The Sad Pandemic of West Coast “Black Metal”

Today’s American black metal has found itself right within the parameters of Poe’s Law which, when applied to this abomination of a music scene, would sound something like this:

It is utterly impossible to parody American black metal in such a way that someone won’t mistake it for a genuine attempt.

This is exactly where we are now, where slapping black metal vocals over post rock, screamo, or pop punk will get you rave reviews from hipster music blogs claiming to cover the newest wave of American “black metal”. Some may ask “how could such a thing have come to pass so quickly?”  and the answer is actually very simple- the west coast found “black metal”. And what began as an irritation became an infection, the wound opened, disease accelerated, and before long American “black metal” became beyond saving. So in the effort to understand and learn from the mistakes of the past, let’s take a look at the course of the regrettable pandemic that is west coast “black metal” and the terrible disasters it spawned throughout its existence.

2000: The Roots of Weakness

It all began with Weakling, the California “black metal” band shamelessly ripped off by every single California “black metal” band to follow. While the band’s name itself was a clear declaration of its influences (as well as an ironic foreshadowing of American “black metal”‘s future) as it came from a song by experimental post rock band Swans, the sound was a less obvious reflection of this fandom. Despite releasing only one album and not achieving significant popularity, Weakling were the first to drip shoegaze sprinkles onto “black metal” without anyone noticing where they were coming from. Furthermore, outlandish hipster-like rumors surrounding the band (burying their album in dirt and giving out maps with the locations, sending only one copy of their demo to one fan in Europe) successfully marketed their sound to indie rock fans- a practice later mastered by Velvet Cacoon. Weakling has since been generally forgotten, fulfilling the fake hipster goal of staying indie forever. Nevertheless, no one can take deny their lifetime achievement of birthing the worst movement in pseudo-metal since Fred Durst dropped “The Nookie.”

2004: A Gate to Subliminal Genocide

While Weakling was a minor laceration on the face of USBM, the wound was significantly opened by the wave of California solo projects to follow in a few years. Influenced by the aforementioned group’s post rock shenanigans supplemented by the gothic imagery and sorrowful harmonic minor melodies of France’s Les Legions Noire’s movement (the flavor of the week for newcomers at the time), future one man metal documentary celebrities Xasthur and Leviathan had quickly squandered the promise offered on their uniquely isolationist demos. So by the time long running USBM cornerstone Moribund Records boosted each of their repertoires with a healthy stream of revenue, both bands had become over-reliant on running their guitars and keyboards through delay pedals with feedback settings maxed out. This newfound wall of sound coupled with a suicidal gimmick perfectly tailored to a generation of pharm partying teens hooked on anti depressants quickly became a cash cow for underground labels. But since these post rock touches were carefully hidden from the typical fan of the Moribund catalog, there weren’t many in the USBM underground who could see the gateway opening for the shoegaze/indie rock crowd to exploit.

In the wound of Xasthur and Leviathan, the minor infection of post rock became a disease. But aside from their musical dehissance, these bands also served as host to a deadly parasite in the form of Profound Lore Records. The flagship of everything despised about modern “metal”, Profound Lore laid its foundation in this movement with the label’s debut release: Leviathn/Xasthur.

2008: Diadem of Disease

Further north in Washington, an inverse of the California movement began to take place. Instead of applying post rock technique to “black metal” music and keeping black metal aesthetics, Wolves in the Throne Room did the exact opposite and applied hipster aesthetics to a sound that was nothing more than a seventh rate Burzum clone dumbed down into drone rock for the target audience. This fooled dim-witted indie journalists and confused Portland heroin addicts into believing that a terribly average band with a ridiculous ecological agenda somehow was the “next big thing” in “black metal”. In reality, Wolves in the Throne Room had a good publicist that could sell the masses seemingly meaningless attributes rebranded as pure brilliance and did so just as Vice Magazine was gaining popularity. By 2011 the band’s flavor-of-the week “Cascadian black metal” aesthetic was nothing more than a short lived stable of forgettable bands and most fat hipsters were off the Wolves in the Throne room bandwagon as it was already “too mainstream” for their egos.

