Blabbermouth reports that Cannibal Corpse have sold more than two million albums, which makes death metal one of the more successful niche genres out there, since album sales of that nature plus tours equal a tidy sum of money. With founding bands like Morbid Angel and Slayer still gracing the charts, the spectrum of death metal related music sells more of its older albums today than it did back in the 1980s.
This puts an end to the assumption that bands cannot sell out by choosing underground metal. Once that might have been true, but now a band can launch into a genre with millions of fans, sell some albums and then detour into an indie rock project which then carries the cachet of edgy cool from having been involved with that rebel badboy metal music. There’s a lot of money in this genre for those willing to dig, and this means more entryists pounding at the door with careful camouflage for their insipid rock music.
In the process of turning everything into a product, Ohio’s Heavy Metal Church combines Christian worship with heavy metal, and in the process reduces both to caricatures of themselves.
To put it in a nutshell, we are a non-denomination, Bible-based Church in a comfortable atmosphere with great music! Our congregation consists of people from all walks of life and age groups. We don’t care what you wear because we just want you there! Our Church has no racial, ethnic or gender barriers and we could care less about your past or present life. We only care about your FUTURE life in Christ! Most people want God in their lives, but think they must clean up first before coming to Christ… You don’t clean up before you jump in the shower, do you? God wants you EXACTLY the way you are at this very moment. As long as you actively seek God, He will actively seek you, and the Holy Spirit will gently clean you up along the way.
This shows a shift from traditional church logic, which is that religion represents a spiritual force (“God”) which is unchanging and immutable, and that humanity has never changed since its inception, so there is a stability in the constancy of belief and its conventions. Back then, the goal was to get the individual to move closer to God. Now, as if selling cheeseburgers, the goal is to sell the church to the individual by making the church more like the everyday life of that individual.
Hence… Heavy Metal Church.
Christian purists and heavy metal purists alike will feel repelled by this abomination that combines a music dedicated to being separate from social conventions and a religion that at its heart feels it should not bend to social conventions. On one, the social convention imposed is a genre of mostly-entertainment, and on the other, the social convention imposed is church and being nice to people even if they’re idiots.
As Vice magazine reports, the heavy metal church is not that far removed from other “contemporary” worship services which feature rock music and the word of Jeeezus all in the same handy product package:
“We’re going to have healing, redemption, salvation, and deliverance take place here today,” says assistant Pastor Ron, from the front of the auditorium. Pastor Ron is a bearded guy who, if he were in a motorcycle movie, would probably be nicknamed “Tiny.”
“Woo!” goes the crowd.
Then the music starts. It’s a head-thrashing, blood-pumping tune, with decidedly Jesusy lyrics: “I believe / How about you / I believe / It’s true / I believe in him!” We bang our heads.
“Get your hands clapping! Come on!” says the guitarist wearing black who plays Judas Priest–style guitar with his combo.
Darling writers and poor researchers at L.A. Weekly have discovered Eduardo Ramirez, composer for post-black metal band Volahn, and his use of Mayan imagery:
A large shipment of a new heavy metal album to Germany, home to one of the genre’s most rabid fan bases, isn’t exactly breaking news. But when the subject matter isn’t the typical black metal tropes of Satanism and misanthropy, but instead pays tribute to Mayan civilizations and cultures of centuries past, it’s a testament to how well Ramirez is spreading his unique vision.
While his quest is surely a good one, he’s far from the first to do this.
Black metal included nationalism among its ideals, which meant singing in your native language about your native culture, whether that was Nordic or Mayan.
Several bands, most notably Xibalba with their classic Ah Dzam Poop Ek, have written about Mayan topics. Add to that list Xolotl from Mexico. In Austin, ex-Masochism guitarist Juan Torres created Ayasoltec, an Aztec-themed metal band, almost a decade ago.
It’s great to see bands endorsing their native culture, language, religion and folkways. However, it’s not something new; it’s a part of black metal, which the mainstream media like L.A. Weekly has spent years denying exists.
We are all familiar with the term: a group of males in a circle, each masturbating, with the collective approval of the act protecting the individual from criticism by others. In theory, this act originated in the days when masturbation was taboo and boys wanted to ensure that others would not inform on them, so got together a gang to self-stimulate together and attack any informers as a group.
For the purposes of this article, such events will be referred to as “autoerotic circles.”
