Why we call it “indie metal”

The DLA gets a lot of flack for referring to a broad range of genres — stoner doom, post-rock, post-metal, modern death metal, tech death, metalcore, deathcore, and shoegaze black metal — as “indie metal.”

What does “indie metal” mean? It means they’re indie rock that uses metal riffs. That’s it. Metal-flavored indie rock.

Metal is a unique style of composition, a unique outlook on the world, and a unique image/ideology. The composition is narrative, or stringing together phrasal riffs based on the power chord; the outlook on the world is an epic, historical, post-human view; the image/ideology is that of a yin-yang but with masculine creative overtones, meaning that we accept good as well as evil but use them as means to an end of ever-increasing intensity and consequent beauty to life.

(That paragraph will be too much for indie metal fans. They’ll start talking about how “badly written” it is because it’s not awash in adjectives and exciting oddball verbs like an NPR piece. This shows you the audience for indie metal: former farm workers’ kids and factory workers’ kids, moved to the city, now trying to show everyone how smart they are and how cultured they are, even if in their hearts they’re still just proles. They’re trying to be something they are not, instead of just being what they are, which is honest and acceptable. If you are the son of a factory worker, don’t pretend to be an intellectual. Be a better factory worker! If you want to know why our intellectuals these days are faux, it’s because they take prole-logic and prole-bias and then dress it up in academic terms they understand in a single context, but whose implications they cannot grasp. That’s why indie metal kids are always snotty: they’re trying to be better than you, so they can “feel like” they’re rising socially.)

What indie rock wants to do to metal is assimilate it, or convert it into metal-flavored indie rock, so that it is safe and predictable as rock music, but still keeps that authenticity of rebellion that metal has. People forget that rock music was designed as a perfect product: it repackaged the blues, itself a repackaging of Celtic folk country, into the simplest possible package and then started putting new flavors on it. But it’s basically the same song form that has existed for centuries: verse, chorus (x3) + bridge + verse, chorus. Indie rock was a punk-flavored DIY imitation of this that incorporated a lot of the best aspects of hippie rock; the archetype of indie rock is early REM, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, etc. It’s closer to The Beatles than it is to Slayer.

Consider this piece:

Gojira – “Where Dragons Dwell”

The song starts with a relatively plodding introduction. This violates the standard rock form, we think at first, but then we realize it’s just an add-on that serves no further compositional purpose in the song. Then we launch into the meat of the song, which is a plodding verse/chorus which intensifies itself with half-sung/half-chanted vocals, but these are still over the same riff with a few aesthetic modifications. Then the song bridges, and ends. It has a verse/chorus riff pair with a few modifications and an introduction, but other than that, it’s straight off the wall indie rock. They even use the same chord voicings in the way old emo bands (Fugazi, and pop-punk-prog like Jawbreaker) used, fanning the dissonant chords. They even use guitar in the same way rock bands do, which is as a rhythm instrument emphasizing repetition of a single note/chord; where metal guitars move a chord shape through a melody or phrase, rock music tries to come to this stop point and repeat the chord on a fixed but offbeat rhythm, so it can emphasize the vocals and not confuse the very simple song format.

Verdict: this song is metal-flavored indie rock.

This is why we call it “indie metal”: it’s not really metal, it’s just indie rock with metal flavoring. Some have tried using similar ideas in metal without losing the metal-ness. Beherit’s Engram widens the metal song form without losing its structure that adapts to both riff and mood. Krieg’s The Isolationist wraps old style Krieg into the kind of song editing we saw on the live album, but uses technique (including aforementioned chord fanning) from post-rock/post-metal. They’re trying to keep their metalness without dropping into rockness, but increasingly we’re seeing how these techniques are incompatible because they’re heading in different directions. Metal wants epic landscapes of phrase; rock wants a convenient beat and a clear chord to build vocal harmony upon. These are directions as opposite as liberal and conservative, spend and save, object-oriented and procedural, vegan and carnivore.


0 thoughts on “Why we call it “indie metal””

  1. Levy_Spearmen says:

    That was the shortest seven minute song I’ve ever listened to.

  2. 83-38 says:

    This article is demeaning to both farm and factory workers.

  3. Levy_Spearmen says:

    Whatever you just said, I don’t care, though my mind gravitated toward that section of the article as well. It’s like a pat on the back plug.

