There’s an old expression, “to put the cart before the horse,” which I think originated on Brokeback Island.
It’s comparable to two others: “the tail wags the dog” and “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Each one describes a type of superstition. Superstition is what happens when you confuse an event — that occurs at the same time as a certain effect — with being the cause of that effect.
For example, we burned some heretic and then the rains came after a long drought. Therefore, we should burn heretics to get rain. QED, muddafugga.
In music, we can confuse having an ideal with repeating the symbols of that ideal.
Really good music is always motivated by an intense conviction. You belief in something, therefore you make music that sings its praises and uses its opposite to illustrate why it is good. I sing a song of food, which is awesome, and doubly awesome after a famine. Makes sense.
At that level, politics and philosophy — and even religion, and personal preference — are part of the same spectrum. That spectrum is the conclusions you’ve reached. These aren’t preferences, like “I like pink.” They’re adaptations. If burning heretics doesn’t make rain come, but everyone around you is still burning heretics to end the drought, you may become an artist motivated by the idea that burning heretics is stupid. Is that politics? Is it philosophy? Common sense? One thing’s for sure: it’s not semi-arbitrary like choosing to get your new laptop in pink and not green. There are consequences to which choice you pick, and because we live in a consistent world, they’re consistent from observation of effect to cause.
But people who preach the symbol blindly have gone about this process backward. Instead of having a viewpoint that drives the music, they’ve gotten superstitious. Having a certain viewpoint is associated with being smart, or making good music, or having an audience, so they adopt it. It’s the same on left and right this way.
For every bad NSBM band out there, and except for a handful (Legion of Doom, Absurd, Burzum, Darkthrone, Veles, Infernum, Graveland) they’re all bad, I can find a bad crustcore, emo or indie band that is just as banal. People don’t see this if they agree with the politics expressed. To them, Infernum is bad and Wolves in the Throne Room is good, and they won’t admit — superstition again — that the only reason is that they agree with one, or feel that being seen to agree makes them look smarter, nicer or sexier. Whatever.
Liking these bands is a social decision, not a political or intellectual one (or even an emotional one). People want to seem smart or extreme for liking this stuff, so they use the band as a symbol of who they are. Nevermind that in the process, the art — which I’ll loosely define as a means of finding appreciation for life through distinguishing what one finds beautiful versus what one doesn’t — loses out to cheerleading for the “correct” side.
But with the rise of this hilarious offshoot of black metal-flavored crustcore, which people are calling “RABM” for “Red and Anarchist Black Metal,” we’re seeing again that the same rules apply on both sides of the spectrum. Wolves in the Throne Room = Drudkh, to pick the best of these political bands. Even more, we’re seeing that “unblack metal” (UBM, or Christian black metal) is just as bad. That makes sense since modern populist Christianity is as liberal as secular humanism, just that it argues that God makes the individual sacred, instead of the individual being sacred for “moral reasons” and progressive dogma.
RABM, NSBM and UBM are many heads of the same hydra, which is a deranged mental state that puts the social and symbolic associations of a band before the music. Instead of finding ideas, and making music about them, they find the appearance of ideas and try to use that to convince you to like their droning mundane music. Like all stupid trends, the sooner this one burns, the closer we get to quality music.31 Comments