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Metal began in prototype form with Black Sabbath, whose trademark occultism symbolized life in terms of the eternal and ideal, while their gritty, sensual, lawless guitar gave significance to the immediate and real. The resulting fusion of the bohemian generation with a nihilistic, dark and morbid streak birthed early metal. Those who had rejected the hippies and found no solace in social order embraced this music and lost bohemians everywhere began to find new directions in this sound.
Having been thus born of the rock tradition early metal remained much within that framework, with dual lineages existing in Black Sabbath, the proto-metal architecturalists, and Led Zeppelin, the bluesfolk-rock extravagantists. While the 1970s struggled to develop further the innovations in rock between 1965-1969 the influences
that hit metal were primarily from European progressive rock. These musicians used classical theory to give narrative context to themes which in the popular music style repeat through cycling short complementary phrases or riffs which center motives. This technique migrated classical styles adapted from acoustic guitar and espoused structure over total improvisation.
As metal grew in the middle 1970s, its fragmented nature brought it both commercial success and hilarity as a retarded younger brother to rock. The rock side coupled with trash rock bands and formed stadium metal, which was the apex of metal's popularity and the nadir of its creativity, with bands being known for musical illiteracy, hedonistic excess and often mind-wrenching stupidity in interviews. These bands would come into full flower in the 1980s, but marked their territory well before the turn of the decade. On the other hand, however, some of the most dramatic growth in metal occurred
when bands merged progressive leanings with desires for traditional solid, sing-along songs.
From this fork in the metal path came three greats whose influences cannot be underestimated, birthed in the early 1970s but becoming most dramatically influential in the 1980s: Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Iron Maiden. Each had musicians from a progressive background who added new ideas to rock and metal, whether the neoclassical guitar duo of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton or the melodic basslines of Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. Even Motorhead, the simplest and most basic of the three, wrote songs with a melodic baroque tendency that rivalled that of the Beatles, except without the flourishes and happy feelings. Bridging between psychedelic space rock like founder Lemmy Kilmister's Hawkwind, aggressive punk and simplified metal-rock in the style of Blue Cheer, Motorhead sounded like a glassgargling vagabond and an impromptu jail
session band, but developed much of the technique and basic riff forms for the hybrid music to come.
The more obscure and threatening NWOBHM bands grew with the subgenre in the 1970s to oppose commercial slickness with direct and primal music. Angel Witch and Diamond Head and eventually Venom tore technique to its basics to get to the ballad-meets-firefight balance of rebel music. All of these fused the DIY attitude of punk bands with the epic nature of metal and created as a result music that was bold and far-reaching but accessible, both to fans and to those who would like to pick up their own instruments and emulate it.
Art - [ Hedonism ]
"My purpose was always just to express myself," he answers. "People are kidding themselves when they think music is going to change the world or enlighten people. It's a bunch of hogwash." -- Paul Stanley, Kiss The 1970s brought an era between the peace
love and happiness age and the more serious years to follow; as the Cold War intensified and the threat of ICBMs became more pronounced and definitive, the 1970s were privately a grim time of preparation for the worst and publically a time of vast hedonism. Part of this existed because underneath the hopes of the last generation had been a vast despair, in knowing that force would solve what pleasant thoughts of peace and universal love could not; part of this occurred because the movements of the 1950s had run their course for a generation without finding anything new. Hippies were essentially Beats with a more artificially positive outlook, and rock'n'roll had run itself into redundancy, relying on extremity to make itself something other than mundane.
The result of this pursuing tangible heights in a void of actual belief was a profound hedonism. Casual sex reached the mainstream, as did drugs including more powerful variants of marijuana and cocaine.
The futurism of a commercial society replaced ideas with lifestyles based on products, conspicuous consumption, and the Me generation at its most flagrant. The result was that most fell into mainstream lockstep, having absorbed the methods of the previous generation but lost its belief; the dissidents in art were hardcore punk, ambient and electronic music.
Influence - [ Electronic, Ambient ]
From the public front, the Sex Pistols exemplified all that hardcore was: brash, loud, and in total nihilistic denial of almost all value (except curiously being anti-abortion, since even punk vocalists find it hard to shake past indoctrination). For every band that was a public face on punk however there were garage bands and hardcore bands which labored in obscurity, rarely recording much that survives to this day, in part because their
attitude toward musicality was so dismissive that their one- and two-chord songs had few fans except those caught up in the cultural movement itself.
In ambient music, musicians such as Tangerine Dream and Robert Fripp probed a new form of spirituality in pieces that eschewed the obvious, tangible and quantifiable sounds of traditional rock instrumentation, preferring instead lengthy pieces which slowly developed through layers of atmosphere and contained a poetic content of revelation, much as classical pieces progress through motives to uncover an essential melody or inspiration. They were echoed in this by electronic musicians such as Kraftwerk, who originated the genre when it was necessary to be able to manufacturer one's own instruments, who used their classical training to make sublime pieces overlaid on top of minimal beats, reversing the trend toward more ornate percussion that had grown through rock and especially its
While these three exceptions existed, the rest of the world essentially anaesthesized itself, including most rock, metal, jazz and blues musicians, leading to a time of innovation in technical detail but loss of basic impetus. For this reason, hardcore punk changed the entire way sonic art was viewed, and electronic music took a subtle backseat while providing the groundwork for the next generation.
Period 4 [ 1982 - 1987 ]
History - [ Reactionarism ]
One defining aspect of the 1980s was the
ascent of conservative leaders in the United States and Britain who favored building up large militaries and nuclear weapons stockpiles to counter those of the Soviet union; this was a reaction to the more passive eras previous which had hoped that love and later technological futurism could drive away the basic problem that faced humanity, namely two edgy superpowers ready to clobber each other with bombs that turned cities to glowing dust. The feeling was that the Cold War could drag on interminably, or could explode at any moment, and the West wanted to be ready for that eventuality.
The result was a decade which outwardly tried to affirm all that the people in their 30s and 40s found meaningful, namely a white picket fence vision of America from the 1950s, and this boiled over into England and the world as a whole. It was a bracingly reactionary time, in which "Communist" was once again a career-threatening insult, and in which the Christian religion and the process
of making money for oneself again became the way in which one's social importance was reckoned. Naturally, this provoked a resurrection of the Counterculture and its strongest incarnation yet, since it had been absorbed in the 1970s and, since popular opinion was close to its own values, had been assimilated. Now that it once again had something to rebel against, it manifested itself in a growing cadre of die-hard liberal specialist movements and alternative art, literature and music scenes, none of which produced anything enduring.
Metal - [ Speed Metal/Thrash ]
Metal aged and so did the generation that produced the hippies, drifting into commercialdom and then self-hatred for losing sight of basic goals. Having lost both of their fundamental systems of iconography (traditional + hippie "revolution" and New Left) within a decade while most of the
population remained ignorant to both, the youth of the 1960s and 1970s were more cynical and materialist as they aged than any previous group. This awakened a scavenger coming to carcass in the 1980s which rolled into glorious rehash of the commercial ambition of the 1950s, leading to a wave of denial and an ever-present conformity in face of new fears: drugs, technological warfare, disease.
A desperate paranoid climate emerged underneath the murmuring denial neurosis of commercial social doctrine. Ideology in popular music became an intense moral crusade of horror at the history of humanity to that point, hearkening back to WWI-era dissent. In this environment, metal updated itself with the aggression and simplicity of hardcore, and came back for the attack in at first two hybrid genres: speed metal and thrash.