  4. T.G. says:

    You’re wrong because I like indi… I mean metal, and I want you to be wrong because you don’t like what I like. I mean, this article is so gay all I could do was laugh at it, because I am superior.

  5. BRUNHILDE FAN #1 says:


  6. gaymen says:

    YO, Levy, the shortest 7 minute song is in fact “Within” from the At the Gates debut. TOO GOOD, TOO SHORT. Like azn cock.



  8. BRUNHILDE FAN #2 says:


  9. BRUNHILDE FAN #3 says:

    LOL BRUNHILDE!!! YAY!!!!!!

  10. Levy_Spearmen says:

    ANUS wants to spread the “feels good to be the son of a factory worker, man” meme.

  11. Levy_Spearmen says:

    Gojira’s song gives a sense of shortness as each large block of repeated strums is ended for some cool howling or other, and there are only three or four such blocks of music within the piece, so it ends with not much to say. I only listened to some fourth minute’s second, so maybe I missed a grand awakening after the tumbling, toiling repetition of nothing.

    What is that which is too short, too good? Seems like a typo, sir.

  12. Stop calling all of this junk metal. says:

    Lets just straight up not call any of this metal.

    “stoner doom, post-rock, post-metal, modern death metal, tech death, metalcore, deathcore, and shoegaze black metal”

    is any of this in the same spirit of metal? no. This is not metal. it is indie music.

  13. A good idea says:

    We should troll this across the internet.

  14. A real good idea says:

    We should stopping trivializing music by making it into a lifestyle. Only hipsters do that. (i.e- Anus.com) :D

  15. That was a real good idea though. says:

    I don’t see how ANUS has ever promoted the “metal life style”/

  16. didn't read this article. says:

    Then you obviously….

  17. Newr says:

    ANUS doesn’t promote a pre-packaged lifestyle with an abundance of insider etiquettes as much as certain “metal” values and good ideas for life that stem from them. I thought this was a non-issue.

  18. Obviously, it's an issue says:

    These “values” are convoluted. They’re too subjective. A subjective viewpoint looking for the impressionable, weak-minded youth to pigeonhole or not feel accepted in the underground (oooh). The music speaks for itself & really has no need for an organized value system. Metal is generally about rebellion. Let’s keep it that simple.

  19. 83-38 says:

    Mediocrity will only lead to more mediocrity, there’s no point in defending it.

  20. 8172 says:

    Mediocrity is just one mans opinion. The problem with people who think that way is that they understand music theory to the point that they just can’t enjoy music.

  21. grindcore says:

    Proles? And your medieval logic says they can’t become something better? Like the 80’s Death Metal pioneers who were basically worker’s children? They better should have gone mining or farming or something? Talk about half-knowledge dressed as intellectualism…

    These Indie idiots aren’t workers kids but the children of the lazy, politically impotent baby boomers and similar scum. A worker is something better than that because he actually contributes to society.

  22. T.G. says:

    Actually, all of the impoverished people that I’ve met, both in rural and metropolitan areas inside and outside of the United States usually have their income heavily subsidized by the government, and do not invest that income or utilize it towards bettering their situation at all, but use it instead purchase big screen televisions, boats, luxury vehicles, and homes they can’t afford. Of course, even though I’ve literally seen many, many people do this, I was probably actually seeing magic fairies, because what I had to say doesn’t help your argument at all, so you’ll just bray like an ass and deny it because you don’t want to believe it. Fun stuff.

  23. T.G. says:

    Also, on the person whining about the values issue, your commentary is obviously the result of resentment against the website for not approving of your tastes. There’s no reason to throw a fit because someone associates some words with some sounds that you don’t like, instead just go on with your goddamn life. Is it really that hard? Really? As much as you’ll scream at the top of your lungs that the website isn’t doing exactly that, it is, get over it. No matter how much you stomp your foot down because Opeth isn’t given positive reviews on the DLA, that isn’t going to change what I said about the website. It’s not doing anything different than what anyone else does, you’re just throwing a fit because what it does doesn’t fit into your narrow view of what is right.

  24. Fuck babyboomers. says:

    babyboomers are indeed scum. Tear down the old values, and don’t bother the subsitute new ones. nice.

