Metal is not an all-inclusive hippie brotherhood

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Why is the contemporary, so-called metal fan bent on converting heavy metal into some sort of tree-hugging hippie commune? Contrary to what many like to believe, metal is an inherently conservative form of music. Yes, it has evolved as a genre, and it has branched out into various sub-genres over time, but it is no fallacy to suggest that it has also developed as much as it is likely to. Techniques and song writing tropes have been established for some time now; stray too far from these conventions and the music ceases to be heavy metal, at least to those truly literate in the style. This natural quality control, often misinterpreted as narrow-mindedness, is one of the redeeming features of this music, and has ensured its survival and its relevance for over forty years; while various other bastardized forms (nu-metal, metalcore, djent, deathcore, etc) regularly erupt and fizzle out with typical caprice and short-sightedness, in no small measure due to the absence of a self-driving ideal greater than the music itself, real heavy metal endures, propagating its intrinsic truths over time and generations. Essentially a timeless idea encapsulated, what many fail to realize in an age of information overload and readymade wisdom is that it is the music that finds you, and not the other way around.

And so there sounds a rallying cry, usually originating from those with no respect for these traditions and also, sadly, sometimes from those who’d like you to believe that they do care, to compromise metal’s insularity, to strip it of its identity and pride so it can be paraded around like another flogged caricature of modern tolerance and an open mind. Often adopting a condescendingly liberal stance, smug and secure in their refinement as all-embracing paragons of selfless virtue, these types actively campaign for a non-discriminating, mindless parity between real metal and things they perceive to be metal but are actually far more concerned with forming an all-inclusive safehouse for their ilk where genteel socializing takes precedence over any kind of real passion and conviction. The term “metal brotherhood” comes to signify this faux-scene; a brotherhood forged not through those similarly shared ideals and truths mentioned above, arising of the music and nothing else, but instead over an equitably missing lack of intent and a drink.

This craving to belong is completely at odds with the introverted expression of the self that is heavy metal. Metal is not group therapy and is not meant to feed one’s assorted insecurities; it is proudly unapologetic of its reclusive qualities and doesn’t need, in fact rejects, all manner of external validation. Hipsters and revisionists are most welcome to pursue whatever spur-of-the-moment fancy suits them best but in case they forget, it is NOT all metal.

tardmosh

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9 Responses to Metal is not an all-inclusive hippie brotherhood

  1. Anonymous says:

    True.

  2. I don’t completely agree that metal idioms have reached the end of their evolution; but I think musical conservatism, a kind of neo-classicism of elaborating on existing tropisms, is the key to the genre, rather than experimentalism. When metal bands claim to be experimental, progressive or worst of all melodic, I tend to tune out.

    I do agree that this obsession with metal brotherhood is missing the point. I got into metal to be by myself with music that made personal sense to me, not to gladhand an ever growing tribe of denim-encased, chain-swinging yahoos and take a neverending series of group photos of drinking sessions and kvlt confabs.

    • Yes, that makes a lot of sense too. I recently ran into a Canadian band called Into Oblivion who do a lot of what you mention in terms of thoroughly exploring the peripheries of their genre while staying death metal proper and genuinely caring about songcraft. Writing sadly seems to be the first casualty when bands start caring more about roping in new elements.

  3. Reblogged this on Heavy Metal OG and commented:
    I believe I have found a kindred spirit! As Old Disgruntled Bastard points out below, the thing that makes metal so appealing to true metal heads is that it stands outside of political correctness and hippie, dippy communalism. It is the genre of, for, and by social miscreants and true metal will always be as such. When the Deafheaven hipster crowd have moved on to the next trend, I’ll still be cranking Toxic Halocaust. I do not agree with him that metal is done evolving or ever should be, but that just reinforces the underlying point that we don’t all need to be part of some hive-mind mentality. Good stuff. What do you guys think?

    • “Essentially a timeless idea encapsulated, what many fail to realize in an age of information overload and readymade wisdom is that it is the music that finds you, and not the other way around.”
      I have to agree that what appeals to so many about Metal is it’s fist-pumping primitivism. Strip away any cross-fertilization of other genres, and you get our ancestral DNA, communal only in pack hunting (“anybody find a beer?”), bypassing the Ego & Super Ego and grabbing the attention of the ID alone.

  4. While I do tend to hate the huggy-wuggy “friend-ship metal \m/” vibe that gets bandied about by the modern generation of fans, a great many of my lasting friendships have been made through metal. Most of my vacations are centered around metal festivals. So for me, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’ve benefitted socially from the music, but it’s not like I got into it just to make friends or anything.

    I do agree that quality-control is lacking. People are afraid to say ANYTHING negative about a band these days, especially on the local/regional level. I write for a couple smaller-level publications, and some of them don’t publish negative reviews AT ALL, it’s fucked up.

    Any of you guys read Chips & Beer magazine? Great print ‘zine that is scathing and funny when it needs to be with one eye firmly on the past and another on the present. Cool writing, great articles.

  5. Anonymous Misanthrope says:

    Fanatics are almost always the victims of rigid ideology which remote controls their creative outbursts and artistic inspirations. While I have to agree the metal puritans are very necessary to preserve the traditional feel of metal music, that thrashing riff and heavy intensity, but their holier-than-thou antics and unyielding stiffness of stance quagmires metal into a stagnant community. Music evolves, music changes, and as you’ve put aptly, music finds you, so you must not let your fanaticism cripple the flow of music. I find a lot of ambient metal to be rather incredible, and I’ve had to be bear the brunt of being called emo for my obsession with DSBM and post-black from ‘metal puritans’. For me, metal has always been about the ‘other sound’, back in the 80’s I loved it for its post-modern soundscapes. And now I mostly get disappointed at both the stagnation, refusal to move ahead from puritans, and the complete disrespect for what metal stands for from the youngsters, incorporating disco beats into metal and what not. But music is without boundaries, I’d say if these guys want to be called metal, let them.
    Regards,
    An anonymous misanthrope.

    • Thanks for the comment. The DSBM and the post-black you refer to is almost exclusively self-pitying, self-serving, and solipsistic to an insane degree, which is in direct opposition to what metal has always been about other than stray cases of “sensitive” introspection. What a lot of people fail to realize is just how wide-spread the “puritanical” metal spectrum is. Every single unseemly variation on metal that is touted by hipsters as being revolutionary has been done in far better ways many years ago and, most importantly, without compromising on the core ethic of the genre. What you see people wanting to pass off as metal is little more than surface aesthetic grafted onto forms of music that have nothing to do with metal, or underground heavy music and its ideology in general. There is commerce written thick and large over it, the appeal to “outsiders” couldn’t be louder. You can enjoy it, of course, but you don’t have to resort to intellectual dishonesty and claim it as something that it isn’t.

      How does it matter? Because without a voice to the contrary, we risk effacing what this music once represented. It may seem like hyperbole but give it fifty years of constantly rewriting history and we’ll have a very different definition of metal. I personally don’t consider that evolution, if you think of evolution as an incrementally progressive process.

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