In other news that beats trying to explain why My Dying Bride’s latest LP is a borehole and a psychic drain (more on that later today if all goes well), Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame has started a hardcore punk band, adding to his already substantial roster of projects. Besides Lombardo, Dead Cross also features Justin Pearson from The Locust and Retox. If the band’s lineup and announcement on Vice are any indication, Dead Cross may take more after modern hardcore punk and metalcore than older substyles of the genre. If you particularly need to hear members of Slayer performing classic hardcore punk, there’s always Slayer’s UndisputedAttitude, although Lombardo was out of the band when it came out in 1996.
At all times, the function of art is to bring its audience as close to reality as possible, whether that reality is circumscribed to a certain group, in which its particular culture connects the group to a larger living frame, or by looking at that frame directly, not as members of race, nation or even as humans, but as conscious beings wishing to be more aware of the structure of the universe.
In healthy times, art is seen as necessary for the purpose described above. In sick, decadent times, on the other hand, the situation is drastically different. In times that are ruled by delusion and deception, true art is seen as dangerous, albeit the craft that could potentially create true works of art still exist. Such craft, however, doesn’t reach such heights in most cases, and generally the result is as empty as the values of the time the works were created.
In other words: false art is universally preferred and recognized over true art.
Three genres of music were, at least on their origins and their respective better days, not only true to the strict definition of what art is, but were created as a reaction to the present situation. Those genres are hardcore punk, industrial and heavy metal. These initially were the vehicles in which discontented youngsters with artistic talent and a sharper consciousness which allowed them to view the world in a more realistic fashion could pour their ideas and frustration in sonic form. Hardcore punk took a public-friendly style crafted by marketing and deconstructed it, making it more violent, minimalistic and less rigidly enclosed into a singular form. In the same way, industrial took mainstream music, mixed it with electronically generated sounds and turn that combination into a harsh and cold environment which reminded the listener of the monotonous sound of the industrial machinery that defines our times.
Metal was born into the industrial settings of England by taking rock music and injecting a strong dose of fatalism into it, influenced no doubt by the bleak and dehumanizing surroundings that the first metal heroes experienced. With time, the genre made gigantic leaps, evolving into a nihilistic, naturalistic and romantic artform which splitted from the mainstream forms (the “craft”) from which it initially developed.
Consequentially, those three genres of music are the most hated and ridiculed by the majority of people in today’s society. The fight against these was not only limited to finger pointing, but as a process of assimilation in which the spineless crowd filling the pockets of the mainstream music industry attempted to streamline the genres to make them more tame and accessible.
So, as much as there is false and true art, there is also false metal, false punk, and false industrial, with the proportion of true and false having a certain ratio to it. The struggle for each hessian, then, is to know the true from the false, and how? Easy: recognize that only a modest percentage of metal is worthy of your time; skew the rest; don’t listen to hipsters and other social manipulators; listen and buy only the music you most closely connect to; stay away from scenes: most are dens of manipulation in which the social takes precedence over the artistic, and you will waste valuable time listening to the drivel those people will shove down your throat, so you can be either as “open minded” or “elite” as them.
Lastly, remember the golden rule: if something (music, ideas) is hated with an irrational passion, give it a chance. It may probably be worth something. Be brave, and go against the grain, and you will reach for the best.
The creator of Broken Crosswill release Through Light To Night through his own Apocalyptic Visions cult on May 8th. Digital and vinyl preorders and packages are available HERE.
BROKEN CROSS‘ Through Light To Night LP delivers ten anthems for the end-of-times, the unhinged vibe of the album’s gutter punk approach driven with merciless divebomb guitar leads, d-beat manglings and blackened punk might, all fueled by a razor-lined vocal tirade. Enshrouded in a gloomy fog of eerie effects and samples, steeping the entire concoction in a horror/sci-fi Cannibal Holocaust vibe, the perilous back-alley sensation one endures with Through Light To Night is as unholy and unnerving as it is crucially compelling. The cover art and layout for the album were handled by Dwid Hellion (Integrity, Vermapyre, Holy Terror Records) who has been responsible for the majority of the band’s releases. In an early track premiere, Vice Magazine’s music channel Noisey issued in part, “The band worships at the altar of G.I.S.M., Integrity, Gehenna, Zouo, and more, bringing a super lo-fi aesthetic with overtones of industrial and noise to those hateful and nihilistic sounds. This is primitive stuff, but the songwriting shines through, as do the very Integrity dive-bombs.” Seekers of ill-omened, depraved extreme music far from the polished shores of the mainstream should pay heed to the calling of Through Light To Night.
You can stream Broken Cross’ new release on their Soundcloud channel.
