Wrestling is the oldest sport in existence. One can find it in any culture on earth, Egyptian hieroglyphs depict various techniques, Islam recognizes it as one of the main sports for preparation in combat and European knights trained extensively as a lot of armored fights quickly become tests of who could pin who to be able to deal a finishing blow with a dagger through the gaps in the plate armor. Throughout the years wrestling has proven to be the best art for all forms of combat as every region in the world has at least one form of indigenous wrestling.
When issues arise like those of ideological fascists in metal, whether of the SJW or far-right types, the inevitable division between art and propaganda arises. Having written about this for over two decades, I make the following distinction: art has artistic purpose, which is to reveal; propaganda has dogmatic purpose, which is to condition and manipulate the mind through projecting a sense of self-congratulatory correctness onto the perceiver.
Luckily, others have written about this topic, and well. From Canadian author Robertson Davies writing at First Things comes this cogent analysis:
When I was a boy, I was a voracious reader. My home had plenty of moral literature on its shelves, and I was urged to read it for my betterment. There was lots of other literature, as well, but I was not forbidden, only discouraged, from reading it as it was said to be “beyond me,” which I quickly discovered meant that it dealt with life pretty much as life was, and not as the determinedly moral writers wanted me to think.
…I could not stomach Little Lord Fauntleroy, who presented me with a political puzzle especially hard for a Canadian: What was that boy, and what did he do? He was an American, but by chance he inherited a title and went to England and became a Lord, and thereafter was remorselessly democratic toward anyone who kept it firmly in mind that he was a Lord, and behaved accordingly. The Little Lord existed to hammer home two things that were presented as mighty truths: We must be democratic and we must recognize the moral superiority that goes with poverty. It was easy, I thought, to be a democrat if everybody toadied to you, and I wished that the Little Lord could spend a few days at the school I went to, where to be known as a tireless reader (for I could not conceal it) was to be an outcast. Many of my persecutors enjoyed the blessing of poverty, but it did not seem to improve their characters. They were savage, jealous, and without bowels of compassion.
My sanity was saved by the books I read on the sly. Dickens, where evil people were plentiful and often rich, successful, and attractive. Thackeray, where snobbery seemed to be the mainspring of much of the action. Thomas Hardy, where life was complicated by opposed moralities and the uncontrollable workings of Destiny, and where God was decidedly not a loving Father. I did not know it at the time, but of course these were the works of literary artists who observed life with keen eyes and wrote about what they saw, as their widely varying temperaments enabled them to see. When I myself became a writer, it was these whom I chose to follow, as best I could, and not the aggressive moralists.
SJW is a form of aggressive moralism. Nazism, which is an attempt to mold far-right values to a Leftist-style ideological structure, makes that same error (which became fatal for it). Similarly Communism and Socialism are moral appeals, meaning that they base themselves not on practical reasoning — “this works” — but on what should be, based on the feelings of individuals united into large angry groups dedicated to tearing down all people above them. Similarly, Christianity in metal attempts to be a dogmatic ideology, and so we get ludicrous songs about fighting for the Lord which like the propaganda above, present the world in black/white distinctions: one side all is goodness and purity, and the other is bad, stupid, rich and horrible.
When approaching these types in metal it is essential to see this distinction. The victimhood music of indie-rock bands for example presents us perfect, innocent, suffering victims of the type that appeared in moralist Christian literature, opposed by equally dark, evil and cruel forces of large corporations and right-wing tyrants. These overly-simplified moral models exist to make people want to be the good, and to polarize against the bad, without digging into any of the complexity of life that a realistic perspective provides. They are baby food for the brain, as manipulative as television commercials, and as deceptive as the seductions of a whore.
Art will always be better than propaganda, but people like propaganda because it makes them feel good about themselves. When you are presented with absolutes like good and evil, and those are put into simple terms of intent rather than achievement of goals, it makes every idiot shuffling in off the street into a hero just by wanting to be like the good guy in the propaganda. This is why propaganda is easily recognizable through its extreme polarization between the bad enemy scapegoat and the good virtuous long-suffering victim who is secretly a hero, just like the average person with a half-failed life wants himself to be, but will never take steps to be alone and can only do so in a large angry mob.
