Metal In An Age Of Insincerity

Over at Clrvynt, filmographer David Hall finally notices what DMU has been saying for 22 years: that heavy metal died in 1995 or so through lack of new ideas, and has been assimilated by rock music because metal is a better product as a flavoring than a separate entity.

Hall writes in the hipster style for a hipster audience on a hipster publication, so the first hurdle is getting over the ironic use of gratuitous obscenities, hip linguistic cribbing, and otherwise overly dramatic and precious writing. While the form is bad, the content is good, but to understand that, you have to decipher the form and read his essay backward.

If you read the essay forward, here is the rough outline:

  1. Metal is terrible because it is narcissistic.Start by asking yourself: every debate begins with definitions. What definition (boundaries, core and spirit) is he using for metal here?

    Metal wants to be different, but only within a strict set of guidelines. Metal is a tireless masochist. It suffers, it moans, it whines, it annoys; it is a culture of emasculation, castration, penis envy, communism, capitalism and third-grade intellectualism. Metal is weak, ill-formed, small-minded, an accident. Metal is modern man in search of a soul, yet it looks not to the heavens for answers — instead it stares in awe up its own gaping asshole, whispering with quivered lips, “You go, girl.” Yes. YES. Metal is a cliche, a reproduction, derivative and fucking lame. Metal is an echo chamber.

    Metal is in constant celebration of a victory it has never achieved.

    To expand on that, boundaries are negative or exclusionary principles, such as the thought that metal must have distorted guitar and power chords. R.E.M. is automatically not metal, but lots of bands use power chords and heavy distortion now. So, we look to core: a set of clustered traits that together form a net of attributes that define the genre, like dark themes, riff-based phrasal composition, chromatic scales, 6/8 meter, minor key and certain modes, dead drummers. That gives us a better idea, but all art is communication and all communication carries intent, so what is the general topic on which metal speaks and its outlook, what we might call its spirit? Here we get into the fun stuff: rejection of false authority, belief in the inversion of good and evil, distrust of the herd and its trends, a desire to find beauty in darkness, Romantic themes of collapse and melancholic death. From there, we can understand the philosophy of a genre, or why it is and why it is as it is. If you want to find the buried lede that will occur in just a moment, it requires first asking what definition of metal applies here.

  2. Metal had a rich history where at one point, the music was real.For writing nerds, here is the “buried thesis” or “buried lede”:

    As bands like Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple focused on songwriting, riffs and performance, other musicians crawled out of the swamp and started to take metal in new directions, effectively creating the first subgenres of metal that would lead us to our present state of affairs. Speed metal, black metal, death metal; which led to doom metal, glam metal and thrash; which led to grindcore, technical death metal and crossover; which led to a whole array of sub-sub-sub-subgenres; which ultimately led to “blackgaze,” which, in my opinion, was the death knell of metal, and it’s where we are now, and it really sucks and is shitty and it’s the fucking worst.

  3. Metal died by commercialization, not being un-PC.This part is ragingly great:

    How did a fertile, underground, credible, artistic and meaningful genre of music go unfettered for almost 40 years before it suddenly hit a wall? Well, like many journalists suggest, it wasn’t Nazism, misogyny, racism or elitism. It is a fallacy to assume that one genre of music is discriminatory — a) music is inanimate; it isn’t anything but sounds and words delivered on whatever medium is most profitable; b) music cannot “be” anything but music; any social and human behaviors attributed to music is transference and anthropomorphization; c) fuck off and put your personal politics into a medium or social construct where it belongs and works: social work, politics, medicine, engineering, volunteering — you can’t change a light bulb with a piece of cheese, and you can’t fix (or ruin) society with art.

