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And Justice for Oli?

There have been murmurs in certain sections of the metal community that are snowballing into a bit of a roar as of late regarding the events surrounding the tragic death of All That Remains guitarist Oli Herbert on October 16th of 2018.

For those readers not familiar with the story thus far – a brief synopsis:

  • ~ October 9th  – about 1 week before Oli died, he and his wife Beth met with a notary (one of Beth’s friends and an ex-stalker of Oli’s) to update his will.
  • October 16th – Oli is found dead in a pond on his property, the notary/Beth’s friend is present when the police show up. Police sources say the death does not appear suspicious.
  • November 5th – A Public Memorial for Oli is scheduled by his wife/family for Sunday the 11th.
  • November 8th – The memorial was cancelled, no reason was given.
  • November 10th – Beth releases Oli’s initial Toxicology reports and cause of death, clarifies that the Oli benefit was cancelled due to ‘numerous threats to her person and property’
  • November 15th – a month after Oli’s passing, the Hartford Currant announces the police are investigating Oli’s death as suspicious

A Facebook page called “Justice for Oli Herbert” seems to be spearheading the effort to get the information out – I figured I’d actually practice some due diligence and see what this is all about. I’m a fan of All that Remains’ first two albums, so this did pique my interest. After reading through posts on the page, it seemed like a pretty clear-cut case that Beth was guilty.

They’ve even got some indie metal sites establishing a timeline of events, and some pretty damning “character defamation” information that, while it doesn’t establish guilt (and is 100% circumstantial) – certainly paints a picture of Beth as a personality disordered bitch who made Oli’s life miserable.

But then I dug a little deeper, and went through the group’s photo albums and older posts. I started noticing a couple things seemed out of place for a ‘pursuit of justice’.

 

 

The author(s) of the web page seemed to be slandering Oli’s widow Beth based on her attendance at “neopagan” religious ceremonies, specifically Beltane and Mabon.

It struck me as a bit odd that a website allegedly out for justice would be openly listing attendance at an alternative religious ceremony with derogatory information about their target – all of which has NOTHING to do with the case. Especially when they’ve got things like #burnthewitch in the title.

Neopagans who attend these festivals, properly called Wiccans, also refer to themselves as witches. A more prominent example of someone in the metal community who celebrated these festivals and was part of this heathen community is the recently deceased Jill Janus.

 

 

This sort of thing is why it’s always a good idea to check a source – the “Justice for Oli” page is single-handedly dictating the media narrative surrounding Oli’s death, and they’ve resorted to religious discriminatory slander (among other things) within a month of Oli’s death.

Something about that didn’t sit right with me, and I contacted the page admins and let them know about it (a note to the JFO group – you know who I am and you know how to contact me) – but then I started questioning everything they said.

Boy, am I glad I did. Contrary to their claims – the page “Justice for Oli” is not making the case any more clear. Quite the opposite – their entire existence seems to be an exercise in muddying the waters surrounding the case.

As of 11/19, it seems that they’ve managed to confuse some 8,000+ people with their intentionally misleading rhetoric, as well as an underhanded all around approach to the investigation. I’d like to take the time to point out what they’ve got correct and where they’ve been intentionally misleading the public, weaving lies in with the truth to make reality a bit more opaque.

What We Should Be Questioning

A) The circumstances of (and immediately surrounding) Oli’s death

I’ll admit, I was curious when the “JFO” group first popped up. Oli’s death on October 16th, 2018 was certainly outside the pale. Details in the reporting of his passing were sparse, and the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the matter was that he apparently wandered down to a pond on his property, slipped in, and drowned.

Healthy 44 year old men, typically, don’t just wander off in the middle of the night and drown in a lake on their property.

oli and dogs

Quite the opposite, photos of Oli kayaking indicate he was pretty comfortable in the water – that pond in particular. That means he’d be pretty familiar with navigating the banks of the pond, etc. I’d imagine it also means he’d be pretty good at swimming, especially since he’s not wearing any sort of safety gear like a life preserver.

