Op Ed: Is Metal Dead?

It’s been a while since we’ve had either a Think Tank post or a Music as a System post. Really, that was due to me lacking time/motivation to seek out interesting discussion topics. However, over the past few days I’ve found myself in a philosophical conversation with one of my friends (and a sometimes reader of ToH) regarding the life cycle of art. As some of you may have seen, this friend recently asserted that we are living in a post-metal (and really post-art) state. This comment, and the blogs and theories behind it, would seem to imply that metal is dead. But is it really? That’s the question that I want you to ponder as I lay out my arguments. In the grand tradition of Washington Think tank, I’m going to return to this question at the end and pose an even further one for you to answer. If metal isn’t dead, what’s next?

The basis for our friend’s assertion that metal is dead is derived from a theory known as the “The End of Art.” This theory, espoused by Arthur Danto in the 1960s after he visited an Andy Warhol exhibit, essentially states that modern (or post-modern) art has reached a state of self-awareness wherein art itself no longer imitates life. This leads to art essentially evolving into a purely theoretical system, with art itself as a means of creation and examination of life coming to an end. Danto was not implying that new art cannot be created, but he was essentially claiming that art, as it has existed for the entirety of human history, has reached its logical and necessary culmination. As with most complex theories that one may attempt to summarize into a short paragraph, I’m certain I’ve been negligent on relaying some of the finer details of the criticism, so if you’d like to know more, I recommend you read this entire article. However, I do feel that I have covered the End of Art theory enough to move onto the actual blog post that acts as the object for this post.

Photo VIA

Before you go any further, I suggest you read this article.

Fellow blogger and armchair metal critic Helm announces his intentions with gusto by launching a vicious salvo right at the beginning of his article. “What’s heavy metal still around for?” he asks. He then proceeds to answer his own question by stating that essentially metal has become a safe haven for angsty adults to relive the glory days of their teenage years. According to Helm, metal in the modern era is simply a weak facsimile of the vital, unpredictable 80s and 90s. All bands, in his opinion, exist to reproduce classic albums ad nauseam in order for us to forget the shortcomings of our youth and to thrive on a nostalgic high.

What a load of crap.

This article is a disingenuous, contrived straw man argument that, oddly enough, lacks any sense of self-awareness. Beneath all the clever metaphors and five-dollar vocabulary, all you’ll really find is an almost sickeningly reductionist and narrow-minded perspective. Helm seems unable to differentiate why HE used to enjoy metal from what’s actually going on in the scene.

But, in the spirit of intellectual discourse I’d first like to acknowledge two things that Helm does get right. First, he is correct that much of mainstream metal is little more than a celebration of historical success. Bands like Avenged Sevenfold have in many ways built a career upon emulating their predecessors. Second, if you take a look at any particular sub-genre in heavy metal, you’ll find bloat. An immense amount of it, to be exact. The majority of new bands in any one scene seem to be continually putting out only slight variations of albums released decades before. In fact, some micro-genres (like war metal) are so insular that any band that deviates too far from the formula is no longer considered part of the scene.

And that’s okay. What Helm doesn’t understand is that this is how music, art, technology, science, etc. progress. This is the process of “normal science” or, in musical terms, normal evolution that holds the line, so to speak, until a new paradigm erupts onto the scene. Interestingly in metal, we’ve seen quite a few of these supposed paradigm shifts. Helm’s overly revisionist version of metal history conveniently overlooks that it hasn’t been very long since the latest paradigm shift in metal. Like it or not, extended range guitars opened up a new rhythmic chapter in metal in the form of djent. Prior to that, the latent influence of melodic death metal germinated around the turn of the century into metalcore. Even further back you have nu metal. Maybe Helm just doesn’t like these genres and thus overlooked them? I’m not sure, but regardless of how you feel about those new genres, you cannot deny that each changed the landscape in heavy music. We may even be in the throes of a brand new paradigm in the form of blackgaze, although several bands playing that style have existed for quite some time. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see where this one goes. It would, however, seem that metal does actually have the tools to grow and evolve after all.

Perhaps an even bigger problem with this thought process though is that it is absurdly reductionist. We should be careful not to confuse a lack of interest in what the majority of metal bands are doing with a dearth of challenging, creative, and thoughtful metal. Yes, there are bands out there pushing the envelope – we interview and write about them every day. Not every band is trying to sound like Death or Dissection. To find these bands, though, we must look beyond the stagnant mainstream into the underground, but the underground is and always has been the dynamic environment where new paradigms are birthed. I’m not as concerned with the mainstream. That’s where the normal science takes place, and it serves to keep the entire system afloat. It’s totally okay for individuals to enjoy more mainstream bands if they like them; taste is subjective and all, but let’s not pretend that the mainstream is all there is.

The underground, though, is where new ideas are espoused and assimilated, and thanks to the information superhighway, new bands dabbling in new ideas are merely a few clicks away. Interestingly, the mere existence of some of these bands does seem to indicate that End of Art theory is incorrect. Musicians like Jared Moran seem to actually be aware of metal’s shortcomings, but rather than whining about it online are genuinely attempting to create something new that moves the ball forward. On that note, if End of Art theory claims that self-awareness ultimately kills art, wouldn’t Helm’s argument then be too dissonant with that theory? Isn’t he ostensibly claiming that metalheads, in seeking to preserve the inner children, utterly lack any self-awareness? Strange.

The ouroboros has come full circle, and I want to know what’s next. In my humble opinion, I genuinely think the next paradigm shift in metal is the one-man-band (ignoring the potential blackgaze paradigm since that still isn’t truly new but is rather gaining popularity). Why? Because never before has technology and information been so cheap and abundant. True, one-man bands have been around almost as long as metal itself. Many of the early purveyors of black metal wrote and recorded material as solo artists. However, the true advent I foresee is the one-man band that is wholly integrated with technology and uses that technology in revolutionary ways. Artists can just as easily write and record new, challenging music in their down-time as any band could in the 80s. In fact, it seems to me that the diminished record sale trends would actually demotivate big, genre-chasing bands from pursuing the art, leaving hard working and intelligent young men and women to experiment with the limits of what we consider metal. As the singularity approaches, I genuinely believe we’ll see more and more genre-pressing bands like vod, Jute Gyte, and Umbah. A future where man and machine become ever more integrated belongs to minds such as these. Ultimately, though, I can only imagine what the future may hold. It is beyond my hands as to whether or not a true paradigm shift occurs. Alas, the future is most easily predicted by those who create it, and I am but a humble critic and not a creator. What do you think the future holds?

So, to answer the question I posed in the title, no, I do not think metal is dead. I believe metal is alive both in the hearts of those who enjoy mainstream bands who only add minor changes to the tried and true wheel and of those who seek innovative and compelling new sounds. Both are valid, and neither should be written off as a mere celebration of adolescence.

You can’t stop progress.

Written by:

Published on: April 28, 2015

Filled Under: Music as a System, Washington Think Tank

Views: 2049

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  • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

    By the way, gang, I’ll be AFK when this goes live, but if you have questions/comments/rebuttals/insults, I’ll check them when I get back. Also, in my absence, I leave Guac Jim and Christian with my power of attorney.

    • EsusMoose

      You ride a hoverround that has a broken wheel #REKT

  • Metal is love metal is life

  • Pagliacci is Kvlt O)))

    Cat threads are so much easier.

  • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

    Metal is not dead. It may not be popular but people still listen to it. As long as one person remembers it metal will never die.

  • We must stand and fight together. Nice write up W!

