Plot twist: It’s not and never will be.
So it was a slow, easy day full of cleaning up around my house and jammin’ out to random jamz when something caught my eye. A recent article for CLRVYNT.com written by David Hall(director of Maryland Death Fest documentary) popped up on my newsfeed causing a massive shitstorm. Like other writers for music-related websites, he is another person making rather cynical crass and asinine statements about how Metal is supposedly the absolute “worst” and is “dead.” The first thing that went through my mind was how this is probably the billionth time someone has said along the lines of what David Hall is trying to make an argument about. Unfortunately, I have to hear and read about it on my Facebook newsfeed. It was a stupid thing to say in 1997 and 20 years later in 2017 it still holds no water or weight. You know the old saying that goes something like time is a flat circle and that everything we do, we will do again and again and again? This is a clear example. Journalists, writers, bloggers, and online complainers have done this time and again. They might make the argument that I am the proverbial 16 year old trapped in a 34 year old man’s body because I continue to listen to Metal and I could easily make the case that they simply got old, stopped caring, and became the father figure that I am not going to show respect for- especially when that father figure has been largely absent. The article is a clear example of “tl;dr” in the most cringey ways. Combine it with an edgy as fuck clickbait title, you would think this was Axl Rosenberg of Metalsucks in disguise. This shit had me seriously debating whether to ignore it, or take a step back and give him room to explain himself. Well I did the latter obviously in this case. So let’s just breakdown this example of the misguided anger-cynicism-edgy bull’s eye that David Hall is blindly trying to throw darts at and failing to hit.
David Hall starts his shit-list of complaints with this gem:
“Is there any other genre of music that is so self-absorbed, so desperate for validation, so pathetically obsessed with itself, so childish and image-conscious, so accepting of conformity and mediocrity as metal? No. There isn’t. Because metal is the fucking worst, at least in North America, and it needs to get right or go away forever.”
This depends on your source, dude. If you are basing these observations off the Metalocalypse-inspired goofy mainstream metal bands that sound like the really fucking TERRIBLE miasma of Arch Enemy/Behemoth/Opeth/Machine Head crud, I agree. The same goes for the Rockstar Energy Drink crowd of Korn/Five Finger Death Punch/White Chapel/Suicide Silence mainstream bros with plugs in their ears. Mainstream Metal for the most part has always been fucking goofy as shit. Glam Metal in the 80’s. Nu-Metal in the 90’s. Metalcore/Sweden-worship and Deathcore in the 00’s. Hipster Metal in the 2010’s. Mainstream Metal will always have it’s trends and fads and that’s all they are for the most part. BUT, if you are basing this off bands who are currently fucking things up in a positive way in the underground, then my good friend, you are seriously misguided. Let’s continue;
“Metal is a petulant little child that is wrought with an Oedipus complex, an oral ﬁxation and a collective transference of identity issues (somehow stemming from a lack of identity) that causes it to be constantly screaming for attention. Metal ALWAYS needs a great big dick in its mouth to calm it down and stroke its melodramatic ego. Metal wants to be heard and seen. It wants to rebel; yet, if you look at it, it ironically shuns your gaze because you are not credible enough to soothe its aching teats. Metal wants to be different, but only within a strict set of guidelines. Metal is a tireless masochist. It suffers, it moans, it whines, it annoys; it is a culture of emasculation, castration, penis envy, communism, capitalism and third-grade intellectualism. Metal is weak, ill-formed, small-minded, an accident. Metal is modern man in search of a soul, yet it looks not to the heavens for answers — instead it stares in awe up its own gaping asshole, whispering with quivered lips, “You go, girl.” Yes. YES. Metal is a cliche, a reproduction, derivative and fucking lame. Metal is an echo chamber.
Metal is in constant celebration of a victory it has never achieved.”
Ok, the “You go, girl.” part did raise a smirk on my face. I will be the first to admit that some of these things are true. Some of these are things people don’t want to hear. And some of these are just down-right fucking stupid. These are also some of the vaguest fucking crass statements I have heard. David Hall sounds like some random ex-writer for Rolling Stone magazine who is bitter that this month’s issue didn’t have that eagerly-awaited review on the 40th re-re-re-re-re-release of a random Bob Dylan album. Combine that with him trying his hardest to pull off an wannabe-Bukowski sense of smugness and tortured artist soul , just reading his vapid and fleeting words make me feel like I’m going to get a bad case of Taco Bell shits.
David Hall then talks about the importance of the first Black Sabbath album. Which at this point in the game of “I listen to REAL metal” might as well be this automatic safe answer that every writer uses as some sort of leverage in their arguments. It’s like an art student straight out of high school and going up to his university college professor who has been teaching his class for the past 20 years and saying “Art is dying. Dadaism is pretentious bullshit, but Picasso is the start and finishing statement of my argument.” After which he completely fucks up the time-line as far as Metal’s evolution and misses some rather important key points to it’s evolution:
“From the ﬁrst spins of Black Sabbath, metal grew fast. As bands like Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple focused on songwriting, riffs and performance, other musicians crawled out of the swamp and started to take metal in new directions, effectively creating the ﬁrst subgenres of metal that would lead us to our present state of affairs. Speed metal, black metal, death metal; which led to doom metal, glam metal and thrash; which led to grindcore, technical death metal and crossover; which led to a whole array of sub-sub-sub-subgenres; which ultimately led to “blackgaze,” which, in my opinion, was the death knell of metal, and it’s where we are now, and it really sucks and is shitty and it’s the fucking worst.”