So we can safely say it’s a good idea to question why a person who was familiar with a particular area near water (he lived there for years), who involved himself in activities that required him to be pretty adept around that body of water, dies in that body of water in a manner that suggests the exact opposite. Legit, 100% good question.

October 15th, last mesages

When you factor in one of the last text messages from Oli (from October 15th), it becomes apparent that at some point he wasn’t feeling quite like himself. The response is unintelligible, to the point where it appears something is chemically wrong with Oli – and this is within 24 hours of his passing.

I don’t think there’s any way to really make sense of it, and it implies there was either a problem with Oli’s cognitive function, motor skills, or both. Any one of those things would be enough to impair him once he got near the water.

B) The people who cry Foul Play

Justice for Oli Herbert” came into being around October 24th, 8 days after Oli’s passing. The authors of the page choose to remain anonymous, but they claim open association with (and it’s safe to assume participation from) a man named Drew Johnston – who was thanked by Oli in the linear notes of one of All that Remains’ albums.

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So, we’re hearing from sources pretty close to Oli – seems legit right? This guy wasn’t just friends with him, they were close friends and corresponded regularly. If I’m not mistaken, Oli even participated in Drew’s wedding.
drew johnston toxic

This is where it gets interesting. By his own accounts, Drew was Oli’s social media manager – and represented him in that position for over a year, as well as essentially teaching Oli to use it.

In the same post/chain, we also see there is an inherent bias on his part – there’s no love lost between these two, and it obviously extends to well before Oli’s unfortunate demise.

As with the Decapitated case, it’s important to question the motives of an accuser because they might have a background (i.e a history of lying to the police to get friends out of legal trouble in the Decapitated case) that makes them an unreliable source.

C) What is the context of the initial statement from Beth denouncing Drew Johnston?

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This particular post/action has been cited by the “Justice for Oli” page as a major indicator of guilt. After all – why would she act preemptively on poor, innocent Drew Johnston – one of Oli’s closest friends and the person who managed his social media accounts for a year?

Maybe the the person being referenced held a grudge that predated Oli’s death, and very openly stated he had “dirt on their toxic relationship”.

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Maybe she thought he was a “clinger” whose only interest in associating with her now deceased husband was the accumulation of sub-cultural capital (in metal, generally we call it credibility) – that he would then use in a toxic way?

Memorial announcement

Or maybe she didn’t trust the type of guy who would use his dead friend’s social media to insult said friend’s wife due to a pre-existing bias.

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Maybe they had a beef that went back quite a ways? My friends haven’t always gotten along with my girlfriends, nothing really out of the ordinary there.

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This exchange happened the day after Oli’s death – it’s obviously not Oli posting under his account. Perhaps a certain social media manager/representative?

I can comfortably say that this mutual dislike obviously extends back for years. Nobody makes that more clear than the folks at JFO themselves.

D) What is the context of the infamous “Say Cheese, Honey” photo/post

cheese suspicious

This is the photo that brought a LOT of people on board with JFO’s message. It’s a photo of the area where Oli’s body was found, posted by Beth with the caption ‘Say Cheese Honey”.

First Thoughts – That looks shady as fuck.

Most people (myself included) can’t imagine a context where saying this would be remotely OK. Fortunately for us, the comments section of one of “Justice for Oli’s” posts provides us with a clue.

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Soooo… someone took control of Oli’s social media to accuse his wife of murder the day after he died, and she responded. I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty comfortable assuming it’s Drew Johnston.

If not him, someone in the Justice for Oli group. How do I know this? Both Oli’s official page (which Drew had a hand in operating by his own admission), Drew’s personal page, and the Official JFO page admins openly claim to be working together regularly on the JFO page. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who’s taken back the reigns of Oli’s social media page.

Let that sink in for a second.

