Heavy metal has the most loyal fanbase

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Streaming music service Spotify recently crunched data on its users to determine which fans are the most loyal. Specifically, it looked for users who went back to their favorites over time. The results might astonish outsiders:

To find out, we first identified the “core” artists that, according to The Echo Nest (a part of Spotify), are most central to each genre, starting with the big ones, on a global level. Then we did the same thing with local genres in various countries around the world. To create a measure of genre loyalty, we divided the number of streams each core artist had by their number of listeners. All of the charts are normalized against the genre with the loyalest fans.

The first thing we noticed: Metal fans are the world’s loyalest listeners (we’ll get to the individual countries soon):

To metal fans, however, this is not surprising. Metal has a quality-focused worldview that is also highly internally competitive, and as such it is “winner take all”: bands acknowledged as better than the rest are upheld as highly desired, and everything else fades into the background much like the rest of society to a metalhead. The point is that novelty and personableness take a back-seat to musical power, because metal is music that worships power as a means of making the ugly into the beautiful, and so the quality bands once discovered remain favorites.

Spotify also noted something else:

This doesn’t necessarily mean Metal is “better” than Jazz (metalheads would disagree), but it does tell us that Metal fans are in fact the most hardcore, according to this new measure of genre loyalty.

Metal fans are the most hardcore because to them, the music is not an expression of self but of truth. A metal fan seeks music with power and that can only occur through ability, whether musical or artistic, and so music that is merely friendly or sociable does not meet this standard.

As we watch yet another wave of rock assimilationists assault metal and try to re-form it in the image of rock music with metal “flavoring” or surface touches, it becomes clear why metal is desirable: the audience is highly desirable because their esteem is not lightly given and will last for decades. This challenges rock, which is based in personal music with a high degree of novelty or a message with which the listener agrees. Metal undoes all of that; in metal, the message is in the music and the personal value is in finding the best, which is why metal remains an outlier in the music market.

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Music is not subjective

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One consistency in human behavior is a tend to lie about motivations and conceal them behind justifications, such as the kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar who claims he saw a mouse and tried to catch it. For this reason, most human arguments can be assumed to be not only wrong but malevolently deflective. One such argument is the “but music is subjective!” trope beloved of the internet’s zombie patrol of angry, isolated, lonely, vengeful and bitter people.

It is commonly used to retard the forward motion of anyone with an actual idea. When you find a great new album, and start talking about it, other people assume — as their glorious Simian ancestry would suggest — that you are attempting to seize power by appearing to be unique and wise. Perhaps you only want others to recognize the greatness of this album, but in their minds, that possibly is made remote. They retaliate by saying, “You might think that’s great, but it’s just your taste. Music enjoyment is subjective and so we are getting every bit as much enjoyment out of this album as you are from that one.”

This territorial response seems consistent across human times and ages. Any new idea is viewed as an incursion into the old, or if a realistic idea, as an assault on the fanciful vision of others which they want us to accept as literal reality. They fear that music might be shared and not entirely personal, because then it no longer serves as an expression for their own self-image. Most of the behavior you see in rock music is fans projecting themselves into the experience, and musicians attempting to use fan projection as a justification for self-esteem, mostly to themselves.

But is music subjective? The term subjective refers to any quantity for which appreciation by the individual is the only measurement. Nothing however fits this description because all quantities relate to something external to the individual; either events in reality, objects or concepts which in some way relate to elements of reality. The idea of subjectivity is in itself totally flawed. Even a priori conceptions are not subjective because they are intuitive and thus not properties of the individual, but pre-exist the individual. This calls to mind the troubling term “appreciation” which implies a type of preference, an action which itself requires an external referent, and also seems a typically human dishonest approach in that to “appreciate” implies enjoying something for its own sake only for the purpose of gatekeeping approval. That way, the individual can say “I recognized that truth, but I only appreciate this notion,” implying a truth-optional and reality-optional outlook. Obviously then the term “subjective” exists as a pre-emptive argument in defense of a choice rather than the reason for the choice itself.

This leaves us with the notion of objective, which in the human use is similarly flawed. Humans — being talking monkeys with car keys — view the objective as the universally recognized as true because it exists in reality. A more accurate assessment shows us that what is objective exists outside of individual humans, or in other words is reality itself. There is then no reason to label it “objective,” since it is merely real. However, the objective/subjective dichotomy arose as a type of euphemistic deflection designed to explain how something can be true and obvious, but appreciated by only very few because the rest are too distracted, narcissistic or physically incapable of the cognitive processes necessary to understand it.

