Before lapsing into embryonic death ’n’ roll on their second LP False (1992), Gorefest were among the earliest Dutch proponents of solid bread-and-butter death metal with a sense of melodic contour joining the many rhythm riffs into coherent songs which reach a point of focus in their cycles, forcing re-interpretation of its parts. The early style more or less complete on their demo recordings was brought to a fuller and more refined form on the 1991 debut album Mindloss.
Social justice warrior hotbed Reddit banned the anti-child abuse Pizzagate sub-reddit this week. Reddit’s rape-faced CEO Steve Huffman, who posts under the screen name “spez”, was later caught altering posts critical of or mocking him. Reddit administrators have been silently editing posts, banning users, and shutting down sub-reddits for years for refusing to conform to the multicultural failure of the neoliberal social narrative and fellate the delusions of diversity and mediocrity.
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.
This promotional contribution from the Social Justice Warrior-ridden Baltimore metal scene is terrible; it sounds like Pig Destroyer meets Christian metalcore. The anonymous local supplier bravely contributed a shocking report of a recent Bestial Evil show in Baltimore.
Article by David Rosales
While a hessian might rightful sneer at the mainstream idea of metal music being the result of unsatisfied teenagers, Ragnar Bragason has created in Málmhaus (Metalhead) an accurate depiction of the sad reality faced by many first-world kids that are emotionally neglected by their parents. It seems that there are two main elements needed to be present for an alienated teenager to turn to metal as a refuge under these conditions. The first is that metal music be available in his range of perception in one way or other. Secondly, and more often than not, the minds that are most receptive to this art of dark tones lean towards a romantic disposition1.
After portraying the death of main protagonist Hera’s older brother, Bragason proceeds to tell us how the girl takes refuge in adopting his image and diving head-first into his metal persona. As she grows into a young adult, Hera becomes increasingly conflictive, to the point that she goes out of her way to create trouble for its own sake. Most of the movie at this point is a big tantrum with a few scenes in which the main character is writing and recording some angsty rock with harsh vocals. Basically, for Bragason extreme underground metal is virtually indistinguishable from emo rock at its core and motivating sentiment.
Aside from these outsider misconceptions, Málmhaus is a pleasant movie to watch with patient pacing that does not drag, convincing acting and a desolate feeling that only Nordic (and perhaps Slavic) settings really produce and which is more than suitable as backdrop for a metal scenery. Furthermore, and unfortunately for the metal movement, this picture of the pseudo-metal emo-poser is not at odds with the reality of many would be musicians in the medium. In this respect, the movie is objectively deserving.
II. Against the Vulgarization of the Metal Ideal
You may be wondering what beef I would have with this idea if the movie is in fact revealing a truthful picture of the scene. The answer is that metal art that most accurately and authentically reflects transcendental metal ideals are those produced by strong minds with a realist mentality. The emo posers in question usually produce music that is a thin veneer of emotionally outspoken yet ultimately safe and empty hogwash. From the outside, the product of the poser mind is similar to that of the authentic metal artist, because the imitator will always try to look like their idols on the exterior, but without becoming a threat to the society it claims to oppose. A true metal artist, however, represents a threat.
True metal is not an agent of social change. It is a rejection of social norms. True metal is not protest music that seeks to “create conscience”. It is the proud sneering of nihilists who see above and beyond the trappings of human convention. However, metal does not seek to destroy traditions but rather to exalt their realist underpinnings. It is not about destroying what is, because metal is realism, but rather about getting rid of the meta-reality created by humans who need an illusion to feel safe. Safe from uncertainty, safe from evil, safe from death.
Those making deconstructionist garbage music with the excuse of “destroying conventions” miss the point altogether. Yes, metal has evolved through innovation, but in a natural away in which the newly created sound is a construction and a depuration, not a musical negation, which by definition cannot be about anything because it attempts to be about something that is not, a mere abstract and near all-encompassing generalization that can never attain a definite form. This is why metal today needs to stop trying to be new and different. This is why it also needs to stop being a mere superficial rehashing of past formulas.
To reject musical convention or imitate it has never been the point. Black Sabbath gave birth to new music as it painted a stark picture that opposed flower power through its own being, but they were not defined by the latter’s non-being. New musicians need to start creating tradition, instead of attempting to dissolve it or trying to be what something else is not. Moreover, metal today needs to continue classic metal tradition if it is to be metal at all. Rejecting said tradition would essentially imply not being metal.
Death and black metal were jewels of their own time, as movements they were one of a kind and today they are, for all intents and purposes, dead, as the conditions that created and propelled them are not present today2. This does not mean that a new generation metalheads cannot be inspired and learn from it, in fact, they should. But this is the same as being inspired by Mozart or Wagner: it never calls for a copy-paste application of their surface traits.
One could describe the climaxing trilogy of Burzum3 as a concoction of Tolkien-filtered Destruction and Dead Can Dance4. But we may clearly observe that Vikernes never sought to suppress these influences nor did he try to simply make updated versions of them; he created something completely new with ideas produced from his own digestion. Part of the beauty of Burzum is how self-contained it is despite its borrowings in technique and method. Vikernes’ successfully-achieved objective in Burzum was the mystical recreation of the experience of reaching out to the ancestral knowledge ingrained genetically within the unconscious.