“FUCK ELITISTS! I’M GOING TO BE A NON-ELITIST ELITIST! NOTHING IS GOOD PAST A CERTAIN YEAR!” – David Hall in a shirt that I must admit I’m jealous for not having. Can someone find this for me? I’ll Paypal you ASAP.
Blackgaze? First I am triggered at this that he is not only being racist and homophobic but if he seriously thinks that’s an accurate timeline, then he gives an F for failing history class. IF my assumption of incorrect historical evolution is actually correct, I would highly recommend that he at LEAST read “Sounds of The Beast” by Ian Christe. Decibel Magazine has some really excellent reads concerning essential albums in Metal in all types of genres. Or watch any of the Sam Dunn metal documentaries on Youtube. Even as “For Beginners Only” sources of information, both are way more accurate in pointing out the evolution in an historically accurate fashion. How the FUCK did Speed, Black, and Death Metal lead to Glam Metal? That’s like saying Exhorder is responsible for the existence of Korn. Unless you were to do a Six Degrees To Nu-Metal, that’s a jump that Evel Knievel couldn’t make. And as far as “blackgaze” being the death knell of metal? Have you heard of Five Finger Death Punch? You want to talk about goofy fucking bands? There’s you an easy target.
“So, what happened? When did it happen? How did it happen? How did a fertile, underground, credible, artistic and meaningful genre of music go unfettered for almost 40 years before it suddenly hit a wall? Well, like many journalists suggest, it wasn’t Nazism, misogyny, racism or elitism. It is a fallacy to assume that one genre of music is discriminatory — a) music is inanimate; it isn’t anything but sounds and words delivered on whatever medium is most proﬁtable; b) music cannot “be” anything but music; any social and human behaviors attributed to music is transference and anthropomorphization; c) fuck off and put your personal politics into a medium or social construct where it belongs and works: social work, politics, medicine, engineering, volunteering — you can’t change a light bulb with a piece of cheese, and you can’t ﬁx (or ruin) society with art.”
I can agree with this for the most part. I’ll give him a gold star for today for not using tired, worn-out, and over-used accusations and slander. Good job in not making this piece part of the online social-political echo chamber.
“No. Like most artistic movements, metal’s death blow was commercialization. And more importantly, the widespread acceptance of said commercialization. I can pinpoint the exact point in time when this happened: June 11, 2013. What happened on this date? An album called Sunbather by a band named Deafheaven was released. This was the apex of metal’s commercialization. 1999 – 2012 were creatively fertile, but ﬁnancially lean times for underground labels. The vinyl boom was just starting to hit. Metal was not quite hip yet. Metal needed a kick-start. And thanks to commerce and cultural appropriation, it got one.”
Soooo, you’ve pretty much stroked yourself for the first half of this article just to be ready to fire-off a lazy orgasm into your proverbial cumsock? OVER DEAFHEAVEN? Of all bands, you choose Deafheaven to base all of your misguided anger towards? If you were any less impotent, you would pass as a prime candidate for erectile dysfunction pills.
“Like Black Sabbath — who did not invent the genre of metal, but perfected it and made it real and signaled its arrival in a measurable, quantiﬁable, identiﬁable package — Deafheaven made real (did not invent) a subgenre of metal called “blackgaze,” a combination of black metal and the indie rock subgenre shoegaze. Yes, many other bands played this kind of music before Deafheaven. Yes, many bands in the parenting genres of black metal and shoegaze laid a fertile framework of music prior to Sunbather. But like Sabbath’s Sabbath, Sunbather was a signal post. This post said, “We are blackgaze; we are marking this territory for our own; there will never be a better blackgaze album than Sunbather; we are taking a stand, planting our feet ﬁrmly and announcing that from this point forward, WE are the progenitors of a new scene.”
And people bought it. Thanks to a propaganda campaign led by Pitchfork, Sunbather became a cultural force in the “underground” world of metal. Except it wasn’t underground metal that was listening or buying. It was children, and those uninitiated and unaware. You know how Nirvana’s Nevermind “invented” grunge, even though those of us who were there can clearly remember an organic scene called “indie” or “alternative” that existed for years before Kurt and co., appropriated it and sold it out? People at Dinosaur Jr shows weren’t listening to or buying Nirvana. People at Pixies and Meat Puppets shows weren’t listening to or buying Nirvana. And yet suddenly Nirvana dropped Nevermind and every asshole at the mall was wearing a ﬂannel shirt. Well, that is Deafheaven and Sunbather. Nobody I know was listening to that band or buying Sunbather. In fact, anyone in the know resented their blatant skip-the-line success. But suddenly everyone at the mall was wearing corpsepaint and praising Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. No, the music on Sunbather isn’t terrible. That’s a personal call. Musical enjoyment is subjective. Whatever goes in your ears is for your ears only. But suddenly Deafheaven were everywhere, had the Breaking Bad of “metal” albums, and for a time, you know, it was ﬁne. People wanted to buy their records. Sure. Cool. I mean, Pitchfork was guilty of selling an album as black metal that has no business being called black metal, but for the most part, the success of Sunbather was organic and fan-based: real, dedicated metal outlets pretty much ignored and/or scoffed at the band, and fans drove the album’s success. Hey, there’s no accounting for bad taste, right?”
