Black Metal Is Not Surf Rock

Hipster Youtuber Sam Sutherland suggested in a click bait video uploaded to his This Exists channel earlier this year that black metal is musically the same as the surf rock of the early 60s. This Exists goes on further to suggest that the best metal is heavily influenced by other non-metal musical genres citing such non-metal works as Mastodon‘s Leviathan being influenced by Moby Dick and Kanye West by Pablo Picasso. Sutherland, like many musically ignorant persons, confuses lyrical influence and playing technique with genre, intent, and goal.

Sam Sutherland simplifies music down to three second snippets for millennials like himself whose attention span has been reduced to that of a meth addict or delirious alcoholic through incessant texting, Instagram, Twitter, and non-stop masturbation to ejaculation compilations of internet pornography. Simply as a piece shares a basic rhythm riff doesn’t mean the rest of the music is the same. Black metal doesn’t even share riffs with surf rock generally; what it shares is reverb and riffs composed of single note, tremolo-picked melodies in minor scales. That’s it; playing techniques only.

The riffs in both genres are phrased with entirely different aims: black metal riffs, like most metal ones, are meant to emulate the scores of horror films and other metallic ideals while surf rock aims to emulate the clashing of waves and communicate the thrill of extreme sports experienced in the degenerate California lifestyle to a staid, suburban audience watching actors projected on a screen. Surf rock, when its riffing style is not merely used as a single element in more elaborate works by composers such as John Barry and Philip Glass, structures songs in the standard riff rock format where the riffs set to standard rock ‘n’ roll rhythms established a decade earlier in the fifties form a backdrop for vocal harmonies in poppy verse-chorus-verse songs structures. Black metal riffs in contrast are phrased to flow together into extended melodic narratives over almost metronomic percussion. Black metal never attempts to convey the feeling of trying score with hordes of women in bikinis on spring break.

Tremolo picking has probably been around ever since plucked string instruments were invented thousands of years ago. Julius Caesar was not headbanging to anything resembling Immolation‘s Close to a World Below even though the modes many of compositions are written in contain musical elements that existed then. According to Sam Sutherland’s line of thinking, recording sad sounding ancient Greek hymns meant to be played on a cithara (a multi-string lyre played with a pick) and drenching them in reverb would be Darkthrone.

Mastodon is an incredibly poor but revealing choice of an example of heavy metal given that Mastodon do not play actual metal, they play alternative rock and openly shout out how much they despise metal. Choosing them as an example illustrates that Sutherland is just another hipster millenial with a three second attention span for whom black metal is just a fun weekend alternative to rock. He is another one of the throngs of indie fans who have been attempting to assimilate metal back into the rock culture it left behind decades ago. This Exists is just another televised talking head hoping to reach into the pockets of adventurous rock fans like that Sam Dunn idiot on VH1 saying Cream were heavy metal and crustfund mutant Kim Kelly whining on Vice. Rock masquerading as metal must be shot down, drawn, and quartered to crush the ponzi scheme labels and their shills profiteering off of beer-metallers constantly buying and discarding inferior crypto-indie music searching for the next great metal band.

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36 thoughts on “Black Metal Is Not Surf Rock”

  1. Goat-Lord says:

    Hahahaha I saw that fucking This Exists video recently and was wondering how/when DMU would react…
    Well written.

  2. Burzum and Sammath.
    Two great examples of how different metal can be while still being metal.

  3. Johan P says:

    This is excellent. Too bad that well-grounded arguments doesn’t work on fools though.

  4. literally ARA (i.e. shit) says:

    Come on dude! Black metal totally progressed and evolved from surf rock or something… It’s like the new surf rock!

    Chuck Schuldiner, the man who invented death metal in a space-time vacuum all by himself and became a master humanist/philosopher (without even graduating high school… genius!), would be spinning in his grave or something like that…

    Shame on you!!!!!

    1. Johan P says:

      Don’t forget that Kanwulf invented surf rock.

      1. smearing sperm says:

        He taught the Beach Boys how to sing in the 50s.

  5. MANSA MUSA says:


  6. Moribund says:

    This is so stupid and irrelevant that you dedicated a five paragraph article to how stupid and irrelevanthe it is. Endea ring.

    1. theheaviestbanjo says:

      check out the song “Compulsive Reinforcement of the Precedents of Blasphemous Pontification (Wraith of the Unimpressed)” by Thinkosaurus.

  7. Rainer Weikusat says:

    This person doesn’t even state what this ‘hidden similarity’ is supposed to be and his sound samples don’t really sound the same. From them, one can gather that the ‘argument’ for ‘black metal is really surf rock’ is supposed to be – a la ‘when ignoring all the differences, the remaining similarities are striking’ – that melodic intervals appearing in certain black metal tracks also appear in certain surf rock songs. Based on this brilliant logic, all ‘western’ music is obviously the same as all other western music.

    1. LostInTheANUS says:

      From what I gathered the core of his argument is actually even more idiotic, namely since you can make surf rock parodies of black metal songs which sound kinda like surf rock, it means that those two are somehow very similar or even identical. It would be the same if I would for example make metal covers of folk songs in the eastern part of my country or even some folk music from the part of my country I’m from, then afterwards claim that since it is not only possible to do that, but there’s also similar techniques used like a picking technique similar to tremolo picking, this would somehow prove that black metal is somehow no different than folk music of Slavonija.

