Search

metal stuff

It's stuff, about metal

Tag

Behemoth

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.

clintonmetallica1

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.

make-america-metal-again

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.

hillary-clinton-throws-horns-900x515
(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.

 

Advertisements

Behemoth’s Poznan Concert a Major Victory for Free Speech in Poland

Metal culture is a global phenomenon that generally transcends nationalistic borders, and as an American Metalhead I like to stay as informed as possible about global attitudes and trends regarding heavy metal.

For example, I’ve written on the illegal promise of a local government to allow the Roman Orthodox Church in Romania to “approve” what bands are allowed to play in the country. This promise was in direct violation of Romania’s constitution – and the government’s silence is the equivalent of supporting this sort of discrimination. Not OK. And small decisions like this have greater cultural implications – if you allow a non-governmental entity to determine governmental policy (including disbursement of public funds), you’re allowing that non-governmental group to make governmental decisions

This is where a recent political decision from Poland comes into play. Since roughly 2007, religion-based political groups have been petitioning the Polish government to ban a list of musical groups they deem satanic from playing in the country. This list included Polish natives Behemoth.

Around the same time, Behemoth front-man Nergal controversially destroyed a bible onstage during a show, and criminal charges were filed against him (I think it’s safe to say there’s no love lost between Polish religious groups and Behemoth). The ensuing court cases stretched over a number of years (until around 2012 I believe), and the last I checked he was acquitted. No surprise – after all, he’s kind of a big deal in Poland.

Then in 2014, a scheduled show in Poznan, Poland was cancelled due to vague “safety concerns”. Nergal rightfully called out the actions of those in power for what they were – political maneuvering to placate religious fundamentalists while avoiding controversy. Article 73 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland guarantees freedom of artistic creation and scientific research, as well as free access to cultural goods. The real violation of civil rights was not perpetrated by Behemoth, but by the church against the band and their fans.

protestors

Enter 2016 -Bogdan Freytag, chairman of the religious protest group “Faithful Poland”, petitioned Poznan’s Mayor (Jack Jaśkowiak) in the hopes of preventing Behemoth from playing yet again. Considering the incredible amount of legal power these religious groups have wielded against the band, I feel it was a bold move in the right direction for the president of the country to allow the concert to happen. Behemoth seems to think so too.

freedom-in-art

At this point you might be asking yourself, “Why is this important?” Well, simply put, it sets an example for other countries in Eastern Europe in favor of free speech, even if that speech offends the church. Which (from what I gather) is a concept that hasn’t fully taken hold in the area.

Essentially, Poland has done exactly what Romania should have done. Because if you look closely, there’s a pattern here – religious groups exercising their constitutional rights in a country for the express purpose of denying those same rights to a large segment of the population. It happened in Poland in 2007, and it took almost a decade to undo the damage. That’s why it’s important to put a spotlight on small local governments making seemingly innocuous concessions to religious groups (or any protest groups) – because those decisions set a legal precedent with far reaching legal implications.

So, in the greater scheme of things – Behemoth’s ability to finally play in Poland is a victory for free speech (and metal).

Why are Hard Rock and Metal Artists Suddenly Drawn to Country Music?

 

At first glance, this might seem like an odd phenomenon. In their current states, country and metal are polar opposites. And research into the personality type/musical preference connection clearly shows that fans of heavy metal have far more in common with fans of classical music than fans of country. But, the more you look at it, the more it makes sense that there would be a mini “exodus” from metal music to country. And, arguably, it’s a good thing for both genres and their fans.

 

Background

First and foremost, it needs to be mentioned that country and metal music share a common ancestor in the blues. Early rock and roll acts and early country acts were almost interchangeable – for example, Johnny Cash and Elvis toured together. Elvis is commonly referred to as the godfather of rock and roll (of which heavy metal is a derivative) and Johnny Cash is widely recognized as a progenitor of Country music. In fact, country music at it’s inception was simply a rural version of rock music.

Now, the two genres have had decades to evolve into two separate entities with distinctive fanbases and cultures that (generally) don’t overlap. But there’s always been a common thread connecting the two – the Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman” is a good example. “Southern Rock” bands have kept a fusion between the two genres (rock and country) alive through the decades, but it wasn’t really until the 90’s that country music and heavy metal met and mixed.