Beth was not directing this in any way, shape, or form at her now deceased husband – she was directing it at Drew Johnston (the person who was pretending to be Oli the day after his death) while he was operating her dead husband’s facebook page.

Is it still a fucked up thing to say? Sure is.

Does it make her any more guilty or innocent? Nope. 

Does goading a woman by using her dead husband’s social media, then taking her angry response out of context and posting it online to slander her seem shady as fuck? Yeah dude, it’s fucking gross, and worlds more toxic than anything they’ve proven Beth has done.

Kinda makes me question what Drew and Company’s definition of “Justice” really is.

E) The circumstances surrounding the release of the initial tox report/cause of death.

official tox cod

Once again, standing by itself the statement seems a bit odd. Once again, a little context bring a lot of clarity to the situation.

hell to pay

At this point, Beth was certainly aware of the “Justice for Oli” page. She even took (per JFO’s own post/declaration) control of Oli’s facebook page long enough to tell the creators to take it down. Needless to say, she had seen a lot of the things that were being said about her.

swordfish

She probably also saw people posting screenshots of her social media, and then using it to goad on conspiracy theories that she had poisoned her husband, and then dragged his body down to the lake to make it look like an accident.

supporting conspiracy theories

In that context, we can see that Beth was well aware of the allegations/theories that were already starting to spread about her.

If people were accusing me of murdering a loved one, I’d feel a certain sense of vindication when preliminary lab results proved it wasn’t true. I might even make it public.

I’m not saying that’s what did or didn’t happen – but I am saying that when you reintroduce context suddenly all these “odd things that don’t add up” make a lot more sense.

E) Changing Oli’s Will 1 Week before his death?

the will

Yeah, that’s another one that looks shady as fuck. This is a good thing to question. “Justice for Oli” has been presenting the timing of this event, coupled with the participants, as a clear indication of malice aforethought.

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Here’s the thing – Oli and Beth were getting ready to go through a divorce. You know one thing that ALWAYS changes when you want to divorce someone? How much of your shit you want them to get when you die. Changing your will is a normal part of the divorce process, and from what I can gather Oli was a willing participant in the divorce.

The notary herself, Wendy, is questionable. And JFO is doing a good thing raising the question – why was the notary (a friend of the widow) for the will present at the crime scene a week later when the police showed up?

There actually is a simple explanation – when you’re dealing with legal stuff, it’s nice having a close friend who’s a notary. And it’s pretty common knowledge it’s not good to be alone after a loved one has died, perhaps Beth called her close friend Wendy simply for moral support after discovering her fucking husband died?

To recap everything we’ve discussed so far

The Justice for Oli team, although claiming to be looking for justice – seem to think that the best way to go about doing that is by knowingly distorting the truth to get people on board. Because there’s a big difference between these two images:

cheese suspicious46498056_992357104289256_3526391355171405824_n

So, besides the whole religious discrimination as defamation thing – my major issue with the whole thing is this – “Justice for Oli”, how exactly does lying to the public to get them ‘on board’ with your cause further justice?

If you’re demanding the truth come out – doesn’t that kind of imply you shouldn’t be giving a distorted version of the truth?

Realistically, this is the sort of due diligence Metal Injection, Loudwire, Metal Hammer, Metal Insider, Kerrang!, The PRP, Louder Sound, Lambgoat (especially Lambgoat, fuck those guys), Billboard, Ultimate Guitar, MetalSucks, Blabbermouth, etc. SHOULD have been practicing. There’s a huge story here, and they’re all literally promoting lies and slander without offering up the truth. Or questioning anything.

I understand why they didn’t – the whole fucking thing is a rats next of toxic personalities and conspiracy theorists. But here’s the thing – that sort of cancer doesn’t just go away if you ignore it. It grows. Within less than 1 month, they’ve gained nearly 10k followers – with 2k of those coming between November 16th and November 20th. This isn’t just growing, it’s snowballing.

At some point, there has to be some reason injected into the clusterfuck of insanity – because I guarantee we’re going to hear about this again.

