terça-feira, 23 de setembro de 2014

The state of modern (retro) metal and the rise of hipster metal


A hipster/deathcore kid with a horrendous haircut, horrible “earrings” that should be caught with a fishing rod and pulled as hard as possible, dressed up with a... Mayhem shirt. Positioning himself ironically and eclectically before the most "evil" metal genre there is, black metal. Post-modernist pop culture reaches a climax.

Fenriz must feel sardonic wrath at this, the result of his life's work!
 
Well boys and girls! When things get to the point that Thurston Moore is playing in a black metal band (something which he wouldn't do at gun point in 1992), when we get to the point he is even interested in that, it means that this day has arrived.

The day arrived a few years ago, and this can't be denied any longer
. Extreme metal is being not only accepted, but also admired - and produced - by hipsters. The body of work of the hipster influence (or infection, depending where you stand) has been gradually growing. It must be acknowledged!


Its seemed unlikely that extreme metal would turn into something hip, trendy, stylish and cult. Synonymous with intellectual artistic pursuits, accepted by the ones who are hip, stylish and cool, respected by the ones who are hip, trendy stylish and cool. All of this done with a dark and menacing veneer. But it doesn't matter how baffled one can be; it has happened. The blasé and pretentious artistic image of Velvet Underground finally crossed over with satanic rock music. 

In an attempt to understand this phenomenon, I wrote this book on the subject. The question is: if hipsters are using metal music to produce their art, what is the result? Can we trace a history of it at this stage? Is there any real content to it? Is it good? Is it bad? What is it? What is happening, and why is it happening?

It is time to analyse the data. 


The text is long. But so what? Are you busy ? No, you're on the Internet, and no one who is on the internet is busy. So let's just discuss this.

Definitions.

Let us find brief definitions of what is "being" metal and what is a hipster, in order to subsequently burgeon this important debate .

Heavy metal is about riding the horse of life with your sword, mowing down difficulties with inner strength, and building up your own destiny. Chopping off (metaphorical) heads, conquering problems, beer mugs and women. Heavy metal is about living to the fullest, and dominating this experience.

Hipsterism is about being cool, blasé, intellectual and ironic. Entertaining one's peers with comments and references about pop culture. Having a strong sense of fashion style, but at the same time not losing one's "intellectuality". It is also edgy, classy and tattooed.

These are brief definitions. I will attempt to give depth to the idea of ​​what a hipster is. Let's try again, and develop through the piece; someone involved in cultural activities, the "avant-garde", seeking what is "new", and defining himself through it. Hipsters are also provocative, in fact, the hipster is a sophisticated provocateur; some of them live in île-de-france after all, as we shall see below. The hipster is a dilettante, always amused by what he enjoys and is engaged with, going through life with a bit of irony and affectation directed at pretty much everything.

These characteristics also indicate the presence of two elements: the hipster artistic manifestations always have an attempt at the experimental, the exotic, the new. This can be something positive, as it may lead to the expansion of art. On the other hand we also have widespread inconsistency, since much of the production is based on hipster fads; temporary behaviours that only bring stylized aesthetics to the subculture. Hipsters want you to look at them and think "wow, these guys are artistic, full of tricks, intellectual, how daring! They probably have a different sensibility".

Well, not really.

Heavy metal, on the other hand, is - within its own rules and borders - a reactionary and conservative environment. Slogans and traditions have great emotional effect upon fans. Long-haired and tattooed men (and some women) make vows of love to bands, musical styles, fashion concepts, genres, and so on. Changes are seen as dangerous and threatening. When bands take risks and throw in unexpected elements in their image, lyrics, artwork or, worst of all, music, they lose fans and suffer virulent retaliation of outraged followers, people who feel personally attacked by these changes.

It is easy to understand, then, how hipsters can be included in the category of “enemies” of the true headbangers. We will seek to understand how all this happened. History is the mother of all understandings. Lets inquire this lady.

History.

Genealogical research, geological research and gastrointestinal findings indicate that all of this nonsense - happening in the joke that is the pop culture human landscape - has its remote origins when the alternative/noise rock that hipsters and indie scum were listening to in the 90s and early 2000s ended up evolving and expanding. This happened in directions that overlapped with what heavy metal that was doing, until this process reached a point where, somehow, both genres crossed over in different layers.

How did this process took place? What exactly happened and got us here?

It happened through various tangents.


One of the pioneers was saxophonist John Zorn, whom, obsessed with punk hardcore during the 80s, discovered the British band Napalm Death and after attending a show of the band in Japan gave a piece of paper with his phone number to Napalm’s drummer, Mick Harris .