Most metalheads pay no attention to the Grammy awards but for some unknown reason, much of the population seems to attend to these with regularity despite their being the result of a few hundred insiders and their opinions about what we should buy, not what is actually good. Watching the Grammys is like turning on your television to watch a 30-minute commercial (except that many infomercials were actually interesting in comparison).
For decades the Grammys have slighted heavy metal. This is because the media elites do not want you to like or purchase heavy metal. Heavy metal does not play by the rules, which is that every band must make basically the same music but differ in production and surface aspects, so that the great money circle can continue. The record industry makes its money by pumping out the same stuff again and again, having its lapdog “journalists” praise it, and then the clueless audience buy it because it is new and exciting on the surface. Then repeat. Watch money show up like spring rains. The “autoerotic circle” of media and industry became self-referential long ago, approving whatever was put out as a jobs program for journalists, studios, labels, promotions, and bands themselves. Just keep the money flowing, keep the scam going, don’t tell the secret.
Heavy metal breaks this model. It is riff-based, and requires bands to come up with not just killer riffs but the song structures to support them. It does not follow the denialist trend in lyrics, which has two prongs: a “protest song” prong that demands we pursue surrogate activities in lieu of noticing our society is decaying, and a “bohemian” prong which suggests ignoring all problems and focusing on your own pleasure, importance and drama at this one moment. Heavy metal tries to be heavy, both in lyrics and music, which is everything the music industry finds both unprofitable and threatening to its business model.
As a result, the music media elites view the Grammys as a chance to bash metal by mis-identifying it, putting non-metal bands in the category every time. As VH1 notes:
Yesterday in our breakdown of what’s right and wrong about this year’s ‘Best Metal Performance’ Grammy nominees we said musical comedy duo Tenacious D would win. Not should, but would. Why? Because since 1989, the first year they recognized the genre and Jethro Tull infamously beat Metallica, the Grammys have shown time and time again they have no clue and one can only assume little respect for heavy metal music. Nothing against The D, who are without a doubt talented, funny and truly love hard rock and metal, but to award them for ‘Best Metal Performance’ is to fundamentally misunderstand the genre and what makes it great.
Things seemed to have started well enough, as legendary hard rockers AC/DC began the festivities with their high decibel opening performance. But that’s only because most people didn’t know about Tenacious D’s win, since the Grammys don’t even feel the award merits inclusion in their primetime telecast. As word spread of their victory, outrage traveled throughout the metal community. Veterans however reacted with ambivalence, as the slight is just the latest in a history of heavy metal Grammy fails.
Hint to metalheads: the music industry hates you and always has. It tried to replace you with hard rock, then with rap-rock, and now with indie/shoegaze. It is your enemy. This is why metal went underground in the first place, and why it should not only never rely on mainstream media like the Grammys, but also actively reject them. It is not that we do not need these media elite awards, but that they are pretenders to the throne and should be torn down and sent back to the world of hipster posing where they belong.
The destruction of metal has not gone unnoticed. As Guitar World‘s Will Wallner notes, heavy metal is not heavy metal any longer because it has become rock music. Rock music assimilates anything in its path, adopting it first as a “new” style and then dumbing it down until it fits within the rock paradigm, at which point in its neutered form it becomes normed.
Heavy metal has lost all form of legitimacy as musical genre.
I believe it has evolved, or devolved, to the point where it has become something so different from what it once was, that it now is a different genre all together.
People could argue that music trends change constantly with new generations that influence what is popular. However, jazz is still jazz, blues is still blues, but metal is no longer metal. Traditional forms of music such as the ones I mentioned have changed over time, but not as quickly or as drastically as metal. In fact, the only other genre that seems to change so often and with such extremes is pop music.
While the rest of his post makes some assumptions that over-simplify metal, his point is essentially thus: the drive for jazz/progressive overtones in metal has abolished the genre itself, leaving in its place an aggregate of styles that ends up creating an average of them all. The more different elements you put in the pot, the more the result tastes like just plain stew, because the radical extremes balance each other out to the point of negation. If you melt all of your crayons together, you get a grayish-brown. When you dump every trendy music style into metal, you end up with rock that has a few metal riffs.
