Why Thurston Moore is right about black metal

September 18, 2014 –

thurston_moore

Most people believe that “trolling” happens on the internet and that trolls are a group like organized crime. Instead trolling is a method and trolls are any who troll, such as when Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore trolled black metal fans recently.

Having been around media and rock fans alike — two groups heavily invested in the pretense of self-styled self-image — Moore spotted a good mark for a brutal troll when he saw one. Thus with an offhanded comment, he lit the rage-fires of ten thousand fedora-blessed basements.

Black Metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order, and we felt it was necessary to investigate this aberrant anti-music behavior. We feel like the sound and attitude of black metal is a loss of self, life, light and desire in a way where it becomes so negative that a whole new bliss arrives where we become super pussy.

The guitarist elaborated later:

Black metal, it doesn’t even consider itself music. In fact, it doesn’t want to be confused with any kind of music because it’s something else entirely. It’s a voided concept from its start [laughs]. It’s all about complete disintegration of existence. It’s a music that uses the elements of rock instrumentation but it’s so anti-everything that, for me, it doesn’t matter what you say about it because it doesn’t exist. I figured I would just write something ridiculous about it. And boy, did black-metal devotees get really upset by it. You’re not supposed to be alive, so why are you getting upset?

We know that his first statement is a troll because it was the only statement included in the press release, and more importantly, it makes us of a dual meaning in the term “pussy” to wind up the angry denizens of vans down by the river. Moore has been around the alternative rock scene too long to be anything but scrupulously politically correct, so it is dubious he would ever use the term “pussy” in a sexist manner, but that does not prohibit him from playing off the common usage of the term in the metal community to mean (roughly) wimp or weenie.

It seems to me that Moore is having a bit of fun with the term and is distilling it back to its more Victorian usage where it refers to housecats as distinctive from street cats. Meaning that black metal fans are sleek, well-fed, pampered and most likely neutered. Domesticated. Not a threat to anything, probably not even mice, despite the face paint.

Black metal deserves this attack in 2014. From 1989-1994, the genre thrived amidst murder, politically incorrect statements and church arsons, but also some really excellent music. Since that time, much like modern Western civilization, black metal has been cruising on the wealth of the past. With a few exceptions like Demoncy, Beherit and Sammath black metal has fallen so far short of its historical peak that it resembles a collapsed civilization. Among the ruins of an ancient past of greatness, the remnants of a broken social experiment play and achieve nothing of any importance, but when challenged in a pub, they are quick to remind us all that they were Romans, once.

The usual crowd of poseur wannabes at the FMP and NWN forums have been cruising on the reputation of black metal for two decades now. They act like the worst street toughs ever and remind us that not only were they Romans, but once they burned churches and murdered people. However, they are most likely to come home from their jobs as Facebook consultants and hang around their loft apartments drinking craft beer and arguing over the minutiae of which indistinguishably bland “black metal” band has more “atmosphere” than the others, when in fact all post-1994 black metal sounds the same because none of it is written about anything. It is all variants on an aesthetic, and nothing more. The guts of it are gone; it has abolished itself.

Black metal was born as a reaction — both to and against death metal, which was experiencing a rare period of commercial success in the early ’90s — and thus, it had a rigid definition before it even had a body….Euronymous’s Helvete was to Norwegian black metal what MacDougal Street was to the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene, and his views were considered gospel. Death metal was “trendy” and “fun,” said Euronymous; well, black metal rejected trends and fun…For Euronymous, the primary essential element for music to be defined as “black metal” was Satanism. “If a band cultivates and worships Satan, it’s black metal,” he said. “What’s important is that it’s Satanic; that’s what makes it black metal.”

Moore keyed into this pointlessness. When a genre can easily merge with indie rock and heroin and form a “supergroup” like Twilight, and when droning nobodies like Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room are accepted as normal parts of the genre, it is dead and buried. It has lost its sense of “genre,” or having artistic purpose, and now is just another shade of wallpaper in which we can drape the usual thoughtless rock music so that it can be sold to a new generation of domesticated rebels.