No article dealing with the cross-cultural zone between country and metal would be complete without mentioning two bands – Pantera and Hank Williams III. These two groups bridge the gap between the two genres quite nicely. To further the connection – Pantera’s last real album (even though the lead singer, Phil Anselmo, wasn’t part of it) was a collaboration between the band and David Allen Coe entitled “Rebel Meets Rebel“. Artists like Kid Rock and Aaron Lewis from Staind have kept the connection going.

The Present Situation

Within the past year or so, there’s been more of an “exodus” of metal and hard rock artists in some form or another to the country music medium. Now, it’s not always a full blown transition, and it’s actually been going on for a while (technically since the dawn of both rock and country). I think it’s more accurate to describe the country/hard rock/metal phenomenon in terms of a spectrum: Dabbling (One-Off Country Albums, Collaborations)->Fusion Styles->Full Transition Between Genres (Including solo albums/projects).

In the dabbling category we have  Devin Townsend’s side project (Casualties), Nergal from Behemoth’s country/folk album, Jimmy Bower’s (Down/Eyehategod) Country album, Jonathan Davis’ (Korn) collaboration with country artists Big and Rich, Bon Jovi’s Country album, Chuck Billy (Testament) doing his country tribute to Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”, and considering I don’t know where Aerosmith stands at this moment I’m going to include Stephen Tyler’s country project as well. And Bret Michaels (Poison) country album.

As far as fusion styles – obviously guys like Pantera and Hank III go without saying. The mutual blues ancestor of metal and country music make them more compatible than you’d think at first listen. In fact, due to the Pantera connection we wouldn’t have groove metal without country.

And for full transitions you’ve got Kid Rock (This guy’s such a redneck, it wasn’t that much of a transition. I think he plays the CMT awards semi-regularly), Aaron Lewis (Staind),  David Vincent (fucking Morbid Angel), and Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandria). So we’ve got Metalcore, Death Metal, Blackened Death, Doom, Nu-Metal, Hair Metal, Hard Rock, Groove, and Prog represented in country music just from the bands mentioned in this article. I’d say that’s enough of a spectrum state that this isn’t a genre specific phenomenon – the appeal seems to be pretty universal among metal artists.

What Metal Culture Can Learn From Country

In terms of the metal community, a look at the current state of country is a sobering reminder that the music industry (all bureaucracy, in fact) can be a very toxic thing . So, as much as people like to go around bashing elitists – that particular core demographic of the metal community is a big part of the reason metal isn’t a shell of it’s former self. The pop machine has literally eviscerated the entire genre of country music, and left nothing but a hollowed out meat-puppet of a shell that they make perform for fans in a mocking, pandering sort of way. Don’t believe me? Check out this video.

This is what the pop machine does – it analyzes a core fan base to find things they like. It then arranges them into a palatable, pre-digested formula with literally zero integrity. Anybody who’s been alive through the 90’s should remember that country music was a pretty big thing back in the day. And in a matter of a few decades, it’s been reduced to a cultural and artistic void. Boots, cold beer, lemonade, lying in pick-up trucks, some sort of romantic rendezvous, and the month of July – hey, throw that in a 4-chord song format with a steel guitar playing in the background and you’ve got a #1 Country hit! Pandering at it’s best, there’s next to zero substance left in the genre. Probably part of the reason metal artists are occasionally dabbling – they’re filling the creative void.

Also, poser bashing is designed to prevent this sort of thing from happening in/to the metal community. Granted sometimes people take it a little too far, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. And in this case, a defense against entryism is much better than the alternative.

 

What Country Fans Can Learn From Metal Culture

Country music, as a culture, has zero defense against entryism. In layman’s terms, this means that there is no cultural “check” or way to stop an outside group from entering into Country music culture and changing it from within.

At first glance, this might not seem like a problem. It didn’t when Country-pop experienced a revival in the 90’s. But, here’s the problem. If any group can gain entry into an artistic culture – that includes a group put together by a record company. And their focus is on dollar signs, not art.