  4. The metal press and labels sold out heavy metal, which officially died with “blackgaze.”We have been hammering on this topic for some time, but have included the faux underground that thinks three-chord trustfundie war metal is somehow equivalent to what Blasphemy, Zyklon-B, Beherit, Impaled Nazarene and Darkthrone chucked out in a weekend:

    What happened next is what killed the underground scene and brought us to the point we are at now: Deafheaven, too $uccessful to ignore, started to be given credibility by the metal press. And even worse, other underground labels — much like the “grunge” frenzy in the ’90s — started to look for more Deafheavens. Blackgaze, and other nonsensical subgenres that have no business being sold as metal, started to be sold as metal. And bands began to change their style to profit from this. Suddenly, a niche was making money. People were selling out. People were following their wallets. And the worst part is no one seemed to care. On August 4, 2016, eyewear conglomerate Luxottica, through its child company Ray-Ban, released an ad campaign featuring Deafheaven. It used their music, their images and their story. (Well, the campaign spun their story anyway.) Suddenly, Deafheaven were brave innovators who stood up to their critics, and against all odds, released an album. They had courage! #ittakescourage. That was the hashtag given to the Deafheaven campaign. Metal. Reduced to a fucking hashtag and a sunglasses commercial. And the worst part? Nobody said shit. People loved it! And any form of criticism was brushed off as “haters” or “Well, Deafheaven has always just been about seeing how far they can take it.” The band sold themselves out and sold out underground music, and people fucking loved them for it. They were heroes. And anyone who said otherwise was a misogynist, racist, homophobic “edge-lord.” That’s when underground metal died for me.

    I hear echoes of SODOMIZE THE WEAK in this paragraph above.

  5. Metal is no longer music, but a brand, advanced for social status.Every product goes through a life cycle: innovation, assimilation and finally, being used as a cash cow or a dead brand or trend that people buy because they go through life via inertia and not, you know, thinking or perceiving:

    When any work of art is co-opted by capitalistic intentions, you know it’s dead. When underground bands start touring with “above ground” bands, you also know that band is dead. When bands are applauded for selling out, because “everyone has to make a living” and “artists deserve to get paid” — yeah, you know that shit is dead, too. No, the artist does not deserve to get paid. The artist deserves fair compensation from anything they make and sell, but anything the artist makes TO sell is not art. It’s content. Branded content. And sadly, that’s what most metal has become: a brand. As meaningful as the anarchy symbol. Metal is no longer just music. It’s a social status. And that’s why it has become the fucking worst. And I hope the bands and fans that really only care about the music keep it up. To quote one of the few fiercely independent and underground bands still going, Total Fucking Destruction, “the Revolution will not be televised, because the Revolution will not be.”

    There you have it: the underground is a trend. It was hip, so it got sold out, and not from above, but by fans, bands and media because everyone — like a shareholder in General Motors or IBM — just wants to advance their own wealth and power. This is why mob rule is so dangerous. The crowd becomes a bucket of yeast and sugar, manically eating and reproducing so that they beat out the other guy, and missing the point that by doing so, they have doomed everyone. It is the tragedy of the commons, which is what happens when you do not have aristocrats or at least strong leaders who own things and keep the crowd from devouring them like meth-addled munchkins:

    The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

    As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.

    1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

    2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

    Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another…. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit–in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

    Every fan wants to be a big shot and every local band wants to come first before better bands (hubris). Every label wants to have the portfolio that more people buy. Every media outlet wants a new scoop. But when a genre is dying, what has happened is that it has become equal. That is, there are no longer standout bands like Burzum which were obviously worlds better than just about everything else; instead, all the bands are basically the same because the metal aristocrats gave all they had and then faded away. Even formerly great bands like Emperor were pumping out the gunk by 1996. The reason for this is that the herd crowded them out. When everyone wants to be important, no one can be, and so the metal audience starting in about 1994 became hostile to good music and embraced bad music as a means of making good music unprofitable. At that point, any musician who wanted to be heard — not drowned out — went to another genre.

