Defining Indie “Metal”

As many movies from the 80s and 90s will tell you (e.g. SLC Punk and PCU), youth counter cultural movements of those decades were once various fragmented groups or “tribes” baring their own identity while all opposing the mainstream Whitney Houston and boy bands on the radio. You had your goths, new wavers, punk rockers, emos, ect. at war with the “jocks and cheerleaders” collective of popular kids and, in some cases, at war with each other. But in the years to follow, the deadly combination of multiculturalism and micro culture has effectively ended this conflict as there was no longer a singular popular culture and therefore no “them” in the classic “us vs. them” dynamic. Therefore, these varying counter cultural factions were unified into one ugly all encompassing monstrosity: the hipster.

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Indie Blog Laments as Maryland Deathfest is Mainstreamed

The hilarious leftist parody of metal will be celebrated in force this weekend as Maryland Deathfest completes its transformation into Coachilla-lite. While it’s been painfully obvious that all festival culture has gone fully mainstream as futureless millennials continue to spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need there are still many in the hipster sphere that can’t grasp the loss of counter culture to the mainstream. Maryland Deathfest continues this trend with praise from mainstream propaganda editorial Newsweek and lamentations from liberal snowflake blog Invisible Oranges occurring in the same week.

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#Metalgate: Vice Backed Indie Bands Drop Out of Pentagram Tour as Publicity Stunt

bobby liebling

Two indie female-fronted bands (Wax Idols and King Woman) have dropped off pseudo-metal, psychedelic rock band Pentagram’s ongoing tour, breaking their separate agreements with promoters. The women in both bands were surprised when ex-junkie Pentagram frontman Bobby Liebling hit on them. The news of this passive-aggressive move being broken by Vice, both indie bands being backed by Vice, and subsequently embarking on a Vice-funded tour reeks of self-aggrandizing unprofessionalism.

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Hipster champions insincerity, reveals nature of indie-metal

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Self-preening egomaniac solipsist hipster Brent Hinds, who plays with indie-metal (heavy alternative rock) band Mastodon, accidentally revealed the nature of indie-metal as indie rockers who enjoy metal ironically making imitations of better bands. Speaking between bites of arugula and sprouted garlic sandwich on quinoa bread, Hinds opined:

“I never really liked heavy metal in the first place. I came from Alabama playing country music, surf rock, rockabilly, and stuff like that.

“I just went through a phase in my 20s where I thought it was rebellious to play heavy metal. And then I met Brann [Dailor, drummer] and Bill [Kelliher, guitarist], and they were really, really, really into heavy metal.

“And ever since then, I’ve been trying to get Mastodon to not be such a heavy metal band, because I f–king hate heavy metal, and I don’t want to be in a heavy metal band.”

Playing metal to be rebellious is a hipster gig because it is entirely surface with no deeper connection to the music than to use it, as hipsters use all things, to signal your emotions to a world that could not care less. Metal musicians play metal because they love it, but giggin’ hipsters play it ironically to be rebellious and shocking. Hinds finally admitted his own insincerity, but with him he brings down a genre.

Indie-metal arose from the “alternative metal” of the 1990s which took metal riffs and put them in rock songs using the aesthetics of grunge and alternative rock. Although the result was an artistic disaster, it was more palatable than the hip-hop/rock hybrids and other pop experiments of the era, and so caught on. Unfortunately these bands are not metal, only metal-influenced, and so they bring in all of the dysfunctional mid-therapeutic behavior for which indie bands are notorious. The result has been adulterated quasi-metal like Deafheaven, Mastodon, Isis, Pallbearer, Babymetal, Pelican and Vattnet Viskar which has attracted a new audience of underconfident, neurotic and conformist fans while driving away the audience metal built up from the 80s-90s.

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Is nu/alt/indie metal at the same level of quality as old school underground death metal?

A reader writes:

Do you think the new underground waves bands like Cryptopsy are good like the old school bands. Or do you think that death metal is the only good option?

The new school metal has not, so far, come close to what the older death metal was able to do.

I don’t think this is stylistic, so much that people are thinking about different things. When you think about things like death metal, the big topics in life like death and justice and war, you are able to make death metal (complex thoughts). When you think about yourself, who are you gonna party with and what your parents are doing that you don’t like, you end up with nu-metal, metalcore, indie metal and other new-wave underground metal band types.