We can then dispense with subjective and objective as a dichotomy, and look toward the question hiding in shadow behind the question that opens this article: is appreciation of music consistent between human beings? That is the definition of objective that people want because it translates into the statement “Beethoven is better than Bieber” not merely “most people prefer Beethoven to Bieber.” If music can be ranked in this objectivist way, then we can definitely say that Darkthrone is superior to Deafheaven or at least of a tier above it. On a social level, music becomes no longer “personal” because we the fans do not create it, or make it cool by our liking it, but discover it as it is and then alert others to that possibility. With “objective” appreciation of music, the music hipster fades away and the hype machine dies out, because both of these rely on projection by fans to make the otherwise unexceptional music they pimp seem important.

Certainly history seems to lean in this direction because the endless stream of favorites from the music labels tend to fade away, but a few bands that stand out seem to persist. History is not infallible because as any student of history knows, civilizations have a life cycle: at some point they start to decay and then die. When this is happening, they forget about all the good music and rush toward the trivial because people need distraction more than quality. In a healthy civilization however if a musician lasts for centuries it suggests something “eternal” about their music, as if it has a value beyond the immediate gratification of those who like it. Research suggests that humans recognize music as having certain attributes independent of culture:

Whether you are a Pygmy in the Congolese rain forest or a hipster in downtown Montreal, certain aspects of music will touch you in exactly the same ways. A team of researchers from McGill, Technische Universität Berlin, and the University of Montreal arrived at this conclusion after travelling deep into the rain forest to play music to a very isolated group of people, the Mbenzélé Pygmies, who live without access to radio, television or electricity. They then compared how the Mbenzélé responded both to their own and to unfamiliar Western music, with the way that a group of Canadians (in not-so-remote downtown Montreal) responded to the same pieces.

This provides a good argument that music can be appreciated across cultures and across ages of a culture because its language is universal. This could explain why some music, such as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, find willing audiences across the globe. It also suggests that music which outlasts a generation and finds new fans who are unaware of its social, political and generational significance may possess qualities above the transient. Another source of support for the idea of universality of music comes from Arthur Schopenhauer, who wrote that music expresses pure thought:

That music acts directly upon the will, i.e., the feelings, passions, and emotions of the hearer, so that it quickly raises them or changes them, may be explained from the fact that, unlike all the other arts, it does not express the Ideas, or grades of the objectification of the will, but directly the will itself.

Without getting into a complex discussion of Schopenhauer’s use of the term “will,” we can roughly equate it to thought and awareness in the individual. Schopenhauer believes that music does not convey situations in which the will can be identified, but the will itself, meaning that it translates thoughts into sound and communicates directly. As written about on this site for two decades, music is a communication, in this case a metaphorical one in which can be seen many situations but which belongs to no one specific situation. This can be seen in many cases where musicians thought they were writing about a specific experience or condition, and found that people attributed the music to a broader state which appears in many types of situation. No matter how this is parsed, it reveals that the truth of music is not on the subjective side, and matches what people mean when they say “objective.”

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#metalgate Senator Feinstein wants to limit the First Amendment

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#metalgate is about something that politicians call freedom, but I think of instead through the hacker principle: information wants to be free.

Metalheads want to write and enjoy music about topics that don’t fit in the hugbox of modern society. In the 1960s it was “peace, love and freedom” and in the 2010s it is “social justice” and commercial rock pretending to be underground.

Back in the 1980s, a user on my BBS wrote the The Conscience of a Hacker:

But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950’s technobrain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?
I am a hacker, enter my world…
Mine is a world that begins with school… I’m smarter than most of the other kids, this crap they teach us bores me…
Damn underachiever. They’re all alike.

I’m in junior high or high school. I’ve listened to teachers explain for the fifteenth time how to reduce a fraction. I understand it. “No, Ms. Smith, I didn’t show my work. I did it in my head…”
Damn kid. Probably copied it. They’re all alike.

I made a discovery today. I found a computer. Wait a second, this is cool. It does what I want it to. If it makes a mistake, it’s because I screwed it up. Not because it doesn’t like me…
Or feels threatened by me…
Or thinks I’m a smart ass…
Or doesn’t like teaching and shouldn’t be here…
Damn kid. All he does is play games. They’re all alike.