The music industry has been trying very hard since the 1970s to replace metal with rock. Rock pretends to be rebellious, but its secret is that it is easily controlled. It is all very musically similar, so new favorites can be quickly produced, and while none of them are as good as the founding acts of the genre, the audience cannot tell the difference. And they keep buying and buying. But with metal, the bar is raised and the domination of rock over the airwaves is threatened. That upsets the old hippies, media barons and neurotic journalists who make up the music industry elite, and they will always try to destroy metal for this original sin.
Totalitarianism 2.0 doesn’t look much like the former version. In the past, a dictator in uniform — like socialist and diversity advocate Joseph Stalin — would command secret police to enforce speech codes. Now, government sits back and allows a vast media establishment to enforce political ideas which just so happen to coincide with the goals of government: more control of citizens and ideological obedience, which makes government stronger.
But it would be a mistake to categorize today’s p.c. culture as only an academic phenomenon. Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.
It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity. A year ago, for instance, a photographer compiled images of Fordham students displaying signs recounting “an instance of racial microaggression they have faced.”
Now, several decades after the human rights movement traded its outsider status for influence in Washington, it is clear that this has produced negative as well as positive results. The movement has become a global behemoth. Sometimes it functions as a handmaiden to the power it was once dedicated to combating.
The most appalling result of this process in the United States is that some human rights activists now regularly call for using force to resolve the world’s problems. At one time, “human rights” implied opposition to war. Now some of the most outspoken warmongers in Washington are self-proclaimed human rights advocates.
Chait’s view is that this trend toward SJW hipster activism is in fact forming a parallel to the bad old days of 1940s totalitarianism:
The Marxist left has always dismissed liberalism’s commitment to protecting the rights of its political opponents — you know, the old line often misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” — as hopelessly naïve. If you maintain equal political rights for the oppressive capitalists and their proletarian victims, this will simply keep in place society’s unequal power relations. Why respect the rights of the class whose power you’re trying to smash? And so, according to Marxist thinking, your political rights depend entirely on what class you belong to. The modern far left has borrowed the Marxist critique of liberalism and substituted race and gender identities for economic ones.
In effect, as Jonathan Frum writes in The Atlantic, political correctness represents the self-radicalization of liberalism toward a totalitarian mindset. We can clearly see this in #metalgate and #gamergate, where SJW hipsters have crushed not just dissenting voices, but any voices that fail to parrot their own agenda.
The reason they target metal is that metal is chronically disobedient. We do not like illusions, metalheads, and we did not buy into the “peace and love” of the 1960s which culminated in ex-hippies getting into office and authorizing drone strikes on suspected extremists. We did not buy into the “just follow Jesus and Gordon Gekko” outlook of the 1980s, nor the 1990s dogma that all was going to be right through globalism, McDonald’s and peace. We see human society for what it is: an ugly tussle of animals competing to put their favored illusion above the rest, all while ignoring the majesty of reality as it is.
Remember how the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) acted back in the 1980s. First they said they wanted to stop “dangerous” content about sex and drugs, and suddenly, any album with swear words on it got the infamous warning label. This encouraged record stores to card you for buying the album, to not stock the album, or to put it in a special section. A few years later “censored” versions of Metallica and Cannibal Corpse albums could be found in your average record store, with conspicuous bleeps editing out the words that we shouldn’t hear, to the detriment of the music (often not in key).
It’s easy enough to ignore #metalgate right now because it may not affect you directly. But the important point is that it intends to. SJW hipsters behind the incursion into metal that provoked #metalgate want to censor your words and mine, not just avoiding bad stuff as they claim, but forcing you to repeat “good stuff” as they envision it, to the exclusion of anything else. If this isn’t totalitarian thought control, nothing is.
Detractors included Phil McSorely, who was fired from the band Cobalt for using hate slurs towards Curtis-Brignell and others, accusing them of trying to establish a “USBM [American black metal] friendship scene” and “liberal agenda” in extreme metal. The incident became one of the flashpoints for #metalgate, a short-lived hate campaign and offshoot of #gamergate that attacked journalists and artists accused of attempting to “censor” heavy metal.
She lies. Cobalt was not the trigger for #metalgate; SJW demands for censorship and exclusion on the basis of one writer’s opinions were. And #metalgate was neither launched by #gamergate nor a “hate campaign.” It remains — and is growing in strength — a resistance campaign against intrusion by the newcomers who are hoping to make SJW metal mainstream. (As a side note, it appears that Mr. McSorely has “un-friended” our editor on Facebook, possibly for his own sometimes liberal sensibilities.)