Speed metal took the classically-influenced structures of neoclassical progressive heavy metal from the 1970s and merged them with the palm-muted, choppy strum of violent British hardcore, as well as the whipping speed-strum of the more fluid crustcore genre. An example of the first influence can be found in violently alienated bands like The Exploited and Black Flag, where the latter originated in Amebix and Discharge, who twisted three chords into a song where the guitar playing was fast but the drumming and vocal delivery slower, creating like ambient music a disorientation of pace and thus of activity. Thrash was crossover music based more in hardcore, so unlike speed metal, which added hardcore riff stylings to metal song forms, it added metal riff stylings to hardcore song forms.
Classic speed metal bands were Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, Slayer, Anthrax and Prong, but these were the largest and most commercial and many others existed concurrently. Thrash remained underground and lasted for less than a decade, thus it retained its primal trio of Cryptic Slaughter, the Dirty Rotten Imbeciles and Corrosion of Conformity, although it is academically interestin to mention offshoots like Suicidal Tendencies and Fearless Iranians From Hell, both of which were more punk rock and rock'n'roll than the core of the thrash genre.
Although toward the end of the 1980s people began referring to bands like Destruction and Kreator as "thrash metal," it makes more sense to identify them as essentially speed metal bands which borrowed attributes from thrash and nascent death metal bands.
At one point praised by Robert Fripp for remaining apart from mainstream culture, these bands faced a growing divide in the music industry, namely the availability of cheaper recording technology (thanks to advances in digital and manufacturing ability) as well as, for the first time, the ability to press records and CDs in small runs, giving rise to a horde of smaller labels. While hardcore punk bands had maintained the DIY aspect for years, they were unwilling and unable to make any money doing so, but in the 1980s the ease of access to these technologies meant that small, independent ("indie") labels could both publish ecclectic rarities and not go bankrupt in the process.
For youth growing up during this time period, life was an uncertain and duty-bound prospect, threatened on one side by ICBMs which could arrive in a matter of minutes and vaporize cities, and on another by a tide of reactionary politics and social conformity which forced people into norms to avoid the risk of standing out and being tacitly avoided by employers and potential social contacts alike. Speed metal and thrash bands, who were in the crux of generational exchange, experienced both worlds: the public image and the private reality, including political dissidence.
Their hardcoresque anthems of social and political dissent are leftist but even more so, "rejectivist." The world is pushed back and its mechanisms declared incompetent. Many began the slow spiral into fatalism, where either through belief in religious mechanisms behind historical growth or a lack of ability to apply their passion, lapsing into a hedonism of self-destructive principle. The hedonistic attitudes and hail-satan paeans to deviant creativity evaporated as a politicized theory of what ought to be done, inherited both from hardcore punk and the surrounding public
culture, seized metal. Songs were written about the evils of drugs, the mistreatment of American Indians, the oppression of minorities by a WASP majority, the desire for individualist independence from the conformist horde, and the abuse of our natural environment.
At its inception a genre of palm-muted, Morse-codish riffs and epic song structures the speed metal of the 1980s held out until the 1990s before being absorbed. Speed metal and "social consciousness" dimmed many fantasies; it had become as moralistic as both the conservative society and selfrighteous countermovement against which 1969 metal had rebelled. This caused dissent among those who felt that both commercialism and this moralistic trend were absorbing the "free spirit" they had admired in the music previously, and that it was becoming predictable and self-destructive in its tendency to sound like everything else. In contrast, electronic music was exploring
increasingly existential themes and broader questions of intent, eschewing the moralistic humanism which overran speed metal and thrash.
Q: What is its appeal to Laibach?
Well, it's very industrial, and formerly it was very innovative, especially techno music. It's a very innovative practice, in the way of inventing a new form. The only real revolution which has happened inside of pop culture was for instance Kraftwerk. They have actually formed a new language inside music; they could easily be treated as the last important German classical composers. And after Kraftwerk there was no other revolution inside music-yet. Everything was based on what had already been stated. It's all based on the format of rock and roll. Rock and roll is a matter of something which originated in the Sixties and Fifties and it is
not very original-it's coming out from traditions of Gospel and Blues and that goes further into African roots, the roots of African music. The only real revolutionary music was when they started to invent electronic instruments, that was in the Twenties. And computer music Kraftwerk were the first ones to do it properly.
Jesus Christ Superstars also features a very strong element of heavy metal. Heavy metal is a matter of genre. We don't consider ourselves as huge innovators of styles, but we are using different genres to express different intentions which we have. Heavy metal is definitely a very authentic genre of popular culture and actually quite interesting changes are happening with heavy metal at the moment. The fact is there's not such a big a difference between heavy metal and electroindustrial music, or techno music, or basic industrial music, if you go back further. I think that lots of prejudices are on power, and that's the biggest problem. Heavy metal does
have its own concepts, its own logic and it works-it works very well for certain aspects of music. There's not much difference between Metallica and Wagner. Laibach, from delirium magazine interview This conflict led to change in the form of the rise of metal's dual underground genres, which by 1987 had established themselves in nascent form as a handful of ideas and techniques each. These would await another generation to be brought into much focus, as the transitional time of the end of the 1980s and the dominant liberalism of the early 1990s caused further ideological confusion in metal (and essentially eliminated punk hardcore as an artform, since it drowned in the same ideological conformity). At first, these two genres were the same musical formation, but over time differences in scope and belief separated them.
Early bands which explored this new territory fused the melodic, elemental speedy
hardcore of Discharge or The Exploited with the more architectural song forms, as developed initially by bands like Judas Priest and Angel Witch, and added to them an emphasis on chromatic intervals, both for their simplicity and the dead sound they gave to any melodic temperment to the song as a whole. After Discharge's "See Nothing, Hear Nothing, Say Nothing" came out in 1982, metal responded the following year, with new bands Bathory, Sodom and Hellhammer developing morbid Goth-Romantic versions of the new style, embracing death and evil and nothingness, as if channeling the apocalyptic thermonuclear fears of the previous generation of metal into a certainty of existential doom. Their essential thesis seemed to be thus: the world had become obsessed with its own power and politicalmoral attitudes, but had forgotten the finity of human life and thus the need to pick things that were important and eternal, such as nature and strong emotions, which had been obscured by the need to avoid threats and defend against philosophical enemies.
In the mainstream, Slayer produced their own version of this style in 1983, but did not differentiate much beyond a fusion of Judas Priest, Angel Witch and Discharge until their album of 1987, "Raining Blood." By that time, Celtic Frost had emerged from Hellhammer with a mock operatic drama of searching for value in T.S. Eliot's wasteland, Bathory had unleashed a Viking rock spectacular which identified strongly with the heroic values of ancient societies, and Sodom had gone from praising Satan to warning of environmental holocaust and dicatorship. Further bands had joined the fray, most notably Sepultura, Possessed and Massacra, each of whom added a degree of interpretation of a style coming to be known as death metal. Of note also were Necrovore and Morbid Angel who created similar styles of acerbic, abstract death metal.
Art - [ Humanism ]
Because the 1980s were so reactionary, the Counterculture lashed out with an onslaught of individualistic, egalitarian, humanistic values, which coincided with the reasons Culture gave for its being "superior" to the godless Communists. This meant that the art of the period expressed humanistic sentiments from one of two poles, but could never bring them together. Cosmopolitan speed metal bands like Nuclear Assault and Anthrax emphasized this in contrast to Metallica, whose lyrics were ultimately more embracing of patriotism and a rigid rightsbased view of reality. The same split occurred elsewhere in popular music; folk-rockers like REM were Democrats for the college kids, and country-folk bands reached out to working people who voted Republican.
The end goal of the two messages were the same, but they catered to different lifestyles. This fragmentation began to occur more frequently along the division between "indie" and "mainstream," a fact used by each side
to claim the other was either selfmarginalizing or sold out, respectively. The Atlantic magazine would in the early days of the twenty-first century write about the differences between rural commonsense types ("Red") and cosmopolitan, urban, multicultural administrative elites ("Blue"), a division which came into form in the split described above.