Immolation may serve as a different kind of example as they come from a background in early U.S. death metal from the north-east. Some say that Immolation is deconstructionist, but this is based on superficial impressions of the music, which is mistakenly considered atonal by laymen (most metalheads) who have never even heard truly atonal music. Immolation’s music is modal, but heavily emphasizes dissonant intervals as well as diminished and augmented arpeggios. In the long haul, Immolation’s approach is pretty much standard and proper death metal5 with a very unique approach to melody and an exertion of crucial control in the rhythm section.
III. The “Understood” (Assimilated) Metalhead, the Eviscerated Soul
Towards the end of Málmhaus, Hera goes through a period of introspection and redefinition after which she is understood not only by her parents but also by her whole community. She even participates in the rebuilding the church that she burned down earlier in the movie. She is no longer a threat. She even plays an alternative rock version of her “black metal” demo for the people in her little town. The wolf has been turned into the whimpering dog.
One of the main problems faced by metal today is that it no longer boasts of the outsider status enjoyed by its predecessors. A condition that lent them a unique perspective is utterly missing from most of today’s circles. Today’s apparently most rebellious metalheads are best compared to gimmicky Marilyn Manson; those that express genuine anti-establishment ideas are ostracized by their own “fellow metalheads”. There is no extremism in extreme metal today.
Today’s metalheads conflate cowardice and sheepish compliance with maturity, while they indulge in childish vices as expressions of their “freedom”. Somewhere along the road, man-made law and society’s comforts became the reality of these assimilated metalheads, and their “rebellion” is today only an echo of leftist humanism while they support a hypocritical system that fights bigotry with bigotry while denying it. They are completely locked inside the fence–inside the cave, convinced that the shadows on the wall are real, and that Plato is talking nonsense. Only the shadows are objective, they say, the shadows we can see and measure, the “sun” that is “outside” is only an idea.
Those who wisely choose to isolate themselves from the distractions of the modern world, the banal entertainment and the “metal scene”‘s circle jerk are mockingly tagged as “kvlt” or “trve”. This in itself is a terrible sign that metal has been assimilated into a safe space that forces it to be politically correct in the worst cases and representing tongue-in-cheek darkness in the best of cases 6. Monastic devotion is ridiculed as strange fanaticism, while mediocre and inline thinking coupled with a superficial extroversion is expected. Metalheads are “normal” now. They have grown up into their accepted slavery.
The truth is that this is what lies at the root of modern metal’s sterility – its inability to produce a new tradition because its own values have been supplanted by those of an assimilated portion of the mainstream. That those creating meaningful metal are only a handful of exceptions in a time when there has never before been a larger number of self-identifying metalheads indicates that the movement is at a loss. There was promise in the idea of war metal, but with the exception of black metal – flavoured acts like Kaeck, it is largely a dead medium. Cóndor is virtually sui generis, and the likes of Graveland and Summoning are the sole survivors and curators of a dead tradition way past its heyday.
I hope you’ll excuse me for bringing Vikernes back into the conversation, but it seems to me that his movement away from metal aesthetics during the mid 1990s was only the escape of a clever sailor from a fast-sinking ship. Although we should not mix politics with the judgement of music quality, the observation that deliberate ideologies (or lack thereof, supposedly) directly affect the kind and quality of music that is produced is pretty obvious to anyone watching intently. It is therefore only honorable that Vikernes should wholly embrace the ambient aspect of his music, the side that has remained truly underground to this day.
Once black metal becomes the cash cow of sell-out clowns like Abbath or Ihsahn, it no longer represents, in the eyes of the world-perception, what Burzum was about. There is no boundlessness. There is no escape from the idiocy of modern society in black metal anymore. It is only a show, it is not dangerous because it is not real, actually, it is fun. It is obvious that there is no other option but to move away from the symbol that has become a sign for ridiculousness and poserism. A symbol is only as good as what it transmits, and an artist cannot be excluded from context as the dreamers within the ivory towers of academia think (and contradict by trying to insert politically-correct statements in their garbage modernist compositions which hold no meaning in themselves).
The solution to metal’s plight is that circles of metalheads arise who can truly think outside the constraints and mandates of what is considered “good” or “proper” by the status quo. How they achieve that is less important to metal itself than that they actually accomplish it. This is not rebelliousness for its own sake, though it could be mistaken for it, but the idea that nobody else should in control of your mind and thoughts, and that the only truth lies in our mortality, and in man’s natural multiplicity of mind which makes his reality material and psychic at once without either being more important than the other7.
It is important that metal stands outside any such constraints to be what it is, otherwise it is like a caged predator: it ceases to be one as soon as it is shackled. Furthermore, metal loses its edge if it is not under pressure, because that is its whole purpose, it is a counter culture. Without nothing to counter, it simply loses its essential raison d’être. Therefore, this is not a call to the comformist to accept extremism, to understand those few who actually step outside the bounds of what is permitted. This is an encouragement to those who would attain higher understanding and see metal come alive again to become extremist in thought themselves, because in a sick and decadent world, it is those who are healthy of mind who are willing to act insanely.