There are two scary things about assimilation in metal: (1) it has happened many times before and (2) it happens to all human ventures, no matter how small, which is why the ancient Greeks warned against hubris; the individualism of demanding to be more important than one rightfully is in the order of nature will tear about any human project. Whether a band, a corporation, a nation, an empire, a group of friends, a boy scout troop, a Parent-Teacher Association, or the Third Reich, human organizations are infiltrated from within by their own members who act in unrestricted self-interest, or “individualism,” through a tragedy of the commons called “dark organization.”

This is here for no reason in particular.

But now, let us decipher Mr. Hall’s essay by reversing the order:

  1. Now Metal is no longer music, but a brand, advanced for social status.
  2. Because The metal press and labels sold out heavy metal, which officially died with “blackgaze.”
  3. Contrary to conventional “wisdom,” Metal died by commercialization, not being un-PC.
  4. We know this because Metal had a rich history where at one point, the music was real.
  5. However, contemporary Metal is terrible because it is narcissistic.

We could work this to a proto-syllogism: metal is artistic movement, so when the artistry ends, it is dead; however, it is also a valuable commodity because it is a social signal for rebellion that advertisers can use, so it will live on as a zombie, grafted on to regular rock music — simple jingles and nursery rhymes for idiots — so that they can use it to sell motorcycles, condoms, beer, enemas, tshirts, whisky, cigarettes and iPhones.

It is too easy to dismiss Hall as another hipster who is being an ironist. Rather, it seems he has digested a bit of what DMU has been going on about for over two decades, and now presents it in a form that its audience can understand, and Kek/Zod/Gnon bless him for that. Only when underground metal dies and is abandoned can it be unpopular again to restore itself with new life, at least until the crowd discovers it, makes it into a trend, and devours it from within yet again.

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40 thoughts on “Metal In An Age Of Insincerity”

  1. Rainer Weikusat says:

    Good to know that there’s at least one American guy “with a social status” who is convinced that I must crave what he happens to have …

  2. Space Cadet says:

    An article about an article? Very meta(l).

    Nah but that was a very interesting read. As someone who got caught up in the genre(s) of metal very late (2008ish), I can’t help but think that people may consider me to be part of the problem. (I generally am considered to be part of most problems. ;D)

    In my senior year of high school, I was introduced to Dragonforce, and let my roots creep out from there into other subgenres. (I *know*, I *know*. Dragonforce. Yeah. I’m only talking about it here because it was my gateway.) Dragonforce was not introduced to me through any means of advertising, but I am sure that the person who introduced me to it knew it from Guitar Hero. So I was, by extension, introduced to metal through the sold out commercialized stuff that this article is talking about.

    So – I’m curious – what are people’s opinions of the fans who genuinely adore metal and happened to have come to it by not-so-savory means (e.g. sunglasses, commercials, Guitar Hero, etc.)? Are they considered a malignant growth on the genre, or a benign disgusting mold settling into the zombie corpse this article refers to? Is the degradation of metal discussed in this article to be blamed on the fans or the artists or both?

    1. Know me as the Soulcollector says:

      Dream Theater, then Periphery was my gateway. Currently, I am listening to Demilich. I still look fondly towards most of my gateway bands. At least it wasn’t Slipknot.

      1. Ryan Ebinger says:

        You’re all posers.

      2. Fratnir says:

        Are you joking? Slipknot is miles better than fucking Periphery or DT, I got cancer reading this

    2. Phil says:

      Metal is a subculture, and a music genre where the good stuff is found deep in the dark, distant valleys of society. Almost everyone will reach this place by taking a twisting path from the cosmopolitan uplands. There is no “initiation” to give you an accelerated stake in it. It’s your own journey which will reflect your own choices.

      It’s all fine to share where you came from in respect of this, but don’t worry about it. If you’re capable of discrimination and the rationalisation of sonic stimuli you’re as good a metal fan as any.

      I started out with Brit pop, to nu-metal, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir then the good stuff one by one.