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Nu/Alt/Indie metal honors its origins in late 1980s Dischord bands, Fugazi included

strangelight-9_daysStrangelight, a new nu/alt-metal/indiemetal/metalcore/drone band comprised of members of Made Out Of Babies, Thursday, Red Sparowes, Pigs, United Nations, Goes Cube, Mussels and Kiss It Goodbye, will release its debut EP 9 Days on October 1, 2013 on Brooklyn hipster label Sacrament Music.

Written and recorded at vocalist Brendan Tobin’s own Ice Cream Audio in Brooklyn, New York in just nine days (hence the title), 9 Days aims to be a low-pretense version of the music presently in vogue in the hybrid metal/indie scene.

While their past and current bands share little in common, Strangelight — comprised of Tobin, Cooper, Kenneth Appel, John Niccoli and Geoff Rickly — focuses on the modern indie/metal hybrid ideal of jarring music that is also melancholic and self-indulgent.

But here’s where it gets interesting. The press release reveals the roots of indie/metal:

Drawing heavily upon DC visionaries, Amphetamine Reptile destroyers and Touch & Go noisemakers and named in honor of a track off Fugazi’s last record, The Argument, STRANGELIGHT offers up all the signature makings of an early ’90s Dischord band

DeathMetal.org has consistently offered up the idea that post-Minor Threat band Fugazi, along with Rites of Spring and Jawbreaker, provided the post-punk basis to all modern metalcore, drone, nu-metal, alt-metal, indie metal and tek-deth.

It’s good to see that a band such as Strangelight, which contains influences from foundations of the nu-indie-metal scene such as Red Sparowes, Pigs, United Nations, Goes Cube, Mussels and Kiss It Goodbye, in addition to more recent offerings Out Of Babies and Thursday, acknowledges this fundamental influence.

9 Days Track Listing:

  1. Split And Divide
  2. Mosh Party
  3. High Five Hailstorm
  4. Tiers Of Joy
  5. Xmas
  6. White Feather

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajrCZJgwoh4

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Big media behind Indie Metal takeover

Insightful commentary on those “Best of Metal 2011” lists:

I’ve begun to realize that most of the lists currently being published are also exercises in varying, and scalable degrees of exclusionism. I say this because in the past two years major non-metal/indie oriented media outlets have taken it upon themselves to declare to their reading audiences what is the Best Metal of the Year. I’m referring to websites such as NPR, Pitchfork Media, Spin, PopMatters, Stereogum, Noisecreep, Frontier Psychiatrist, etc…There are countless other minor non-metal oriented blogs and sites that have their own list up as well, and they all pretty much loosely mirror one of the examples posted above.

This is a curiously new phenomenon: ten, seven, even six or five years ago you wouldn’t find non-metal/indie media daring to touch the very idea of the “best metal” released in those years. The cynic in me wants to ask, “Did the hipsters get tired of all the garage-rock bands ironically limping around Brooklyn?” That is mean spirited I know, but part of me does wonder, how long will this new found interest last? First let me offer this: I am not attempting to argue that these sites have no business publishing best of metal year end lists, nor am I attempting to critically analyze their selections. Each of the writers of these lists have their own tastes, preferences, and the right to promote them…but after mulling these lists over for a few weeks and listening to most of the albums on them, one thing has become very clear to me: The most popular of these lists are created by a handful of very prolific writers/bloggers, and the rest stem from the templates laid out by said writers. In particular, the highly read and discussed lists from NPR’s Lars Gotrich and Pitchfork/Stereogum’s Brandon Stosuy are parroted throughout the blogosphere. In deserving respect to these two writers, they both offer their opinions with interesting takes and lucid arguments. I enjoy reading their stuff, and dislike having to single them out — however due to their popularity, I feel they are liable to be held to a higher standard.

Without delving too deeply into Gotrich and Stosuy’s lists, the most obviously striking things about them both is that they tend to lean heavily on the new crop of post-black metal bands. There are occasional death metal albums sprinkled throughout, the odd doom record, and a good bit of math-metal (I hate that label but its what everyone uses). Okay fine, I actually like a few of their selections as well, but here’s a question: Aren’t we missing something in terms of various other styles of metal? You’ll notice that traditional metal and power metal are noticeably absent from these lists. – The Metal Pigeon

That’s the point. These aren’t metal lists, they’re replacement metal. That is to say, indie metal is taking over with the support of Big Media.

Metal is undisciplined by commercial standards. It has a gauge of trueness of spirit. That makes it a hard product to sell. Rock music on the other hand is accepting, has no specific spirit other than ironic surliness and greed, and is universal and easy to make. The labels prefer to sell rock music.