And then it happened… a door opened to a world… rushing through the phone line like heroin through an addict’s veins, an electronic pulse is sent out, a refuge from the day-to-day incompetencies is sought… a board is found.
“This is it… this is where I belong…”
I know everyone here… even if I’ve never met them, never talked to them, may never hear from them again… I know you all…
Damn kid. Tying up the phone line again. They’re all alike…

You bet your ass we’re all alike… we’ve been spoon-fed baby food at school when we hungered for steak… the bits of meat that you did let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. We’ve been dominated by sadists, or ignored by the apathetic. The few that had something to teach found us willing pupils, but those few are like drops of water in the desert.

This is what it means when we say information wants to be free. Society is interested in controlling information; those of us who want to escape society want to know how things actually work. That places us beyond their little plans and the positive-sounding terms they use as carrots and the scary-sounding terms they use as a stick. Their game is social coercion: be with the good people in the hugbox, or you’re not included. You’re bad.

All groups go out this way. Once they get established, their game becomes to maximize the power they have. This leads them to control people with language, which then causes outsiders to become the only tellers of the full truth. At this point, anyone alert becomes an outsider, and instead of working on its own internal problems, the group scapegoats them and tries to destroy them. Scapegoating provides that feeling of “unity” that witch-hunts and mob rule use to hold together a group.

Watch this in action:

In a press release praising the FBI and the NYPD for their work on the case, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said the following:

I am particularly struck that the alleged bombers made use of online bombmaking guides like the Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire Magazine. These documents are not, in my view, protected by the First Amendment and should be removed from the Internet.

As the decline of Western civilization accelerates, our leaders are focused on their fear that we might have implements of power. Yes, these will also be used by bad people. But the thought of those in power is that if we edit out — censor — bad methods, we can remove awareness of our failure. Focus on the methods, not the reality.

Ms. Feinstein identifies two documents, Inspire magazine published by al-Qaeda, and The Anarchist Cookbook written by William Powell. These are inferior to the definitive hacker anarchy files resource compiled over the 1980s by people who actually did this stuff (and society did not fall apart). But now they are under fire for telling you how to do things which might allow you to defend yourself against this society and its crazy, rent-seeking elites.

To that end, Death Metal Underground presents these files in a handy “First Amendment Pack” for easy download, containing both the most recent issue of Inspire and The Anarchist Cookbook:

Like life itself, these instructions can kill you. There are known errors in The Anarchist Cookbook and likely errors in the other files. You can also get almost all of this information from your local library if you research books on this topic, including chemistry texts and military manuals. But we are not here to control information. We are here to liberate it.

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Zombie PMRC attacks Morpheus Descends

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During the 1980s, a group of wives of senators and other busybodies got together to form a group they called the “Parents Music Resource Center,” or PMRC. Their intention was to protect children from the dangerous heavy metal, rock and rap music which had sexual, drug and occult themes. After essentially shaming the interesting bands, the group finally used the coercive power of shame to force labels and record stores to insist on warning labels for albums with content that might upset the precious snowflakes and their absentee parents.

Unlike acid-washed jeans and Valley Girl slang, the PMRC unfortunately did not die with the 1980s. It lives on in zombie form through the Parents Music Resource Center appreciation group, which has taken to flagging certain metal bands, zines and labels as hostile to decency, morality and good taste as all metal should be.

Morpheus Descends proved to be the most recent instance of quality metal running afoul of these deranged censors, who feel that the new material from this band will cause “casual sex, drug use, enema fetishism and voting Republican” (PMRC boss Tipper Gore was wife to Al Gore, at the time Democrat senator from New Hampshire). We’re not really sure that people — at least still living people — want to have sex to old school death metal, but as the internet’s “rule 34” implies, any imaginable fetish has already occurred.

This clash between good and evil occurred at the moment when Morpheus Descends released one of the two newly written and recorded tracks to be on their From Blackened Crypts compilation. Check it out below.

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Dutch black metal band Kaeck unleashes first track “Holenmuur”

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Black metal band Kaeck showed the world a glimpse of its first offering today with “Holenmuur.” As this new band composed of Sammath, Noordelingen and Kjeld members prepares to introduce itself to a new generation of fans, this track provides the first glimpse of its fusion of war metal and melodic vitriolic black metal.

As our first glimpse of this band asserted:

To the experienced ear, comparisons arise immediately to Impaled Nazarene and Zyklon-B, both of whom used the blasting full-speed attack with undertones of melody to its advantage. A more bestial presence occurs here, taking influence from both the death metal crossover of later black metal and the burly high-intensity rhythm and noisy attack of war metal. The result melds sawing riffs with rising hints of melody and then runs that violence into archly ascending phrases which emphasize a union of the aggression and the beauty into a rejection of all but the pure feral naturalism of both beast and forest. [I]t achieves the rhythmic intensity of current metal in concert with the elements of black metal that made it the most enduring underground metal genre, namely its ability to find purpose in nature and alienation from the corrupted mess that is our society. Both listenable and true to its genre roots, Kaeck opens a door to new possibilities in black metal.

