Are you “untrue”?


We get a lot of comments here, but a frequent type — and they are nearly identical — is this:

This site has really gone to shit. Instead of doing articles about true underground metal, you’ve got all these stupid articles on tobacco, whiskey, SJWs and beer.

This is a variation on an old argument that splits the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy in half. If you recall, that fallacy takes this form:

Person 1: Christians do not spit on their enemies.
Person 2: The pope just hocked a loogie onto the Queen.
Person 1: He’s not a true Christian, just a pro forma one.

Sometimes fallacies are not fallacies per se but a description of a common trope of language used to deflect an argument. When used wrongly, they fail, such as slippery slope, which is a real argument but is frequently used by ham-handed idiots (“If we legalize heavy metal, people will turn to Nazism next!”). The No True Scotsman argument is a fallacy when used to enforce a broken category, but not when it points out the exception strengthens the rule. For example, most Christians will not spit on the Queen, and that pope might just be out of line.

In the case of metal, trueness exists. It refers to people who understand metal on its own terms, instead of re-purposing it for their own social needs like hipsters do, and uphold that worldview and values system which we might call a “culture.” On the other hand, some are quick to call “untrue” anything which does not fit a selective stereotype of metalheads as being only about music and a certain lifestyle. These types are not scene-policing, but bullying others into accepting lowest common denominator behavior.

Wearing denim vests with patches, drinking trendy beer and buying lots of metal albums is not what metal is about. It’s false signaling to allow useless people to join the community because doing those things is easy, where living and understanding metal — a form of art with its own outlook and philosophy, like most artistic movements — takes some effort internal to the human being. And that is what most refuse to do. They do not want to internalize learning and share themselves and limit their own reckless impulses. They would rather have a surface-level conformity that gains them entrance to the group, and to do that, they need to spit on anyone who thinks metal is more than credit card payments, goofy clothing and being drunk all the time.

I tend to reply to such people with these:

Feel free to send in articles or ideas.

So far, none have taken me up on this. How can results be so consistent? It’s in the psychology: their psychology is not about what they say it is about, which is articles about metal. Their psychology is in putting others down by claiming those others are untrue, only so that they can in turn claim they are true for these token conformist attributes. They will never contribute… because their contribution is angry, pointless criticism. They will never do more than that. You will find whole forums (NWN/FMP) full of such people. They are hipsters of another stripe.

They remind me of another type of person that I call “the California personality.” This type is very common among bloggers. They are equal parts self-promoting and defensive, with a totalitarian intolerance of anything that seems to them to be critical of them or their choices in life. The California personality will always tell you how amazing their life is, and how they’ve made choices that magically worked out in defiance of conventional wisdom. If people think it is unsafe to walk the Cass Corridor after dark, the California personality went there and not only was safe, but met a famous artist and partied till dawn drinking artisanal wine. If people think you shouldn’t build your house on a fault line, the California personality lives in the fault and has a precious, sunlight-kissed bungalow (which is highly energy efficient).

The California personality will fool you for some time. You will look at your own life, and wonder why you don’t get such great results. They, on the other hand, appear to be picked by the hand of God to succeed in everything. But over time, you start seeing cracks in their narrative. The great house actually has lots of leaks, which is why they’re selling it. The artist they met in the Cass Corridor held them hostage until dawn and drank all their artisanal wine. Their statements are not merely rose-colored, but outright lies. A California personality goes through life always justifying their decisions as successes, after the fact, when often they are simply chumps making poor choices but are good at making those choices seem appealing to others.

The same mentality infests the hipsters, tryhards, poseurs and “trve kvlt” types in metal. Their own lives are ruins, but they want to hide that by putting down your life. They contribute nothing, but want to pull down your contributions. Like lifestyle bloggers (especially the odious “mommy bloggers”) they want to show you their great-looking children, quirky recipes and fantastic decorating choices, but are hiding a vast inner despair as their marriages fail, careers stall, and total lack of ideas creates lack of personal direction. These people are not here to do anything, but to partake in the doing of others. It’s why they are best mocked and pushed aside as this article hopes to do.

Why metal and SJWs are natural enemies


The casual observer seeing how metalheads and SJWs, who descend more from crustfund punk and emo than metal, might ascertain that the two groups are radically different. This observer might even note how many of the “tryhard” types are in fact thinly-disguised SJWs. But at first appearance, the reason for this separation will be misunderstood.

An average person will see metal as wild and lawless, like a combination of the Wild West and medieval Europe, where SJWs are more like modern Europe: very morally righteous, sensitive and inclusive. This difference separates metalheads from SJWs, but it is not the primal reason why the two are different. It serves as a guidepost to that end however.

