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Metal Injection Goes Full Hipster; Metalsucks is less wrong

I am writing in response the the article written by Shayne Mathis on behalf of Metal Injection, in which he makes some statements/assertions that I have some fundamental disagreements with.

Now, in the course of civil discussion and argument, context is an invaluable tool. It is the critical lens through which we frame said discussion. Without it, discussion devolves into self-aggrandizing statements of bias.

So, framing the discussion beforehand is essential to the integrity of both the discussion and it’s participants. Shayne Mathis wrote an opinion piece denying that metal has a problem with an insurgency of “scene tourists” and “social justice warriors” on the premise that SJW’s don’t exist. This seems, then, like a good place to start the framing/discussion.

Before defining what a SJW is, it might be helpful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. When did SJW’s come into the common collective consciousness of humanity, and from what greater demographic did they spring?

The first real incarnation of the term in it’s current incarnation arose from the gamergate controversy. In a nutshell, #gamergate occurred when some cultural tourists took a passing interest in participation in an established sub-culture (gamers). When they found parts of the culture offensive, they brought these aspects into the public sphere in an attempt to curb them. This is, arguably, the first step in appropriating a subculture into the mainstream (by imposing mainstream values onto it).

Shortly afterwards, there was a short lived spin-off phenomenon referred to as #metalgate. Interestingly, it pretty much all started from a single article and became a thing on the internet for a few days. Well played Mr. Mathis. Using the exact same tactics and social stances as the participants in #gamergate, you applied SJW values to a metal context.

Now, what sets SJW’s apart from other cultural attacks on metal? In a nutshell, the demographic population they inhabit. SJW’s, as a cultural sub group, would not exist without hipsters. Before the hipster phenomenon, SJW’s did not exist. The two terms, while not interchangeable, are not mutually exclusive. Not all hipsters are SJW’s, but all SJW’s are hipsters. Hipsters, in turn, are a product of popular millennial culture. Not all millennials are hipsters, but all hipsters are millennials.

Therefore, for the purpose of this argument, SJW refers to a sub-segment of the millennial populations popular cultural manifestation – hipsters.

This is where things get interesting. Metal culture and Hipster culture exist completely independent of one another. Metal culture formed and existed for decades without hipsters, and hipster culture formed and exists without metalheads. So it’s safe to say we’re talking about two separate cultural spheres. Now, these separate cultural spheres invariably share a demographic population. Because of this, there will be an inevitable meeting of these cultures in what is referred to as a cultural contact zone. In this instance, it looks like this;

Contact Zone

The area of overlap that you inhabit (judging by your opinions, and the title of your podcast) is within this cultural contact zone. Which is awesome, diversity in metal fucking rules. But you have a tendency to frame your arguments like you’re speaking on behalf of a culture that does not share all of your opinions or values. Mostly because the topics you bring up, and the values you espouse in doing so, are generally considered to be in the hipster sphere (not the metalhead sphere).

In the interest of fairness, I would like to take a chance to point out there there are both positive and negative consequences to the intermingling of culture within said contact zone. On the positive side, the amount of intellectual discussion and discourse within the metal community has raised considerably. This is a huge plus for the participants and the culture in general, as it helps solidify and re-enforce the culture, it’s norms, and parameters. On the negative side we have posturing, self-aggrandizing preachy articles from “within” the metal community. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and anybody who has participated in the culture for long enough can recognize this. And it’s not confusing correlation with causation – I’ve already outlined how easy it is to find ties between hipster culture and the SJW-style argument both inside and outside of metal.

Any question that this is anything other than a hipster phenomenon can be quickly reconciled by examining historical socio-cultural interactions between metal and mainstream culture. First, I’d like to put the hipster insurgency into the greater context of cultural insurgencies in metal.

contactzone2

Here, for the purpose of discussion, are a few pre-hipster examples. To do any of these examples true justice would warrant writing another article, so we’re going to do the cliff-notes version.