Look for more from this promising old/new fusion that upholds the spirit and outlook of the old underground!

Update: Kaeck has added a second track.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr2G8GspwPo

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Funeral Bitch – The Demos

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The varied Paul Speckmann projects — Master, Abomination, Funeral Bitch, Death Strike and Speckmann Project — reveal attempts to forge a new genre out of the ashes of speed metal. Roughly combined of metal, punk and 60s rock, the Speckmann approach took several forms which reflected his vision of what was occurring in music at the time.

Funeral Bitch comes to us straight from the 1986-1987 era and reflects the influence of thrash on Speckmann. Not thrash as the teeny-bopper magazines us it to describe Metallica-style speed metal bands, but thrash in the sense of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Corrosion of Conformity and Cryptic Slaughter. Funeral Bitch sounds like the first COC album hybridized with the early Sodom demos under the advice of The Mentors.

Short songs weighing in at around two and a half minutes or less use the infectious vocals Speckmann borrowed from 60s rock, the buoyant energy from punk, and the shaped phrasal riffs of metal but deliver the punch quickly. Versions of “The Truth” and “Funeral Bitch” from other Speckmann projects reveal how these songs were sped up and the vocals simplified to a single cyclic hook for this rendition. The result is in many ways more compelling, because the extreme speed and thrashing drum aggression of Funeral Bitch requires simplification and removes many of the excesses inherited from rock that made Master and Abomination releases confused at times. Like commando raids in the night, these short songs leap in to the fray, speak their piece, bash down the opposition and then disappear into the jungle.

These two demos provide different views of the same idea. The earlier one shows more of a punk influence, while the later shows the marks of actual thrash and perhaps influences from the rising grindcore scene. On this re-issue they are at radically different volume levels which makes regular listening difficult, but these historical recordings fit another piece in the puzzle of the evolution of underground metal and provide a punchier, more effective version of the Speckmann vision.

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We’re hiring!

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DMU has grown over the past year from a retro-site keeping the old writings alive to a vital source for information on the new underground metal that hasn’t sold out or otherwise lowered quality.

At this point, it’s time to push to the next stage.

This would involve taking on the “big” sites that publish label press releases as news and write fawning reviews that praise musical gibberish as “innovation.” But to reach that level, DMU has to become a more general-purpose news source.

To that end, I’m reaching out to you, the audience. We need a new editor. This editor would do the following:

  • Post daily news stories on all relevant events.
  • Write reviews on new death metal and black metal releases.
  • Edit texts submitted by writers including myself.

This takes about four hours a day minimum and so it is a paid position. Qualifications are an ability to write and edit grammatically-sound and interesting text and to produce the volume of stories needed to bring in this new level of audience. Apply within.

I have somewhat served in this role, but with multiple writing obligations, I no longer can do so.

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Infamous – Abisso

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Much like Nordic pioneers Ildjarn, Infamous combines the sounds of Oi and hardcore punk with black metal, but takes an approach similar to that of the Southern European black metal scene: longer melodies and song constructions building up to a triumphant explosion of rage.

Infamous uses longer melodies in the recursive style of RAC bands, which builds off a simple series of intervals a phrase with quite a bit of range, achieving an effect that inverts the drone of rock/blues into a diminishing melodic interval that expands into the stronger whole note and chromatic scales. Adding to this the band dig into a vast lexicon of black metal styles and produce a language all their own, choosing one progression (much like Enslaved) to guide the song and then branching to variations and oppositional phrases to build tension before a reunion, often with a sentimental lead guitar figure over the top. This creates an immersive sound which is both highly emotional and devoid of association with the comfortable sounds of music centered on humans, sounding more like ancient processionals filtered through violent punk bands and translated into black metal. The resulting atmosphere suspends disbelief and creates a fantastic world in which themes come alive as if on a stage.

With Abisso, Infamous improve over their debut Of Suicide and Silence by varying the form of each song more and as a result differentiating melodies through their development. In addition, higher speed drumming and guitar strum gives this EP a greater intensity without falling into sawing chaos. In many ways, it presages the wider changes which were to occur with the next full-length, Rovine e Disperazione, which took the band further into Ildjarn territory. For those who appreciate the pure spirit of black metal as it explores more of one of its foundational influences, this half-hour detour into an unearthly existence will provide savage enjoyment and contemplation.

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