1 Anyone who is new to this idea might need some clarification here. By romantic we do not mean someone who is the perfect womanizer, but more of a neo-dark romanticist, a revivalist of 19th century romanticism with a Nietzschean twist. People in our society who are commonly referred to as such are usually not so much romantics as whiny weaklings who cannot face up to reality. Metalheads do not avoid reality, they reject the images created by the delusions of modern man, who conveniently assumes their truthfulness: his own refusal to accept life in its full-fledged manifestation and the place of MAN within it.
2 It is my contention that the capacity for almost complete isolation experienced by young musicians during the late eightees and early nineties is made void today by the effects of the Internet and inescapable (for those living in urban and suburban areas) fast-paced life.
3 Namely Det Som Engang Var, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem
4 The reader may refer to Destruction’s Infernal Overkill from 1985 and Dead Can Dance’s Within the Realm of a Dying Sun from 1987.
5 Both Immolation’s Close to a World Below and Obscura by Gorguts are outstanding examples of this. Also, seemingly unbeknownst to the masses, well-developed death metal falls into the category of properly progressive music, while so-called “progressive death metal” (a redundant term) outfits are surface-oriented bands that produce disparaged songs as a result of poor musical judgement. A painful example of this would be The Sound of Perseverance, Death’s final album and an awkward affair that would make anyone with ears for proper music cringe in empathic embarrassment.
6 There was tongue-in-cheekness in the past, even during the golden years, but you can trace a distinction between these clowns and the best bands who used imagery to drive points home in a non-ironic way. Sincere nihilism and non-pretentious occultism stared right out of the classic albums, while today, these concepts are flat images worn on the outside only, as musicians try to cash in on people’s expectations.
7 The young science of psychology approaches these conclusions even as its mainstream-dictated values orders it to not make these findings, to try to make void the importance of the unconscious and subjective perception and will.
As long as there are human societies, people will attempt to control the information that goes out to the group. People can be easily manipulated, especially in groups, and that creates both a fear of unnecessarily incendiary material on the positive side, or subversion of the dominant paradigm and narrative on the dark side.
Here’s what happened this week with censorship and the response to it.
- Angela Merkel wants Facebook to censor dissent on immigration.
Former East German politician Angela Merkel, now the putative head of the European Union, has made the statement that Facebook should censor racial commentary including speech against the recent immigration surge into Europe:
Politicians and celebrities have voiced concern about a rise of xenophobic comments in German on Facebook and other social media platforms because of the refugee crisis.
“When people stir up sedition on social networks using their real name, it’s not only the state that has to act, but also Facebook as a company should do something against these paroles,” Merkel told regional newspaper Rheinische Post.
The problem with this of course is that it includes both the rude and cruel speech of those who fling racial slurs, and those who merely mention the issue and possibly critique it. Merkel did not say “ban racial slurs”; she argues for the banning of “racial commentary,” which in theory could include this post. She reveals her East German roots with this one.
- Reddit censor Ellen Pao fails to appeal failed gender discrimination suit.
Former Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao, who tried to implement the banning of controversial content by topic and not texture (such as slurs) on Reddit and was partially successful, was working at Reddit after being fired from a law firm which she was suing on the grounds of gender discrimination. They said she under-performed; she said they discriminated against her. Most suits of this type get settled to avoid publicity, which means that many people get a payout for simply bringing the suit. The firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, fought back instead and won. Pao appealed and was widely hailed as a hero by SJW journalists, even as she was acting on Reddit to shut down any speech on certain topics, even if factual, logical and polite.
Ellen Pao is dropping her appeal of the gender discrimination suit she lost against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Pao sued KPCB in 2012, claiming that women were not given fair consideration in the male-dominated workplace. She also said that a male colleague with whom she had an affair unfairly cut her out of e-mail correspondence and upper management did nothing about it. She was fired soon after filing her suit. After a bruising month-long trial in which her personal character and work performance were repeatedly brought into question, a jury of six men and six woman ruled that there was no evidence of gender discrimination.
The failure of her appeal means that Pao is out for the legal costs of her initial suit. This shows a court (and jury) spanking down such spurious suits by not only denying her victory, but also forcing her to bear some of the cost of making the accusation. This perhaps reveals the amount of damage such unnecessary profiteering has cost firms.
- Cartoon exhibit fights back against censorship and terror
Pittsburgh City Paper reports that a cartoon exhibit is fighting back against censorship and threats to speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Jyllands-Posten cartoon fatwa, and a shooting at a “Draw Mohammed” cartoon contest in Texas which seems to have been designed to provoke Muslim fundamentalists. The exhibit touches on many issues related to free speech and free expression:
Slinging Satire: Political Cartoons and the First Amendment, curated by Rob Rogers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist and ToonSeum board president, courageously takes on civil rights, racial inequality, terrorism and the impact of art on politics.
The provocative exhibit features digital prints donated by 20 renowned artists from newspapers and online publications across the country, including the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe.
The most striking part of the exhibit is “Je Suis Charlie,” a tribute to those fallen in the Al Qaeda attack at French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo this past January.
It is unlikely that this event will be popular among the extremist set but it aims to re-establish certain liberties taken by writers and artists in the past that are currently threatened by censorship or violence from many sides.