Hopefully, those “journalists” at the sites I mentioned pull their collective heads out of Jered Threatin’s ass long enough to do their jobs as members of the media and actually fucking report on something worthwhile. Every single image was sourced from the “Justice for Oli” group.

The information is literally in plain sight – this needs to get out before it gets buried.

Global Metal Culture: The Rise of the Digital Metal Scene

The strangest thought hit me today – there are actually people alive and active in the metal scene that don’t know what it was like before the internet.

Stop and let that sink in for a minute.

(cliché reflective opening statement to blog post, check. god I’m getting good at this.)

Is the Internet the Last Major Metal Scene?

When speaking of a metal “scene”, generally people are speaking about a shared sub-cultural space where members are able to participate in the culture. For metalheads, this generally means bar and live shows. Or, at least, it used to.

With the advent of the internet, a person can completely immerse themselves in metal culture without ever physically meeting another metalhead. This isn’t without precedent – I have written previously about how metalheads had social networking before the internet. So really, the digital metal scene can be viewed as a natural evolution of the tape trading scene.

But this is a bit different. More all-encompassing. Scenes arise from the collective need for a sub-cultural space. The internet meets the needs of every metalhead, or at least allows for those needs to be met.

I’m not saying there won’t be local scenes in the future. Of course there will be, that’s the heart-blood of metal.

I AM saying there will never be another band (metal or otherwise) who gets big without the internet. Ever. So, what I AM saying is that the internet has become the largest possible metal scene – with pretty much every single metalhead on earth participating in some way, shape, or form.

The Internet Changed Everything

Metal’s Place in Society at Large

There’s a trade-off here. The best and worst thing about the digital metal scene is how easy it is to access and participate. Metal is no longer the pariah of the music world – it’s become (comparatively) safe in a cultural context.

There is always going to be metal that’s on the outside of what is considered “good taste” by the majority of Western Society – metalheads will make sure of that.

But Jesus Christ, when the President of the United States visits Finland and cracks a good-natured joke about the number of metal bands (per capita) – it’s safe to say the outsider status is gone.

So, lets take a brief look at how the digital age is affecting the unholy (hehe) trifecta of metal culture: Metal fans, metal bands, and the metal media.

How the Next Generation Experiences Metal (The Rise of Digital Metal Fans)

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There is a generation of metalheads who, feasibly

  • never listened to heavy metal in an analog format.
  • never knew what purchasing music was like before Napster and other file sharing sites. (or torrents)
  • never had to stay up on a Sunday night to hear the ONE metal program on a radio station.
  • never had to play “album roulette”, going to a music store and finding the minuscule (if existent) metal section – and buying an album purely because it looked cool as fuck. Chances are, they won’t understand that every genre of metal has its own logo style for exactly this reason.
  • will never know what it was like to depend on ‘zines (specifically the classified section) to know what’s happening in metal.
  • have no idea what it’s like to be stereotyped by the police simply because they favor a style of music (well, maybe not as much).
  • have no fucking clue what the significance of MTV was to music in general, or why Headbanger’s Ball was such a big fucking deal.
  • have never paid 30 bucks for a CD
  • don’t have to rely on the metalhead “uniform” to find other metalheads.

This is literally a group whose experience with metal, and the metal community is so vastly different from previous generations of bangers as to seem almost alien. I think it’s funny – people have been so focused on how the internet and computers changed metal in the past few decades, that they’ve completely neglected to examine how it changed the fans (or even ask if/how it would).

Might it be logical to assume that, as their experience of metal culture is so vastly different – maybe it will change the fan base?

digital-metal

Metal Bands in the Digital Age (And the Digital Metal Bands)

Even the way new bands create and share music. Remember Job for a Cowboy? The first (and only, to my knowledge) metal band to successfully launch a major career in metal using Myspace? Fucking Myspace?!? I still remember getting messages and a friend request from the band when they were a bunch of unknown dudes from Texas.

