Why Thurston Moore is right about black metal


Most people believe that “trolling” happens on the internet and that trolls are a group like organized crime. Instead trolling is a method and trolls are any who troll, such as when Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore trolled black metal fans recently.

Having been around media and rock fans alike — two groups heavily invested in the pretense of self-styled self-image — Moore spotted a good mark for a brutal troll when he saw one. Thus with an offhanded comment, he lit the rage-fires of ten thousand fedora-blessed basements.

Black Metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order, and we felt it was necessary to investigate this aberrant anti-music behavior. We feel like the sound and attitude of black metal is a loss of self, life, light and desire in a way where it becomes so negative that a whole new bliss arrives where we become super pussy.

The guitarist elaborated later:

Black metal, it doesn’t even consider itself music. In fact, it doesn’t want to be confused with any kind of music because it’s something else entirely. It’s a voided concept from its start [laughs]. It’s all about complete disintegration of existence. It’s a music that uses the elements of rock instrumentation but it’s so anti-everything that, for me, it doesn’t matter what you say about it because it doesn’t exist. I figured I would just write something ridiculous about it. And boy, did black-metal devotees get really upset by it. You’re not supposed to be alive, so why are you getting upset?

We know that his first statement is a troll because it was the only statement included in the press release, and more importantly, it makes us of a dual meaning in the term “pussy” to wind up the angry denizens of vans down by the river. Moore has been around the alternative rock scene too long to be anything but scrupulously politically correct, so it is dubious he would ever use the term “pussy” in a sexist manner, but that does not prohibit him from playing off the common usage of the term in the metal community to mean (roughly) wimp or weenie.

It seems to me that Moore is having a bit of fun with the term and is distilling it back to its more Victorian usage where it refers to housecats as distinctive from street cats. Meaning that black metal fans are sleek, well-fed, pampered and most likely neutered. Domesticated. Not a threat to anything, probably not even mice, despite the face paint.

Black metal deserves this attack in 2014. From 1989-1994, the genre thrived amidst murder, politically incorrect statements and church arsons, but also some really excellent music. Since that time, much like modern Western civilization, black metal has been cruising on the wealth of the past. With a few exceptions like Demoncy, Beherit and Sammath black metal has fallen so far short of its historical peak that it resembles a collapsed civilization. Among the ruins of an ancient past of greatness, the remnants of a broken social experiment play and achieve nothing of any importance, but when challenged in a pub, they are quick to remind us all that they were Romans, once.

The usual crowd of poseur wannabes at the FMP and NWN forums have been cruising on the reputation of black metal for two decades now. They act like the worst street toughs ever and remind us that not only were they Romans, but once they burned churches and murdered people. However, they are most likely to come home from their jobs as Facebook consultants and hang around their loft apartments drinking craft beer and arguing over the minutiae of which indistinguishably bland “black metal” band has more “atmosphere” than the others, when in fact all post-1994 black metal sounds the same because none of it is written about anything. It is all variants on an aesthetic, and nothing more. The guts of it are gone; it has abolished itself.

Black metal was born as a reaction — both to and against death metal, which was experiencing a rare period of commercial success in the early ’90s — and thus, it had a rigid definition before it even had a body….Euronymous’s Helvete was to Norwegian black metal what MacDougal Street was to the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene, and his views were considered gospel. Death metal was “trendy” and “fun,” said Euronymous; well, black metal rejected trends and fun…For Euronymous, the primary essential element for music to be defined as “black metal” was Satanism. “If a band cultivates and worships Satan, it’s black metal,” he said. “What’s important is that it’s Satanic; that’s what makes it black metal.”

Moore keyed into this pointlessness. When a genre can easily merge with indie rock and heroin and form a “supergroup” like Twilight, and when droning nobodies like Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room are accepted as normal parts of the genre, it is dead and buried. It has lost its sense of “genre,” or having artistic purpose, and now is just another shade of wallpaper in which we can drape the usual thoughtless rock music so that it can be sold to a new generation of domesticated rebels.

Black metal had relevance when it was a movement of artists who felt Western civilization had gone down a bad path and had a suggestion of how to reform it: remove its morality of protecting the individual, which translated into protecting the vast herd of anonymous people who fear that someone might wake up and discover that all of society built on morality is a shame. It rejected all that was “good,” and embraced all that was functional yet “bad,” building on 300 years of Romanticism which encouraged the same. As an artistic movement, it had purpose, which meant that not everyone could participate. As soon as they could, the Hot Topic generation seized hold of this music and turned it into a neutered, tame and compliant version of itself so that it would not offend their personal pretense or make them actually controversial, although they gladly accepted the appearance of the same.

As guitarist for Sonic Youth, Moore knows this well. He made his career by dressing up the dissonant protest rock of the 1960s in the veil of distortion inspired by the Ramones, and essentially carries on every trait of the most-played out decade of music ever in a new form. Like a salesman, he finds a way to make you buy the same ugly vacuum cleaner in a new color because now it has a gizmo that winds up the cord faster. But he also knows music, and he is right to bash black metal. It is a pussycat, fat and perched on a luxuriant sofa, which hisses and holds out a trembling claw as we approach, reminding us that it was a tiger, once.

h/t I.O. Kirkwood / Metal Descent

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70 thoughts on “Why Thurston Moore is right about black metal”

  1. N. says:

    Cool, next time you should feature what Bono Vox has to say about Celtic Frost or Emperor.

    1. If they say something relevant, we gladly will. Bloody unlikely however.

      1. N. says:

        What I wanted to say – this character who very much represents everything I consider as pussy will probably every time choose any post-black/emo/shoegaze over Transylvanian Hunger so quoting him seems like shooting your own foot.

        1. He’s a rock musician; what else would he do but pick that which most resembles rock? In this case, however, he’s right about black metal.

          1. Cortez says:

            Although he is right about post 1994 black metal, I don’t think it is overly insightful. Although he doesn’t differentiate between time periods in black metal’s history. Commentslike this about 1984-1994 black metal would be mostly wrong, not to mention hypocritical looking at the music he fraternizes with.

  2. MZE says:

    I bet Thurston Moore at least knows the correct spelling of “Transilvanian Hunger”. Quick, you better seek medical attention for that bullet wound or you may never walk again.

