Over at Clrvynt, filmographer David Hall finally notices what DMU has been saying for 22 years: that heavy metal died in 1995 or so through lack of new ideas, and has been assimilated by rock music because metal is a better product as a flavoring than a separate entity.
Hall writes in the hipster style for a hipster audience on a hipster publication, so the first hurdle is getting over the ironic use of gratuitous obscenities, hip linguistic cribbing, and otherwise overly dramatic and precious writing. While the form is bad, the content is good, but to understand that, you have to decipher the form and read his essay backward.
If you read the essay forward, here is the rough outline:
- Metal is terrible because it is narcissistic.Start by asking yourself: every debate begins with definitions. What definition (boundaries, core and spirit) is he using for metal here?
Metal wants to be different, but only within a strict set of guidelines. Metal is a tireless masochist. It suffers, it moans, it whines, it annoys; it is a culture of emasculation, castration, penis envy, communism, capitalism and third-grade intellectualism. Metal is weak, ill-formed, small-minded, an accident. Metal is modern man in search of a soul, yet it looks not to the heavens for answers — instead it stares in awe up its own gaping asshole, whispering with quivered lips, “You go, girl.” Yes. YES. Metal is a cliche, a reproduction, derivative and fucking lame. Metal is an echo chamber.
Metal is in constant celebration of a victory it has never achieved.
To expand on that, boundaries are negative or exclusionary principles, such as the thought that metal must have distorted guitar and power chords. R.E.M. is automatically not metal, but lots of bands use power chords and heavy distortion now. So, we look to core: a set of clustered traits that together form a net of attributes that define the genre, like dark themes, riff-based phrasal composition, chromatic scales, 6/8 meter, minor key and certain modes, dead drummers. That gives us a better idea, but all art is communication and all communication carries intent, so what is the general topic on which metal speaks and its outlook, what we might call its spirit? Here we get into the fun stuff: rejection of false authority, belief in the inversion of good and evil, distrust of the herd and its trends, a desire to find beauty in darkness, Romantic themes of collapse and melancholic death. From there, we can understand the philosophy of a genre, or why it is and why it is as it is. If you want to find the buried lede that will occur in just a moment, it requires first asking what definition of metal applies here.
- Metal had a rich history where at one point, the music was real.For writing nerds, here is the “buried thesis” or “buried lede”:
As bands like Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple focused on songwriting, riffs and performance, other musicians crawled out of the swamp and started to take metal in new directions, effectively creating the ﬁrst subgenres of metal that would lead us to our present state of affairs. Speed metal, black metal, death metal; which led to doom metal, glam metal and thrash; which led to grindcore, technical death metal and crossover; which led to a whole array of sub-sub-sub-subgenres; which ultimately led to “blackgaze,” which, in my opinion, was the death knell of metal, and it’s where we are now, and it really sucks and is shitty and it’s the fucking worst.
- Metal died by commercialization, not being un-PC.This part is ragingly great:
How did a fertile, underground, credible, artistic and meaningful genre of music go unfettered for almost 40 years before it suddenly hit a wall? Well, like many journalists suggest, it wasn’t Nazism, misogyny, racism or elitism. It is a fallacy to assume that one genre of music is discriminatory — a) music is inanimate; it isn’t anything but sounds and words delivered on whatever medium is most proﬁtable; b) music cannot “be” anything but music; any social and human behaviors attributed to music is transference and anthropomorphization; c) fuck off and put your personal politics into a medium or social construct where it belongs and works: social work, politics, medicine, engineering, volunteering — you can’t change a light bulb with a piece of cheese, and you can’t ﬁx (or ruin) society with art.
- The metal press and labels sold out heavy metal, which officially died with “blackgaze.”We have been hammering on this topic for some time, but have included the faux underground that thinks three-chord trustfundie war metal is somehow equivalent to what Blasphemy, Zyklon-B, Beherit, Impaled Nazarene and Darkthrone chucked out in a weekend:
What happened next is what killed the underground scene and brought us to the point we are at now: Deafheaven, too $uccessful to ignore, started to be given credibility by the metal press. And even worse, other underground labels — much like the “grunge” frenzy in the ’90s — started to look for more Deafheavens. Blackgaze, and other nonsensical subgenres that have no business being sold as metal, started to be sold as metal. And bands began to change their style to proﬁt from this. Suddenly, a niche was making money. People were selling out. People were following their wallets. And the worst part is no one seemed to care. On August 4, 2016, eyewear conglomerate Luxottica, through its child company Ray-Ban, released an ad campaign featuring Deafheaven. It used their music, their images and their story. (Well, the campaign spun their story anyway.) Suddenly, Deafheaven were brave innovators who stood up to their critics, and against all odds, released an album. They had courage! #ittakescourage. That was the hashtag given to the Deafheaven campaign. Metal. Reduced to a fucking hashtag and a sunglasses commercial. And the worst part? Nobody said shit. People loved it! And any form of criticism was brushed off as “haters” or “Well, Deafheaven has always just been about seeing how far they can take it.” The band sold themselves out and sold out underground music, and people fucking loved them for it. They were heroes. And anyone who said otherwise was a misogynist, racist, homophobic “edge-lord.” That’s when underground metal died for me.
