Death Metal Underground
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Dialogue with a reader

by Brett Stevens
August 20, 2013 –

An interested reader wrote in, and so we continue our discussion of whether modern metal is important at all, and whither the future of metal.

So, metal music is over? Or do you that have a big journey to happen?

No, it’s not over. It needs to find new content. Its form is a refinement of its original form, and it can be refined further, but not by hybridizing it with other genres. Jazz-metal is dead, math-metal is dead, blues-metal is dead, indie-metal is dead, alt-metal is dead because these were always old and tired ideas. Alternative rock is punk mixed with 1980s indie rock. It’s self-pity music. Indie metal is emo and Fugazi mixed with d-beat and black metal. Post-metal is just slowed down indie metal. All of this music sounds more like Nirvana, Jawbreaker, Fugazi, Rites of Spring, etc. than metal. All of that stuff was born dead. What’s alive is the metal spirit. From Black Sabbath through Judas Priest through Slayer through Incantation through Immortal, it’s a continuum. Metal has just finally left rock behind with death/black metal and it needs to continue that transformation. It needs to finally become its own musical language entirely separate from everything else.

What is your opinion about mathcore (Botch, Converge)?

It’s an extension of late hardcore. Black Flag “The Process of Weeding Out” is the grandfather, and they ran it through the Fugazi filter. Neurosis was a better direction but the people who’ve cloned that don’t understand what Neurosis was on about. They can imitate the music, not understand the soul.

And what will happen with the black metal genre?

It died in 1996. Since then, with maybe five exceptions, the new bands have been imitators. Their goal is to make music that’s like black metal on the surface, but like regular indie rock underneath, so they can sell it to the kids for weekend rebellion but not so much that it sets them off-course and they can’t return to school, jobs, watching TV and voting for idiots during the week.

What will happen with metal? It’s over? There new things to create?

See the first question. “Big journey” is more true than “over.”

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12 comments

  • bitterman

    It’s the opt-in, commercialization of metal that’s holding it back. The reason you see bands with drop tunings and indie rock “my first year on guitar” derived chords are because of things that occurred after 1996 which, like you wrote, killed black metal. No one wants to put in the hard work it takes to express something, just use it as a lifestyle collage to reflect their “personality”. This is similar to cosplayers at a film convention – “Never mind the movie, is the character popular and will people talk to me if I dress that part?” They observe it all from the outside and make a safe all inclusive gated community culture within a subculture that seeks to not advance it in any meaningful way, but to use it as a platform for self interest, where they can safely feed parasitically off of it under the guise of being a part of it. Think about Watain: they are worshiped for their aesthetic qualities right down to the merch designs and promo photos, but the music itself does little to advance the genre and their artistic “evolution” or path mirrors the ones many bands have already tread like Dissection, Sacramentum, or Necrophobic old-school Swedish Black Metal to the slick, streamlined rock harmony 101 dual lead fetishism of their later years, yet they are being called “brave” for taking this “fresh” approach. Can they really be blamed though? Is it audience pandering or taking the easy road because the bar has been lowered so much everyone will be none the wiser and, if called out, their rhetoric ensures their unwise drone fans will argue about it’s merit (of course, this argument will be based on their aesthetic qualities only). It’s not about being in a band either. Going to a show to support a band or witness what a new band is all about first hand has turned into a wiggerish dance hall fashion show (emo kids and synchronized spin kicks). Any schmoe online can write uninformed, badly written “I give it an 100/100. Like super solid man” (Metal-Archives) reviews but if you call that nonsense out you get leftist “leave Britney alone!!!!” crybaby comments about it. The old fanzine writers wrote reviews similar to this sites and English isn’t even a majority of those guys native language. Buy a t-shirt, throw on some tight jeans, grow your hair, get a couple tattoos of a “religiously offensive” nature, and CONGRATULATIONS – you’re metal dude. No need for any of that ritualistic Transilvanian Hunger or Onward to Golgotha listening – you can’t dance to that in between commercial breaks of The Big Bang Theory while updating your Facebook status on a smart phone. Think about metal now: pot leaf shirts with comic book band logos. It’s all so “rebellious” in it’s pop culture informed ways. Then again, grunge came around, and where did many supposedly “metal” people head in the 90s? Anthrax made a Helmet record with Pearl Jam songs. Kurt Cobain died and so did the trend, and all those “rebels” moved on to another shitty thing. Metal has become infected again. Over saturation. Soon all the Unique Leader try-hards and the Opeth/Sound of Perseverance bargain bin ego-centric pseudo-philosophers will go back to gangster rap and poor mans Mahavishnu Orchestra worship. This wont solve the problem with creativity, but it will brush the shit spewed on the classics of the past by the third rate imitators who stole from them and remove the “open-minded” failed fashion models who show up at shows nowadays. Once it becomes about the music again, people will be driven solely by metal itself (not Facebook likes or Youtube viral videos), and create TRUE music. The false will no entry. At worst, we will always have the old albums that are full of passion and communicate a truth in sound that “check out these sweeps bro” music and “the gub-ment did it, Breakdown!” lyrics can’t. Shit, Pure Holocaust has more advanced compositions and better theme development than 99.9% of everything in music that came out after it, and those guys were alcoholic slackers.

