The economics of metal evolution


The DLA/DMU has taken flak over the years for being unwilling to embrace new trends, but this criticism forgets that we also avoided endorsing older bad ideas. Our writers have generally avoided jumping on the bandwagon for the “trve kvlt” just as much as the new, millennial-friendly indie-rock version of metal. The reason we can do this is that we apply a simple quality standard instead of using the consensus of others to determine truth.

Despite having many editors, each of whom had somewhat varied opinions on the process, if viewed on the large scale the site has kept a generally consistent opinion. That is: some of the so-called classics are good, and few of the new school releases are good, but the determination is not made by category, but by analyzing each release on its own merits. This leads to sudden shock for some who expected us to be cheerleaders for anything that seems to “uphold the true spirit of the underground,” and dismay for those who like the newer material as release after release fails our test.

Metal is in a slump and has been since 1994, in quality. Correspondingly, it has been in a boom in terms of quantity of fans. We have more “metalheads” (cough) now than ever before. However, anyone who is not in denial — and most are — can tell you that quality has fallen off dramatically. The music has lost its energy, its nerve and its insight and been buried under a wave of bands that are either obedient and docile system products, or slaves to the underground record-collecting audience that does not care about quality so long as the aesthetics of previous generations are preserved. Both groups unfortunately are useful idiots for industry, which can keep producing low-cost clone bands and reaping the profits.

We discard bands for two reasons: not being metal, and not being good. The bands that are simply not good tend to have the most fans, ironically. Who among us can claim that, for example, Blazebirth Hall bands and Drudkh offered anything musical or artistic to metal? They cloned Graveland in a light and breezy melodic form that is essentially music for children. In the same way we refuse to celebrate underground “favorites” that consist of ranting and disorganized music like Sepulchral Aura, or avantgarde prog fanboy-bait like Fanisk and Deathspell Omega.

In addition, we discard that which does not uphold the artistic, intellectual and philosophical spirit of metal. There is quite a bit of overlap here with “not being good.” We would not endorse Cradle of Filth; nor would we endorse Opeth, back in the day, or Cannibal Corpse, on the basis that they were essentially rock bands trying to assimilate metal and thus produced a moronic mindset. Similarly Pantera and to a lesser degree, Anthrax. Back in the day we thought SOD was inferior to Cryptic Slaughter, DRI, and Corrosion of Conformity. We refused to endorse Wolves in the Throne Room, Animals as Leaders, Gojira, Mastodon and other indie-rock pretending to be metal. We ignore Pelican and all stoner doom bands because they are boring and terrible. This music is distraction from metal, not metal, but its fans make a big show of being “very metal,” which tells you exactly what they are hiding and deflecting your attention from.

This approach wins us zero friends in the short term, but trusted readers in the long term. People — especially those who lead purposeful lives and do not have lots of time, nor enjoy, combing through catalogs and blogs trying to figure out which 1% of the reviews are not lies — like getting the low-down on quality metal. They enjoy that moment of discovery when they find something really good, something they can listen to not just this week and six months or a year from now, but for future decades. That is ultimately the standard by which any music fan operates; they like music, so they veer toward the best, not just at a level of mechanics (technicality) but artistically, or its relevance to the ongoing philosophical and moral maturation of humankind. Most of humanity likes mediocrity or at least convinces itself that it likes those bands. After all, Third Eye Blind has sold more records than most segments of the metal genre. But popularity — whether among credulous hipsters or gormless mass media fans — has never determined quality. Consensus is not reality. Only reality is reality, and we make our best stab at it.

With that in mind, you may ask: why write negative reviews? The answer may surprise you. We seek to give music fans the intellectual tools they need to fight back the onslaught of Opeth, Pantera, Ulver, Cradle of Filth, Meshuggah, Vattnet Viskar, Cannibal Corpse and Deathspell Omega styled bands. We use both positive and negative examples to illustrate, to the best of our ability, what metal is and which approaches to it have produced the quality level necessary for prolonged listening. This puts us at odds with most metal journalists, for whom writing is a day job and as a result, is interpreted as endless enthusiasm for whatever is new and exciting because the consensus likes it. They are essentially advertisers because they are writing ad copy about these bands, not a look into what makes their music function. It is designed to make you buy music, because journalists who can sell music get famous and become editors. You will notice that major publications run almost no negative reviews. Why is that, you might ask? Because their job is to sell music, not review it, even if they call it “review.”