Metalheads tend to distrust academia. We distrust the machine in all of its forms, and since the machine accepts academia, we believe the voice of academia is tainted by interest toward social acceptance. Academia also has a habit of finding ways to cram reality into its theories rather than the other way around. However, some academics make insightful contributions to the study of metal and Hardcore, Punk, and Other Junk: Aggressive Sounds in Contemporary Music provides an example of the best of this process.
This collection of essays looks at extreme music in general and extends this to metal, hardcore punk and punk rock communities. Sadly many authors make the mistake many do of incorporating recent pseudo-metal hybrids as some form of legitimate metal, which spams their results with some nonsense. The balance of results however turns out for the best because these academics look at detail-level reproducible phenomena and so are able to avoid the kind of craziness that would happen if they took “modern death metal” to be a legitimate form of the genre. Since metal and hardcore punk share a heritage both influencing and as influences of one another, the multiple pieces on that topic serve to bolster the understanding of metal.
Ross Hagen‘s piece “No Fun: Noise Music, Avant-garde expression and Sonic Punishment” ventures into the world of noise as music and explores a number of theories of its appeal. His most tantalizing riff zeroes in on the idea that society attempts to control noise and categorize it by the containers used to sample it, thus the tendency of irregular acoustic noise is to overthrow the social control imposed for the convenience of society having categorical dominance. While this piece does not seem to be directly on point to metal, it explores the same sonic space that metal uses and suggests reasons for it that may overlap with the psychology of metalheads.
Nelson Varas-Diaz contributes writing that analyzes Puerto Rico as a metal scene and the historical antecedents for appreciation of metal in this unique context. While his research involves statistical analysis, the best part of it may be the narrative aspect where he explains the history of metal in Puerto Rico as a type of struggle to be heard. In this piece also can be found extensive information about founding and contemporary Puerto Rican metal bands.
While it is beyond the scope of this review to cover every piece in the book, several others merit immediate attention by the wandering metalhead. Mika Elovaara looks into the meaning of metal lyrics and finds something akin to the mythical-historical view expounded upon in these digital pages. As if clarifying Lords of Chaos, one of his research subjects from Norway opines:
I feel that it is important that people understand why they have been born and that other people fought for our well-being and to preserve our culture and society. Our cultural heritage is going to die because people ignore it or do not even realize its significance. Viking and Norse mythology have been described as something evil and distant, but in reality, it is close to home and not necessarily evil at all. That it is not Christian does not mean it is evil. I use the mythology to describe situations in the world and politics, actual topics that were part of our lives a thousand years ago just as they are today. One can be proud of one’s heritage and identity without any racist or nationalistic tendencies. And Satanism is quite outside of this.
His extensive interviews bring up other similar flirtations with the taboo which makes sense as metal is “edge music” that exists to push social standards beyond what they normally accept. He probes the filaments of metal’s obsession with the evil and dark, and yet finds a certain kind of benevolence. “They mean critical thinking and encourage independent thinking,” said one fan about metal lyrics. The entire study is too complex to summarize here but at a minimum provides food for thought about what metal is attempting to communicate.
Another metal-related piece by Marcus Erbe looks into the science of producing death metal vocals and what that type of sound might mean in the unconscious and shared experience of being human. He finds that human vocals universally split between a melodic voice and a textural voice, with the latter expressing “monstrous” sensations. He then explores the nature of the monstrous in psychology and finds that it includes both the other and our fears for what is within us. This thought-provoking essay fuels further the question about what it is in metal that is really socially unacceptable, its rejection of social mores or its seeing through them.
Other articles explore more specific topics. On the whole, the book shows a new face for academia in looking into metal that is less afraid of certain areas of metal that are alien to what academia customarily writes about and may reject attitudes held by the majority of academics. The insight offered into the mechanics of metal and the associated symbols that it invokes also suggests new areas for academics and thinkers to pry into this interesting genre. Hardcore, Punk, and Other Junk: Aggressive Sounds in Contemporary Music lives up to its title and presents a window into the troubling questions that most would ignore raised by these dissident genres.
If one were to closely examine the foundations of death and black metal, they would most likely notice the thematic composition passed down from Romanticist composers like Bruckner, Brahms, and Schumann immediately. However, there is one other genre that has been a major influence to the structure of extreme metal: Hardcore Punk. One may wonder how musicians so tightly interconnected with the classical realm could possibly draw inspiration from the dogmatic mire of punk music, but the aspects of punk in black and death metal are extremely obvious particularly in the area of phrasing.
