A namby-pamby SJW from Bangalore, India, recently went on an ad hominem tirade against the perceived rejection of African-American blues as a founding element of heavy metal by a certain fringe, right-wing element. The accusation in all likelihood was aimed at Death Metal Underground and The Dark Legions Archives‘ stand over the years, that being the blues were not a black American invention inspired by the experience of slavery, but had their origins in the folk music of Europe and the Western Classical tradition. For some reason, this ridiculous critter then went on to include me in his outburst, likening me to an Uncle Tom, presumably because I do not entertain censorship in art, and therefore am an apologist for white prejudice. The epithet Uncle Tom derives from the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851 novel, but has since then gone on to assume a negative connotation; today, it signifies someone – more specifically, a black person – who ingratiates himself to his masters, white folks in this case.
The subject of African-American blues, in metal or otherwise, has never been broached on this blog. Identity politics tend to bore the piss out of me, so I stay away from them. As for the blues themselves, if I disliked the blues, or denied the pentatonic scale’s primacy to traditional heavy metal, I would not be such a fan of early Judas Priest nor would Bomber be my favourite Motorhead album. Those who have cared to follow this blog know that I have always considered traditional heavy metal as its own ineffable art form, distinct from death metal and black metal. I have gone to great lengths to emphasize that traditional heavy metal needs to be dealt with a dissectional analytic entirely separate from that applied to the more extreme styles. My contention against the blues in metal has to do only with the boring, stultified stoner doom that is all the rage today.
This caricaturesque jellyfish, who otherwise specializes in posting selfies, and moaning endlessly about how he has lost all drive for writing bad, hackneyed prose, then goes on to make inane assertions about how the “boogie-woogie” is a legitimate part of all metal, going so far as to say “even the coldest northern black metal owes a good part of its originating impulse and current idiom to that fact“.
Now, I have firmly held that there is a common spirit that runs through all true metal, but to extrapolate that to mean a musical style like the blues and big band “boogie-woogie” has impact on extreme metal is disingenuous. Does the attention-whore tapeworm imply this at the level of surface adornments like guitar solos, or does he mean to suggest that death metal and black metal are influenced by codified, cyclical, blues bar forms on the level of composition?
If it is the first, which it probably is considering this scheming pansy’s shallow interpretation of metal composition, then I would grant him some credence, seeing how guitar soloing has a deal of individual idiosyncrasy about it. But even then, the use of the blues’ diminished fifth, in specific blues format, is rare, if not outright non-existent, in extreme metal. Bands like Dismember, Entombed, and Brutality have made use of minor pentatonic patterns in their solos, but the pentatonic scale is prevalent in all non-microtonal traditions.
If this gormless fool means that the blues have influenced extreme metal on the level of composition, then his claim should be laughed out of sight. The early works of a band like Immolation have as much in common with the riotous clash of color and chaos of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring as with immediately preceding developments in metal. At The Gates‘ best work, Sacramentum‘s Far Away From The Sun, have the same contrapuntal philosophy and composed, thematic richness evinced in the fugues of the Western canon, from Bach to Debussy. It is obviously in a far more elementary state, because it needs to meet the visceral prerequisites of metal, but it is also a tangible break, in ambition and execution, from the simple, parallel harmonies previously played by the likes of Iron Maiden.
Death metal liberated metal from the tedium of predictable, popular chord progressions by making the riff the primary agent of motion, and by adopting the concept of motif and developmental variation, again from Western Classical music. Black metal amplified the ideological component of metal and, in the hands of the second wave of Norwegian bands, enlarged it in scope and musical profundity beyond all previous accomplishments in the genre. Both are radical developments in the field, which, while not making traditional heavy metal any less pertinent, do certainly enrich the metal tradition.
Nowhere in this do I detect the influence of the blues on extreme metal composition. Maybe this androgynous jackanape has happened upon some hidden meaning which he can fill me in on, but I’ve heard my share of metal and I think not. The SJW mindset is fundamentally needy and craves approval. It occupies a narrow mental bandwidth, unreceptive to ideas that may differ from its cherished notions. Instead, it prefers to lock itself in an echo chamber where those notions are bounced off more of its kind, a shameless orgy where everyone is only too willing to indulge and reinforce each other’s neuroses. A gaggle with a cause to enhance their flagging self-esteem. And since that already-shaky self-esteem depends on their cause of choice, they leave no stone unturned in creating false equivalencies and shoving their preoccupations into the most inappropriate of places.