Unfortunately, because record companies already have a lot of money, they can afford to hire people to do studies into what the fanbase likes and doesn’t like (and then plug the results into the pop-machine formula). At this point, it’s not a matter of if or when it happens (because it already has), it’s a matter of what to do about it. I think that country music as a whole can benefit from a little “heavy metal sensibility”.

First and foremost, the artists getting into country are considered staples of their respective metal genres. These are top-notch artists with creative energy to spare. So, you’ve got a bunch of artists entering the scene and playing real music in the creative void left by the pop industry .

Second, I would hope they bring a little of that “elitist” attitude that has helped heavy metal stay out of the clutches of the pop industry for almost 6 decades. Combined with the DIY ethos of metal and punk, it just might be the breath of fresh air that country music needs.

Third, I hope a few metal artists reintroduce a bit more of that rebel attitude country music deserves.

Conclusion

I think it’s good for metal artists to branch out a little bit. Considering how saturated the market is with metal bands right now, it’s certainly not hurting heavy metal at all. And it could make country music tolerable again. Overall, I’d call it a win/win situation.

Romanian Government Decrees all Metal Shows Must be Approved by the Church

Following a show by the band Dark Funeral at Rock Castle, Romania (a country that upholds the controversial figure Vlad the Impaler as a savior of Western civilization) has recently announced that all future metal shows in the area will have to be approved by the orthodox church. How ironic.

The first I heard of this situation was through the facebook posts of Lord Ahriman and his band Dark Funeral.

Dark Funeral

This is part of the greater narrative between metal and the church in Eastern Europe and Russia. With events such as arresting and then deporting Behemoth, sending a military unit to break up a cannibal corpse show while banning the bands lyrics and artwork, and more recently Russian Orthodox Priests spitting on metal bands at the airport – it’s safe to say the orthodox church has a stranglehold on both the government and culture of the area. Conflict between the church and extreme metal artists is not new – and often quickly reported on by independent metal media. And up until this point, the conflict has been centered on specific bands – and metal media has been quick to report on such things.

So why is it that now, when ALL METAL is being targeted by a cooperation between the government and church of Romania, is metal media silent about this? This isn’t targeted towards a specific band – they’ve literally declared that all metal shows must be approved by the church. This sort of censorship hasn’t happened in Western Culture since the fucking dark ages. Where is the metal media when it is needed the most? Where are the Social Justice Warriors/Hipsters who bitch about minor isolated occurrences in the metal scene and make them out to be such grand struggles?

I’ll tell you where they are. While parts of the world are working hand in hand with the church to ban metal music and oppress thousands of metal fans – sites like Metal Injection, MetalSucks, Blabbermouth, Pitchfork, Lambgoat, and the like are busy promoting a band that calls itself black metal while spewing a manifesto that goes completely against the spirit of the genre. They’re literally promoting a band that would see black metal reduced to a socially acceptable construct, free of the transgression inherent in the DNA of the genre.

I guess it’s only worth writing about if it effects a rich American white kid who pretends to be edgy and like transgressive art. It’s a sad day when the metal media is so self absorbed that they miss something as huge and culturally significant as what is going on in Romania right now.

Hornsuprocksdarkfuneral2016

Thank god the members of Dark Funeral have the fucking balls to stand up for transgressive art and freedom of speech and expression in an area that obviously needs it.

 

Both the Romanian government and metal media should be ashamed of themselves for their conduct (or lack thereof) towards this situation.

EDIT:

A note to the Romanian people,

I am not writing this in any way, shape, or form to insult the Romanians as a whole. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on a disturbing situation that is unfolding in your country.

Recently there was a festival at Bucovina Rock Castle with roughly 10,000 attendees. Following the show, the cultural association “Saint Metropolitan Dosoftei” caved to pressure put on them by a local priest.

The reaction was to grant him the ability to decide which bands are allowed to play in the town. This is in violation to several sections of the Romanian Constitution.

It violated article 15 (All citizens enjoy the rights and freedoms granted to them by the Constitution and other laws, and have the duties laid down thereby) by giving the priest and his congregation the freedom to take away the freedom of the 10,000 concert attendees.

Article 15
(1) All citizens enjoy the rights and freedoms granted to them by the Constitution and other laws, and have the duties laid down thereby.