Influence - [ Hardcore ]
British heavy metal and punk is what we are. It is fusion of two styles. We said that from day one. - Jeff Hanneman, Slayer* The predominant musical influence during this era was the rise and fall of hardcore, something which was birthed in the late 1970s but expressed its technique and ideas most fully in the 1980s before choking on its own excess. Because it was accessible to both fans and musicians, it was soon flooded with followers; because it took a doctrinaire
but identifiable political stance, it was soon flooded with people for whom the art was secondary to mind control; because it had no consensus on its ideology in whole, it pulled itself in too many directions, fragmented and dispersed. Its influence on metal was undeniable, but equally obvious are what happened to hardcore bands. Henry Rollins of Black Flag went on to an alternative metal project, the Henry Rollins Band, and musicians from Amebix put out a metal album ("Monolith"), while ex-Discharge personnel ended up in the Slayer-sounding Broken Bones.
Hardcore itself disintegrated, having reached its furthest point of extremity and beyond that, having few ideas (none were possible, since once one breaks music down to its simplest point, there is very little ground upon which to expand in that direction). What occurred in its place is what is popularly called "punk rock," which resembled the stripped-down rock which had inspired the
creation of punk music before it had branched into hardcore, its "underground" counterpart to the more public music of bands like Iggy Pop, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols. The result of this fragmentation was a range of genres, from "emo" or emotional melodic punk rock, to various forms of progressive punk and descendents of hardcore-metal hybrids, most notably thrash (with substantial migration to the rising death metal and industrial music scenes).
While finding direct progeny of hardcore is more difficult, finding its influence is not. Band like Soft Machine and Public Image Limited formed "post-punk," a genre in which the bands traded guitars for keyboards and, taking influence from electronic bands like Kraftwerk, made punk-like basic music. When this genre in turn crossed wires with the still below cover indie rock scene, the result was "80s music," which possessed the instrumentation of the postpunk bands, including drum machines and sequenced
keyboards, but had more in common with the "sensitive" side of popular music, including (depending on the band) influences from jazz, rhythm 'n' blues, country and industrial. At this point, it became difficult to tell this music from the "indie rock" except by instrumentation, as both featured melodic composition, gentle harmonies and "sensitive" vocalists.
For these and many other reasons beyond the scope of this document, the 1980s are viewed as a watershed for popular music, as it branched into a plurality of genres which shared a common instrumental heritage, but not necessarily a musical one, being now two generations removed from the original bluescountry fusion that produced rock music itself. The ones that stood out most clearly as not part of the crowd were the synthpop or electronic bands, the industrial bands, and the metal bands - for all practical purposes, punk and hardcore had collapsed into repetition and ceased to be an influence in
popular music. The only exception was the progressive/emo music of bands like Fugazi, and the new hybrid form of thrash/death metal known as "grindcore," pioneered by bands like Carcass and Napalm Death in the middle 1980s. These genres like many of the split ideas of the 1980s had to ferment for several years until the 1990s had dawned, at which point a new political and social climate gave them a more fertile medium for growth.
At this point, it was impossible to find a clean lineage for any of these genres, as they existed in parallel and cross influenced each other not solely musically, but aesthetically. For example, much of indie rock came to borrow riff styles and song structures from punk rock, but rock as a whole lifted any number of aesthetic changes, including the harsher vocals and distortion which these bands used. Industrial music was initially an affair of tape loops of industrial machinery noises, in the style of Einsturzende Neubauten, but moved from that into a "pop"
form which used distorted keyboards and punk riffs in the context of aggressive synthpop. This in turn hybridized with grindcore in the late 1980s to form "industrial grindcore," exemplified by Godflesh and later emulated by pop industrial bands like Ministry. However, it's hard to argue this descended linearly from the influences mentioned, as early 1980s industrial synthpop band Killing Joke provides an equally viable template. For this reason, it is more accurate to say that after 1985, partially because of the new abundance of labels using cheaper technology to produce CDs and records, there was a complicated inheritance of different traits through many avenues, mostly aesthetic and not musical, and this alone distinguished not only 1980s music but all music after it.
Interlude: Explanation of the Next Two Sections Bathory lineup from blood, fire, death era
displaying traditional scandinavian values in repelling invading judeo-christians">After speed metal had reached the furthest extremes possible in music that was still saleable and then, like hardcore music before it, became assimilated by the mainstream ideologies that it unwittingly espoused, the elements in metal that emphasized an artistic and not political thrust to lyrics and imagery moved forward by, taking their cue from first the punk scene and then the indie scene, going "underground." This meant they took advantage of the ability to issue releases on small labels with no broad-spectrum sales, and designed their music for a market which did not intend to be mainstream. Music could be more aesthetically distant from conventional rock and pop, and unlike music which needed to be sold in stores which had to respond to complaints from potentially offended customers, could embrace any topic or aesthetic it wanted (interestingly, it was this development that also fueled the rise of political music of various extremes). This new "underground" was like the indie and punk
scene before it in its distribution channels, but radically different in what it produced; instead of making an alternative version of the music which received radio play, it was making an alternative art form which violated the very attributes that made music radioplayable at all.
The two genres which arose from this were death metal and black metal, and as of the first generation - Bathory, Sodom, and Hellhammer/Celtic Frost - there was no differentiation. For that reason, this narrative branches at this point and double-covers the period from roughly 1983-1996, so that each of these two different genres can be revealed for its essential attributes, ideology and ultimately, influences it had. As these genres are aesthetically similar but musically and philosophically far different, it is imperative to distinguish between them, especially regarding what occurred with black metal and "forbidden ideas."
Period 5 [ 1988 - 1993 ] History - [ Egalitarianism ]
Post-coldwar instability arose when the sudden collapse of communism under Western economic pressure created a vacuum of social direction which was eventually resolved in unity between moral emotion and needs for power. As little had changed, social boredom increased and with the official ideology of non-change created the most nihilistic, disposable society ever. Entertainment media became prevalent as CDs, VCRs, and stereos of a high-performance nature became common. The large screen TV lit America at night and warmed her power grids with the drooling inattention of a stagnant, functional land. Worldwide, America was seen as a cultural leader and thus was embraced despite the horrifying failures of the American system. The focus of world leaders turned inward to militarize against drugs, racism and separatism.
The Rise of Western (JudeoChristian) Civilization
Our civilization as we know it is the recent artifact of the merging of Christian ideals with the remnants of former times, and as such encompasses only the period of history after the rise of Judeo-Christianity within the context of Judeo-Christian values. Today's Americans and world citizens view modern society as the apex of culture, often forgetting empires such as Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, India, China or Japan which flourished as imperial dynasties amassing vast knowledge and cultural influence.
Christianity was the essential principle of the founding of the states we now know as modern Europe, and by extension, America. "Within the time bracket 700 BC-AD 799 the lives of Confucius and Buddha, of the major Jewish prophets and of Mohammed are all
included. The first Christians were Jews; but both under the impulse of its own doctrine, which held that all men were alike in spirit, and under the strong leadership of Paul, a man of Jewish birth, Roman citizenship and Greek culture, Christianity began to make converts without regard to former belief...The Christan teaching spread at first among the poor, the people at the bottom of society, those whom Greek glories and Roman splendors had passed over or enslaved, and who had the least delight in or hope for in the existing world...By the fifth century the entire Roman world was formally Christian."1
With the Christianization of the Romans and the consequent collapse of their empire, new states began to form using the germinal ideas of the old. These were based on Christian platonism, or theology of dualistic states in which one, as the known reality, is less pure than its more abstract and idealized theocratic counterpart. "Augustine wrote in the City of God with this event obsessing his
imagination. He wrote to show that tough the world itself perished there was yet another world that was more enduring and more important. There were, he said, really two 'cities,' the earthly and the heavenly, the temporal and the eternal, the city of man and the City of God...[which] might mean certain elect spirits of this world, the good people as opposed to the bad. It might, more theoretically, be a system of ideal values or ideal justice, as opposed to the crude approximations of the actual world." 2
"Not all the early Christians were poor, and it became customary for the rich to provide for the poor at the common meals...This concern gave the early Christian communities a warmth and a human appeal that stood in marked contrast to the coldness and impersonality of the pagan cults. No less attractive were the promise of salvation, the importance to God o each individual human soul, and the spiritual equality of all men in the new faith. As Paul put it, 'There is neither
Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.'"