      Metal isn’t dead, it’s just slowing down on its way to becoming a self-referential archive. The context for its creation will turns into noise and its most vital statements will be accomplished and then iterated upon until all adventure is extinguished. It happens with any musical or artistic movement, modern or classical.

      Some words from Ezra Pound that influenced on this:

      My pawing over the ancients and semi-ancients has been one struggle to find out what has been done, once for all, better than it can ever be done again, and to find out what remains for us to do, and plenty does remain, for if we still feel the same emotions as those which launched the thousand ships, it is quite certain that we come on these feelings differently, through different nuances, by different intellectual gradations. Each age has its own abounding gifts yet only some ages transmute them into matter of duration. No good poetry is ever written in a manner twenty years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from books, convention and cliché, and not from life, yet a man feeling the divorce of life and his art may naturally try to resurrect a forgotten mode if he finds in that mode some leaven, or if he think he sees in it some element lacking in contemporary art which might unite that art again to its sustenance, life.

  3. Ryan Ebinger says:

    If metal is dead then how come Cruel Force and Nocturnal exist?

    1. To suck off flaccid cocks for beer money

      1. Gardens of Grief Gnome says:

        Very true.

  4. Goat Egg says:

    “Metal up your soy latte-sippin’, stick-bundled hipster rectums!”
    -Pat Boone

  5. It's just brown and water says:

    The author is an enormous self-serving faggot and I think his article gave me AIDS

  6. GGALLIN1776 says:

    If I saw that faggot, I’d break his nose & punch his mom in the twat/grundle/anus(triple threat). Fucking posers & their Aquafina. Sweet electrical tape/spandex battle armor though. Might just get me a pair to be more kvlt.

  7. Kang Haakony MMXVII says:

    A marvelous counter-analysis from Brett. It would appear that even the appearance of metal being dead in itself just adds to the irony (that such a realization comes about through such a milieu to begin with).

  8. Rainer Weikusat says:

    The math here is a bit questionable. Assuming there are n farmers and each can add an animal to his herd with a utility of 1 and a cost of 1/n and all n farmers actually add an animal, they all end up with a net benefit of 0 as n * 1 / n = 1. And that’s what causes the destructive, postive feedback loop: An individual farmer not adding an animal to his herd would end up with a cost of (n – 1) / n while everybody else had a net benefit of 1 – (n – 1) / n: For as long as one of them grows his herd unconditionally, they all have to do that in order to avoid being worse off afterwards.

    Kill the idiot and distribute his cattle among the more reasonable people would seem to be a compelling alternative to that.

    1. The math here is a bit questionable. Assuming there are n farmers and each can add an animal to his herd with a utility of 1 and a cost of 1/n and all n farmers actually add an animal, they all end up with a net benefit of 0 as n * 1 / n = 1.

      Consider the game theory idea. These additions are responses to one another, not at the same time, and to each farmer, they are competing, rather than laboratory-style dividing up an ultimate result. This is insight more into human psychology and the “man in the street” view than an algorithm designed to be applied from a centralized source.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        This contrived example is too simplistic. The basic problem is that what benefits the individual makes things worse for all others unless they engage in the same behaviour. The overfishing example is better: There’s initially a stable state where lots of fishermen using the same, poor technology somehow manage to make a living. Then, one of them ‘invests’ in improved fish-catching technology: He now catches much more fish and his income goes up. But ‘much more fish on the market’ means the price goes down so the incomes of all other fishermen fall until they invest in the same technology. But this means ever more fish on the market and the prices go down more. And then, a technological arms-race sets in: Whoever manages to “catch much more fish” by investing in more sophisticated technology first has an advantage for as long as the others haven’t followed suit. As they do, the advantage goes away and the only lasting effect is that they now all have to sell more fish in order to earn the same money as before. As fishes don’t reproduce quickly enough to out-pace technology, the end result is “an amount fishes which would have fed generations all sold for peanuts (per-fish)” and everybody goes out of business.

        1. Attention Defecate Disorder says:

          marxist! cefala was right!

