How to buy friends and manipulate people

by Cory Van der Pol
March 30, 2014 –

limp_bizkit-ironists

Metal — and everything else humanity-related — is like the first day of first grade. People are still using the same tactics they used then as the basis of their behavior, mainly because there are only so many options and the goal hasn’t changed.

What is the goal? Society is a cooperation for the sake of survival. We need to get other people to work with us. Most people do that through socializing, others use raw power, some others can only deal with it through the filter of money. But when you socialize, there are only a few paths. You can try to be the over-achiever, with all As and good at athletics. Or you can stand out another way, which is being The Opposite of what people expect. You see this in high school drama departments the clearest, but it’s also present in entertainment and politics among adults.

The tactic is this: stand out by being “different.”

The problem with this tactic of course is that it’s bone-headed, ignorant and predictable. They like blue? You like green. They turn right? You turn left. They like steak? You pick ice cream. Despite it being obvious as heck, this tactic continues to work. You “shock” people and then, using their reaction as a justification for the importance of what you do, rally everyone who hates them to your side. Even if that hatred is concealed.

In fact, we can see this in “black metal” today with an article entitled “Earning hipster act status, Deafheaven defies orthodoxy”:

There are no pink album covers in black metal.

With their much-lauded second album, “Sunbather,” the group broadened the black metal palate with swelling, enveloping guitars oft-associated with the foot-asleep-on-the-distortion-pedal drone of the British shoegazer ranks.

The album won the band an audience beyond the traditional partisans of the harsh, love-it-or-leave-it sound, and as such, Deafheaven was quickly branded a hipster act by scene purists.

In the same passage, the article both calls Deafheaven “different” and then acknowledges that the band is basically ripping off British shoegaze, a genre from thirty years ago.

That’s “innovation”?

Since 1994, we haven’t really had much from black metal. The underground shot its wad, and since only a few dozen people understood it in the first place, it collapsed in on itself while the rest of us try to figure it out. This is one reason that metal academia is important, especially if they stop studying the easy stuff — the newer material and the hard rock like bands — and go to the roots of the genre: Bathory, Immortal, Hellhammer, Burzum, Emperor, Darkthrone, Enslaved, Sodom, Slayer, Mayhem.

Right now our over-written (“foot-asleep-on-the-distortion-pedal”? are you kidding?) media and adamantly clueless fanbase are churning through the ruins of the past. By being “different,” one claims an audience. Black metal was different in a different way, namely that it didn’t try to be different so much as it took off in its own path. So what’s the binary opposite of that? Well, being the same old thing but pretending to be black metal, for starters. Hence the invasion of metal by non-metal bands: Opeth, Boris, Necrophagist, Sonic Youth, Dillinger Escape Plan.

Most of these bands reverted to what was simple and easy to create, which was post-hardcore. With its compositional style that cherished the random over the orderly, and its tendency to drift off and suddenly return to a repetition of its major theme, it was easy to compose. That was probably why it developed the way it did, namely that the punk songwriters who couldn’t come up with Hard Times in an Age of Quarrel or Arise! had to make their also-ran status seem less pointless by “innovating,” or coming up with a half-cooked version of more musically adept genres. Imitators imitating imitators, by being “different,” all the way down.

Deafheaven is no exception. Gone are the complex song structures and the intelligent use of drone. Gone are the troublesome Nietzschean existential questions, where we wonder if life is totally empty of anything, or if we can find a clue to its significance in nature. Gone are even the overtones of Viking metaphysics and Pagan mysticism, the interesting sociopathy for art’s sake, and the rebellious streak that took aim at anything the instant it became accepted, knowing that whatever the crowd likes is a lie. Instead, we get the music you can play at a school dance. Easy beats, head-nodding go-nowhere melodies, symmetry and rock ‘n’ roll conventions from time immemorial. It’s the same old brand new thing.

But really, this act of “being different” can be seen everywhere. Nu-metal was based on being different, or at least on the perceived emotional contrast between sing-song verses and ragey choruses. Metalcore was based on being different in that the riffs had no relation to each other so it was like hearing carnival music on a fast-moving merry-go-round. Later punk was based on being different, in that it was punk but it got in touch with its softer side and went all progressivey and stuff. All different, all the same.