  3. melodramaticaust says:

    Thurston Moore practically invented the modern black metal style, laying the groundwork for the conceptual foundation of many “greats” like Leviathan and Nachtmystium. Just check out this track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J8VYH_xrGc

  4. Poofledoodle says:

    When preening over-the-hill alt rock brats EMBRACE metal, that’s a sign it’s getting too safe and complacent. I’d thank him for heating up the kettle a little if I didn’t basically want black metal to die by now.

  5. Jim Nelson says:

    hey did you guys hear, someone said something about something. to be fair, Thurston is right. but I will say this: black metal has already said what needs to be said. it’s all there. it did what it needed to do. it was awesome, it was great. nothing can taint the legacy. when you reach the pinnacle, the apex, you don’t explain, you don’t justify, you don’t apologize. black metal is superior and that’s that.

  6. The sonic youth fag is relevant to metl like a fish needs a bicycle. His best years were spent pretending he was still 17 and kim gordon was the butch hasidic milf next door. Gen x brn outs love sonic yoot bcuz it sounds like drinking box wine while you live in your parentz attic bcuz your 13th internet startup caved like a catholic girl considering anal after 4 margaritas.

    1. Jim Nelson says:

      keep being subversive dude

  7. Anthony says:

    Sounds more like sour grapes over the failure of Twilight than any actual attempt at intelligence to me.

  8. 1349 says:

    They act like the worst street toughs ever and remind us that not only were they Romans, but once they burned churches and murdered people.

    The guts of it are gone; it has abolished itself.

    This site mostly talks about the past. Genres that died and have no chance to be reborn.
    It’s already 20 (TWENTY) years, a whole generation, since the death of the last (?) movement worthy of attention.
    But can it really be that no one has gad guts since then?
    WP/nazi heavy music is lowbrow, but maybe not ALL of it is?
    Also, maybe there is music of the New Right/traditionalist scene that wouldn’t make you retch (“martial”, “martial industrial” or whatever they call themselves)?

    1. 1349 says:

      * has had guts

  9. Madhu says:

    I think you’re slightly off the mark about what Thurston Moore meant. I’m pretty sure he was just expressing the commonly held view of black metal that dominates in America (as opposed to Europe), which is that black metal is fundamentally about feeling bad. American black metal (with notable exceptions) has always had this nihilistic, self-loathing, emo-like quality (Xasthur, Leviathan, and certainly garbage like Twilight). Where European black metal was negative but also creative, imaginative, and romantic in nature, American black metal has just been a grafting of European musical stylistics onto punk-rock junkie “I hate myself and everything else” bullshit.

    Unfortunately, when metal outsiders address black metal, they address the latter tendency, because it is more visible and easy to understand.

    @ Mr. Stevens – instead of joining with Thurston Moore in shitting on modern black metal, I think you could better serve this artform by doing what you’ve always done best: celebrate the true spirit of black/death metal, even if it means repeating yourself and going back to the classics. At this point, there’s a generation or two of people who missed that whole phenomenon.

    1. Anthony says:

      “American black metal (with notable exceptions) has always had this nihilistic, self-loathing, emo-like quality (Xasthur, Leviathan, and certainly garbage like Twilight).”
      Cart before horse. Using words like “always” to refer to a phenomenon that didn’t really start until the early ’00s. Havohej, Demoncy, Yamatu, Absu, Inquisition, Krieg, and I Shalt Become all wrote great stuff, and some of them are still writing great world-class stuff. They aren’t “notable exceptions,” they pre-dated the suicidal black metal trend, established black metal in America, and they were/are all certainly “negative but also creative, imaginative, and romantic in nature.”

      This phenomenon of Europeans patting themselves on the back and slagging off American bands while simultaneously sweeping all of the bullshit that European metal brought to the scene of their own accord (death’n’roll, spastic happy folk metal, beauty-and-the-beast gothic crap, and yes, suicidal black metal, which got its start in Europe before the deluge of California one-man-bands) smacks of jealousy and an inferiority complex, neither of which have a place in “the true spirit of black/death metal.”

  10. chris says:

    The bottom line is Moore might as well be dumping on his own fans because if black metal didn’t exist, the majority of post ’94 fans would be listening to Sonic Youth. He doesn’t understand that the current bm image is foreign to underground metal.

  11. vatha says:

    Thurston may be a twat, but Daydream Nation (the candle album) is still better than any post-2000 black metal. I do believe that’s a fair comparison.

    1. BrennendesGehirn says:

      Only the best black metal (the best of any metal really) deserves to be mentioned alongside the best Sonic Youth (ie up to Daydream Nation), in my less than humble opinion. Daydream Nation is a reasonable comparison, but in many ways Confusion Is Sex/Kill Yr Idols (1983) is their most black metal-like work – I’m thinking in terms of a certain similarity regarding the atmosphere, lo-fi aesthetic etc.

      The passage from 00:10 to 00:53 on The Sun No Longer Rises by Immortal always reminded me of Daydream era SY. NOT claiming any influence upon Immortal, mind you.

  12. tiny midget says:

    the problem with black metal is that it was too demanding both spiritually and emotionally, like a developing fetus that drains the womb too fast and kills it, reciprocally signing its own death sentence. and fags everywhere didnt help either.

  13. Matters says:

    For the longest time I thought that this guy and Beck were the same person!

  14. Jae-yun Kim says:

    Somewhat off-topic, but is Goatcraft’s newest, William Blake-inspired album (The Blasphemer) any good? I see that DMU hasn’t mentioned it.

    1. Anthony says:

      William Black is THE man. Thanks for bringing this album to my attention. I’ll check it out.

    2. Flom says:

      Goatcraft is bad.

    3. trystero says:

      It is quite good, significant improvement over All for Naught. More interesting are the newer tracks which are not on any release yet but made available on youtube. Check out particularly; White Sun, Tomb of gravity and Mortality is Inevitable

      1. Jae-yun Kim says:

        Thank you for your input. I’ve listened to All for Naught many times and am quite impressed with it. I ordered a copy of The Blasphemer the other day.

  15. West says:

    If a genre ossifies and becomes stagnant, it isn’t because WITTR found popular traction among fans, but because the genre itself never carried within it anything strong to make it last. Everything that dies carries the seed of its death within its life. All the faults of the genre, everything it is criticized for, was present from the very beginning. What is bad about it now was always bad about it.

