There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.1
Many metal-heads think that metal died out as a genre because it went corporate and lost its edge. Undoubtedly more commercialized metal appeared, as it always does whenever a genre becomes popular and therefore, profitable. There is more to it than that, however, as larger cultural forces and schemes were at play.
The question of commercialism arose because there was a bridge between power metal/jock metal (e.g. Korn) and more old school thrash metal (Metallica/Slayer) which was never gapped. This paralleled the gap of a decade earlier, when the gap between metal bands like Motorhead and hard rock bands like Van Halen divided the fanbase between album listeners and radio listeners. This gave rise to entire subgenres like black metal, death metal and grindcore which were deliberately designed to avoid having large-scale commercial success. That in turn triggered the rise of the 1990s version of glam, grunge, which was basically slowed-down indie-rock influenced hard rock.
Why write bad reviews at all? Good music is rare, and bad is everywhere, but if you do not explicitly identify the failings of bad, most people will find it appealing because it does not interrupt their steady stream of self-centered thoughts and is easier than seeking good. If you like good music and want more of it, you must bash as well as praise, as Machiavelli would tell you. And with that, the latest installment of the Sadistic Metal Reviews…
Google has informed us that they threaten to remove advertising — how we pay our writers — from our site because of controversial content. Since Google is a monopoly on search engine technology and internet advertising, it can act much as a government would to censor content that it finds objectionable. Much like a government, that places control over what you can see, hear and read into the hands of a few bureaucrats with no concern for the needs of free speech.
Listen to the safe spaces rhetoric: “Google does not allow the monetization of content that may be sensitive, tragic, or hurtful.” This vague description makes makes abuse of violation reporting a trivial task, especially given that the sheer reach and volume of Google’s customers forces some degree of automation into the process. Given how metal is under attack by SJWs constantly through abuse reporting mechanisms this forces sites to censor themselves and keeps that censorship — unlike that by governments — entirely invisible.
A metal festival is one thing; what about the collected knowledge of humanity which had entrusted to the internet? If Google drops advertising, and eventually starts redirecting “dangerous” searches to counter-propaganda, as the company starts to seize more power this type of censorship will only gain more power. It has its fans among the usual power brokers who want to put people in jail for merely visiting questionable websites. This means we have a monopolistic company that has the power of a government to prevent you from seeing whatever material it deems as bad, and instead of using a clear filter for this, Google will continue to use the nebulous “offensive” tag to remove information.
This denies the human nature of truth which is that truthful information goes through a long period of opposition and censorship before it is accepted:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. — Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)
Google possesses the perfect way of keeping truth caught in the “violently opposed” stage so it can never be accepted as self-evident. By being vague about what is “offensive,” and putting the burden on sites like us to figure out what they object to and remove it, they ensure broad content removal of controversial topics. Given that five large companies control the internet, your right to speech is governed entirely by their desire to provide a “safe” product. Government never needs to get its hands dirty nor the companies officially admit they have censored anything. In their view, they are merely providing a safer product. And somehow, government seeks OK with Google’s attempts to stay on top through underhanded deeds.
While we detest Pantera, and generally think ill of Anselmo and his many antics, and have personal reasons to detest neo-Nazism and all associated with, at DeathMetal.org we are aware of the history of censorship: it starts with ideas no one will defend, like Nazism and pedophilia, and then expands to include anything that those in power — including rich companies like Google and the other Big Five — find threatening. This is the censorship of the future: removing anything that makes people feel uncomfortable, which will quickly produce a circle-jerk that repeats the same accepted opinions to itself and fails to notice uncomfortable realities. In metal, we face uncomfortable realities head-on because they are still part of reality and throughout history, humanity has thrived where it accepts reality and failed where it denies it. Google, FortaRock, SJWs and other “safe spaces” types are leading us into failure as a species by making denial into a moral good, even if they do it “in our best interests” with the most benevolent of motives.