It is common knowledge amongst most fans of punk music that hardcore punk had an extraneous goal beside simply making music. This goal was to completely alienate their style of music from that of the bland cosmopolitan music that dominated the radio waves. One must ask themselves, though, what intent was placed behind this goal, and what did hardcore punk hope to achieve through its alienation?
During the 1980’s there was a large obsession with hedonistic “glam metal” (a marketing term for image-based rock). This music was a full-flowering of the excess generation beget by the previous hippie generation. The egalitarianism espoused by hippies had passed down a me-first attitude to their children which confounded them despite the fact that their selfish children were products of their own ideology. It seems that the idea of promoting equality amongst everyone and everyone believing their desires should be met without opposition or criticism are unrelated in the eyes of the jaded 70’s counter-culture. Music reflected this attitude by encouraging the pursuit of immediate gratification as a viable path in life. After all, the was is over, a global community is on the rise, and we’ve reached a level of technology so advanced that fear of survival has been eliminated; do whatever you want! It’s not going to hurt anyone!
Punk musicians of the time sensed this loss of purpose, or the loss of spirit if you will. Although they may have not always been articulate, they reflected their desire to rail against this lack of conflict and excitement in life by creating music that exemplified the brevity of an individual’s time on earth, and the explosiveness of war. More so than punk that came before or after, hardcore punk obtained a balance of perfect representation in music. Their refusal to compromise song structure or sonic aesthetic enabled them to compose more dynamic songs, which although didn’t reach the classical level of using several themes to create a transcendent journey that resolved in an affirmation of life, resembled it in it’s desire to speak to a person’s senses through art.
Predominantly this could be seen in the way that chords were used. The main staple of hardcore was the perfect fifth, or the power chord as it was commonly known. This chord did not imply a major or minor tonality (hence being “perfect) regardless of pitch, unless a third (or numerous other tones) were played along with it. What this chord did was enable hardcore punk groups to write lengthy phrases that were not inhibited by tonality. Mainstream rock bands were dynamically opposed to this style of writing because they restricted themselves to using open chords that were required to dwell within their key in order to remain pleasing to the widest audience possible. Along with tonal restrictions, the chords were often merely used as back dropping to the dominant vocal melody which was focused on to shift attention to the lyrics that reveled in the self-serving perspective of the day, thus supporting people’s banal desires to do as they will which they latched onto wholeheartedly.
Speaking of vocal melodies, hardcore eschewed the popular method of gritty gospel-based blues vocals and instead employed a harsh shout that simultaneously moved focus away from the voice and used it as a rhythmic exclamation mark to the terse melodic sentences that were bashed out or fluidly strummed by the guitarists.
In terms of cadence, melodies played by the guitars were aimed to be as unconventional as possible. To achieve this hardcore punk musicians simply refused to compose anything that was rhythmically oriented by not using the drum beats as a guideline. Rock however reduced music to a bodily function by centering chord cadences around constant 4/4 drum patterns (which were easily digestible as the time was split into simple three and four bar phrases) interspersed with tiresome fills that were only amounted to pointless displays of technical talent. Hardcore drummers usually battered out a d-beat (an off-time rhythm that sometimes would not variate through an entire song) or sometimes used more conventional rhythms along with the occasional blasting. What this did is create a rhythm section that was more of a percussive tapestry that underscored the melody as opposed to becoming a simplistic egg-timer like most drummers of the day.
Metal most definitely adopted this form of riff writing, and expanded upon it to feature several melodic themes per song; where as punk often displayed one major theme in an explosive fashion. Despite its quick-hitting nature, hardcore punk was a very relevant influence upon future generations of artists who sought to grasp onto the lagging sense of meaning in this world. Unfortunately, the youth of the suburbs who were always looking for a more radical statement to use as their source of catharsis before they were assimilated into the back-breaking rigor morale of modern society quickly converged upon the art-form of hardcore. Before long they created a formulaic sound by bashing unimaginative three-interval power chord riffs in an attempt to merely sound extreme, but use that extremity for absolutely nothing.
In spite of its unfortunate demise, hardcore punk proved that unrefined youthful rebellion can sometimes transcend its origins, and proved its own point by self-destructing, in a fashion. The music was probably the most beautiful and well-written punk music out of the entire genre, and closest to the classical spirit of art (although the artists themselves certainly weren’t aware of it). The mark of these great musicians will echo throughout time, as in an age where most were content to say nothing… hardcore screamed at the top of its lungs.
“Lied to threatened cheated and deceived
Hear nothing see nothing say nothing
Led up garden paths and into blind alleys
Hear nothing see nothing say nothing ”
– “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing” by Discharge
Metalheads tend to be wary of punk, recognizing it only for its role as an influence on metal. This attitude obscures the fact that the best of punk is worth exploring on its own terms and merits, starting with perhaps the greatest influence of punk technique and heightened aesthetics in that genre, hardcore punk‘s The Misfits.