    1. admortemfestinamus says:

      Anything that ain’t perfect won’t be able to remain in its prime forever? Can’t argue with that.

  16. abcd-anonymous says:

    The person talking about all mortal/non-eternal things containing the seed for their own endings spoke my mind.

    And honestly, I like that metal is dead. All “revolution/solution for human life issues” proposals based on extremely narrow/imediatist views (by changing/destroying the world!) should be criminalized when proposed by people with means (power) to bring them about and completely ignored when yelled by angry/bored and naive teenagers with guitars (regardless of which genre they play).

    1. trystero says:

      Sorry are you talking about metal music or punk? In any case, the feeble parody of metal that borrows from the views in your post is alive and well (if not vital).

  17. beyondtheblack says:

    Frost of Satyricon on the matter…:)

    “I think what most musicians experience is that sooner or later they want to find the roots, to explore them and understand how things have gotten to be. Then of course you start to find a fascination with the founding fathers of the genres that eventually gave birth to your own genre. AC/DC were and still are masters of really groovy, boogie rock’n’roll music, and to integrate some of that groove and dirty rock’n’roll feeling into your own music, that’s actually enriching.
    Some people find that rock’n’roll-based music is by definition lacking aggression or not dark or whatever, which I think is a great misconception in metal music.

    I think that so many people have misunderstood what black metal is all about. It seems to me that many people are lacking a sense of history, lacking an understanding of where it comes from, what are its musical roots, and what is really the essence of the genre.

    In Satyricon we listen to some really old blues music that has religious lyrics, and there’s this strong dark Christian aura that hangs heavily on those artists, and we enjoy that a lot. And it has that kind of character that somehow makes sense; even if we don’t like the religious aspect in itself, it makes sense as a part of the totality. Satyr likes some old blues, and he has played some to me. I can listen to it, I like the intensity, but personally it’s not my thing. That’s more of a Satyr direction. I’m not going that far back in time, but I go back to hard rock. These roots are part of the historic evidence every musician should be aware of. Sooner or later you it will surely lead to the blues, you could pull it as far back in time. But my own roots are primarily in the 80s and hard rock.

    Black metal is a music genre that’s creative itself, it’s very open; it’s not really defined by strictly musical technical characteristics, it’s defined by the atmosphere, the moods, the vibes. And basically, that gives a certain freedom to musicians of our genre. You could mix in lots of elements. Of course, for it to be black metal, there should be dominant metal elements, but apart from that you are very free to bring in elements from all different sorts of music, bring in unconventional instruments, and you could go as far as making purely electronic or drone-based music and still call it black metal, because it still adds to metal and evidently it comes from there.

    I think it has to be understood that the genre was born by really creative, innovative artists, and those brought a lot of avant-garde elements into it, and created black metal as a musical arena for very dark ambiance but also for lots of creativity in a musical genre that’s defined by its moods and atmosphere rather than strictly technical musical definitions. You can base the music on thrash metal or death metal or heavy metal or rock’n’roll or whatever, and it can still belong to the same genre. The focus point has to be the atmosphere that it brings, and that gives a certain freedom.

    But there’s also a trap there, and I think too many people have been falling into the trap; they think they want to do this black metal thing, and all they manage to focus on, is the imagery and superficial elements, not really the core elements of the genre. What was mainly there to create contrast, suddenly becomes main ingredients – melodies, harmonies, female vocals, synthesizers, orchestral arrangements and all that kind of thing that isn’t really core elements of the genre. It was brought to create contrast, only because there was room for it.”

    1. trystero says:

      Strong point by Frost which are basically my own views when it comes to the origin of black metal (a scene of extremely creative individuals). Too bad about Satyricon etc.

      1. beyondtheblack says:

        “A scene of extremely creative individuals”, as opposed to anyone else in metal/rock/music, I imagine?…

        1. trystero says:

          No, the same as it.

    2. Richard Head says:

      “Blah blah blah, I like Christian music, rock n rool is cool man, etc.”

      Then he continues to describe Satyricon in the last paragraph.

      1. beyondtheblack says:

        His whole “point” is full of incoherencies and nonsense. Most puzzling, “you are very free to bring in elements from all different sorts of music, bring in unconventional instruments, and you could go as far as making purely electronic or drone-based music and still call it black metal, because it still adds to metal and evidently it comes from there.”- how?

        1. Richard Head says:

          He’s trying to justify his bad music. That’s all. See this? It’s the world’s smallest violin. (That’s why you can’t see it. It’s *that* small.)

        2. trystero says:

          Like Beherit. Try to see the guy`s point rather than the clumsiness of its articulation or the irony of him stating it at all.

          1. beyondtheblack says:

            Frost is a fascinatingly organic drummer; imo Satyricon’s 1999 through to 2008 are among the best examples of modern metal. He’s not the most articulate one (still, among the most articulate in metal); he’s overwhelmed by instinct and intuition, why not a certain poetry.

            “‘A new enemy’ is a song that switches a few buttons in me. There is this magical energy that gives me this chill. I can’t really explain what does it. It has energies in it in. The darkness shall be forever, the beautiful darkness. I like it a lot.”

            1. Richard Head says:

              Sounds like one of the typical 17-year-old screamo fags who infested my city in 2002. (Frost’s quote, not your post.)

  18. Kedley says:

    The history of current metal, and the rise of hipster metal. An attempt to understand some of current metal scenes, see historically how hipsters and doom, stoner, black and extreme metal have crossed over, what is it to make new metal music, how other metal genres and scenes have developed in the last decades, and the downside of living in the retro-centric world of post tumblr metal.

    Beware, it is a book. It will take you a long time to read through it.

    Any thoughts on this debate?


  19. Beers for Tears says:

    Taken from scaruffi.com

    World War II caused a complete collapse of artistic values
    An aesthetic of shock was born: art as a shock against the traditional taboos and prevailing aesthetic codes
    Artistic innovation still consists in finding ever new ways to challenge aesthetic, social, political and religious dogmas
    The more controversy the more creative the artist
    The anxiety of the Cold War gave a tragic mood to much of this program

    Art in the 1990s benefited from the end of the Cold War in that the tragic mood increasingly became a comic mood
    Art became “play”, a way to make people smile and laugh
    Art became entertainment for a society much less preoccupied with its own survival and with a short attention span

    Based on this , there is a logic why the
    Journey which started from sabbath–> thrash/speed — death
    And finally black ended in 94…

    1. beyondtheblack says:

      Ozzy is as metal as my kitty. The quintessential “metal” band, originators of the genre in terms of sound and imagery, are Judas Priest. If we shall talk of Sabbath as “metal”, then I’d go and argue that many a blues artist are “more metal”.

