Metal Works as Stepping Stones

Until now, metal works (albums, EPs, pieces, etc.) have been regarded as products, even by those who would assume anti-commercial postures. Why this is so, why the underground metal community still sees albums as products and so judge them in that light, has to do with the history of metal as arising from the general rock business context. Black Sabbath as the foundational metal band followed this path and they were also the first metal band to sell out, though there never was much to sell out. In any case, they did not really know what they had and quickly devolved into rock-ized (standardized) “improvements” on the gold they had struck at first, instead of exploring those new sounds and ideas regardless of the commercial context, regardless of the business prospects (gigs, deals, etc.). We must understand, however, that the ideal of metal beyond rock, beyond trends and commercialism, only arose with the Mayhem cabal. Their commercial activities, it should be understood, were a means to something greater, as can be seen from the meticulous selection of albums that came under the auspices of Deathlike Silence Productions.

There exists the alternative of metal as works of art, in the sense that a classical artist would understand them: as uniting form with meaning. But this holds the work in a vacuum more often than not, unless we try to seek back attitudes from the medieval period and beyond. The advantages would be a freer exploration in the direction of an ulterior expression above the material and beyond temporary preoccupations.The greatest problem with the anachronism that this model would present is that it presupposes a kind of sponsor, and in an age where popularity, stupidity and general commercial or academicist (moreover, politicized ones) interests prevail, this would lead true Hessian underground astray, essentially destroying it through petrification and an abolition of its higher principle. So, while it may be inspiring to take cues from the so-called ‘classical’ (no longer so) way of thinking, it must also be taken into account that these required institutional support to a completely enveloping degree, something that is untenable for the creators of Hessian metal.

What we are proposing here instead is to see metal works as a learning process for the artist, and an evolving one for individual pieces and works as a whole. Why would work in the context of underground metal is because metal is lean, as far as layers and complexity generally go. It draws its inner power from a trinity of motion, meaning and evocation in the form of distorted power chord phrases clearly outlined. The proper metal piece is the arrangement of several of these one of after the other, with some repetition. Allowing, encouraging their reworking and improvement, rather than the reset and restart that underground metal, especially death metal, is prone to doing until now in the vast majority of cases. There are examples of a similiar modus operandi in bands that produced several demos and one great album only after consolidating the pieces in several takes and arrangements in an ascending staircase of maturity. Demilich, for one, recognized in Nespithe the zenith of their years-long, juvenile explorations and dabbling. Wisely so, they let the idea of ‘Demilich’ rest, as its sole purpose and reach had been concreted. Higher and wider minded projects may attempt a longer and more varied growth, where pieces are only left behind as they become completed or petrified for some reason or other.

The idea of metal works as stepping stone works particularly well because metal at its finest, at its most stormy and brain-racking, has always been a rough, semi-conscious, work of savants in concert with Dionysus. Why not, then, develop this relationship with those unseen forces that guide metal, and which ultimately are the cause, conscious or otherwise, of the only examples of underground metal that Hessians are given to respect and enjoy thoroughly. If not only metal sessions but even works are seen as a process, then we would also have the chance of artists improving upon past works rather than trying to concoct the next fascinating thing. We could point out that this would inevitably delay the appearance of records by Hessian metal bands, but this would also mean that each album given birth to in this way would surely mean much more than a set of cool riffs, or even good arrangements. So far, most good albums only offer that.

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3 thoughts on “Metal Works as Stepping Stones”

  1. Psychic Psych Toad says:

    The rainbow collage mural gives eyeballs aids.

  2. Gladius et Scutum says:

    An interesting take that seems valid. Let us consider Darkthrone’s and Burzum’s stepping stone paths. Both have covered great distances, yet Fenriz has essentially returned to his starting point whereas Varg has ended up quite far from where he started. Fenriz’s net distance traveled is zero, and Varg’s is something quite a bit larger than zero. Fenriz has bounded a specific area of music with his career where Varg has cut a specific pathway with his career. Other bands can safely dwell within the Fenriz area or bound new areas adjacent to the area or strike new pathways away from the area. Bands can safely follow the trail of Burzum, or strike new pathways off of the trail or use the trail as a ‘base’ from which to bound unexplored territory.

    As for the latter part of the article, would not the death of record labels and the ability to ‘crowd fund’ (patreon, etc.) allow bands to take the time needed to properly gestate each album? With a record deal, you are bounded by time constraints to get product out the door, and with multi-record deals there is the added burden of guaranteeing at least a few good songs on each record which would be corrosive towards concentrating one’s effort on the task at hand. Also, with the death of the CD (which I personally mourn) the ‘need’ to fill up at least x% of time on an 80 minute disc is also alleviated.

    Hessians of decent to good to great income need to put their money where their mouths are. On bandcamp why not overpay as much as you can afford for good music? We all know that the hipsters are downloading their shitty music for free – if Hessians want good music, encourage good music with money.

  3. ifonhof says:

    Thank you for your blog post.Thanks Psychic Psych Toad says:.

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