  25. Levy_Spearmen says:

    “These Indie idiots aren’t workers kids but the children of the lazy”

    Yeah, well besides the indie idiots, many people are born from mixed caste parents, and those parents likely came from a higher level of mixed caste, thus their offspring get 50% worker and 25% great or shit, theoretically.

  26. Truppensturm is fucking great. says:

    Im 50% worker, 25% great. Thats why I read, and do not write ANUS.

  27. An_Honest_Person. says:

    My grandparents on my father side were peasants/farmers (but of strong character), most of the offspring they produced were unspectacular, two of them outright failures. My Father was the most intelligent, honourable, and strong of the lot. (although he suffers from the lack of honour and values prevalent in baby boomers). He managed to build an incredible career too. And he is the most well versed in history of most individuals I know.

    My mother side: grandfather is a genius (IQ 140-150), Grandmother with indomitable will, strength of character and wisdom. Great mom, although suffers from babyboomer myths.

    So yeah, im not defiantly not a peasant, and defiantly not a superhuman. I think in an ANUSian type society I would be a warrior or skilled craftsman of some type. Fucking cool!

  28. A_Dishonest_Person says:

    My mother was a goat-camel of the waning moon.

  29. Jake says:

    My mother sucked over 9000 fag chink chinamen.

  30. An_Honest_Person says:

    I’m a gay male who wants to have sex with Brett Stevens. I follow every word he says & I keep my nose up his ass every minute of the day. Tee hee :)

  31. A_Dishonest_Person says:

    Everyone who agrees with Brett Stevens is gay, because only people who don’t agree with the people that I don’t like are manly men who get lots of pussy.

  32. a dude says:

    Making fun of bands that rip off Neurosis and jap psych is so 8 years ago. I can hardly believe any of it is still relevant.

    Any kid listening to some Isiswannabe is suspect and probably jams Aesop Rock on their I-Pod as they head to their college class. I guess at least they have a future as a paper pusher, which is more than your average American cheap beer drinking, fat chick fucking Incantation fan can look forward to in noble poverty/retail/oil change work. Since everyone should be killed, I guess they’re about equal in my eyes. But at least Incantation doesn’t totally suck.

  33. nigra says:

    And I was like baby baby baby oh

  34. Levy_Spearmen says:

    Greetings to you ANUS heads. Reap some fine souls this End’s Years Eve.


    Vijay Prozak, more like Vijay NOSACK AMIRITE?? Brett Stevens more like dragon fart from 1993 AMIRTIE???!!!!

  36. faggotmurder says:

    You guys are fucking idiots. Post-rock has nothing to do with metal, so why include it in your ridiculously widespread “indie metal” tag? I have a nagging suspicion that there’s not a single member of Mogwai (for instance) who has ever given 4 seconds of their time to metal, yet you’re giving hours of yours to them, essentially. Grow up and quit being so insecure. Nerds.

  37. Jose Mangin of SeriusXM says:


  38. Bzzt says:

    “Post-rock has nothing to do with metal, so why include it in your ridiculously widespread “indie metal” tag?”

    Hence why there’s you know, the entire post-metal genre which takes a huge influence from post-rock, not to mention the growing popularity of the genre amongst metalheads and various characteristics of it that can be found in various forms of metal.

    “Grow up and quit being so insecure. Nerds.”
    Indeed, try not to mindlessly rage at other sites that say unpleasant things you don’t agree with. Wise words.

  39. sasdasd says:

    Implying fuckin’ Mogwai would be patronizing metal rather than vice-versa.

  40. sss says:

    Bzzt wouldn’t happen to be from the Invisible Oranges blog, a 50/50 split between decent and awful

  41. Assrage says:

    LOL YAY GO Swedish girls!!!

  42. Sid McRay says:

    Jah mad?

  43. lol@u says:

    You guys are morons, and worse yet, you’re the kinds of morons that think they’re in the right. Gojira trumps anything praised by this shitty site. Anything that doesn’t have the same predictable patterns as your humdrum gore/Dracula cape metal made by gas station attendants/norwegian preteens is “indie”, “mainstream”, etc. We get it, your taste sucks. Please shut down this shitty site already.

  44. 1349 says:

    Gojira is for blog warriors.