This act resulted in a band that, had it risen today, would be quintessentially hipster; Painkiller. Harris on drums, Zorn on saxophone and one of the most prolific and flexible jazz and avant - garde bass players around, Bill Laswell. The cherry on top was an unwilling icon of hipster metal on the first disc: Justin Broadrick on guitars. (Broadrick also played in Napalm Death, and is the founder of industrial metal pioneers Godflesh).

Painkiller ended up not lasting enough to be adored by the current hordes of hipsters (there is always a chance for a revival, though), and the band broke up in the 90s. A new concert by them would certainly have an unbearable audience.

In retrospect, the band was predominantly listened by fans of extreme metal, fans of grindcore and the Earache label, and some fans of avant-garde jazz. Influenced by Napalm and all the hardcore scene, Zorn made ​​his own band, Naked City, and maintains his association with musicians of the genre today, having recorded albums with Kevin Sharp (Brutal Truth) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer ), among many others musicians of all genres. His current band Moonchild is basically an avant-garde extreme metal band. Another part of the public that absorbed this music during the 90s were Mr. Bungle and Faith No More devotees/Mike Patton fans in general. Other bands that flirted with noise and aggression and/or used metal references - but still operating in the independent rock/indie world – were names such as Einsturzende Neubauten, Butthole Surfers, Swans, Jane 's Addiction and Young Gods .

Steve Albini with his bands and Big Black, plus his producing of Neurosis, may have a role here as well. Noise and heavy riffs got closer and closer to metal.

Through the way of its blackness, as hipsters adopted black metal. Not even King Diamond could have seen this coming.


John Zorn


Painkiller

Already in these neolithic times, early proto-hipsters who approached the metal and hardcore worlds caused discomfort. In an insightful letter the late philosopher, linguist, thinker, author, bon vivant, cultural activist, intellectual and most of all, musician Seth Putnam produced a very articulate critique of the group:

I'm Glad Jazz Faggots Don't Like Us Anymore

we just wanted to sound like shit
but you thought we were avant garde
you thought we went to art school
but we worked at gas stations

you thought we were cool

but you didn't know we hate you
you thought we were cool
fuck off all you fucking faggots

you didn't know we were a bunch of assholes

you thought we were liberal and arty
you tried to act weird and pretend you were violent
when I whipped chairs at you, you can off and cried

Those lyrics are from the “Defenders of Hate” ep, released in 2001. Notice how precocious Seth was!


In another moment of illumination, our poet and raconteur wrote this homage to the Dillinger Escape Plan. Once more, in a Nostradamus-of-grind fashion, he predicts much of what was to come:

Dillinger Escape Plan Is A Faggot

harvey fierstein told me you guys ruled
john zorn called to tell me you're great
the caller i.d. was from a gay bar
you guys fucking suck

any guy who likes you
like neurosis and dicks up his ass
you think you're so fucking original
gay bars used to be original too

Some of his best lyrics, I would say. Who could have said that with all these thrash, grind and death bands predicting nuclear war, famine and environmental holocaust, it was the late, and missed, Seth Putnam who saw the future all along? 

Observing this trajectory, one can argue that this latest approach of hipsters with extreme metal happened through the association of groups of "noise rock" such as Lightning Bolt, Arab on Radar and Wolf Eyes. Perhaps noise in rock sounded not so different to the bearded and tattooed hipsters when they noticed that "noise" is a characteristic of metal

One may assume that the success of these between hipsters has led them to investigate other varieties of heavy sounds, and this inevitably led to extreme metal, a set of genres that these people hated and ridiculed.

From this perspective hipster metal may be the result of the bridge built by hipsters who were interested in no-wave, noise, free jazz and post-punk, and finally, looked around and found metal. That led them to start infiltrating the scene, as Dean Jones says of metal people going to punk scenes and concerts in the 80s.


 
In this video Dean talks about metal people as "infiltrators". Little did he know he would be wearing Cradle Of Fucking Filth (I kid you not) t-shirts and recording what really is the best ENT album ever, "Being and nothing", which is very very metal, in the early 2000s. Metal saved you guys!

However, nice prediction. Now, metal got infiltrated!

"We don't want any metal riffs" Dean says. It is very curious that they condemn the "satanism" and devil lyrics so strongly, and in terms of artistic pretentiousness the satanism and pseudo-teenage occult of metal is what has aged the best. Metal bands wanted to completely distance themselves from satanism and fantasy in the late 80s and 90s; early teen rock satanists Sepultura, Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Celtic Frost and Slayer being good examples. But on the hands of the hipsters, Scandinavian black metal became cult, and was taken to art galleries around the world. Documentaries about black metal playing in London's ICA, and a black metal band playing at MoMa. Black metal PhD thesis and essays (look at this one!). It kinda started with the genre having a boice in a Harmony Korine's indie and cult (it has to be both!) film, Gummo, and it got us here.