Phil Anselmo put a sour taste into the mouth of Dimebag Darrell and Pantera worshipers worldwide by making some white supremacist signs at the end of Dimebash 2016. Much to my amusement, he immediately backpedaled and insisted that these remarks were his idea of a joke. Like most of these incidents, the importance is not so much in what Phil Anselmo actually believes, but in how the people around him react. As a general rule, you people have overreacted. For instance, the good folk at MetalSucks (always a bastion of… well… something) struggled to reconcile their simple belief that racism is bad with their other simple belief that Phil Anselmo’s musical efforts are worthy of their time and attention.
Here at DMU, we’ve learned to deal with the fallout of our idols’ actual, provable crimes, such as the arson and murder of the Norwegian black metal scene to the point that we’re perhaps desensitized to thoughtcrimes, especially since we can’t yet peer into Anselmo’s head and accurately determine whether he’s a racist, or trawling for attention, or some combination of both. What matters is that we don’t jump to conclusions based on the unknowable. Besides, we have enough evidence of Anselmo contributing to Pantera.
Sold to us by a promo company as “melodic” death/black metal, Des Endes Anfang by Tranquillizer (sic) is an ungainly fusion of In Flames type melodeath, Pantera flavored brocore grooves, and maybe a slight hint of extreme metal writing at times… by mistake. It occasionally amuses me to see a long-abandoned style of pop metal get some attention after years of neglect, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this album is simply terrible. It’s so bad that I’ve decided to explicitly label it a bad album, in spite of my tendency to pass off most of the review subjects here at DMU as mediocre (medio-core?) and forgettable.
The songwriting here, admittedly, is only weak in a pedestrian fashion. If you were to strip away all the references to past forms of mainstream metal, you’d end up with just another set of random, generic metal riffs like so many albums before this; nothing actually worth discussing. To be fair, Tranquillizer’s “varied” influences give them a wide set of material to pull upon, similar to something like Children of Bodom‘s latest. I Worship Chaos is actually a decent comparison; Tranquillizer doesn’t have the neoclassical backing that helped contribute to that band’s popularity, but they do replace it with slightly more varied (albeit stupid sounding) vocals. In this reviewer’s opinion, that’s not a great trade, but it’s not like either point of comparison has any real merit.
While the substrate of this band is hollow at best, most of what I find contemptible in Des Endes Anfang is its immediately apparent, surface level stupidity. A clean, dry, sterile production allows the panderingly simplistic rhythms of this album to burst forth, as well as a dual vocal system of generic shrieks and vomited grunts. For our purposes, it should suffice to say that this is, at best, a modern rehash of older substyles. You could make the case that none of this is innately bad, despite its similarities to previous bad metal albums, but even if you did, it seems apparent that Tranquillizer doesn’t have the musical knowledge or aptitude to make this album come off as more than half-hearted worship of a warmed over god. Not that I should be raising our old whipping posts to the level of divinity, but the analogy is sound, and Des Endes Anfang isn’t exactly worthy of more precise flogging.
Most metalheads, not being of the commercially-minded type, rarely stop to think about heavy metal as a brand. Media sells a certain image with heavy metal, just like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Jack Daniels whisky, both of which are highly successful brands. Metal forms more of a meta-brand, symbolizing rebellion and bad boy lawlessness. That image can be used to sell a lot of products, since consumers really hate the idea that they are merely being good sheep by buying whisky and transportation.
In commercials, television and movies, rebellious characters are often introduced with heavy metal in the background. Fight scenes in both football and blockbusters often get the heavy riff treatment, as do superhero epics. Bizarrely, House Hunters — a television program about people choosing which house to buy — uses AC/DC style hard rock riffing in the background to its real estate epics. Anywhere boldness, bravery, rebellion and defiance must be shown, heavy metal is the appropriate soundtrack.
Much of this can be seen through the use of well-known bands in movies. Check out how many soundtracks Slayer has contributed to, for example. The royalties from those might even outpace their album sales. At some point in the future, perhaps metal bands will put out albums and tour so that they can sell their music for commercials, television, movies, sports/MMA and house hunting. Now look at AC/DC. Metallica. Iron Maiden. Pantera. Anthrax. Compare to Morbid Angel and Darkthrone.
These offer true creative writing and some venture further into musical criticism of Pantera or even analysis of metal as a subculture. That makes for some stiff competition, with no one that rises erect above the rest because so many of these are so well-executed. However, choose a winner we must, and so it’s time to go through the candidates.
