaming.

It is no wonder the hipsters want elitism misunderstood. It would eliminate the entirety of hipster bands by pointing out that, instead of being quality because of their rare quantity, they are impostors and pretenders. Poseurs, if you will. Then again, what defines hipsters is the formula appearance > reality, so that entire genre of people are by nature poseurs, scenesters, day-trippers, tourists, pretenders and the like. Elitism offers cynicism with hope: that by raising our standards, we can raise quality. World-weary observers may note that this has something in common with the theories of Charles Darwin, which held that better adapted creatures reproduce more and thus over the years their traits predominate; on the other hand, traits which are not used die out. Cynicism by itself leads to a dark place where nothing has value, but cynicism with hope leads out of the confusing harangue of nonsense that most people rationalize themselves into liking, and shows instead a chance to clear the clutter, value the good, and spend life on more meaningful pursuits than what is new or obscure.

Darwin gave us a warning, however. Humans now control the index of selection, and so if we value the wrong things, those will predominate over other traits and exclude those traits. For example, in black metal it became fashionable to like the novelty of hybrids with indie-rock, and those sold more as a result, and this displaced most of the original material. In turn, the originalists attempted to preserve their music through exaggerating its external characteristics, which led to self-parody and low quality. Elitism is recognition of what our ancestors could have told us: most people, most of the time, are engaged in useless or stupid activity in order to appear important. The self-importance of the individual is the death of humanity, perhaps, but it certainly forms the death of music. One needs look no further than a thread of favorite bands where each user busily types in the most obscure bands he can think of in order to appear wise.

Misanthropy has long been a trait of metal. Compassionate misanthropy would be much like cynicism with hope, or a recognition that most people are busy with the useless, but that some are not, and if we value those good, we get more of the good; on the other hand, if we ignore them, they die out. Darwin would nod and smile at this implementation of his theory. Unfortunately for humans, only some — those with the intelligence, experience and honesty/aggression to pursue the truth — can articulate the difference between gunk and glory. These are opposed by the rest because these tastemakers will point out the the Emperor has no clothes on at all, which invalidates the posing and posturing of the majority. This in turn renders the hipster, scenester and try-hard irrelevant, and they fear this and as a result fight hard against any quality > quantity assessment, which leads them to try doubly hard to find the obscure but mediocre and champion it as the apex of the genre.

Majorities however determine the order of the day. They have more money and in democratic societies, political power; their misery is that by “winning,” they self-destruct by replacing quality with inferior substitutes. The last twenty years of heavy metal reflect this anti-Darwinian approach and quality has declined proportionately. Even record labels find that following the most recent trends — the way to success in a mass society — has stopped working for them as consistently as it used to. This intensifies the desire to replace quality with quantity, especially by claiming that a small quantity or being ironic, different, unique or contrarian signals quality. On this point, hipsters join with the bourgeois mass consumer marketers in the same theory, and through two different pathways, produce the same inferior result.

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Cynic abruptly tears itself apart

Promotional artwork from Cynic's homepage

Rock and metal bands have a terrible habit of destroying themselves in dramatic conflicts. On Thursday, Cynic’s official Facebook page announced a breakup in the middle of a touring cycle. Perhaps not the best way to go about such a split. Recently, though, guitarist and vocalist Paul Masvidal claims (again, through Facebook) that neither he or the band’s bassist (Sean Malone) were involved in the decision to split. Whether or not each side is able to work out their differences is unclear at the moment, but this seems like a poor way to go about the business of ending a musical project, or otherwise changing its status.

Controversial reformation career aside, I personally owe Cynic a great deal for Focus, as its diverse aesthetic palette and jazz inflections gave me a gateway into extreme metal that I otherwise never may have found. Their later recordings, though, have done little to pique my interest and are unlikely to gain many fans around here. Perhaps this breakup is merely recognition that taking jazz, metal and metalcore and mixing them together produces a slurry that no one wants to drink.

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