Metal will begin to recover from its 1994-2014 slump when it acknowledges that these easy ways of socializing are gone. Appearance is not reality. The kid who really got ahead in socializing was the kid no one noticed. He made friends by being genuine, made connections with teachers by learning something even if he didn’t get As at all, and everyone knew him because he didn’t fit into any of the easy slots that almost everyone else did.

Or the kid who got ahead because she had an interest that was very specific and just fit her personality, so instead of going for all the drama, she just spent her time on that. Or on being a good friend, and being there when people were in need. Those were the people like black metal, which was the genre that chucked socializing away and focused on both outside reality and the inner spirit in all of us instead. I miss those days. It wasn’t pure whore, all the way down.

deafheaven-disposal

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53 comments

  • mudbloodkiller

    Metal is a big joke now. All the mysteries are gone. If you pick a black metal album, it most likely will be sadden rock. People claimed they played death metal, but mostly you hear is classic sound redo with superficial thinking or metalcore.

  • Robert

    That’s a beautifyl picture.. flushing the deafhaven album down the toilet. The thought is enticing but I could never find myself wasting my hard-earned money on such shit. Even if it’s to dispose of it.

  • discodjango

    “Deafheaven is hipster shit blablabla, Metal is dead since 1994 blablabla.” It’s getting old.

    1. Lord Mosher

      Yeah man I totally agree!!!
      Standards are getting old.
      Bellicose preferences, mischievous antagonism, dead serious honesty to speak the truth are way too tedious.
      .
      Hey you know what’s new? Conformity!
      Cuz that never gets old right?

      1. Brett Stevens

        Conformity!

        Radical notion: conformity in itself is not bad. It means following a standard.

        What you are most likely speaking of is the modern tendency to herd-clump around the lowest common denominator and what is socially rewarded, which is the intersection between said LCD, personal drama and being unthreatening to others. All becomes entertainment.

        Art is the opposite of entertainment. Art, as Glen Benton was quick to say, is “entertaining”… but what he did not say was that this is in addition to other factors. Those are emotional and logical profundity, related to something that exists in reality, even if filtered through the thought of the individual.

        1. SwallowedInBlack

          My two cents: people use two different definitions of “conformity.”

          The first, likely the one to which Lord Mosher was referring, basically means total voluntary adherence to the dominant culture. Nowadays, this frequently is (rightfully) looked down upon almost universally, by those who don’t “conform” in this sense.

          The second is simply adherence to something, which is human nature; you have to be completely and purposely bizarre in order to not conform in some way or another. Everybody conforms to something in this sense; even all of our revered death and black metal bands dressed and acted in more or less the same way. This can be good or bad, as there are good and bad things to which to conform.

  • Laozi

    “It”s not getting “old” at all. The current state of Metal is highly problematic. Deafheaven is a name my eyes are tired of seeing, yet they are a good segue to a shift in conversation.

    Something radical needs to happen to save Metal from a constant mimicking and juvenile of the past. What does that entail? Leaders of this site have touched on some possibilities. I would say a basic knowledge of musical modes. However, it up to the individual who is capable of carrying out a certain new order to figure out… Until then, we should continue to militantly oppose the false even if the hippies continue to cry when we do so. Not all is equal.

    1. Laozi

      *juvenile imitation

      This does not include brilliant minds who have in past moved Metal forward as teenagers.

    2. discodjango

      Thanks for NOT calling me a “cocksucker” or insulting me in any other way. I really like this site, but always bringing up the same issue without any new aspects doesn’t help anyone. I would like to have more detailed reviews and more of those awesome interviews with people who have interesting things to say about Metal. Just my opinion. Cheers!

  • anthony fantano

    “Gone are the troublesome Nietzschean existential questions, where we wonder if life is totally empty of anything, or if we can find a clue to its significance in nature. Gone are even the overtones of Viking metaphysics and Pagan mysticism, the interesting sociopathy for art’s sake, and the rebellious streak that took aim at anything the instant it became accepted, knowing that whatever the crowd likes is a lie.”