Every single one of these groups represents a cultural contact zone within metal culture. This is because all of these outside groups share at least part of a core demographic of the population of metal culture (just like hipsters). Now, when there was a Christian insurgency into the metal demographic, it was never viewed as anything other than that. The NSBM contact zone is certainly an area that warrants discussion, but is a relatively low area of concern because of the insular nature of the belief system of that culture combined with their relatively unpopular belief system. Vegans and animal rights groups, and individuals subscribing to those cultures, have successfully used metal as a springboard/outlet for their political views. A good example of this would be the band Cattle Decapitation. At the same time, you have a demographic that agrees with Dave Mustaine, and that guy is obviously fucking nuts (but I would guess you already know that). I, personally, take him less seriously than the whole skinhead/nazi/national socialist populations while finding him equally repugnant.

In this context, you can see that some groups were more successful than others in integrating some of their beliefs/practices/customs into broader metal culture. Without the punk contact zone, for example, we would not have crossover or thrash. In turn, we wouldn’t have extreme metal, or this conversation.

Now in terms of metal culture’s responses to criticism, and other outside forces – I would turn your attention to the PMRC and the satanic panic, which used heavy metal as their chief bogey-man. You also had the trial of Judas Priest. In all of these cases, members of heavy metal culture pretty much banded together and affirmed that nothing they were accused of was even remotely close to true. This is still a common core of the culture nowadays – if you read Randy Blythe’s book he talks about how the occasional metalhead would pop up throughout his ordeal and make it a little more bearable.

One thing we don’t see, however, is criticism of the values and practices of metalheads from within the culture. This reinforces the assertion that SJW style criticism is a phenomenon unique to the millennial generation, specifically the hipster sub-derivative phenomenon named for their actions and style of discourse.

History has shown that people who participate in but are averse to the values of metal culture generally wane or drop off entirely from participation in, or identification with, it (in anything other than the past tense). These people are generally referred to as “tourists”, as well as more colorful and commonly used terms.

And one of the reasons metalhead culture generally stresses learning it’s history in context is to prevent self-aggrandizing statements of ignorance of historical context and the bigger picture.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way – I would like to go point by point on your discussion with the college professor in regards to his article and subsequent responses.

  • Social Justice Warriors do, in fact, exist. Not as some nameless, faceless “other”, but as a manifestation of current mainstream popular youth culture. As such, they do not exist as a singular, organized, and readily identifiable group because they are a sub-sub-cultural manifestation that draws identifiable traits from the pool of the parent sub-culture. It’s a small cultural movement, not an organized (and by definition) bureaucratic group with clear boundaries. Any attempt to label them as anything other than this is self-delusional at best.
  • Boycotts/Protests/Etc are certainly protected by the constitution. But there are limits, as there are with every single right guaranteed to American citizens. The actions of that protest at the Taake show were the political equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Neither the protest nor the example of yelling fire are constitutionally protected as they infringe on the rights of fellow citizens. Your rights end where your nose begins.
  • The crux of the guy’s argument was that people like you are invading the metal scene. You knew it, he knew it, and we all know you were picking a fight and asking leading questions. The fact that you would do that to a fellow journalist and metalhead who’s obviously been around the block more than you have really bothers me. Not that I believe in the myth of a brotherhood of metal, but it’s safe to say that a guy who’s been fucking teargassed at a GWAR show might know more about SJW’s (and the politically correct insurgency in heavy metal) than a person who types a lot. How you made it to both Metal Injection and Invisible Oranges I’ll never know, but they should be ashamed of themselves for not proof-reading your articles at very least – and at the most allowing you to represent their respective establishments. Your lack of historical context is staggering, and to boot you’re a bigger turncoat than Robb Flynn.
  • I’m sorry you’ve received death threats – but maybe this is one of the consequences of free speech you’re talking about? I’m not saying it’s ok (quite the opposite), but it is a logical consequence of your words and actions. Metalheads aren’t a fun group to pick a fight with. And you have to own up to and accept the responsibility of your own actions and words before you tell other people to do so.

At this point, Shayne, I’m done speaking with you because you weren’t honest with your intentions, and from your last email, its quite clear you are seeking “gotcha questions.” I have no problems speaking with the media about issues I raise but you have to come with a bit more honesty.

Don’t contact me again.