Black Sabbath launched themselves during the height of the hippie period. At that time, the popular narrative that people told themselves was that history from the Napoleonic Wars to 1945 was just one big mistake, and the way to defeat it was love, through people power and pacifism and universal acceptance. Apparently none of these people studied history or they would have known how frequently this trope comes up, and how it usually ends! Black Sabbath saw through what these hippies were saying an argued it was more of the same, and that humanity was in denial of reality and has been choosing various “human realities” instead of actual reality, to its doom.

In human experience, our most common error is self-delusion. When that is discovered, we usually choose another self-delusion. The classic example is the alcoholic who runs into the arms of a tent revivalist, and becomes addicted to another set of false promises. Another is the woman who flees her marriage only to find out years later that the new boyfriend she chose is a lot like the last husband. Voters run from one party to another, as they go from one cell phone company to another, thinking that “the other guy” might have answers. And he never does. The reason why is that he is also selling an illusion, because only illusions sell.

This leads us to why metal is different from rock and why it is the natural enemy of SJWs: metal is against illusions. SJWs want you to pick one illusion over others, but metal points out that whatever is popular is illusion and is wrong. We need some other way of looking at the world than what “most people” want to believe is true about it because it makes them look good, feel important and think they are unique. Humanity is basically a large organic machine for producing lies, and every group wants us to substitute their lie for the dominant lie, but all of these lies have their root in the same idea: that what we feel, judge and emote is more important than reality itself.

Look at politics. It is a wasteland. As notorious shock realist author Tom Wolfe once wrote in a letter to a friend:

The Republican Party as now constituted is obviously too stupid to survive…. What is to be done? Of course, that was Lenin’s line and the only lucid one he ever wrote. The answer is nothing. America’s position is unassailable. We are the imperial Rome of the 3rd Millennium. Our government is a CSX train on a track. People on one side (the left) yell at it, and people on the other side (the right) yell at it, but the train’s only going to go down the track. Thank God for that. That’s why I find American politics too boring to write about. Nixon is forced from office. Does a military junta rise up? Do the tanks roll? Give me a break.

Let us separate “rock music thinking” from “real world thinking.” Not in the way that our great-grandparents did, where rock was bad and work was good, but in the manner of people who recognize that popular music is entertainment which pretends to be profound, but is the opposite of art which explores profound subjects through realism. Entertainment wants you to think it has all the answers, but ultimately it is a social phenomenon, like chatting up a girl near the keg at a frat party. It says what flatters its listeners. It wants them to think they are profound, interesting, vivid, heck… it wants them to think they are the stars on the stage… because that sells rock music, and lets all these musicians and labels and journalists keep up the nice cushy lifestyle instead of the job managing a Target or 7-11 they would have had, had rock not come along.

Rock music thinking is advertising. It wants you to think that you can be all the cool in the world for just this one next purchase, whether a tshirt or CD. It needs to offer you highly dumbed-down and simplified ideas that make you feel like you are in control of the world. Why get into the nuances of international politics and millennium-long analyzes of the health of empires? Just say “love is the answer.” All the people will flock to that, not so much as they are idiots — although most of them are — but because they are self-deluding. They want that easy, convenient answer because it makes them feel in control.

SJWs are part of rock music thinking. They have gone from “love is the answer” to “tolerance is the answer,” forgetting that like so many Utopian quests this one will involve denying human nature and human needs, and as a result will require increasing degrees of force to make it work. They also ignore the somewhat banal reality that people mostly do not like each other and tend to associate in groups of people like themselves as a barrier to the broader world. In consequence, what SJWs preach is illusion just like the other illusions. Look at them all.

The public conservatives in this world are arch-dumbshits who think that if they adopt liberal ideas about equality, but keep industry and war going on, we will somehow turn out OK. Their great fiction is that if you just go to a job and spend all of your life there, and then manage your affairs responsibly, society will somehow follow your lead. Actually, they never think that far, because they are dumbshits, as mentioned above.

Liberals also fit in the dumbshit category. They think that if every person is just “free” and “equal,” society will magically self-organize into a permanent Burning Man of love and happiness. They ignore the fact that most people are inveterate liars who avoid the truth compulsively, and that what makes happy societies is forcing those stupid fucks to obey reality instead of their own neurotic, fruity minds. Liberals also like to give away things for free, taking from the useful and giving to the useless and spending themselves out of money, at which point their societies collapse. Europe and the USA are about to collapse from this phenomenon. More dumbshits.