    And to think some people say metal isn’t for children.

      1. anthony fantano

        Fairly certain it’s defined as “a pseudo-philosophical bullshit term we made up to make ourselves feel important and deep”.

      2. Jim Nelson

        *Fate* was a very important concept for the vikings or at least for the people trying to make sense of the vikings. It was essentially the primary principle by which reality operated. The 3 Norns spun the loom of fate and even the Gods were subject to fate.

        1. Bart

          Such a statement doesn’t set vikings apart. Fate is important in lots of older cultures and religions, as it is still important in some form for most people nowadays.

          1. Jim Nelson

            That wasn’t the question in the first place. In any event, it was especially important and vivid for the Norsemen. The entire mythology is centered around Ragnarok and its inevitability. Fate has never been so well expressed as in Nordic mythology.

            1. Bart

              So I guess you’re very well versed in all kinds of Buddhism, protestantism, materialism/determinism and a lot of other philosophical, mythological and cultural traditions too, to make such an authoritative statement.

              1. Jim Nelson

                Relax Bart. All philosophical, mythological and cultural traditions are equally special and important in their own special and important way.

                1. Max

                  Nordic mythology does not express the idea of fate nearly so well as such philosophers as Epictetus, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius, not to mention the profound role that fate played in collective Roman society from the learned elite down to the plebeian street-walker (personally I find the Fates more appealing as well in Graeco-Roman mythology – even the highest gods were subject to the Parcae)… It was this dilemma, the irreconcilable debate between whether the world was ruled by fate & chance, that was infact reconciled by the emergence of the Christian doctrine; this is what relieved the debate altogether by the introduction of a free will combined with divine providence that had not been comprehensively put forward until the Church Fathers (though it was certainly hinted at by Cicero, Plato, & especially Virgil).

                  The Greeks, too, with the finest tragedians of Western Civ are more successful; virtually all of their greatest dramas are poignantly loaded with the pathos of fate & the heroic yet often futile defiance thereof… Honestly, Homer & Hesiod alone express a more meaningful & comprehensible idea of fate than do the Norse legends.

                  1. Brett Stevens

                    While I will never — never — be less than in awe of the Greeks and Romans, who are viewed correctly as the conceptual root of modern Western civilization, it is also important (meaning in parallel) necessary to consider three other groups: the Norse, the Hindu and the Hebrew.

                    The form of Western art that is most fully expressed perhaps is the epic poem. Part memorized poetry, part improvisational; part philosophy, part drama, this form enabled its writers to mesh together what would today be divergent threads of thought. The Norse Eddas were probably integrated into a larger poem of this nature. Beowulf is most of what survives, since whether by Christian conquest or more likely, a refusal to write things down, the Norse did not record much. However, there is a lot to be learned in that short document. Similarly the Mahabarata from India shows us the transcendental monist form of idealism that presents the best ideas of many religious traditions in a single essence, and it is perhaps closest to what the Norse expressed. Finally there is the Hebrew idea which is a type of formalization that changes the wild and often seemingly conflicted ideas of Paganism into a solitary path with a single branch. All of these shaped what we know now.

                    For those looking for the wisdom of the path as it can be carried forward, I think it makes sense to look at the intersection between Norse, Greco-Roman and Hindu. We see a belief in the importance of fate, more than a predetermined fate. There is a belief in a metaphysics that is contiguous to this world and of similar composition. But most importantly, in all three there is idealism: the notion that concept, and the advancement of informational change in the world, is more important than physical substance. While the Hebrew conceptualization seems to back away from this idea, it instead expresses it as falling on a linear scale of good and bad, which makes it more relevant to the quest of squelching the truly horrible among us. We probably all need a re-infusion of the epic and heroic outlook of the ancients who saw not only good and bad, but a sense of spending one’s life well, and a humility and reverence for reality itself. Sometimes I think that peeks through on Ildjarn-Nidhogg albums, old Burzum and old Immortal the strongest.

