Often when analyzing music, it can be useful to look to other genres to develop an understanding its relation to the order of nature. Written and recorded music has been around for centuries, and with a multitude of genres emerging in the last hundred years, few have completely died out and disappeared.
But much like nations rise and fall, some forms of music enjoy dominance before finding their way into a less bright corner of the Earth. Metal (and guitar based music in general) is seeing a similar change that came to its oldest ancestor in the past: classical music. And while this change means that metal as we understand it today is in its twilight, classical music shows us that it will ultimately survive under different circumstances. This is because classical music never died, as proven in virtually ever major movie soundtrack. What died was the celebrity of the classical musician… and the metal celebrity will not be far behind.
The celebrity has worn many faces throughout generations – both pop cultural and counter culture looking – and both inside and outside of music. The “rock star” is one of these faces as it can be defined as either a celebrity that plays music or an edgy counter culture celebrity outside of music. (e.g. Edgar Allen Poe). With this in mind, we can understand that the celebrities of the 1700s and 1800s were classical musicians: Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were composers who became legends enshrined in film and literature. For a period of time, there were dozens and dozens of composers with different levels of celebrity. But after a couple hundred years, classical had reached its creative limitations, and although it would be fused into other genres of music (trance, black metal, etc.) a composer playing pure classical music was no longer able to reach the social super stardom of later 20th century rock star celebrities like Elvis or Bob Dylan. This bodes true for musicians of other, less popular genres as well, a blues guitarist of today can’t reach the height of B.B. King while a pure jazz artist won’t reach the fame of Miles Davis. Even though the Celebrity star power of those artists is significantly less than the aforementioned cash cows, it has become extinct once those genres have reached their pop culture maximums.
Metal has always followed a path that closely coincided with the development of rock music – when there was money in rock, there was money in metal – and therefore metal’s popularity rose and fell along with that of rock music. So as any music festival with both rock and electronic artists booked will indicate by the size of crowds congregating around each, rock music is fading from the spotlight as electronic and hip hop are forcing it further and further to the brink. Therefore, just as pure rock music celebrities emerging within the last ten years have been virtually null in comparison to the 80s or 90s, so has been the case for pure metal celebrities both mainstream and underground.
Furthermore, much like how indie rock is a collective of alternative rock’s final fringes, indie “metal” is a collective of the metal versions of both indie rock and the final fringes of metal. Eventually, with there being no further progressions for indie rock to go, a landfill was formed of infinite bands following the same generic templates with no identifying or unique factors outside a few cheesy gimmicks. Indie “metal”, too, has become its own landfill- as “djent” is math rock with some metal aesthetics and “post metal” is either stoner rock or post rock with some metal ones. The existence of these landfills is the product of technological advances in both music and socialization which is why we have not seen them in the past with other genres. Nevertheless, the desert wasteland of indie rock and indie “metal” has been so vast that the possibility of a metal artist reaching the “celebrity” levels of metal musicians (both mainstream and underground) of the 80s and 90s would be virtually impossible without crossing over from some other platform, e.g. a reality TV or Youtube star starting a metal band.
Just as Beethoven and Tchaikovsky are relevant today, so too will the metal celebrities of the 70s, 80s, and 90s remain celebrated. But unfortunately for today’s musicians this rule won’t apply; for just as no indie rock musician will ever reach the celebrity of John Lennon or Joey Ramone, no modern heavy metal guitarist will be able to reach the celebrity of Tom G. Warrior, no death metal vocalist will achieve the celebrity of Chris Barnes, and no black metal drummer will reach the celebrity of Fenriz.
Metal musicians take note: metal will live for as long as Western society (and possibly longer) just as classical music will as well. Your artistic works are welcome and may even benefit the greater metal collective. But if you’re in it to be a celebrity, get attention, be recognized, or be remembered, be cool, and score with groupies, then you should quit metal and consider making commercial jingle hip hop or electronic dance music instead. For the metal celebrity is dead…… rejoice!