Sincerely,
Jeff

This is nothing more than an old dog of the metal scene not rising to the ruse of a young pup who wanted to pick a fight and prove he’s smarter than a college professor. How you could even pretend to be satisfied that anything you did or said in this exchange (other than honoring his request to terminate it) is beyond me. It’s littered with logical fallacies (like the straw-man SJW argument) and self important pretense masked as genuine concern for a scene you more than likely will not be a part of within the next 10 years.

Also, Metalsucks did a better job with the subject than you did, but I still disagree with the premise.

I am more than open to a continuing discussion and having an open dialogue with you on the subject, and will be waiting to hear your response.

Sincerely,
Corey McElligott

Harper’s Bazaar announces “metal shirt and trousers” as the look of the summer; world ends.

So yeah, the co-opting of metal culture as a fashion statement has been going on for years. At least since late (November) 2012, when rapper Chris Brown was spotted wearing a DIY inspired leather studded jacket with metal patches and logos. Interestingly enough, he apparently borrowed it from Rihanna, who apparently wore it on the back of one of her albums to look “edgy”.

That in and of itself kind of sucked, because frankly I hate seeing anyone who doesn’t listen to a band wearing their merchandise. Call me old fashioned. I mean, I don’t know it for certain because I haven’t asked them – but call it a sneaking suspicion that Rihanna and Chris Brown don’t even know who the fuck COC or the Cro-mags are. It’s a wager I’d take.

Fortunately, the fashion industry and the world in general were pretty slow on the uptake when it came to co-opting and grossly exploiting a subculture. In May of 2013, Kanye West was wearing the equivalent of “metal inspired clip-art” on sweatpants (and Rihanna was spotted wearing an entire outfit from the line). Fucking sweatpants. Turns out it was a seasonal fashion line from some British designer. It also included football should pads, so I figured it was just a one off thing. After all, it was a British designer, and we all know British people are just fucking weird.

Then shit started getting real. Urban Outfitters, fucking URBAN OUTFITTERS (that hipster piece of shit clothing store) started selling a fake Megadeth, Dio, and WASP jacket – I’m still not sure how they got around copyright infringement on that one. The fucking thing sold for 375 bucks too – show me a single metalhead who can afford that and I’ll show you a fucking liar.

So, within the time-span of a single (November 2012 to September 2013) year we’ve gone from a couple of washed up hip-hop artists wearing faux metal spin offs to American clothing lines picking up the trend .

Enter 2014. Suddenly, you’ve got everyone from Justin Beiber to Amy Poehler to the Kardashians to Kanye West (again) sporting vintage metal shirts. Lady Gaga was purposefully left out of that list because she legit listens to Iron Maiden, but I digress. One store, H&M, actually got it right and was selling legit Slayer and Metallica shirts for cheaper than you can buy them artist direct.

At this point in time, while working in Upstate New York I was approached on break by a couple of temp workers from the city (for those of you who don’t live in New York, anything south of Poughkeepsie is considered “the city”) who complimented my kutte and asked where I had purchased it. The look of surprise on their faces was genuine when I told them I made it myself.

Up until this point I had been under the impression that the whole co-opting of metal and punk culture was a pastime reserved for rich, bored people in the entertainment industry who wanted to get some attention in a futile attempt to remain relevant. Boy was I fucking wrong. Apparently it’s really a “thing”. Oh, well – at least fashion is a fleeting thing right? There’s no fucking way anybody will actually seriously consider wearing shirts I was forced to turn inside-out at school as a fashion statement right? Right?

So, 2015 rolls around. In March, H&M actually started selling a clothing line of slightly altered but totally ripped off metal culture inspired clothing. This was about the time people in the metal community started noticing, and even started firing back a bit. Someone with an obvious knowledge of the metal community and a lot of time on their hands actually started a fake promo company that linked itself with the clothing line. They made up bands, albums, social media profiles, and music with a complete fake back story for each of the faux band patches represented on H&M’s clothing line. The best part? They were all neo-nazi/NSBM bands. Fucking brilliant. H&M started freaking out about it. A little while later, Finntroll guitarist Henri Sorvali confessed that he and a few of his buddies made the whole thing up, unbeknownst to H&M. This was masterfully done. When asked why he and his friends did this, Sorvali responded,

“metal culture is more than just “cool” looking logos on fashionable clothes, and has many more aesthetic and ideological aspects in different subgenres than what some corporations are trying to express. The metal scene is varied, controversial and a sort of a wolf you can’t chain into a leash and expect it to behave on your terms like a dog. Strong Scene as a collective has absolutely no political nor ideological intentions, and is only bringing the conversation to the level it should be discussed at.”