- Gentleman’s barbershop fined for not cutting woman’s hair.
In a desire to provoke denial and create a sense of personal injury, a woman entered a barbershop which advertises itself as specializing in the cutting of men’s hair, was as expected refused service, and has now invoked Government to force us all to be nice precious snowflakes who get along with each other. Never mind that barbershops for men have existed for centuries much like their female counterpart. The state imposed its demands with an investigation:
Now, the business is at the center of a heated debate after owner John Interval was fined $750 for refusing to cut a woman’s hair.
She filed an action with the state’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.
That agency imposed the fine for gender discrimination after a state investigator visited the business and interviewed Interval.
This continues a habit in American and European law of forcing people to serve every other conceivable customer, even if illogical, and limits both their speech and free expression in how they run their businesses. While this is being argued as a victory for freedom, in fact it deprives people of freedom to operate a business for a specific clientele.
- Charlie Hebdo could be sued after mocking refugee death.
No stranger to controversy, and recovering after the slaughter of most of its upper staff by extremists, French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo faces a new foe: government. According to its detractors, the magazine has crossed the line into full-on racism, which is illegal in France despite being a matter of free speech:
But barrister Peter Herbert, Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers and former vice chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, was among many who said Charlie Hebdo had overstepped the mark.
Mr Herbert alleged on Twitter that the magazine was a “racist, xenophobic and ideologically bankrupt publication that represents the moral decay of France”.
He added: ‘The Society of Black Lawyers will consider reporting this as incitement to hate crime & persecution before the International Criminal Court.’
This will have chilling effects for speech as the definition of racism expands at the convenience of government and media. It seems ludicrous on its face to assume that criticism of someone who is of another race must naturally be racist, instead of assuming that they are being treated just like anyone else, since Charlie Hebdo somewhat ineptly mocks everything and anything.
- SJWs attack RPG-style games, causing companies to adopt censorship policies.
RPGs are for hardcore nerds who love Dungeons & Dragons and related games. SJWs however insist that everyone obeys their maniacal doctrine… even when those people are already obeying it. A game called Tournament of Rapists aroused SJW ire, but apparently no one read anything about it, because in the game players battle these rapists, SJW-style. SJWs could not be bothered to do the research and attacked, causing at least one company to adopt an official censorship policy:
Steve Wieck, CEO of DriveThruRPG, issued his final response to the controversy on Tuesday. In a long blog post, they explained that they had come to an agreement with the publishers of Tournament of Rapists, and that the title would be removed from the store.
Wieck also announced a new policy on offensive content, whereby RPGs reported as offensive would be screened on a case-by-case basis. Wieck announced that he would be the “final arbiter” of what was deemed to be too offensive for the store, and informed readers that he would “err toward including content, even when it challenges readers and deals with sensitive issues, so long as it does so maturely and not gratuitously.”
This continues the assault on free speech in games on the basis of “moral” grounds known as Social Justice, which apparently holds that everyone must tolerate and pretend to like everyone else at all times, or you are all very racist. As with other forms of speech restriction, this plays right into the hands of governments and corporations who wish to find a way to restrict criticism of their immigration, H1-B or other policies.
- The Supreme Court has made it harder for local governments to crack down on political advertising.
You know those political signs that pop up like mushrooms or exhumed corpses on lawns during election season? One local community regulated them, and the ensuing lawsuit made it to the Supreme Court, which ruled that not only was there nothing wrong with the signs in question, but that local governments did not have the power to regulate advertising of that nature.
From the New York Times:
Though just two months old, the decision has already required lower courts to strike down laws barring panhandling, automated phone calls and “ballot selfies.”
…The key move in Justice Thomas’s opinion was the vast expansion of what counts as content-based. The court used to say laws were content-based if they were adopted to suppress speech with which the government disagreed.
Justice Thomas took a different approach. Any law that singles out a topic for regulation, he said, discriminates based on content and is therefore presumptively unconstitutional.
On the surface this appears a win for free speech, but may experience pushback as it ties the hands of localities to stop nuisance behaviors like panhandling and automated phone calls. Time will tell whether the court is accountable like elected politicians are supposed to be, or if this type of restriction is permanently gone.
There’s our roundup for this week of juicy censorship and speech rights related stories for you. Hang tight for more anarchic fun in the weeks ahead.
SJW journalist Kim Kelly, who was just yesterday talking about “signal boosting” outrage over alleged actions by Deiphago guitarist Sidalpa, is now backpedaling and claiming she was only “commenting on a couple friends’ Facebook posts” even though we all know that “signal boosting” is an SJW dog whistle for joining into an attack mob via that armchairest of armchair activist zones, the internet.
Like many SJWs, Kelly hides behind her role as a journalist and its overlap with her personal life as a way to claim that her actions were innocent, when she was participating in group calls for violence, boycott and public defamation of Deiphago and anyone who defended their right to a fair examination of facts. Kelly, fitting right into the SJW mindset, knows that her strength consists of summoning many perennially unhappy internet people to attack and use guilt to cow and browbeat others into submission.