      1. The FAQ refers to them as proto-metal.

        1. beyondtheblack says:

          Isn’t “metal” simply a metaphor, and isn’t steel guitar essentially metal…

          I do wonder to what extent we could seriously speak of “heavy metal” as a genre. But if we can, I’d have to inquire about the technicalities involved in “proto-metal”. I’d assume it isn’t just “moods and atmosphere”.:)

          1. All is metaphor/spirit at some level. However, all music is the same language; genres adopt certain conventions, much like a sonnet is poetry in short form with 12-14 lines rhyming in certain schemes. Most of us are unwilling to define metal more than that because it allows for validation of imitation while missing what makes the genre what it is. Further, it makes little sense to limit the creativity of the musicians in the genre.

            1. beyondtheblack says:

              I do wonder about these conventions. Since it all derives from the blues, and “rock’n’roll” is more an attitude than genre, I might be safe to express my feeling that Fred McDowell or Blind Willie Johnson are far more “crushing”, and indeed metal, than… you name it. I suppose metal is very loud blues-based music. Then I’m more intrigued as to what “proto-metal” entails.

              1. Read the FAQ for the answers to all that and more :)

                1. beyondtheblack says:

                  I will read your exposé with interest. I hadn’t yet encountered a serious study on metal. I admit I haven’t really looked, since I take all the labeling and “terminology” skeptically. For example, the so-called “death grunt”(?!), which is claimed to have influenced the whole development of “extreme metal”, is but an exclamation, trademark of Paul Di’anno, later adopted by another vocalist.
                  As to “metalism” itself, if I follow the metaphor, a unique metal quality must be the sharpness of phrase. In terms of spirit, metal must be expression taken to the extreme; a cutting through incarnation. Furthermore, if to be taken seriously, art must be self-conscious. I would term “proto” any form not yet crystalized in the potency toward its expressive ideal. There’s a certin magic in the obscure amalgam which is early metal, and which black metal takes as its manifesto; still I find it difficult to think of an “innovation” in that regard past Maiden’s Killers.
                  If metal is extreme expression per se, and by necessity personal expression, my ideal is Rob Halford polishing the phrase to a sword of perfection, filling it with instinctually-driven motivation, urging and finding its legitimisation. If metal should express the darkest sides of the psyche, these sides are either sexuality or psychopathology; what I miss in most metal acts, is honesty in that respect. Regrettably, Priest themselves have retired into “Dragonaunt” (?) chants instead of far realler “Jawbreakers”.;)
                  Pardon my ramblings… What I mean to say, is that 1) metal should be by definition cathartic, and 2) instead, the powerful psychic energies it works with, rarely reach an artistic aim or psychological surface, instead melting into a misconcept of sublimation which defies the very idea of metal as individualism and counter-culture, and should be best researched by crowd psychology. It was awesome that raw libido found its expression in such complete artistic form to encompass music, lyrics and image (the predominant “metal” image adopting gay bdsm), but that quickly digressed into the inability to transform and emancipate severe artistic expression into a social “norm” within the subculture.
                  Of course, there are exceptions; and since I quited Frost above, Satyricon’s discography is a prime example of ingenuity and individual artistic freedom. Sadly, that has ceased in their last release, Satyr lying back on “atmosphere and spirit”, to pronounce his bleak release “genuine black metal”…

                2. beyondtheblack says:

                  I just began reading through your analyses; while admiring your musical knowledge, may I note that you seem to place the emphasis on “heavy”, rather than “metal” in the metaphoric expression, which could be justified if we take “heavy metal” as a phrase or idiom; but further in the development of the genre, the adjectives black, death etc., modify the noun which has come to itself represent the genre; furthermore, I doubt that most black-metallers, doom-metallers etc., would consent to being a subdivision of “heavy metal” (and your article, too, notes the emancipation of subgenres from the generic term). The music is essentially “metalic”, but metal needn’t be heavy; furthermore, in a subjective perception funk, or Mozart’s Giovanni, or whatever you may, could be heavier. I’ve no idea why I insist on “metalness”; I suppose I’m looking for the genre’s definitive substantia. I am tempted to name Twisted Sister “metal”, but they’re not – they’re heavy dirty rock which blows black metal into nothingness.
                  It would be interesting to nail the very moment when heavy rock becomes heavy metal. The latter is so much more interesting in the dialectical tension of gravity and expansion.

                  1. Metalness arises from heavy, in my view. Heavy is the contrarian viewpoint to the egoistic karmic drama that makes up all other popular genres except punk (with a few exceptions). From that comes metalness, which is a kind of realism/mythology balance. Tolkien, Stoker, Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, William Blake, Michel Houellebecq, Ferd Celine and Nietzsche come to mind here.

                    1. Jae-yun Kim says:

                      Heavy is the contrarian viewpoint to the egoistic karmic drama that makes up all other popular genres except punk (with a few exceptions).

                      So “heavy” is, if I understand correctly, more metaphorical than literal, having more to do with the ideas rather than the guitar tone, or even the instrumentation itself. This brings up a question: how would you regard a Christian “black metal” band that had brilliant compositions but incongruous ideas on the lyric sheets?

                      Tolkien, Stoker, Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, William Blake, Michel Houellebecq, Ferd Celine and Nietzsche come to mind here.

                      How about P. B. Shelley, Mary Shelley’s husband? Would he qualify as being metal?