Thankfully, the clothing line (as far as I know) tanked.

Then, the clothing line “Diesel” decided to get in on the fun. I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that they were charging $300 bucks a pop for a fucking cut-off denim vest with fake patches on it or the fact that they mixed thrash with crust punk by adding a matching pair of pants.

So, this whole fashion thing has to have peaked right? Wrong. Urban Outfitters doubled down and started selling a lot more metal shirts, but started charging like $54 a pop ($200 for a vintage Black Sabbath shirt, and they fucking sold out). Fuck, at least you can go back to artist direct merchandise and retain some sort of integrity.

The real crime in this whole thing though was the story of a dude who had his kutte stolen at a show in Oregon, and it mysteriously showed up in a display case at Macy’s in New York a few years later. As soon as he figured it out, there was a lot of outrage and an online campaign to return the vest to it’s rightful owner. Thankfully, it was successful. What the fuck Macy’s was thinking putting a genuine battle-vest on display in one of their stores, I’ll never figure out. But it does illustrate the greater point that there’s a trend in popular culture to rip-off and exploit members of sub-cultures in America with absolutely no respect given to the members whatsoever.

Fast forward to 2016. Now you’ve got Justin Beiber specifically designing his merchandise to with heavy metal themes, high end fashion companies co-opting death metal logos for their merchandise, Kanye West co-opting Metallica’s logo for his own clothing line, Black Sabbath collaborating with Supreme for a new clothing line (don’t get me started with Sabbath and fucking publicity stunts), AC/DC included in a Gucci clothing line, and fashion magazine declaring a cutoff vintage metal shirt and slacks “the look of the summer“, and that all American piece of shit Kim Kardashian wearing an $11,000 studded leather punk jacket complete with band patches. The designer received no permission from the artists who’s patches he blatantly included in his 11k fashion statement. When confronted by the bands on social media about this the designer responded,

“Ur such a pussy. Look how much I control your emotions that u made a whole post about my work. Little Bitch ass Punk Police. I will rape and exploit and pillage whatever i want and I will sell it for thousands while u sit here and just feed me more attention. Know your place u stupid fuck”

Fuck me running. That’s enough money for a lawsuit on a registered trademark. Here’s to hoping.

This topic seriously pissed me off for years, and I’m still not sure how metal suddenly because the “cool”, “in” thing. Well, it’s not – I mean 99.9% of the people sporting this shit would never listen to metal. I guess there’s a funny sort of irony in that – people wanting to look like a subculture with a 30-40 year reputation of giving them the middle finger. And wearing things with absolutely no idea what any of it means.

In conclusion, I blame hipsters.

 

Clean Vocals: Partially Selling Out or Completely Selling Out?

Contrary to the title, I actually really like clean vocals in metal. As long as they’re not whiny and angst filled.  This does seem to be a major point of contention in the metal community.

Some people absolutely love it, and some people can’t stand it. Especially in sub-genres like Melodic Death Metal (and it’s American cousin Metalcore), clean vocals have become so commonplace it’s almost camp. Bands like In Flames, Soilwork, Scar Symmetry, Solution .45, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, All that Remains, and the like have been using clean vocals for years – with great success. The list goes on.

And more recently bands like Lamb of God, Whitechapel, Hatebreed, and Amon Amarth have had clean vocals on at least one track of their albums.

The way I see it, there are two things you need to look at when evaluating a band using clean vocals.

  1. Why are they doing it? This should be pretty obvious. If a bands been playing pretty much the same thing for over a decade, sometimes they just want to switch things up. Which is cool, you have to respect artistic integrity and the willingness to branch out and try something new. If the band hasn’t gotten a lot of radio play, and suddenly they have a song with a clean chorus on your local rock station – then you know exactly why they did it. Not cool. I understand wanting to get popular, but if you’re even remotely familiar with heavy metal you should know that you aren’t getting into it for radio play.
  2. Do you like it? I’m actually talking about listening to the song objectively. Maybe this will be the song that makes things “clique” in your head and makes you enjoy a clean chorus now and then. Maybe you just absolutely hate them all, and this will only confirm it for you. If you don’t give it a chance and actually listen to it first before passing judgement – you’re just a fucktard.