Look at Caïna for example. Highly hyped by labels, heavily supported by media, and yet it has no staying power because metalheads do not want kumbaya indie-rock. We want metal. Like other bands of this ilk, it sells to a certain audience but goes no further, and within weeks is forgotten. No one cites Caïna as a cornerstone of the genre, which is why the SJW hipsters are trying to bring it back with this article as if it had ever been relevant in the first place.
He articulates what SJW hipsters actually want — a “safe space” meaning removal of all ideas that threaten their worldview — and tries to conceal the censorship threat behind that mentality:
“I’m done with metal culture in a sense — conventional metal culture, that is,” he explains. “I guess in the positive, it showed that there are people who did agree with me about metal’s attitude towards certain groups. So I think my real change is to be ‘done’ with hedging. I can’t backtrack and adopt some new persona to weasel out of what I said. I believe what I said. I think in the few days that followed the drama, I could have tried to distance myself from whatever it was I was accused of being.
“But no, fuck it, I absolutely believe that metal should be a safe space for women, people of colour, differently abled people, the LGBT community. There’s nothing metal about arbitrary exclusionism. Safe space: unsafe music.”
This reminds us of the 1980s, when the PMRC decided to make metal “safe” by removing lyrics about sex, drugs and obscenity. Or in the early 1990s when Christians decided to make black metal safe by releasing “white metal” or “unblack metal” which sounded like black metal, but had Christian lyrics (with Horde being the forefront). Now we have SJWs who are releasing “safe metal” which sounds like shoegaze trying to be black metal and has safe, politically correct lyrics which seem to follow the agenda of their media overlords.
In the meantime, this controversy rages in other areas. The assault is coming from the media and their lackeys, and numerous communities are reacting, with gamers being first but now metalheads and other subcultures responding. The attitude generally is not that those who react are opposed to the viewpoints offered, but they do not like the form in which they are forced upon the audience, which is a “my way or the highway” ideological test by which you either endorse the SJW hipster viewpoint or are seen as an enemy of the State… errr, media.
In response to this we wish to open up the more comedic, playful, camp, ludic, carnivalesque dimension of black metal and black metal theory. In so doing, we set out to “pink” black metal by questioning its more nihilistic impulses (“blackening” and more “blackening”) in favour of more affirmative approaches and utilizations of BMT.
In “pinking” black metal/theory (and we are thinking here of critical and ironic BM-related gestures such as The Soft Pink Truth, Pinkish Black, Zweizz, Deafheaven, not to mention the influence of My Bloody Valentine and “pink noise” on shoegaze, post, or “hipster” black metal) we also hope to queer it by decentering the cisheteronormative and patriarchal underpinnings of both the black metal music and philosophy scenes. We wish to further BMT from a range of feminist, LGBTQ, and intersectional perspectives, including disability studies, crip theory, animal studies, and cute studies. Our interest in a more rainbow approach to black metal would also seek to consider and destabilize the racial normativities of black metal musical and theoretical traditions.
In other words: if it doesn’t fit the status quo, we’ll “study” it until we can argue that it does, and then use that to exclude anyone who doesn’t toe the line as being deviant. Just like SJW hipsters have done with #metalgate so far.
The SJWs keep up a simple strategy for dealing with #metalgate: pretend it never happened and, if it did happen, it died an early death.
Instead, #metalgate is ramping up as the collision between Political Correctness and heavy metal intensifies. Recently metalcore band All That Remains’ vocalist Phil Labonte made some comments that riled a few basement neckbeards:
In 2005, on the ‘Sounds Of The Underground’ DVD I said, ‘PC is for f–gots.’ That was the first time people went, ‘Whoa, what did he say?’ I have nothing against gay people. It’s just a word. Honestly, I think the only people that have a legit grievance when it comes to any racial slurs is the black community. I know the homosexual community has problems with it and I understand their hurt feelings.
But homosexuals were never property. They’ve had a rough time and I’m not trying to minimize that, but I think the black community has a whole lot more room to be upset about a word than the LGBT community.
Apparently this outraged and upset Rob Flynn of alternative-metal band Machine Head, who seems to spend a lot of time on Facebook. He carefully assembles a series of clichés and strung them together into a post which raged against Labonte:
Where are the god damn protest songs? Where are the “War, What Is It Good For’s”? Where are the “Fight The Power’s”? Where are the white metal bands protesting about Ferguson and Staten Island? Why don’t metal bands stand for anything anymore? When did we reach this point in society where it’s unpatriotic to question our military or our police? Why are so goddamned proud to just fall in line?