As Christianity rose in Europe, soon its doctrine of purity began eliminating those who did not concur. When Charlemagne founded his empire in mainstream Europe, only a brave few invaders and uncivilized Vikings opposed them. Over time however, the advantages of civilization made the task of the raiders more difficult, and they settled down and through wives and friends became Christian as well. As Christianity spread, other Judeo-Christian influences drifted into Europe. "Among early traders Jews were often important, because Judaism, penetrating the Byzantine and Arabic worlds as well as the Western, offered one of the few channels of distant communication that were open." 3
As Europe became centralized and civility and compromise fostered a booming industry, Christianity became important to the point that it became absorbed wholly by culture and as a result became a facet of European civilization soon to be exported to America. "In the real life of the time the Church was omnipresent. Religion permeated every pore. In feudalism, the mutual duties of lord and vassal were confirmed by religious oaths..." 4
Religious chaos and violence flooded Europe for the next half-millennium until an escape valve could be found, and ships soon departed for America carrying colonists and the most virulent form of the new religion yet, Protestantism. As America now becomes a world policeman as the remaining superpower after the Cold War, one has to recognize that history will repeat itself once again.
"But you do not comprehend this? You are incapable of seeing something that required two thousand years to achieve victory?-There is nothing to wonder at in that: all protracted things are hard to see, to see whole. That, however, is what has happened: from the trunk of that tree of vengefulness and hatred, Jewish hatred-- the profoundest and sublimest kind of hatred, capable of creating ideals and reversing values, the like of which has never existed on earth before-there grew something equally incomparable...This Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate gospel of love, this 'Redeemer' who brought blessedness and victory to the poor, the sick and the sinners-- was he not this seduction in its most uncanny and iresistible form, a seduction and bypath to precisely those Jewish values and new ideals? Did Israel not attain the ultimat egoal of its sublime vegefulness precisely through the bypath of this 'Redeemer,' this ostensible opponent and disintegrator of Israel? Was it not part of the secret black art of truly grand politics of revenge, of a farseeing, subterranean, slowly
advancing, and premeditated revenge, that israel must itself deny the real instrument of its revenge before all the world as a mortal enemy and nail it to the cross, so that 'all the world,' namely all the opponents of Israel, could unhesitatingly swallow just this bait?"
1. A History of the Modern World, R.R. Palmer, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1961. pgs 10-11 2. Palmer, 12. 3. Palmer, 26. 4. Palmer, 32. 5. The Western Heritage, Donald Kagan et al, MacMillan, New York, 1979. pg 191. 6. On the Genealogy of Morals, F.W. Nietzsche, Vintage/Random House 1967. pg 34-35 Any analysis of this time will reveal the increasing presence of television, cable television, movies and radio in the collective consciousness of Americans. In addition, the
Internet, a defense communications subsystem, exploded into public life with AOL and dot-coms clamoring for inflated market share. The new Clinton economy raced up to meet it with token appeals for heart-tugging issues but a fundamentally sound economic policy which fostered growth, allowing a sudden hideousness of corporate focus. It became relatively easy to be wealthy in America, and wealth spread to non-white ethnic groups. World culture sighed a collective disbelief of ideology and iconography except as applied to hedonism, entertainment and public status. Belief in any meaning toward a cause was seen as a method of getting killed, and conflict avoidance for both commercial and moral purposes became the public standard of behavior in America and other countries in its economic model. The culture of the 1960s fully matured into raves, drug orgies, strange internet sex, etc. Whatever felt good was real. And while the edges of boredom on this vision showed, to
many the classic 1960s archetype of the population being oppressed in being kept from the fulfillment of their urges, as a means of expressing a template of life, came true in the ability to have a job, make money and express hedonistic outpourings. Barricaded emotions became a perverse zen of neutralism, in which individuals saw society as unchanging and their own actions as ineffective, so hedonism and personal "moral neutrality" was required. Recycling and condom use, working out and finding a career somehow became bedfellows with the hippie aesthetic and a 1970s value structure in music and iconographic treatment of musicians. An aging hippie draft-dodging privileged youth of the 1960s became president, and his hypocrisy matched his grand gestures, overflowing generosity and appropriately sentimental tears at suffering everywhere. His performance was central to the age: where Generation X had grown up blown to hell in the 1980s and then moved on to yuppiedom, the new generations were casually debauched and hedonistic but
mostly simply holding on to whatever they could find in the empty youths of yuppie households.
Their frustration bore a sobering truth: humanity was too large to collectively mobilize for complex political ideals, and were mostly pacified with television, shiny cars and consumer electronic goods. The rising generations of the world, acclimated to years of non-issues and political icons without significance, began to withdraw from society in protest not of its application of values but its lack of values. The average person responded more to television and emotional appeal than political logic; media had saturated every aspect of life in nearly every country, and carried a strong bias with its frivolous programming. Strategic futility and single-issue, knee-jerk responses dominated this era. The single issue nature of the new voting consciousness meant a focus on the negative and on change of the wrong, since by tacit agreement no collective plan could
move forward. Conservativism went with the way of the dinosaur and liberal crusaders charged in only to immediately embrace their own scandals while failing to address environmental issues, social/educational reform, and corporate domination.
The new generation of liberals were far more informed than the previous generation, and had powerful economic advisers; as the conservative party had shifted liberal a decade before, the liberals had shifted conservative with new allies in the media and financial sectors. The media in return supported the new thrust in liberal government, identifying with its the moral values and humanism inherent in its leftism. The first televised war had birthed a generation who absorb information subconsciously from TVs and expect it delivered with the flickering attention span of a cathod ray tube. The iconographic treatment of "stars" from the 1970s became a slavish worship and prurient inspection of
the tragic lives of public individuals; media sped up the event horizon by pumping endless news of change in thousands of voices into the lives of people worldwide; the soon emerging triumph of computing. Children who had grown up with television and radio recognized familiar citations in patchwork creations by rap artists, collage artists like Beck, and the disassociative lyrics of grunge bands.
The New Left had triumphed, yet was still in conflict with the basic conflicts of democracy, and the slightly more enlightened age had come. Underneath it all beat the dying embers of Christian morality and symbological idealism, with a Puritan work ethic matching a rigorous desire for vengeance. While this did not affect current generations as much, as their inertia in coming from a more hopeful time insulated them, the duality of public image and private reality shattered the following generations. Broken homes, degenerate and abusive
marriages, parents working until late at night and a constant stream of media emphasizing human failure and conflict took its toll. Almost aphasic in their approach to politics and ideology, these generations were entirely temporal in their approach to values and without belief in any form of ideal, as all ideals had behind them a commercial engine. As if in sick replay of the Vietnam conflict, human intentions seemed "good" but turned out "bad" - through something we brought with us no matter where we went. Emotional nihilism approached, and raging spirits sought reason to live or, in other ranges, significance of death.