Needless to say, normally SJWs can get away with it, but they have pushed too far. Many on the internet are making a similar observation to the following:
The point is that before we go destroy someone’s life, we should make sure they in fact did what they are accused of and that there are no mitigating circumstances. According to SJWs, demanding actual facts and legal process is fascism, racism, sexism and other Very Bad things.
SJWs swarmed at first to attack Deiphago, and then got the predictable vague apology, but the band later removed it after realizing that the SJW monster had become defanged. First it became common knowledge that Kelly and other SJWs have faked news stories to advance their ideological agenda, and that at least some SJWs were previously trying to be toughguy internet Nazis before realizing there was an audience out there who is afraid to not eagerly support any article, band, or person who wields guilt as a weapon.
The pushback has been gratifying. Metalheads are tired of the invasion of SJWs, who bring both their doctrinaire politics and their bad indie-rock derived metal-flavored (but not metal) bands, and are starting resistance by doing what should have always been done: making fun of SJWs for the self-perpetuating victims them are, and openly mocking their presumed legitimacy and their dishonest and manipulative attack. One user posted the following which seems to summarize the situation:
Your knowledge of the world around you is both informed and manipulated by the information sources you rely on. Media, gossip/friends, advertising, government and businesses are all trying to insert ideas into your mind that control how you see the world. So are small political groups like SJWs.
This manipulation extends to theoretically objective, unbiased and neutral sources like Wikipedia:
It might not be news to everyone that Wikipedia — especially in the EN version — has issues with editors using Wiki articles to spread political propaganda and libeling innocents, sometimes being bribed to do so. Most of Wikipedia readers should have noticed that articles related to anything controversial are heavily biased if not purely propagandistic. This puts shame on the rest of Wikipedia, and on the work of honest editors who spend their free time making unbiased articles.
…After this, they attacked the article on Cultural Marxism, first discrediting it as a conspiracy theory, then entirely removing it. Note that, as I often say, I did my thesis on Antonio Gramsci’s Cultural Hegemony (which is where Cultural Marxism was born), it is an historicall proven fact that it exists. To put it simple, Cultural Hegemony means creating an elite among the middle class that creates a narrative to herd the middle class and direct them how they want. I can see why editors creating false narratives to mislead people would want to censor this.
Who works on a source like Wikipedia or even Metal-Archives? Those with lots of time and some motivating force behind it, like a desire to change the perception of a large group of people. Since such sources reward casual readership, you will not find the thinkers and doers of the world reading them; you will see a vast number of people looking for a surface treatment. That is the easiest audience to manipulate, in the easiest frame of mind to twist, and this is why fanatics of the SJW sort flock to Wikipedia and other “crowd-sourced” sites: powerless in life, they can get a rise out of manipulating others and having the ability to tell them what they can and cannot think.
This happens a lot:
Mark Bernstein is one of several SJWs who is still butthurt that GamerGate successfully got several corrupt editors, including Ryulong, banned from Wikipedia. You can read an archived version of his grievances here.
If Mark Bernstein’s idiotic accusation wasn’t enough, blogger Matthew Hopkins has exposed a number of his conflicts of interest. Hopkins revealed the fact that Mark Bernstein had made significant edits to the Eastgate Systems and Tinderbox pages. Bernstein is the owner and Chief Scientist of Eastgate Systems and Tinderbox is an Eastgate product. If Bernstein wanted to avoid conflicts of interest, he could have suggested edits to those pages and let other editors come along and do so.
Wikipedia needs to take action against editors who have no regard for the rules.
Of course, Wikipedia will not enforce its own rules because then it would lose its crowd. People come there so they can change reality. They do not show up out of some benevolence toward humanity; they want power, and Wikipedia’s assumed status as reliable gives it to them. All one has to do is show up and edit a few pop culture pages and agree with the existing editor clique about certain social justice issues. Then that person becomes part of the approved group and can go on to do things like delete pages, remove facts, or anything else that conflicts with the agenda of the approved group. Why is this group so manipulative? It goes back to that lack of power in their lives. This is why there is a long history of Wikipedia corruption.
Even more, and of relevance to metal, journalists have gotten in on the game, taking money for positive reviews of video games. They even discuss this in secret mailing lists, much like journalists agreed to manipulate the news during the JournoList scandal. These are behaviors we see appearing in several areas consistently; is it too much to assume that they are part of the norm? By that token, it seems rational to realize that much of what we see on big metal sites is manipulated by similar groups of people.
#Metalgate showed us that groups of fanatics infiltrate media in order to manipulate minds; now, we see how much their influence crosses over between different sources that people rely on. It was for this reason that the underground was formed: mainstream media had a solid and unwavering opinion of heavy metal, which was that it should be a tame and non-threatening form of rock music, and so to escape that, metal bands and writers had to escape from the mainstream view entirely. That time has come again, because the same group of people who held metal down in the 1980s are now attacking from a different direction, and it will have the same consequences.
When a band is accused of “selling out,” the first instinct most people have is to attack the definition of that phrase. In reality, “selling out” is easily delineated: changing your music/art/writing to reflect what the audience expects.
In metal, selling out usually consists of making the music happier, simpler, less tormented and more pretentious. This allows the people who are dedicated to not noticing anything real about their world to listen to it and have it confirm their existing bias that the best course in life will be to “keep on keeping on” by shopping, voting, bragging at the water cooler, watching television, eating fast food and otherwise being oblivious to everything.