Which brings me to deathcore. Sure, I shit on it all the time – 99% of deathcore bands are generic and boring. But if we’re being really, brutally honest here – 99% of thrash, death, and black metal bands are just as generic and boring. I write for an online magazine, and believe me – if the only good thing you can say about a band is that they have an old-school death metal/thrash/black metal sound or aesthetic – it’s a roundabout way of saying there isn’t much good you can say about the band.

Deathcore does have the distinction of being the first metal sub-genre to come to prominence through the internet. Metalcore stands kind of in between – half internet/half old-world. Djent gets a participation trophy.

metalcore

Nowadays, bands don’t need to physically amass a following to be heard – they just need access to a computer and pro-tools. Self-releases are more common than ever. In fact, record labels seem like they’re becoming almost vestigial. Bands can crowd-fund an album and write exactly what they want.

Speaking of music production – I guess the “American Metal Sound” is totally a thing now. Essentially it just means you have crystal clear production values and a “full” sound, but I’ve heard people from outside the US use this term to describe a lot of the Thrash albums that came out this year (i.e. Testament and Megadeth’s 2016 releases). Not that this is purely a deathcore related phenomenon – the New Wave of American Metal certainly influenced this as well – but I think it’s a nice change.

Sure, there’s a certain aesthetic associated with the production values of classic metal albums. But you can’t tell me you want every goddamn metal album for all eternity to sound like it was recorded inside a garbage can.

But I digress.

The Digital Metal Media

So yeah, this is the first generation who got their metal related news purely in a digital format. I mean, sure, for novelty’s sake a few people might go out and buy a physical magazine or two. But the medium is simply outdated. The only reason to get them is to act like a hipster or for genuine nostalgia.

dinosaur-metal
Dramatic Re-enactment of a “Dinosaur Metal” band

As such, a lot of the “dinosaur” metal publications were unable to get past their own bureaucracy (and mounds of paperwork) to get with the whole “information age” thing. Which isn’t really a bad thing, considering most of them got so far out of touch with the metal community. I’m really not sure how they kept going (Well, yes I am. They sold their souls and started catering to the tastes of 16-year-old girls. But that’s another topic altogether).

Interestingly enough, all the major metal news websites have conglomerated in exactly the same manner as the magazines did. Just like the old guard – they publish the exact same stories, they share writers, they cooperate on contests together. It’s a massive circle-jerk.

Lambgoat, Metalsucks, Metal Injection, Decible, theprp.com – they’re all in on it (example, they all use the blast beat network for their advertising). I guess life really does come full circle – reading these guys commentaries on metal culture is about as much fun as chewing on tinfoil (sorry, that’s an old person joke from way back in the day when they used mercury in fillings).

Capitalist bureaucracy at it’s finest, I tell you.

Metal’s Transition from Counterculture to Culture

Pretty much every metalhead who was alive and active in the scene before the internet remembers how things were. “How the internet changed metal” is a pretty popular topic to discuss in metal circles.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen or read anything discussing the logical progression of the though/sentiment. If the internet changed metal bands, metal music, and metal media – isn’t it safe to say it significantly changed the fan base?

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that metal is no longer a counterculture.

Other sites have touched on the subject, but I don’t think anyone has really gone the extra few feet to discuss the logical implications (positive, negative, and neutral) for metalheads, and metal culture in general.

It isn’t hard to find other metalheads anymore. Besides going to concerts, hanging out at bars, randomly bumping into people in the metal section of your local music store, or (if you were lucky enough) having a metalhead crowd to hang out with when you were in high school – there was a point in time when it was actually a bit difficult to find other metalheads. We used to have to rely on “the uniform” (or people with a particular look) to find each other.

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A positive aspect of this is that heads can now use visual cues other than band shirts to find one another. Facebook metal groups abound, metalheads create their own digital sub-cultural space in popular forums. I think we can all collectively agree that talking shit about Metal Sucks in the comments section of every single one of their articles is one of the purest expressions of sheer collective joy metal culture has to offer it’s adherents.