2013: The Hybridization of Atrocities

As violent drug addiction decimated the “metal” scenes of northern west coast states, the culmination of 13 years of musical plague had finally arrived in Deafheaven’s Sunbather. The post rock wanderings of Xasthur and Leviathan were amplified and coupled with the hipster aesthetics of Wolves in the Throne Room to form something completely devoid of black metal yet still branded with its name by idiot Pitchfork writers. This was everything the indie publications were hoping for- the unification of their favorite abominations in to one complete anti-metal aesthetic. The definitive west coast “black metal” band, Deafheaven was the product of the horrid culture and sound of the region spiraling completely out of control into absolute obliteration. For years, idiot hipster rock fans had been confusing post rock technique as “black metal” and hipster aesthetic as “black metal”. Deafheaven didn’t introduce either of these elements, but unified them into the epitome of the masses that completely misunderstood what the Norwegian black metal bands were actually playing. And as mentioned here recently, this was the unequivocal end.

2017: A Necessary Amputation

Now that this ugly mutation has become the gangrene of the entire USBM movement, only one solution remains: Amputate west coast “black metal”. California, Oregon, and Washington should, from this day forward, be vehemently discredited, rejected, and despised as a source for black metal with all of its bands, musicians, and releases being discarded with absolute malice with the exception of the proven such as Infester. They must be treated with the most violently extreme prejudice: actual black metal bands should not play hipster rock venus, fans should boycott shows featuring west coast “black metal” bands, and shame labels releasing west coast “black metal” albums. “Black metal” from the west coast must be treated like the communist scare of the 1900s- with hysteria, character assassination, and the purest of hatred.

If American black metal is to have any hope of redemption we must begin to think of it as an entirely separate entity than the embarrassment that is west coast “black metal”. They are not the same thing as band such as Demoncy and Imprecation and should not be treated as such. From here on out, laugh at west coast “black metal” blogs, shame all west coast “black metal” fans, and hate west coast “black metal” music as such hatred is one of the essences of black metal.

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27 thoughts on “The Sad Pandemic of West Coast “Black Metal””

  1. Marc Defranco says:

    Hmm I’m liking these more recent “call out” articles. The ignorant will disregard them as the ramblings of someone jaded but they really express the over popular, and sell out nature of the “black metal” bands that are denounced in the article. I feel like this could be related to the phenomenon of many people feeling they have to somehow “contribute” to the music they are interested in because being a fan isn’t enough, and they want in on the recognition. I can understand making art just because one wants to, but is another Burzum clone really necessary of a label release. Causes oversatuartion and plays into consumerism

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      I feel like this could be related to the phenomenon of many people feeling they have to somehow “contribute” to the music they are interested in because being a fan isn’t enough, and they want in on the recognition.

      If you disdain ‘fans’ aka ‘amateurs’ creating music because they want to do something like the stuff they happen to like, you’ll have to stick with properly trained professionals like Obscura and pretty much jettison all of metal including albums which are dear to you: Every serious band with anything resembling »recognition« started as fan project (or grew out of fan projects). As far as I can tell, Deafheaven didn’t: That started with two guys from a grindcore band experimenting with more a commercially viable style and recruiting two guys from a Shoegaze band a drummer via ‘internet job portal’ to play shows after it appeared as if they had found one and who seem to be rather a media-propelled phenomenon.

      sell out nature of the “black metal” bands that are denounced in the article

      (A certain kind of) Black metal is inherently more vulnerable to sell-out into mainstream entertainment than death metal because it’s topics are more compatible with mainstream entertainment: Death and destruction make people feel uncomfortable, lone castles in the wood, demons of midnight, the beauty of sadness and romanticisims in general don’t. Probably more so in countries with a Halloween-tradition: That’s what people will think of if they seem people with corpsepaint and strange costumes ‘looking spooky’. This also applies to the music because of it’s much heavier use of conventional or close-to-conventional melodies. Eg, the Infamous-track linked elsewhere will probably strike most people as slightly odd because they’re unused to the vocal style but if that was downplayed a little and some cosmetic chirugy applied to the instrumental parts, it would cross over into mainstream musical melancholia easily.