    SM

    https://vimeo.com/67042531

  • The Beargod

    Didn’t even read yet but NOPE.

    • EsusMoose

      Remember reading is for nerds

    • Guacamole Jim

      NOPE metal is not dead, or . . . ?

      • The Beargod

        Top kek.

        • Guacamole Jim

          I think I missed something

          • The Beargod

            NOPE.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    No.

    • JamesGrimm

      No. metal is not dead, or . . . ?

      • Guacamole Jim

        kek

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        No, metal is not dead. See Tyree’s perfect response.

    • void

      • JamesGrimm

        derp.

  • Sir Tapir the Based™

    Metal fucking sucks.

  • JWG

    Metal exists in a quantum superposition.
    It is neither alive, nor dead, so long as nobody looks into the Box.

    Meow.

  • EsusMoose

    Good article. I read something about armchairs and why they have poor opinions on the state of metal.

  • Taylor Jong Un

    Not by a longshot. Just like any other genre, anything and everything creative you can think of is being done and is out there. I notice that people on various forums, especially Blabbermouth, who whine about it being dead are people who really refuse to even scratch the surface when it comes to underground metal.

    • Agree with you there, i always look for bands that are trying to do something fresh and innovative. They usually don’t drop out of the sky and become overnight success stories, they are building up their reputations playing shows, recordings,etc in the underground scene.

      • Taylor Jong Un

        No genre actually dies. Look at blues, a genre that is very very deep rooted in tradition and most often is very reluctant towards progression. Still not dead by any means though, and there’s definitely still a lot of fresh new blues talent out there. Sam with metal.

  • Tyree

    I’ll always enjoy the oldschool sound of death metal, black metal, doom, thrash, grind, and so on and so on. Call em clone bands or what you will, but that’s the shit that still excites me. If I hear a band that sounds similar to Sarcofago, Sodom, Repulsion, Darkthrone, Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Venom, etc. my attention is immediately grabbed. There is still a lot of shit out there that is new and refreshing that I really enjoy, but I think I’ll always be drawn to a rawer and more old-school sound of metal. I think as long as we have metal that is fresh that excites people bored with the traditional bands and as long as we have bands that are making more traditional sounding metal, we will be fine. Keep it Satan though.

  • The Beargod

    Now I’ve read this and the answer is definitely: Not dead. While many make good arguments to the contrary I feel it always comes down to the pathetic “Everything was better when I was young, all the good stuff was done eons ago”.

    • JamesGrimm

      mine is more like, “the horizon has been defeated, its all been done.”

      • Guacamole Jim

        I have this feeling that every artist/creative person ever has felt like it’s all been done, and yet new ideas keep springing forward from generation to generation. To claim, as Helm did in the article referenced, that metal is dead, is arrogant and self-righteous (philosophically speaking). Music, art, and creativity never die. Our generation’s self-awareness is manifesting itself in our understanding of art, but will never destroy its progress.

        • Personally, I try not to get discouraged when it comes to my own playing/creativity. I just try to have fun. Having fun is the main reason why I hated playing music in a band. There was never enough fun to be had that justified all the conflict/work that was involved to perform.

          My point I am trying to get to is- music should be fun. If you have fun listening to someones music it should not matter if it has been done or not.

          Music should make you feel good. If not, what is the point?

          GL

          • Guacamole Jim

            I disagree, but that’s not a personal attack – I totally understand where you’re coming from. Different people interact with art differently, and some people want art to challenge them, even if that challenge is unsettling or unpleasant. Sometimes that’s the best way we grow. I, even though I love musical candy (Charli XCX), actively seek out new challenges and experiences as a listener and a performer, because that’s how I grow as an artist.

          • Right, but once you have challenged yourself – you end up liking the music (enjoying the music). But, I agree with you, challenges are great, too.

            GL

          • Guacamole Jim

            Yes, absolutely. Most of the time the culmination of the challenge results in enjoyment (and sometimes in abandonment).

          • “LIFELOVER!” -Trve Metuhlhead

            Seriously though. I want most music to make me feel good. Sometimes depressive stuff like Woods of Ypres can be cathartic but I’m angry enough. I don’t need music to constantly fuel my anger and discontent.

          • I do not understand how more people do not discuss music that makes them feel good. This is the only thing that irks me about commenting here.

            GL

        • The closest metal ever came to being dead was the ’90s a/k/a “the alternative years.” It wasn’t dead it just got shoved out of the popular spotlight by “college rock” bands and bands like Metallica had to turn to shit to maintain their level of fame. People love to shit on Pantera now but they were about the only successful metal band then who didn’t have to “get alternative” or stop playing guitar solos.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            *Randall likes to crap on Pantera. Plenty of us here dig them. And Thankfully we still had bands like Helmet around then (and an underground that still had some activity, even if it would go relatively unnoticed).

          • Helmet was definitely heavy but most of their fans that I knew weren’t into metal at all and wanted nothing to do with it. Unless it was something like Fudge Tunnel or early Biohazard.

            A lot of bands that are called metal now really didn’t want to be called metal then because it was career suicide. I remember a lot of people who used to listen to metal turned to stuff like NIN and Stabbing Westward to stay heavy without getting laughed at.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            Interesting. probably because I’m younger, but I’ve only ever seen Helmet referred to as alt-metal. I wasn’t really aware of what was going on at the time, though.

          • Well, to be fair my perspective can sometimes be local or regional. I’ve learned that people in other countries can often have a different perspective or way of looking at things.

            I used to always argue that hair metal bands got almost as little radio airplay as thrash bands. I since realized that maybe it was just my market and that larger metropolitan areas did have radio stations that were formatted to hard rock and heavy metal.

          • Max

            Nope, your perspective on this one isn’t regional at all; it’s global. I too have been perplexed at the more recent delineation of alternative rock bands like Tool and Helmet as some kind of “-metal”. Back then, they probably would’ve terminated an interview if the journalist had labelled them thus. In fact even Deep Purple didn’t like being called heavy metal during that period.

            I once read that the reason why Kerrang kept covering more explicitly “metal” bands during the ’90s was simply to fill up their magazine – they would dearly have loved to go completely “alternative” and follow the market, but such was the stigma surrounding metal at the time that most grunge/alt bands refused to grant them any interviews. So Kerrang were sort of left in a media ghetto of their own making (though of course fortunes turned around once Cradle of Filth et al got into their stride).

          • I always hate to see people like Tom Morello, Jonathan Davis, or Chris Cornell getting interviewed in all these dime-a-dozen metal documentaries. They’ve all insisted that they weren’t metal when it wasn’t cool but some of them want in now. Chris Cornell screamed like he had a corncob shoved up his ass but when the Grammy’s decided to give his band a “heavy metal” award, because they didn’t have one for “ALTERNATIVE!” or fucking “grunge” he had to get up there and give a speech about how his band wasn’t heavy metal to old people who could not have possibly cared less.

            All those bands were too cool for metal back then so fuck them now.

          • Max

            Yes, Tom Morello and Chris Cornell are/were particularly bad offenders in this regard; you’re right that they shouldn’t really be getting featured in Metal Evolution-type docos now. It rankles with me too. Especially since, in the case of Soundgarden, it was the metal crowd that made their career anyway.

            I distinctly remember that before Nirvana broke (c.1990), very often the only place you could read about the Seattle bands was in Hit Parader-type mags, right alongside features on Skid Row. Either that or skate mags. And metalheads did get into that stuff. As a (sort of) punk rocker, I would’ve been the first person at my high school to discover Nirvana, and yet the only people I could talk to about Nirvana who’d even have a clue who I was discussing were the metalheads. The “alternative” kids were still only up to The Cure at that point. It’s one of the reasons I crossed over, actually. I got sick of the snobbery.