                    2. beyondtheblack says:

                      You seem to have your very own concept of the genre, which sure is puzzling to me. No idea what “egoistic karmic drama” is and why heavy is its counterpoint, but my idea of heavy is funk, and that sure can be egotistic.:) I also fail to see a connection between Nietsche who is the grounbreaking philosopher of the 19th century and inspiration for Heidegger, and the Romantic/occult/fantasy writers you mention.
                      I try to derive the meaning of “metal” from the word itself: it sure is something heavy, perhaps hard, and sharp. It translates to me in being uncompromising in one’s own artistic and personal expression. Egotism is no harm here, but fantasy is. I look at extreme music at the outlet for the dark energies of the human psyche. If one prefers to chant of the ‘occult’, rather then their own problem which ispired the music (most likely, being bipolar), I guess that’s alright, but it’s pointless and delusional. Iron Maiden with their literary plots are pointless. That isn’t metal to me. Metal is delving deep into personal and social issues, and bringing out these energies – why else the urgency?… Of course, metaphor has its strong place here, as long as the common delusion does not occur of being unable to separate life and art. Try to ask a metal artist about the ‘occult’ – in most cases it’s a facade. I questioned a fancy post-blackmetal act about Nietzsche: I’m sure the guy didn’t know the last thing about philosophy. It’s all a pose, it’s all about being fashionable and accepted; metal has become an empty baloon. I just don’t see the Schuldiners of today. There is lots of good music, Enslaved comes to mind, but it’s sheer aesthetic pleasure, as if I listen to Kansas or Weather Report, only harder. Yes, harder.:)

                    3. beyondtheblack says:

                      Commenting after Jae-yun Kim… Yes, I also thought of “white metal”, or Christian metal bands when expressing there may well be lightness to metal. There’s a whole branch of metal aesthetics praising an utopian future.

                      I was incorrect, of course, in disagreeing on a parallel between Nietzsche and the Romantics (all of them, Mary’s husband being a prime example of the ideology). I simply referred to form; Nietzsche transcends poetry to propose a systematic metaphysics of Will: human will taking the place of a dethroned God, of whom there’s still a screaming need, causing the tragedy of the Romantics.

                    4. Jae-yun Kim says:

                      There’s a whole branch of metal aesthetics praising an utopian future.

                      Interesting. That brings to mind Cynic’s song “Sentiment” from their album Focus:

                      Cosmic mother awaken us in
                      Thine impartial love for all
                      Bless us that we be free from
                      The sway of greed and delusion
                      Inspire us to build a new world
                      One in which famine, disease and ignorance
                      Will be only memories of a dismal past

                      The lyrics are apparently borrowed from a prayer by the Hindu/Christian mystic Paramahansa Yogananda.

                3. Jae-yun Kim says:

                  Iron Maiden with their literary plots are pointless.

                  That’s an interesting view. I’m not overly familiar with Iron Maiden, but I’m aware of the numerous mythological themes in their music (Icarus, the Phantom of the Opera, horror films, etc.), and I’d say that that’s well in line with DMU’s conception of Metal as being informed primarily by imagination than mundane realities. Think epic poems (see Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss), rather than news stories. Consider this passage from “Speed metal: the choice of royals”:

                  … When Metallica were writing songs about Cthulhu, they were interesting; when they turned to social topics, they got less so. Similarly Slayer was awesome when writing about Satan and vampires but faded out when they started writing about serial killers and politics. (All of Anthrax’s best material is about comic books, and Megadeth is best when either full-on into drugs or full-on into Christ.)

                  Aside from the Heavy Metal FAQ, I think you’ll find the following DMU articles pertinent (as well as edifying):

                  “What is heavy metal?”
                  “The Mythology of Death Metal”
                  “The Mythology of Black Metal”
                  “The Mythology of Black Metal”

                  1. beyondtheblack says:

                    Very interesting points.

                    If that is so, it falls into direct contradiction with what one of the proclaimed pillars of extreme metal, and metalness per se (especially in the sense of “heaviness”), the “forefather” Tom ‘Warrior’, has to say.

                    “Abort magazine, Issue 16
                    ABORT: You’ve authored a book, and you’re well on record for your writing style when keeping fans up to speed – with that in mind, what have you been taking in for reading lately?
                    TW: Um… Airplane magazines?
                    ABORT: No novels?
                    TW: I hate novels, and I never read fiction. I’m into fact only. Why would I waste the little time I have on this planet with reading fiction when this world is filled with a gazillion amazing stories from reality? The world is filled with drama and events, and my lifetime is not enough to learn even a fraction of this. Why would I read fiction? I mean,
                    if you read about Babylonian times, or the Roman Empire, the things that happened there are so dramatic, no fiction author can even match that.
                    ABORT: How about you guys?
                    Vanja: I’ve been reading Salinger.
                    Others: …..
                    TW: I’m so proud of my band.

                    Further on, in a number of interviews he distances himself from history, saying that, due to his lack of experience, in the past he had to resort to experiences not of his own, but nowadays his art is “deeply personal”; moreover, there should be no distance between life and art, and the ability for musical creation, fueled by “honesty”, turns out to provide the very reason and means to exist. “The honest emotion of a human being” is recognized by him as the only authentic impetus for heavy music in general. To paraphrase, today’s heavy music is in profound stagnation, and its motives (primarily financial) are non-authentic.

                    “In order to escape the realities of my youth I began escaping into books, history, and music and art. And all of these things became a form of a sanctuary from reality. Eventually it became music that was the most important sanctuary for me. I began having the dream to play music myself.”
                    “The reason I am still here is because my girlfriend pleaded with me not to take my own life. Once I came to terms that I would remain here, I knew I would complete the album. I’m not part of Metallica—I’m not going to go to a psychiatrist and pay an insane amount of money for some guy who doesn’t know me to tell me wisecracks. My own therapy was to write music and lyrics.”
                    “History was very often shaped by authoritarian political or religious systems, such as the Babylonians or the Romans or the National Socialists, or Mao in China or Stalin in Russia.”
                    “I gave up on watching heavy music a long time ago. I really don’t give a shit about the state of heavy music nowadays. I’m not really a friend of being conservative in art, and I’m not really a friend of repetition. I’m not really a friend of people copying themselves and others. By necessity I’ve given up assessing or following the scene I’m part of.”

                    This below is quite curious, given the topic of black metal.

                    “ABORT: Eparistera Daimones has an exceptionally satanic bent to the lyrical content…
                    TW: No it doesn’t. That’s fucking bullshit.
                    ABORT: …SEEMINGLY more so than prior offerings. Is this indicative of…
                    TW:Name one. Name one track, before I answer this question. That’s fucking bullshit. Name ONE fucking satanic aspect on this album.
                    ABORT:- Aren’t the opening lyrics to Goetia satanic?
                    TW: No, they’re not. The song is completely against religion, in any kind of form, whether it’s positive Christian or satanic or whatever you have, Islamic… It’s a song that makes fun of the pathetic human need for religion. Read the lyrics- they’re so pathetically sarcastic. You really think I would go out onstage every night saying ‘Satan, father, savior’? How helpless would I be?”

