Metal and Post-Modernity

Article by Bill Hopkins

“We might even say that to be fully modern is to be anti-modern: from Marx’s and Dostoevsky’s time to our own, it has been impossible to grasp and embrace the modern world’s potentialities without loathing and fighting against some of its most palpable realities.”

—Some overweight sociology professor

Metal, like any manifestation of culture, doesn’t emerge from a social vacuum. So much should be uncontroversial. This raises a question in need of reply: What set of ideas and social forces explain the existence of metal? One hypothesis is to view metal as a manifestation of European romanticism [1], the period of European culture from roughly 1789 to 1850. This article suggests a different hypothesis: namely, that metal must be placed against the backdrop of post-modernity in order to be properly understood. In order to make this case, it is vital to understand ‘post-modernity’. Many confuse post-modernity (1960s-) with modernism (1890s-1930s), especially when it comes to art. Thus, a secondary goal of this article is to illuminate post-modernity. I will argue that one key imputes giving rise to metal was post-modernity’s re-engagement with past forms [2].

One naïve view of post-modernity, especially in its artistic manifestations, views it as an elitist movement intent on offending traditional and bourgeoise sensibilities by embracing the ‘shock of the new’ and the absurd: think of the sort of art piece your intellectually disabled 3 year-old could do if given a paintbrush and a blank canvass stretched out on the floor. However, this is to mistake post-modernity with modernism[3]. Modernism preceded post-modernity by decades. It began in the late 19th century and had all but dissipated in time for the lead up to WW2. Not only this, modernism was primarily an artistic movement whereas post-modernity refers to sweeping social and economic changes in addition to artistic ones.

‘Blue Poles’ by Jackson Pollock

As we will see, post-modernity is characterised by a re-assessment of modernism’s ‘shock of the new’. In order to explore post-modernity and its connections with metal more fully, however, we need to take a few steps backwards before going forwards. We need first to understand the broader concept of ‘modernity’ (1789-). What is modernity, such that ‘post’-modernity is contrasted with it?
(more…)

13 Comments

Tags: , ,

Traditional Black Metal

The term ‘traditional’ black metal used here denotes not the ‘orthodox’ movement of imitation or gimmick bands lacking any musical ideas of value, but rather points to the living and evolving movement now referred to as the death-black styles coming forth organically from punkish speed metal voices. The definition does not exclude the developments of the nineties which led to the musical distinction between a purified black metal and the older speed metal. However, this distinction represented only, or mainly, the Scandinavian expression of the genre separating itself from the more common tropes. More raw and unclassifiable bands within this distinction were forgotten in the wake of relative popularity of the Scandinavian stylings quickly became tired trope. The network of original underground minds seeking unique expressions of an undefined darkness became an incestuous cesspool. Unfortunately, this is today misleadingly known as ‘orthodox’ black metal.
(more…)

9 Comments

Tags: , ,

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Flavor of the Week Metal Pt 2: Death Metal

Last month we ran the first  of a two part series on flavor of the week metal subgenres, focusing soley on black metal. The plan was to release a second edition a week later, but the Tulio Baars DDOS attacks prevented that from happening. That is, until now…
(more…)

11 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wolvhammer – The Monuments of Ash & Bone 2018

As with anything labeled “USBM,” it is an inevitable that an experienced metal fan will approach this release with caution regarding just how flannelly, how post rock, how try-hard and yet how vulnerable it is.  With a cliched moniker that clashes together a couple of clumsy tropes to echo the oil and water mixture that Americans and black metal suspend as, Wolvhammer presents itself and its material as confidently confrontational so the saccharine despair of modern takes on the vulturized genre are initially somewhat absent, but the juvenile approach does not in its stead give credence to the overbearing impudence on display.

(more…)

1 Comment

Tags: , , , , , ,

Concert Review: Metalmania 2018

On  7th  April, another edition of a long standing Polish festival Metalmania took place. One day, two stages, twenty four bands. It was the second one organized after a recent reactivation. The original Metalmania was an early big metal event in that part of the Europe – quite a feat given Polish Communist and post-Communist realities. Then, due to various reasons, the festival was gradually losing its relevance, dwindling and finally went into hiatus for 8 years. There is no sense, however, to cling to its bygone local importance or whatever glorious past. So how does it look now? 