                  2. Jim Nelson

                    Well Max, for my money, the simpler it is, the better expressed it is. I will take myth and legends over philosophy. If a child can understand it, that is a point for, not against. If a child cannot, it is a point against, not for. So many people think ornate, comprehensive, and sprawling means “well expressed.” Give me bold, simple, naive. The sagas should be mentioned too (maybe the Norse equivalent of the Greek plays), are filled with prophecies. Njals saga reconciles fate and free will as well, Njal tells Gunnar your life can go 2 ways, if you do this, this will happen, if you do that, that will happen, but its up to you to decide. Conditional fate I suppose.

                    1. Bart

                      Free will, of course, being an illusion. Self-deception, like Brett said. The most powerful form of self-deception, I might add.

    1. Nito

      “Gone are the troublesome Nietzschean existential questions”

      Good. Grand Declaration of war was shit. Not just the bad industrial song either.

    2. Madhu

      “And to think some people say metal isn’t for children.”

      What’s actually childish is thinking that maturity means rejection of myth, imagination, adventure, iconoclasm, etc. Seriously, you’re just being a boring and prudish asshole.

  • Lord Mosher

    Great post Cory but I’d like to propose something.
    Let’s take the concept of “honor” for instance. Do people now days know what that means? I bet some do. Namely the older folks, probably war veterans or poets and, perhaps only younger fellows with the very rare gift of a vivid imagination and the emotional wisdom that comes or develops parallel to it.
    .
    Black metal was crafted by artists that perhaps intuitively sensed notions that have existed only when civilizations are at its peak. When those civilizations decline, along to the abyss go those values too.
    .
    To me Black metal was about remembering those ancient values if only for a moment. Some great things are encrypted in our DNA and black metal tapped on those things through emotion.
    .
    Without those memories and without someone teaching those values anymore, black metal cannot exist.
    .
    Personal hero Spinoza Ray Prozak, always failed at explaining what exactly makes Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk inferior to Nightside Eclipse in an easy to understand way that future musicians could at least tell the difference and create better black metal, even if at least at an aesthetical level.
    .
    Who cares about faggot band Deafhaven?
    Instead I’d like to know what makes Enslaved’s album Eld inferior to Frost or Vikinglr Veldi.
    .
    Can yo do that?
    Not for me though but for future generations?

    1. apathetic loser

      Those reviews were written for strong people, not for people that need dumbed-down explanations. The ones who understand those reviews the way they were written and do not need them dumbed-down need to pick up instruments and help lead the way to metal’s next evolution.

    2. veien

      That’s a big ask if you ask me. The thing is there is no objective way to prove to people why they should consider this to be better than that, as they either get it or they don’t. I can’t really explain but it’s got to have that ‘true’ feeling where a guy just start punching thin air as a result.

    3. Brett Stevens

      Let’s take the concept of “honor” for instance. Do people now days know what that means? I bet some do. Namely the older folks, probably war veterans or poets and, perhaps only younger fellows with the very rare gift of a vivid imagination and the emotional wisdom that comes or develops parallel to it.

      Black metal was crafted by artists that perhaps intuitively sensed notions that have existed only when civilizations are at its peak. When those civilizations decline, along to the abyss go those values too.

      To me Black metal was about remembering those ancient values if only for a moment. Some great things are encrypted in our DNA and black metal tapped on those things through emotion.

      I think this is true and tends to be true of all Romantic art in general. It reasserts the principle of vir against hubris. Vir is many things; mostly, it is aggression which means a diligence toward truth, goodness and beauty. It is also sentimentality for the impermanent moments of perceiving the permanent beauty of life.

      explaining what exactly makes Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk inferior to Nightside Eclipse in an easy to understand way that future musicians could at least tell the difference and create better black metal, even if at least at an aesthetical level.

      Instead I’d like to know what makes Enslaved’s album Eld inferior to Frost or Vikinglr Veldi.

      A few thoughts: one, if an easy-bake instruction manual for creating great black metal were to exist, it would be a weapon in the hands of the clueless.

