Defining Indie “Metal”

As many movies from the 80s and 90s will tell you (e.g. SLC Punk and PCU), youth counter cultural movements of those decades were once various fragmented groups or “tribes” baring their own identity while all opposing the mainstream Whitney Houston and boy bands on the radio. You had your goths, new wavers, punk rockers, emos, ect. at war with the “jocks and cheerleaders” collective of popular kids and, in some cases, at war with each other. But in the years to follow, the deadly combination of multiculturalism and micro culture has effectively ended this conflict as there was no longer a singular popular culture and therefore no “them” in the classic “us vs. them” dynamic. Therefore, these varying counter cultural factions were unified into one ugly all encompassing monstrosity: the hipster.

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Hipsters attack black metal with pale imitations

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Since the early 1970s, the music industry and the social scene behind it — comprised of those who use external appearance to signal social success — has been trying to find some way to counter the authenticity of metal. While rock and blues stars appeared to be rebels, the truth emerged over time that most were very conventional in their outlook except for hedonism.

Heavy metal on the other hand rejected the founding myths of our society since the intellectual shift so-called “The Enlightenment,” in which people decided that social pressure to enable the individual to be “equal” whether right or wrong, good or bad, was more important than social standards. Heavy metal pointed out that our perceived enemies are scapegoats, and the real problem is that the enemy is us, and that people are delusional and happy hippie flower power is another variety of the bourgeois deliberate ignorance of reality that promotes social decay.

In recent years, the same people who were hippies back in the 1960s — the conformity of appearance non-conformist and then going to work at a bank and retiring as a fat Baby Boomer — have returned as “social justice workers,” or SJWs. These people, together with an industry that realizes it can sell more re-branded indie rock than it can discover compelling metal bands, have created a new style that culturally appropriates the appearance of black metal while injecting it with the same messages of self-indulgence, self-pity, victimhood and pacifism that the hippies bleated about back in the day.

As the UK’s leading cheerleader paper reports, the herd is claiming this new false black metal is in fact an “innovation,” despite it resembling music from thirty years ago that black metal bands detested.

Enter “blackgaze”, the buzz term for a new school of bands taking black metal out of the shadows and melding its blast beats, dungeon wailing and razorwire guitars with the more reflective melodies of post-rock, shoegaze and post-hardcore. It’s a geographically loose scene and its bands have been embraced by the indie media, which means you’re now as likely to hear black metal at ATP as in the Carpathian mountains.

Alert readers may note the “post-rock, shoegaze and post-hardcore” attribution, which Death Metal Underground has long identified as being the origins of this material. In other words, it is not black metal, but indie rock playing “dress up” as black metal. The quest of the industry for a safe rebellion goes on.

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Supuration posts new track “Ephemeral Paradise” from album Reveries…

French progressive/indie/death metal band Supuration has posted a new video, “Ephemeral Paradise,” from its upcoming album Reveries…. This showcases the firm blend between alternative rock of the indie variety, death metal and grind, and progressive notions of concept albums and harmony that has propelled this band since its inception, and its peak with 1993’s The Cube.

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Hipster champions insincerity, reveals nature of indie-metal

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Self-preening egomaniac solipsist hipster Brent Hinds, who plays with indie-metal (heavy alternative rock) band Mastodon, accidentally revealed the nature of indie-metal as indie rockers who enjoy metal ironically making imitations of better bands. Speaking between bites of arugula and sprouted garlic sandwich on quinoa bread, Hinds opined:

“I never really liked heavy metal in the first place. I came from Alabama playing country music, surf rock, rockabilly, and stuff like that.

“I just went through a phase in my 20s where I thought it was rebellious to play heavy metal. And then I met Brann [Dailor, drummer] and Bill [Kelliher, guitarist], and they were really, really, really into heavy metal.

“And ever since then, I’ve been trying to get Mastodon to not be such a heavy metal band, because I f–king hate heavy metal, and I don’t want to be in a heavy metal band.”

