How Underground Music Captures The Shadow Zeitgeist

We should probably discuss an unpopular relationship: how much of underground music, and wider 1980s and 1990s subculture, came from the unexceptional suburbs.

It turns out that if we look into how boredom inspired minds to “see through” the illusions of our time, and by doing so to reveal an inner world and a possible outer world of great potential instead of mere repetition and commerce, we can appreciate the beauty of suburbia:

Diamond locates the omphalos of suburban punk in Lodi, New Jersey, a working-class, largely Italian suburb of 25,000. In an unremarkable home there, Glenn Allen Anzalone, a.k.a. Glenn Danzig, put out the debut seven-inch of his band, the Misfits. The Misfits assembled their songs from the bric-a-brac of suburban adolescence: comic books, horror movies, William Burroughs novels. Other punk bands railed against conformity, but not so much the Misfits: “They didn’t write songs about the suburban experience; instead, they channeled it.”

Underground music, by its very nature, consists of that which distrusts the mainstream narrative. It recognizes that thanks to an incentives system and fear of social censure, people construct pleasant fictions and eventually make acceptance of them mandatory for inclusion in society.

Consequently, those who wish to get any clarity of what is occurring must first replicate Satan’s Fall and reject the dominant paradigm and social narrative. In doing so, they become cast out of polite society — at least if discovered — but begin on the path to seeing what is real.

By their nature, punk and metal reject social boundaries, especially the “politeness” which refuses to accept anything but pleasant illusion, and then by using the power of their sound, project an alternate reality of how things would be if we paid attention to sanity instead of socializing.

This “shadow zeitgeist” represents what happens in a diseased time. The smartest become enemies of the power structure as it is, suggesting a saner option instead, such as a sci-fi medieval world of kings, knights, adventure, war, space exploration, hierarchy, and conquest.

Unlike most “protest music” of the 1960s model, this underground music does not attack and criticize the current narrative; it rejects its framing entirely. In this way, underground music opens a gateway out of illusion and, by rejecting it, embraces realism and looks for possibilities within it.

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21 thoughts on “How Underground Music Captures The Shadow Zeitgeist”

  1. Spaniard says:

    Sigh, this post tugged at the strings of my calloused heart. When I finished reading it, I almost felt compelled to throw up the devil horns in salute. I hope you never lose the missionary like conviction you display on this website in posts like this. It seems like even heshers are starting to submit to the poz of the globo-homo juggernaut. There was always trash like Anthrax and Sacred Reich, but the sheer overwhelming composition of the metal audience was white. Not only white, but possessing healthy racial instincts; for example, we laughed at racial humor and hung out in homogenous groups. Now there is repugnant pap like this: trying to subvert one of the last bastions of organic white resistance to systemic deceit. Since rap is in its death throws and metal seems to be getting an uptick, there seems to be an increasing interest on the part of needle dick hipster neckbeards to contaminate metalheads with their life denying delusions. I don’t know if we can weather this storm, but it is comforting to know that I can take refuge here and find an authentic representation of a culture that may be creeping towards extinction.

    1. So white when it snows I lose myself says:

      Yeah! Make white supreme again! That will solve all our issues! Let’s have nice homogenous bands of white brothers all drinking beer together and listening to pure unadulterated metal. And then what? Cower in the shelter of DMU to feel more powerful? Nah. I understand where you’re coming from but I feel Brett’s article is greater than that. Brett makes a great point about socializing vs. sanity. “By their nature, punk and metal reject social boundaries, especially the “politeness” which refuses to accept anything but pleasant illusion, and then by using the power of their sound, project an alternate reality of how things would be if we paid attention to sanity instead of socializing”. So anyway, maybe you believe white supremacy is the way to go, but frankly, it is going nowhere, being trapped as it were by the weight of history. How about you come up with something powerful and different?
      And the only sane approach is “fuck it all”, you know, fuck the racists and the anti-racists. Fuck all those who are only concerned with pushing their own petty agendas and are too self-centered and weak to ever bring about something of real value.

      1. I can see the sensibility in this, but when the tantrum is over, we must accept what works.

        The pretense is what does not work but feels good to the group.

        It’s not a question of petty agendas; it’s a question of realism.