Metal - [ Death Metal ]
"Certain individuals I like, but people as a whole suck! Nothing but talking monkeys with car keys." Kam Lee, Massacre Death metal existed without a name for many
years, being influenced by both the extremes of speed metal (Destruction) and Thrash (Cryptic Slaughter), as well as carrying forward influences from hardcore (The Exploited) and Gothic influences to original heavy metal and industrial. In fact, like a genetic profile, the genre is not identifiable by a single trait alone, but by a collection of traits and the common ideas that allow them to be organized as such. Riffs from The Exploited, for example, could be transplanted into modern death metal without being out of place (especially from their "Let's have a war..." album); similarly, distortion and song structures from Destruction can be played "in style" by death metal bands without seeming out of place. However, what unified these concepts, and gave the genre its name, was its literal morbidity: it did not praise death, nor warn of it, but explored it in a strange obsession designed to reinforce the existence of "ultimate reality": the physical, natural, objective world in which we live, and in which we die. In fact, the early death metal especially can be explained almost
exclusively by the Hellhammer slogan, "Only death is real."
This outlook, a primitive denial of all that asserted the existence of society on a level above or more important than natural reality, was not explicitly political, nor was it identifiable with any social movement except perhaps fragments of existentialism, nihilism and naturalism; it was certaintly not studied to that degree by the majority of death metal bands and fans. However, by taking this route, death metal avoided the increasing politicization of post-hardcore music which was occurring around it, and the consequent "internalization" of dialogue to the point where a genre only existed by the barest of aesthetic commonality: it used the same instrumentation and distorted, but shared no culture or musical direction or belief system. Over the next two decades, this litmus test for a genre would be reinforced time and again, with genres that could not maintain shared direction collapsing into commerce.
Many bands applied the styles -- chromatic progressions, fast strumming, ambient rhythms -- into different incarnations of a new genre, death metal. The mainstreammoral/underground-nihilist dichotomy was illustrated in the songwriting of older metal bands, which followed too much of the friendly rock music format and allowed itself to anticipate the conditioned desires of the listener, as contrasted to the new music which emphasized structural change (narrative) over finding a convenient harmony and riff and sticking with it. The innovations of Discharge, allowing chromatic riffing to be used in the context of melodic songwriting, and of Bathory, in building song structure around the shape of its riffing, were applied in the works of bands obsessed with death, mortality, and the obscurist predictions of mythology. Apocalypticism, which in speed metal bands had been a dire warning, was here a foundational assumption. As part rebel and part insurgent structuralist, metal broke
the scale into broad tonal leaps and chromatic rhythm playing where the structure was the message, not the root note to which it was harmonized or the conventions of such construction followed; key is used carelessly if at all at focal points of intersecting themes in motif development, eschewing the cyclic silhouette of rock form.
This was most clearly defined in the second generation of the new style, which began with Sepultura, Massacra, Possessed, Necrovore and Morbid Angel, whose music was both a radical primitivism and a futurist adaptation of classical theory. Although many elements of metal and hard rock remained, what was emerging that made the genre distinct from all others was a way of taking a "riff salad" and shaping it into a changing pattern which eventually revealed a conclusion. Much as Mozart's music would dance through motivic change for most of its duration, finally uncovering its central theme, a gentle melody, in death metal a thunderous barrage
of chromatic riffs prepared the listener for certain expectations in tone and phrase shape, then brought out the conclusion, like the last stanza of a poem: that which explained the journey and why its conclusion was apt. This style was most reminiscent of past centuries of Romantic and Naturalistic European poetry, art and music, but was missed by all but a few death metal fans not, however, by the innovators creating music in the genre.
Aesthetically, death metal was abrupt and disturbing to most because of the vocals, which were organically distorted by pitching the voice either lower or higher than normal and forcing it to volumes not normally invoked except in an open-throat shout. It was a guttural growl, like that of a defensive animal, and it matched the often-downtowned guitars and layers of thick distortion which as often as not cut out the middle ranges of sound in favor of low-end and high-end. Drums used an extreme form of syncopation
known as double bass, in which two bass drums were played alternatingly at high speed, destroying the syncopatic effect in the context of the song but providing a buffetting, urgent constant rhythm. In this genre, power chords exclusively were used, and new forms were incorporated including dissonance. Further, rhythmically the genre operated more as ambient bands do, with percussion framing the music but not leading it on, avoiding the expectation-based "funky" rhythms of rock, bluess and jazz. The result was that even without analyzing the music most listeners identified it with something unearthly, morbid, malevolent and antisocial.
From here the genre bloomed, splitting into several different styles. Massacra was representative of the flowing, liquid, highspeed strumming style that rapidly included bands like Incantation, Hypocrisy, Vader, and later, the heavy-tremolo and electric blistering distortion-clad bands from Sweden, including Dismember and Entombed;
Morpheus (later Morpheus Descends to avoid legal conflicts with the hard rock band from Sweden) established the percussive speedmetal-influenced style of choppy, muted riffs and precise drum patterning, a subgroup that included Sinister, Suffocation, Suffer and Cryptopsy; Possessed created a style somewhere in the middle that eventually included bands like Therion, Demigod, Monstrosity, Deicide and Unleashed. Sepultura reverted to being a speed metal band before getting in touch with their punk and world music roots, and Celtic Frost veered into glam rock before calling it a day. Sodom remained consistent, but gained instrumental prowess, making their new music unrecognizable to older fans. For each of these styles, diversification occurred, sometimes with interesting results.
Some blended jazz with death metal, as did Atheist and Cynic; others mixed in grindcore for an aggressive but often blockheaded style called "deathgrind." Some tried to work
ambient into the mix, as did Kong, and a few worked on hybrids with past versions of metal and rock, most of which were absorbed by their rock half and thus were unpalatable to metal fans, and equally unrecognizable to rock fans, causing the bands to either shift fully to rock music or to give up entirely. Some found a balance between the faster and mid-paced styles of death metal, to which they added simple but spectacularly effective melodic composition; good examples here would be Amorphis and Demilich. In summary, this was the genre of metal so far which created the greatest room for variation, in part because it was unified by a belief system more than a lifestyle choice, and in part as a result of its broad range of musical applications and few "rules" or genre conventions, despite having a clear musical identity in its nearly-keyless, atonal-anddissonant friendly melodic structural form of composition.
Death metal had taken the style
underground, but also generated a flood of "angry" mainstream imitators and sellouts. Bands like Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, and Tool made use of death metal imagery or technique in the format of complacent suburban music designed to fill lives with distraction. For many, death metal died with the explosion of the Swedish scene and lyrics like those to the first Therion album selfconscious, moral, and pious while being anti-religious and "metal," in a conflict that while not touching the music defined the decomposition of focus in the genre. Morality was "safe." So were rock hybrids like Entombed's "Clandestine." Flamboyant useless stylings of rock music and stadium heavy metal crept in alongside a dearth of ideas and repetition of known formulae. It seemed as if growth had made the genre too self-conscious, and as a result, it had abandoned itself to the methods of its antagonists.
Worth mentioning in the context of death
metal is the rise of a similar genre, grindcore, which grew from punk and thrash melded by convenience, to which the guttural vocals and detuned guitars of death metal were added. While the earliest bands such as Master and Carcass achieved some success, they eventually felt pressure to diversify and found themselves constrained by the emphasis on constant slamming rhythms, like rock based around expectation and not continuity as death metal was, as well as the need to be "extreme" (interestingly, Carcass spawned Napalm Death which in turn spawned Godflesh, leaving a trail behind its creators in search of a flexible but aggressive yet musical artform). Lyrics from Carcass were baffling to most as they consisted of humorous descriptions of illness soaked in the language of medical doctors, with latinate words falling into the gurgling voice like a radio broadcast from the land of the dead. Bolt Thrower, from England like Carcass, adopted a more "epic" style, describing conflict in both ancient and modern times, and Blood, from Germany, who took on a
mythological-occultist view, added to a genre that was otherwise strikingly literal like punk bands; Napalm Death and Terrorizer provide examples of this general direction.