Grails_Mysteries offers one of the first qualifying entries and a short story that explores the pathology of sexual identity denial among heavy metal musicians. In addition, it gives us some insight into the type of personality that might power a band like Pantera. Compelling. steven foster offers a short piece with a Kerouac/Bukowski vibe with a strong conclusion. SEIG pops up next with a more violent offering that explores the visceral and organic side of Pantera eroticism. It reminds me of the Marquis de Sade outraged that the marketplace/polling-place for heavy metal had been taken over by mediocrity! LostInTheANUS offers an almost Huxleyian analysis of how the seductions of money, power and fame can lead to a different kind of seduction… disturbing, and I mean that in a good way. Then thisoneheredude satirizes every Didion-inspired experiential piece of rock journalism ever, creating a lingering sense of unease and distaste. Good work. Vnholy Loa gives us a lengthier look into the effects of timid poseurdom combined with aggro-brocore in a piece delightfully riddled with puns. Following up on that, Eli Murray shows us an unsettling view of psychological manipulation for sex in the context of rock fandom. That’s New Yorker territory but we’ll take it. As the contest gained momentum, Iconoclast wrote a Jungian exploration of the subconscious in attitudes toward existential crisis and how it manifests in the hollow carelessness of pop music like Pantera. This one is really worth reading. Next Dave reveals the paradox of sexual surrender paired with a tough guy exterior, in a story that may portray either rape or someone finally achieving satisfaction, or both… White Powder Activist typed up a whole bunch of stuff so disturbing I can’t comment on it here. Captain Penis Cheese presents a short poetic piece on the parallels between pop music and awkward sex. Turning the contest to a more introspective level, Marcus Antony Frattura explores the psychology of Pantera and their critics and finds some similarities. And if you made it through all of those, you will need professional help.
The competition is tough but some clearly came out ahead. Our winners are:
Gentlemen/ladies, please claim your prizes by emailing editor at deathmetal dot org with the IP address you used to post your piece. Include a mailing address, US only please. I appreciate the contributions of all who participated and the many, many creative entries we received.
The recent fracas over Pantera grave desecration reminds us all of two things: many people who criticize Pantera do so out of hurt feelings about social justice issues, and many Pantera fans respond like raging apes locked in coin operated toilets. This creates a potent mix of rage and butthurt that appeals to the sadist in each of us.
To fan the flames, because simply being logical (RIP Spock) and level-headed about issues never gets anyone famous, DeathMetal.org announces a Pantera erotic short story contest. The rules are as follows:
Your story must be between 500-5,000 words and involve the members of Pantera including Dimebag Darrell, and optionally the hipster crust/punk/black band that originally claimed to desecrate his grave, in intensely sexual or erotic situations involving homosexuality and other non-traditional sexual inclinations.
You must paste the story into a comment on this site by midnight (EST) on March 6, 2015.
Your story must be your work alone, except for Pantera lyrics quoted as characters reach climax.
Winner will receive a box of random stuff I can reach easily without leaving this chair.
The point of this is to offend both those who criticize Pantera for being un-PC, and those who defend Pantera with blockheaded and thoughtless remarks. Hopefully both groups will be appalled and call for the death of anyone connected to this, pointing out yet again how both PC indie-metal fans and Pantera fans have more in common with ISIS than metal.
Writers are encouraged to seek inspiration in early Pantera glam metal works like Metal Magic, Power Metal and I am the Night. Bonus points for anyone who works in a Chuck Schuldiner/AIDS subplot, or even a thread about Opeth and a tour bus painted bright pastel colors.
Despite efforts by nearly all parties to deny it, the underlying tension in metal that created #metalgate continues: the “new fans” who want music more like indie rock or punk versus the metal fans who want metal for metal’s sake. The metal fans realize that to be metal is to be an outsider to society and all of its rationalization for its own failure, including “reforms” and “revolutions,” while the punk/indie fans want metal to endorse some of those rationalizations.