Tags: celebrity, classical music, crypto-indie, djent, electronic music, electronica, indie metal, indie rock, mainstream metal, music industry, post-metal, post-rock, rock, rock 'n' roll, rock music
43 thoughts on “Metal Isn’t Dying, But the Metal Celebrity Is”
While most people care about metallica, iron maiden, ozzy etc I care about a lot of unknown black metalheads that killed themselves and lived miserable lives, and their music is much more strong than any popular band. But i know how Iron Maiden is important, the strong influence on Swedish Death Black Metal scene. There will always be people doing real metal and living as a outcast, hating this world and every people, and this kind of thinking is conservative too, looking to the past and learning ancient wisdom is much more wise than being someone that defend this shitty modern values and ”science” like psychology(jew creation) etc Even on christianity there are superior values if we compare to the values of today world, in christianity we find misanthropy, wisdom of not feeling belong to this world etc it’s just a point of view, i am not christian, never had been.
> Beethoven and Tchaikovsky are relevant today
To whom? I’ve taken a few naps at the local symphony for performances of Beethoven, Respighi, Mozart, and Mendelssohn to name a few (friends had spare tickets and were into this crap). The average age was…..well…..aged. Scotch was bae to get me through Mozart’s requiem and before that was some Fugue snoozfest I had throw headphones on to get past without dying.
If being a patrician means vomiting up boring polyphonic harmony experiments so you can ingest more boring twenty minutes of polyphonic harmony experiments then count me a proud philistine
and edgy doofus
what does this mean: “Scotch was bae to get me through Mozart’s requiem”
I’ve fallen asleep during metal performances. Most music is better experienced alone, and particularly outside of the social extravaganzas that are concerts.
I’d vote for both if it. Sitting on a chair crammed together with hundreds (or even thousands) of other people for a ‘performance’ in some room is not conductive to enjoying anything, but that’s a poor way of experiencing live music. This is much better in a semi-dark room not overfilled with people, with some space for movement and without hordes of instagram zombies whose sole reaction to anything “they’ve never seen before” (IOW, anything) is to take half a dozen photos of it before boredly drifting elsewhere to repeat the procedure.
Headbanging is fun (even moshing sometimes is), loud music is fun, especially if it’s good, and it’s nice to have both in sufficiently anti-social surroundings that one doesn’t have to deal with other people who want to make their most importance presence known (“I really like what you’re doing here” [then why did you stop me and force me to talk about it instead?!?]) or who can’t keep their fingers to themselves in ‘arousing’ circumstances all the time.
Conversation is something for smoking breaks.
I'm sure when extreme metal wasn't trendy and there were lots of exceptional tours with awesome bands playing their best material there were some great concerts worth going to. But inevitably all extreme metal concerts these days, even with good bands, are going to be flooded with moronic socialites, And the performances never seem to have much atmosphere. They're typically never intoxicating and consuming to see. I almost never feel completely absorbed by the combination of the music and performance. I always end up being bored and exhausted after shows… surely not a popular opinion among you people, but the only memorable performance I've ever seen was Watain. Ironically, I would never listen to them outside of a live performance.
…Fuckin’ Hammett still with the black nail-polish look that he jacked from guys half his age in ’01.
I think this is a Mexican thing, or something, just look at John Romero for example (if were talking about celebrities).
There isn’t enough WASP coverage on this site!And I’m not referring to Saxon Lutherans or whatever either.
Metal is definitely becoming public domain right before our eyes. Ready to use chugging riffs and twin-guitar melodies allow thousands of bands to exist. There’s never been so many subgenres, yet the whole scene has never sounded so generic and samey. I’ve been saying for years that most metal bands today are “tribute acts who write their own songs”. Maybe it’d be more accurate to state they’re not composers but re-arrangers.
I’d say metal, rock and popular music as a whole are like metaphors of the heat death of the universe. Stars that provide life and energy die out, giving way to an ever growing cold darkness, where scattered rocks that used to belong in systems are left wandering aimlessly. Then matter slowly dilutes away, until eventually you can’t differentiate any points in time and space, and the universe is just a uniform dullness where nothing happens for the rest of eternity.