The assault on metal has taken many forms. During its early days, it was rock bands pretending to be metal to try to capture the authentic feel and thus the bourgeois rebel audience. Later the Christians came in, feeling that a message of evil needed to be replaced with a good one. The white power types have tried for years, often with sympathy from legitimate metal bands, but have never taken ground because metal emphasizes realism over politics. Now the SJWs — who are more similar to Communists than Nazis, but use the same methods — are trying to exact same approach. It helps to see this, recognize it as the attempted mind control that it is, and show it the door.8 Comments
When our society fell apart, we lost politeness. In our modern view, politeness consists of validating other people whether they deserve it or not, especially if what they are doing is stupid or destructive. “It’s all good, man,” is the refrain of our time, inspired by our hippie grandparents.
Politeness originally evolved as a way to disagree without making it personal. With its replacement, Political Correctness (PC), everything is personal. Under politeness, you could disagree vehemently with a fellow citizen and then go on your way and still be friends. With PC, you have no reason to disagree with him unless he is bad — which used to be reserved for pedophiles, rapists, thieves and the like — but being un-PC is reason enough to consider him bad.
Members of the cult of PC will drop friendships with people who disagree with them. Where an impolite person would be simply shunned, in the PC mindset the only way to lose someone is to make them out to be a villain or enemy. They achieve this status by failing to universally validate all of the people they encounter. Dislike of someone’s behavior is considered dislike of the person themselves, and reason enough to exile the person who dared notice the bad behavior.
Consider this conversation:
Person 1: You’ll like Sally, she’s nice.
Person 2: Everyone here is nice.
Person 1: Yeah, but I know Sally.
Person 2: Why do you hate most people?
Under politeness, it was understood — and this is too complex for PC people — that saying Sally was nice was a way of vouching for her. But PC does not allow you to selectively approve of anything. Either it is all good (“, man”) or you are an enemy who targets some people by the simple act of not approving of them. In the same way, PC people demand that you relinquish any personal preference or opinion other than a positive one.
Person 1: I really like tech-deth.
Person 2: Which bands?
Person 1: Oh, anything, really. All of it is good.
Person 2: I only like Shove This Microphone Into My Rectum.
Person 1: Only? There’s a lot more good than that. Lighten up, citizen. Expand your calm.
Politeness allowed people to converse on the basis of exchanging information. This meant that an answer could be reached, or at least viewpoints could be fully articulated and people could mull it over later. Under PC, the right answer is always the same answer: everyone is right, we just really like one answer (but the others are fine, too, not that there’s anything wrong with that). It is essentially an agree to disagree for all debates, factual questions, logical questions and preferences.
Person 1: Incantation is the best old-school death metal band.
Person 2: Naw, I like Death better.
Person 3: We all have our preferences and all of them are good.
Person 2: That’s just your opinion, man.
Needless to say, PC is the defense of people who are underconfident in their beliefs. If they honestly thought that being a slut, being a hipster or liking stupid music was acceptable, they would not be trying to force you to validate it through universal acceptance. They would be instead proudly liking what they like and would be able to articulate why. PC replaces the need to have a why (or facts, or logic) for any belief. Instead, they simply regard everything as a subjective preference …except… when someone has a negative preference, then they gang up on that person and wreck his life.
When we shifted from politeness to PC, we lost the ability to have principles and get to a right answer at the end of a discussion. Instead, everything is now a Facebook wall: people spouting off about whatever they encounter, hoping to appear different enough to stand out, with nothing being wrong but also nothing being right, and so nothing is decided and nothing is acted upon. In this state of entropy, we sit decisionless and await some fortunate apocalypse which will deliver us from this utter tedium of being alive.28 Comments
As author of The Heavy Metal FAQ, I have wrestled with the question of how to define metal over the years. Since it uses the same techniques as any other form of music, but used in different proportions and combinations, I have always focused on the idea that unites these uses which makes metal so obviously distinct from rock, punk and other forms of music.
To this I’d like to add another idea: metal is not literal. That is, metal tends to view the world through a symbolic or mythological lens. It does so to reflect our inward sensations about what is going on, plus a historical viewpoint which requires a more high-level view. The details don’t matter as much as the form, in metal, and we pay attention to the form and then put it in a folk-wisdom format.
Archetypal examples of this can be found in classic metal like “War Pigs” (Black Sabbath), “Hardening of the Arteries” (Slayer), “Painkiller” (Judas Priest) and “My Journey to the Stars” (Burzum). In these songs, mythological forces clash to reveal a truth of everyday life. They inform us about our time and put us into a symbolic and emotional framework with it in which we want to fight it out, fix it, struggle and win.