I hear echoes of SODOMIZE THE WEAK in this paragraph above.
- Metal is no longer music, but a brand, advanced for social status.Every product goes through a life cycle: innovation, assimilation and finally, being used as a cash cow or a dead brand or trend that people buy because they go through life via inertia and not, you know, thinking or perceiving:
When any work of art is co-opted by capitalistic intentions, you know it’s dead. When underground bands start touring with “above ground” bands, you also know that band is dead. When bands are applauded for selling out, because “everyone has to make a living” and “artists deserve to get paid” — yeah, you know that shit is dead, too. No, the artist does not deserve to get paid. The artist deserves fair compensation from anything they make and sell, but anything the artist makes TO sell is not art. It’s content. Branded content. And sadly, that’s what most metal has become: a brand. As meaningful as the anarchy symbol. Metal is no longer just music. It’s a social status. And that’s why it has become the fucking worst. And I hope the bands and fans that really only care about the music keep it up. To quote one of the few ﬁercely independent and underground bands still going, Total Fucking Destruction, “the Revolution will not be televised, because the Revolution will not be.”
There you have it: the underground is a trend. It was hip, so it got sold out, and not from above, but by fans, bands and media because everyone — like a shareholder in General Motors or IBM — just wants to advance their own wealth and power. This is why mob rule is so dangerous. The crowd becomes a bucket of yeast and sugar, manically eating and reproducing so that they beat out the other guy, and missing the point that by doing so, they have doomed everyone. It is the tragedy of the commons, which is what happens when you do not have aristocrats or at least strong leaders who own things and keep the crowd from devouring them like meth-addled munchkins:
The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.
As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.
1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.
2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.
Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another…. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit–in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.
Every fan wants to be a big shot and every local band wants to come first before better bands (hubris). Every label wants to have the portfolio that more people buy. Every media outlet wants a new scoop. But when a genre is dying, what has happened is that it has become equal. That is, there are no longer standout bands like Burzum which were obviously worlds better than just about everything else; instead, all the bands are basically the same because the metal aristocrats gave all they had and then faded away. Even formerly great bands like Emperor were pumping out the gunk by 1996. The reason for this is that the herd crowded them out. When everyone wants to be important, no one can be, and so the metal audience starting in about 1994 became hostile to good music and embraced bad music as a means of making good music unprofitable. At that point, any musician who wanted to be heard — not drowned out — went to another genre.
There are two scary things about assimilation in metal: (1) it has happened many times before and (2) it happens to all human ventures, no matter how small, which is why the ancient Greeks warned against hubris; the individualism of demanding to be more important than one rightfully is in the order of nature will tear about any human project. Whether a band, a corporation, a nation, an empire, a group of friends, a boy scout troop, a Parent-Teacher Association, or the Third Reich, human organizations are infiltrated from within by their own members who act in unrestricted self-interest, or “individualism,” through a tragedy of the commons called “dark organization.”
This is here for no reason in particular.
But now, let us decipher Mr. Hall’s essay by reversing the order:
- Now Metal is no longer music, but a brand, advanced for social status.
- Because The metal press and labels sold out heavy metal, which officially died with “blackgaze.”
- Contrary to conventional “wisdom,” Metal died by commercialization, not being un-PC.
- We know this because Metal had a rich history where at one point, the music was real.
- However, contemporary Metal is terrible because it is narcissistic.
We could work this to a proto-syllogism: metal is artistic movement, so when the artistry ends, it is dead; however, it is also a valuable commodity because it is a social signal for rebellion that advertisers can use, so it will live on as a zombie, grafted on to regular rock music — simple jingles and nursery rhymes for idiots — so that they can use it to sell motorcycles, condoms, beer, enemas, tshirts, whisky, cigarettes and iPhones.
It is too easy to dismiss Hall as another hipster who is being an ironist. Rather, it seems he has digested a bit of what DMU has been going on about for over two decades, and now presents it in a form that its audience can understand, and Kek/Zod/Gnon bless him for that. Only when underground metal dies and is abandoned can it be unpopular again to restore itself with new life, at least until the crowd discovers it, makes it into a trend, and devours it from within yet again.