Speaking of which…
Not worth bothering with as the abstract is a better flamebait and the article isn’t available without paying for it. And ‘paying’ for this “abuse of a terminology invented for this very purpose” (colloquial German definition of ‘sociology’) is counter-productive: We already know that “guitar bands are on the way out” since some clown used this as justification for not signing the Beatles and I’d be entirely unsurprised if “re-arrangers instead of composers” had already been levied at the NWOBHM bands in this or that form.
For as long as there’s something like a culture, people will compose lengthy, academically sounding “Gee! I don’t understand this! It can’t exist in will go away soon!” tracts.
I agree that such efforts are a waste of everyone’s time and money, I just found the coincidence mildly amusing.
Another thing to note is the anal retentiveness to being as technically proficient in instrumental music as possible. This is especially prominent in both metal bands and classical orchestras. Even being distinguishable and dare I say originality has been discarded in the name of technicality itself.
Yes and orchestral music is deader than metal, having become purely a performance art.
What’s a »metal celebrity«?
A few days ago, I had a short metal conversation with two guys (who – for a change – didn’t seem to be total dickheads). Bands which came up were Lamb of God and Metallica. I doubt either of them ever heard of Tom G Warrior or Gulyve Nagell (Actually, I didn’t myself until some time last year. I knew that Celtic Frost existed, though). I didn’t know anything about Chris Barnes until he was mentioned here. My idea of “famous death metal shouter” would be Martin van Drunen (Pestilence, Asphyx). A ‘famous’ drummer from back then “you should have heard of” would be Pete Sandoval (you should really also have heard of Macro Foddis, Chris Witchhunter and Dave Lombardo, in no particular order). There are a lot of people well known to us (if I may use this here) 99% of so-called metalheads have never heard of and 99.99999% of the general population have never heard of even the most popular Wacken-headliners.
Then, I increasingly find myself living in a universe where ‘Dark Descent’ is a BIG label and most interesting stuff is released by much smaller independent labels (or directly by bands) on CD with ‘big releases’ being 500 copies or so (I own #385 of Staub und Schatten and I’m grateful that I wasn’t the guy who had to write all the numbers on the boxes :-). The idea that any of this could end up in the top ten or headlining major rock festivals as Slayer do is rather bizarre and nobody would want this (one hopes).
Alles voll industriell massenproduziert, Herr Soziologe.
Tell me about it, backstage passes & pics partying with various bands used to get me laid. Now it gets me ignored.
Oh well, into obscurity ride.
Metal is dead or dying because melodic sensibility is dead- not just in metal, but in music in general. Pop music, video game soundtracks, you name it- all have gone the route of rhythms and vibe-emulating textures rather than building around concrete melody, simply because those former ideas are easy to emulate while melody and arrangement are not and stem from an actual artist. More proof that not everyone should be creating music, whether you are gifted in ability or not.
The problem isn’t so much lack of talent as the fact that all the melodies have been used up. Melody is a finite resource. There are only 12 notes and from 1955 to roughly 2000 the beat combo setup explored all the possible variations available to two guitars and bass. Technological innovation – distortion, effects, synthezisers, sound production – papered over the cracks for a while by introducing other aspects of novelty but innovation in that sphere seems to have reached its natural end too. If you transported a great rock talent from the 60s to 70s to nowadays they would struggle to innovate. It’s all been done. They would most likely leave the rock field altogether. There will be no more innovation in metal because the supply of hummable tunes has been exhausted. In truth this has been the case for 20 years or so. The Norwegian black metal scene of the early 90s was built on nostalgia for the mid 80s. The only prospect for musicians to innovate with melody anymore is to experiment with counterpoint as jazz and classical composers do but the music will then become so complex and progressive that it’s unlikely it would still be “metal”, as metal is essentially a simplistic primal scream therapy type of music, a mildly more advanced form of punk.