      2. Spaniard says:

        This is an interesting reply, I appreciate the gusto with which it was written. There is a lot to unpack here, so let me get to it: 1) White supremacy or rather how is white supremacy defined? If white supremacy is defined as the imposition of European culture on the non-European world (e.g. colonialism) then no, I don’t subscribe to that definition of it. However, if it means Europeans and their descendants reigning supreme over their own nations, then I am most certainly a white supremacist and view white supremacy as a logical, vital expression of the natural order. Equality is obviously proven false by nature, so it stands to reason that one culture fits all solutions are also untrue. What I mean by this is that we are innately different which makes it ridiculous to expect a European to be an Asian, an Asian an African, an African a European, and so on. 2) “Brett makes a great point about socializing vs. sanity.” Are sanity and socialization mutually exclusive? Clearly heshers socialize with one another whether at shows or hanging out at each others houses listening to music and discussing the records being spun. There has always been a communal aspect to the culture. I view it as something akin to the early hunter gatherers forming tight knit groups to ensure their survival. If you mean superficial mall culture versus fundamental human interaction, that’s one thing; but to suggest that we say, “fuck it all” and live as rootless rejects void of any social network is misanthropic juvenile nonsense. 3) “By their nature, punk and metal reject social boundaries, especially the “politeness” This is an accurate statement. Upon further analysis of this statement, the crucial question is: Whose nature is expressed in punk and metal? Once again, that pesky nuisance of race rears its annoying head. I know, I know you will argue that non-Europeans contributed to both genres and you will be correct in stating so. Nevertheless, the key factor is not POC contributions rather it’s, “Who CREATED these genres and the frameworks in which these interlopers communicate in?” Punk and metal are distilled reflections of the European soul. Just like classical music and military marches, it is music by US and for US. The participation of outsiders is of relatively minuscule value. Without us, neither genre would ever have existed. 4) “How about you come up with something powerful and different?” Sigh, when you reach a certain age in life, you realize how little is truly new. Sure, technology and the myriad gadgets that are constantly being vomited upon us are novel, but systems of governance that are congruent with human nature are all known and ignored at our peril. The tragic flaw of Europeans is our suicidal dedication for attempting to put square pegs into round holes. They don’t fit and they won’t fit; they’re not designed to. Nature is the great leveler and is perfect in its indifference to your idealism. We can either live in accordance with it or perish. There is no other choice.

        1. The futile prolongation of the inevitable says:

          The only logical choice is death.

    2. ignominious says:

      I find it particularly amusing that comments are turned off for that video.

  2. slyguy says:

    So no best of 2020 metal?

  3. Needle Dick Neckbeard says:

    Nice one, Brett. This site is the last bastion of true metal.

  4. Pope Paul says:

    “Punk and metal are distilled reflections of European soul.”
    How old are you, pre-adolescent? Have a look at Fenriz’s oral history of black metal, and learn you some history. Or is he just a poser?
    Next, think about where Led Zeppelin or any number of proto metal bands got their riffs. And their song structures.
    It’s an inconvenient (for you) truth, but metal is one big nasty stinkin’ melting pot.