Nazis — and I really don’t want to get into splitting hairs about who’s a fascist, a neo-Nazi, a white nationalist, a racialist or just a bigot — are also in the arch-dumbshit camp. They are SJWs of the far-right. Where SJWs think that tolerance is the answer, Nazis think that intolerance is the answer, and that if we just remove the mud races and Eternal Jews everything will be OK. This ignores the problem that most white people are stupid as bricks and dishonest as whores, and that our society needs a redesign from the top-down not bottom-up. I think Nazis more resemble Communists than they want to think. They are right in that diversity has never worked throughout history, but wrong in who they blame, which joins them in the dumbshit camp.

The far-left might be even stupider. None of them realize that the ideas they are chasing are from 1789 and 1867, but go back even farther to the religious fanatics of the 1500s. They are claiming very old and debunked ideas as a “new way” that will somehow magically avoid all the problems that human society has known since the dawn of time. If we all just went vegan, listened to posi-techno, and gave everyone free money, they think, all causes for conflict would be eliminated. But life is a cause of conflict because that is how it negotiates change so that the more realistic prevails over the self-deluding. Humans don’t want to be reminded of that, because it points out that Darwinistic natural selection (DNS) might take our lives at any moment if we delude ourselves, yet self-delusion is our nature. I see the far-left as overgrown children trying to pretend life is not happening to them.

Libertarians are like Nazis: extreme dogmatics who do not realize the leftist roots of their own philosophy. The idea of the free market I get and support because it allows better products and services to become available without some bureaucrat giving them the rubber-stamp. In fact, the libertarian idea of replacing most of society with a market has merit. The problem is that then we’re back at conservative anarchism where we assume that magically, the tiny group of people doing the right thing will win out over the self-deluding herd. Ain’t gonna happen. Libertarianism is another form of voting where the good people neutralize themselves by never, ever stooping so low as to tell others what to do, and then the masses roll right over them on their way to the Budweiser, light cigarettes and sugary cheeseburgers.

I’m not sure there are any other philosophies in politics worth considering. Anarchism is fun because in small groups, people who know and like each other can collaborate, but it falls apart after that. Communitarianism and distributism and all those other hybrids are ways to try to make socialism work within some kind of cultural context, but those fall apart because the idea of getting free stuff beats out any conditions placed on it. Traditionalism is interesting, but it’s basically Nietzsche for Christians, which makes it less useful, and the idea that religion can substitute for the structure of society — which is generally culture, leadership and religion, informed by economics — is laughable in itself. Same for Rastafarians and atheists I suppose.

Delusionists want to ignore the obvious: this world is hell. We have made a disaster out of civilization and are leading ourselves to collapse. There is no escape from the end, at least until we stop our fundamental error, which is assuming that delusion can substitute for realism, which is just like the alcoholic insisting that he’ll be OK if he only drinks clear liquors, or the tent revivalist telling you that all will be okay if you just believe and ignore the world around you (including the hand in your pocket). Humans tend toward self-deception because it flatters us that we are in control. Politics reflects this with many varieties of denial.

The point I make in insulting every political group that I can think of is this: metal wants to end human delusion, and everyone else wants their type of human delusion to be “validated” by everyone else. This is why metal hates SJWs; SJWs are apologists for our current society because they believe that with just a little tweak to our delusion, we make make the illusion work, when metal reminds us that we are the new Roman Empire falling because we have introduced too much internal conflict and lack a shared purpose. You can only have a shared purpose if you are focused on reality, and as human societies grow and become wealthy, they empower their people to deny reality and become self-deluding. Metal wins over all these silly varieties of illusion.

What does it take to destroy metal?


People think like they eat, so when someone talks about heavy metal being destroyed, they envision it being completely consumed like a donut before coffee. In reality, destruction is more like tainting, namely that if I spill a thousandth of a drop of nerve gas on your donut, you won’t want to eat it, ever.

Heavy metal can be destroyed if enough of it becomes hogwash that the smart people flee. Someone would say that has already happened, but I go for the more cheerful “in progress” designation. When a certain amount — say, 20% — of people surrounding metal are the same idiots that one finds everywhere else, or worse highly specialized types of idiots like hipsters, then the good people abandon the genre and it becomes swallowed up by people who do not understand it. They quickly convert it into the Same Old Thing the way they do to every genre and soon it sounds a lot like regular rock music with some heavy distortion and a metal riff now and again. It “lives on” in a different form, but for practical purposes, it is dead.