Here we see the underlying issue that propelled #metalgate rising to the top: the PC people recognize only certain issues, but metal is in fact fighting back against the actual problem, which is a religious approach to reality denial through secular (but unrealistic) politics. In the PC view, if we just change our thinking, we have changed reality. This is why for SJWs it is essential that everyone think the same way, speak the same way and act the same way regarding political issues. We will be in lock-step like good Nazis/Communists/Christians and since we will all be uniform, no deviation can occur. Problem solved! …right?
The metal point of view takes an entirely different approach. In the metal view, problems do not go away until you find the root and fix it. People do not “just get along.” In fact, the more you push people to publicly affirm an idea, the more they resist it in private. In the metal view, there are no magic bullets like laws, rules, and speech codes that fix problems that have persisted since the dawn of humankind. In the metal view, it seems reckless to — knowing that these problems exist — bring them into our communities by demanding that we “tolerate” the endless clashes that result.
Flynn’s rant is stupid because he refuses to acknowledge that metal has for years endorsed sensible responses, but they are not ones that are politically correct because they do not affirm the public paradigms that everyone else is affirming. Every major corporation, police department, court, Congressperson, media outlet, and metal magazine agrees with Rob Flynn and will enthusiastically say so. They do this because people act as a herd, and while the herd is always wrong, the herd rewards its own. His opinion is not radical, it’s the norm. Metal has resisted the norm and this is why it upsets him. He even admonishes us to be more like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, two hypocrtical Baby Boomer communists who quietly enriched themselves while talking up the working classes.
Let’s face it: in the highly politicized decade in which we live, songs about social justice are the equivalent of love songs in the 1950s. They offend no one. They shock no social norms. They give people something to bond over, which is how terrible gays, lesbians, women, minorities and other groups who should be pitied are treated by the bad white people. Because, see, SJWs are the good white people — and the vast majority of SJWs are college-educated whites who didn’t quite hit the jackpot, the same audience that creates all the hipsters. Being into social justice is their way of showing you that they are “good” (and thus concealing all that is bad about them behind that symbol of goodness) like politicians kissing babies or celebrities giving money to the homeless. SJW metal is like Justin Bieber except instead of using candy pop to sell records, it uses candy opinions and recycled hippie cons to make you think the people behind it are “good” even though you know only one thing they think or do and the rest is concealed.
Metal says that society is illegitimate because it denies reality. Whether that is through its approach to religion, politics or social activity, it is all lies: it would not be popular if it were not a lie. That is not the same as saying “because it is popular, it must be a lie,” because some things are popular for simply being catchy and vapid, and sometimes society is even correct. But it says that only lies or other things which do not threaten the human pretense at the root of our rotting society become popular. Thus, if you see that all the dunces are in confederacy in favor of something, be suspicious.
SJWs have a simple plan. They will censor through guilt. This allows them to avoid using Nazi-style government tactics to enforce speech codes when they can simply make Soviet-style speech codes mandatory by attacking anyone who does not agree. Rob Flynn is the witch-hunter here, the same sort of person who 200 years ago would have burned witches when the crops went bad, hung black people without a trial when a rape happened, or even a generation ago would have banned kids from school for wearing all black. He is the totalitarian. He and the SJWs are using “social justice” as a means to seize power and subjugate the rest of you. Metal — nearly alone, but with a few brave others in #gamergate — is resisting this authoritarian takeover.
The same thing gets tried every generation. Charlie Hebdo was attacked so that all cartoonists and writers would think twice about criticizing Islam. Despite all the protests by people who were at absolutely zero risk, and all the warm fuzzies from media about how free speech will save us, the result of the attacks is more crackdown on people who criticize Islam, both from governments and their insurance companies who do not want to pay out for preventable deaths. The PMRC’s campaign to have record warning labels made law failed, but the legal campaign won because it intimidated record labels into putting the warnings on those records or they could not get them into stores. SJWs will do the same thing by labeling some metal as “verboten” because it did not join their politically correct view of the world, and then it will be unable to be sold openly. That is their goal: censorship. Their method is a 2.0 to book burnings, public executions and other censorship 1.0 techniques, but it aims at the same thing and is more effective.
