True/False - A Subjective Metal Rant! (Complete With Anger And Accusations!)
Did the title get your attention? Good. Seems to be the kind of shit people like to invest their time in, so...
When one has been dubbed both an "elitist" AND a "hipster", one begins to question the validity, if not the motif, of such accusations. I know one thing, which is that I'm a metal-obsessed bastard. I play it. I write about it. I damn sure listen to it. And I'm damned positive about it...even the ultra-negative stuff (depressive black metal? YEAH, baby!) Having said that, I want to clear up, if not just lay out, my SUBJECTIVE feelings on a subject both taboo AND provoking of "what's the big deal, asshole?!" mentality. I know I will be speaking for a lot of metal fans/freaks like myself. I do know I'm speaking for at least the bulk of metal individuals my age or near. And there are exceptions. Lord knows there are exceptions all across the board. But I digress...
I'll start with saying that it's not the idea of combining heavy metal with hardcore that has us metal-clad crusaders up in arms. Hell, you could speculate that more rock-oriented metal bands of yore looked to the punk rock and hardcore punk scene to get more aggressive in the olden days to form more abrasive metal. But that was back when heavy music was just heavy music, brothers patting brothers on the back. Grindcore could honestly be death metal too, death metal could be punky, heavy metal was thrashy sometimes, certain thrash was death metal to some, thrash could be equally black, and nobody was wrong. And it's not the idea of very extreme metal like death metal getting a more urban makeover by having hardcore elements that bothers us metal vets. Exhorder did hardcore-esque extreme metal so well they stood out in many great ways. And the NYC death metal scene, tough as nails, with a stompy hardcore influence, also did it well, all while still being connected to the true spirit - of BOTH. It "slammed". (Guess what...oh, nevermind.) We're also not unforgiving pricks. In retrospect, certain areas once loathed aren't so bad, even kinda endearing. Glam, nu-metal...besides, they were so obviously a mixture of things that they really never were a threat. Cinderella never tried to usurp Dio's throne, nor did Korn pretend to be Emperor. So, I'm not dissing subgenres or shitting on bands combining influences. That's not what's going on here. I have plenty of knowledgeable friends that listen to what I consider the real deal and yet also have some more trendy, radio-friendly metalcore stuff in their playlists. We're still comrades. They're still peaceful and open-minded like we used to be and try to still practice today. It's the way this stuff is VIEWED. The way the supposedly new ways people are viewing things are affecting the scheme. Anyway, nowadays is very fucking different. The mall crept in. Let me go on about this "mallcore" age...the radio-emocore stuff that so many casual listeners know no better than to call it simply...metal. (...sigh...)
Let me just say that listening to metalcore exclusively (now I said "exclusively", mind you) and calling yourself a metalhead is like completely ignoring your parents when they are trying to talk to you, then going to another person's house and telling their foster parents how much you love them...and calling yourself a good son.
This convoluted, peer-pressurized junk...Most of it now sounds like a consumer oriented, hooky jingle, neatly and oh-so-attractively packaged for an energy drink commercial or sports event advertisement, with all the easy to digest parts just abundantly strung together, disguised with "brutality" and aggression. Oh, and so many of those riffs, those borrowed riffs, are from places the players have no idea about.
Speaking of killer riffs and doing well with knowing where they come from; I have personal experience with metalcore non-offenders regarding the subject. (Granted, I prefer the memories of the time I spent with death metal greats like Incantation, yet I have a point to make regarding the metalcore thing, so I'll get back to it.) The late 90s led in some cool metal, with a kinda "skatery" punkishness, an urban grit mixed into their classic metal-influenced extreme metal. I even shared the stage with some of the early metalcore good-guys that, while offstage and hanging with the other bands (like mine), wanted to do none other than talk METAL. And I'm talking METAL - Dio, King Diamond, Slayer...all the way to Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates, to Monstrosity and Carcass. These early metalcore guys claimed that it was metal they lived for, not making the genre "evolve" away from it's original spirit (which would imply a progression, a getting better of sorts, which wouldn't be cool...and yet it happens every day now). Some - alright, only a few - of these bands I hung with stayed good, honestly experimented with different stuff throughout the years without ruining themselves. But - and there's always those "buts" - some of them did completely become decayed, and not in the cool, grimy, death metal sense. They just got bad. (Okay, okay. You're wondering who I'm referring to. The bands from this era that I'm talking about getting to know were Shadows Fall, God Forbid, Darkest Hour, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, and some that I didn't meet in person - like Burn The Priest [Lamb Of God], Killswitch Engage, etc...and I'll just let YOU assess which ones stayed potent and who ended up giving in to the commercial times. And some really did get disappointing...we'll just say that.) But, time goes by, new trends worm their way into the "scene", and things get messy. We all know this, and this is what my apparently "elitist" ass is covering here. (Lots of quotation marks and parenthesis going on here, I realize. But there's so much mouthiness to refer to nowadays!) Okay, I'll speak in a language that's easy to understand.
