Metal Orthodoxy

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November 20, 2009 –
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You may have noticed a metal orthodoxy forming over the years, but especially 1998 to the present. This orthodoxy emphasizes “trueness” to the concept (as well as the trappings, aesthetic, style, etc) of the original bands, and is paranoid wary of newcomers who do not embrace it.

Now that the official hipster central of the internet, The Onion, has published a metal list, we can demonstrate why metal orthodoxy exists: it’s designed to keep metal from being assimilated, or taken on by the larger genre of popular music as a style without ideas of its own.

Keeping it simple:
Ideas -> music -> genre of its own = metal orthodoxy
Just a style, any ideas = rock ‘n roll

See why there’s a distinct movement to metal orthodoxy? No one in a genre that is unique wants to be assimilated by what’s not unique, and in fact is the average of everything it has so far consumed. Rock music is like a large corporation, eating up small brands and removing what makes them unique, turning them into a label that can be stuck on just about any product in order to sell it.

Here’s The Onion’s list:

  • Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope (2002)
  • Amon Amarth, Twilight Of The Thunder God (2008)
  • Anaal Nathrakh, The Codex Necro (2001)
  • Baroness, Blue Record (2009)
  • Blut Aus Nord, The Work Which Transforms God (2003)
  • Boris, Pink (2005)
  • Converge, Jane Doe (2001)
  • Deftones, White Pony (2000)
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ire Works (2007)
  • Earthless, Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky (2007)
  • Electric Wizard, Dopethrone (2000)
  • Goatwhore, Carving Out The Eyes Of God (2009)
  • Harvey Milk, Lifeā€¦ The Best Game In Town (2008)
  • High On Fire, Blessed Black Wings (2005)
  • Isis, Oceanic (2002)
  • The Mars Volta, Frances The Mute (2005)
  • Mastodon, Leviathan (2004)
  • Melechesh, Djinn (2001)
  • The Melvins, (A) Senile Animal (2006)
  • Meshuggah, Catch Thirtythree (2005)
  • Opeth, Watershed (2008)
  • Orthrelm, OV (2005)
  • Pelican, The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (2005)
  • Pig Destroyer, Phantom Limb (2007)
  • Queens Of The Stone Age, Songs For The Deaf (2002)
  • Skeletonwitch, Breathing The Fire (2009)
  • Slayer, Christ Illusion (2006)
  • Sleep, Dopesmoker (2003)
  • The Sword, Age Of Winters (2006)
  • System Of A Down, Toxicity (2001)

Why do they like these bands? Well, first and foremost — you, dear reader, are not naieve enough to think that there’s not a financial connection here. These are bands distributed by or signed to the labels that help support The Onion and may at this point be personal friends or just “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” type buddies.

But next, they’re bands that rock listeners can comprehend. Except Melechesh, which is there for a different reason. And that reason is next: each band is different, meaning that it doesn’t fit into a perceived orthodoxy. Each band is “different” by being not the perceived norm, as perceived by outsiders who cannot tell the difference between Incantation and Immolation even though that difference is immediately perceptible to anyone who likes, understands and most of all pays attention to the music.

The “different” plays into the psychology of the individual. You’re just a cog in the machine. You’d like to think differently, but every day you keep doing whatever a cog does. So you find some way to be the cog that’s a cog, but also has a little something else. Interpretive dance. A flute on your death metal album. Or you’re an oddity, the one thing of type X that isn’t like the others.

See this in action, with bonus points for adding a sense of victimization — all cogs are victims, because otherwise they’d be running the machine! — added in:

Long before The Sword, Boris was getting smeared as poseur metal. It’s unlikely that would have happened if the band wasn’t Japanese, and if lead guitarist Wata wasn’t a woman

That must be it.

Not that this band is indie rock dressed up with some metal stylings and has nothing in common with metal as an idea, as a genre, but everything in common with indie rock. After all, irony is a key way to be different.

Here’s another great dickslap in the face for metal:

Metal, more than most genres, rewards consistency; a lot of headbangers would just as soon their favorite bands keep making the same record over and over. As elsewhere, though, there’s always something to be said for progress, and Goatwhore’s most recent record is a great leap forward.

The same album over and over means “the album sounds the same aesthetically.” It doesn’t mean the notes are the same; it means the distortion, tempi, vocals, and concept are similar. So it’s not the same album, is it? But for people who cannot appreciate that album, it’s important to find a good put-down so they can feel better about their own CD rack. Yeah, it’s the same old stuff. Yeah, it’s just consistent. But this other band… they’ve (gush here) progressed, which means they added a flute to their grindcore. Did they progress? No, but all of us can tell that a flute is a change, where only a few of us can tell that composition gained depth, or new emotions, even if the aesthetic remained the same.

Indie rock is what happens when you have a bunch of people making music just as vapid as Madonna or Sting, but they want some way to appear not-a-cog so they trick it out in this superficial progress using irony to be different so we know they’re the unique cogs. But their problem is that every cog thinks it’s a unique cog, so then they’re in an arms race to both trick out their own music with weirdness, causing it be basically ugly trash (this has happened to all modern art), and put down any music which does have artistic content, because it threatens them.