  45. Dan says:

    Your criticism is accurate, I feel, but is pretty irrelevant to me. What I mean is that when I write songs, Im not worried about whether its metal or indie or Dutch gabbercore or polka. Im sure a lot of musicians, when you talk to them on a real, 1 on 1 level feel the same way. My favorite metal musician, Justin Broadrick, has made a career out of violating every pedantic rule that metal fans set for the music. You probably consider him the worst indie-metal traitor, but he doesnt give a shit and neither do I.

    The discussion of class is interesting, and is probably the best explanation of indie snobbery I’ve read so far. Its too bad Mike Watt and D Boon’s message of intellectual, but real, rebellion never reached more working class folk. I feel a responsibility to try to pick up where they left off.

    Boundaries are made to be dissolved.

  46. Dan says:

    Also: To the dude who says post rock has nothing to do with metal, riddle me this:

    BARK PSYCHOSIS (the best and first Post Rock band, although we can dispute this till the cows spray Pabst) started out as a NAPALM DEATH COVER BAND. I bet you never did anything as metal

  47. internatio says:

    once again a spot on musical comment with a narrow social notion forced into it. (liberal and conservative are not really opposed directions, I’d say the angle today must be around 33°, and closing.

  48. Dan says:

    Liberal and conservative? Stil thinking in those terms eh? No I agree, all the older conservative thinkers coming out of the Romantic movement would be horrified at the turn modern conservatism took.

  49. 1349 says:

    “when I write songs, Im not worried about whether its metal or indie”

    Those terms are conventional; what is important is the essence they imply.
    If you worry about what effect your music will produce upon people, you will, in the end, write music of some specific SORT (which may later require a special term OR be more or less close to an existing sort). But if you write random music with the only criterion of “pleasing to your ear”, you just fart into eternity.

    Boundaries aren’t “made”. Boundaries are natural.

  50. Dan says:

    Ok ok that makes sense. But metal has to evolve just like anything else. Itd be hard to get much more extreme in terms of speed or violence, and who knows what more crossover between genres might bring? You see it as dilution, I see it as more possibility. I grew up on Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, and discovering black metal just seemed a natural progression in the search for more fucked up guitar playing.

  51. internatio says:

    @ Dan : at some point there was more to black metal than fucked up guitar playing. They wanted to make pieces that made sense as a whole, to bring that at the level of XIXth century classicals, but with full awareness of the present situation. Then most failed…

  52. Dan says:

    Well color me impressed. Im not suprised they failed, since that requires a titantic amount of insanity and hubris to try, but good for them. I still object to seeing the incorporation of other influences, such as those bands I named above (MBV and SY) as a “degeneration”. Especially when those groups were advancing music by drawing on the best of modern classical influences (like Stockhausen and musique concrete, La Monte Young etc).

    But I guess if this means I’ll have to deal w/ legions of long haired, leather clad dudes telling me that Im not “true metal”, all the better. Youre all welcome to bring your brass knuckles to the gig; the indie kids dont get violent enough.

  53. you fascists says:


  54. Anymouse says:

    What you morons have failed to realize is that Gojira has been playing death metal since before some of you were more than a zygote with an extra chromosome. They were a standard death metal band at first, and have since moved well beyond those pedestrian grounds unlike your shitty darling bands that release the same godawful joke of an album over and over (e.g. Master). They come from a metal background and there’s nothing remotely “indie” about this band. You wouldn’t know what “indie” is to save your own life from dying a virgin.

  55. L.M.F.A.O. says:

    “Metal is a unique style of composition”


  56. more metal than u ºзº says:

    “Consider this piece:

    Gojira – “Where Dragons Dwell””

    There is honestly no difference between this and Gateways era Morbid Angel, except that this sounds much better put together. Any claim to the contrary is just dishonesty.

  57. Jesus Lover says:

    So, what exactly did your parents do for a living? By your own logic if they weren’t critics, then you’ve got no business doing so. Also; if everyone followed in their parents footsteps there would be no innovation, no inventions. Also, the fact that you want to put metal into a tiny little cube is sad.

  58. Anymouse b-friend says:

    Anymouse is my lover and he´s just mad i didn´t fuck him last night… dont worry baby i´ve got your juicy cock right here for you baby..

  59. cc says:

    Finally fed up with the nasty trolling and gay comments that flooded their guestbook, hipster gay band Gojira called it quits and closed their guestbook for good! Instead they added a very gay link to their Facebook where lots of emo-looking fags can comment on how much they love to be hipsters !!!

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