          1. Rainer Weikusat says:

            This is a real example of this particular kind of applied, human stupdity I got from here,

            he Grand Banks fisheries off the coast of Newfoundland is a prime example of the tragedy of the commons. For hundreds of years, fishermen in the area believed the fishing grounds to be abound with cod fish. For centuries, the fisheries supported all the cod fishing necessary. However, in the 1960s, advancements in fishing technology made it so fishermen could catch comparatively massive amounts of cod fish. Fishermen started competing with each other to catch increasingly larger amounts of cod, and by 1990, the population of cod fish in the region was so low, the entire industry collapsed.


            I’ve supplemented with some other ‘well-known’ econmomic phenomenons such as “if supply goes up, prices go down” illustrating why this is so death spiral is so destructive.

            Facts you happen to hate don’t turn me into anything.

            1. Syphilis says:

              But who creates the demand?

    2. A dick says:

      “Kill the idiot and distribute his cattle among the more reasonable people would seem to be a compelling alternative to that.”

      Like what happened in Zimbabwe and South Africa?

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        I have no idea what you’re referring to. The idea that offensively anti-social behaviour is best cured by applying drastic measures came from a nice text I once read which explained the so-called “Elisabethan poor law(s)”: The gut of these was roughly “Poor people willing to work are to be helped into work as good as possible. If they’re unwilling to work, they shall be flogged through the streets until they see the error of their ways”.

        This very sensible measure survived for as long as the landed gentry aka the nobility was responsible for paying for it. In the early 19th century, taking social changes into account, an attempt was made to add rich merchantmen and factory owners to this group. The original law was then abolished in favour of setting up parish workhouses where natives of a particular parish could ask for them to be incarcerated on a lean diet while being kept busy with unpleasant, menial labour which was either completely useless or happening for the benefit of said ‘citizens’ for as long as they really considered themselves in need of public support.

  9. aol instant messenger says:

    A brief history of art

    Once upon a time men did something interesting and creative for its own sake, and not for social status. Women noticed it and jeered at it.

    But eventually it got too big to ignore and gained some social currency, so women wanted in on it. So women forced their way in and ruined everything.

    Then men said “take it, you ruined it so we don’t want it anymore.”


    1. From the Depths... of Moms Basement says:

      We are the Basement Dwellers

    2. Billgoat says:

      Women weren’t and aren’t the problem. Gender FEMINISM is(and SJWism) – it poisons and kills anything it touches. In the immortal words of Milo “feminism is cancer” ;)

  10. Peter Tsiolis says:

    Metal didn’t die in 1995. It’s still alive today. What happened as it does in most genres, the Golden Age ended. A rebirth of the genre will happen or a return to if it’s greatness will only occur “if and when” some young kids can add something new to the form. Take rock as a whole, which new band can compete with the greats? Does that mean it’s dead? Or is it just not as good?

    The hope is that all these young new metal bands will keep fans excited about the style to influence the next kid to pick up a guitar and play that magic riff.

    Until then, dig deep into the underground and you may fall in love with a band you never heard of. I say check out The underground legends from 1985 that returned in 2015 and are about to record their follow up to Eyes of Tomorrow, which ironically released in 1994 – a year before the death of metal.

    1. Gardens of Grief Gnome says:

      Metal died in 1995. Beherit and Burzum were right to jump ship.

      1. Fratnir says:

        They both have metal albums post 2008

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      Take rock as a whole, which new band can compete with the greats? Does that mean it’s dead? Or is it just not as good?

      That was too easy:

      That’s obviously not going to be recognized or accepted by people who’ve been whining that “Rock is dead” since 1970-something and who get an imaginary orgasm when hearing Clapton play one his boring hits for upteempth time and it won’t make the evening (or any) news ever again (at least, that’s very likely) but these are tangential issues.