      Here’s an example of Slavonijan and then Kaikavic folk so you know what I’m talking about:

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        From what I gathered the core of his argument is actually even more idiotic, namely since you can make surf rock parodies of black metal songs which sound kinda like surf rock, it means that those two are somehow very similar or even identical.

        That’s presumably what he supposed to imply but his Burzum parody neither really sounds like Burzum nor like »a Dick Dale song«. Because of this, I generalized this to the ‘melodic intervals’ (or even only ‘related melodic intervals’) they all have in common. This wouldn’t be applicable to your two examples (or at least not without stretching it even further) as they’re harmonically (almost) completely different (sounds like major key stuff).

        1. LostInTheANUS says:

          “This wouldn’t be applicable to your two examples (or at least not without stretching it even further) as they’re harmonically (almost) completely different (sounds like major key stuff).”

          That was my point, I’d just play those songs, which yes, are composed in major key, on a Boss HM2 pedal turned up to eleven and then claim “BRAH THIS SHIT IS JUST LIKE SWEDISH DEATH METAL, CAN’T YOU HEAR THAT BUZZSAW SOUND BRAH???”, despite all similarities between those folk songs and my “metal” cover ending there.

          1. Rainer Weikusat says:

            I think you underappreciate just how pathetic this guy actually is: He isn’t even playing the tracks he claims to parody, just something he believes to be very similar in a style he believes to be similar to “a Dick Dale song” and he’s failing on all accounts.

  8. Billy Foss says:

    So if you take an inordinate, tedious look at anything really, you too can draw tenuous conclusions based on a few correlations for a vain attempt at a YouTube video.

  9. smearing sperm says:

    >garbage NPR metal like Mastodon as an example of “some of the best metal”

    smh fampai

  10. NH says:

    Too bad you had to promote this idiot’s vid to create this article. No one should watch this shit. It is a vid made by a compulsive consumer, media eater vomiting up the years of consumption and reading the patterns in his bile. They do this shit for hits, and you gave them the hits.

    1. Doug Killjoy says:

      It’s a darn shame we’ve reached the point where it must be explained that Babymetal is miles and miles from Burzum, and where many the reader will be further emboldened in their conviction that said reactive explanations signal a triumph over the original spirit of black metal, but that’s where we are. Not to mention pretty much having no choice but to increase the fame of some dude that wouldn’t know a quality passage if it bit him on the Tupac tattoo.

  11. whistlin' dixie says:

    I’m not even going to bother criticizing the video (didn’t watch it), but the thumbnail, title, and everything about the presentation makes me want to punch myself in the face.

  12. I saw this perversion on the Youtubes the other day – ridiculous – why would someone want to tarnish the good name of wholesome family surfrock with satanic filth like black metal.

    Relevant to Black metal surf rock:

  13. that guy says:

    (((This Exists)))

  14. Gabe Kagan says:

    Someone did this joke before, for better or worse.

    I remember this one from my occasional DMU forum lurking back in the deep past. In one thread (,11743), the forumgoers had a spirited debate (read: flame war) about whether there was any value in reinterpreting black metal in the style of surf rock.

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      There’s obviously no ‘value’ in not listening to Dick Dale to the degree of not noticing that he’s playing on a different scale in a different style just in order to not notice that ‘some black metal guys’ are also don’t.

  15. HH says:

    there’s a video making the rounds from January (few million views) that has a guy playing Slayer without distortion and calling it surf rock.

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      Somehow, I can’t escape the nagging suspicion that the only similarity between surf rock and $whatever metal these guys actually noticed was “it’s being played in an unfamiliar key” …

  16. Isn’t anyone going to say anything about this?

    1. Syphilis says:

      Why does every youtub commentator/narrator have the same annoying, semi-high pitched voice coupled with a faux-british accent? I’d rather listen to Chucks reincarnated corpse doing the commentary.

    2. OliveFox says:

      I have some homophobic epithets that might serve.

  17. Egledhron says:

    Thank you so much for pointing out the obvious.

  18. Bark says:

    OH…why give guys like that the attention? Isn’t there something remotely interesting to write about out there? Is metal a dead language?

  19. veeo says:

    Just… give me back my genre Lance, it was a good genre and I like it…

  20. OliveFox says:

    Dick Dale = Burzum. Picasso = Kayne West. Symphonic Metal about My Little Pony.

    When I feel asleep last night, those words were not anywhere near to being put close together. Now, upon awaking, I find out that all of these “ideas” aren’t even very new.

    “And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to…The Twilight Zone.”

  21. Claudia Roth says:

    You should send them this video, maybe they will fall for it and make a “death metal is radio rock” video next.

    Anyways, YouTube channels like that are for stupid children. Just look at the thumbnail.

    1. Anal Excavator says:

      Metal is buttrock.

      All popular music is garbage.

  22. Inspectoral Perversionist (I) says:

    Hey, what is “ejaculation compilations of internet pornography”?

    That phrase was in the article above.

  23. smearing sperm says:

    hey look, a bunch of faggot Morrissey superfan special snowflakes are talking about us

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