You can see how Bieber-like it is when you look at this comment on Mr. Flynn’s comments:
You just GAINED one more fan. I don’t even know what you sound like yet.
The SJW outlook is not new. It is not revolutionary. It is what governments of the USA and EU endorse. It is in fact conformity. They however want to convince you that their ideas are “revolutionary” so they sound unique, different and exciting. They want to look like brave outsiders denying the will of shadowy oppressive forces and liberating us all. In fact, they are attempting to enslave us all — wonder who our Al Sharpton will be — and they are every bit as mainstream, ordinary and socially accepted as Justin Bieber. They appeal to the herd by telling it what it already accepts, just like Bieber offers music with absolutely no surprises that resembles every big pop act that went before it. But if you listen to them, they are heroic Christ-like bearers of enlightenment and the rest of us are just idiots in comparison and should be silenced as a result.
We all want a powerful underground. The way to achieve that is to be harsh, cruel and unrelenting in our judgment of underground-style bands, or we permit lower quality to become the standard, and then because that is easier, it is what we will get. What we signal we accept becomes the norm. It is essential to be cruel to bullshit releases, and Desolate Shrine The Heart of the Netherworld is tryhard blather that permits introduction of modern metal tropes into old school metal while failing to achieve the power of expression that is the defining factor of old school underground metal.
On its surface, The Heart of the Netherworld is melodic doom-death. Under the surface, it consists of tired chord progressions and techniques worked around utterly repetitive songs which move in a wholly circular fashion and achieve nothing. The vocals pick up the modern metal trope of open-throated riding of the beat, putting the vocal in the lead role and deprecating guitar. That is as well, as no unique or expressive riffs fill this album. Instead, sort of like a slower degraded version of Nile, Desolate Shrine adapt rock riffs and add a few accidentals but tend to focus on a melodic interval accented by a strumming or arpeggiated pattern. The result is a form of churn, both at the riff-level and the song-level, which results in total boredom and directs the focus at the vocals, as if the vocalist were a parasitic organism that took over the brain of this band.
In addition, Desolate Shrine works in a number of modern metal patterns such as the recursive strum, the post-metal drone and (most odious of all) the chromatic ratchet turnaround that bad hardcore bands have been using for what feels like 40 years now. Aesthetically this album is exciting, but once you pop the hood and look inside, you realize it’s not a Mustang but one of those little Fiat microcars that sound like kitchen mixers that have been oiled too frequently. The underground is not a surface flavor; it is a way of composing, and to reach that stage, a way of thinking. Desolate Shrine have not taken the first step on that journey but have stepped off on another route.
The outrage over a relatively minor terrorist event shows us that the nerve that was hit had to do with more than terrorism. The events at the Charlie Hebdo HQ called into question many of the most basic aspects of our society.
We do not like to admit it, but the shots fired in Paris are just the latest in what can be described as an ideological war. Those who control what we see, hear and read are able to control the next generation by instructing their assumptions about life itself. Every side in this battle is fighting to get its message into the mainstream and crowd out other messages.
When talking about dystopia, people are fond of quoting this book, so I’ll do the same:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” ― George Orwell, 1984
This is a necessary consequence of both democracy and capitalism. If you control the message, you can amass a mob to be your personal army without them knowing it. If you tell people the sky is supposed to be green, and they see this in school, on TV and in print magazines, they will consider sky-is-blue people to be dangerous lunatics and ostracize them, which squeezes them out of society and eventually achieves total consensus.
Our modern society contains many competing groups and ideologies and each wants to control the discussion. In the meantime, the authorities and big industry want to provide non-answers to force compromise and the continuation of business as usual. This is why they always talk about peace, compassion, tolerance and empathy: those methods do not rock the boat or change its course at all, because they say that the problem is not the problem, but how we think about it. Just change your thinking!
In addition, these are popular ideas because they make us feel good, which makes them perfect products. People spend a lot of money to feel good. Whether it is buying an Audi to feel successful, taking Zoloft to feel cheerful, purchasing a copy of Mother Jones (or Fox News) to feel righteous anger and the satisfaction of being “right,” people like to feel good. And feeling good is all about changing your thinking, not addressing the actual underlying problem.
While 1984 was great, Brave New World may be scarier. As Amusing Ourselves to Death depicts, in Huxley’s vision of dystopia we are not controlled by a totalitarian government, but enforce totalitarianism on ourselves… in our best interests. People pursue pleasure, become oblivious to reality, and create instead a hateful society where boredom and misery dominate, but all the problems have been “solved” by enforcing compromise through law and technology.