It has happened, guys. It's finished.



Amazingly, in aesthetic (and musical) terms, this 1983 Mercyful Fate look has aged better than nu-metal, and even grunge. People might be laughing at King Diamond a few years back, but who is seen as black metal pioneer and cool 80s heavy metal icon now? 



 Wolf Eyes doing a Sarcófago cover, guys! Who could have expected this?

Before you feel the urge to correct me, young padawan: I'm making a joke. This is not a Sarcófago cover, I know. Just a nice coincidence.
 
The 90s were a dark era for metal. With the dominance of grunge and new metal, purists of the genre were put in a corner. Even Ministry was not admittedly seen as purely metal, but treated by rock media as a mixture of electronic experimentalism with industrial music, and widely adopted by the audience and critics of indie rock. Helmet is another band that could be put into this same category. However these germinating seeds are still a bit far from what hipster metal of the 2000s would become. Apparently the scenes of indie and art-rock, which were so active in the '80s and '90s, died, or became significantly less interesting.

Who seriously listens to indie rock nowadays, my friends? WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW, PIXIES FAN?

Heavy metal fans, on the other hand, are a loyal bunch, and the genre has survived the storms, the ups and downs, the changes and popular trends of the past 40 years, largely due to the radicalism of its fans and musicians. On one hand it has adapted to modernity and new genres of music, by creating hybrid genres. On the other, it maintains a few lines of orthodox followers, who enforce their particular principles and codes of behaviour and acceptance according to each sub-genre. Heavy metal has become a timeless monolith in the pop/post-modern landscape, reinvigorating itself through the development of sub-genres through decades, with a strong lineage, ever more influential in pop culture. A dish, ready to be embraced by hipsters.

Due to passage of time, however, the ridiculous of heavy metal was remodelled. The 80s excesses are now viewed with ironic distance. Judas Priest is no longer something funny, it's an interesting and retro image of the eighties. Metal became "vintage”. What once was kitsch is now post-internet irony, and post-modern pop-culture charming.


Judas Priest, probably around 1986 . I wish I had the cojones to wear one of these vests. Fucking stylish.

However, unlike the dedicated banger, hipsters have a certain emotional detachment. While headbangers declare their love and faithfulness to metal at any cost, intensely, hipsters and their metal are more somber and quiet. They are, after all, above these exaggerated emotional expressions.

In the '90s heavy metal reached its lowest point in terms of credibility. The genre was identified with stupidity, adolescence, hedonism and vulgarity (which, truth be told, is much of what it truly is). As in all adolescent urban tribes, metal is a medium made ​​for young people to share things, socialize, find identity and come in contact with some ideas about art and music. It is predominantly focused on pleasure; the concerts, the drinking, the socialising, and to some, the artistic creation. To many it is adopted as some kind of meaning to life. This is due to the depth of identification that the listener has with music. “I like this music and my friends (social strata) so much! Do you know what? Rock is my life!”.

The audience of heavy metal has traditionally been seen by fans of other types of rock music as stupid and unsophisticated. Genres of extreme metal, with their lyrics about demons and fantasies, death and blood, are regarded as especially childish, escapist, unsophisticated, alienated, socially ignorant, stupid.

On the other corner of the rock and roll landscape, indie and experimental rock had anguished and existential, ironic, self-referential, post modern lyrics. Punk and hardcore were “socially aware” and politically “conscious”. The guttural vocals of death and black metal, considered a pathetic attempt to sound like a monster in a horror movie. The genre was a joke. "Cookie monster vocals".



 
 Watain, one of the “new” Black Metal bands who attempts to combine a stylish outlaw biker image with satanic occult "for real" "lifestyle". Widely regarded as “true”. Another band that brings a "mystical" atmosphere to their metal. Their approach to the occult is considered serious and somewhat important for the lovers of this also serious and important thing which is the invention of Chuck Berry - rock music - combined with ridiculous lyrics about creatures that do not exist; satanic rock music.

Satanic rock is something that should really be studied in depth. It is something to be lived intensely. Watain wants you to believe that their lifestyle is serious. Painting yourself with pig's blood and making unintelligible noise as one is singing about non-existent creatures is something that inspires a lot of respect, naturally.

Hipsters x Metal. Depth and surface?