While too much reliance on more mainstream gothic and heavy contributed to a collapse of previous incarnation of the festival, and now it was death and black oriented, the music on the big scene is rather consistently aimed at straight metal through all of its generations and styles, ending with bands like Dead Congregation or Blaze of Perdition and with some of the more modern sounds on a small scene. On a downside, the fest resurfacing mainly as a stage for classic bands may be reflecting the actual state of metal, indicating that the newer bands are unable to fill the void with something equally strong to their predecessors. 

The festival was obviously rough around the edges (and surprisingly violent – I almost got caught into two different fights just from where I was standing) and the sound was uneven and average overall. It was organized better than in the past, but still perceptibly within Polish standards, that is crudely and with lack of imagination or simply negligence in some areas (although Martin van Drunen said on stage that the organization was great!). Perhaps a very fortunate by-product of these characteristics, which may contribute to the positive reception of this festival, is how – I dare to say – conservative it is, both in terms of lineup and general spirit. With Napalm Death and (I suppose) liberal speed metallers on one side and sort of crypto-nazis on the other, who always find a way to show up in some form, the fest also covered broadest ideological spectrum that is possible for a mainstream event. 

As of 2018 this festival is yet to experience types of modern degeneracy, often coming from outside, which can be seen on festivals elsewhere. There were some obligatory side attractions, like exhibition of works of Christophe Szpajdel (who actually speaks Polish fluently), meet-up with the bands and lots of merch, but nothing delving too much into a fan idiocy or really not related to metal. Very few freaks, zero exotic people, no random participants, just fairly traditional metalheads, mostly in the 90s style, as it should be, world without end. However, those spoiled by abundance of propositions and by big festivals in Germany or Czech Republic will probably miss out on some of these modest qualities. 

And then there’s the surreal, sci-fi sight at the arrival – a monumental, Communistic “The Saucer” occupied by nothing but a tribe of long haired, black clad drunks… 

(more…)

18 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Roman Salutes Are Too Evil For Watain

At the end of last year, we predicted that overt satanic lyrics and themes in metal would see their last days. There is no band that will accelerate this quicker than goofball circus act Watain, who market themselves as the evilest band in the world by LARPing as an American biker gang and staying in character through all media interactions. By doing so, they can act like they’re more “trve” than Dimmu Borgir and Dark Funeral despite being even more campy than both in their music and aesthetics.

But in the most cowardly of moves, the band kicked out the only credible member- former Dissection guitarist Set Teitan- because a picture of him doing a Nazi salute surfaced on the internet.  Though the band hides behind the lame excuse that “he left so we wouldn’t have to talk about politics,” it’s clear that the move was desperation on the part of Watain as they struggle to preserve their cash grab machine.  But regardless of whether lefties decide to shutdown Watain’s freak show carnival tour, the band will never survive this incident as the few supporters they had will likely realize that Watain are as timid as they come.

Make no mistake, I’m not at all defending what Set Teitan did, as all Hitler/Nazi LARPing is a corny stunt pulled by fat redneck rejects so they can feel extreme from their mom’s shed.  Instead, I’m celebrating as the Watain scam will finally lose all traction and the band will soon be homeless and broken in the streets.  Though they thought themselves to be instruments of the devil, they ultimately did a better job serving God by destroying the satanic metal scene from within.

(more…)

38 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Imperial Reign of Emperor

The most technically and musically gifted band of the Norwegian black metal scene, the legendary Emperor are also the most well known outside of the documentary-level engagement that plagues most who know of Burzum and Mayhem.  Formed in the small rural town of Telemark Norway as a side project to a soon-forgotten death metal band, the group overcame the imprisonment of 75% of it’s lineup to deliver the most grandiose album of early 90s black metal.  Though Emperor’s career was far from perfect, it made a profound impact on the young genre and ultimately proved it’s limitless developmental possibility.
(more…)

11 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sadistic Metal Reviews: Blood Muzak’s Best

Poseur cash grab Finnish label Blood Music posted his favorites albums of 2017 recently on his Mosh Core Trends Fun book page. Nobody needs a 24 LP boxed set of Emperor (Only need In the Nightside Eclipse and Wrath of the Tyrant / Emperor compilation CD) featuring rehearsals of Ihsahn’s mom telling Emperor to stop dressing up like The Lost Boys and nobody needs anything on this poseur’s shilling list. Nobody wants to pay to join Blood Music’s fan club to buy his hipster merchandise. Blood Music should go shoot himself. A hollow point to the back of the head gets the job done as he has to blow up his shill lizard brain to make sure he dies for good. Do it.

(more…)

44 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Classic reviews:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z