      I don’t listen to this kind of music anymore because going into this direction was a mistake from the start but that’s not so much because of the music itself but because of the ecosystem it’s living in: That’s all about selling pretty dreams to people whose most serious problem is eternal boredness.

    3. aol instant messenger says:

      The rock analogy doesn’t do your argument any favors. Rock has been a toothless joke since the early 90s (and I’m being generous with the 90s cutoff, given mainstream grunge was just warmed over punk and cockrock). Starting a rock band is currently considered commercially and critically/artistically unviable

  11. LoAd says:

    I love both your article and theirs.

    Even more reason to reject metal and instead listen to music from the past.

    1. Kang Haakony MMXVII says:

      Come with me to nu-dark disco, it will be more creative and less humiliating than still being into metal in 20 years time :-p

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      By 1995, the original Norwegian black metal scene imploded because the most extreme and/or creative characters were all dead or in prison and the others had presumably learnt that ‘mainstream society’ was bigger and meaner than they had thought in a rather unpleasant way: You certainly won’t win. You’ll also not get away with it. We will make you regret this.

      The strange 3rd generation bands (the well-known ones being Enslaved, Emperor, Immortal and Gorgoroth) then moved to a variety of more commercial and crowd-pleasing styles depending on what had been inbred in their music from the start, just obscured by an adapted layer of ‘musical black-metalness’. 2nd-generation Burzum morphed into an estoric electronic ambient project. The spiritus rector behind Darkthrone simply seems to have lost interest in ‘serious’ music and Darkthrone continues as a “fun, no mosh because I don’t play live, but all trends I can find” project until today.

      Referring to this geographically isolated, externally induced and as phenomenon not uncommon set of events as “the death of black metal” is IMHO more than a bit exaggerated. “Jumped as a tiger, landed as bedside carpet” is the usual outcome of teenage rebellion. If there’s sufficient strength in numbers, a new fashion (fad) might happen as side effect of a doggedly trying to make a dent in public. “Trying to make a dent in public” is a mistake, anyway. The quest is not about saving one’s body – that’s hopeless, anyway – but about saving one’s soul, and “death by a thousand paper cuts” is the inevitable fate of anything which earnestly
      tries to attract mass appeal. “Vox populi, vox Rindvieh” as a certain Otto v. Bismarck once reportedly put it.

      This works both ways, BTW: The (almost) total hipsterization of American alternate culture (existence of which one can deduce from these laments about them) does not matter: One millions flies will remain one million flies regardless of them wearing pentagram necklaces or inventing “black metal Ray-Bans”.

  12. The future says:

    Let’s see if these articles will be taken seriously 20 years from now, or if they’ll be laughed at.

    1. The last twenty years have proven this site and its precursors to be correct, so this is not a terrible bet.


  13. bring back the metal into deathmetal orh says:

    all on is the truth and right… thats all that matters. fuck the world that has different opinions and personal trughs… if theres one thing that is true mediocricity and massmanipulation, its the illusion of ‘one’, be it truth, reality, mankind, space, god, whatever… thats also a fundament to christianity and slmost all religions… so all this ranting going on here about who tells ‘the’ truth and for how long already on absolutely subjective receptions on themes like in which year metal exactly ‘died’, if it did at all, are in absolute paradox to the standpoints the actual writers theretically laim to have… sodomize the weak? well that is nothing more than popular culture of massideoöogy and brainwash wiith one truth and vision in this context… sad but true, no, just sad

    1. Non-fatalist says:

      The weak can be sodomized you just have to BELIEVE ;)

      1. Disgust for Life says:

        I`ll believe it once I see streets riddled with bleeding anuses and shit smears of the weak and the feeble.

  14. Anthony says:

    The only part I disagree with is “you can’t fix (or ruin) society with art.” A lot of so-called modern art was specially promoted in America by Soviet agents to increase the sense of existential malaise in hopes that it would lead to a Proletariat Revolution™. Bad art can be like a mind-virus if it becomes the dominant cultural force in society, edging people towards being directionless losers.

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