A negative aspect of this is that although it’s not hard to find metalheads, metalhead interaction on the internet will never be as satisfying as interaction in person. This doesn’t just affect metalheads, in general people fall into the trap of substituting online social interactions for face to face interactions – and this can be very unhealthy. It makes confrontation and altercation infinitely easier, and therefore more inviting. In person, confrontations are a lot less likely, and the results of a confrontation are generally a lot more amicable to both parties. So yeah, there’s that.

OK, enough of this touchy feely shit. Back to the metal.

With online participation, metalheads are better able to come to a consensus as to what constitutes a sub-genre, and what bands fall where on the heavy metal family tree. And nobody, I mean nobody, has done a better job of this than Banger Films.

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Sam Dunn and the crew up in Canada are (in my opinion, and many others judging by their popularity) revolutionizing metal –  by bringing all the little mini-cultures that constitute metal culture into one shared sub-cultural space for the express purpose of documenting and furthering metal culture as a whole.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend subscribing to their YouTube channel. Their revues are top-notch, the sub-genre episodes allow people to democratically discuss a particular section of metal in-depth and decide, democratically, on which bands fit within the categorization being discussed.

A Quick Recap

Let’s do a “Five W’s” test real quick.

What changed? Metal culture

Who changed? The three major aspects of metal culture – fans, bands, and metal media

Where did the change take place? The internet, of course.

Why did the change happen? The internet provided unprecedented access to metal culture, allowing for a universal allocation of sub-cultural space regardless of geographic location.

When did the change take place? It’s still happening, arguably it came to a head in 2000 with the Metallica/Napster dispute.

Conclusion(s)

I would argue that the internet is not just a logical progression of metal culture – it’s the logical conclusion of metal culture. 

When I say logical conclusion – I don’t mean that metal culture will be ending because of the internet. I mean that in terms of progress, it’s impossible for metal culture to move PAST the internet.

Tape Trading? You don’t have to peruse metal magazines and write letters, waiting on the postal service. New metal is literally at your fingertips 24/7.

Meeting new metal fans? Until there is a cultural space for social connections more efficient and all-encompassing than Facebook – there will never be a faster, easier way to meet and interact with other metalheads.

Metal news? Instead of waiting for magazines, we find out what’s happening in the metal universe almost in real-time. It’s just not possible to find things out any faster.

Metal bands don’t need to jockey for positions to be heard by major labels anymore – in fact, it’s (theoretically) possible for a band to gain mass popularity almost exclusively through social media (i.e. Job for a Cowboy, Vulvodynia, etc.).

Integration into greater culture? As much as is humanly possible – I don’t see people getting arrested for wearing metal shirts or being sent to camps for “de-metalizing” (a la the PMRC days of the 1980’s).

heavy metalistsMaybe the police will stop using pictures like this in training manuals? 

School shootings might still be blamed on metalheads now and then, but since the culture has become more visible (due to the internet) I think that’s a lot less likely. Occasional hate crimes against metalheads? Yeah, probably still a thing – anyone who looks “different” is going to be a target by small-minded clusters of mouth-breathers. With the “metal look” as big as it is right now in popular culture, I would even predict that sort of thing is on the decline.

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In other words, because of how convenient and efficient a tool the internet has turned out to be – I believe the final frontier of heavy metal (the music and it’s culture) has been reached.

It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing.

It’s just a fucking thing.

Phil Anselmo Speaks With Eddie Trunk on Racism, Social Justice Warriors, Robb Flynn, and PC “gotcha” Culture

Phil Anselmo has taken a lot of shit in the past year over the alleged “white power” incident at Dimebash. Internet Social Justice Warriors jumped all over it, condemning him and riding the wave of publicity to further their own agenda and public appearance.