On the other side of the coin, ideologues — including extreme Islam or whatever we’re calling it this week — seduce us away from the world of pleasurable non-meaning by appeal to our sense of being important. We fear irrelevance most of all, and dying in a blaze of glory for jihad, the environment, the white race, etc. appeals to those who have simply noticed how boring our society is. This side is fighting hard to get its message out there too. The pleasure zombies and ideologues are both vying for ad space… in your mind.
Metal is important because it does not subscribe to either of these extremes, which it portrays as two aspects of the same thing. Metal looks at reality itself, and sees the nature of life as power, and so un-does the reasoning behind the ideological and pleasure zombie groups out there. They hate it for that. Metal is the outsider, the kid who refuses to go along with the agenda that the teacher wants everyone to follow, the actual non-conformist. And in popular music, where Baby Boomer attitudes have held sway for forty years now, metal is the ultimate minority. We do not buy into the easy solutions offered by these people.
We do not seek “tolerance.” – Erik Danielsson, Watain
99% of the voices we hear in media are repeating the same easy lies to us. They are doing this to conceal the problem and lull us into easy oblivion yet again. Since metal refuses to play along with this agenda, we are a target. They want to take over metal and turn it into a different voice repeating another angle of the same crap the other 99% are repeating. They want to use us for their propaganda, much like Charlie Hebdo was counter-propaganda to radical Islam and got shot down as a result. The only honorable course of action, and the only one that is not a path to total irrelevance, is for metal to stand up and resist these attempts by others to make us tools of their system.
Cleverness — glib intelligence focused on past good results manipulating an existing system — serves as the enemy to innovation. Balancing that is the notion that what is older is usually better because, human conditions having never changed, that which serves well once will continue to do so until the situation changes (which usually means it is simply decaying and unstable). Ctulu takes us back to 1997 and combines Swedish melodic death metal, Greek black metal and the classic Iron Maiden style of melodic heavy metal for a satisfying listen that is nonetheless non-essential. In this case, “non-essential” means that you can go listen to the original albums for a more complete (less clever) view of the genre, but that Ctulu will be fun for weekend listening and the local or regional metal scene.
Now, the above seems strikingly unfair. After all, Ctulu is a good band, and the fact that they repeat trills and melodic progressions from sources as diverse as later Sacramentum, Necrophobic, Unanimated, Mayhem, Rotting Christ and Piece of Time seems irrelevant to their quality as a band; that is very much true. But what is being played here is not so much the instrument as the genre and the expectation of fans based on those older works, so what occurs is ultimately clever instead of innovative. This band has developed its own voice, but it is a voice that converses only in the context of these past acts. Without them, this band would appear strikingly different but also starkly empty. These well put together songs reflect not an interest in pushing an envelope but in gratifying a need that already exists, which is why by the sixth track the sensation of listening itself has become repetitive more than the music itself. We know what it conveys; it has found different ways of doing roughly the same thing and while most of us will grudgingly admit to adoring the melodic metal sound, it works best in service to a grand or epic vision as in the underrated later Sacramentum speed metal hybrid albums which Sarkomand frequently resembles. Here we have a local band holding the horns and beer stein high, keeping up the tradition, but this is the worst of conservative thinking in that it is creating this tradition from outward-in, not from some motivation within toward an end product, and as a result it trivializes what is here and what was there.
Expect flowing melodic passages which elevate the fill to central position so that riffs may reverse direction through the scale and achieve a sense of rapid motion. Mate that with highly proficient drumming that generally stays out of the focus but frames it expertly, mid-level death metal vocals and heavy metal choruses and you have the basic idea. While most of the riffing is death metal derived and would fit on a Sentenced or Dissection album, much of the underlying song motion more resembles black metal in its choice of atmosphere followed by saturation of that atmosphere and an angsty breakout. Like many bands influenced by this style, Ctulu know how to write a chorus that is both pleasing to the ear and yet carefully hides its addictive tendencies over just enough detachment to make it plausible instead of cloying. At this, Ctulu best the competition and it explains why they have risen above the utter horde of melodic retro death metal bands to be in the position they are in also. And yet, Sarkomand remains an album that is fun to listen to but when it departs, nothing feels missing.