In its own way, this music was both deconstructive and constructive. Its nihilism and alienation escaped the rules of society entirely and exceeded the limits of religion and conventional morality; it was born to be offensive and thus marked itself as not only not belonging to society but happy in that alienated view, preferring a separate truth to a compromise with something it saw as false and in denial of mortality, thus unable to seek any meaningful values (when life is infinite, and the self is the limits of perception, is there any reason to care about anything but gratification?). Unlike most genres of the time, however, its deconstruction was predicated on the notion that if enough of society were removed, a truth could be seen which was less constricting and less without value. This was years later a fulfillment of the
Jim Morrison summary of William Blake's basic theory that if humankind could remove its perceptive confusion, it would see the world as it is - infinite.
Art - [ Deconstructionism ]
The theme of art in this age was deconstruction: removing consistent threads of thought which constituted a worldview, and supplanting them with an often random collection of observations and personal notes. In terms of the philosophy of this age, this could be a decisional point leading to either a negative state, in which total randomness and lack of direction (or intent) prevails, causing an entropic state of ideas, or toward an ideal state, in which people re-affirm subjective perception and make decisions based upon it determining how they will influence the physical, actual world; this is the opposite to the false objectivity and judgmentalism of morality,
industrial/monetary "value" and the binary state of social acceptiveness. It remains to be seen which direction the generations of music engendered in this time will take, but so far, evidence suggests that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and they are embracing the ideals of the Counterculture generations before them.
Influence - [ Alternative ] Among popular music, three main genres dominated this time: techno, or very simple beat-based electronic music, hip-hop, or beat based rhyming poetry constructed around samples, pop angst industrial, and alternative rock, which is a
fusion of 1980s indie rock with punk rock and some of the more appealing techniques of 1980s metal. Clearly Nirvana bursting onto the scene (with the less popular but more archetypal Mudhoney) in 1991 was the inception of alternative rock radio domination, while the early popularity of Nine Inch Nails showcased pop industrial, and too many artists to name dominated hip-hop and techno (examples: The Orb, the Crystal Method, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy). Together these musics seem to
have little in common, but when interpreted for their basic artistic direction, all are very similar. Alternative rock fused the emotionality of emo and the energy of punk rock in a style that proclaimed its dissidence but had no ideas outside extreme versions of the counterculture before it; that so many of these bands, once the money was made and a band member died or went into rehab, relapsed into making
1970s style rock is revelatory. Techno is like electronica, except without the melodic complexity or song structures; it follows a simple pop format and samples from all genres equally. Its twin is hip-hop, which like techno is built around the construction of new variations on accepted percussion rhythmic patterns, building on that foundation a vocal track of rhyming street poetry and samples, as well as simple keyboard riffs. Techno borrows much from disco and rhythm and blues, while hip-
hop has a rich legacy of jazz, rhythm and blues and television soundtracks from which it derives inspiration (interestingly, the first hip-hop song sampled a Kraftwerk electronic riff, courtesy of Afrikaa Bambataa). These genres were deconstructive and filling for the moments when one needed music, thus were functional music for a dysfunctional time; they did not espouse any radical change that had not been present in the dominant attitudes of rock through the time, but their
methods were more lifestyleand socialization-based, thus they were more emotive and less pragmatic, avoiding the explicit political trap of hardcore punk (some notable exceptions occur in the hiphop/rap genre, including Public Enemy, who are as worthy an example as one is likely to find in any of these genres). Period 6 [ 1991 - 1996 ] Metal - [ Black Metal ]
The black metal genre however, dormant since the burst of creativity that brought Celtic Frost, Sodom and Bathory together in
roughly the same year, roared into life with a modernization that encompassed all of what death metal had done in a compositional framework unified by melody, creating music requiring a longer attention span but delivering a greater sensibility. Darkthrone, Immortal, Emperor, Burzum, Enslaved, Havohej, Gorgoroth and Graveland created more than an imposing sound in music: they used the rough textures of alienated music to create structural music that, unlike the rhythmic and mostly chromatic composition of death metal, used a range of intervals and harmonies to render melodic structure. It continued the tradition of using motivic, narrative construction, but added to it the complexity of uniting a song in tone as well as rhythmic shape. The result was some of the most majestic metal with sonorous aesthetic and deepening feeling for the listener, almost all of it emerging from Scandinavia between 1991-1994.
Artistically, black metal sought to exceed the
narrow direction of reaction to mainstream events that the increasing trend toward morality in death metal brought. Resentment over "jogging suit death metal," which reduced lyrical focus to politically acceptable social sentiments, boiled through black metal. Its original concept revolved around "evil" and occult mysticism, from which it got the name "black" (as in "black magic"), but this rapidly gave way to its Romantic and Naturalistic side, which soon united several concepts around a general idea: the natural world is more important than a society which has no values except money and not offending anyone, and meaning is discovered when one accepts death (a form of occultism in itself) and is willing to look outside the boundaries of the self. Vast, metaphorical songs with epic titles ("I am the black wizards" and "My journey to the stars" come to mind) resembled small classical pieces more than popular music, with multiple themes converging over the course of poetic movements, and the values espoused in aesthetic and interview hearkened back to
Pagan Europe and in some cases, to the Vedantic religion of Indo-Europeans before that.
Ignored were moral concerns over the survival and political rights of the whole of humanity, supplanted by a concern for the natural environment and pre-Christian tradition, as well as an appeal to the "eternal" - that which existed outside of a "progressive" society and its politicized march toward individualistic utopia. While these musicians were strongly independent, they distrusted illusions such as total autonomy of the individual, immortality and universal absolutes such as "freedom" and "justice." Theirs was the world of the wolf, the blizzard, and the indefinable idealism of those who exist alone in nature. Ideology and causes of intellectual desire drowned out the hedonism and lack of discipline of previous eras. Black metal was responsible to nothing but itself, and the fantasy combined with reality to ferment a neo-terrorist movement.
Much has been said about the burning of churches and killing of people that occurred in Norway and Sweden, but one thing is clear: where previous metal bands performed stunts to draw attention to themselves, the church burnings and killings were originally not intended for public consumption; they were private acts intended as ideological statements, not promotions for the personalities or bands behind them. That indictment and capture eventually occurred is more a product of the youth and inexperience of teenagers regarding crime than a "me, me, look at me!" approach to publicity. Whatever the intention, as soon as news stories broke that over 70 churches had been burned, and at least five people killed, public attention took to black metal as it never had before. What kept the stories from being something other than human interest novelties was the music: unlike any form of metal or popular music previous, it was epic and spoke grandly of emotional values of a nature not limited to
the 15 minutes of fame accorded modern acts.
As black metal grew, from roughly 1991 to 1996, its impetus toward majestic music forced its lyricists and inspirational minds to devise new concepts for creation, spawning a range of sub-styles which each polarized around an ideology: self over all, destroy all, or the variance of ideas within pagan or naturalistic/fascist directions. These each took a different approach to aesthetics, coloring the raw sensation of whole perception of their work in the textures and constructions of different needs. Over time the fire of black metal spent itself, as most of these can only state their apocalypticism once. Astute historians might note that the insistence of black metal bands upon paradox in music and idea produced a massively different aesthetic for the time but spent it instantly once others cloned it with nonsense content in stylistic imitation, as hardcore had fallen.