On one hand, I kind of get where people are coming from. Once someone throws the racist label at you, it has a tendency to stick (as Mr. Anselmo has discovered through the years). On the other hand, if metal culture is really a brotherhood – where the fuck is the benefit of the doubt? Where are all the people standing up for a brother getting unfairly slandered?

Thank god Eddie Trunk (and a few other internet media sources) have given Phil the chance to air his side of the story. You can watch the interview on Trunk’s radio show.

Every fucking word this man put out is something I’ve expressed at some point on this blog. Everything I said on my initial article about the “Dimebash Incident”, my sentiments on Virtue Signaling and Social Justice Warriors in Metal, Robb Flynn and his ulterior motives throwing Phil under the bus, fucking all of it.

It makes me wonder if he’s a fan of Metal Stuff. That would be the fucking coolest.

(Phil, if by some fucking long shot you’re reading this, you’re the fucking man!).

What a Trump Victory Would Mean for Heavy Metal

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a lifelong liberal. Not just a little bit liberal – very liberal. Like, tree-hugging socialist progressive grass-roots liberal. And I’m not making an argument for or against any presidential candidate. At this point, they all fucking suck.

The one and only point of this post is to illustrate trends in American heavy metal, and their relation to the US political climate. I will also illustrate that the same pattern holds true in Great Britain. Between the two countries, there’s been (for lack of a better word) a stranglehold on major movements in heavy metal history. And any other major movements or players in the global metal scene are subject to the same (or a very similar) pattern.

An important note here – I’m not implying causation. I’m implying correlation. Major trends in American extreme/underground metal have ALWAYS happened during conservative republican presidential terms. Likewise (with the exception of hair metal) all major “mainstream” trends in American heavy metal have happened during liberal (to moderate) democratic presidential terms.

I’m actually not the first person to notice this. I had been thinking about how there had been nothing but regurgitated crap (as far as new metal bands are concerned) coming out of the United States lately. Then it hit me, and I immediately did a google search to make sure nobody had already written an article on the subject. Lo and behold, some anonymous writer for a conservative website had noticed the same trend.

Established bands are another thing altogether, they’re not going to create a second wave of Thrash or Death metal with the same impact as the original. We’re in the middle of a “metal-bubble” right now (the market is absolutely saturated with good metal from established acts), and within the next few years it’s going to burst no matter what – but that’s another story for another day.

American Metal

In the United States, there really wasn’t much to speak of as far as original, ground breaking heavy metal besides a couple of bandwagon bands until the rise of thrash. From about 1970-1981 Americans might have consumed a good deal of metal, but most of the major artists were Brits. Sabbath, Motorhead, Deep Purple – Brits. Judas Priest? English. Iron Maiden? You get the idea.

Then something happened. Ronald Reagan won the Presidency of the United States, and ushered in a conservative era that lasted over a decade. Reagan was sworn into office in January of 1981. In that same year Anthrax, Dark Angel (not to be confused with Death Angel), Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer were formed. The following years saw Death Angel, Death, Megadeth, Testament, Atheist, GWAR, Morbid Angel, Nuclear Assault, Obituary, etc. Literally within a 3-4 year period you’ve got the seeds for two major movements/splits in heavy metal, not to mention about 2/3 of the base of what we now refer to as extreme metal. And it wasn’t just metal – VICE magazine just released an article discussing why Reagan was the best thing to happen to punk music.

I’m not sure if I can stress how big of a deal this is.The seeds for America’s permanent stamp on heavy metal history were planted and germinated during a very conservative time in the American political climate. During Reagan’s first term, the bands known as “the big four” all formed, and by the end of the second term Thrash had taken the world by storm. Metallica became the most successful metal band in the world, and Death metal was blossoming.

By the beginning of George Bush’s (senior) term in 1989, Death Metal had already overtaken Thrash. Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Death, Deicide, Morbid Angel – Death metal was on the rise until it peaked out and stagnated around 1992-1993. Bill Clinton (Democrat) took office in January of 1993.