With revelations emerging that SJWs in punk bands who banned Disma from the Netherlands Deathfest wanted to go after another band first, but when they couldn’t find an excuse for a beatdown there had to attack Disma instead, it has become clear to metalheads that they are under attack. Because of the way SJWs behave, you can no longer not take a side; you are either with the SJWs, or their enemy, in their view. This is driving many metalheads to the anti-censorship side because, independent of political view, we realize that allowing bully gangs to form lynch mobs to witch hunt “bad” thought will result in the destruction of metal.

These incursions are part of a larger pattern. When Mastodon gets shamed and forced to apologize for having scantily-clad women in their hard rock videos, and then Metalgate was launched when SJWs tried to censor non-SJWs on metal mailing lists, it seemed that it was a cluster of events. Then we saw SJWs faking the news and a series of new attacks on actual metal bands by these pretenders. There’s a list of articles published since AD 2000 in which journalists and their lackeys in certain hipster bands and labels push for guilt that leads to censorship. In their view, there is one good way to be, and everyone else is pure bad. Like a light switch: it’s either set to “Full SJW” or it is off, and you should feel bad.

What is frightening about this is how easily SJWs can succeed. Different groups have been trying to take over heavy metal for years because heavy metal is a media signal for rebellion that cannot be bought out with ready cash money like every other “movement” in our time. We’re used to politicians pretending to regulate a group when they are in fact working for that group, or journalists representing entrenched political interests while pretending to be objective. When the FBI talks about corruption threatening the soul and fabric of the US, this — in part — is what they mean. It is relatively easy to take over a genre, turn it into a megaphone for political views, and then discard it when the trend is over. Christians, the far-right, the far-left, and other groups have tried to assimilate metal in this way.

Industry is backing the SJW incursion because it will allow them to make a lot of money in the short term and then transition into selling rock music, which is what they do best because it is easy to make a lot of it and if no stronger option, like metal, exists, to sell a lot of it to an audience bored with pop. Like the Republicans, rock and especially heavy rock are the controlled opposition to sugar-pop but if the industry has its way, will not be really all that different. Media supports industry. Apparently, so do the metalfests. We are seeing a situation where once again metal stands alone, hated by all, but this time our enemies are using passive-aggression to try to take over metal, instead of trying to outright ban it.

Those who love metal will be standing up to protect it. Unlike SJWs, the anti-censorship side does not demand that you adopt a political orthodoxy. It simply says that we need to stop pre-filtering music by whether it has the “correct” political outlook, and need to start being more open-minded. Mention any group and you have immediately assumed they are all the same; not all Democrats or all Republicans are identical. Among there, some interpretations of those belief systems are in fact more advanced than others. Having free speech allows, much like natural selection, better ideas to rise to the top, and this means that we all benefit from clearer information. It’s questionable why anyone would want to stop that — well, unless they want to control your minds through music, of course.

Summoning’s Minas Morgul turns 20 this week

Summoning - Minas Morgul (2015)
On October 16th, 1995, Napalm Records released Summoning’s second album, Minas Morgul; it is arguably the first release by the band to showcase their signature sound. Minas Morgul is heavy on repetition, ambiance, and cheap keyboards, but in spite of its minimalist elements (or perhaps because of them), it’s a surprisingly sophisticated work. On full display here is Summoning’s ability to convey an overarching mood or idea without resorting to extreme aesthetic shifts or overstuffing their tracks. In the process, Summoning often leaves behind conventional black metal technique but never abandons the themes at the core of their music – war, wandering, fantasy, triumph, and so forth. The band’s next album (Dol Guldur) refines much of the technique and production surrounding this approach, but Minas Morgul is still an excellent album 20 years after its debut.

On writing negative reviews


Back in the days of information scarcity when metal fans found bands through fifteen-generation tapes and xeroxes of pasted-together fanzines, I made the decision to focus on bands of quality. People needed more than anything else a shopping list when they wrote to Wild Rags or Relapse with an order form; as Relapse mailorder grew and essentially became the center of the underground mail order scene, the copywriting got more exuberant and people became even more confused. They needed solid information in the form of “reviews” that actually assessed the material and came up with solid reasons why it might be worth listening to for more than a few months. Looking down a list of of releases with two-line descriptions that ended with “it’ll tear your head off!” gave people nothing, and in the limited hours they had for finding new metal, they needed descriptive writing that could show them what stood out above the rest.