Personally, I think there are certain vocalists who should never do clean vocals. I don’t see Karl Sanders from Nile or Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse branching out and doing clean vocals just yet. And that’s cool – if they did I’d be more worried about the world ending.

But clean vocals are a pretty integral part of metal. Besides the obvious Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, guys like Phil Anselmo from Pantera and Warrel Dane from Nevermore have been incorporating clean vocals for years.

And if you have anything negative to say about Nevermore, you’re wrong and I hate you. Those guys fucking rule, and Jeff Loomis is a god.

In fact, even bands like Arch Enemy have been toying with the idea of incorporating clean singing. Alyssa White-Gluz did a lot of them in her prior band The Agonist (they’ve actually gotten a lot better since she left the band, Victoria is a much better fit with their sound).

Also, Manowar has clean vocals. And Manowar kills posers with steel. Your argument is invalid.

In summation, if you don’t like clean vocals pull up your big kid pants and don’t fucking listen to it.

Quit Your Bitching: Metal Elitists are the Reason Your Precious Genre Has Any Integrity

First and foremost, let me get a few things out of the way. We might not have the same definition of metal elitism. And that’s fine. One of the beautiful things about metal culture is that it’s not beholden to corporate control – meaning each fan has the opportunity (and responsibility) to define heavy metal for themselves. And this definition will more than likely change and expand the longer you’re a fan.

Before we go any further – let’s set some definitions so we’re all on the same page, and know what I’m speaking about when I use a term.

  • Heavy Metal – (noun) A type of highly amplified, harsh sounding rock-based music with a strong beat and a heavy emphasis on bass. Characteristically uses violent or fantastic imagery.
  • Metal Fan – (noun) A person who enjoys listening to Heavy Metal
  • Metalhead – (noun) A metal fan who completely immerses themselves in the heavy metal culture and lifestyle. Also referred to as a “lifer”.
  • Metal Purist/Elitist – (noun) A metalhead who will heavily criticize bands (and social aspects of) metal culture that do not meet their personal definitions of what is acceptable. Opinions are often based on popular opinions within the greater metal culture.
  • Asshole – (noun) An irritating or contemptible person.
  • Poser – (noun) A person who pretends to be something they’re not, for the express purpose of impressing other people.
  • Corporate Music Industry – (noun) A group of assholes who happen to have money, and are in the business of selling music and related memorabilia. See Poser and Asshole.

So, what’s the real difference between a metal fan and a metalhead?

OK so, you’re welcome to disagree with me on this. You’d be incorrect, but it’s a free country so go for it. As a metalhead who’s immersed himself in the music and the culture for 20+ years, I’ve come to use the term “metalhead” to refer to a very specific group of people.

Now there’s nothing wrong with simply being a fan – the majority of heavy metal listeners and cultural participants are. Quite the opposite, being a metal fan is a very good thing, as I’m sure any metal fan will tell you.

But for a small percentage of people within heavy metal culture, being a fan is simply not enough. You cross a line and immerse yourself in the music, and in turn the culture. Metal finds it’s way into nearly every aspect of your life. It can be a blurry line to cross, and generally speaking the only person who can really say whether you’re a metal fan or a metalhead is yourself.

What sets heavy metal culture apart from other sub-cultures? First and foremost the music. Without heavy metal, there are no metal fans and there are no metalheads. Secondly, the insular nature of the culture. Because of it’s purposeful lack of marketable mass appeal – heavy metal is a music that is sustained by the participants in the culture. The more a person immerses themselves in the culture, the more they do to support it and keep it going.

So, by definition, a metalhead would be more integral to the metal community and culture simply because they do more and participate more in the culture. There’s actually a sociological term for this phenomenon, it’s called mundane sub-cultural capital. Mundane sub-cultural capital is accumulated by participation in the subculture itself. It’s intangible and difficult to earn – but with it comes credibility. There’s one other type of sub-cultural capital, but as it does not apply to this particular topic we will not be discussing it.

