Death Metal Underground

How the internet ruined metal

by Cory Van der Pol
April 21, 2014 –

the_internet

A common sentiment expressed by “diehards” (or as cynics call them “tryhards”) is that the internet ruined metal. It was a paradise before, they say. You bought zines, traded tapes, bought from small labels, and everything was pure and innocent. The demon of convenience and commerce had not yet reared its ugly head.

With the internet, it is said, all of that ended because it became easy to acquire a band by just typing the name into a search engine. There was no commitment that way, the story goes. People became accustomed to everything being easy and no longer cared about quality. They stopped going to shows and “supporting the scene.” Underground metal became armchair metal.

While I don’t doubt there is some legitimacy to those complaints, I offer another view: what made the internet kill metal was that it turned the process of being a fan inside out. In the old days, you picked bands you liked. Now, you pick bands to make your online personality look good. When someone asks a question about a type of music, you want to have something unique to answer with.

The result is blog posts and threads on forums which are dedicated to “being different.” You get zero scene cred for stating the obvious top ten, and that list can be found anywhere, so people are now craving bands that are more obscure. But the problem is that wanting something for a trait unrelated to its content means you no longer care about quality. Thus quality has plummeted as people seek novelty.

For the aboveground metalheads, this novelty-seeking manifests itself in the same trends that black metal talked about. This week it’s shoegaze; next week it will be “industrial black metal” again, or maybe punkish black metal, or ironic ABBA covers by grindcore bands, who knows. For diehards, the novelty-seeking is obscurity bias: a desire to dig back in the vault and find something that no one else knows about, then make it your favorite band ever.

The point is that no one is a fan anymore. Fans decide what’s good and celebrate it. But hipsters and scenesters have a different approach. They look for ways to make a name for themselves. “That’s my man Bill, he’s an expert in Seattle drone metal.” This is why there are ludicrous genre names in the post-internet arena, and why the advice you get on metal from the internet is almost universally garbage. It’s hipsters being hip, not people talking about quality or relevance.

The internet has made us all into hipsters. To get people to pay attention to your online profile or blog, you need to invent something “important” whether it’s there or not. You to find novelty either in the past or the present. The last thing you’re going to do is offer up some honest opinion. It’ll never get you Google AdWords dollars. It’s not unique and different enough for the social environment the internet has to offer.

Diehards need to quit complaining about the internet. It has had no different effect than moving all of metal into a dense, high social and cosmopolitan city like New York City would. City culture has always rewarded the “different,” which is why cities have always had hipsters. Bands struggled against that culture, not succeeded because of it.

What’s ironic about this whole situation is that complaining about the internet is another way of being “different.” That in turn serves to conceal the fact that since 1994, metal has produced little worth writing home about. Why has that been, you wonder? The black metallers told us: when hipsters appear, trends arrive, and then quality leaves the hall.

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7 comments

  • Lord Mosher of the Solitary Pit

    quote: “The internet has made us all into hipsters”
    .
    I dunno who you’ve been talking to or reading Mr. Van der Pol but if you want to call yourself a hipster (whatever that means), it’s okay with me. Just don’t include me in.
    .
    Not all bands that only released demo material back in the mid 80s are necessarily obscure. There’s Necrovore for instance. A band that sucked in the 80s will suck now and a mediocre demo band of the 80s will continue to be mediocre in 2014. The internet if anything, serves as a filter sifting the bad from the good. And the good will be purchased or at least promoted.
    .
    The internet allows anyone to dive into the past and explore those forgotten bands that however mediocre, they are part of metal’s past, and that journey of discovery is always fun. It’s like diving into the ocean and lifting a coral shell. Even it it’s worthless to everybody else, it matters to the one that found it and you earnestly share it with someone hoping he´ll get it. Even if that person just rolls his eyes and tells you: it’s just another mediocre band that’s all speed metal underneath chromatic progressions…

  • Mythic Imagination

    This doesn’t apply to good stuff like Gorement, but there are many of these such bands that pop up once one goes about looking at the earliest demo’s of Death Metal.(and Black Metal as well) Even back then the amount of also ran demo’s seem to outweigh the good, then, though, they were forgotten, not falsely hailed.

  • Gabriel

    I remember standing in line top get tickets to a metal show and seeing all these guys in sleeveless denim jackets with band patches sewn all over the pack. One fellow had Bathory and Burzum patches on his, and another guy runs up and yells, “Fuck yeah! Bathory! Burzum! Kick-ass, man!”
    With the idea of underground comes the need to see who is underground and who’s not. On a superficial level it’s easy to pick bands that already have cred, buy their material, fit in, and decry anything that doesn’t bear a similar sound. It’s also easy to pick controversial beliefs like Satanism, Anarchism, extreme conservatism to try and be true.
    This article is pretty accurate in that it merely highlights human behavior, no matter the sub-culture anyone is trying to fit into. People are desperate for an identity, and when they get a foul whiff of the pre-packaged identities that marketing companies like Nuclear Blast or McDonald’s convince them to buy into, they get desperate to fit into something not as obvious, for lack of a better word.
    Dani Filth laughed that his daughter was into One Direction, yet how many metal chicks plaster his image all over their binders, lockers, walls or facebook pages? Or how many “true metal-heads” cite Gaahl as their hero because he tortured a couple of people. These guys are the One Direction of metal, and their consumers think that because their idols are participating in deviant behavior, they in turn are there spiritually in their approval and are now against mainstream culture for it. It’s both stupid and disgusting.
    The point is that standard human behavior is to imitate the people you like and to consume their behavior, spiritually speaking, and get off on it.

  • Roger Waters' Unwashed Dildo

    The more likely explanation is that metal and metal subculture said all it had to say. The uncertainty, angst and mounting tension of the glory days fizzled out when fears of nuclear war and sudden upheaval turned out to be fictitious. I doubt metal can thrive in an environment of gradual but bumpy decline, which is the actual future we face. If anything, melancholy and nostalgia seem more appropriate for a genre fixated on darkness than say odes to the brave in an era where the brave have no true means of course correction.

  • tomcat ha

    There is some point to this but i disagree with this. The internet is a reason why a lot of great bands from the past have gotten attention again or even finally got the appreciation they deserved all the time.
    It would have been quite impossible for me to find Rippikoulu or something today if it wasnt for the internet.
    Stating also that no good metal got made after the mid 90′s is a more pointless position to take to me. A lot of metalheads say this because they seem to value innovation and everything above writing good solid riffs. Dead Congregation or Thulcandra both are completely not innovative but they write real proper tunes and that is what really matters.
    Everybody who says metal is dead has not been to keep it true.