For that reason, I wrote positive reviews and ignored the bands that did not strike me as interesting enough to hear for repeated listens over the years. As Karl Marx reminds us, time is money and conversely, money is time, exchanged by working hours for what can then be spent. Money spent on the wrong bands damges fans. It also damages the health of the scene. Worse, it creates a Darwinistic negative effect where bands are rewarded for slapping out some haphazard or soulless material but getting a good cover, signing to the right label, or having solid promotion, and then getting rewarded for this mediocre content but good marketing. Quality reviews enforce natural selection on metal where the best rises.

Over time the market shifted. With the rise of big metal magazines which would cover the underground, and then the internet, there was no longer a shortage of information. The opposite problem presented itself: we were literally drowning in information. Magazines published thousands of reviews, most of which described some of the surface attributes of a band and then praised it as the next best thing. Internet websites emulated them and became cheerleaders more than critical voices. People now had so many options that they needed not only a list of things to look out for, but defenses against the hype and promotion. They needed solid reasons why some bands were just promotion and aesthetics with no content.

I wish that during this time I had written more critical reviews. I should have been shouting from the rooftops that the first Opeth was warmed-over hard rock made in a cryptic pseudo-progressive format to give basement dwellers some reason to think they were more “deep” than their friends. I should have screamed at the first Slayer to deviate from their unbroken quality, Divine Intervention, and pointed out that the band would have kept its old audience and new by not imitating the past, but keeping up the quality and compositional style of the past instead of going toward vocal-driven hard rock. I should have called out every band of the two types that make metal fail, the false-authentic “tryhard” bands that imitate the surface of past greats, and the “open minded” bands that borrow from old genres and call the hybrid a new thing. But I was stuck in the old mode of trying to find the good in a stream of so-so.

The problem with this approach became obvious over time: there were few gems, but a constant stream of news, and by dropping out of that news stream, I failed to comment on what people were seeing on their screens and pages. They needed guidance from experienced hands who could say, “Nope, seen this before — it’s Bruce Springsteen riffs tricked out as jazz rock with some metal flourishes.” Or, equally important, to ask why it was that a band sounded exactly like Celtic Frost or Blasphemy but the songs had none of the personality and variation of those bands. With the information overload, metal needed mean voices to provide counter-arguments to the excuses and trends offered in the promotions.

For this reason, in the latest incarnation of this site we launched the sadistic style of writing metal reviews. We take the highly-hyped and show why it is hollow, empty and meaningless. The point is not the band itself, but the series of tropes used by labels and magazines to sell this band. If they claim it is open-minded, we need to show how it is merely an imitation of the past in an older genre than metal. If they claim it is trve, its utter lack of ideas and simultaneous aping of the past needs to be revealed. People need mental weapons against the onslaught of advertising coming from both big media and thousands of little over-enthusiastic blogs.

Those of us who write do so — if we are good — to convey some kind of information, usually the type of learning one gains with experience. We can peer beneath the layers of production, marketing, trendy chatter and hype and get to the real question: is this music interesting enough to listen to for months and years, instead of another passing fad? This helps keep metal healthy by ensuring that the good releases get rewarded and the bad forgotten. For many years, I failed you all in this capacity, and I hope to rectify it with well-placed cruelty laying bare the essence of this music.

On the difference between art and propaganda


When issues arise like those of ideological fascists in metal, whether of the SJW or far-right types, the inevitable division between art and propaganda arises. Having written about this for over two decades, I make the following distinction: art has artistic purpose, which is to reveal; propaganda has dogmatic purpose, which is to condition and manipulate the mind through projecting a sense of self-congratulatory correctness onto the perceiver.

Luckily, others have written about this topic, and well. From Canadian author Robertson Davies writing at First Things comes this cogent analysis:

When I was a boy, I was a voracious reader. My home had plenty of moral literature on its shelves, and I was urged to read it for my betterment. There was lots of other literature, as well, but I was not forbidden, only discouraged, from reading it as it was said to be “beyond me,” which I quickly discovered meant that it dealt with life pretty much as life was, and not as the determinedly moral writers wanted me to think.

…I could not stomach Little Lord Fauntleroy, who presented me with a political puzzle especially hard for a Canadian: What was that boy, and what did he do? He was an American, but by chance he inherited a title and went to England and became a Lord, and thereafter was remorselessly democratic toward anyone who kept it firmly in mind that he was a Lord, and behaved accordingly. The Little Lord existed to hammer home two things that were presented as mighty truths: We must be democratic and we must recognize the moral superiority that goes with poverty. It was easy, I thought, to be a democrat if everybody toadied to you, and I wished that the Little Lord could spend a few days at the school I went to, where to be known as a tireless reader (for I could not conceal it) was to be an outcast. Many of my persecutors enjoyed the blessing of poverty, but it did not seem to improve their characters. They were savage, jealous, and without bowels of compassion.