                    Point taken. One of the biggest authorities in metal says that metal should be against history, against mythologisation, stranger to fantasy and fiction, and should be, in its authentic stance, an outlet for (in his case) traumatic idividual, intimate experiences.
                    If we delve further, here’s what happens, however.

                    “The brotherhood in metal is much stronger than any Christian brotherhood – because it’s a real brotherhood. Being a metal fan you’re automatically at the edge of society, you’re being sidelined by society, and that alone forges you together with others. We don’t just go to Church to fit in – our lives, philosophies are committed to metal, we fight for it and our brotherhood is stronger than any religion.”
                    “- What is the difference between Tom G Fischer and Tom G Warrior?
                    There is no longer a difference. When I was much much younger, I wasn’t as self-confident and life-experienced as I am now, and in Hellhammer I tried to come over a little bit stronger with my stage name – but over the last 30 years I think I pretty much grew into that stage name through all the things that have happened in my life. I don’t think there’s a difference anymore. I’m very much Tom Warrior.”
                    “Lots of people have been attracted to me because they see me on stage, they see something unusual, and then they form a relationship with me and think that Warrior was an act. They are around me, and they realize I am not acting – I AM Tom Warrior.”

                    A white-male, militant mythology has been dominating metal. Authentic creative energy is perverted into extrinsic, “socially acceptable” channels. The unique quality of music as an art form, that of direct impact and diminishing the distance between both artist and creation, and creation and recipient, is being abused.
                    If we look for the connotations of rock’n’roll, where heavy music derives, it is obviously an euphemism for sexual experience. Without wishing to repeat myself, it is apparent to me this type of music is directly driven by the dictates of libido, of Eros and Thanatos. Hence my fondness for Judas Priest: they took sexual liberation to a whole new level. THIS is, in my opinion, what heavy metal should ideally express. Naturally, libidinal energy could be transformed into intellectual or spiritual one, but that process should come with awareness, and the motivation – naturally.
                    If libido is unresolved, it could of course express the torments and dysfunctions caused by early trauma as laid out by Fischer – as long as sublimation into militancy, or myth, or fantasy, is avoided. (There’s a marvelous film, Mysterious Skin, that comes to mind.) There’s no such thing as a “metal brotherhood” just as there is no God, or Odin, or possible romantisation of war. Myth should be something “handy” to art, its poetic material, rather than ideology used for social and personal identification.

                    Greg Puciato: “I really think masculinity insecurity issues are the problem, and listening to testosterone-charged music and putting on a tough-guy front enables the people with those issues to live in a sort of constructed ‘man suit,’ helping them to feel more adequate in their gender/sex role confusion. It masks the fact that they probably need therapy to deal with whatever went wrong in their transition from boyhood to manhood. Combine that with lack of education and culture, and there you have it.”

                    Iron Maiden is a band that still largely appeals to adolescents. I myself grew up with them, and it made me learn some English, as well acquaint myself with Samuel Coleridge, Robert Heinlein, ancient history, classic film, and whatever their music entailed (indeed, their lyrics, at least untill 88 when I stopped being interesed in the band, are mostly based on what the members last saw/read).
                    But this is immature, Fischer said. He even went on to denounce Hellhammer as part of that “fantasy-fueled” period in his life – and has recently reinstalled it into some sort of a “cult” thing. (Joke aside, I’m waiting for the rehabilitation of Cold Lake.)
                    So, there’s no reason metal should be a stranger to poetry. There’s a difference between the impetus to transform reality by employing mythological or spiritual narratives, and Utopia.
                    In regard with the quoted Cynic lyrics, imperatives are commonplace in metal in this sense of an appeal to a higher force.
                    “Give me the sense to wonder / To wonder if I’m free / Give me a sense of wonder / To know I can be me” (Maiden)
                    “Doors open wide/ Step into the light/ No turning back/ Embrace the night/ Breathe eternities/ We are not alone/ Never to return/ Merge with the unknown” (Enslaved)
                    In contrast, see Helloween, where personal effort seems to be spared in the promise of a Future:
                    “One day you’ll live in happiness
                    With a heart that’s full of joy
                    You’ll say the word “tomorrow” without fear
                    The feeling of togetherness will I be at your side
                    You’ll say you love your life and you’ll know why
                    ‘Cause we all live in future world
                    A world that’s full of love
                    Our future life will be glorious
                    Come with me future world”
                    (The final imperative here is not toward an individual, but Utopia itself?)

                    Outside that crucial distinction, all the above refer to a hopeful future. It is bright, it is light, it is far from heavy, and it is metal.

                    What may be a personal interst for me to explore, is the use of idioms in Judas Priest’s (and perhaps other band’s) lyrics – I wonder whether metal tends to overuse these. The lyrical elaboration on the concise meaning of an idiom is fascinating.
                    The fantastical and utopian references are largely used to appeal to a young audience, like in the quoted Helloween lyrics:
                    “If you’re out there all alone
                    And you don’t know where to go to
                    Come and take a trip with me
                    To Future World”

                    As the artists and audience have matured, however, I feel so should the genre. I don’t see many examples of that happening, or much evidence of reflection, which was so characteristic of the lyrics by Death.

                    So, no, I don’t think news stream should be metal’s own field. If we want to be true to metal (or if there ever has been something truly definitive of metal), I feel it should be brutal self-reflection, channeled into the adequate expression. The social field was never metal’s primary domain, like it was for punk – perhaps we can draw the disctinction line there between these cognate genres. But metal shouldn’t be fantasy, either (where Maiden profitably digressed from their punk roots). Introspection is a tough thing to do, but that’s why we’re metal.

                    There’s a reason why Halford has been crowned The Metal God, and, to me personally, it is the guts to say:

                    “Grind forbidden morals to a pulp inside your mouth
                    Lick the lips of hypocrisy and cleanse remorse and doubt
                    Hang upon a thread of flesh that hooks you to it’s sling
                    Smother abnormality while corrupting everything

                    Your sick perversity is in your sexuality
                    Terrify the young and old
                    They’re grounding up your meat to the bone”

                    1. Jae-yun Kim says:

                      Pity that the comment boxes are not wider ;)

                      But metal shouldn’t be fantasy, either (where Maiden profitably digressed from their punk roots).