Therefore we can conclude that much - but of course not all, of heavy metal - is misogynist, unintelligent, intoxicated. The genre is associated with alienation, alcoholism, immaturity. It addresses fantasy themes; demons, science fiction, Tolkien lyrics and so on. It is obsessed with the superficial and with selfish hedonism (women, beer, cars). A macho genre, predominantly taken by male fans and somewhat militaristic in its social relations, with some members of "scenes" referencing to each other as "warriors". It is anti status-quo, but ideologically it is taken by populist leftist slogans and generic anti-authority choruses. It is youth culture, after all.

This is how society, by and large, interprets this youth sub-culture.


Naturally, it doesn't offer a consistent ideological proposal for a new society. It only counter-attacks some of the values of the status quo by combining vague leftism and liberalism with a celebration of sexuality and hedonism. As most rock music does and has been doing since its creation. On specific sub-ghettos, other anti-status quo groups use metal and rock as their aesthetic choice; the extreme right. The simple reason of why we have both Skrewdriver and Crass using rock music on opposing points is that to society, both anarchy and fascism are enemies. Excluded from the official speech of the status quo, these subcultures use the same tool to built their scene. The tool is rock music.


Now, except for the anti-status-quo aspect of rock, which is also present in avant garde art, none of these features attracts pseudo-intellectualised hipsters.

Therefore in order for hipsters to appropriate metal elements, distance should then be achieved in lyrical and aesthetic terms – different lyrics, different artwork - and the music, re-appropriated and repackaged.


The new generation of hipster metal does not happen by chance. These are people who grew up in the '90s, listening to the above mentioned bands, to indie rock and metal. Watching MTV and listening to Nirvana. This eclecticism led to the formation of a generation of musicians which is very different from the '80s metal pioneers, the creators of thrash and death metal. These were people who referenced themselves in Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Sabbath, some seventies rock bands and a little punk and hardcore (due to the power and speed of the music).


The 80s were focused intensely on the thrash metal event, a “bridge” genre, which didn't last for long and whose biggest contribution to heavy music perhaps was to connect NWOBHM music with punk, hardcore, Motorhead-like biker rock and heavy riffing, evolving that through years into death and black metal, Venom being the starting kick of it all.


With these ingredients mixed, thrash metal emerged in the 80s with full force. The generation 80s thrash bands became obsessed with adrenaline and aspects of strength and speed in metal, and that’s why these bands are so rigid in their compositions. After the formatting of thrash and its conventions as a genre, the space for experimentation is minimal. No wonder that the genre simply died in the early '90s. It's internal rules made it so that it had nowhere to go. Between 1983 and 1986, with the release of the first albums by the big four and a few others, things rapidly developed. It's between these crucial 3 years that most of the experiments within thrash metal will solidify themselves. There will be a few more developments between 1986-1991, but that's about it. After 1992, thrash was all but extinct in its original form. In a way or another, all variations of thrash which are done today have a very similar original template in the very few years between 83-91, less than a decade, with the canonical works of the genre being produced between only 4 to five years, from 83 to around 88. 


The seeds of heavy, thrash, death, black, stoner, doom metal and so on, the main genres that followed and dominated heavy metal, all germinating during these very few years.

Still, thrash, and even death, black and progressive metal bands, to this day, struggle to break these templates. In 2014, 5 or 6 years of popular culture mean much slower changes. This slowing down of pace is an impressive change for the ones who, like me, lived the rapidly expanding universes of metal and punk between the 80s and 90s, to the slow moving scenarios of the 2000s. We are definitely more connected, and things happen quicker, the whole musical landscape and way of creating scenes, discussing topics and even producing music has changed with impressive speed. 


However, music seems to stay more still, changing with a much slower tempo.

 And here we have 80s thrash band TOXIK in their natural habitat, the 80s. I think that at this time if you put long haired metallers around a bay area region of sorts, they immediately started playing thrash. Just like sea monkeys. In spite of the sea-themed photo, these boys were from New York, and made some interesting B-side thrash. Their second album being their best. This didn't last long.


Extreme metal is also different from mainstream music. Much like avant – garde, it's a genre which is difficult to assess. This is not pop music that provides instant gratification, but rather a group of categories and sub ​-genres that confront the listener, attack, slap you on the face, punch your ears, kick your head in. In short, the genre conventions such as brutal vocals, tremolo pickings, powerful heavy riffs and distorted guitars, grandiose compositions, aggressive notes, dissonant sounds, harsh noises, blasting fast drums and so on shock and challenge the listener. It is no coincidence that many extreme metal bands write lyrics that attempt to be philosophical, trying to refer to fundamental issues of life. Women, cars and beer are off the menu. If Motley Crüe writes about women and cars, bands such as Morbid Angel, Death and hipster gods Isis address issues that go from the profane, the occult, death and the intangible to fundamental questions of life; how to live, what is to question existence and what is the meaning of all of this for humanity.