      Second, the difference between great music and lesser music is always the same.

      Great music possesses a higher level of organization, and also is reflective of something. This can be imitation or reality, or impersonation of a thought or the combination of thoughts and feelings that was the hallmark of romantic poetry.

      http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww138.html

      Thus, why is Eld inferior? More predictable organization and consequently, less of a clear spirit.

      Earlier Enslaved was pure unconscious observation, forking into logic and emotion and then recombining.

      Eld is showmanship.

      Regarding Anthems: I still haven’t gotten over the shock of hearing it the first time. I don’t know if I literally became nauseous, but that’s how I remember it. Recoiling, unable to get enough air, with a heavy feeling in my gut, like a child had been murdered.

      I think too highly of the Emperor guys to see anything but highly intelligent people attempting to compensate for a situation they did not understand or like. I think most metal bands should have a backup plan so that when they make it big, they can go back to day jobs and ignore the music industry until the time when the bands have something they like again.

      My advice to all musicians: you are music experts; make music you would not only like if you heard it once, but be excited to buy and own, and play over and over again.

      If you do that and can be honest about it, you can make a great album.

      The honesty is the biggest hangup for the largest group of humanity.

      1. mudbloodkiller

        “make music you would not only like if you heard it once, but be excited to buy and own, and play over and over again.”

        “If you do that and can be honest about it, you can make a great album.”

        Couldn’t be more true.

        I read this yesterday:

        “Perfection is nothing to strive for. Perfection was already achieved on the second Watchtower album [Control and Resistance, 1989], first Dream Theater album [When Day and Dream Unite, 1989], Gaucho and Aja by Steely Dan, Moving Pictures by Rush, etc. It is not for everyone to do, and certainly not for us. ”

        http://www.guitarworld.com/darkthrone-guitar-world-interview?page=0,1

        I’m not devaluing Darkthrone. They’ve done a marvelous job. But I think this kind of mentality is very common among the musicians. People don’t struggle to contribute any real value to metal other than taking part in the scene.

      2. Bart

        “My advice to all musicians: you are music experts; make music you would not only like if you heard it once, but be excited to buy and own, and play over and over again.

        If you do that and can be honest about it, you can make a great album.”

        It’s pretty obvious that the guys of Enslaved and Emperor feel this way about Eld, Anthems and the likes.

        1. veien

          Dude, Ihsahn’s a fucking Radiohead and Sigur Ros fan. He might very well be proud of ‘Anthems’ but this obviously isn’t the same guy anymore.

        2. Brett Stevens

          It’s pretty obvious that the guys of Enslaved and Emperor feel this way about Eld, Anthems and the likes.

          The most common human problem is self-deception.

          All of my big mistakes, and all those I see in history, arose from that.

          1. Bart

            Agreed on self-deception.

            Veien, my point wasn’t about Ihsahn, but about the advice of Brett.

  • TWV

    while i agree with the overall message of this post, i have a quip of something i keep noticing-for being a supposed ‘underground’ vaunting site some of you seem to have a narrow view/lost touch with the it….Black Metal peaked at 94’?!?! maybe for the first bunch of Norwegian poofs, but what about early Manes? Arckanum? Inquisition? Argentum?!?! all late 90s-00s and these are just the bands i know, i’m admittedly not all that big on Black and am much more a Death freak so i know i’m probably missing a few who stayed true to the aesthetic/ideal after that……but there always has been, and always will be an underground no matter if the front-runners fall off the path or if/when new, fake, bullshit is lauded as the ‘new way’ (happened to Heavy, Thrash, Doom, even beloved Death-what made you think Black would be any different??!? they’re ‘kult’ and ‘true’ preaching? LOL, that stuff was about as sincere and see-through as Death Metals Satanism, not too mention their care for personal aesthetic being almost as bad as Glam bullshit). there will always be those who stick to their guns-look at Inquisition, even if you don’t like their new material, you’d be a liar if you didn’t agree they’ve kept the spirit pure….and that just one band, who aren’t even really underground these days (though not really mainstream either, they’re at a very weird middle point)

    to say there hasn’t been much to Black since 94′ seems almost as ignorant of the genre as the dumb cunts who laud shit, non-Metal bands, like deafheaven as the new masters of the genre. in fact, why even mention shit like that? they’re NOT Metal and only the ignorant preach they are, and who gives a FUCK what they think?