In all human endeavors our social impulses, which because we are selfish beings are actually self-interested impulses translated to altruism to flatter and manipulate others, override any sense of quality or purpose. The task ceases to become the task and becomes the process of creating the appearance of results instead of results; bands stop trying to be good, and focus on replicating what has worked before in new forms. The “best” (by consensus) bands “sound” different on the surface, but musically are extremely similar, because that formula has worked in the past. That is a social impulse: make what people like because it does not challenge them and makes them feel smart, profound or at least “with the crowd” to be listening to it. This social impulse has ruined metal since 1994.

Metal thrives — as it did during the mid-70s, early 80s and early 90s — under two factors: (1) it is ignored by most people, so it is free from the manipulations of those who want to sell rebellion-flavored rock to morons, and (2) it has some truly great artists to kickstart it and establish a standard. The former is self-evident, but the latter can be explained as follows. When early Norse black metal came out, it set a standard of quality and allowed fans, by simply choosing to spend their money on what was more rewarding, to exclude bands that did not meet that standard. Why would you buy Forgotten Wolves when you can get Darkthrone? Why would you pick up another speed metal clone when you can have top-quality death metal? Metal thrived when it was elitist, closed-minded and viciously competitive. Now that it has become a group hug, quality has suffered and no one seems to have noticed. Except us — and we are watching.

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28 thoughts on “The economics of metal evolution”

  1. I still do not comprehend how you cannot see how well-organized Fanisk’s second album is :/ Puzzles me. It is more classical than “prog” in the stupid Rush sense.

  2. Abstracted Fade says:

    Who are “Forgotten Wolves”? I’ve seen you mention them a few times in past articles. Do you mean Forgotten Woods, instead?

    1. 1234567 says:

      Brett Stevens, don’t you mean “Forgotten Woods”? “Wolves” is in the title of their first album, “As the Wolves Gather”.

      You’ve made the same mistake here:

        1. 1234567 says:

          Is it this band?

          I can’t find “Forgotten Wolves” in MA’s database.

          1. Sounds like you’re relying on a bad source!

            1. Lord Mosher says:

              How about this source Brett?


              quote: “Forgotten Wolves A crap ripoff band sure to fade into history’s crevice.”

              – Lord Mosher keeper of the books…

              1. Both bands existed. Forgotten Wolves was USA; Forgotten Woods overseas somewhere…

                1. 1234567 says:

                  The USA Forgotten Wolves also happened to have an album called “As the Wolves Gather”?

              2. freudian says:

                The Ritual review was funny.

                1. Cheerful florist says:

                  The botanist part had me in stitches.

                  1. freudian says:

                    The Ritual guy is just whining because of how loose his ass became in prison… for spray painting churches! The DLA review was actually favorable considering that album’s “quality”.

                    1. freudian says:

                      They also dress like wiggers and have been playing “criminal black metal” ever since! This is just too funny.

                    2. The fellow from Ritual wrote me some years ago and was quite well-spoken and polite.

  3. OliveFox says:

    whoa, whoa, whoa!

    …Third Eye Blind isn’t metal?

    Seriously though, the money I’ve flushed down the toilet because of pseudo-intellectual “hype” reviews through the years could have bought me cases and cases of decent whisky. But now I have a bunch of fucking Blut Aus Nord cd’s and nothing but J&B to drink.

    Thankfully I stumbled on you guys and will hopefully not be duped into buying anymore Enslaved or Nachtmystium records.

  4. SeekingEnlightenment says:

    I have been on this site, the DLA, and ANUS for many years. I applaud this site for maintaining its integrity in the face of the corporate fascism of all the popular review sites.

    However, it is imperative that if you wish to dismantle the rising false culture of metal, the best way is to review underground metal releases that the populist review sites are reviewing as well. This includes Deafheavan et al. As you may have noticed, Pitchfork is doing this, which although hipster, has some good writing. While beer and other recommendations are nice, no one is coming here for that. Focus on establishing what is good metal post-2000. People are not sure what that is, and consequently, we have indie-metal.