Stop. Please, for the love of Cthulhu. Just stop.
“What happened next, however, was not organic, was not fan-driven or relatively harmless cultural appropriation. What happened next is what killed the underground scene and brought us to the point we are at now: Deafheaven, too $uccessful to ignore, started to be given credibility by the metal press. And even worse, other underground labels — much like the “grunge” frenzy in the ’90s — started to look for more Deafheavens. Blackgaze, and other nonsensical subgenres that have no business being sold as metal, started to be sold as metal. And bands began to change their style to proﬁt from this. Suddenly, a niche was making money. People were selling out. People were following their wallets. And the worst part is no one seemed to care. On August 4, 2016, eyewear conglomerate Luxottica, through its child company Ray-Ban, released an ad campaign featuring Deafheaven. It used their music, their images and their story. (Well, the campaign spun their story anyway.) Suddenly, Deafheaven were brave innovators who stood up to their critics, and against all odds, released an album. They had courage! #ittakescourage. That was the hashtag given to the Deafheaven campaign. Metal. Reduced to a fucking hashtag and a sunglasses commercial. And the worst part? Nobody said shit. People loved it! And any form of criticism was brushed off as “haters” or “Well, Deafheaven has always just been about seeing how far they can take it.” The band sold themselves out and sold out underground music, and people fucking loved them for it. They were heroes. And anyone who said otherwise was a misogynist, racist, homophobic “edge-lord.” That’s when underground metal died for me. Not the music — I love the music … well, not Deafheaven — but the spirit and ethos and individuality of metal. Sold to a fucking sunglasses company. It made me really depressed.
I suddenly felt like I was in The Matrix or Inception. At metal shows, everyone looked the same and acted the same. Throw the “horns” up and party! Be blind to the conformity that surrounds us. Eyes wide shut, please. Buy. Conform. Don’t criticize. Go inside and eat supper with the pigs. Accept. Blame! Be inclusive for THE SAKE OF SOCIETY! WELCOME ALL CONSUMERS TO THE TABLE. MAKE METAL YOUR IDENTITY. CLICK. BAIT. CLICK. BAIT. MORAL SUPERIORITY THROUGH THINK PIECES!!!!!!! BUY TWO PAIRS OF RAY-BANS, THAT TAKES COURAGE.
Fucking weak, man.”
Before I disagree, I DO particularly remember when the accusations of anyone being against Deafheaven was met with the PC brigade- whatever the accusations they did and can dish-out in total non-sensible fashion as usual. Even I didn’t understand this and I’m not even invested in a band like Deafheaven. I’ve always been extremely indifferent to them -to me they simply don’t exist. I have way better shit to pay attention to, like David Hall’s arguments for example.
If it takes a band like Deafheaven for you start making comments like this, then YOU are weak. You are what we look at and feel completely taken aback. It’s a total sense of dumbfounded reasoning. Why take every negative thing of both past and present out on one single band? That’s a total cop-out. Mainstream Metal for the most part has always been more or less goofy. Even when the mainstream flirted with the underground in the 90’s, it was goofy to certain degrees. If you equate Deafheaven making black metal acceptable for swoopy-haired hipsters with flannels to cultural appropriate in 2013 as the death-knell of metal, then I would hate for you to be around in the late 90’s to early 2000’s when Cradle of Filth made it acceptable for Marilyn Manson fans to cultural appropriate with contact lenses and write shitty poetry about vampires named Lestat.
“This was the apex of metal’s commercialization. 1999 – 2012 were creatively fertile, but ﬁnancially lean times for underground labels.”
I seriously doubt you were around in the late 90’s. If you were then you would not be trying to sound like some washed-up 45 year old Dad with a mullet wearing a sleeveless Metallica shirt – one who complains about how metal past the year 1991 sounds like shit because of “cookie monster vocals.” As far as metal’s commercialization starting in 1999? I think you have mistaken Nu-Metal’s success with whatever else you are talking about, but then I still can’t even tell. If you had a point, you lost me. My advice? Instead of giving a band like Deafheaven more press and clicks, go listen to new and recent albums by Blood Incantation, Loss, Power Trip, Ulver, Immolation, Death Worship, Nails, Necrot, Full Of Hell, or a dozen other bands and releases from the past 3 years that you can give more attention and energy into. Do that rather than make asinine and crass statements that will only grant you favors and sloppy handjobs from the authors of Metalsucks. If this was clickbait, then you one-upped Axl Rosenberg when he claimed that Todd Jones is a scene-bully. Congratulations Dad.
Closing statement to David Hall: