The problem of commercialism in metal

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Some will tell you that metal cannot sell out because metal is not a large financial enterprise. The question then is, “What is large?” because if a genre supports dozens of labels, has top-grossing tours, and tens of thousands of bands, it seems that someone is getting paid more than they would otherwise.

But don’t take it from us. Look at what commercialization has done to another genre:

I was so blown away by the first “Star Wars” film when I saw it in 1977, I went back two more times the same week to wallow in its space age fantasy. But here’s the thing: George Lucas’ creation, basically a blown-up Flash Gordon adventure with better special effects, has left all too many people thinking science fiction is some computer graphics-laden space opera/western filled with shootouts, territorial disputes, evil patriarchs and trusty mounts (like the Millennium Falcon).

“Star Wars” has corrupted people’s notion of a literary genre full of ideas, turning it into a Saturday afternoon serial. And that’s more than a shame — it’s an obscenity.

He has a point, and reveals a situation parallel to that of metal. Sci-fi was too hardcore and dry for most readers, but then if you add in princesses in skimpy costumes, wookies and light sabers, suddenly it’s… an action movie with soap opera aspects. The audience can tune into that, and so can all the basement greebos who will cosplay, imitate and nerd it to death.

Metal was also originally too hardcore and dense for most listeners, but then if you added in the drama of burning churches and murders, people could really get into that wacky far-out identity. Suddenly it’s hard rock with distorted vocals and Satan. The audience can tune into that, and so all the basement neckbeards emerge to record collect and/or emo it to death.

Two sides rapidly form in any debate: one side says we should have purity of essence of what is being done, and the other side thinks that this principle should be more malleable in order to support social popularity and commerce. I say stick with the purity of essence: metal was built on years of accumulated knowledge, and turning it into entertainment flushes that all down the drain.

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Groovy Commercialism

who wants a hugThis morning I was flipping through the book Choosing Death and landed on an interview with commerce queen Angela Gossow detailing her opinion on Cannibal Corpse:

“I loved Cannibal Corpse’s Eaten Back To Life, because it was so extreme at the time when I was a kid, but I didn’t sing along with those lyrics.” Gossow admits. “It’s somehow just a bit intimidating. It’s so much about violence against women. It’s not a guy who’s being totally shredded—it’s always a woman. It’s usually a sexual thing too, like rape, then murder, and I don’t think you should promote that. You don’t wanna have your girlfriend raped, strangled and ripped apart when she was pregnant. I still don’t get it when so many of the people out there sing about that [subject matter] have girlfriends—I just don’t know how they can justify that.”

While she does have a valid point from a woman’s perspective, the dots didn’t connect that the main factor to their popularity is shock value. Cannibal Corpse have become the most popular death metal band for outraging people in a cartoonish manner. Most of their lyrics are so farfetched in its violence, sex and gore that it defies a sensible reality. They found a commercially viable formula and cater to people that seek music that doesn’t delve farther than the surface level. I can easily envision a teenager sitting at the dinner table wearing a Cannibal Corpse shirt for one sole purpose: to repudiate his parents and be “rebellious”.

Cheese: The nineteen nineties were besieged by an onslaught of second rate bands that were inspired by the shock value of Cannibal Corpse and took the concept even further. One such band that accelerated to popularity more than the others for being more extreme was Devourment. Instead of deriving their lyrical themes from fantasy and outlandish gore, they sought to bring a more shocking element by advocating the murder of babies. Their song Baby Killer quickly became a classic among those that needed something more edgy than their prized Cannibal Corpse.

Relapse Records recently picked up Devourment to cash in on this concept. Knowing that it wouldn’t be profitable advocating baby death, Devourment went the Cannibal Corpse route and devised their lyrical themes to be cartoons. Their popularity has already grown. The era of Cartoon Death Metal is overshadowing those who approach the genre as an art form.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjX7tXu_XQ4

 

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Smoking Outside the Box

They always tell you to “think outside the box,” as if having everyone focused on non-conformity will result in anything but a new variety of conformity. So much of life comes back to the mirror image, where we are staring at a representation of ourselves, and trying to change how it looks, despite everything happening in reverse since left is right and right left.

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On The Origins of Heavy Metal and Assimilation

From a recent publication of Perfect Sound Forever, some information echoing our FAQ about the origin of heavy metal:

Leaving out the blues element in the late ’70s, metal pioneers Judas Priest and Mötörhead had used their heaviness while keeping in line with the attitude of punk to create a sound that was heavy rock n’ roll punk filled with economic guitar solos, much like those heard in the Ramones and Sex Pistols. In fact, Mötörhead’s 1977 self-titled debut, which had included the element of speed, had often mixed the sound of classic rock with punk and the ’70’s glam rock of Bowie and Slade. This would soon would be followed by ’80’s metal pioneers Saxon, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Diamond Head and Girlschool who had added a great amount of guitar dexterity to the mix becoming a prime characteristic of ’80s metal music from the beginning.

In addition, the article addresses some of the concerns with commercialization and assimilation that came straight out of the 1980s:

When considering ’80s metal, one has to recognize that although the spirit of punk from which it came had mainly focused on anarchy, anti-consumerism, anti-corporate control, much of it, particularly glam, had taken on a strong commercial aspect in the rise of a particularly increasingly commercial period. Mixed with a sporty look and big hair when an enormous mix of different music and styles had existed, after following on from punk and much that was derived from classic rock, metal music in the ’80s had flourished as corporate rock in a period when the commercialization of music saw the rise of an unstoppable corporatization on a wide international scale- indeed, major U.S. record companies were selling themselves to media moguls in Japan and Europe. In fact, metal was a music engulfed by a “give me the money decade” full of excess – drink, women, hair, drugs in a period which saw the beginning of fragmentation in music when the rebelliousness that once seemed to possess more innovativeness and originality from which it had originally stemmed from became swallowed up by commercialism.

In fact, one of the original ANUS articles, now lost to time, was about the difference between commercialism of a non-commercial genre and being within a commercial genre like Queensrÿche or Iron Maiden, who did their best despite coming from the aboveground.

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Tau Cross Releases New Track “Burn With Me” From Upcoming Album Messengers of Deception

Revolutionary but traditional metal/punk band Tau Cross — continuing, among others, the legacy of legendary hardcore band Amebix — unleashes its forthcoming album Messengers of Deception on December 4th, but has released a teaser track for the song “Burn With Me,” featuring a video by Jakob Moth which showcases some of the imagery and aesthetics behind the band. This continues the search for a single voice between punk, metal, and hard rock that avoids both commercialism and indecisive polyglot, instead creating a powerful sound of dissent and exploration.

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