My sanity was saved by the books I read on the sly. Dickens, where evil people were plentiful and often rich, successful, and attractive. Thackeray, where snobbery seemed to be the mainspring of much of the action. Thomas Hardy, where life was complicated by opposed moralities and the uncontrollable workings of Destiny, and where God was decidedly not a loving Father. I did not know it at the time, but of course these were the works of literary artists who observed life with keen eyes and wrote about what they saw, as their widely varying temperaments enabled them to see. When I myself became a writer, it was these whom I chose to follow, as best I could, and not the aggressive moralists.

SJW is a form of aggressive moralism. Nazism, which is an attempt to mold far-right values to a Leftist-style ideological structure, makes that same error (which became fatal for it). Similarly Communism and Socialism are moral appeals, meaning that they base themselves not on practical reasoning — “this works” — but on what should be, based on the feelings of individuals united into large angry groups dedicated to tearing down all people above them. Similarly, Christianity in metal attempts to be a dogmatic ideology, and so we get ludicrous songs about fighting for the Lord which like the propaganda above, present the world in black/white distinctions: one side all is goodness and purity, and the other is bad, stupid, rich and horrible.

When approaching these types in metal it is essential to see this distinction. The victimhood music of indie-rock bands for example presents us perfect, innocent, suffering victims of the type that appeared in moralist Christian literature, opposed by equally dark, evil and cruel forces of large corporations and right-wing tyrants. These overly-simplified moral models exist to make people want to be the good, and to polarize against the bad, without digging into any of the complexity of life that a realistic perspective provides. They are baby food for the brain, as manipulative as television commercials, and as deceptive as the seductions of a whore.

Art will always be better than propaganda, but people like propaganda because it makes them feel good about themselves. When you are presented with absolutes like good and evil, and those are put into simple terms of intent rather than achievement of goals, it makes every idiot shuffling in off the street into a hero just by wanting to be like the good guy in the propaganda. This is why propaganda is easily recognizable through its extreme polarization between the bad enemy scapegoat and the good virtuous long-suffering victim who is secretly a hero, just like the average person with a half-failed life wants himself to be, but will never take steps to be alone and can only do so in a large angry mob.

The assault on metal has taken many forms. During its early days, it was rock bands pretending to be metal to try to capture the authentic feel and thus the bourgeois rebel audience. Later the Christians came in, feeling that a message of evil needed to be replaced with a good one. The white power types have tried for years, often with sympathy from legitimate metal bands, but have never taken ground because metal emphasizes realism over politics. Now the SJWs — who are more similar to Communists than Nazis, but use the same methods — are trying to exact same approach. It helps to see this, recognize it as the attempted mind control that it is, and show it the door.

Mountains Are Mountains

Guest post by former editor David Rosales



Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.

— Ch’ing-yüan Wei-hsin, Ch’uan Teng Lu

Those who thirst for knowledge and wisdom move in cycles of understanding delimited by internalization and externalization. These transitions are not tied to fixed degrees and their own depth as well as their distance from the next phase varies from one person to the next. The cycles of understanding can be exemplified by the process of finding out how an electronic or mechanical device works: we first pry it open and find ourselves faced with a multitude of components whose nature we usually do not even begin to understand. It is only after a while that we slowly start to identify the function pertaining each of these elements.

At first, and as we acquire basic information on the system, we are taken aback by the complexity of the relations between the different pieces working with each other in interlocked patterns. Even after understanding the purpose and function that each of the pieces has, one is not assured a proper grasp of the bigger picture. The reason for this is that this is not simply the result of the mechanical output of wheels and cogs, but something else arising from the total.

And so, after a first wave of study, analysis and pondering, a first picture is obtained. The student may think he now knows what’s going on, and that all undetermined parts are simply “subjective” or “random” and cannot be considered relevant. Some would call it a day and leave it at that. Others would continue from this higher ground, recharging batteries and pushing forth theories and testing them for incongruences until a newer picture emerges, one where what he considered parts of a whole are only parts of a partial system, embedded in either a greater mesh or having a completely different shape or balance of parts.

In dealing with the enigma of true learning, the conscious human mind is impaired with an understanding that remains clear only up to very straightforward deterministic causal relations and requires its most powerful tool to attain its full potential: the underestimated intuition. If anyone has doubts regarding the role of intuition and the subconscious (unconscious?) in learning (the attaining of understanding), one only has to think that cramming on a particular subject yields instant information on the most direct and obvious levels, but that it is only after one has “slept on it” that repercussions and otherwise unimagined dependencies are revealed to the mind.