Not to mention Crystal Mountains, where evil takes its form.

By allowing this "depth", extreme metal will attract hipsters. They will find that "philosophical complexity" in metal, and even more so of it on the the shock-rock, teenage satanism practised by victims of the state of social welfare, warriors of satan that have to deal with some of the best Human Development Indexes in the world, such as Watain, Mayhem, Burzum and Gorgoroth.

As I have insisted, when rock music and the scenes of youth culture are taken seriously, seen as a lifestyle and something minimally relevant to the movements of mankind, we have problems. In terms of the individual impact of this behaviour, the tendency is to find an eternal adolescent trapped in a human body. Pity the eternal boy!

Let us get back on topic.

 

Above all, hipsters want to look like something. The music remains in the background, and becomes a symbol. Music is a badge.

Looking for a different public image, however, hipsterism brings real changes to metal. "oddity " is a key word here . Often, the stranger a band sounds, the less commercial it is, and more interesting it automatically is. Less commercial is MORE interesting. In some cases it doesn't much matter what is the "strangeness" which is overlapping with traditional metal. Some aesthetic weirdness is also interesting. An unusual look, thick glasses, a neck tattoo or something in that area. Hipsters want to be perceived as deep people. Intellectually, emotionally and mentally sophisticated.



                        
Portal. German expressionist, surreal, art gallery, Jodorowsky-inspired videos? You fucking bet. Stylish as fuck. And serious!

On the other hand, another way to ensure a good impression is the opposite of "being weird”. To stick to certainly already approved styles, genres and aesthetics and to use them as a starting point. Metal is becoming more and more retroactive. In this sense stoner rock, sludge, doom metal, psychedelic rock and black metal emerge as essential. 

Hipsters are trve. They surely listen to Hellhammer, not Dimmu Borgir. 
 
Hipsters like to intellectualise things. Heavy metal, like all rock, is a popular format created by people who, as Chuck Berry told us, couldn't "read or write so well" but could play the guitar just like "ringing a bell". An aggressive, emotional, passionate genre, not much oriented to internal analysis made by its own protagonists. Therefore when hipsters analyse and weave a discourse on aggression in music, the process intellectualises the genre, and it justifies the artistic interest the hipster has in heavy rock. 



Guess who wrote a "manifesto" explaining why his rock band is what it is? No problem, man! I writing a manifesto about your manifesto! See? It's all very post-modern. I just think that writing a manifesto about your black metal rock band is kind of funny. But more power to you, for sure! And by the way, great music! Liturgy is one of the best of the hipster bands!

Hipster bands, after all, especially in their pretentious extremes, as in the case of bands like Sunn and the like, may not be much more than heavy metal for the reader of Wire magazine, despite their so-called "daring" sound. As the music itself is not sufficient, it is necessary to go further and create an intellectual discourse to justify what is being done.

Hipsterism attempts to associate itself with interesting elements. They approach certain types of music because of the status the music gives them, and the image it conveys. In contrast metalheads, headbangers, believe without irony in heavy metal, and are full of slogans and social conventions for their environment. Being a "traitor"; to give up liking a band is frowned upon. "If you are not into metal, you are not my friend! Wimps and posers, leave the hall", said Manowar, many, many years ago. These words are carved in the metal bible, and have powerful meaning. Something even less accepted is when a band changes or experiments with their own music, risking the fidelity they have with their genre.  

Dissecting what hipsterism is. 

We therefore may conclude that hipsters want to apply external values ​​to music, trying to intellectualise it. They desire the music to be "important" significant.

And for this they need to theorise it in a pretentious way.

Stephen O'Malley. The man is definitely not James Hetfield.

This, on the other hand, is James Hetfield.

In order to assure us that he is sophisticated, Stephen O'Malley, leader of Sunn O, informs his readers that he lives in Paris (or better than that, that he lives in "île -de -France"). Very suitable for those who want to convey the image of a sophisticated artist who is rooted in Europe (it has to be Paris! Good enough for Hemingway, Balzac, Dalí, Woody Allen... And of course, O'Malley) Only PARRRÍ is good enough for strolling, living and creating, isn't it?

In a certain way, some hipster artists attempt to project themselves as Renaissance men; O'Malley writes, is a designer/painter, and of course he also makes music. The same is true of Aaron Turner, who made ​​several album covers and owned the label Hydra Head, which for a while was renowned for the friendly use of the phrase "Do not like it ? Do not buy it!" to ensure that we realise that he does not care what others think of his music as he is a wry, superior artist sure of himself.
Interestingly, before the advent of hipster metal, many thrash/death and black metal bands had already approached “intelligent” subjects in their lyrics. They were, and still are, exceptions to the norm, but they are out there. Some bands that have addressed philosophical, social, political and even existential themes were the Death (from the album Human on), Carcass, Cynic, Napalm Death, Godflesh, Cathedral, Obituary, Gorguts, Enslaved and Ministry.