          • Óðhinn

            The Metal Evolution series is very well put together and produced.

            To be fair, being associated with Metal in the early 1990s to some bands would have meant being compared to garbage commercial hair metal like Poison, Winger, Skid Row or Guns n’ Roses. Call me a snob if you like, but those bands were garbage.

            I was a Metal fan who loved Soundgarden, Helmet, and Rage Against the Machine. I always hated glam though.

          • Óðhinn

            I saw Soundgarden with Faith No More and Voivod in 1989. Good show.

          • more beer

            Growing up in a huge market. I can say metal got no love on the radio. The only places you could find metal being played was college radio stations.

          • Óðhinn

            I saw Helmet with Ministry and Sepultura in the early 1990s. I liked all 3 bands and enjoyed the show. didn’t care too much about the labels, or if they were “alt metal.” They had a somewhat unique sound at the time, but it was good. I guess if one were a sour puss metal purist at the time, their jimmies would have been rustled by the alt metal label, and they would have got all angsty and listened to Cowboys from Hell on auto repeat instead.

          • “Pantera??? I thought that said Pardner!!!”

            -Some guys friends dad

          • Guacamole Jim

            True story.

          • I couldn’t remember who said it. I am glad this event happened. It makes me smile.

            GL

          • Max

            I remember this so well. I wasn’t even a fan of Pantera back then – still aren’t – but I respected the crap out of the fact that they somehow got away with being explicitly “metal” at a time when record stores all but did away with the Heavy Metal section of their shelves. I remember once hearing a live recording where Anselmo went on an extended rant about “wimpy alternative shit” and I was like “At last, somebody said it!”

          • The thing is when I saw Pantera they were doing fuck all to help other metal bands that they emulated when they dropped their glam stuff. I saw them play a sold out show with White Zombie and Eyehategod the same month that Overkill came through and ~50 people showed up. You ask people now on the internet that were around at the time and they were ALL those fifty people apparently.

          • Óðhinn

            True. Nobody liked Overkill, even at the height of the Thrash Metal era. I didn’t like Overkill on 1986, and I still don’t like them now. And I was a HUGE thrash metal fan in the 1980s. I hear all these old Metalheads singing their praises now, and I think, “are we talking about the same Overkill?” They were never that great. It’s revisionist history or poor memory. Bobby Blitz is an asshole and his voice is annoying.

          • Óðhinn

            Respectfully disagree. Anselmo was a racist who was just shitting on people who were different than him. When he said that he didn’t like the music, he meant that he didn’t like the kind of people who listened to the music. The truth is that alternative bands didn’t all suck. Who were Pantera to shit on anyone else anyway? They released 4 Glam Metal albums. The same thing that killed Thrash Metal is the same thing that made for shitty “alternative” bands like Silverchair and Candelbox; greedy record companies who wanted watered down music.

            Bands like Faith No More, Ministry, Tool, Rage Against The Machine, Primus, Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, Helmet, Kyuss, etc. did put out some really good music. Anselmo’s cowardly faux tough guy schtick wasn’t true metal. It was about propping up ignorance and old-school rural American values. Anselmo is an ass clown of the highest order.

        • JamesGrimm

          only cheapen it.

          • Guacamole Jim

            What do you mean by cheapening? The mass commercialization of basic-level music for consumption by consumers?

          • JamesGrimm

            The same thing for the “underground” and “alternative”, over stimulation and desensitization applys. Our generation is no different than others.

    • That’s really not the argument at all. There is plenty of good stuff now but it goes relatively unheard or uncared about by people who just want played-all-the-way-the-fuck-out “trve metuhl” with no identity of its own. “Go harder! More brutal!” It really HAS been done better before. Much better…and now it’s just tens-of-thousands of faceless bands who usually can’t even write a memorable song or riff.

      People can’t just chalk everything up to “LOL YOU’RE JUST OLD! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND” either. I mean, they do but that’s because their arguments are lazy, stupid, and ignorant of the history of extreme metal and the fact that nobody’s out-metalling Chuck Schuldiner with their clone-BM and same-DM vox. Now hardly anyone sounds different from anyone else. A few BM and DM vocalists stand out in each respective genre but, for the most part, nobody could tell one from the next…young OR old.

      • you’re my hero JAG

      • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

        You are absolutely right.

        • He is absolutely wrong.

          • …and my entire argument was utterly demolished by these four words.

            If I didn’t feel so utterly defeated and ashamed of myself I’d have to congratulate you on how well you articulated your refutation.

          • 🙂

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            What’s your opinion on this subject?

          • See above. We’ve hashed it out–mostly.

      • The Beargod

        I’m not saying that. I’m saying there’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t been done before at all and no one has yet been successful in creating a coherent thesis about metal’s death (or any such matter). And whenever anyone claims so and their thesis being either incomplete or incoherent, I cannot help but feel that they don’t really want to understand the current scene.

        • The Beargod

          This also has nothing to do with the age of anyone.

        • Well, for what it’s worth I don’t think “metal’s dead.” Of course my definition of “heavy metal” is still the historic one and not what all too many people let’s say ~25 yrs. old or younger want the definition to be.

          You know what else burns my ass? Younger metalheads who say stupid shit like “is (older band) even relevant anymore?” That’s the mark of a TRUE poser right there; when one cares about what’s currently cool and trendy in metal sub-genres. Or pretty much anyone who won’t call a band (past or present) metal because of the way they look. That’s what’s happening to so-called hair metal now and it’s coming mostly from people who never lived through the era. Anybody who listens to fake-satanic bands with corpse paint on stage should realize the fucking irony of their worthless pontifications. Same disloyal bitches who ditched every band they grew up with (except Rammstein, of course) and now pretend they never liked them or “they were a gateway cuz now I’m onto the next cool thing lol Disturbed!”

          • The Beargod

            Regarding1: I never thought you would think metal is dead

            Regarding2: Personally I find that most bands make their best albums at older age.

            Regarding3: That hit close to home.

          • Well, I’m not trying to be personal or offensive. I just think it’s good to talk about this stuff. You know me: I’ll listen to Mötley Crüe and follow it with Dissection because IDGAF. I don’t even tag my digital library with anything more specific than “rock” or “heavy metal” now.

          • The Beargod

            No offense taken, just pointed that it hit home. Years ago all I listened was hip hop, which I’ve only recently started to listen to again and none of the same guys, and Rammstein.

            (And yes it’s good to talk about these things)

          • sweetooth0

            going back and re-listening to the hip hop I loved in highschool after also recently getting back into hip hop due to the crowd I run with these days has made me appreciate those albums even more.

            Definitely go back and check out that old stuff again.

          • “Same disloyal bitches who ditched every band they grew up with (except
            Rammstein, of course) and now pretend they never liked them”

            THIS

          • I hear a lot of “trve metuhl!”crap about every last band they ever toured with and identified with at the height of their fame. I like Rammstein but IDK what makes them more special or “relevant” than say Marilyn Manson who Till LIndemann cites as one of his favorite frontmen.

          • Guacamole Jim

            Asking whether or not something is relevant isn’t the mark of a poser. You could make the argument that art never loses its relevance, but certain forms of art are really not relevant when discussing others. Certain old bands, while people won’t deny their influence, may lose their relevance to a particular time period, or particular group of people, or particular ideal. People who disregard old bands simply because they’re old, or disregard simple bands because it’s not “cool” enough to like them are stupid. But people who make an argument based on the passage of time, the changing of societal and artistic paradigms, that certain bands lose relevancy in the modern era aren’t posers.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            There’s a lot of bands I like who sound dated but I still enjoy them. Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service come to mind as does the 13th Floor Elevators and Moby Grape.