As recent events have emboldened SJWs to be more aggressive in their attacks on those who have not adopted SJW beliefs as the one true religion, increased chatter suggests more criticism is heading toward the Bad Brains, a founding punk band who used thrash speed in their songs alongside reggae interludes.
One SJW source (that disguises itself as satire) summarized the situation earlier this year:
Lauded Rastafarian hardcore band Bad Brains have recently passed a serious milestone in their career, again escaping serious scrutiny for their actions by their gaggle of pathetically-adoring and mostly white male fans.
This year marks the third decade that the beloved African-American religious zealots have completely escaped the prying eye of the punk community for penning incendiary anti-gay lyrics such as “Don’t blow no bubbles, don’t blow no spikes, don’t pack no fudge”.
Many in the punk community, but all of those “many” being SJWs, feel that Bad Brains have betrayed the implicit SJW assumption that any people who are not white should adopted SJW ideology. In fact, it was white punks who began the attack, as Daryl Jenifer reveals in an interview:
Check it out. All the things I’ve been telling you about the road and path of The Bad Brains, there was an era that lead into us discovering Rasta and Jah, and these things that were part of us being black and recognizing this part of our culture. Like with anything, say you’re a young Krishna, there’s a tendency to be over-zealous. We were over-zealous in our views about homosexuality, due to our ignorance, and the fact that we hadn’t matured to a certain level. Just like anyone getting into anything. Every member of The Bad Brains are loving and we have nothing against any of god’s creatures. In our growth and in trying to become wise and see life for what it is, without judgment, we went through a time where we did judge. Anyone can remember a time and say, “oh you remember when I was like that.” A doctor can say, “Remember when I first worked the ER and was all nervous and people were looking at me when I was crazy.” So when you’re coming in as a young Rasta and discovering it, just like in Christianity, homosexuality isn’t accepted. So being young Rasta and studying the religion that’s what you see. But if you still continue to study and mature you’ll find other texts that say, “love all god’s creatures.” So you can’t just make your own thing and say, “This guys black, or this guys homosexual, I don’t like him.” The Bad Brains had a period of time where we might have said some things. Meanwhile, we were in a band and were popular, so it got out there. But someone took that and ran with it. People that hated us for various reasons, people that were trying to be like us. I don’t want to call any names, but like the band MDC were the first to go out of their way to find something wrong with the Bad Brains. Everybody loved The Bad Brains, so they want to find something wrong with us. It happens with everyone like Tiger Woods, you get popular and people are going to try and hate on you.
The SJW crusade in metal and punk continues with its desire not to avoid threatening speech as it claims, but to create “safe spaces” where only SJW-compliant speech is allowed. The ongoing and accelerating criticism of the Bad Brains only fuels this fire and will intensify it until rebuked.
We can only know the present by knowing the past. In the case of heavy metal, it is a murky past obscured by both the grandiose rockstar dreams of individuals and the manipulative fingers of a voracious industry.
Metal arose through a complicated narrative worthy of a lost empire, and by knowing this history, we can know more of the music we enjoy today.
Specifically of interest are a number of threads that interweave throughout the history of the genre, both as outside influences and later as internal habits, which influence its twisting path from something a lot like rock to a genre entirely separate.
This story then is a tale of how many became one, or how they found something in common among themselves, and how it has taken years of creative people hammering on the parts to meld them into one single thing, known as heavy metal.
However, no one really likes a lengthy essay. Instead, here’s metal’s history the best way it can be experienced: by listening to it.
1968-1970 — the origins
Three threads ran alongside each other: punk, proto-metal and progressive rock. All three are on the edge of being metal, since the type of progressive rock in question is raw and disturbing and not of the “everybody be happy love friends” hippie style. This is music that thinks our society is disturbed, and that therefore many of the values we reject are worth a closer look. Some is fatalist-nihilist, like the self-destructive tendencies of punk, where progressive rock is more clinical, and metal more epic (looking for meaning in the ancients, in nature, the occult and conflict).
Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
1971-1981 — maturation
A lot happened here, but basically, metal became more like its ancestors (hard rock), progressive rock faded out, and punk got more rock-music-like. The punk from this era is more like normal rock music than the outsider stuff it originally was, but also gains some aggression from Motorhead, who may technically be metal but were born of a progressive rock band (Hawkwind) and sounded very punk and inspired the next generation of punks to be louder, lewder, etc.
