Why *not* take metal seriously?

In Hindu esoteric thought, Avishkara – a word which in regular parlance indicates invention – is used to describe the process through which a spirit, be it deity or another form of ethereal being, takes up residence inside a foreign object. The foreign object most commonly used is the idol of Hindu temples; however, it is not the idol in its base form that is worshipped; that by itself is mere hunk of stone. Rather, by intensely concentrating on and projecting a certain aspect of divinity onto inanimate matter, through fervent prayer, desire, and mantra, the idol itself becomes a loci for that divine aspect to enter the material plane and interact with those that have summoned it. A yet more extreme type of Avishkara is that in which the human body itself becomes a vessel for spirits trapped in the karmic cycle of birth and rebirth; a trained sadhu strikes a spiritual bargain with such a spirit and then cajoles it to enter the individual person of his choosing. Preparing an appropriate environment for the spirit to feel comfortable in is an integral part of this process: how he dressed while alive, what he ate and drank, the manner of address he was accustomed to, the music he listened to, all go a long way in simulating the conditions the spirit may have been used to during his time inside mortal flesh. If there is an audience gathered for consultation with the spirit, it is imperative that they buy into the phenomenon in play, because any loss of faith or skepticism on their part is liable to induce existential disorientation in the spirit.

Whether this is to be taken literally or as a manifestation of various psychological archetypes or indeed a mysterious confluence of both simultaneously is up to the individual practitioner, and truly known only by the wise adept. The present however is a time of constant scientific deconstruction, where incredulity is the norm, and empiricism and its instruments alone dictate what is real and what is delusion. Recently, Minnesota-based black metal band Teratism offered their justification for not playing a show with a joke band; in the main, Teratism‘s position was that their performance would only attain full potency in a setting positively orientated towards the themes in their music. To share the stage with a joke band, knowing beforehand the dubious standard of audience said joke band would bring in, would inevitably compromise the effectiveness of their delivery. In line with esoteric traditions around the world and certainly with every significant black metal band that has come before, Teratism earnestly believe their music to be a conduit to usher in a particular state of mind in performer and listener. To take a principled stand to preserve the sanctity of that vision is a noble endeavor and one that every metal band worth a damn should undertake.

No one has to scream this from the rooftops. We who are steeped in this music’s – our music’s – lore accept it as self-evident truth. We willingly submit to the anachronistic demands implicit in it, despite all our conditioning to the contrary, because time and again it has raised us out of the mundane into the sublime. This much “seriousness” and gravitas we expect of ourselves, of those who claim to love metal, and those that claim to play it before us with sincerity. Hence why to see Teratism lambasted and ridiculed for their grasp of this innate truism by people who support the joke band – whose founder incidentally is of the opinion that black metal is little more than “dorky entertainment” – and claim to love black metal in the same breath, ought to enrage any metalhead with half a pint of hot blood in his veins.

Why they do it is simple enough to understand. There has to be some festering ugliness at the center of these people’s lives for them to chime in one after the other, like so many lemmings jumping off a cliff, with their memes and their irreverence, to bring down someone expressing a greater sentiment. A coward hates nothing more than a mirror shone upon his inadequacies and a hipster can’t stand to be excluded from the very thing he has co-opted to compensate for his lack of identity, but still, what self-defeating fatalism to sabotage the very foundation on which you try to build your credibility! To not take what you claim to love seriously is to not take yourself seriously. Even worse, it is to actively hate yourself; your disfigured ego chides you for persisting in a charade, it curses you for this dissonance you’ve contrived inside the mind; the object of your affection – which really is only a ticket to the validation you crave every living minute (ha! ha! clever boy made a funny caption, see how he walks that edge all day long, well done, move along now, that’s a good lad!) – reveals itself to be something more than what *you* need it to be. So, like some fungus rotting wood out from the inside, you react against it with spite and irony and do your best to tear the whole edifice down. It is truly dysfunctional behavior, and unsurprisingly complemented with a panoply of neuroses (gender disphoria, body dysmorphia, morbid obesity, take your pick), as even a casual look through the comments section on the Teratism page would attest to.

Yet, a fatuous “battle of the bands” mentality persists: Teratism are consistently asked to play regardless and blow all comers off stage and in the process win new converts over to their side. Converts, indeed! Any metalhead worth his salt would rather spend the evening with a congregation of lepers than fraternize with this crowd. No, Teratism‘s stand is solid through and through; if anything, they could’ve been far more dismissive, as should every metalhead whose misfortune it is to deal with these rodents. And perchance they accuse you of harboring whatever political tendencies happen to be their bugbear at that moment, as they invariably will, then bear that coat of arms proudly too. On the sliding scale of preferences, declare in no uncertain terms just how repulsive you find them and their incessant machinations, and that you will always side with whatever breeds exclusivity and quality over quantity.

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