          • I think Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind, for example, is just as relevant now as it was when it was released. Any kid can pick it up and immediately identify with it. But I get what you’re saying.

          • That is a good fucking album! Quicksand Jesus FTW

            GL

          • MoshOff

            I saw Sebastian Bach butcher that a few years ago 🙁 I’ll stick to live videos from the 90s.

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            I never left behind what got me into music which was hair metal, nu metal, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead. I’m proud of my taste and I won’t ever be brought down by the people who hate the stuff I like.

          • Simon “Djentcrusher” Phoenix

            True, but on the flip side there are few things that annoy me more than someone who’s like “You weren’t there in its heyday, therefore you are automatically forbidden from liking this genre/band/album, and you are a poser for even trying.”

            Like fuck off, this isn’t a job promotion based on senority. It’s just fucking music. Music is timeless and meant to be enjoyed by everyone. What would happen if people suddenly were like “You weren’t alive during the Baroque period so you can’t listen to this guy”, or “You weren’t alive during the Great Depression, so you can’t enjoy Billie Holiday.”

          • Tyree

            Yup, certainly very dumb. Most all of bands that I worship predate me. So, fuck off if you don’t think I can listen to Altars of Madness because I listened to it for the first time freshman year of high school, 2004. Older people that were in the heyday of this awesome metal should be excited to see younger people praising it.

          • OldMetalHead

            I last saw Judas Priest in 2002 for the Angel of Retribution tour. I was standing next to a kid half my age who had recently got into “Painkiller”. We had a great discussion about how great that album was, and I was able to give him some insight to how getting a new drummer helped to drive such a big change to their sound. Good times!

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            Basically every band I worship predates me. It’s annoying when people try to forbid you from liking a genre you like just because you weren’t around when it originated. As Jay said music belongs to no generation.

          • I would never say that. Music IS timeless and belongs to no generation. That’s the gospel I preach.

          • OldMetalHead

            Fucking-A right!

      • You are absolutely wrong.

        • Speak on it. Let’s hear that rebuttal.

          • “Now hardly anyone sounds different from anyone else.”

            I’d post a list of youtube links to the contrary, but I don’t want your computer to explode.

            This just sounds laughably reductionist to me. Maybe I’ve misread you?

          • I’m talking about the vocal styles. I could do an ABX test of a thousand snippets of modern DM and BM vocalists and I guarantee you, that with few exceptions, you couldn’t tell me who was “singing.”

            That’s what it should have read like.

          • That’s true. For me, screamed vocals are almost like a garnish. That probably sounds insulting, but it isn’t meant to be. The music behind them is what really matters.

            When you said: “It really HAS been done better before. Much better…and now it’s just tens-of-thousands of faceless bands who usually can’t even write a memorable song or riff.” I thought you were making a blanket statement about the quality/validity of new metal bands/trends. If not, then I guess I jerked my knee out of the socket for nothing . . .

          • Well, it was a pretty generic statement.

            Some people say they hear riffs and think they’re brilliant when I’m just going “where’s this memorable riff you speak of?”

            Believe it or not I have a lot of modern DM, a little BM, and assorted others with “extreme” vox in my collection. I’m just burned out on the vocals. It’s gotten to the point where I only want to hear it when I’m in the mood for super-aggressive extreme-type music. And then it’s just a handful of bands that I like within their respective genres.

          • Okay, my knee feels more better now.

            (Belated edit: not sure the human knee has a socket. Not a doctor.)

            As someone who is much less concerned with RIFFS than ATMOSPHERE, I can see your point. What really draws me to a new band is more intangible than any single riff or riff-collection. It’s the full picture. Anyone can write a riff. Anyone can write a song. But to give it that extra . . . verve? . . . that is magical and its mechanism is mostly unspeakable.

            Not burnt out on vokills yet, but I might be one day. Although I’d like to think I could still shake and shimmy to harsh vox when I’m back in diapers.

          • I get what you’re saying about atmosphere. I used to listen to a lot of darkwave/industrial type stuff and often the beats were repetitive and very same-y. I guess that could make me a bit hypocritical since I don’t “get it” in metal.

          • Hmm…I generally dislike extreme repetition. Dorkwave/Industrial was never really my thing. I prefer live drummers almost exclusively. When I speak of atmosphere an easy reference would be things like Wolves in the Throne Room, Wreck & Reference, Bosse-de-Nage . . . I don’t know, I guess “atmosphere” is as subjective a term as anything else. Most people just think “keyboards.”

          • “Dorkwave.” I see what you did there haha.

          • Haha. I’m not at my sharpest after 12 of work, but I’ve still got one or two stupid jokes in me . . .

            Anyway. Good talk. I feel like we’re in a better place now, you and I. The future looks bright.

          • Ask anyone: I type something grievously and maddeningly offensive at least once a day. I am an unrepentant shit-stirrer.

          • As you may have guessed from my initial volley, I also dabble occasionally (read: constantly) in the stirring of shit.

            I look forward to stirring your shit and vice versa in the near or even nearer future.

            Cheers, bitch.

          • Until next time, Fucker 😀

          • Óðhinn

            Even with clean vocals, you get so many boring vocalists trying to sound exactly like Dio, Halford, or Dickinson. The newer Power Metal vocalists all sound the same to me. I wish they’d all stop trying to be operatic and whaling like diseased cats. Sure, have clean vocals, but don’t scream like banshee.

          • I hear a few Halford-wannabes (still identifiable as Ralf Scheepers or whoever) but I can’t think of anyone who sounds much like Dio. Nobody sounds like Dickinson either (who can, at times, be overbearing with the vibrato.)

            But I agree: IMO PM vocalists, excluding a some exceptions, tend to be pretty boring and mediocre. I don’t listen to enough of them to really know if they sound too much alike or not TBH.

    • OldMetalHead

      As an old guy I could easily fall into this argument and likely have in the past. For me though, the metal scene is as exciting or more exciting than it’s ever been. Part of that is probably due to broadening my horizons to all sorts of genres when in the past I was mostly only interested in only NWBHM and Thrash.

      But, getting past those internal blockages is only part of the story. With the internet and the reduced power of major labels, it would seem there is greater access to more creativity out there than ever before. There’s really too much new stuff coming out for any one person to listen to, and as I have a limited amount of time to spend on listening to music, I can only listen to a tiny percentage of that. I’m grateful to have the denizens of The Toilet and other Blogs / Forums to turn me on to the best of the best. The best way to make sure the scene continues to be relevant is to spend money on music, shows, and merch, which I’ll continue to do my part to do. TL;DR Not Dead, Love Metal and you guys!

      • Taylor Jong Un

        Let’s get these whippersnappers off our lawn!

        http://www.theblaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/mccain.jpg

      • Óðhinn

        I have to agree. Metal is just as good, and probably better, now than it was in the 1980s. It’s more diverse now. There are so many more band to discover now.

        I actually can’t stand the people who insist that Power Metal is the only “true” metal and cling to that one sound.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

      I like the first song but I will not play that abomination that Meghan Trainor created.

  • It was very difficult to me to read this and I didn’t fully understood it, W. Sorry about that 🙁

    But, I really appreciate your opinion here and kudos for pulling all of your argument with backing theories.