Playing metal to be rebellious is a hipster gig because it is entirely surface with no deeper connection to the music than to use it, as hipsters use all things, to signal your emotions to a world that could not care less. Metal musicians play metal because they love it, but giggin’ hipsters play it ironically to be rebellious and shocking. Hinds finally admitted his own insincerity, but with him he brings down a genre.

Indie-metal arose from the “alternative metal” of the 1990s which took metal riffs and put them in rock songs using the aesthetics of grunge and alternative rock. Although the result was an artistic disaster, it was more palatable than the hip-hop/rock hybrids and other pop experiments of the era, and so caught on. Unfortunately these bands are not metal, only metal-influenced, and so they bring in all of the dysfunctional mid-therapeutic behavior for which indie bands are notorious. The result has been adulterated quasi-metal like Deafheaven, Mastodon, Isis, Pallbearer, Babymetal, Pelican and Vattnet Viskar which has attracted a new audience of underconfident, neurotic and conformist fans while driving away the audience metal built up from the 80s-90s.

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I am the Trireme premiere track

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The band I am the Trireme will be releasing Gnosis: Never Follow the Light on June 30. Advertised as black metal, their music is best described as an indie stadium rock appropriating some black metal tropes and stitching song sections with a sense similar to Michael Åkerfeldt’s Pink Frothy AIDS, without exceeding the latter’s penchant for pasting together unrelated musical ideas. The band combine this with mainstream Satanic allusions, a pretty album cover and a personal image resembling a grown up Avenged Sevenfold.
A sure hit among angsty and alienated teenagers, a preview of the album can be heard on Soundcloud.

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Deathspell Omega – Paracletus (2010)

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The secret to excellent marketing is found in the word “different.” A successful salesperson puts a surface on an ordinary product so it appears new, luxurious or otherwise distinctive. In music, the best method is to put a new surface on whatever is trendy at the time. Thus cloaked, it allows its listeners to appreciate the same stuff everyone else is listening to, but with its different appearance, they can claim they are different and unique special snowflakes.

Deathspell Omega took the idea of the metalcore dominant at its time — mix up dissonant and technical or jazzy riffing with metal riffs in carnival-style rotational song order based on internal interruption — and put a black metal face on it. For black metal, it relied on what Ulver and Satyricon did, which was to create long melodies that start impressively but go nowhere and require the song structure to intervene “dramatically” and interrupt before people realize that the melody is like the rambling of a drunken person. On top of this, they put choppy technical-style riffing and dissonant chords, but keep the focus on the vocals to distract from the carnival music nature of this randomness, tying it together with rhythm and the strong vocal as post-black bands like Behemoth did.

If the vocals were removed, good portions of this album would appear to have come from recent Cynic albums. Often a jazzy break goes right into hard rock riffing that comes from the pop canon, but as if the band becomes self-conscious, a more violent riff intervenes. The real problem here — as in all rock-derived music — is that unlike metal, this is vocal-driven not riff-driven. The riffs tag along for the ride as the voice tells you things it thinks you want to hear. As such, Paracletus is not only a pretender to the black metal throne, but worse, is musically incoherent which results in mental confusion and boredom.

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Peste Noire – La Sanie des Siècles – Panégyrique de la Dégénérescence (2006)

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In the dying days of black metal, people imitate it from the outside-in by adopting its techniques but not understanding its inner core. Peste Noire combines heavy metal and indie rock with black metal stylings and produces a demi-opus of distracted listening: if attended to with half a brain, as when watching television, socializing or working, it seems fine and hits the right spots of black metal nostalgia. When listened to intently, it reveals itself as having relatively random structure and imitation of tropes that go nowhere.

The surface influence on this work that immediately comes to mind is Graveland, with a side dish of the more desolate Nords like early Gorgoroth and Immortal, but as an experienced listener of metal might guess, the closer one comes to self-pity music (depressive, doom) the lower quality of music becomes. A typical Peste Noire song begins with a black metal riff which it repeats in a cycle, ending in a chord progression reminiscent of bittersweet neurotically happy and sad at the same time indie rock, then drops into heavy metal tropes like the chaotic solo extending into a lead rhythm guide to a bounding riff.