 







These bands, and many others, also sought to experiment with their sound, expanding the boundaries of the genres in which they operate. But this was all done without the intellectual affectation, pretentiousness, irony and aesthetic detachment that hipster metal bands use to situate themselves as young artistic geniuses. The bands still worked within the heavy metal template, often showing juvenile pride of their liaison with the genre (Death was famous for constantly using the phrase “Let the metal flow” in their communications with fans).

During the ill-fated '90s heavy metal, especially extreme metal, went through a very interesting moment. Bands understood that they should not repeat themselves, and there was healthy competition between musicians so that each album released was different from the previous one. This is noticeable in several bands, the most notorious ones were the big four, who dealt with the limits of the thrash metal that they themselves had invented. They all applied changes to their sound (Metallica with the Black Album, Megadeth with Countdown to Extinction, Anthrax with Sounds of White Noise and Slayer with Diabolus in Musica, respectively).

In extreme underground, bands like Kreator, Death, Cynic, Morgoth, Gorguts, Carcass, Napalm Death, Cathedral, Godflesh, Nocturnus, Morbid Angel and others expanded their sound, releasing extremely different albums, flirting with genres like gothic rock, industrial, Doom and "death and roll", among others.  

Of course, these experiments were not all successful. It would be hard to say that “Same Difference” by Entombed is a good album. It is perhaps tolerable, lost, not knowing how to deal with the advents of grunge and nu-metal. On the other hand, through these experiments, very rich and creative recordings were made, since the bands actually deliberately sought to expand their sound .

Currently we go through a time of absolute segmentation. Genres and sub-genres are already solidified and cemented within the underground. The idea is to follow them diligently.The creative exception comes within the hipster formula. Paradoxically, as mentioned, to repeat yourself within an accepted genre which is predictable, safe, to convey the right image, is also a hipster value. Hence the success of the revival bands, which are seen as keepers of values. Recyclers of an aesthetic that over time has become a must, within what is accepted in cool and kvlt environments.

Because in the end, to hipsters image is everything.



Black Breath

A good example of this process is exemplified in American death metal band Black Breath. Playing efficient, fun and very well done death metal, they are shaped, note-by-note, in the Swedish sound invented by Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed and the like. No room for creativity, only the repetition of an aesthetic fetishization. The style is above the quality of the music, and the band focuses on some specific aspects that have been developed by the original creators of this sound, and which were varnished by the passage of time. This passage of time that gave the whole movement of Swedish death metal a thick layer of vintage credibility, coolness and charm.


Black Breath will always release albums of Swedish death metal. Perhaps they will be a little better, a little worse, here and there. But the certainty is that the band will always do the same thing. This is a band that will never risk anything. They will never release something like Entombed’s “Same Difference” as this band was born solely to fill a stylistic niche.


Placed within the system of “revivals”, thrash metal, and other variations of 80s heavy metal such as speed metal and the mentioned death metal act strictly as repetitions of the past. According to this nostalgia-from-people-who-didn’t–live-that-era, nothing else can, or should, be created within its borders. It is the transposition of Rockabilly to the heavy metal culture. Finally we got there! Clones of crossover thrash metal, Teutonic thrash and mid-80s death metal and so and so on, covering all variations of sub-cultures of the 80s spring everywhere. Reenactors. Cosplay music.


From being the vanguards of extreme sound, constantly changing throughout the decades of the 80s and 90s, at time in which bands struggled to develop and evolve their music from one recording to another, a large number of current bands and "scenes" operate exclusively within well-formatted concepts that must be obeyed to the letter.


Retroactive referrals and a search for "inspiration" in the past only repeats what was done. In opposition to the original bands, who used music as a starting point for creation. Repetition is what matters. Neo-thrash metal bands vigilantly observe the limits imposed for themselves, preventing the unforgivable sin of any musical progression. The attempt is to enter a time capsule and repeat a certain time, a certain era. There is a process of nostalgia done by people who didn't live through the era they miss, a time they seek to recreate in their music, clothes and their socialising events - the concerts.

Thus operates hipsterism. The stylistic fetishism is within revivals - backwards repetition – even when connected with innovation, permeates everything. This fetishization is, many times, placed above the result in music, in creativity, and execution. For the hipster the activity of artistic creation is a fashion show, where image is everything. It serves the content, not the other way around.