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      Link, my good friend, I’d love to talk it over with you at some point.

      • I hope I can understand you more! 😛 My english stupidity didn’t helped me this time.

        • Lacertilian

          Short Summary: Merol is alive and Link is in it’s blood.

  • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

    I’m excited. GWAR is coming to my area in September. I’m so seeing them to atone for missing them last time they were here.

  • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

    Is Metal (Sucks) Dead?

    • Rho Stone

      Yeah but a cave troll called axl lives on its poser covered corpse like a hermitt crab

      • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

        paints an accurately funny picture!

      • Vladimir Poutine

        Having seen a picture of Axl, I can testify to the accuracy of this.

    • Taylor Jong Un

      No. As long as there’s rich white Christian GOPers being oppressed by blacks, Jews and women, Axl’s gotta be there to save them before their jimmies get rustled and pearls start being clutched.

      • Sir Tapir the Based™

        Isn’t at least one of the MS guys Jewish?

        • I’ve never encountered someone here that call himself as part of the Jew religion or culture. Also, Buddist.

          #LinkFacts

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            Everyone in the toilet is a Dawkinist.

          • I thought they were Dankinist.

          • Guacamole Jim

            KEK

          • KJM

            ^^This. At least I am.

          • J.R.

            I like to consider myself a Metalist, but that is just me.

            SAIL INTO BATTLE, GLORY AND METAL

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            I’m more of an Ihateveryoneist.

          • J.R.

            It shows

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            I’m Catholic. I’m not a Dawkinist.

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            JJD for the next pope!

          • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

            I’d love to be the pope but I’m nowhere near holy enough to be pope.

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            If a guy who has been in Hitlerjugend can be a pope, you can also be a pope.

          • Óðhinn

            I’m an atheist.

            Although, I’m thinking about finding another word for it because so many religious nuts are claiming that atheism is a “religion” now. I’ve yet to have one of these nut provide of a coherent argument as to why they think atheism is a religion though. I guess I’m non-religious and I believe in science. I guess they have “faith” that atheism is a religion.

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            I consider myself to be between Atheism and Agnosticism.

          • Lacertilian

            As would any honest atheist.
            Nobody can completely dismiss the existence of deities (shame eh), which essentially only leaves varying degrees of agnosticism.
            I have looked around and I think post-theist is the most adequate term for my position.
            Post-theism is a variant of nontheism that proposes that the division of theism vs. atheism is obsolete, that God belongs to a stage of human development now past. (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-theism).

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            “Nobody can completely dismiss the existence of deities”
            Blackbeard does not agree.

          • Lacertilian

            Russel’s teapot comes to mind, the burden of proof lies with those making the claim but I think this Carl Sagan quote sums it all up neatly.
            Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true

          • Lacertilian

            I read a good analogy somewhere that is basically: if atheism is a religion, then OFF is a TV channel.

          • Óðhinn

            That is good.

          • Vladimir Poutine

            “People who truly follow the Way would do well to conceal the fact that they are Buddhists.”
            -Dogen

            “We’re gonna play loud! We’re gonna play fast! Support fucking death metal!”
            -Krisiun

        • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

          I think both are.

        • Taylor Jong Un

          No clue. If one of them is, he’s most likely on the Bobby Fischer end of things.

      • Rho Stone

        For some reason judaism is a huge trigger on axl. I find his reactions hilarious

        • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

          his trigger list is long…

      • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

        much jimmie rustlin over there for sure…

    • there are a couple of cavemen over there trying to rejuvenate it. and i spotted Hester Kukk a time or two recently. but even Conan is dialing down his antics.
      TL;DR yes

      • KJM

        Conan has discovered FB last I checked.

        • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

          He did.

      • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

        I know Derrick is the big Kanua there now….HK is back wow? What happened to him anyway? Wow even the big guy is mellowing. I dont look often over there but when I do the first thing that hits me is how light the comments are, its like 8-10 on many posts. IThe comments are also very negative or just bland.

      • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

        It’s really hard to enjoy the comment section there. It’s so devoid of anything funny.

        • sweetooth0

          There’s Derek/Godless Angel still commenting and 🙂 every post though. When he ran the site for a day it suddenly didn’t suck anymore.

  • My takeaway from that Poetry-of-Subculture post is that the author is no longer enjoying metal, therefore it must be dead. That’s a pretty one-dimensional view of anything. It’s the exact same view as a dude who stops going to shows and assumes the scene is dead because he’s no longer a part of it.

    • it’s metalsucks point of view. Worth noting that this guys article was published before the metal world was gifted with the venerable, thoughtful, subjective and objective at the same time…. TOILETOVHELL..

    • “The reason these bands exist is because they’re trying to protect metal music”

      I stopped reading. I’m so sorry, but I can’t stand this determinist point of views. There’s more than that. A group of musicians or artists choose a genre (in this case, merol) for some other reasons, not only because the ‘community’ part or the overall culture aspects. The passions, the ‘vibe’ of the genre, the instrument availability, the message, the expression are the primordial source of every genre; you can’t reduce that to just analize the “protection of the culture” or the “performance”.

      I think I’m out of this thread soon. This english nonsense will give me headaches.

    • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo
      • you beat me by two minutes

        • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

          I win again, Lews Therin

      • Mother Shabubu III

        Dude that site has some funny shit man.

    • Guacamole Jim

      And, like W. said, his understand of the definition of “metal” is so narrow in scope it’s like he’s been ignoring 90% of what’s been happening in music for the past 20 years. It would be like you or I only buying one kind of apple for 20 years, ignoring every other kind of apple at the grocery store, and then saying “Wow, the apple industry sucks because they only produce one kind of apple! Apples are dead.”

      • JWG

        In fairness, that is actually more the case for bananas.

      • Actiondonkey

        Exactly. It’s beyond simplistic and intellectually irresponsible to say “X” is a dying art because, on the surface, it appears the same as it did “X” years ago.

    • He comes across as one of those “Get Off My Lawn” types.

  • Mother Shabubu III

    I think metal as in the genre of music is still well and alive, however the older concept/community that was “metal”, has been dead for some time. Dare I say the domestication of metal music, be it the advent of the internet, radio play, or bands bridging the gap between mainstream and underground, has thoroughly terraformed what was once a cult-like community into something much more open and accepting. I mean when you considered stuff like Slipknot, Pantera, etc is played regularly on the radio, I think it’s safe to say metal has become accepted – and original form of metal culture has been obliterated and reformed into something new.

    It’s the same thing that happened to true punk/hardcore music; it no longer holds the power and shock value and is widely accepted now. It still has the teeth, but it’s covered by a muzzle now. While they made some garbage music, I would say stuff like glam metal and pop punk help dissolve the borders between those exclusive cultures and the mainstream and maybe paved the way for the dissolving of boundaries between metal and other genres, for better or worse.

    • The Beargod

      I think metal still holds shock value. Most readers here are just shocked by the extreme and don’t quite even see that they are the ‘victims’ themselves.

      • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

        I think that shock value still exists in metal. As long as bands can continue to shock people like Alice Cooper and WASP did back in the day metal will still have the ability to shock people. Look at the antics of Iggy Pop and GG Allin. They shocked the fuck out of people but no one could top them.

        • Rho Stone

          I think the shock value part is gone. I live in a very backwards conservative country, but in recent years attitude towards metal is only reserved for extremist churchophiles with two fingers up their ass. Metalheads are seen as a niche just like salsa fans are

          • salsa fans, lol.

            GL

          • Salsa fans are the worse.

          • The wife and I are big fans of this salsa. Este muy caliente!