Black metal had relevance when it was a movement of artists who felt Western civilization had gone down a bad path and had a suggestion of how to reform it: remove its morality of protecting the individual, which translated into protecting the vast herd of anonymous people who fear that someone might wake up and discover that all of society built on morality is a shame. It rejected all that was “good,” and embraced all that was functional yet “bad,” building on 300 years of Romanticism which encouraged the same. As an artistic movement, it had purpose, which meant that not everyone could participate. As soon as they could, the Hot Topic generation seized hold of this music and turned it into a neutered, tame and compliant version of itself so that it would not offend their personal pretense or make them actually controversial, although they gladly accepted the appearance of the same.

As guitarist for Sonic Youth, Moore knows this well. He made his career by dressing up the dissonant protest rock of the 1960s in the veil of distortion inspired by the Ramones, and essentially carries on every trait of the most-played out decade of music ever in a new form. Like a salesman, he finds a way to make you buy the same ugly vacuum cleaner in a new color because now it has a gizmo that winds up the cord faster. But he also knows music, and he is right to bash black metal. It is a pussycat, fat and perched on a luxuriant sofa, which hisses and holds out a trembling claw as we approach, reminding us that it was a tiger, once.

h/t I.O. Kirkwood / Metal Descent

The Funderground irks longtime fans

February 13, 2013 –

rttp_fundergroundA tension has been simmering under the surface in metal for the better part of a decade now and shows no signs of calming down. It concerns the division of metal into old and new.

Up through the late 1990s, metal was fairly consistent: it was music based on riff Jenga and distrust of society’s pleasant illusions. It was not protest music, but it was outsider music.

Then came an influx of people who were “alternative,” meaning that they wanted to escape the mainstream, but still wanted what it offered, which was essentially protest music.

In our society, popular music tends to take only a few forms. One is the standard song of individual gratification, usually love or longing. Another is protest at how people are treated.

Hardcore music was a breath of fresh air. While it was opposed to society, it did not protest how people were treated. It protested an insane existence. There was no bad guy, only a dying society.

Metal picked up on this vibe and mixed in the metaphorical and otherworldly approach of early Black Sabbath lyrics. The result was something truly outside of any perspective that was mainstream or alternative.

Now the alternative types have recaptured metal, using their superior numbers to reduce it to something palatable for mainstream and/or alternative consumption.

A counter-revolution against this tendency burst onto the underground recently when pro-OldSchool trolls took over longstanding New England metal blog “Return to the Pit”:

A place where metal is happy and not disgusting. A place where somebody would rather message you on Facebook or text you when you’re nowhere near them in the show.
A place where one man’s smile is another man’s laughter.
A place where the boisterous voices of jokes and YouTube discussion outweigh any serious topic.
A place where it’s okay to have star tattoos covering your flabby forearm.
A place where MetalArchives reviews are that of a fact.
A place where moshing and dancing lost their edge.
A place where everybody knows your name and is friends with you on Facebook.
A place where threads are made about you on a dying board that is absolutely horrible now thanks to the FUNDERGROUND.

While we can’t lend our stamp of approval to the trolling which has essentially devastated this forum, we can point out that there’s some truth in these allegations.

Since 2000, metal has increased in popularity by a vast degree. There are more fans, and more bands, than there ever have been before.

However, these aren’t the same type of bands. They sound more like late hardcore bands, who specialized in putting unrelated riffs together to achieve a “carnival music” or “variety show” effect.

Modern metal seems to have lost sight of who it is, and instead borrows its personality from crowd-pleasers like *core, indie, emo, lite jazz and rock.

The term “Funderground” refers to people who are using the underground as a way to socialize, instead of a way to make music that expresses their viewpoint on the world.

When you think about it, metal has always been anti-social and distrustful of social impulses. We can now see why: when socialization comes out, good music goes away, and with it, the best of metal fans also disappear.