"I am metal. I am dark. But at the same time I'm an artiste, I have a dark, surreal sensibility. I am connected to alchemical and transcendental elements. I'm tuned in to this fad of representing the world through symbols, using mythology and esoteric artwork". That’s what a good portion of hipster metal is.


Much of this phenomenon has its origins in Isis and Sunn. These two bands brought many hipsters to metal. And with them came the idea of extreme metal as a vanguard.


Rock music, something essentially anti-intellectual, created by the music industry to sell records and clothes for young people, is now raised to the status of transcendental meaning of life and elected as channel of communication with the central questions the human soul. Are we asking too much of this rock and roll circus? Can we say that Watain is “deeper” than Elvis Presley singing "Blue suede shoes"?


That’s the thing: in the end, it isn’t.



Sunn O. Pioneers in the idea of merging vague elements of avant-garde music with elements of extreme metal, thus aggregating many minions of "designer metal"; webmasters, webmakers photoshop operators, people who understand CSS, html, java and corel draw, bloggers (such as myself!) and other professionals of the creative field that compose much of their audience. Hipster metal, an approach which performs the old equation of putting style over substance, pretending  to indicate substance.

The robes are there to make you believe that they have a deep spiritual and mystical dimension, a relationship with the BEYOND, achieved through their transcendental music. To me they look more like actors that could be in “The tower of terror” at Disney, or maybe voodoo people preparing to do some black magic on a crossroad. Or extras from Monty Python is a sketch about occult satanists.

I look at this image and I keep waiting for John Cleese to show up dressed as a cop, beating them with a stick.





John Cleese dressed with a suit made of many fish with an umbrella was all google images served me. I'm afraid, dear reader, this will be it. I would still love to see him, dressed that way, entering a Sunn concert and violently thrashing the whole thing, stopping the music and inflicting justice. Just like the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the police comes and everyone gets arrested. 

Wouldn't it be great to see hordes of hipsters destroyed by Monty Python dressed with surreal clothes and with the help of the police? That's avant-garde for you! Greg Anderson would be sentenced by Judge Dreathdd to go back playing generic straight-edge core!

And that's how a Sunn gig should end. With the invasion of the MPPP, the Monty Python Pretentious Police, collecting robes from pedantic charlatans of the post modern pop culture mystique

Where did they get those mystical robes? In a ritual of deep magic? Have these profane garments been provided to them by Shub-Niggurath in a macabre ritual? Or was aunt Tonya who sewed it for the boys?

These questions are almost as deep and profound, complex as their music is.


I remember vividly an Isis gig in London, 2006. I witnessed a unwary and childlike young man beside me, his eyes closed during the performance, "feeling" the music deeply. Maybe the music was going in his body through his intestine. This type of “appreciation” of art is deeply annoying, because it is pretentious. I felt I should have given him a ROBUST SLAP at the back of his head in order to make him get in touch with some aspect of reality. However, benevolent and civilised as I am, I kept myself from warning him of his ridiculous situation.

When reading comments to Isis singer online, once I stumbled upon this declaration: "thank you for your music, it makes me feel more human." It is an  "emollectual" moment, an emo-intellectual thing. Facepalms abound.


This old lady would make you some satanic occult robes, for sure!


Now, with this empirical evidence and our gathering of scientific data, it becomes quite clear that something is rotten in these bands. Why? Because despite any arguments it is clear that they attract idiotic, pretentious, pedantic people, as well as an imbecile sensitivity. This is not mere coincidence, my friends. It is cause and effect.


Things don't happen by chance. There are only FACTS. And no argument may stand before the cold, hard FACTS.


These same people seem to love any recording made by Stephen O'Malley, or released by the Southern Lord label, two large bastions and production centres of hipster metal.


Facts are facts - and their music is rooted primarily in their image, their mystique, and their cult status. These are defined by the aestheticization and stylisation which are elevated above content, thematic coherence, or by any other meanings the art might have – This aesthetic obsession matters much more than the real achievements of the music. The "music" of Sunn - I will not write those ridiculous parenthesis after the O - matters far less than its gatefold inserts, the theatrical value of their clothes or the mystic achieved by these elements together. The idea of the band as a bold experiment with waves of noise in itself sounds like a smart concept to be worshiped by a select niche of people. Who are these? Avant-garde art lovers who understand sound research and are (supposedly) particularly creative, inventive and visionary humans. Sunn O is also status!



Not all hipster metal is attached to hermetic concepts. But the bands are always linked to, above all, an aestheticization and a stylisation These are the keywords. This is a pretentious fashion parade of pseudo-intellectual and cerebral concepts, coupled with an anti-status quo attitude that seems forbidden, underground and dangerous.