                      I guess that depends on what you mean by fantasy. If we’re going by the conventional definition, I’d say that fantasy is an integral aspect of Metal. Recall that major bands like Burzum and Summoning were/are steeped in Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythos. So many other examples abound. Bands with secular themes such as Asphyx, Atheist, Bolt Thrower, Brutal Truth, Carcass, Godflesh, Gorguts, and Skepticism, while great in their own ways, are a minority compared with bands with explicitly mythological themes — Bathory, Beherit, Blaspherian, Cryptopsy, Darkthrone, Demoncy, Emperor, Enslaved, Morbid Angel, Rotting Christ, Sacramentum, and Slayer, to name a few.

                      To my mind, Metal is not, when we get down to it, really about anything. There’s no intrinsic meaning to the sounds comprising the music, any more than there is any intrinsic meaning to the squiggles, lines, and dots we are communicating with. There’s only intended meaning, and that’s the most we can hope to uncover through interpretation, at least as far as objectivity goes. Perceiving anything beyond that is much like seeing faces in clouds or on toasted bread. In other words, finding meaning in that which is meaningless (a phenomenon that historian of science Michael Shermer refers to as “patternicity”), which is an evolutionary adaptation.

                      What, then, was the intended meaning of Metal as a movement? While I have much to learn about this remarkable tradition, the conception I have formed of Metal thus far is, to put it simply, a Pagan revolution against Judeo-Christian monotheism and modernity at large, death metal and black metal being the quintessence of this spirit of rebellion. Hence the preoccupation with Satan (as well as the resulting notoriety) — Satan in this context represents not only the modern anti-religion, but also the glories of ancient Heathendom that Christianity supplanted.

                      As I’ve noted above, there is no intrinsic meaning to Metal, only intended meaning. So to find out the latter, it may be a good bet to follow your example and go straight to the source — the words of the artists themselves. The following could be a good starting point:

                      “Music is for me more like cooking. You cook to get a fine meal which shall tastes brilliant, but I hardly know any cook who wants to spread messages with the food; that’s how it should be with music.

                      “Although I really care about people who listen to my music and write me, and answer each email I get, I don’t see the music as communication between artist and listener because during the song creation process I don’t think about any listeners for a single moment. As explained above, thoughts like that would subconsciously manipulate my music and might turn it into a mainstream direction. I know that lots of people like the music I do where I never care about the taste of the others, so the best way to keep on making music they like is not to care about any other tastes.”

                      –Protector (Summoning), 2008 interview with DMU

                      “I have personally never allowed for any personal ideologies to influence my music or lyrics. For some years German metal media would say BATHORY was glorifying war and the holocaust in the lyrics. This is not true. We were writing about war and the holocaust in the very same way we were writing about all the other things we have written about; incest, the nuclear arms race, the world wars, the environmental issue, female BATHORY fans, serial killers, religion and fuck knows what else. In other words, as facts, not glorifying. I am not religious and have no political ideals, so for myself personally, writing lyrics is just painting with words and creating a scene.”

                      –Quorthon (Bathory), 2002 interview with DMU

                      “Well, I don’t know about art, and I don’t give a shit about art no matter what it is. I’m just doing what comes natural, and I’ve never thought about it as art. The things I do are for me, I’ve never done music for no one but me. Still, I think it’s satisfying to know that the truly dedicated out there find something in what I do.”

                      –Vidar Vaaer (Ildjarn), 2012 interview with DMU

                      “[Hvis lyset tar oss] is about what once was, before the light took us and we rode into the castle of the dream. Into emptiness. It’s something like: beware the Christian light, it will take you away into degeneracy and nothingness. What others call light I call darkness. Seek the darkness and hell and you will find nothing but evolution.”

                      –Varg Vikernes (Burzum)

                      See also:

                      Why I am not a Satanist
                      Black Metal is Art

                    2. Jae-yun Kim says:

                      You can speculate as much as you may about anything. What I’m concerned with, is reality, and the personal communication with an artist.

                      I think I’m concerned with that as well, though simple enjoyment of the music takes priority over analysis, if only because I’m much better at the former than the latter. I try to cut through the subjective to reach the objective, but this is difficult if not impossible, especially if the eliminativist theory of mind is true.

                      Speculation is unavoidable because all language is ambiguous, and music is no exception. Another problem is that some artists may themselves not have a clear idea of what it is they want to communicate, and others may have nothing they want to communicate. Regardless, it can be assured that some people will find “meaning” in their music because they are pattern-perceiving animals by nature. As I’ve noted, humans evolved to find meaning where there is none.

                      What I learned, was that a musical art which allows for much speculation, is pointless. That may not be true of other art forms.

                      Then we have a fundamental disagreement about the “nature” of art. Basically I regard all art as Rorschach inkblots. As far as objectivity goes, the best I could do is discover the actual intentions behind a work – all else consists of my personal experience of it.

                      You keep mentioning Burzum. That Nazi schitzo is hardly qualified to exist, let alone define anything.

                      Varg Vikernes is not exactly a National Socialist, though I suppose it depends on how you’d define the term. As he explains in his article “The Nazi Ghost”:

                      The reason I have been drawn to and occasionally have expressed support for “nazism” is mainly because many of the Norwegian (and German) “nazis” embraced our Pagan religion as our blood-religion and they rejected Judeo-Christianity as Jewish heresy – and they were the first to do so in a long, long time! I have also experienced that most of the people supporting me or what I stand for are so-called “nazis” – while almost everybody else has just condemned me and then boycotted me and everything I have done. What makes me different from the “nazis” are basically three things; unlike them I am not socialistic (not even on a national level), I am not materialistic and I believe in (the ancient Scandinavian!) democracy.

                      So, since I am not a “nazi” I began to use another term, in the late 90ies. I did it not just to avoid confusion, but also to find a term more suitable and accurate than the other terms I had used. This new term was odalism, from Norse óðal (“homeland”, “allodium”, “allodial law”, “nobility”, “noble”, “inherited goods”, “fatherland”, “land property”, “distinguished family”, “distinguished”, “splendid”, “kin” and “the nation”). This term replaces everything positive about all the other -isms I have ever used, and in it lies Paganism, traditional nationalism, racialism and environmentalism. It is not only a more accurate but also a more inclusive term that can be used by all Europeans (and others too for that sake). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is not a term tainted by history.