In contrast, most music is either sensuality-based or protest music. Sensuality-based music is exemplified by stuff like Shakira. Protest music really exploded in the 1960s, but reformed itself with punk, which took a more abstract and yet earthy view. Where the 60s bands sang about politics, punks sang about everyday life and the insanity of existence. This finally culminated in thrash, which used hints of metal’s mythology to make the personal into the universal, as in “Give My Taxes Back” (DRI), “M.A.D.” (Cryptic Slaughter), “Minds are Controlled” (COC) and “Man Unkind” (DRI).
Metal does go wrong sometimes and get literal. The worst of these are the ego-based songs, as in Pantera, or the songs about being metal and going to shows and the like, which are generally just dumb. It is not surprising that these are not favorites of the genre because they drop away from that 30,000-foot view and instead become more personal drama like the rest of our society, which explains why its institutions don’t function and its ideas are corrupt.
Interestingly, other genres are not literal either. Progressive rock was famous for songs about weird adventures in fantasy worlds that had striking parallels to our own (compare to JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis). Classical music tends toward fantastic descriptions from literature and history. These are genres of the weighty and impersonal, not the direct and immediate and personal. They have a different scope and internal language.
Jazz is the outlier. When sung, it tends toward protest and sensual lyrics. When instrumental, the sound of it suggests a combination of the two: a kind of secular (no meaning greater than the material and immediate) version of imagination, but applied to literal experience, such that it forms a kind of texture without a unifying core. It communicates the loneliness of modern isolation and a retreat into the personal complexity of the mind.
Where metal stands out among modern genres is that it still embraces this viewpoint, or at least did until the nu/mod-metal started appearing. Part of what makes such a viewpoint necessary is that metal, despite being about killer riffs, is not about the riff. It’s about many riffs stitched together to make an experience so that when the killer riff comes out, it has a meaning in context that makes it heavy. No song is heavy from just one riff. It’s heavy because when you get to that super-heavy riff, everything else has set it up to resonate.
This in part explains the audience of metal. Mythology, historical significance and topics of philosophy do not inspire the honor students, who are busy working on their careers (and the obedience-profitability nexus that these entail), or the average student, who is busy in a world of his/her own pleasures and delights. They do however appeal to the outliers, the dreamers and dissidents, who might find class boring because they find society boring and purposeless, and instead turn toward fantasy and a bigger, more abstract realism to express themselves.13 Comments
Apparently Kirk Hammett’s Fear FestEvil went off without a hitch, bringing together metal fans and horror movie fans in a celebration of movie artifacts, horror movie personalities and metal bands saluting their favorite genre of film.
The festival featured performances by Exodus, Death Angel and Carcass, but also had as guests Kerry King (Slayer), Scott Ian (Anthrax/SOD), Doyle (Mistfits) and of course Hammett (Metallica) himself. In addition, you could meet movie legends like Boris Karloff’s wife and son, the man in the Godzilla suit Haruo Nakajima and a number of a directors and actresses from horror movies over the years.
The most interesting quote of the day however came from Hammett himself, who outlined the reasons for the relationship between metal and horror movies:
“There’s a lot of horror elements that have been used in heavy metal for a long time ago. I mean, Black Sabbath was named after a movie. And that was the amazing thing. I was a horror fan and then I became a music fan and then I discovered hard rock and heavy metal and I’d see all these little pieces of imagery or song titles or lyrics borrowed from horror films throughout all these heavy metal bands. They’re made up of the same ingredients. For me, a good horror movie is fun, dynamic, exciting to watch, peaks and valleys. A good heavy metal song, for me, is the same way — exciting to listen to, peaks and valleys, really fun and energetic.”
This leads to the broader question of the connection between metal and horror movies on an artistic level. While many writers have focused on the economic connections, shared fanbase, or similar aesthetic, few have analyzed the question as Hammett has by showing how the two gesture in artistically similar ways. But this resembles statements made by Black Sabbath about the invention of early metal:
One day I thought that it seemed strange that a lot of people spend so much money to see scary movies. Nobody really wanted to listen to us, so we decided to play slightly scary music. We liked it and, yeah, that’s how it all got started. That’s the story of Black Sabbath.
As many commentators have noted, Black Sabbath came out of the late 1960s when “flower power” was still in full flourish. The band wanted to inject a note of darker reality into the notion that one could simply peace out and all would be well. In the world that Black Sabbath introduced, darkness was preeminent but invisible, much like the threatening characters in horror movies who owing to their supernatural or psychotic states can never be pinned down and isolated.