    1. Cool story says:

      That’s cool dude

    2. Spaniard says:

      Not only is this a weak reply, but it demonstrates an intellectual laziness that makes me wonder whether you have a learning disability; or if someone placed a chimpanzee in front of a keyboard and let it go to town. In Black Metal by Fenriz, he lists 25 bands that influenced Norwegian black metal. Of those 25, a whopping 19 of them are EUROPEAN bands; one of them is from Australia, one is from Canada, two are from the USA, and two are from Brazil. The only non-European bands that have mongrel band members are not surprisingly the ones from the Americas. Possessed (which Fenriz stated were not very influential) was/is fronted by Jeff Becerra who may be of partial Mesoamerican extraction. Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo of Slayer as well as the members of Sarcofago and Sepultura also share varying degrees of Mesoamerican/African admixture as is consistent with the nations from which their families descend. Fenriz himself said in the presentation that the MAIN influence that could be heard in Norwegian black metal was from the EUROPEAN bands. He gave Slayer some decent praise, spoke well of early Sepultura, and only recommended the first Sarcofago album. Did you miss when he said Bathory was the biggest inspiration and most important band to black metal? Are you unable to comprehend what is said or are you projecting your own desires onto the subject he explained?
      As for Led Zeppelin, their influence is no where near as significant as Black Sabbath who are the progenitors of heavy metal. However, I see what you were clumsily alluding to: “Derp, white guys stole metal from black blues musicians derp.” The following is for your edification, so you don’t appear like an imbecile again the next time you post: those black blues musician you fawn over were using the devil’s tritone in the music they were playing (on instruments created by Europeans). Brace yourself, this is gonna sting: “But the Devil’s Tritone’s deepest roots are in classical music, where it has often served as a leitmotif to signal the presence of something sinister. Professor John Deathridge of King’s College London told BBC News that medieval arrangements employed the tritone to represent the devil, Roman Catholic composers sometimes used it for referencing the crucifixion, and by the 19th century “you have got lots of presentations of evil built around the tritone” in classical pieces, as in Beethoven’s 1805 opera Fidelio. When it comes to metal’s cred with tritones, there’s “a big connection between heavy rock music and Wagner,” Deathridge said, and generally such tunes “have cribbed quite a lot from 19th Century music.”
      Now back to Black Sabbath and their use of the devil’s tritone: “This simple technique has been used most effectively in heavy metal, and is often credited to Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi who played it in the song “Black Sabbath” from the band’s 1970 self-titled first album. Although Iommi was untrained in music theory, he devised the three-note passage after listening to a piece of classical music he and bassist Geezer Butler enjoyed by Gustav Holst called “Mars, The Bringer of War” from the suite The Planets (written in 1914). The composition included a triad, and when Iommi imitated the sound on guitar he liked the unsettling feeling it created. He experimented with the passage and slowed it down to a crawl. Then he added a trill to the flatted fifth, repeatedly wavering from Db to D and added vibrato to the other notes to emphasize the tension of the music. Many consider “Black Sabbath” the birth of heavy metal.”
      The big nasty stinkin’ melting pot is nothing more than fetid stench of your mother’s unwashed cooter causing you to asphyxiate under her skirt where you take refuge from reality. You may be able to salvage a few brain cells if you muster the courage to leave your malodorous confines and face the world. Then again, the unpleasant truth maybe too much for your delicate sensibilities to bear.
      For the readership at DMU that may be interested, here’s the list of bands Fenriz cites in his presentation:
      Black Sabbath (England), Motorhead (England), Venom (England), Hellhammer (Switzerland), Destruction (Germany), Sodom (Germany), Kreator (Germany), Mercyful Fate (Denmark), Bathory (Sweden), Master’s Hammer (Czech Republic), Root (Czech Republic), Bulldozer (Italy), Poison (Germany), Obscurity (Sweden), Mefisto (Sweden), Tormentor (Hungary), Sabbat (England), Onslaught (England), Rotting Christ (Greece), Slaughter Lord (Australia), Slaughter (Canada), Possessed (USA), Slayer (USA), Sarcofago (Brazil), and Sepultura (Brazil)

      1. ignominious says:

        DMU is better off for having you in the comment section.

        1. Spaniard says:

          Thanks, I appreciate the show of goodwill.

      2. Doug says:

        Great, now I’ve got In The Evening stuck in my head thanks to this Zeppelin talk. I want to say they are nothing but lowly plagirists but would be disingenuous since they did crap out a handful of replayables and Plant’s first couple solo albums are top notch. Frustrating to be honest but that seems to be how life works. But I never hear them mentioned on this site, presumably since not one single song is even a little bit metal.

        Dude’s comment was way too pumpkin spice latte to have been genuine, probably a joke but you handled it well nonetheless. The “whaa” at the end gave it away because even a pumpkin froot-boi wouldn’t type that unless he was literally retarded.

        Give me the melting pot or give me death! (ha ha)

        1. Zeppelin is good. But as you point out, not metal. I listen to Physical Graffiti on a regular basis, but it’s no second-album Iron Maiden.

          1. Doug says:

            That one and the overlooked followup Presence.

            1. ignominious says:

              “Achilles’ Last Stand” is awesome, but the rest of the album struck me as forgettable and thus easily overlooked.

              1. Doug says:

                Yeah, the album wouldn’t be worth mention if not for that epic opener, but its inclusion kind of buoys the second tier songs like the monotonous For Your Life which develops nicely if you make it through the first couple verses. Candy Store is the only real stinker in my view, but anyway please don’t classify me as a Zephead, outside of the two albums mentioned there’s maybe 3 other songs I spin a couple times a year (Out On The Tiles brings back memories and also the two Spaniard mentioned). And as is often the case, I may be stuck on an island here!

        2. Spaniard says:

          I empathize with you on Zeppelin; when I was an adolescent stoner, one of my buds introduced me to them while we were getting baked. Immigrant Song and No Quarter still hit me in the feels to this day. No shame in digging SOME of their material.
          I appreciate the reply; anyone brave enough to venture into the melting pot is worthy of admission to Valhalla. Salute!

    3. Fckk Godl says:

      You mean the guy who wrote “Norsk Arisk Black Metal” on his albums (lol)

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