Where initially many including the creators of black metal viewed its artistic content as being polemic for occult war against Christianity, over time divergences appeared within the same general areas of mysticism, philosophy or politics. As is traditional, Romantic music in any culture tends toward a worship of nature and appreciation for the whole of the past, including Pagan tradition; because of its adulation for natural diversity, it also tends to be nationalistic, or believing that countries should not be "nation-states" composed of political boundaries but should be "nations" composed of unified ethnicities and cultures, as that is how one maintains the different points of view that constitute diversity. However, when one explores dangerous and forbidden ideas, with it come the symbols and concepts which are demonized by a multicultural, liberal democratic society.
NSBM, or National Socialist Black Metal, became a phenomenon after Norway unloaded a surprise dawn attack and swept the genre, but the extremist tradition in thought had been present for far longer than that. Where Iggy Pop's guitarists may have worn Nazi emblems out of pure provocation, or Slayer displayed emblems of both Satan and Hitler for an antisocial reaction, the new bands stated what many in the community had been thinking for years and further, invited it into their thought process to influence their music through am embrace of pan-European and Greco-Roman classicist ideals. They affirmed their need to exist as national populations, and condemned the invasion of Judeo-Christian belief and nonnative peoples into Europe, as well as praised forbidden figures such as Adolf Hitler, Ted Kaczynski and Pentti Linkola. Fascism and eco-fascism were endorsed as an alternative to the weakness of individualism, which in the eyes of these bands had with Christian thought led to a separation of modern humanity from nature, tradition and honor.
The romantic streak of metal recurred with many destructive acts, and then amazingly fast black metal sold out in 1995 and death metal returned as longstanding artists improved technicality and specialized artistically. To say "sold out" in this context means to reveal the fundamental principles of an effort to be motivated by short term human desires, most commonly monetary greed or public image. Making extreme music is a fine line between art and "entertainment," where in the latter media pander to the anticipations, weaknesses, lowest common drives and energies of the general population. As black metal's indulgences went from obscure opera to dinnertime comedy circus (Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Dark Funeral), the faith of the public in the genre began to wane, and a new range of fans began to replace the old.
As it collapsed black metal reverted to a
surefire crowd-pleaser: 1970s style heavy metal and simpler forms of fixed harmony music. As the older bands who were "true" to what had once powered their works, after years of band and social interaction as a result of their art, became repetitive or commercialized, the playing field was equal for any entertainer. This egalitarian style of black metal pandered to the crowd and became the most popular genre of any "underground" metal, ever. The results of the first wave of "entertainment black metal" became mixed with underground styles, and the genre was inundated by simians imitating media icons and classics toward which a morality of "true"ness exists. By 1997, the consumer could buy black metal in the flavor of his or her caprice: underground, melodic, punkish, electronic. Content no longer mattered. Novelty in style dominated with the exception of a few dedicated souls.
Q: on "Bathory.html">blood, fire, death" an epic sound is present through the use of
longer songs with greater symbolic significance to their movements and motifs. what inspired this change from the dark, heavy and primitively simple music of "under the sign of the black mark"? Probably from reading biographies on masters like Wagner and Beethoven and their works. I began to listen to classical music shortly after forming Bathory, and from 19851986 it was all I would listen to. I had been playing various types of rock in various constellations since 1975, so picking up Wagner, Beethoven, Haydn and others really broadened my musical awareness extensively. The motif signature naturally comes from the world of opera. Quorthon, from an interview
Period 7 [ 1996 - PRESENT ] History - [ Globalism ]
As the Clinton era of American leadership wound down, a new confidence emerged in the world. Unprecedented wealth brought on
by the Internet boom, and a world political strategy which encouraged the bombardment of those who did not tow the capitalist liberal democratic line, enabled America and her allies in NATO and the UN to take on newfound importance. Europe unified itself into a financial consortium known as the European Union, and as a consequence international business took on new power and importance. It seemed that modern society was finally reaching its apex, and nothing would stop its might.
Small conflicts were both inconclusive and victories for the liberal West as it smashed dictators in Yugoslavia and the Middle East; back in the USA, the Clinton administration generated a flood of legislation empowering minorities, women, homosexuals and other marginalized individuals (except metalheads). The internet, arguably the most important development during this time, became popularized with AOL in 1996 and by 1999, it seemed everyone was getting online.
Worldwide countries were linked up and citizens could share information and make personal connections. Consequently, a boom in liberal thought occurred once again, as it seemed that truly understanding and moral righteousness were triumphing over the darkness. With a President who played in a jazz band, smoked pot and considered himself "the first Black President," America felt it had lived up to its covenant with liberal democracy. In fact, this was the era in which the Baby Boomers, or children of the 1960s and 1970s, experienced the greatest degree of political power and those who were pre-war children retired.
Other advancements included the distribution of cable networks into more homes than ever before, and the marketing appeal of American media gaining worldwide audiences. It seemed as if nothing could stop the progress of progress. The Unabomber was convicted, multiple civil rights trials convicted people from the draconian past of racial
discrimination, and Hispanic immigration into America blossomed as did racial mixing, promoting a newfound sensitivity that people in the 1960s only dreamed. With the maturation and power seizure of the "hippie" Baby Boomers, the Counterculture had triumphed and the New Left had gained power in the most respected and oldest ways. Further, the Y2K bug, which had threatened to crash the world's computers and plunge us into a primordial chaos, had no effect and was beaten by an army of well-paid programmers. It seemed nothing could stop the advancement.
As the new millennium dawned, a new presidential race brought doubts, characterized by Atlantic magazine as the conflict between "Red" (rural Americans, conservatives, traditionalists) and "Blue" (cosmopolitan Americans, liberals). The outcome of Gore vs Bush was both uncertain and definite, as so few people turned out to vote that an election could be decided by a
handful of votes in a single state. The old divisions re-opened when George W. Bush took office to inherit the "dot-com bust," in which over-valued Internet stocks collapsed, and a recession that eroded confidence in American prosperity. That was followed almost immediately by terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other locations in Europe and the Mideast, showing that a new adversary - representing a conflict between older, nationalistic Islamic republics and the progressive American regime - would heat up the future. Western citizens immediately felt the old divisions of the Counterculture vs Culture return, except that this time, neither necessarily was "in charge" but both existed in a pluralistic, multicultural democracy.
Metal - [ Retro-cumulative ]
During this time, the movements of black and death metal, having spent their initial impetus, relapsed into a process of searching
past influences for a "true" strain of each genre. The result was a reactionary "retro" movement which inspired brief revivals but then flagged. Death metal returned in force, with older bands releasing new albums and newer bands putting out releases that at the time seemed promising, but since none of it was sufficiently distinct from the past (or each other), there was no direction to be had. This is not to espouse some "innovation," as music has been so well-defined that there is no room to innovate, but there is room to create, and apparently, the creativity of these acts lagged behind where their shows of allegiance to past proven styles did not.
In black metal, the controversy over NSBM died down once the white power/white nationalist movement absorbed it, creating bands whose topics were solely about the propaganda they espoused, unlike the original NSBM bands who stamped out songs about topics related to their ideals as they would exist in life itself; the new bands, like
white power punk and metal before them, essentially ranted out propaganda without end. Unfortunately, for the bands that weren't NSBM, a worse fate awaited: repetition of past symbols and "unique" novelty reconstructions of the same, causing them to rapidly fall into a droning litany of praise for black metal itself, and internal dialogue of black metal itself, without finding in it what had made it great and inspired. The result was a flagging of the genre.
The populist front of metal in the meantime had two fingers, the first being a hiphop/emo/metal hybrid known as "nu-metal," and the second being a reactionary movement which praised 1970s heavy metal hybridized with speed metal technique into a new form known as "power metal." This was at least an honest if simplistic gesture, and brought about a resurrection of the metal spirit in those who had been young in the 1980s and late 1970s, enabling them a bit of nostalgia as their dollars flowed into
supporting the genre.