I disagree- while you can assemble twelve tones a finite number of ways, rhythm, rests, octaves, phrase length and so on create an infinite palette. People are just lazy and take easier ways out now.
while you can assemble twelve tones a finite number of ways
For some definition of finite — there are 8,916,100,448,256 12 tone sequences of 12 tones. Assuming one was played every second, it would take more than 282,727 years to get through with all of them. And “playing 12 notes for a duration of ca 0.042s each” is a very ‘restricted’ approach to constructing a note sequence …
The number of combinations that are pleasant to listen to and playable on conventional instruments is obviously a much smaller subset of that. The law of diminishing returns applies – it’s harder to find new exciting riffs anymore and because metal is no longer cool or commercially viable the rewards for making the effort are smaller. This means that young talented musicians are not going to be drawn to something as rigidly defined as metal anymore because the motivation of these people is always attention. Metal will be used in broader rock or indie styles but “pure metal” will stagnate as it is now a fossilized style, not the evolving movement it was in the 80s. The appeal of metal in the 80s was largely down to the novelty factor – every year a new sound and genre was being spawned. This made it seem important. This drew in the egos that created the best music.
That’s absolutely not “obvious”, considering that only a very tiny amount of this vast space can have been explored so far and that my contrived example was very limited. For a minor step towards realism, let’s assume two notes are played at the same time. This means the number of possible combinations is now the square of the other — I can’t put this here because it’s a 156-digit number. And real music is still much more complicated than that.
You’re basically pulling random assertions out of your posterior in order to come up with justifications for the inevitableness of a factually wrong, preconceived position. You’re statements about ‘metal’ (»simplistic primal scream therapy type of music«) along with the ad nauseam repetition of ‘1980s’ also suggest that your actual knowledge of ‘metal’ (whatever this is supposed to mean) is both very limited and very dated.
The classic era of metal is late 70s to mid 90s. Innovation has been rare since then. I am positing the theory that the main style types that it was possible to create in the metal paradigm had all been explored in that period leading to stagnation thereafter. No two beats in hip-hop are exactly alike either but it doesn’t mean this is innovative music anymore. This is true of rock music generally – since the late 90s there have been no new genres of rock music created. Post-rock was the last distinctively new genre of popular music created. Since then there have of course been good bands but no new distinctive styles of music. It’s not just about riffs and notes per se but about new methods of playing distorted electric guitar. Some tech death band will of course find a new combination of notes for a set of riffs but the style will still be technical death metal. You won’t get anything that sounds like a break from the past the way thrash was a break from NWOBHM, death was a break from thrash, etc. You will continue to have good bands but you won’t have new styles anymore – it will be post-metal, retro-movements or stuff that is so technical it will only have tiny niche appeal. Metal is dead as an evolutionary form but it can survive indefinitely in a static form. For metal to evolve it will have to cross over into the non-metal space.
Metal will never die. It has progress forward post black metal (ie post 1994) but nobody bothered to pay attention.
It's incredible the lack of comprehension that is displayed by the readers and commenters here, when an individual actually takes the time to write with genuine thought. I have thought much about this very sentiment on my own, and couldn't agree more. All subsequent "new" metal genres (since black/death metal) have either been post this or hybrid that, but all still relying upon its base genre elements (as well, these post and hybrid genres have be pointed out to be inferior compared to what they "innovate" upon). The foundations of the genre have been laid and to stray from those foundations would be to stray from the genre. Certainly their can be new and exciting variations on a theme, or rather genre, but they're aren't going to be a new genre's definition. To anticipate the progress of metal into a new genre is to be like the wandering Jews. We know what our messiah genre isn't, but have no conception of what it will be, likely because it won't exist. Metal has reached its logical head and is now a plateau. This does not mean modern musicians cannot produce exciting new music within the foundations, but they will always be what has already been.
This idea that “progress” is an end in itself and that it’s accomplished by ripping out the foundations while building on the is somehow ‘lesser’ is positively ghoulish: Someone who keeps going back to square one will never really get anywhere, just be terribly busy doing so.
I also suggest an alternate viewpoint: Mayhem (that is Euronymous & Dead) didn’t mean to invent black metal, they wanted to play ‘real’ death metal, without the technicolor comic bits and meaningless fretboard gymnastics. Twenty years from now, we’ll know which new styles we presently can’t see because of all the trees came into being today. They’re probably not going to be “fundamentally different” but this is very much a matter of perspective: To some people, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, The Beatles, Ed Sheeran and Darkthrone are all isignifcant varations of the same kind of (worthless) music.