    Reply
  • EDS

    I’ve often wondered if we have reached the end technique wise. How many different types of drum beats can drummers logically do successfully? How many different and daring new fills are humanly possible? As far as riffing goes, how many different playing techniques are out there yet to discover? I am not a guitarist, yet after watching live shows, sitting through DVD’s and listening to metal music, I cannot imagine any other new ways to play a guitar. This was sort of discovered during the mid 2000’s by the technical death metal bands. All these groups had crisp clean productions and they were trying to break new ground in extreme playing ability on their instruments. Metal became like a circus act during that timeframe, and that was the trend. Now the trend is to “resurrect” old school thinking/philosophy and bring death metal back to its foundation. Is that working out? Honestly I don’t think so. Recommend a band that actually sounds like their demo/ep/full length could be mistaken for a long lost “gem” from 1990? The techniques these guys are using now are the very same ones used back in 1990 but as bitterman alluded too, the passion and truth in sound are not being communicated. Now the reason this communication is lacking is subjective. However we can all agree that the modern musicians are forced to utilize time tested techniques, thus pigeon holing themselves without room to maneuver and expand their song writing. If they could develop new techniques, it would most likely end up as more over the top technical wankery and I think we have all had enough of that.

    The classics of old such as Altars of Madness or Pure Holocaust cannot be touched as the men who wrote those albums were the first to unlock the secrets and techniques needed to advance their respective genre forward. There are no techniques left to uncover, thus metal will forever remain stagnant.

    Reply
    1. Carg

      This assumes that metal is about technique; I would argue that it’s about communication, like all art. Thus, the question is not “have we any territory left to conquer?”, but “can we build anything spectacular in our lands?”. The next phase in metal’s evolution will see the return of proper emotional content: just as the “tech metal” explosion brought about revolutions in technique, the next step is the reintegration of feeling, a la Slayer, Bathory, Hellhammer, etc.

      Reply
      1. EDS

        I feel metal is as much about technique as it is emotion and communication. The technique drives the release of the emotions and messages the artist looks to convey. Without good technique, metal would be directionless drivel. Hopefully metal will return to using technique to convey as you said, proper emotional content and feeling. At that point metal will once again be the supreme art form it once was.

        Reply
        1. Carg

          “Without good technique, metal would be directionless drivel”.

          Hellhammer? Definitely has a direction, though whether it’s drivel or not is probably up to the listener. A lot of the older bands didn’t have half the technique of the newer, but produced music that was ten times as good. Sodom – In the Sign of Evil.

          Reply
          1. EDS

            When I speak of technique, I’m talking about the types of drum patterns and guitar strumming a musician is performing, regardless of their technical skill. Hellhammer had technique and while it was not technical by today’s standards, those boys knew what they were doing and they knew what they wanted their music to sound like. They employed primitive techniques but got the job done. And your right, their music is leagues ahead of today’s metal.

            Reply
    2. Cynical

      “Recommend a band that actually sounds like their demo/ep/full length could be mistaken for a long lost “gem” from 1990? ”

      Cruciamentum- Convocation of Crawling Chaos
      Imprecation- Satanae Tenebris Infinita
      Blaspherian- Infernal Warriors of Death
      War Master- Chapel of the Apocalypse
      Gevurah- Anno 2011

      Reply
      1. dismal ventriloquist

        While none of these are bad, they don’t reach the levels of something like early 90s Burzum, Immortal, Incantation, etc. They are filling the void the best they can, but it’s coming off as obvious “specific band” worship. Not that anything is wrong with that, but they say nothing extraordinary through that. No point in adding B+ material if you own A+ material unless you’re desperate.

        Reply
        1. kvlt attakker

          I might be “desperate” for something newish sounding in the style of older bands. I’m looking forward to the new Grave Miasma, though I know it won’t have a replay value anywhere near their source material*.

          Reply
  • kvlt attakker

    What modern wankery lacks is an expression beyond music and sound. Something to shake the foundation of existence. Early death metal did this, as well as other forms of art.

    Reply
  • Pruritic Sores

    The newer bands aren’t trying to be metal, and that’s the problem.

    The goal has changed.

    With Black Sabbath and onward, it was shitting on the peace love and happiness parade.

    Now, it’s about that parade. Affirm my personal drama, please; we’re all equal and we can all live in peace, if these horrible Republicans didn’t make us keep using money to buy our Valtrex and sinsemilla.

    Metal has stopped wanting to be metal.

    When that changes, you’ll get quality.

    In the meantime, you’ll get filler. Botch, Converge, Neurosis, and Fugazi are the best of it. The rest are third-rate imitators of this with a Sonic Youth sound to it.

    Reply
    1. shoko asahara

      Now, it’s about that parade. Affirm my personal drama, please; we’re all equal and we can all live in peace, if these horrible Republicans didn’t make us keep using money to buy our Valtrex and sinsemilla.

      Yes, they have become a parody of an image. Dress like Bolt Thrower, play like U2.

      Reply

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