Most valuable information, of course, can also come through experience and a scientific exploration of any subject, which provides the springboard of systematized analysis that scientific thought is. Unfortunately for humanity, “science” has slowly become a synonym for “materialist close-mindedness” ever since the so-called Enlightenment, and anything that is not “scientifically proven” (which is an interesting parallel to reducing any idea to the lowest common denominator in its requirement of the idea in question being universally reproducible in laboratory conditions) is held to be unreliable and irrelevant – unless the establishment likes the idea (for political or ego reasons, more often than not), making the profit-based scientific research advance at an unbearably slow speed towards the fabrication of commodities and pointless lifespan prolongation.

Applying this description of universal acquisition of human wisdom to music appreciation cannot only afford us with a clearer way of realizing the value of art but may as well arm us with the steel necessary to combat the nonsensical idea of complete subjectivity in the perception of music which cripples any discussion on its value in favor of modernist un-human experimentalism and post-modernist adoration for the recycled novelty. Modernist and post-modernist ideas about art arise from the same so-called-scientific materialist thinking that spawned infantile Marxist thought. All of these have in common that they use the word “science” and “objectivity” as a shield while they naively ignore human nature in favor of completely biased ideas on how civilization should proceed in their consideration of either arts, politics or economy. The haughty claim is made that there is no such thing as human nature or that nobody understands what this even means. As if its imperfect understanding were enough to discard it as irrelevant, all evidence to the contrary.

In the true spirit of the scientist, the learner, the explorer, the experimenter, the reader and avid metal fan is encouraged to never stop considering the reasons behind the effects of music, the role of structures and textures and how they can be perceived, how they relate to meaning and in what contexts, as well as any other ideas that lead to understanding rather than to an obfuscation into which unscientific thought has lead the establishment while at the same time they hijack the word “science” for their personal views! Just because a problem is hard to solve, just because the variables involved are complex, and just because the obtaining of a knowledge does not represent life or death it does not mean it need not be pursued. Humans thrive on the tackling of problems, and the supplying of baser needs such as food and clothing should only mean that human intellect is now more free than ever to delve into higher mysteries.

Metal riffs without distortion

As something of a followup to yesterday’s article about rearranging or otherwise reinterpreting metal for compositional purposes – Youtube guitarist VAALVLA recently uploaded a video showcasing the main riffs of some popular metal and rock songs played clean and without any guitar distortion.

This was insightful and/or gimmicky enough to earn the attention of a couple other metal journalism websites, and it helps to reveal, on some level, the difference in technique between, for example, a Slayer and a Pantera song. A drum track was provided, but it doesn’t detract from the lesson at hand. VAALVLA also has several other videos in a similar vein that may be interesting to our readers.



The metal community has always defended itself against poseurs, with most of us realizing that hipsters, scenesters and other groups are varieties of poseur.

What is a poseur? Someone who pretends for the social status of being seen in a hip group. Metal, as it turns out, has authenticity because we are actual rebels, not rock ‘n’ rollers singing protest songs to give legitimacy to their pursuit of hedonism.

Hipsters, poseurs and scenesters are threatening because they are insincere. They adopt a musical genre to make themselves look cool, and in the process sabotaging it by bring it to a lowest common denominator of attention-getting behavior.

This guts the genre from within. The spirit that made it authentic has been replaced with the same trashy plastic advertising that covers everything else. The genre then becomes absorbed by the same old stuff, which is itself a mishmash of whatever has sold records over the past five generations.

Perhaps the best definition of hipster — the mishmash left over when a civilization fails — comes to us from AdBusters magazine:

Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.

But even that captures what hipsters are now, not the simple fact that they are an old archetype going back to The Enlightenment. The Bohemians of the 1900s, the rebels of the 1600s, and the giggin’ hipsters of the 2010s have some things in common: deliberately unconventional behavior, focus on ironism and uniqueness at an aesthetic level, and hedonistic lifestyles at the expense of the rest of us.