The most recent victim may have been Pantera guitarist Darrell Abbot’s grave, which was referenced in an instagram post by the (ex-) vocalist of a crust/black band which embodies the worst of both veins of metal sell-outs, both the sensitive guy indie rocks who like crustcore and the tryhard war metal types who pose as being as hardcore as possible. According to the desecrator:
We paid douchebag darrell a visit, we spit on his grave, stole a pair of cowboy boots, and i wrote “FAG” on his grave… im not a homophobe but i hope all the panturrra fans see this and shit themselves with anger… FUCK DIMEBAG, buncha racist hillbillies
Only forty-eight hours later, the apologies were flowing forth:
The fact of the matter is I feel awful and guilty and this will stick with me forever, just like the Seinfeld guy using the N word… I can not express how sorry I am to Vinnie Paul and the Abbott family for the distress I caused, and the other members of Pantera and other acts Darrell was a part of. I owe everyone an apology for my actions because they were uncalled for, and horrible, despicable, and I went way too far. Some jokes are NOT funny and this is one of them. I took a joke way too far with a piece of paper and some hurtful words and as I’ve expressed, I don’t expect any sort of acceptance or sympathy…I hope at least someone will accept this and I hope for a better future for everyone…
What is shared between both of these sentiments? They are SJW ideas. He attacks Darrell because he thinks Pantera fans are a “buncha racist hillbillies” and excuses using the word FAG because he’s not a “homophobe.” This is SJW language here, first being concerned about policing whether or not other people approve of homosexuality and second in justifying violence or worse against those who are not pro-diversity, a.k.a. “racists.” When he apologizes, he uses the term “hurtful words” and compares his actions to “the Seinfeld guy using the N word” and then states he hopes for “a better future for everyone.” His motivation as a sensitive guy with social justice ideals is revealed in both of his statements.
I will not use his real name in this article, for the record, because public shaming can cause repercussions in this person’s real life, including career and social ostracization. No honest and decent person tries to do that because it is a passive but effective way at destroying the life of another. Nor will I name or link to his band, which has been utterly forgettable and forgotten from lack of any originality as well as blatant bandwagon-riding, because this like the sucker punch at Danzig is simply a publicity stunt that generated more notoriety than was expected. Let the media trick fail on its own.
But this leads us to an ugly point: a metalhead may well be divided by this event. It would be hypocritical for metalheads to start complaining about grave desecrations now after several thousand band photos in cemetaries. It is also nonsense to complain about damage to Darrell’s grave because, as noted by a number of sources, as with Jim Morrison’s grave the majority of the damage comes from fans of the artist and not enemies.
At the same time, however, many metalheads do not feel all that great about this desecration. The reason is that the motivation behind it is wrong. Like the rest of the SJW incursion that prompted #metalgate, the desecration of Darrell Abbott’s grave was justified by SJW-logic: Pantera fans are (allegedly) racist hillbillies, and “homophobes,” so it’s not only OK but “good” (like, in the Church sense) to desecrate his grave because he and his fans are bad. This alone makes the desecration stand out as not wrong in a moral sense, but broken. Someone is using society’s logic against metal to justify making metalheads second-class citizens whose graves may be desecrated, at least for reasons other than the usual war/satan/death that make a good grave desecration. Like the metal fans who object to grave desecrations in general, or the metalheads who claimed that Pantera fans are “nationalist Juggalos”, I feel this misses the point. Society hates metal, and it uses terms like “nationalist” and “homophobe” to justify bullying metalheads, much like it used claims of Satanism and murder back in the 80s to do the same. Its goal remains unchanged: destroy metal.
We should also draw some parallels between Pantera and SJWs. Like the SJW incursion, Pantera was an invasion designed to sell-out metal so it could be assimilated by rock music, with profit for all. Metal sells well, but rock music that has the “rebellious” cachet of metal would sell even better, because rock music has been designed from its inception to be the most easily-digested and emotionally simplistic form of music ever created, like music made into baby food. It sells well because it is a compromise, both inoffensive enough that most people will tolerate it, and thoughtless enough that people like to project onto it their own emotions and needs. Rock music is basically 1950s advertising jingles set to guitars, and people buy it to stay “relevant” or to seem hip, when really it has always been and always will be a product from the same people who sell us junk we can barely afford to address problems we do not have in order to achieve an image we do not need.