Sooo...the Paul McCartney thing...with Kanye. Immediately there were memes and sarcastic comments everywhere, with good, smart music-lovers understanding immediately the absurdities of the situation with the oblivious idiots that spoke without learning first. This was without thinking. It was obviously ridiculous. I know Paul didn't want what happened to happen. And let me tell you, there is a parallel with the commercial metalcore movement and the "real deal" that reflects the McCartney/Kanye thing. Aw, who am I kidding. IT"S EXACTLY THIS MENTALITY THAT WE ARE FIGHTING! The sad thing is, the metalcore/METAL situation is stretched out, with so many variables, through quite a few years, that most don't realize that true artistry in metal has also been taken over by worthless "thugs" with no respect for the past or scheme of things, not just by ignorant fans, but bands themselves - bands that are so contemporarily competitive and cliquey that the only inspiration behind what they do is each other; either in hollow influence, or plain rivalry. Their influences only go back a couple years, looking at only each other. They might as well be that pop-star in the Judas Priest shirt that everyone gets all bent out of shape about. (At least those pop-stars aren't claiming to be the new, improved version of metal.) A band's riff that's so Iron Maiden that it drips with Eddie's spit, has morphed from the truth... into one that supposedly "sounds like [insert modern band name]'s signature riffs", or a part that is so Slayer that it hurts being seen as [insert trendy band]-ish. It's very sad, especially when us musicians who are properly influenced are seen as being driven by these new ones that we'd never want to be influenced by, just because the aspects are now known by newer names. But alas, it's all these kids know, because they don't wanna know different. Elsewhere in the entertainment industry, we have unwarranted movie remakes, ones that rape the original intent, and they are flops most of the time (but some youth blindly prefer them, because it's what they know to be hip). It's the same thing here, but disguised as original material, with a hipper, hookier, "edgier" sound.
Jocks, bullies, people that used to pick on us longhairs and sensitive, disturbing/disturbed artist-types...are now the ones we're seeing on stage. I hear their boneheaded yelling as if it was AT ME, and it's over generic versions of riffs I once loved when they were originally used. We've been tied up and gagged, left in the locker room...and these thugs have stolen our notes, using their school-popularity to exploit these notes at the talent show of life.
People act like it's so high and mighty of people that think the way being expressed here (the way I feel), but in truth, there is SOMETHING in those people's lives that they take time to appreciate fully, something to go beyond initial response - something to appreciate, even deeper than merely enjoying on a surface level; a type of loving investment. I speak of anything...beer, food, pussy, being a film-buff, etc. There's something that they let themselves acquire a deeper taste for. So is it so wrong of someone like me to ask those that claim to be music lovers to actually mean that in their actions? I'm sorry, but just giving in to an ear-worm, a simply digestible jingle of a commercial sound (that's supposed to be "metal"), because it was easy to find in the world's main waves does not a music-enthusiast make. And not caring about the justifiable origins or whether there's credit elsewhere that is being missed just digs the "I'm lying about being a true enthusiast" grave deeper.
I think it all boils down to credit being where it's due, or the lack of such a thing. I think it's about ignorance, and us that try so hard being seen as something we're not because of the lazy, conforming ideals of the general public thinking we're all part of the same thing. It's all been segregated, and yet that separation is not seen by the naked eye. And there's an attempted subjugation that really rustles our jimmies. Why? Because we're passionate. Us metalheads - especially the musicians and writers caught in this - are full of passion for our music. And there's those that only skim the surface, claim extreme fanaticism, and call us merely pissy nostalgists. If there was real fanaticism going on, the kind souls like mine put into practice, more would be seen; and less would be buried by ignorance. Bottom line is our passion will not falter, and misrepresentation in any heartfelt subject is always met with extreme resistance. Now, metalheads are not out to fight, contrary to what is seen online (the world's contemporary voice). True metalheads are used to the 80s and 90s, revisiting the brotherly camaraderie in their hearts often. Then we open our social media windows, look at comment sections, infuriating article titles (hear that, Revolver?!) and see an echoing voice that is not ours, yet claiming our name. "The Future Of Metal"?! Are you fucking kidding me?! Yes - I take things to a severe, existential level. But isn't that what someone who loves something does? And despite the miscommunication in the world of metal (and music in general), I'll continue to love and be true to it. So, yeah, I prefer my metal dark, steeped with classic intent, played by mostly longhairs or spooky-lookin' baldies in W.A.S.P. or Testament shirts, and devoid of any sportsy, jockish aesthetic. It's because I grew up with metal, as it was, and still is in many cases. I feel strongly for my beloved genre. And I know I'm not the only one. The only difference between us and them is that we have something real to fight for. Tradition and integrity getting erased will always cause a resistance. "I just like it, okay? It's the riffs and aggression, man" doesn't cut it for us, because we know where that shit came from, and most that say that kind of crap have no idea.
One risks a lot when laying shit like this out. It's easy to take all my carefully worded explanations and dismiss them as callous or negatively opinionated ranting. But we that feel this way are just doing what feels right, which is fighting for what we love, because we have years (over 25 of my 35 on this planet) and memories and tons of intense feelings invested in what we've always claimed to not only be music - but our lives...our heart and souls. No, METAL will not die. But someone's gotta make sacrifices and try to save the hostages during a hijacking.