As a result, they’ve invaded metal with the indie hipster crowd because indie-metal sells. It’s familiar like rock, but seen as “rebellious” like metal, so all the extremely ordinary people who work very hard to style themselves as extra-ordinary are in love with it.

It’s the perfect product.

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Why we call it “indie metal”

The DLA gets a lot of flack for referring to a broad range of genres — stoner doom, post-rock, post-metal, modern death metal, tech death, metalcore, deathcore, and shoegaze black metal — as “indie metal.”

What does “indie metal” mean? It means they’re indie rock that uses metal riffs. That’s it. Metal-flavored indie rock.

Metal is a unique style of composition, a unique outlook on the world, and a unique image/ideology. The composition is narrative, or stringing together phrasal riffs based on the power chord; the outlook on the world is an epic, historical, post-human view; the image/ideology is that of a yin-yang but with masculine creative overtones, meaning that we accept good as well as evil but use them as means to an end of ever-increasing intensity and consequent beauty to life.

(That paragraph will be too much for indie metal fans. They’ll start talking about how “badly written” it is because it’s not awash in adjectives and exciting oddball verbs like an NPR piece. This shows you the audience for indie metal: former farm workers’ kids and factory workers’ kids, moved to the city, now trying to show everyone how smart they are and how cultured they are, even if in their hearts they’re still just proles. They’re trying to be something they are not, instead of just being what they are, which is honest and acceptable. If you are the son of a factory worker, don’t pretend to be an intellectual. Be a better factory worker! If you want to know why our intellectuals these days are faux, it’s because they take prole-logic and prole-bias and then dress it up in academic terms they understand in a single context, but whose implications they cannot grasp. That’s why indie metal kids are always snotty: they’re trying to be better than you, so they can “feel like” they’re rising socially.)

What indie rock wants to do to metal is assimilate it, or convert it into metal-flavored indie rock, so that it is safe and predictable as rock music, but still keeps that authenticity of rebellion that metal has. People forget that rock music was designed as a perfect product: it repackaged the blues, itself a repackaging of Celtic folk country, into the simplest possible package and then started putting new flavors on it. But it’s basically the same song form that has existed for centuries: verse, chorus (x3) + bridge + verse, chorus. Indie rock was a punk-flavored DIY imitation of this that incorporated a lot of the best aspects of hippie rock; the archetype of indie rock is early REM, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, etc. It’s closer to The Beatles than it is to Slayer.

Consider this piece:

Gojira – “Where Dragons Dwell”

The song starts with a relatively plodding introduction. This violates the standard rock form, we think at first, but then we realize it’s just an add-on that serves no further compositional purpose in the song. Then we launch into the meat of the song, which is a plodding verse/chorus which intensifies itself with half-sung/half-chanted vocals, but these are still over the same riff with a few aesthetic modifications. Then the song bridges, and ends. It has a verse/chorus riff pair with a few modifications and an introduction, but other than that, it’s straight off the wall indie rock. They even use the same chord voicings in the way old emo bands (Fugazi, and pop-punk-prog like Jawbreaker) used, fanning the dissonant chords. They even use guitar in the same way rock bands do, which is as a rhythm instrument emphasizing repetition of a single note/chord; where metal guitars move a chord shape through a melody or phrase, rock music tries to come to this stop point and repeat the chord on a fixed but offbeat rhythm, so it can emphasize the vocals and not confuse the very simple song format.

Verdict: this song is metal-flavored indie rock.

This is why we call it “indie metal”: it’s not really metal, it’s just indie rock with metal flavoring. Some have tried using similar ideas in metal without losing the metal-ness. Beherit’s Engram widens the metal song form without losing its structure that adapts to both riff and mood. Krieg’s The Isolationist wraps old style Krieg into the kind of song editing we saw on the live album, but uses technique (including aforementioned chord fanning) from post-rock/post-metal. They’re trying to keep their metalness without dropping into rockness, but increasingly we’re seeing how these techniques are incompatible because they’re heading in different directions. Metal wants epic landscapes of phrase; rock wants a convenient beat and a clear chord to build vocal harmony upon. These are directions as opposite as liberal and conservative, spend and save, object-oriented and procedural, vegan and carnivore.