    Next, celebrate the gems post-2000 heavily. Mass circulation could inspire young musicians to find your site instead of Decibel. Instead I see a sea of negative reviews here which I simply don’t have the time to sift through because I am employed and a graduate student, hence my time is valuable. So, my only recourse is to wait for your year end lists you make and then sift through that. That isn’t a good system.

    The list of exceptional bands ( should be on the front page so people with 20-second attention spans can find the best bands quickly.

    Stop reiterating the same message of metal’s collapse after 1995, many are aware but have a vested interest in keeping metal alive and so seek new bands to get into.

    Many want this site to succeed, and it has, but it could be even better.

    1. However, it is imperative that if you wish to dismantle the rising false culture of metal, the best way is to review underground metal releases that the populist review sites are reviewing as well. This includes Deafheavan et al. As you may have noticed, Pitchfork is doing this, which although hipster, has some good writing…Focus on establishing what is good metal post-2000. People are not sure what that is, and consequently, we have indie-metal.

      I agree wholeheartedly.

      1. Delicious Penis Sucked says:

        I agree but negative reviews should be sadistic and visceral followed by an example of a better alternative, like citing the classics ad infinitum. You’re either a metal head or you’re not and whoever supports indie-metal, post-metal etc. should not consider themselves metalheads.

    2. Benevolent GayHaitian says:

      Pitchfork’s writing is not good. They belong to the exact same camp of industry shill publications this article talked about. Their writing is a lot like the post-black metal they review: it gives the appearance of profundity, but that’s it. There is no center, no overarching spirit that ties everything together. They know how to use a thesaurus and they know how to appropriate common metaphorical musical descriptors but you never get the sense that they’re describing a pattern language, just a patchwork of surface level impressions wrapped up in a cliche conclusion (ie “they achieve unity through disunity with an eclectic blend of funk rhythms, dreampop melodies, and cum gargling samples”)

      Also, omg they mentioned us gais:

      But seriously: breathing

      1. Whether you self-identify as a metal-attuned hipster or a hipster-hating metalhead, and whether you scan Pitchfork’s reviews or prowl the message boards of the American Nihilist Underground Society, you’ve likely considered the shifting sound of black metal during the last decade.

        Seems accurate.

  5. freudian says:

    Useful idiots = the people who purchase crap like Swallowed and make bands like Revenge. You can also throw in crap like Unique Leader records and PC propaganda like Decibel magazine for poser enabling.

    Then again, today you could make an album by inserting a Deeds of Flesh riff and a Meshuggah “riff” each into Sigur Ros songs and everyone would be none the wiser (worked for Fallujah).

  6. Phil says:

    What makes WITTR indie shamsters? The check shirts? They’ve made some good and bad stuff.

    1. …the candy-pop music slowed down and faked as black metal?

      1. Phil says:

        Not hearing it tbh. And speeding it up just makes it sound like Battles in the North. You got any examples you can show me/DMU?

        1. Once upon a time, Brett enjoyed Two Hunters…

          1. I listened to it, at least. Not much staying power. I like the idea of a violently green black metal band but these guys were more social than ecosophers.

  7. melonsparks says:

    Even though I like a lot of the bands this website hates, I appreciate the consistent standards and elitism of these guys. This website has enhanced and deepened my appreciation of metal. This is quite possibly the only metal website in the world that doesn’t suck a barrel of cocks.

  8. Heptagram says:

    You know what killed Music in general?

    It was NAPSTER. Why?

    Music used to be SOCIAL. It had tightly knit scenes that you HAD to immerse yourself in which had SOCIAL ramifications.

    Hipsters and SJW’s would of NEVER gotten into Metal if there was no file sharing.

    Napster was created to get people HOOKED on the internet, just like YouTube is now.

    MP3’s were/are pushed because they are an incomplete representation of music and listening to them will mess up the energy flow in your body, I know from personal experience. Use FLAC instead.

    The whole thing with METALLICA vs Napster was to get everyone to pay attention to Napster, and look what we have now…

    The reason why HIPSTERS/INTERNET/SMARTPHONES are here is to keep people from being CREATIVE because when new music genres are created they tend to go for SOCIAL CHANGE, to keep people from GATHERING their creative energies, and society is going the way it is now because it’s easier to keep everyone in line…

    Hail Hermes Trigmegistos
    Hail Satan

    Hail Vijay Prozak
    Hail David Rosales
    Hail DMU

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