A little history lesson for your bitch ass.

Context breeds clarity, And the main purpose of this writing is to clarify a few things. So, on to the history books. For those readers too young to remember, there was a genre of metal that was 100% music industry created and maintained. We call it “Hair Metal.” And for a period of time, it helped make metal the most popular form of music on the planet. But because it was so strictly defined and never deviated from the industry formula, it defined it’s own mortality and died off. The killing stroke was with the rise of the new industry clone – Grunge. With the advent of grunge, metal was declared dead. And hair metal (and therefore “popular metal”) really was dead.

So who kept metal going when mainstream culture announced it was dead? Oh wait, the metalheads. The elitists. The Purists. The people who knew that the industry couldn’t destroy what it didn’t create, and are directly responsible for you being able to listen to real metal that has artistic integrity and is unbeholden to corporate bureaucracy.

So, what does all of this mean?

By defining what a metal elitist/purist is, we’re better able to see just who someone is really attacking when they make an all-encompassing claim like, “Metal Elitism is out of control” or, “Fuck Metal Elitists.” By making claims like this, all you’re really doing is insulting the people who have, through participation, helped make it possible for you to listen to, play, and enjoy the music you love without corporate music industry intervention. In other words, they’re keeping out the real assholes.

A common mistake people make is confusing the term “metal elitist” with the more accurate “asshole metal fan”. An asshole metal fan, for the purpose of this article, is an asshole who happens to like heavy metal. Seems simple enough. We’ve all met one or read one of their comments on the internet. In fact, I believe these people are the intended targets of public criticism of “metal elitists.” I hate to be the one to break the news, but there are assholes in every walk of life. Including metal culture. That’s just an inevitable fact of life.

Now, can a metal elitist be an asshole? Sure. And when presented with an unsubstantiated or uneducated statement about heavy metal, there’s a very good chance the metal elitist in question might come across like an asshole. But you know what? If you tell an expert on classical music that a particular song comes from the Baroque period, and it doesn’t, they will most likely correct you and come across as an asshole. So you might not like it, but chances are they’re right. This leaves you, really, with two options. You can either a) suck it up and learn your shit or b) whine about it on the internet and get people to throw you a pity party because someone disagreed with you.

Which brings me to another point – not everyone who challenges your metal knowledge or integrity is an asshole. This has been a part of metal culture for a long time. Everyone who’s been around the block knows that when someone in the metal community challenges you, the proper thing to do is make an educated response defending your interests and musical taste. At face value this might seem like a cruel thing to do, but there’s a purpose to it. If you’re wearing a band shirt, or have a patch from a band on your jacket, or you’re talking about a band like you’re knowledgeable about them – you better know what you’re fucking talking about. Band t-shirts and other memorabilia are the universal means of communicating participation in the metal culture. If you’re wearing a band shirt, and you can’t even defend what you like about them to a person, you might want to ask yourself if you really like them. If you are able to make a solid argument for what you like about the band and why, the person will always back down. It’s literally an ongoing rite of passage within the metal community. And it’s a fool-proof way to weed out anyone not dedicated to the music. As such, once you’ve made your argument defending your personal taste you’ve gained a fair amount of sub-cultural capital, and in turn credibility. That’s just how it works.

And when you lay it out like that, anyone who’s been active in the metal scene for any significant amount of time will certainly agree that it’s a good thing. Or at very least, a necessary evil. Does it get annoying? Sure. You know what’s more annoying? Posers and try-hards who are only there because they think it makes them “cool” or see it as a way to piss off their parents, but in reality barely like the music.

OK, I think that’s enough on this particular topic. In closing, if you have a problem with assholes who happen to like metal – join the fucking club. We all hate them. It doesn’t make you special, and you’re not making some groundbreaking observation that’s going to revolutionize the genre. You’re just a self entitled little shit who wants attention and got their feelings hurt. And if you hate true metal elitism, you can fuck right off and suck a chode.

Tune in next time to find out why metal sub-genres are one of the most important things in modern metal, and why not liking them makes you a fucking loser who’s completely wrong.

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