“Let’s talk about something completely different!”. Ok. I’ll accept your proposition that the set of subgenres still identified as metal and metalheads identify themselves with seems stable meanwhile. This would roughly be heavy metal, thrash/ speed metal, death metal and black metal. There’s still cross-pollination going on, eg,
which combines thrash elements with black metal ones but in a way which doesn’t suck (IMHO). Original so-called second wave BM would use heavy metal elements instead here. There are also newer British BM bands which re-introduce more heavy metal style stuff instead of the “hugging the ancient, mysterious trees of home below the stars in a winter night” shit, examples would be Deitus or Funeral Throne.
But I disagree with the idea that “creativity” expresses itself in music solely by the very superficial notion of “invent different styles of playing” instead of “creating new music in an existing style”: Runenwacht, Carthaun and Burkhartsvinter would be three German BM bands I spent quite some time with recently and each band has a distinctive style and the tracks (I know of) are distinctively different. And that’s not stagnation just because an existing form is adapted to expressing new things.
Consider so-called ‘classical music’. I prefer the term “traditional, European orchestra music” for this because to me, it pretty much all sounds the same no matter who the composer was and how someone more interested in this would describe it: It’s always roughly the same set of instruments played on the same way and using the same general methods of composition. I don’t care if someone innovatively constructed a backward sonata or whatnot. However, I won’t claim that it “stagnated” ever since secular music took over from church music just because “It’s all violins to me!”[*]
[*] Hyperbole. I used to be somewhat interested in Haendel, Bach and other baroque music in the distant past.
Sure, you can tweak different things but as with my counterpoint example if you tweak them too much the music stops being “metal” to any recognizable degree, and if you tweak them so as they are still recognizably metal the variations you get will not be substantially different to what has gone before, so why bother? It would be like moving the lines in a Jackson Pollack painting a few millimetres to the left or right and claiming it to be an original work of art but to the observer it’s just going to be a Pollack knockoff. Any sense of electric guitar music being exciting or breaking new ground is long past. True innovators today wouldn’t limit themselves to such an exhausted style. Post-metal in all its guises is the only viable form for innovation using metal anymore.
What a load of bullshit.
I still disagree, but maybe a band like Last Sacrament, who uses microtones, would be exciting to you.
That’s nothing new, Muddy Waters did this in the 1940s (for blues, obviously). Standardized European pitch classes only exists by (principally arbitrary) convention, anyway.
Metal has been dead for well over 20 years. My advice for this site is to do some non-metal reviews every now and then of music that has a similar spirit, yet doesn’t destroy the brain of anyone with more intelligence than the avarage beer metaller.
This helps to avoid rehashing reviews of the classics (yes, burzum is good, we get it – enough already), while at the same time neither reviewing the endless crap we get every day. Metal is dead, but if you love music, check out other genres. Look deep enough and you’ll find gems.
Metal is not dead; metal is dead as a genre of popular music but will never be become an academic performance art fellated by the ivory tower like orchestral music and jazz.
Go jack off to yanni if you want to, metal sites shouldn’t bring non metal in to cater to people like you.
I wouldn’t even know that Burzum had existed weren’t it for people putting work into keeping this information available. Why does this bother you?
I’ve also wasted 24 years of my life (I won’t ever get back) »checking out other genres« (for a pretty limited definition of »genres« — I can live with a lot of things in public, but privately, I’m not interested in anything not created by playing instruments). There’s a lot of listenworthy other music, eg,
but this is all hollow. It may be interesting, pleasant, astounding or even exciting but it means nothing: It’s meant to simulate ones nerves for the joy of the sensation. There’s a reason why this is often associated with substance abuse which provides the same kind of idle pleasure.
lay off the roids buddy
respect to Ulrch for no tatoo
Nice earrings though.
and yet there’s still people trying become as famous as Metallica.
The ones I hate the most are bands playing stupid ass stoner rock music calling themselves “doom metal.”
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