Once these changes were visible, the supporting commonality of belief behind black metal fell away completely, and its actions became wholly responses to developments with the metal and punk genres. It is probably fair to call this new genre of black metal "black hardcore," since in music and ideology it has more in common with the punk rock and punk hardcore of the middle 1980s than it does to black metal. Predominantly liberal in direction, it espouses either Satan or "equal" death to all human beings, and bands are virtually indistinguishable between each other in part because, unlike the original black metal bands, they rely on three-note riffs and radiorock style song structures. In response, almost all of the old black metal bands either quit, became "heavy metal" versions of themselves (Immortal, Enslaved, Gorgoroth), or took an honorable exit into electronic music, as Burzum, Neptune Towers
(Darkthrone), Beherit and Ildjarn did.
At this point, black metal is reliving the past that hardcore experienced. A few seminal acts created something great; others, mistaking the form for the substance, emulated it and expected to be as profound, but weren't, so instead they campaigned for lowered standards. The result is an egalitarian free-for-all where almost no musical effort is being made, most energy going into socialization and image, and the result is that black metal has become that against which it railed. People die, genres die. Only the deeds of honorable artists are immortal.
Art - [ Universalism ]
With immigration to America and Europe at a record high, and enfranchisement of nonconventionally-favored groups occurring, most art at this point in time emphasizes the
universal nature of human experience and equality of all people in an attempt to profit from the purchasing habits of these new groups (one might point to movies such as "Save the Last Dance" and "A Day Without a Mexican"). Music, literature, and art are howling out the theme of the importance of every point of view, especially those where the position of the individual determines what its values should be, and the result is a cacophony of voices that have divided the art market according to the background and political preferences of the buyer. As such, it is hard to derive any trend from these but universalism: a moral belief in the equality of all people, the importance of the individual and its choices, and a desire to crush any "oppression" or marginalization wherever it is found.
Influence - [ Hip-Hop, Techno ]
Similar to the condition of metal are the
genres of hip-hop and techno and alternative rock, which are also out of ideas and fragmenting to pander to different audiences. While originally maintaing a strong pro-blackcommunity outlook, hip-hop has now become home to rappers with a range of different skills and outlooks, including those which reduce it to a marketing gimmick designed to sell "extremity" to suburban kids. The positive outlook, PLUR (peace, love, unity, respect) community which techno became in the late 1990s has lost focus as raves have begun catering to an older crowd who seem more serious about drug use than music. Alternative rock? Like other rock genres, it has been absorbed into the generic pop realm and now resembles indie rock more than it did previously. Genres like country and pop punk have suffered the same norming.
The influence of metal on these, and their influence on metal, is for the first time not direct: it wholly affects outlook and lifestyle philosophy. Where once only pop bands
chanted a mantra of "be distinct, be unique," it is now the province of black hardcore bands to differentiate themselves with affectations and recombinations of "profound" ideas borrowed from mainstream sources. As it was something to do in the 1970s or 1980s to have an indie or punk rock band, now it's an activity for lonely teenagers to record black hardcore albums on their computers and to trade them with "friends," guaranteeing each other a tiny slice of the cheap immortality afforded by recognition without respect. Ultimately, this serves to strengthen the original convictions of death and black metal more than reduce them, in that where mainstream and metal once crossed paths, it has again been proven that they are incompatible.
The metal movement migrated from a position among the Counterculture as a rebel
to one of denying everything the Counterculture stood for, prefer to eschew the intermediate tradition and hail what occurred thousands of years before the modern world. The domain of rugged individuals, it went from hedonism to rejecting the individual-over-all preference so that it might find meaning in the process of life itself. And finally, it grew from a position of denying all value to inventing value where society has publically declared that none exists. What brought about this extraordinary journey?
Since its genesis, metal music has been "outsider art," looking inside society from the basic position of "I don't like what I see." In a time of absolutes and universals, it looked for the ultimate answer, the truth that laid waste to all else, in part to reconcile its members to their position outside of society but in part in a desperate search for something to hold on to, and in which to find meaning. Over the course of several generations it distilled this
value system and found its connections to knowledge outside of the realm of popular music.
Oddly enough, it has done this by embracing the lack of meaning in a nihilistic deconstruction that presupposed significance existed elsewhere, since that which had public meaning made no sense to someone who could recognize the importance of the morbid end awaiting each of us. Its outsidership, unlike the political and lifestyle alternativs others chose, was based in feeling and not tangible elements or ideas within society. This brought it full cycle from a rebellious adolescence to a warlike but lifeaffirming adulthood.
In this transition there is hope, as for every adolescent who takes one look at the adult world and says, "Take it back - it's broken!" there is this path of learning. While for now metal music has lost its impetus and been
assimilated, this path isn't unique to metal, and in many ways, metal can be considered one vector of re-introducing this truth to a forgetful (15 minutes, Orwellian memory hole) modern industrial society based on the convenience and wealth of individuals. One can hope for the future in following this transition, and as an epitaph to metal, organize the ideas with which any future generations would start:
Nihilism - from Vedic and European transcendental idealism, the idea that nothing has any significance or value inherently, only by the valuation of a human mind. Ethnic pride - from Latin America to the Nordics to the American Indians to Malaysians to Chinese to Hispanics worldwide, metallions recognize natural ethnicities as the only vehicle for their unique national culture. Environmentalism - a great horror of humanity is the destruction of earth and anticorporatism and environmentalism are part of
this. Melodic poesy - the sense of melody and layering of the same as central to any complexity in composition, developed further toward a language in which uniqueness is appreciated over novelty of form. Anti-moralism - a fear and resentment of morality as a construct at all, preferring nihilistic and deontological moralities. Heroism - personal pride and passion for honor in existence will be seen as more important than social approbation. Any future movement that hopes to transcend the ills of this era must heed well to what metal has discovered: one cannot use external force (carrot and stick) to force things to fit into a framework or worldview; the force must come from within. Without a culture emerging to support a consensus of values, one is left with yammering monkeys using authority to beat on each other for the gratification of their own sense of selfimportance. This is "absolutism," and it is
represented in things ranging from money to morality to the war on drugs to the crusade against "racists" and "terrorists." Metal discovered by exploring experience that this absolutist, universal, mechanistic viewpoint was illusion, and that what was real was the life that all along we as modern humans have hidden past layers of interpretation and religious dogma derived from dualism.
Schopenhauer wrote the philosophy of the "will," urging awake a force to life in each person that aims toward a refinement of the human being and a focusing of ambition toward life and desire for existence. Nietzsche's "Will to Power" is a technical restatement of this to clarify that while the will is indeed all, presupposing a lack of external world that may resist your will is ignorant. Nietzsche rightfully brushes aside the trivial question of "Is reality real?" by suggesting that a system of consistent reactions and structure will always be "real" in that it has effected us, and our interaction
with it affects our survival which in turn is important to the system. He rails against contentment and moral dogma, and suggests the evolution of humans to bermensch status - people fully accepting the nihilism of life and moving forward to embrace what design, evolution and passion have to offer.
This cuts aside much of the guilt and ineffective action of the world voting public. Someone told to save the planet will join an organization for saving baby seals that mails stamps around the world to collect donations, but will not be able to tell you a single action except "drastic change" that would actually solve the problem. A postmoral person will correctly respond that most sufferings are tied to a few central problems, and that the largest is general disregard for the environment. The bermensch that Nietzsche wrote of could arise, but by the suffocating nature of a media-fed democracy will be an extremist; after that, the next generation is to be a lone wolf for forms of radical change
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