New York Magazine has more on the history of the hipster:

The hipster, however, was someone else already. Specifically, he was a black subcultural figure of the late forties, best anatomized by Anatole Broyard in an essay for the Partisan Review called “A Portrait of the Hipster.” A decade later, the hipster had evolved into a white subcultural figure. This hipster—and the reference here is to Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro” essay for Dissent in 1957—was explicitly defined by the desire of a white avant-garde to disaffiliate itself from whiteness, with its stain of Eisenhower, the bomb, and the corporation, and achieve the “cool” knowledge and exoticized energy, lust, and violence of black Americans. (Hippie itself was originally an insulting diminutive of hipster, a jab at the sloppy kids who hung around North Beach or Greenwich Village after 1960 and didn’t care about jazz or poetry, only drugs and fun.)

The hipster, in both black and white incarnations, in his essence had been about superior knowledge—what Broyard called “a priorism.” He insisted that hipsterism was developed from a sense that minorities in America were subject to decisions made about their lives by conspiracies of power they could never possibly know. The hip reaction was to insist, purely symbolically, on forms of knowledge that they possessed before anyone else, indeed before the creation of positive knowledge—a priori.

This leads us to wonder: why are hipsters so omnipresent, if they are transparent? Hipsters seek others who are either clueless or equally dependent on not mentioning the fakeness of hipsterism. Like drug addicts clustering, or cult members in their caverns, hipsters seek out people they can manipulate, control and influence.

The New York Times gives us a glimpse into the psychology of the hipster:

All hipsters play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world. Yet the habits of hatred and accusation are endemic to hipsters because they feel the weakness of everyone’s position — including their own. Proving that someone is trying desperately to boost himself instantly undoes him as an opponent. He’s a fake, while you are a natural aristocrat of taste. That’s why “He’s not for real, he’s just a hipster” is a potent insult among all the people identifiable as hipsters themselves.

With all that being said, would you want this self-important psychology and fake social scene to invade your genre? This question weighs heavily on metalheads as SJWs emerge as the newest form of hipster, combining the demands for personal hedonism with a Communist-derived insistence that others subsidize it through tolerance and, ultimately, actual subsidies. It’s not surprising that many hipsters exist on an equal diet of trust funds and food stamps.

SJWs want to have the hipster psychology take over heavy metal, and while they claim it is for political reasons, the real reason is much simpler: they want to fill the room with people they can control, manipulate and influence by excluding anyone who is a realist, or has a complex worldview, or adheres to traditional heavy metal ideals. SJWs want to destroy our standards and replace them with their own so that, in the new chaos, they can keep the genre filled with clueless people who won’t point out the obvious.

That SJWs are just giggin’ hipsters.

How to write better metal music – Recontextualization

Rachmaninoff playing a Steinway grand piano

Too many of the bands I review are (apparently) uninterested in their songwriting beyond a basic level, and too many of those that actually are interested approach improving it from exclusively an academic position – the idea that applying enough ideas from theory will make for interesting content. DMU’s orthodox positions are firstly that being able to work from some sort of message/concept is a potent motivator, and secondly that greater emphasis is needed on structural development. These are both useful things to keep in mind, but properly implementing them requires a great deal of effort and possibly some rearrangement of your internal mental hardware. While there is no substitute for hard work, there is one particularly useful technique I’d like to share that helps with the latter.

The concept is fairly basic – take a work of music, transcribe it, and adapt it for different instrumentation, but executing it effectively takes some proficiency. For the best results, you need to use instruments that require radically different performance technique than the originals, or at least something that imposes major restrictions on your sonic palette. The canonical example around here is either a kazoo or a piano, depending on how serious an article discussing the subject is. As someone who relies heavily on software to create and ‘perform’ music, I would tend to recommend restrictive, simulationist sequencing software like Famitracker (which emulates the limited sound hardware of the Nintendo Entertainment System). Ultimately, the exercise has been done enough by other people that de-emphasizing the specific choice of instrument makes sense.

Ideally, the very act of rearranging a composition will provide some insights into its structure. Transcribing the composition requires some understanding of what an instrument can and can’t do, and possibly a strong ear if good notation or transcription is lacking. Furthermore, the limitations of the new instruments may force one aspect of the songwriting into the limelight, revealing its strengths and weaknesses. One caveat is that the derivative you end up making will probably incorporate your own biases as a performer and composer, but even that might help you to understand your own strengths and weaknesses in that regard. I personally should know, since I often end up taking my own compositions and rearranging them as I gain access to new tools I want to take advantage of. In the process, I often end up making structural changes that hopefully strengthen the new versions, and I also learn ways to make future works better.

In short, rearranging is a useful technique to learn some aspects of composition, although it’s no panacea, especially since there are limits to how much original thought you add while still calling it a rearrangement. Given an opportunity to hone your composition skills, though, you should seriously consider giving it a shot, especially if you’re in a band that likes to play covers.