Selling out can be compared to the difference between a home-grilled hamburger and a fast food burger. The home-grilled burger uses real meat, spiced and cooked with care, and does not look elegant but is a good balance of taste and nutrition. The fast food burger is made from ground-up bits of animals, filled out with soybeans and sugar, and most people prefer it because it tastes more like candy and nutrition, lol.
When a metal band sells out, it makes the conscious decision to alter its music to appeal to some audience. This can include an “outsider” audience that only likes ultra-lofi two-chord bands, or the usual meaning, where the music gets closer to big radio pop. When metal bands sell out, they damage metal by bringing in all the stuff metal tried to escape in the first place.
These five albums represent some of the worst sellouts in metal history.
At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul
The first At the Gates album took our breath away. A weird mix of metal, folk, progressive and classical, it achieved an idiosyncratic voice of its own the way early death metal was prone to do. Then the band faltered, losing a key member and recording albums that did not feel with albums. Suddenly, this new album burst onto the scene and the old school death metal heads rushed forward to find… the exact opposite of what made this band great. Instead of inventive death metal, Slaughter of the Soul brought a warmed-over version of Metallica Ride the Lightning that had been given the Swedish melodic metal treatment. Songs swung easily with simple melodies that would have fit better in a television commercial or schoolyard song, and song structures fit an entirely predictable mold. Nothing challenged the listener; everything was sweetened, like biting into a hot glazed donut with extra icing. It made you feel icky inside, as if you had just been assimilated by the vast mass of people in modern culture who forcibly ignore any incoming ideas which do not fit into their own ego-worship and denial. However, the album was a stunning commercial success and inspired the metalcore movement, in which post-At the Gates band The Haunted applied this template to late hardcore and created a whole new audience.
Metallica – Metallica
When metalheads first heard “One” on the radio, the general sentiment was worry. We all knew of the temptation of radio metal where bands toured in luxury buses and got loads of cocaine, chicks and fast cars. But …And Justice For All had its musical moments despite the awful rock-style drumming and simplified catchy songs, so the hope was that Metallica had gotten it out of their system. Then came the self-titled monstrosity. The first hint was the choice of eponymous name late in the career of Metallica, which suggested a break with the past. Then, the new logo: silver foil-embossed, stylized and slick. Then we heard “Enter Sandman” on the radio and fears were realized. Gone were the complex song structures and innovative riffs, but the use of melodic composition on guitar persisted from …And Justice For All, albeit in a form that fit well into the MTV lineup. Songs backed away from topics that might unsettle people into fairy tales about fears and personal drama, including the rage drama that Pantera was making famous. Metallica fans hung their heads, neatly folded their tshirts and put them at the back of the drawer, and covered their tattoos with black bars. Metallica had finally sold out.
Death – Individual Thought Patterns
As the 1990s progressed, death metal emerged as the clear next big thing. This came after nearly a decade of the music industry denying its existence, mocking it, and doing their best to conceal it. A number of them made overtures: if you could just drop the scary alienation, anger and post-human view of the world, maybe The Industry would work for you like it did for the Crue, AC/DC, etc. At this point, Chuck Schuldiner of Death was putting a lot of effort into making himself the founding father of death metal, and he fired his previous band for a mostly new group who came up with a heavy metal/death metal hybrid. That alone would have been bad, but what was worse was that he changed the music artistically as well as stylistically. The rage at a numb, callous and selfish world was replaced with personal drama, overplayed public compassion, and the kind of hollow rage that people sitting in air-conditioned homes direct at a world that “just doesn’t understand me.” Even worse, the music itself became saccharine. The wild lion of death metal became a neutered animal dependent on daily feedings of peer group approval. Not surprisingly, people loved it then and hardly mention it now.
Morbid Angel – Domination
After the public hounding that Ilud Divinum Insanus received, most fans forgot the previous great Morbid Angel disappointment that essentially fragmented the band. Thousands of death metal bands languishing in obscurity perked up when they saw Far Beyond Driven flirt with Exhorder-styled extreme metal and still make hordes of money. In the timeless and impeccably insane logic of record labels, it was suggested that death metal bands take the same route even though it would mean abandoning their fans and yet not being able to fully dumb down enough for the brocore generation. Morbid Angel came out with this disaster of a fourth album in order to try to bridge the gap and ended up (predictably) failing both. Where previous Morbid Angel albums showed inventive songs, Domination featured one interesting riff per song slowed down and mated with another couple of sludgy, partially doomy, and unforgivably bouncy Pantera-styled riffs. To accommodate the injection of nonsense into death metal songs, Morbid Angel broke them down into simpler songs that resembled the happy go lucky “beer metal” songs of the past: verse-chorus, chanty foot-tapping title of song repeated, and an artistic outlook which more resembled wounded anger than any kind of delving toward a hidden truth. After this album, the band fell apart and reconstituted itself in new forms, trying to recapture some vein of composition that might appeal to lots of MTV-reprogrammed listeners and yet still be death metal. Much like Bigfoot and the perpetual motion machine, it might be out there somewhere, but as of yet Morbid Angel has not found it.