                      You can decide for yourself, of course.

                      Regardless of his personal beliefs, Mr. Vikernes’s work comprises what is widely considered to be some of the most important – if not the most important – albums in his chosen genre. Debatable, perhaps, but there seems to be no denying that his work has been highly influential, and that is probably an understatement.

                      I don’t listen to metal to defy “Judeo-Christian monotheism”.

                      I could’ve articulated it better; I didn’t mean to simplify it to that extent. Metal does not defy Judeo-Christianity solely for the sake of defying it, but also to point out the realities that the religion distorts or denies altogether: the heartlessness and brutality of nature, the inevitability of death and the fact that immortality is a myth. With the denial of the illusions of Christianity comes the affirmation of the world as is – the world that Christianity obfuscates – warts and all. You might say that Metal is one loud exhortation to embrace the darkness as well as the light.

                      Consider this excerpt from the article “The most blasphemous devil metal”:

                      As many acknowledge, metal is very much the devil’s music. It is obsessed with social rejection, the occult, the power of nature, warfare, death, killing, disease, horror and ancient ways.

                      When you pick up your average heavy metal record, it is the exact opposite of the message of good, which is that we can make a perfect society where raw power doesn’t rule and where everyone is accepted.

                      In the world of metal, all the best laid plans of mice and men go awry in the worst possible ways. There is no perfection to society, or humankind. It is warfare and predation, red in tooth and claw, fighting it out to the end.

                      And everyone has their own reasons for listening to Metal :)

                      is completely manipulative and nonsensical.

                      I’m not sure how it’s manipulative. I wasn’t talking about the fanbase, but rather the proportion of bands in two categories: 1) bands that focus on secular themes and 2) bands that focus on mythological themes.

                      I should’ve made it clear that I was speaking of the *historical* bands that made the genre into what it is. (The classic bands, if you will – though one could argue that there are no classic bands, only classic albums, because unlike albums, bands change, and often for the worse.) I definitely was not referring to the bands as they are today; I’m hardly cognizant of what’s going in the scene these days.

                  2. beyondtheblack says:

                    With regard to this,

                    … When Metallica were writing songs about Cthulhu, they were interesting; when they turned to social topics, they got less so. Similarly Slayer was awesome when writing about Satan and vampires but faded out when they started writing about serial killers and politics. (All of Anthrax’s best material is about comic books, and Megadeth is best when either full-on into drugs or full-on into Christ.),

                    I take the liberty to point you to this recent article:

                    And thanks a bunch for the discussion opportunity and references!

                    1. beyondtheblack says:

                      Well well, Jae-yun Kim

                      You can speculate as much as you may about anything. What I’m concerned with, is reality, and the personal communication with an artist. With blues artists that comes naturally – if you meet Buddy Guy, you’ll see how he communicates himself in two phrases. That’s rock’n’roll.
                      Somehow – I don’t know how – metallers are more “complicated”.
                      I had to actually marry Paul Di’anno in order to know there’s nothing behind. I had to lead an extensive correspondence with ‘Warrior’ to learn the same.
                      What I learned, was that a musical art which allows for much speculation, is pointless. That may not be true of other art forms.
                      There’s nothing much behind metal, and thank goodness. There’s the person who creates.
                      You keep mentioning Burzum. That Nazi schitzo is hardly qualified to exist, let alone define anything.

                      Metal types are not the intellectual types in order to intend much. They don’t. This is not Bowie, this isn’t progressive rock (with few exceptions). These guys have been struggling to find the path to their identity, in a most uncompromising way in this incredibly complex existence.

                      Hence, allow me to assume, for them, for us, that there is an intrinsic meaning to metal.
                      I don’t listen to metal to defy “Judeo-Christian monotheism”. If I deemed so, I would be another rationalising delusional.

                      Lastly, this

                      “Bands with secular themes such as Asphyx, Atheist, Bolt Thrower, Brutal Truth, Carcass, Godflesh, Gorguts, and Skepticism, while great in their own ways, are a minority compared with bands with explicitly mythological themes — Bathory, Beherit, Blaspherian, Cryptopsy, Darkthrone, Demoncy, Emperor, Enslaved, Morbid Angel, Rotting Christ, Sacramentum, and Slayer, to name a few.”

                      is completely manipulative and nonsensical.

                      Bolt Thrower are not a minority – they are one of the few heavy bands today with a steady following – and for a good/great reason. They rock.
                      Darkthrone hardly exist – they’re an oldschool-metal tribute band.
                      Emperor has recently emerged to play a few tired tremolos and make the dosh.
                      Enslaved does not even fall here – they’re in the “progressive” team with Cynic and such (only better).
                      Rotting Christ… well, Sakis has asked me what theme he should think of next, since it had to be… something. He feels extremely tired, but is convinced he should rather die on stage as a “metal warrior”, than quit.

                      It is malicious to generalise.

                    2. There’s nothing much behind metal, and thank goodness.

                      There’s a very clear genre boundary, spirit and philosophy.

                    3. Joaquim says:

                      To be honest some of my favorite Slayer material is from the Seasons/Divine/Diabolus era, specially the first two. Seasons being specially awesome.

    2. trystero says:

      Not bad but it was World War ONE. Two was mostly pent up pressure from the first; which was the real shock.

  20. Sardonic Webmaster says:

    “all post-1994 black metal sounds the same because none of it is written about anything.”

    Just as counter-productive and mildly annoying as what this washed up goof is rambling about. He might as well just have said “You mad bro?”.

  21. Shit 666 says:

    If you squint your eyes just right he looks like the guy from Krieg.

    1. trystero says:

      When you open your eyes, he looks like a twink

  22. Flom says:

    The bad gains respect through imitation
    The good loses it, especially in art

  23. Diego says:

    You’ve forgotten to study (out of the metal topic and profoundly) one of the mean components of Extreme Metal: Hardcore Punk… In fact, much of Heavy Metal (especially “NWOBHM”) took a evident influence from Punk Rock (mostly in a ‘fashion’ way), so the matter grows much bigger if you analyze that Metal is something eclectic (as all genres are in a high percentage), not absolute in essence.

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