Distorting the medium

hipster_black_metal_flavored_alternative_rock_fanBy 1992, the metal underground was flirting with mainstream visibility to some degree; whether it was Slayer headlining an arena tour, death metal albums being distributed by Sony, news reports, or metal music videos on MTV.

An emerging horde of people saw how awesome death metal looked and leaped at the opportunity to be a part of a new movement and start their own bands. The problem was, these were the people weaned on The Black Album who wanted to be the next Kurt Cobain, so they chose the newest, edgiest method possible: extreme metal.

Every suburban nobody with a guitar thought if they dressed up their uneventful, radio friendly rock in a different way, they would be seen as unique, offering something new to the world that wasn’t there before. When these people make extreme metal, they keep the surface traits and miss the core. The down tuned guitar rhythms, guttural vocals and fast drums are easily cloned, but underneath the aesthetic of death metal lies something that is not too different from what the corporate rock that Metallica and Nirvana were shipping out at this time were expressing.

Some of these abominations might be in your album collection as well because, as they saw the horde forming, many established bands began imitating the imitators in a pathetic attempt to draw a new audience and get rich enough to quit their coffee shop jobs. Borrowing the rhythm guitar techniques from Bolt Thrower and Celtic Frost is no challenge, and bands like Gorefest and Obituary realized they too could make it big if they dressed up what the major labels were shipping out at this time. Thus, began the dumbing down of underground metal. Gorefest masked their rock bounce as death metal and Obituary thought reinforcing a Biohazard album with memes on rotting would lead them to success. It worked.


The hipsters of olde saw that it appeared different, but sounded similar enough to their radio fodder that they can add something derived from a morbid subculture into their “unique” fashion derived personality without threatening their social sphere. Eventually acts like Fear Factory would capitalize on this, finding much success by combining the sounds of Earache records popular Napalm Death and Godflesh into verse-chorus heavy-soft proto nu-metal. They were not using this music as a platform for artistry, but for label attention that they would use to springboard themselves into a radio rock career. They would fool their ‘death metal fans’ who were never able to discover the styles true potential into “maturing” with the artist, unaware that they were being used as another sales number until the band name became a corporate brand.




While most people blame bands like Opeth for dumbing down metal into corporate rock, others are the blame for this process that started long before Opeth noticed it and decided to profit from it. The false ones who have been allowed into the halls of the underground have been going unchecked for too long. They might have fooled you at one point. If it’s not honest thoughts turned into music, you can be guaranteed it’s a gimmicky pose or well-disguised radio fodder meant to take as much money from as many wallets as possible. It should be no surprise that around half a decade later they all drop the aesthetic and unleash something like this upon the world:

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12 thoughts on “Distorting the medium”

  1. Serious Questioner says:

    Is it possible to be a poser and still create great Metal music, even by mistake? What about the lesser bands that are honestly inferior but they too want to be part of the scene, do they also contribute to the dumbing down of Metal?? Which is the greater evil: lack of integrity or lack of awarenes that you just don’t measure up to the greats but you still want to participate? Is false metal, false because it doesn’t meet the standards set by the greats or because it has allowed assimilation to creep in?

  2. Jim Nelson says:

    Metal is a spirit, not an aesthetic.

  3. EDS says:

    The End Complete wasn’t that bad was it?

  4. Norse says:

    I doubt if that poor kid even knows there’s a mayhem patch across his poorly developed pects, let alone even listens to the music. A dead fart-stench would rise from Euronomous’ grave as he rolls in it.

  5. Considering how often the ANUS headers have said things along the lines of “This would make excellent radio rock”, I figure an overall better approach would be to work towards finding music with spirit and artistry regardless of genre. This means talking more about high quality ambient, classical, folk music amongst others.

    In response to the “serious questioner”: I currently learn towards questioning lack of integrity, as lower tier artists sometimes shape up and release a masterpiece.

  6. Anthony says:

    Hold your horses there, mister. Most of the stuff you mentioned was indeed shit, but that Gorefest album is some great death metal.

    1. Carg says:

      Gotta say, this stuff doesn’t sound so bad, though perhaps a bit closer to traditional metal than more extreme Death acts.

      The article could be construed as suggesting that “bounce” and DM don’t go well together, so I’m just going to leave this here:


    2. The Dude says:

      I imagine the only reason why they hate on Gorefest is because they didn’t like Soul Survivor and the subsequent albums. Soul Survivor was a great hard rock album in my opinion, but it wasn’t really a true death metal album and it was a sign that they were selling out. The same is pretty much true for the stuff that Carcass, Entombed, and most other relatively successful metal bands were putting out at the time.

  7. kvlt attakker says:

    Hail Satan

  8. Tarburz says:

    I actually got into more “serious” death and black metal through bands like Fear Factory and Obituary’s “The End Complete.” I don’t like FF anymore, and “The End Complete” still has a place in my heart. Other bands like Cannibal Corpse and the like just got boring, repetitive, monotonous–like current Deicide. “Legion” remains the pinnacle of death metal, IMO. I understand the artistic disgust of commercial albums, but, like I said, I got into the aesthetic bands, for lack of a better term, because of the commercial albums. The sad thing is, modern death and black metal suck because it’s all commercial. Ugh.

  9. bitterman says:

    Obituary was bad ever since Frank Watkins got a haircut and started wearing a One Life Crew jersey…

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