            GL

            http://i5.walmartimages.com/dfw/dce07b8c-d323/k2-_453a404a-2af9-4bf4-8605-cee62202f00d.v1.jpg

          • This:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ad2iw329NZI

            200 % volume.

            Maracaibo, 33 Cº, a bus full of people.

            3pm.

            Everyone sweats because the heat wave.

            The bus goes slow because all the people. Your whole road will go slow because of that.

            Kill.me.please.

          • The music reminds me of any “mexican” restaurant here. I am sorry that you have to live through that!

          • Mother Shabubu III

            Get that wussy-ass salsa outta here.

          • Don’t get me wrong – it is not blazing hot/ass melting/oh-look-how-cool-I-am-Im-eating-hot-stuff-Im-cool. It is just a good hot salsa for cooking!

            GL

          • Mother Shabubu III

            I know, I just like being a heat-head. I use Renfro’s Mango Habenero one to marinate chicken in. Them I grill it, shred it, and use it for “street” tacos.

          • Damn I loved shredded chicken. We use a vegetable grinder to chop it up. Works like a charm! Street tacos FTW!

          • Mother Shabubu III

            I do that, shred some Iberico cheese straight on to the warm tortillas, then put on the chicken, then a salsa (I use random peppers and tomatoes from a local farm. Who would have thought CT would be able to grow chilis?), then fresh cilantro and lettuce.

          • Fuuuuck that sounds delicious. You need to contribute your own version of the Merol Cooking series.

          • Mother Shabubu III

            You sure you want to cook with Merol? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMColAwUht4

          • this stuff is punishing, i’ll admit it.

          • Mother Shabubu III

            It’s like BDSM for your mouth.

          • Óðhinn

            It’s made in San Antonio by people who know what picante sauce should taste like.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSxnieYctVM

          • Sir Tapir the Based™

            Fucking dancers!

          • Rho Stone

            Reggueton fans are the worst.

          • The Beargod

            Yet 90% of people here get their ass burnt to a degree over Nazi bands. Given that this isn’t really about metal but few other bands go Nazi. (For an example)

          • Shocked =/= Offended or turned off.

          • The Beargod

            Where peiple are offended there are ahocked people as well.

      • J.R.

        I think for Metal the “shock” aspect is more expected, so when it shows up people aren’t as offended because it is all part of the package.
        I think “shock value” now has a greater place in pop music, because it is so unexpected. I’m reminded of all the Miley Cyrus stuff, and while she wasn’t worshiping the devil while burning effigies of political figures on stage, her drug fueled gyrations and general “its our party we can do what we want” attitude/ message was pretty shocking to most in just how brazen it was.

    • Taylor Jong Un

      I remember when Korn and all that came out, and no one even calling them metal, instead preferring to call them alternative. Even the radio stations called them as such.

      • Mother Shabubu III

        I remember when Queens of the Stone Age really took off in like 2002-2003 and my local radio station had a debate as to what they were. I mean, all things considered this version is heavy as shit, I would call this metal:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9QeIxwfBes

        • Óðhinn

          They kind of straddle both hard rock and metal. Maybe a bit more rock than metal. I’d day they are Stoner Rock / Alternative Rock / Hard Rock.

    • I’m with Shabubu here.

      Merol didn’t changed by itself (or died). All the community and the people playing it changed, the technology changed and the motives to play it changed.

  • Rho Stone

    Right now there’s much more new stoner sludge doom than ever before, and by new i mean not only in age but concept. Fucking somali yatch club man, for example. Might be biased because that’s the merol i listen to, but jamz stay tasty

  • The condition of man is a condition of war of everyone against everyone – Thomas Hobbes

    As long as the above quote is true (and why wouldn’t it be?), then metal is not dead. As long as metal at least sonically approximates the inner workings of my brain, then metal is not dead. As long as the mythologies of things like religion, science fiction and H.P. Lovecraft are still interesting, then metal is not dead. As long as there is death, then metal is not dead.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
  • Simon “Djentcrusher” Phoenix

    Thank you for this article Dubs. It’s what I keep saying all the time. Striving to innovate is always a good thing, but there is NOTHING wrong with paying homage to the genres and albums you love from the past. There is NOTHING wrong with more of the same but better, as long as you do it with a passion and love for what you are making. That in my opinion is what distinguishes a mediocre band from a great one.

    There is room for both innovation and traditional love in music. The former almost always is spawned from the latter anyway.

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      I genuinely think you need both. I’m much more interested in the innovative bands, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some of the more traditional ones.

  • Keegan Lavern Still

    I agree with the idea of the one-man band format continuing to grow in popularity. Beyond the technological aspect of it my take on it is that it’s much, much harder to find people to write or play with, whether it’s a matter of finding people into metal at all or finding people who are like-minded enough in what you want to do in metal that being in a band or collaborating with other people isn’t just a series of compromises.

    Other than that, modern life isn’t kind to musicians of any kind, especially the touring, underground, ultra-micro-niche bands that we love here. From what I’ve seen and heard from a lot of people, those who want to make music seriously either go all in and do it solely for the love of it, or get a job/education/whatever and treat it as a hobby for the sake of security and (relative) comfort.

    That’s my limited take, anyway.

    • Guacamole Jim

      Your limited take is spot on. I, along with many of my friends, went off after music college and got a real job, and just spend my evenings writing music in my room because I love it. Some of my other friends pursued music, regardless of the financial cost. But it felt like a lose/lose no matter which way you went.

      • Keegan Lavern Still

        I’ll definitely be in the former category once I graduate and actually get equipment to use. I only have one friend who’s even remotely as much into metal as I am to play with, but between the Army and his own job, he’s perfectly content ripping off Lamb of God and Meshuggah. Not relevant, but still disappointing and frustrating.

        • My old friend Dan has a one-man metal band–Autumns Eyes, winner of the Best Band in Connecticut prize. He started in his bedroom after high school and now makes a living almost solely off his music. Never played a show in his life. The bastard.

  • Just a small nitpick, W. Usually “post-metal” or “post-anything” doesn’t mean it’s dead.

    We live in a so-called “post-industrial” world but we still have and will have industry. Same with Steve Jobs saying that we’re approaching “post-PC” times. A lot of Apple-haters made a giant deal out of that and it was hilarious to hear their blatherings and nerd-rage about how “Jobs is stupid. What does he think; we won’t need desktop PCs anymore?!”

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      Yah, I get that. End of Art Theory wouldn’t necessarily say it’s dead, but that art as we know it is gone. Helm is certainly opining that he thinks metal is dead, though.

  • While all these things are great to think about behind the keyboard, there’s a strong disconnect between heady arguments like this and the mindset of people playing shows and writing music.

    You know why I play music? Because it’s fun. There’s literally not a single deep concept behind it, I just want to play music I think is fun.

    With that said, EXCELLENT article, you did a fantastic job connecting the idea of “art is dead” with metal.

    • MoshOff

      Are you implying that slaying posers isn’t enough of a reason?

      • Are you implying that slaying posers isn’t what I mean by fun?

        • MoshOff

          You’re right. When slaying posers becomes a monotonous chore is when one should sheath his steel.

  • What’s in Helm’s playlist that draws him to this conclusion? I wouldn’t say metal is dead but it exists in so many different sub genres and niche groups now that it has formed into cliques and groups of people are gravitated towards them which makes everyrhing seem fragmented.