Over the years, metal has cemented its relationship with horror films with lyrical and topical allusions aplenty. As various other cultural movements run themselves over cliffs like drunken parties touring the countryside, and yet metal (and horror films) endures, it might make sense to wonder if those who see the darkness were correct after all.2 Comments
We all know why we distrust public statements by musicians. To be popular in this world, you first must endorse the lifestyle that most people lead, and this usually means praising something from the “edgy” mainstream so everyone knows you’re controlled (and thus “safe”) just like the rest.
Ironic, isn’t it. A whole group of people wanting to be rebels, but unwilling to go past that line that no rebel dare cross and still have the support of the peanut gallery which is encouraging him to rebellion. Reminds me of why the James Dean character finally offed himself in Rebel Without a Cause.
But Ihsahn, formerly of arch-rebels Emperor, is now a safe rebel and he’s giving some interviews praising stuff that you’d expect, if you watched your TV attentively, that “edgy” characters might like. However, some of the subversive is still left in him, so he sneaked in a few goodies in a recent interview:
The dynamics and emotional impact of soundtracks have been great influences on me and much of the reason I wanted to implement orchestral sounds in my music. Jerry Goldsmith’s work with the Omen movies has been an absolute highlight and still is. Also, his use of non-orchestral sounds in this context is very interesting.
However, this isn’t the first mention of horror movies as an inspiration. Just this week, Warbeast’s Bruce Corbitt opined that most of his work was inspired by horror movies. Entombed used horror film riffs in their own work. Black Sabbath tooktheir name from a horror movie, and wrote music to emulate the scary sense of suspense in the dark films they enjoyed.
At what point do we acknowledge this pervasive musical influence, with its own debt to modernist classical, as perhaps the foundational influence on metal itself?3 Comments
Even though metalheads are still a discriminated-against group, with long hair for men, tattoos, loud music, mentions of Satan and chaos magick banned in many workplaces and government offices, the forces of metal are rising worldwide.
Wired reports on an intelligence-research prodigy in China who, after mastering difficult subjects in a fraction of the time it would require even another gifted person, takes the day off to see a “Satanic heavy metal concert.” Then returns to studying intelligence itself.
Over on the Wall Street Journal, Jon Wiederhorn reminds us that “Metal Music Can Be Good For You,” mentioning among other things that metal can “keep fans that have been scarred by trauma feeling alive and surrounded by family” and that “heavy metal has never faded into obscurity.”
All of this follows an article from a few years ago, “Gifted Students Beat The Blues With Heavy Metal”, which revealed how many who society would consider its best and brightest are turning to metal.
At DeathMetal.org, we don’t find this surprising. Metal is more brainy at the compositional level, meaning how the riffs fit together to develop themes, than rock music or even jazz, which tend to be cyclic. It tackles the big subjects that people would rather forget about, and thus attracts the smarter alienated teens who find the lack of order in life to be appalling.
But best of it, it delivers a punch to life. Like spice in food, combat, sky-diving or a new idea, metal brings out the terrifying and empowering all at once, making us view life with new eyes. That could be the healthiest of all.8 Comments
Researchers at UC Berkeley have been doing research into how sound is linked to visual perception, and they are ready to present their initial findings. According to the study, there is quantifiable evidence that correlations between the type of composition and specific colors exist.
Researchers asked participants to pair works with a 37 option palette and found that: “…people tend to pair faster-paced music in a major key with lighter, more vivid, yellow colors, whereas slower-paced music in a minor key is more likely to be teamed up with darker, grayer, bluer colors.”
The team repeated the experiment by asking participants to match tracks with facial expressions, with similar results: “Upbeat music in major keys was consistently paired with happy-looking faces while subdued music in minor keys was paired with sad-looking faces. Similarly, happy faces were paired with yellow and other bright colors and angry faces with dark red hues.”
They found that dissimilar people reacted similar ways, implying that there is a commonality to the way humans perceive sound: “The results were remarkably strong and consistent across individuals and cultures and clearly pointed to the powerful role that emotions play in how the human brain maps from hearing music to seeing colors.”
What does this mean? Beyond confirming what composers have known for years, it provides a scientific framework for investigating how people perceive sound and relate it to other senses. Of particular interest to this author is investigating how these findings can provide information on mysterious phenomena such as perfect pitch or synesthesia.