    1. fenrir

      he said Black Metal peaked at ’94, not that it disappeared. Sure, there have been great acts, a few, after that, but not a whole scene surpassing the heights of that golden era.
      A good comparison is Gorguts’ Obscura. They are a gem in a desert at ’99. Death Metal peaked several years before and was (as a genre, as a movement) exhausting the same ideas, running the course of punk. The reason for this, I think, is not because there are no avenues to explore but because people started seeing the genres in a very limited way (and then tried to bring some sort of superficial innovation by making poor mixes with other genres with a pop vision, a separate matter).

      I am glad to see a little renewal in interest for the likes of At the Gates’ debut and the possibilities that brings. Young people inspired by (not imitating) Burzum’s sense creating for train of thought in music.

    2. Brett Stevens

      what about early Manes? Arckanum? Inquisition? Argentum?!?!

      Do you think these are of the same level of quality and depth as the early 90s Norwegian bands?

  • eman

    This article should never have been given any attention by you, Mr. Stevens. The fact that the author does not know how a distortion pedal works should have been enough of a slap-in-the-face clue that it deserved to be passed over.

    I understand your need to illustrate your point, but honestly I was disappointed that you didn’t use any references to Limp Biscuit.

  • Count Ringworm

    What’s the current state of classic symphony? Of Jazz? Theatre? Film? Poetry? (Insert artistic medium here)?

    The mistake might be in assuming human creativity is an inexhaustible well. We are only able to hear a certain range of sounds, have a limited set of expressive emotions, and (especially in the case of metal) are constrained by instrumentation.

    We have so-called masters for a reason, and it is that no person is likely to exceed, much less equal, their artistic accomplishments. Whether that be the Bard, Mozart, or Burzum.

    This site loves to refer to hipsterism and the dead end of western civilization. Maybe we’ve simply reached the dead end of human creativity.

    After all, we can’t even improve upon the Eames Chair, so why Slumber of Sullen Eyes.

  • fred

    There is always a medium through which music is presented. What was Burzum, Sodom, Celtic Frost and Immortal is now a medium to interpret rock.

    Being ” different ” means not willing to use the medium where it is best fit for. So these modern people use it for their own personal gains.

  • Sadhu_sathana

    Deafhaven is not even doing anything new as the fans like to claim. Post-hardcore bands such as Envy have been doing the exact same thing for years, and with compositions of much higher quality than the borefest that is Sunbather. They only got so much notoriety because since they are supposed to be a black metal band, the clean sections and whatever are “polemic”, when in fact they are just aping some screamo albums that were released ten years ago, but taking away any weight from them, and labelling this as “positive” as an effort to be rebels going against the stream of black metal.

    1. eman

      When I first heard Deaf Heaven, I figured I was hearing some screamo revival band because they sounded like Kevin Shields covering pg. 99 or Bucket Full of Teeth songs. I did not even know until recently that they were associated with black metal. I still don’t see how they are, but internet media thinks otherwise. It’s like people are trying to tell me that blink-182 plays hardcore punk. My ears don’t lie to me. “Roads to Judah” is not a bad album if you realize that it is mediocre throwback screamo worship. Maybe they have even less of an understanding of screamo then they do black metal, because I figure they would appear “more credible” in the eyes of music fans and critics if they just admitted that they were a half-assed screamo act.

  • Kingdomgone

    I think there is new time beginning in metal. The years between 1994-2004 were the times of pandering and trying to make everyone feel comfortable and safe. The years 2004-2014 was the time when we were forgotten but our ideas were stolen and corrupted by the mainstream while we were lost in a heavy fog. But now we are back, stronger than ever and metal’s here to stay for good. There is no ignoring us anymore. Like AIDS, you can try to forget us but there is no denying our existence. “You people better go and beware, oh yeah!”