Dimmu Borgir – Enthrone Darkness Triumphant
As soon as black metal hit the newsstands with stories of church arson and murder, record company stooges devoted many hours of thought to the simple question of how they could re-package it for the Hot Topic kids. Dimmu Borgir found the first workable solution with Enthrone Darkness Triumphant which mixed mall-goth, Cradle of Filth, and carnival music to come up with a style that reveled in its own randomness and made its listeners feel profound for having picked up an incoherent but inscrutable mess. The lush keyboards of mainstream Gothic dance music mixed with the darker rhythms of Nine Inch Nails and guitar influences from rock/metal/rap hybrids in order to interrupt the occasional black metal riff so it never came to fruition. The result became the artistic equivalent of a pop tart: thin bread crust around mystery ingredients mixed with sugar. Naturally, people loved it because it allowed them to “be black metal” (ist krieg!) without leaving behind the same digestible pap they had been swallowing for years under the rock banner. But the CDs seemed to fly out of stores, and black metal fans changed from lonely dissidents to bloated mall denizens looking for a new thrill to blot out the days of tedium as they tried to pretend they wanted to even be alive. Even more importantly, this album opened the door to “black metal” as a container for whatever you wanted to throw in it, which made the truly dark hearts of the record company execs jump with joy and visions of bank transfers.
Image: would you trust a cigarette company with marijuana? Most likely, they would do to it what they did to tobacco, which is remove variety in flavor and replace it with innocuous but consistent brand-perfect sensations.
Image from Thrasher Magazine.
Thrasher music deserves its own category. It spans three genres and gave its name to one. It also plays by entirely distinct rules that place it in both metal and punk camps, but not exclusively in either. Despite the attempts of both genres to claim it, it has weaseled free by refusing to fully adopt the conventions of either. It’s too punk for punk and too metal to be metal, but it lives on to this day through those who want a different path.
Hop on your board and skate back into 1985. Heart of the Reagan years, themselves a recovery period from the turbulent 1960s and somewhat crass and vapid 1970s. The suburbs had finally outpaced the city as everyone who could escape fled, which left millions of teenagers stranded in planned communities that were essentially marooned on anonymous patches of land connected by freeways. Divorce and latch-key kids were at epidemic height and most people barely had anything to call a family. To make things worse, Soviet missiles threatened the homeland and spread a kind of daily paranoia that people both accepted and in their quietest moments, feared to confront. No one knew if tomorrow would even come and if it did, whether it would be worth it.
Kids did what just about anyone would do: get out of the house, escape the conformist collective-consciousness zombie robot schools, avoid the television, and produce culture. Skateboards started as a fad but became a lifestyle because they provided a means of getting around, an activity, and most importantly, a type of place the activity could occur. Even more vitally they gave kids an identity and purpose outside of mainstream culture which as far as anyone could tell was a vapid disaster. Cyndi Lauper? Madonna? Bruce Springsteen? Music connected this culture but it evolved to fit it instead of the other way around. Thrasher music took its attributes from the thrasher lifestyle.
The one sin in thrasher culture was to fall into mainstream thinking. It defined itself in opposition to that entire vein of thought. Thrashers made the assumption that if someone with a position in society validated an idea, the idea was manipulation. This paranoia arose from disciplinarian schools, crafty public image creation by parents during divorces, and distrust of the kind of promises that advertised the suburbs. “Come to Shady Acres,” the sign would say, and you would find a house that was on nothing as big as an acre with no shade because all the trees had been planted during the last week when construction finished. And then your parents who spent too much time at their jobs would make all sorts of great promises about how school would be great, other kids would be great, and then those parents would disappear into jobs, divorces, swingers’ clubs, you name it, and you would be left alone. With nothing but your skateboard. Jump on and roll away… and never trust anything like those promises again.
Thrasher culture shaped the lyrics of its music. They show most of all a critique of a society that does not function. Imagine a broken microwave: you turn it on, and it flickers and makes noise but doesn’t really heat your food, or burns it to a crisp within ten seconds, or roasts the center and leaves the outside cold. This was the impression thrasher kids had of the society around them. It was on, but it was not working in the sense designed. Even worse, parents were oblivious and drugged on religion and money and social prestige and refused to notice at all when society didn’t work. Kids had to re-invent politics, society and philosophy from the ground up, and it had to fit between turns on the half-pipe.
While arguably the first music adopted by thrashers was punk, including a latent influence from the surf rock that may have inspired punk, and bands like Iron Maiden were perpetual favorites, the fusion of the three burst forth in the early 1980s as a genre called thrash. Avoiding dramatic titles like “5 thrash bands you must hear before you die,” where “die” could be defined as feeling that your job is more important than your soul, here are five thrash bands you must experience simply because they are amazing:
1. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI) – Dealing With It
This album despite being the second release by DRI defined the archetypal thrash sound. Short songs used punk tempi and metal riffs, fit their song structures around the words to the song, worked in some oi/surf rock lead guitars, but mostly focused on raging bursts of concise energy. DRI packed a bookshelf worth of ideas into a single album which meant that if you were a kid with a skateboard and ten bucks a week to your name, this was the album you saved up for. In addition, DRI expanded the lyrical oeuvre of thrash to include not just “socially conscious” lyrics but lyrics critical of society itself, including the process of socializing with other people. These lyrics struck out for the lone Nietzschean person isolated from the herd by the complete vapidity and deceitfulness of mainstream tastes. In addition, DRI rebelled — using metal bands such as Iron Maiden as its guide — against the punk tendency to destroy melody. Both vocals and guitars carry an actual tune which combined with the unique rhythms and song structures makes each song stand out but also, makes the whole album work together. Some songs had nothing more to offer than 18 seconds of fury, others stitch a mood, and the whole of Dealing With It thus becomes a map of the emotions of a skater trying to survive the 1980s while observing that society was in a state of advanced collapse and headed for the end.