      In fact, in 2015, I came to the preliminary conclusion that black metal as a genre was commercialized bullshit intended to appeal to people who like pictures of “starry night in the woods” as sad-but-beautiful (and meaningless) distraction from everyday stuff, roughly those who’d also like “deep fantasy” like Mists of Avalon.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        In fact, in 2015, I came to the preliminary conclusion that black metal as a genre was commercialized bullshit

        As this again smells ripe for “you’re a whatever-I-hate-ist” projections: Thanks to David Rosales to whom I’ll be eternally grateful for this (for human definitions of ‘eternally’), I’ve meanwhile learned better.

      2. Belisario says:

        “Every serious band with anything resembling »recognition« started as fan project (or grew out of fan projects).”

        True and not true at the same time. Genre-defining metal bands started as a will to take further the boundaries and even as a reject of what was popular at the time (see Norwegian black metal vs American death metal). Fan projects that are not critical nor personal end up being worship stuff, and that is pretty much always derivative and lame.

    2. Blue Sky says:

      It seems to me like being rejected takes effect in the the same parts of the brain the register physical pain. Thus I implore you: why do you hurt me so?

  2. Gardens of Grief Gnome says:

    There was never any potential in Xasthur or Leviathan.

    1. At the Bill Gates says:

      You should be called “Garden Gnomes of Grief.”

      Or, “Garden of Gurdjieff’s Gnome”.

    2. canadaspaceman says:

      I occasionally like blasting Leviathan, Xasthur, Striborg , etc, and would not associate them with hipsters /cashgrabs like Deafhaven.

  3. HH says:

    how someone can sit and listen to another hour long Xasthur album is beyond my comprehension. That garbage can bore a hole through steel.

  4. Svmmoned says:

    “(…)hatred is one of the essences of black metal”

    Even more, it is one of the essences of higher, satanic, nietzschean human types. As for black metal – it can be comprised of hatred and hatred only:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-mRYYmU94A

    1. lol says:

      Funderground viking bullshit

      1. S.C. says:

        How is Thor’s Hammer “funderground.” Capricornus is a volatile white nationalist… whether or not the music is good, he’s not about good fun or will for all.

        1. Blue Sky says:

          Look, anything I don’t like/aren’t familiar with is funderground.

        2. canadaspaceman says:

          Thor’s Hammer is NOT “funderground”

  5. Varg says:

    U really care about this gay genre lol

    1. J says:

      I don’t understand this kind of post. You cared enough to post a comment on it. You could be a fan in disguise, which is even more confusing to me. Is he actually trolling the author/site itself? Is he supposed to be a caricature of someone who WOULD troll this site?

  6. Aaron weev-er says:

    CA is in need of a true Narrow Squirting Bowel Movement scene.

  7. GGALLIN1776 says:

    Nuke the west coast.

  8. Nuclear Whore says:

    Good article

    >As violent drug addiction decimated the “metal” scenes of northern west coast states, the

    Really? I’m ignorant. (I’m ignorant in the whole matter, because I only know that something that sounds like Sonic Youth is very difficult to sound like metal, and I’m more of an old school man)

    But good article, it is credible.

    1. Nuclear Whore says:

      Well, sorry for posting too early, the http://www.lockthecabinet.com/news/pharm-parties/ link from Mr. Toner explains lots of things. Thank you.

  9. Phil says:

    Two Hunters is a great album.

  10. It's just brown and water says:

    So as far as Wolves In the Throne Room goes, were you guys the dim-witted journalists or the heroin addicts?

    1. Blue Sky says:

      Yes and No

    2. canadaspaceman says:

      i like turtles

  11. Rainer WEikusat says:

    Considering that I’ve just forced me to endure almost all of No Blood Has Honour (Woe) because of ‘scientific interest’, I dare say East Cost “Black Metal” is no better. The lyrics are supposed to be somehow “antifatical” and not even this is accomplished: They’re really just a meaningless sequences of meaning-suggesting phrases.

    In case someone’s curious (Parental Advisory: No explicit or implied content. May cause infant amyelencephalia when consumed while pregant or trying to conceive):

    https://woeunholy.bandcamp.com/track/no-blood-has-honor

  12. Belisario says:

    Informative as well as combative, well done, Cullen!

Comments are closed.