It violated Article 16 (Citizens are equal before the law and public authorities, without any privilege or discrimination) in the same manner as article 15.

Article 16
(1) Citizens are equal before the law and public authorities, without any privilege or discrimination.

(2) No one is above the law.

It violated Article 29 almost in it’s entirety by forcing the religious ideals of one group on the masses.

Article 29
(1) Freedom of thought, opinion, and religious beliefs shall not be restricted in any form whatsoever. No one shall be compelled to embrace an opinion or religion contrary to his own convictions.

(2) Freedom of conscience is guaranteed; it must be manifested in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.

(3) All religions shall be free and organized in accordance with their own statutes, under the terms laid down by law.

(4) Any forms, means, acts or actions of religious enmity shall be prohibited in the relationships among the cults.

(5) Religious cults shall be autonomous from the State and shall enjoy support from it, including the facilitation of religious assistance in the army, in hospitals, prisons, homes and orphanages.

(6) Parents or legal tutors have the right to ensure, in accordance with their own convictions, the education of the minor children whose responsibility devolves on them)

It violated article 30 by allowing censorship of the freedom of expression of the 10,000 concert attendees:

Article 30
(1) Freedom of expression of thoughts, opinions, or beliefs, and freedom of any creation, by words, in writing, in pictures, by sounds or other means of communication in public are inviolable.

(2) Any censorship shall be prohibited.

(3) Freedom of the press also involves the free setting up of publications.

(4) No publication shall be suppressed.

(5) The law may impose upon the mass media the obligation to make public their financing source.

(6) Freedom of expression shall not be prejudicial to the dignity, honour, privacy of a person, and to the right to one’s own image.

(7) Any defamation of the country and the nation, any instigation to a war of aggression, to national, racial, class or religious hatred, any incitement to discrimination, territorial separatism, or public violence, as well as any obscene conduct contrary to morality shall be prohibited by law.

(8) Civil liability for any information or creation made public falls upon the publisher or producer, the author, the producer of the artistic performance, the owner of the copying facilities, radio or television station, under the terms laid down by law. Indictable offences of the press shall be established by law.

It restricts access to culture guaranteed under article 33…

Article 33
(1) The access to culture is guaranteed under the law.

(2) A person’s freedom to develop his/her spirituality and to get access to the values of national and universal culture shall not be limited.

(3) The State must make sure that spiritual identity is preserved, national culture is supported, arts are stimulated, cultural legacy is protected and preserved, contemporary creativity is developed, and Romania’s cultural and artistic values are promoted throughout the world.

It opens the door to economic restrictions on local metal bands not approved by the priest, and allows for the possibility of future violations of your citizen’s rights by limiting their access to the local economy in violation of article 45.

Article 45
Free access of persons to an economic activity, free enterprise, and their exercise under the law shall be guaranteed.

And the town council members are in violation of articles 54 and 57 through this act…

Article 54
(2) Citizens holding public offices, as well as the military are liable for the loyal fulfilment of the obligations they are bound to, and shall, for this purpose, take the oath as requested by law.

Article 57
Romanian citizens, foreign citizens, and stateless persons shall exercise their constitutional rights and freedoms in good faith, without any infringement of the rights and liberties of others.

So, while I might not live in Romania – the internet allows access to your laws. And your constitution is obviously based on the United States constitution (which I am very familiar with).

Maybe instead of getting angry at a person you will never meet over the internet you can focus your energies on protecting the rights of the 10,000 people who had multiple constitutional rights violations perpetrated against them to silence a dissenting priest and his congregation. Nothing about this action is OK.

Council of Suceava

When anyone acting under the authority of a government (even a public arts council who appropriates government funding) – they are acting for that government. The Suceava Council (elected officials) have responded to a letter from a pastor – stating they will allow him to have some say in who does and does not get to play in the country. So, when I say “Romanian Government decrees” that is exactly what I mean, and it is 100% true. Because, until your government says otherwise – this is the will of the Romanian government and people. You’re allowing the church to remove the rights of taxpayers, and to dictate the use of your tax dollars into cultural events that have to be approved by the church. That’s not democracy – that’s oligarchy.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