2. Cryptic Slaughter – Convicted
Convicted got less attention than it should have because of its rough production and refusal to stick to any one template. Riffs on this album range from raw punk to death metal, which is sort of difficult because that genre was barely in formation itself in 1985 when this was released. Songs follow more of a punk template and vary structure less often which makes this band shy over toward punk, but use of vocal rhythms and inventive riffing distinguishes each. Many of the concepts of the next decade of death metal came from this album as well as most of grindcore. The ragged intensity of its vocal and guitar assault made Cryptic Slaughter the fastest band on the planet, and while it leaned toward punk, its ability to make metal-style riffs that thundered with finality pushed it into the thrash genre.
3. Corrosion of Conformity (COC) – Eye for an Eye + Six Songs With Mike Singing
Arguably the most popular band in thrash, Corrosion of Conformity combined Black Sabbath and hardcore punk and came up with short attacks of creative songwriting that used traditional pieces from both heavy metal and hardcore punk genres. Every thrasher back in the day owned the tshirt with the COC alien skull on it and combined with DRI, this band essentially defined the genre. Songs are tiny atmosphere pieces that use punk energy and abrupt delivery to sneak in metal riffs and bounding punk choruses. Unlike punks however COC strayed into the minor key and chromatic world of metal where energy is crushed and turned into dark opposition instead of keeping the last aspects of rock ‘n’ roll’s happy-go-lucky “good times” sound. Inside of the anthemic punk with metal riffing on this album lurks a deep inner despair for society and self that made Eye for an Eye the more melancholic and existential side of thrash.
4. Fearless Iranians From Hell – Die For Allah
Not as many people heard of this band because in the 1980s, when Beirut embassies exploded and the Iranian hostage situation was fresh in many minds, adopting even a satyrical pro-Iranian position struck most people as going too far, like endorsing Hitler or Stalin. Combining this potent imagery with marijuana humor and cynicism about the American war and money machine, Fearless Iranians From Hell bashed out fast punkish songs with metallic riffing that emphasized a constant turbulent, restless energy. In that way, this band put their finger on the utter abyss fermenting beneath the world of laws, dollars, numbers and hard data. This revealed the conflict between a culture of goody two-shoes and the underlying desire to put things right according to some absolute law not based in what suburban parents used to allay their fears. The humorous aspect of this band caused many to neglect the fusion of late hardcore and indie metal that powered this band.
5. Dead Horse – Horsecore
Another band that at first got little airplay, Dead Horse emerged in the late 1980s and got enmired in the Texas metal scene which tended to reward those who scratched everyone else’s back even if their bands were forgettable. The band finally broke out with their second album Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers in 1991 which turned more toward a progressive death metal direction alongside other acts of a similar nature like Disharmonic Orchestra and Demilich. The earlier material of this band used the same song structures shaped around the content of each song that DRI did but added more vicious, metal-infused riffs that had the hallmark of soundtrack style epic figurative melodies. Where other bands relied on humor of absurdity, Dead Horse fused its own internal language and riffed off that, pushing together a cynicism toward the adult world with a sense of breakaway culture.
6. Suicidal Tendencies – Suicidal Tendencies
The title says five albums, not six. Yes: official numbers lie. Suicidal Tendencies perfected a style of thrash that invoked more of the guitar traditions of 1970s metal and overlaid its longer songs with extensive lead guitar, including bluesy and melodic sections. It also adopted the habit of using slower sections to build up to the explosion of faster raging riffing, which gave the album space from which sudden attacks became even more powerful. Outright references to skateboarding and life as a suburban teenager colored the lyrics and outlook of this self-titled release which won over many fans for its essentially punk nature with the interesting instrumentalism of metal. That and its self-mocking and self-distrusting humor which saw the world exclusively from the experience of the individual lost within it made this release a cross-over between skaters, punks and metalheads.
Thrash created a generation of music that turned up the intensity of metal and gave punk new room to grow in. This drew extensive influence from later hardcore of the Discharge, Black Flag, Minor Threat, GBH, the Exploited and Cro-Mags variety and in turn influenced the first generation of grindcore such as Repulsion Horrified, Napalm Death Scum, Carcass Reek of Putrefaction and Blood Impulse to Destroy. Thrashers also took heavy influence from melodic punk bands like Misfits and eccentric acts such as the Minutemen, all the way through pop-punk like Descendents and Dayglo Abortions. With the rise of thrash, punk and metal both felt pressure to turn up the intensity, which drove metal into the cryptic realms of death metal and punk into its progressive years.