Initial aspects of this album appear favorable: instrumental prowess, deliberate production, a study of black metal. At its heart it is disunified first by lack of purpose except egotistic lamentation, and second by a refusal to structure songs around anything but a visual perspective that hides itself by constant interruption (sort of like the “disruptive” trend in business). What remains, after the listener filters through appearance and randomness, could not fill the teacup of a black metal fan.

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Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (2014)

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The audience for this album are the same people who are fooled by magic shows at carnivals, speak in tongues at revivals, buy the latest iGadget sight unseen, and smoke in bed. If you claim to like this album, you are either not paying attention or merely a fool. Like every sell out, it is designed to cater to the lowest common denominator, which generally recruits idiots.

Thantifaxath combine trivialist “progressive,” minor key black metal riffs, and indie rock to make what they call “depressive suicidal black metal.” Songs start with basic black metal-ish riffs, but instead of featuring a varied internal texture, these are uniform with an equal number of strums per chord and chords generally changing on the beat, creating a drone effect. The band then play “progressive” riffs that amount to showy but not all that complex guitar and sonic technique used as distraction, and then get to the main point, which is minor key indie-rock riffs that feature the hook to the song. If you can imagine LSD guitar practice plus a basement black metal band ending up in a cover of someting off Daydream Nation, that is the sum total of Thantifaxath.

While the sin committed by Sacred White Noise is insincerity, its musical failing comes from being essentially contentless and relying on fireworks or pop techniques to fill in the void. What does this album communicate? According to people who claim to love DSBM, they find an emotional rush from this in realizing how horrible life truly is. But how is that different from emo? Late 80s emo achieved the same thing but it kept the pop more visible, so it could cry through the tears, as the saying went. This band wallows in its sadness and then plays random music over the top to distract from how fundamentally simple it is.

Thantifaxath use questionable “black metal” riffs. The riffing is essentially static such as that which bands like Nile or Necrophagist used, where the point was to play a chord in a certain rhythmic pattern and then add an extended fill so it seemed like a death metal riff, despite having more in common with Elvis or Lynyrd Skynyrd than death metal. These parallel the “progressive” playing, which seems to focus on finding a whacky guitar technique (whacky: odd, ironic, rarely used — because it is useless for expressing anything but musical confusion) and repeating it at different notes quickly and erratically. Sometimes this becomes comical when these patterns resemble familiar phone numbers or radio jingles. Its indie rock is clearly its heart, because the full melodic hook comes out here, but it does not distinguish itself from thousands of other bands in this area.

In summary, Thantifaxath create directionless melodic wandering at a slow pace with a hookish atmosphere in three styles, doing none well and fooling only those who have no particular ability to pay attention for prolonged periods of time. At its best, its melodies resemble the wandering style that Celestia brought out, but this style owes more to lack of purpose than to any idea or feeling it communicates. An astute observer will notice that for all of its supposed variation, this album expresses only one mood and it never changes — only is interrupted by distraction — and that it applies technique uniformly to create sonic wallpaper from even the most “different” pieces. To its audience, who apparently are so deep in self-pity that “depressive suicidal black metal” seems important, I have a word of advice: cut harder.

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Supuration releases cover image for Reveries…

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French progressive rock/death metal hybrid Supuration have released the cover for their upcoming album, Reveries…. Created by famed underground metal artist Dan Seagrave, the cover image displays classic death metal symbology in its gnarled and organic textures in a mythological setting.

Reveries… will see release via Listenable Records on May 29, 2015. Mastered by Dawn Swano (Edge of Sanity), the album “is a re_recording of old songs written during the 90s” according to the band. Perhaps the combination of their newer more aggressive technique, classic death metal imagery and their inventive songwriting will forge a new classic.

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