DEATH TO INDIE METAL

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Metal Arsenal: Choice Software for Metal Warfare

Once upon a time, musicians needed to have a fat budget for a decent studio recording (and therefore, a record label to front the bill on the onset).  But even with one, many extreme metal recordings in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s still sounded like complete ass.  Even insanely popular death metal bands like Cryptopsy, who have sold over half a million records, have had albums with production so shitty that I can’t hear most of the riffs.  Aside from a few innovators, most audio engineers (back when it was possible to make a career out of it), simply did not know how to record and produce metal.

However the industry has changed mightily over the last 15 years or so, and in today’s music world the phrase “everybody’s an engineer” is deeply rooted in truth.  Whereas high end recording software was once closely guarded and outrageously priced, the freedom of file sharing as put many high end tools in the hands of the public at no cost and without the need for professional training to use.  No longer do you have to shell out $10,000 for an album that sounds like it was recorded in the prior decade, nor do you need take out a ludicrous college loan for audio engineering school. Instead, all you need to do is make a few quick downloads to successfully arm yourself for a quality recording (assuming, of course, you have done your homework in practicing your instruments and listening).

This change in landscape greatly benefits the type of music personalities we saw in Darkthrone, Burzum, and Graveland- top-tier musicians more concerned with their art and ideology than pandering to a room of idiots via live performances (yes, I know Graveland and Darkthrone both played live: it was only at microfractions of their careers).  And given that lefties are regulating and policing which bands are allowed to play live shows, there’s all the more reason for defiant metal musicians and bands to forgo live performances and focus their energies on quality studio recordings.  With narcissism, attention seeking, and fan expectations removed, the opportunity for quality recordings to flourish is undoubtedly more abundant.

It is an honor and privilege to present to you, the readers of this infamous site, the favorite battle-tested software and tools from a road-tested veteran who began a career in metal when freeware first became widespread some 15 years ago:

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/smr/ Sadistic Metal Reviews: Post Black Eulogy (Part 1)

[Join DMU editor Brock Dorsey on the first of a two part massacre of the soy metal sub genre that has bastaradized black metal beyond the belief!  Also, this image is an actual cover from an actual post black metal album- you can’t make this stuff up!]

Post black metal was an embarrassing sub genre of soy metal.  Built upon a foundation of either screamo, pop punk, metalcore, math rock, shoegaze, or avant-garde and fused with the most minimal touches of black metal, post black metal was a flavor of the week(/weak) trend that lasted from around 2009 to 2014.  The genre name is misleading, however, as most bands only claimed to be metal and incorporated only slight touches of metal characteristics before abandoning them completely in future releases.  As indicated by its core standard bearers being dropped by labels, performing terribly in sales and Facebook likes, and being forgotten by fans, post black metal has finally passed away.  As we lay it to rest with one final cremation in the SMR fashion, let us learn from its failings as the future looks to more traditional forms of heavy metal  to restore a once proud genre.

First, we must understand metal history to understand how such an abomination could happen, as Post-black metal followed a number of flavor of the week black metal trends and bands.  The first of these, symphonic black metal, sent many fans of the original (true) black metal genre into a frenzy with their incorporation of gothic influences.  What was to come would be much worse, however, as the soy metal bands marketed as black metal would prove to be far more embarrassing than the Victorian campiness of Cradle of Filth or the industrial meddling of …And Oceans.  The next flavor of the week black metal trend was cleverly concealed in a cloak of static, but the hipsterisms of “depressive black metal” would soon be known to the world.  Time was not kind to the legacy of Xasthur and Leviathan, both of whom are now widely panned against the metal community, as where the thousands of “bedroom black metal” clones who polluted Myspace.  With many short lived flavor of the week trends (such as “Norsecore” and “Cascadian black metal”) and bands (Kult ov Azazel, Inquisition) in between, the soy metal- black metal hybird that was post black metal was the next successful marketing scheme to deceive young and retarded metal fans alike.

Performed mostly by wealthy but useless trust fund kinds from liberal cities, post black metal was to metal as emo was to rock music: feminine, tame, and a complete and utter bastardazation.  Thus, post metal was eventually abandoned by its former fans, spat on by the metal community, dropped by metal/rock record labels, and remembered poorly by music lovers.  Much like how the rent some of its musicians was eventually cut off from their parent’s bank roll, post metal was eventually told to stop leaching off the metal community so that the genre may maintain a shred of dignity.

Brace yourselves for an infernal evisceration unlike aynthing you’ve ever seen before, because in this edition of SMR, we won’t just be sadistically reviewing albums…

 

 

we’ll be sadistically reviewing careers.

 

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