Punk music arose from the earlier work by Iggy and the Stooges, but formalized itself into a pop genre that used guitars more like keyboards than like the guitar fireworks of conventional guitar-intense bands like Cream and The Who.
An exception to the metal of the period was NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal). DIY and extreme for the day, it left behind the Led Zeppelin-styled “hard rock” vein of metal and got away from Sabbath’s detuned doom and gloom to make energetic, mythological but also somewhat excited-about-life metal.
Satan – Court in the Act
Angel Witch – Angel Witch
Iron Maiden – Killers
Judas Priest – Sin After Sin
1982-1987 — the peak
Punk got its act together, in part inspired by the more commercial bands like Ramones and Sex Pistols. This is where hardcore punk really happened. That in turn spurred a revolution because music had finally left rock behind, and by mating the nihilistic (no inherent rules) composition of punk with the longer-phrase riffs of metal (derived from horror movie soundtracks), the riff styles of death metal and black metal were born, and the progressive song structures of speed metal evolved. At the same time, essentialist movements in punk hybrids (thrash) and metal (doom) emerged, sending many back to the roots of these subgenres.
Discharge – Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing
The Exploited – Death Before Dishonour
Amebix – Arise!
A second generation arose in the USA (all of the above bands are UK):
Cro – Mags – The Age of Quarrel
Black Flag – Damaged
Minor Threat – Discography
1983 — the big branching: speed, thrash and death/black
1983 is a crucial year, and so it gets its own entry. Metal and punk cross-influenced each other. The result was a lot more metal. If you’re familiar with nu-metal or more radio style metal, start with speed metal, as it’s the most like really violent rock music with influences from progressive rock in song structure. If you like messy punk (!!!) try some thrash. And if you’ve already given your soul to Satan, try death/black. With death/black, there’s also some influences from progressive rock, although they’re balanced with punk technique which makes for a chaotic spawn.
Speed metal took the complex song forms of progressive rock, the muted-strum guitar riffing of the NWOBHM bands like Blitzkrieg, and added to it the high energy of punk hardcore and came up with songs that kept getting faster and faster. This shocked people of the day, and was the primary reason speed metal bands were different from the NWOBHM that came before them, hence it was dubbed “speed metal.”
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All
Nuclear Assault – Game Over
Megadeth – Rust in Peace
Testament – The New Order
Thrash is a hybrid genre that takes punk songs and puts metal riffs in them. Its name arises from “thrasher,” or skater, and those were the people who embraced this style of music that was more extreme than metal or hardcore at the time. While it leans toward punk, it used metal riffs, and wrote short songs that in the punk style lambasted society but in the metal style tended to mythologize the resulting conflict.
In 1983, these bands contributed just about equally to the new sound. In the largest part inspired by NWOBHM like Venom and Motorhead filtered through aggro-hardcore like GBH and Discharge, the unholy triad invented underground metal to come.
Bathory – The Return
Once proto-death/black metal had occurred, people began to expand on the formula. One side decided to make it more technical, and riffy, and taking after Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death” and the increasingly mind-bending riffing of Slayer, made it use mazes of mostly chromatic phrasal riffs. On the other side, some wanted to preserve the atmosphere of the simpler songs that Bathory and Hellhammer had to offer, but injected melody and loosened up the drums to keep it from being as clear and rigid as death metal. While that latter group went off to figure out black metal, the death metal team experienced a boom of creativity and excess during 1985-1995.
Necrovore – Divus Te Mortuus
Morbid Angel – Abominations of Desolation
While death metal was just starting up, other bands were trying to figure out how to make melodic ambient metal, structured equally after early melodic metal and free-floating songs like Slayer’s “Necrophiliac.” The result had chaotic drums, deliberately bad sound quality to avoid becoming a trend or something which could be imitated, and high shrieking vocals to death metal’s guttural growl. Taking a cue from Bathory, Slayer and Hellhammer, it also embraced the occult and esoteric and rejected conventional social norms and religions.
As black metal matured, it moved into Norway, possibly inspired by the previous generation of melodic Swedish death metal bands who used high sustain through heavy distortion to make melodic songs which featured less constant riff-changing than the bigger bands from overseas.
Immortal – Diabolical Full Moon Mysticism
Mayhem – De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
Darkthrone – Under a Funeral Moon
This is just the beginning; there’s a lot more after this in all of the genres, which kept developing in their own ways. This is only an introduction to the history of it all, and is not designed to be comprehensive…
With the fiftieth anniversary of metal music around the corner, forthcoming years will witness an increase of publications dealing with the history, legacy and defining characteristics of the genre. This could finally resolve the lack of consensus that still exists regarding the definition and origins of heavy metal.