  • For me, metal is very much alive. Not only are there more bands, more diversity, and more sounds than ever before, but there are also still tons of great albums that I would consider to be art being released. If anyone calls Ghost Bath’s Moonlover “not art”, I have a Zweihander ov Steel ready to decapitate them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg530raHyuo&ab_channel=Lightfox177

    • Óðhinn

      Agreed.

  • Paris Hilton

    One of the problems is the fanbase. Metal has such a definite criteria that it’s hard to expand the sound at all without metalheads either slamming it with homophobic slurs or completely disregarding it as “not metal”. This causes cool, fresh sounding bands to either change into a more traditional metal sound or leave the genre. The restrictions also effect what writers can do.

    ALSO- Metal bands and heads ridiculing other bands either online or at shows needs to stop. At a time I thought it was a cool, “us vs. Them” thing; but now I see that it just makes metalheads look like jealous douches that make fun of successful people to bring themselves up. It’s as juvenile as it is pathetic. So if you’re worried about your pet genre dying, look in the mirror and ask if you’re part of the problem!

  • Guppusmaximus

    Personally, I think people over analyze this shit way too much. I think all “art” comes in waves and if we take Metal as an example you can see that the Glam Metal (ugh, i hate that term) has, merely, been replaced by whatever popular modern metal genre is the most accessible.

    However, I do feel that the golden era (80s) provided a bit more creativity due, mostly, to the fact that it was “new” and musicians had no idea where it could go or how far BUT we had our fair share of shitty acts. Fortunately, in that scenario, we didn’t have to wade through a fuck ton of it on an international network. Just my .02

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      Art seems to have a bit of a cyclical nature to it as well.

      • Guppusmaximus

        True…I feel those cycles are due to the cycle of life and the interpretation of those newer generations. Obviously, over saturation can be a problem for any genre and I believe that is cyclical too. Honestly, I don’t think I’m in a philosophical mood today:)

  • Metal isn’t dead and there’s no reason for any bands to feel the need to “defend” it. The only people who attack it still are crazy fundamentalist Christians and white suburban soccer moms with nothing better to do, and there’s literally nothing they can do to dismantle any of it at this point. Metal will keep living, just as punk does. It may not have the relatively massive “Metallica in their hayday” audience it once had, but it doesn’t need to. Artists will find seams to rip and new ways to retread the same ground.

    • I’d argue that it has a bigger audience than ever. But I don’t know any things.

      • sweetooth0

        I’d say overall genre wise, yeah, metal is bigger than ever. But there will never be an elite top level of bands like in the 80 to early 90’s heyday filling massive stadiums ever again. Fandom has now been spread out considerably, mainly due to the fact that you can get a hold of just about any piece of recorded music with just a few clicks.

        People today can listen to the bands they truly like, instead of sort of settling for what was available in their region in the past.

  • Fossegrim

    Great read. I remember back in the mid nineties thinking “where can metal go from here?” And ” how many riff combinations are even possible?” Then nu metal came out. I liked it. It made me realize that metal has a life of it’s own. And, like life, it grows and evolves. Waxes and wanes. Especially in the underground. I am so glad that as I approach my 40s, new music is as good as it has ever been. Even better in my opinion. I got crap for getting bored with bands back then but have become the guy a few friends ask what new bands to listen to. Cheers to all you metalheads, whatever genres you are into.

    • Welcome to the Terlet! (I don’t think I’ve seen you ’round these parts)

      • Fossegrim

        Ty, big fan of your “work” I was here in the turd bowl at the beginning. I’m a drowner and a lurker. Mostly keep my mouth shut unless I’m angry at the sucky metal forum. 😉

  • J.R.

    Just purely based on the fact that “metal” covers just an immense gradient of sounds and styles it will never “die”. While there are plenty of bands chasing them dolla dolla bills y’all that choose to stay within their radio-approved bubble of creativity…just the sheer volume of other content out there…and you dont have to be exploring for the next wacky shtick to throw into your music to be considered progressing. I have great respect for the groups that instead peer inward to the heart of their craft and explore within the limits and confines of their “genre” and create amazing stuff.

  • Max

    I’m not so sure about one-man bands being the way forward, despite the established precedent they have in the likes of Burzum or Mortiis and the greater technological ease in developing them.

    Nobody denies that what happens on a typical heavy metal record today is very distinct from what happens onstage. But the “four personalities playing live” aspect of metal can’t be taken out of the equation. Metal remains a form of rock, and rock remains an organic small-ensemble music form that is as much built on personality as it is on musicianship. Metal skews its balance more toward musicianship while other rock sub-genres skew more toward personality, neither entirely out of the equation in any event.

    Earache’s Digby Pearson had a revealing take on this on his blog. He claimed that he was no longer willing to sign one-man projects because they can’t tour and they always creatively stagnate. Bands that can’t tour WILL – not might, will – eventually fall out of favour with fans. Record sales flatline, precluding investment in new releases, thereby eliminating the point of touring to support them in a vicious circle.

    Even one studio mastermind with a touring band of hired hands doesn’t really cut it. Because if the others aren’t contributing to the creative process, the mastermind’s creativity eventually runs dry. (This was where Death went right: Although it was almost Schuldiner’s solo band with a revolving cast, the other players VERY much contributed creatively.)

    The much-vaunted technological revolution, while making such things easier, only serves to mire them in the bog of possibilities and perfectionism, which potentially keeps solo artists out of circulation for too long.

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      Very interesting take on that, Max. As always, I enjoy reading your thoughts. I guess my response to that would be to ask whether or not the presence of labels matters for these musicians. I don’t believe it will in the future.

      The creativity angle, though, is not something I honestly had thought much about.

      • Max

        Well, a record label releases records. Since we’re getting to the stage where records won’t be physically released, it’s sensible to envision “record labels” as essentially some sort of PR company that fronts the money for creative endeavours and promotion, and in return gets the lion’s share of whatever rewards can be wrought. I see that mattering as much in the future as it does now, for artists who really want to make a go of it.

        I think about the creativity angle all too much. I started out learning guitar/bass and using a drum machine and a four-track. I wanted my percussion to sound as much like a real drummer as possible (not easy with an almost monophonic ’80s drum machine). This entailed not only obtaining later-generation drum machines with more and better sounds, but also programming as “realistically” as possible, with only the sort of rhythms and fills that a human would be able to play, plenty of human nuances and even human tempo lapses written into the performance. It would take me several months just to program one song. Even today, in the computer age, that would still take some doing.

        Ditto for the guitars and everything else, to the point where I basically taught myself sound engineering just to try and replicate in my own music what I was hearing on my favourite records. All great fun and very enlightening, but man did it slow the actual art-making right down to a crawl. Certainly, as far as the drums go I would have been better off actually getting an acoustic kit and learning to play myself (which I eventually did) or just teaming up with somebody who could. My advice to younger self would be: GET OUT OF THE BEDROOM AND FORM A BAND or better yet JOIN SOMEBODY ELSE’S EVEN IF YOU DON’T REALLY LIKE THE MUSIC.

        • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

          “I see that mattering as much in the future as it does now, for artists who really want to make a go of it.” For most bands, I believe this will hold true. I feel though, at least since we’ve been doing this blogging thing, that I’m encountering less and less musicians with the aspirations of making it big. It seems that several of the people we’ve interviewed just write metal as a hobby while working a regular job. This then goes back to the issue of touring though, so I suppose it all depends on how many bands want to continue the age-old dream of playing their music live. Most of them will still want to, I imagine, so I suppose that’s an area where my theory falls a bit short.