From 1993-2000, there were also major movements in metal that contributed to the culture as a whole metal pretty much sucked. And the overall political atmosphere of the United States was predominantly liberal/democrat. Remember Grunge? Clinton era. Nu Metal? Clinton. Slayer’s attempt at nu-metal? Clinton era. Metallica cuts their hair, goes “alt-rock”, and takes photos tongue kissing each other? Clinton era. Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park? Thanks a lot, Democrats.

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Enter 2000, a democrat wins but is rick-rolled out of office by a republican. Suddenly, there’s a resurgence in metal. A lot of players in what is commonly referred to as the “New Wave of American Metal” start picking up and getting more attention and rotation. Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, and Chimaira all released albums – essentially a mutated Thrash renaissance. Also of note, Devourment started getting big. Slam was born, and real brutal death metal started taking off. Tech Death flourished. Ozzfest, admittedly around since the Clinton era, took off and saw it’s highest attendance ever.

2008, Obama wins. Ozzfest stops touring the US. Metalcore devolved into a bad caricature of itself, and Deathcore (a death metal influenced offshoot of metalcore) came to prominence. Blackgaze took off. You get the idea.

I’m not here to debate whether metalcore/deathcore/blackgaze are good or bad, I’m talking about global musical impact. There are Thrash bands, Death Metal bands, and Black metal bands all over the planet. Beyond the United States and Great Britain, there aren’t very many deathcore or metalcore bands. Deathcore has gotten to the point where quintessential founding bands of the genre like The Acacia Strain refuse to be associated with the term any more. And it seems like, while the rest of the world might not mind listening to these bands – by and large they don’t replicate these styles.

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Global Confirmation of the Trend

Black Sabbath released their debut album under a conservative Prime Minister (in fact, he was from a political party literally called “the conservative party”). The NWOBHM occurred during the reign of the Conservative Party in Britain (in fact, the party held sway for 57% of the 20th century in Britain). Grindcore as a genre germinated almost exclusively under conservative control.

In the early 90’s, Black Metal came to the attention of the entire world through a scene that formed, in large part, as a cultural response to the incredible grip conservatives had on the country.

Sepultura? Rose on the tail end of an authoritarian conservative regime in Brazil. Behemoth? Yeah, Poland is still wicked conservative.

And this isn’t to say that there isn’t good metal made by bands during liberal regimes. It’s saying I haven’t seen a legitimate artistic movement within American heavy metal that’s permanently changed the face of metal during a liberal regime. There are probably always going to be dark-horse bands like Pantera that carry the flag for decent metal – I’m just saying as of right now they seem to be the exception, not the rule.

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(Clinton fans, don’t get your panties in a bunch. Hillary Clinton is still more conservative than any honest democrat should be comfortable with. I’m sure there will be plenty of angry music made if she’s elected. I’m just saying it’ll be shitty mainstream stuff that’s overtly politically correct)

Conclusion

If Trump wins, America’s going to start pumping out the fucking jams. The “Metal Bubble” we’re currently experiencing will probably pop immediately following his presidential term (4-8 years, depending on how generous you are. Remember, we as a country elected George W. Bush after he stole the election the first time, so don’t give American voters too much credit). We might even finally get another “real” movement in extreme metal.

If Hillary Clinton wins, subsequent movements in heavy metal will all be mainstream in nature, and the trend of whiny millennial hipsters taking over the American metal scene will continue. Metal concerts will continue to be referred to as people’s “safe spaces”, and former leaders in the metal scene like Phil Anselmo will continue to be demonized. Metal will continue down the track it’s on, and become a bad parody of itself.

  • If you’re voting for Trump (and listen to metal), this is probably another vindication of your choice to vote for him. Good for you.
  • If you’re voting for Clinton (and listen to metal), consider it a silver lining for if she loses. As of right now, it’s not looking great.

Whoever wins, we’re all fucked. We’re literally watching the crumbling decay of an empire. It’s unavoidable at this point. I just want there to be a decent soundtrack.

 

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