And at the end of the day, that’s what this Onion article is about: the fear of masses of hipsters that they missed something within the music (e.g. not adding a flute) and therefore, that they are just cogs after all. Which as they go back to their hipster “it pays nothing but I feel educated or socially important” jobs, is a bitter consolation indeed.

No comments

  • Nigger Cumlord

    The Onion pokes fun at hipsters too, and with this article, they poke fun at metal and its elitists. I’m fairly certain they poke fun at everyone including themselves. But honestly, who cares? The Onion is ‘ironic’ comedy after all, and like most comedy in general it is meaningless drivel that isn’t worth anyone’s time. At any rate, I see the Colbert Report being ‘hipster central’, since one thing many hipsters I’ve encountered unite for is liberalism and ‘irony’

  • DeicideLegion

    The onion is another form of vapid entertainment. Outsiders looking in, go ahead continue to “not care”.

  • fucker

    Each band is “different” by being not the perceived norm, as perceived by outsiders who cannot tell the difference between Incantation and Immolation even though that difference is immediately perceptible to anyone who likes, understands and most of all pays attention to the music.

    YES.

  • blarg

    I think “anus.com” and its “readers” tend to “overuse” “quotations marks” for “no apparent reason.”

  • Nigger Cumlord

    Was the comment below me directed towards me? While I think you misunderstood what I said, I certainly know it is impossible to misunderstand your email address. I take your liking of Ulver is a joke, a sort of ‘irony’ maybe? And blarg seems to have failed reading comprehension in primary school.

  • HCTN Train!

    haha blarg. You have no stated reason for being here, no argument, you fail at trolling and you seem not to like this place yet you stick around for 2 comments…..
    like many have said before me- the internet is boring. I’m sure you’ll agree

    At first I wondered why the list isn’t linked to from here, but then I read part of that A.V. article… yeah they’ve got System Of A Down instead of real heavy metal.. grindcore instead of structural death metal ( cause silly ol’ grindcore is much easier to laugh with/at) and black metal that is not intense musically and actually with quite pacifying moods… wait. did I say black metal? oops..
    Still, that site seems to gain and maintain it’s viewers using humor 90% of the time. If anyone who comes to the site for it’s funnyness so thinks he found the peak of intelligence starts looking for musical advice there.. then the joke’s on them as their musical taste might turn out to be a…. well…
    Might as well take your life philosophy from stand up comedians wait people actually do that I have a friend who’s had that period :-/

  • Mad at myself for trying

    The Onion is a satirical newspaper that isn’t supposed to be taken seriously, but the AV Club, its sister site, is a pop culture review site. Their articles aren’t intended to be a joke. The author set our to include as much as he can in his list with an open mind. As a metal fan, I found a lot of it disappointing. However, I think he was correct in pointing out that metal is very diverse genre and I credit him for being honest. He clearly is someone with more than a passing interest in metal.

    I will say one thing though. He could have listed Bink 182 as his favorite metal band and I would still prefer his writing to whoever threw the above blog post together. That incoherent mess comes off like it was written by an angry teenager who gets his video games taken away as punishment for bad grades. And why does this website look like someone had to go back to 1997 to design it. This bullshit isn’t doing metal any favors either.

  • T.G.

    @Mad at myself for trying: In order for metal to progress, we must add flutes to it and accept pedophiles as valid band members!

  • Joseph Hale

    I’ll tell you why they hype those bands; it’s a lot simpler than you say. It’s because a full half of them are REALLY POST-PUNK BANDS. Isis, Pelican, Mars Volta, BORIS, Dillinger, Harvey Milk and System of a Down are all essentially punk derived groups either slumming in metal scenes, or performing a threadbare minstrel show for the benefit of carpetbaggers. They’re OBVIOUS choices for people whose real aesthetics come from post-punk; Isis and their ilk because they cop the minimalist aesthetic that supposedly makes riff music acceptable, Dillinger because they appeal to ears already conditioned to like hardcore, BORIS because apart from one or two tracks, their music is kitsch, and therefore the acceptable face of an unacceptable genre. For decades, punk critics have mischaracterized our music and then slammed it on the basis of that mischaracterization; now that theirs is played out, they’re desperate for an ounce of the authenticity ours has. FUCK ‘EM.

  • Pepsiman

    You never said the “different reason” that Melechesh was on that list. Oversight, or are we supposed to figure it out for ourselves?

  • Cumfart Cocktails

    Yknow what I like? MUSIC! Who gives a fuck about the aesthetic and cultural significance as long as it is good music. I love Amon Amarth, Baroness, Isis, High on Fire, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and Converge because they are interesting musicians. Doesn’t trying so hard to be "true" lose its meaning when you force yourself to do so? Everything about this site is so damned contrived, get over yourselves, seriously. In the meantime, I will be enjoying Funeralopalis by Electric Wizard. Remember how to do that? Did you know that if you hear a moving piece of music that it actually causes you to feel something? Didn’t think so….

  • Cold Breath of Real Life

    Cumfart: you listen to moron music and you’re a moron.

    Pepsiman: probably cultural pity for the exotic.

    Joseph Hale: also very true. Every smart source agrees that the indie hipsters love metal in order to turn it into something that’s not metal.