      • CT-12

        I was thinking about the relevance of labels earlier today, and I truly think in the future there will be (/should be?) unions or coalitions of bands that join together to release their individual albums under one umbrella, and either they disperse the earnings between all of the bands or something. I also think Retro Futurist had an interesting idea of being able to subscribe to their label and get all their releases for however long you subscribe. Gives smaller bands a better chance to be heard, makes it cheaper for the customer, etc, etc.

        • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

          Now that second idea is very interesting. There are some labels I would definitely consider subscribing to.

        • ZEITGEISTER, if no one already said it. They do that. Sort of.

        • sweetooth0

          I did a year long subscription to revolving door. They do mostly synth stuff, but I get a mini CD in the mail every month from artists I’ve never heard of.

          It’s pretty cool. Would be awesome if metal labels did that. I can definitely think of a few I would sign up for.

    • I’m not sure Digby is willing to sign metal bands, let alone one-man projects (AYO).

      I tend to agree with your viewpoints but I think metal is evolving beyond just a form of rock when so many new projects are taking inspiration from sounds that have more in common with avant-garde, experimental, or noise.

      • Max

        Oh, he doesn’t now; this was from quite a number of years ago. I think it would very much apply if you were currently running your own metal label, though.

        As to the more avant-garde directions some metal bands are taking – I guess I would argue that they can evolve away from traditional rock as far as they wish, as long as they’re still using guitars to do it; if they still want to be classified as “metal”. After all, the term originally referred to Jimi Hendrix’s guitar sound. (Naturally a band having or not having guitars is completely besides the merit of what they’re doing.)

      • sweetooth0

        Yeah Earache is a fucking joke these days. At least they still re-issue the classics.

    • What you’re saying sounds solid in theory, but I don’t think it translates to practice. There are plenty of one-man-bands that never saw their creativity run dry, nor their fanbase dry up. I just don’t think the correlation is there. Then again, one-man-bands tend to have cultlike niche-audiences, which don’t matter much to even moderately sized labels . . .

      • Max

        If a cultlike niche-audience is all a solo act wants, I daresay they can string it out for quite a while. But that’s not quite the same thing as making onto the level of, say, Meshuggah or Municipal Waste. I can’t think of any one-man acts in metal that are achieving this or have in the past. Bathory is the only one I can nominate, and don’t forget that Bathory was an actual band to start with, and always retained a drummer even when it wasn’t a band anymore.

        I think there is some leeway on this with regard to acts that explicitly sell themselves as lone auteurs in the same way as a DJ, like Nine Inch Nails. They tend to be making music which is a little outside of the “metal” box anyway. I was referring more to the acts which are presented in “organic band” format when in fact it’s only one guy. There’s plenty of them in the underground but they generally stay there.

        • Okay. I see what you’re getting at now.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            I think it sort of goes back to the dual nature of the industry. Some people are pretty content with remaining in the underground.

          • Max’s argument threw me because he seems to be equating “the way forward” with “SUCCESS!” I often forget that there are people who give a shit about what happens outside of the underground–and who see the mainstream as somehow more “valid”. This mindset confounds me. But it’s way too late for me to debate cogently.

  • Hotdog Clifford

    Listening to that stream of Dawn of Azazel right now. Metal is not dead.

  • Óðhinn

    Great article W. And yes, you’re right. Metal is not dead. Generally those who would say it is dead are really complaining that it is not the same as it used to be, or that they don’t like the people who listen to it now. Bands like The Sword or Deafheaven don’t actually suck. But many long-time Metal fans just don’t like the idea of “hipsters” listening to Metal music. As a person who grew up and discovered Metal in the 1980s, I’m in the minority of people who think the music is actually (in a way) better because it’s more diverse now (in the 2000s and 2010s). Sure, we had Metallica, Slayer, Voivod, Death Angel, Motorhead, etc., but their were a lot of really crappy commercial bands in the 1980s too, such as Winger, Poison and Cinderalla. Listening to older Metal fans, who probably hated glam in the 1980’s, praise glam now just because it’s their generation is kind of ironic.

    The question of whether art is inherently good, or a matter of taste is an old one that continues to be debated. I could go on about art theory, but “art” is generally defined by critics, curators, collectors, and dealers (as Morgan and Purje state in their article). Personally, I do tend to gravitate towards critically acclaimed Metal from a select group of critics, rather than what the unwashed masses have to say. I find it’s easier to relate to a handful of educated critics when looking for recommendations that what Joe-six-pack, who may be living in a trailer park in Tennessee and think Gamma Ray is the best band ever, might say on the internet. We have different lives and different tastes. What I think is Metal, many may not. But is metal dead? No. It’s just evolving.

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      Those who want to stop the evolution of art tend to get left behind by it as well.

      • Óðhinn

        That’s true. I know people use Hitler as an example too often, but he did try to stop what he considered to be degenerate art. How do you stop an idea or a concept? It’s not an easy task to accomplish. And why do you want to? It can be very self-serving to do so.

  • Virgil the Ghost Poet

    As long as their are angry kids out there that think that grown ups just don’t understand their will ALWAYS be metal. As long as musicians trying to get laid and people gou g to shows their will ALWAYS be metal.

    Now I have a question for you: why do we have to overanalyze this? Now I LOVE metal, I LOVE listening to metal, I LOVE talking metal, I LOVE dysecting metal, I mean fuck I am listening to metal right now (Bell Witch), but do we need a theory, a hypothesis?

    People have been killing metal for years and I’m not dead yet!

    • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

      I suppose that’s a fair question. For me, I tend to examine my world systematically, including my interests and relationships, so analyses like this are just a byproduct of that.

      • Virgil the Ghost Poet

        I overanalyze too. Isn’t that Tyler’s friend who wrote that? And to come up with some weird theory that explains how awful Andy Warhol s crap is when the most important part of this or any art is enjoyment and self growth. I did enjoy the artical and I learned a theory that I can use and throw in peoples faces, so thank you.

        • Óðhinn

          Personally, I think that their aren’t enough people who think about theory and hypothesis.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            This hints at a bigger question as well, one that I’ve been pondering for a while now. Why do we all like metal? I think the answer to that is far more complex and individualistic than we might expect.

          • Óðhinn

            Good question. I grew up listening to thrash, probably for more visceral reasons. It became a lifestyle as a youth.

            As an adult, I became an intellectual and an artist who rediscovered a love for Metal music. I probably think about the music and art in a different way now than I did as a teenager.

            Fir Bolg.One man Black Metal:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1E-YQDA6ok

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            This is great!

          • Óðhinn

            Yes. The whole album is good. Nobody knows about him though. It’s too bad.

          • Dr. W.’s Tentacles

            I like finding these weirdo one-man bands. Big fan of Botanist too, though I think he may have added personnel.

          • Óðhinn

            Yes. VI: Flora is a very good album. I like the mix of dark and bright sounds. I think Botanist actually tours, so he must at least have touring musicians.

  • Óðhinn

    This is a good album for second wave Black Metal fans. Not many people know about this band (Blodsgard) in my experience:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLNoxUYQm8g

  • Óðhinn

    “We gangs of L.A. will never die, just multiply, Colors” – Ice T

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN26TYjL7c8&list=PLezHXoc0TtwcS2mUK9EeuUrOq6v9Jx1sb

  • ********************FLUSH********************

  • Cory John William Kamermans

    Personally when i need something to listen to besides metal in its many forms and sub, sub, sub genres i go for soundtrack scores. Mostly to sci-fi and horror movies ala John Carpenter. He is a musical genius in my opinion.

    • The W.

      There are several people around here who dig John Carpenter. I enjoy movie soundtracks quite a bit.