The reason many of us detest Pantera is purely musical: it is part of the great Dumbing Down of heavy metal, trying to make it closer to rock/blues so that all the people in sports bars, hair salons, show-off gyms and cube farms can tap their feet to the beat just like they did every other form of rock ‘n roll. Pantera is heavy metal made into a lengthy television commercial, and in doing so, it solicited social approval in a way that is decidely against all that metal stands for and lives by. Pantera heard Exodus Impact is Imminent and Exhorder, maybe Prong Beg to Differ and realized they could make a bundle if they combined a tough guy/sensitive guy approach — a lot like what nu-metal did, come to think of it — and made the music sound a lot more like Bruce Springsteen or John Cougar Mellencamp, both of whom sold more albums than God and retired rich. That was the goal in Pantera: metal as product. For that reason, the Pantera guys abandoned their glam/hair metal and hard rock stylings, and went into Metallica style speed metal with Cowboys From Hell, giving it their Southern rock spin, and then upgraded their sound to angry brocore with the following albums before returning to a blues-saturated swamp rock sound. It worked and people bought it.
Metalheads tend to hate Pantera because it brought in the elements of society that we go to metal in order to avoid: the sleeveless shirt angry guys who start fights in cell phone stores, the blockhead rock fans who are faithless toward any ideal but their own gratification right now, and the musical circle of conformity that forms rock music. Pantera is the anti-metal disguised as metal, much like SJW music like the black/punk (lol) band who desecrated Abbott’s grave is. Pantera not just represents, but embodies, all that metal opposes and all that will destroy metal. If we look back on this story from the future, we will see how both Pantera and these grave desecrators came from the same movement, which is an attempt by the mainstream to destroy and then absorb the once-independent genre of heavy metal.
The Carcass guys, who started out as grindcore but mutated into heavy metal disguised as death metal, gave an interview in which the topic of motivations came up. Frontman Jeff Walker argued that perhaps heavy metal has sold out:
I think if you’re going to play music, your reason for doing that should be solely that you want to be creative and enjoy it. You should be realistic…Too many people are creating bands as a career choice. ‘Should I be a football player? Should I be an actor?’ Everyone wants to be famous but I think your motives have to be pure…Once in a while, you’re going to hear some killer new stuff but it’s getting rarer and rarer. I think people’s motivations for wanting to do this are not purely artistic.
He is referring to the process by which bands change their sound for money or musicians target a certain sound expecting it will make money, which is the reverse of the natural artistic method of having a message to communicate and picking the style that best expresses that message.
Metal bands can both “sell out” and “sell in” by preaching to the converted, such as the flood of war metal bands making essentially soundalike material because they know people will buy it in order to appear “diehard” underground. These people are known by the name of tryhard and they cluster around certain three-letter internet forums.
On the other hand, metal bands can “sell out” by appealing to the pretense in people as well, such as Opeth which has always marketed itself as both “open-minded” and musically difficult, both of which are tempting labels for a low self-confidence fan to slap on himself. The rest of us are closed-minded and simplistic, but with the help of his Opeth-product, he is open-minded and deep.
In the same way, many bands turn toward “social consciousness” lyrics because people recognize these as a signal that the band is deep, even though every band goes into a social consciousness lyrics phase when it runs out of other things to write about. This also is a sell-out because the band knows in advance that the audience will reward more of the same, even if that form of same re-brands itself as “different,” despite almost every band doing it.
Walker may have a point. Over the past twenty years, metal has gone from an outsider to society which speaks unutterable truths in metaphor, to an insider accepted by every level of media. Now the concern is how to use heavy metal as a brand for being “edgy,” and how to use that brand to sell products whose owners hope the audience will buy them in order to be “edgy,” from alcohol to motorcycles to clothing and beyond.
Will heavy metal exist in twenty years, or will it be only a “flavor” applied when in a commercial the edgy product is on screen, like triumphant horns for bargains and girls singing Beatles songs for self-care products? Metal may make itself into a product after all, and selling out while making its musicians superstars will destroy the underlying community by corrupting its ideas.