Perfect pitch is the ability of recognizing any tone by reflex and it has often been linked with color perception – the octave system, much like the visual spectrum is divided into unique tones that repeat infinitely in the same pattern. Conventional wisdom throughout the years has held that it’s purely a genetic condition, however, composers such as Zoltán Kodály maintained that the ability could be learned, given enough training.
Synesthesia is the condition where stimulation of one sense triggers a reaction in anther sense – such as seeing colors morph and shape according to what tones ones is hearing. As this research becomes more exacting, creating models of this will be ever more feasible and could one day result in a new type of artistic experience – one in which all senses are activated simultaneously by an artistic work.
That’s a long way off though; and for now, much more research needs to be done and the team will start by focusing on seeing if the same results occur in foreign countries with different styles of music: “…Palmer and his research team plan to study participants in Turkey where traditional music employs a wider range of scales than just major and minor. ‘We know that in Mexico and the U.S. the responses are very similar,’ he said. ‘But we don’t yet know about China or Turkey.'”7 Comments
The University of Montreal in Quebec presented a conference on the cultural, aesthetic and historical hybridizations between video games on heavy metal. The presentations, occurring on March 15th, are available via video at the bottom of this post.
Although the conference was presented in French, the video is fully captioned in English. Professors Dominic Arsenault and Louis-Martin Guay presented their research as the cornerstone of the conference, covering the origins of their interest in the topic and some of its history.
That history moves us through the arcade era from pinball machines to stand-alone video games, then takes us through the home gaming revolution with 8-bit machines, and finally to 16-bit gaming and now modern game as technology evolved and became cheaper. It compares the music, imagery and traditions of both metal and video game cultures.
At the peak of this is Professor Arsenault’s attempt to meld metal and classic gaming, covering “experimentations in transfictionality, sound design and concept for 8-bit metal that’s not just metal covers, 8-bit covers, game-themed metal or chiptunes.” Arsenault, who believes metal and video games are a natural fit, has presented related research at other conferences to great success.
Our two cents here is that metal and video games arose almost in parallel and both emphasized the solitary youth whose parents, fractured by divorce and social chaos, withdrew in an age of nuclear terror. As a result, both genres tend to focus on conceptual settings that emphasize both escapism, and a tackling in this new escapist context of ideas that threaten the solitary adventurer in real life. By placing those threatening ideas in an otherworldly context, they can be addressed as removed from their painful (and boring) day-to-day reality.13 Comments
In the mainstream press, black metal has a reputation for being solely misanthropic, heavily distorted anthems of aggression and despair that are defined by their primitive minimalism.
While this may hold true for the majority of contemporary bands, this view overlooks the foundational bands of the genre, who possessed a deft sense of melody and the focus to create longer compositions that allowed for more introspection.
Just as black metal musicians created a more minimalistic form of death metal, some were able to apply the same approach to the ambient and neoclassical genres, crafting tracks that through the use of repetition, stirring melodies, and tonal variation reveal the genre’s primal elegance without need of layers of distortion.
Given the news that Neptune Towers is being released on vinyl and Burzum is releasing an album comprised entirely of electronic music, now seems a fitting time to investigate this interesting subgenre and how it arose from black metal in several instances.
Favoring simple but expansive compositions, contemplative melodies soar over mild arpeggios; in addition to a few tracks of industrial nihilistic deconstruction. Through the utilization of modern technology, Burzum makes narrative and meditative music that like its inspiration Tolkien, takes the participant on an internal journey to another realm.
A side project of Darkthrone‘s Fenriz, in Neptune Towers haunting melodies glide over dark drones while otherworldly noises color the backdrop. Evocative tracks signal the coming to Earth of a yet-unknown alien species or perhaps the future evolution of humanity, the soundtrack to the future.
This band fuses its earlier black metal style with the industrial, pop, and ambient genres, featuring melodies that would not be out of place on a metal album, but pairs them with repetitive trance-like drums, synths, and found sounds that coalesce into epic moments before fading away like the rays of a burned out sun. Fans of multiple genres should appreciate this one.
Elegant and skillfully composed tracks celebrating the beauty of nature in their simplicity reveal a greater depth of expression than would be possible with over-produced tracks. Just as he did with black metal, Ildjarn with compatriot Nidhogg reduces neoclassical music to its most basic form and builds from it an enchanting structure.
A side project of Graveland, with Lord Wind martial drumming and heroic melodies bring to mind the battles of old, while synths and choruses expand the project’s horizons, providing reach to contrast with the grounded and earthy rhythms. Well-crafted neoclassic folk music, this is the further continuation of Graveland‘s second stage.