Youth groups act by excluding themselves from society, so that they can establish an identity in relation to what they exclude. And hipsters separate themselves by standing above others.


Having said that, I do enjoy one Sunn album. The live one recorded in recorded at Bergen Cathedral in Bergen, Norway, during the Borealis Festival. That’s a particularly successful album and I am going to discuss more successful hipster bands soon.

In this environment, There are three processes that occur to a greater or lesser extent with most of these bands and their artistic aspects. Let's summarize them:

1. There is an attempt to intellectualise heavy metal, through some kind of speech or contextualization (it can be something solely aesthetic, like the way in which the band dresses) that justifies the fact that the hipster/genius in question decided to associate himself with the genre.

2. There is an obsessive attempt to aestheticize music, creating a poetic positioning which is “deep" and based upon the "style" of the musician. This style consists of clothing , mannerisms, art direction, symbolic and esoteric record covers, occult/designer tattoos and so on .

3. Retroactive referrals to the heavy metal genre itself are made, with a select picking of elements that have aged well, so they are appreciated in a new context. The prime example is the cheesy 80s satanism of Bathory, Hellhammer, Sepultura, Sarcófago, Slayer, and so on put into a “mix” with the geometrical and fractal post-modern artwork mentioned above, as well as the use of other esoteric/alchemical symbols of western occultism. For metal it is more than upside down crosses and pentagrams. This is metal satanism 2.0.

Sometimes the third element is given an ironic re-appropriation. The “ridiculous” element is already dissolved in the unaffected melting pot of hipsters, and the image in question achieves a "cult" status, therefore being used in an acceptable manner. A good example is the band Goblin Cock. Ironic metal at its best:






Cult of Luna, one of the biggest European hipster metal bands. Having a sophisticated image is needed to be taken seriously as an avant-garde musician, since when you are one, you're doing something real and of profound significance for mankind. Long hair, leather jackets and jeans are left aside in exchange for serious clothes that fit the image of the young and daring artists.

Look at the one with the little vest in the background. What about the barefoot one? They could be poets, writers, painters or composers of musique concrete, couldn’t they? They could be Einsturzende Neubaten!


But no, this is a extreme metal band.

Hipsters look for something intangible, deep, which inhabits the abyss of human souls. Whatever it is, it is abstract and surreal and therefore incredibly vague and undefined. Thus references to what is discussed can be superficial and generic, as long as they are evocative and poetic. The sound variations brought up are modelled on “more complex" musical structures than the ones in traditional metal; shoegaze for instance. There is an attempt to reach an intricate and meditative atmosphere, perhaps through the poly-rhythms of math rock. They do not create a new way of composing, as it was done with death and black metal. Ways that effectively developed conventions that led to new genres.

In its aesthetic obsession. Hipster metal creates, generally speaking, a tangential variation with elements that run in parallel and do not fuse. A variation of the rock genres, and occasional noise/electronic elements, whose superficial characteristics it uses to gather the stylised elements it wants to convey.



It is curious to believe that some profound aspect of human philosophy is being exploited in this way, and that any discovery made within this artistic movement will alter in any way any view of humanity on itself - if that’s really what they intend to do so. So it seems. Aren't those musicians serious about their art and their "lifestyle"?

These bold possibilities should be taken into account since, as we will see below, it seems that some actually intend to do it. Reality, however, shows us that the practical result of all this circus remains predominantly within the concepts of juvenile escapism and the affirmation of identity through fashion. One of the greatest differences between the revivalists of the 80s scenes, the hipsters and the original creators of metal is that the reenactors and the hipsters are profoundly self-aware of their roles within the castes of this universe, while the bands of 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s were built in a much more spontaneous, unconscious, experimental manner. With less rules and more freedom.

Rock seems to be running its course.


Kings, gods and emperors of hipster metal, in this case of the “post-metal” sub-genre, Isis incarnates the idea of the desperate search to intellectualise heavy rock music.

The photo, taken in sepia tones. The laconic, distant gaze of the band members, the poetic threads of light entering through the window. The casual, sombre tone and style of the clothing. The modern, yet worn furniture. The body-posture; indifferent and placid, calm. Everything tells us that they are deep artists. Concerned with matters which are pertinent to the core of the human soul. Please notice that the wall painting needs some professional work done and that they are in a bohemian and artistic environment.


Getting some paint, a brush and to actually clean this shack? I don't believe none of these young men are up for the challenge. They have shiny, fractal/symbolic art to draw on photoshop, not house-fixing on the schedule.


The band mentioned that one of their records has lyrics inspired in concepts by Carl Jung. They also made a recording inspired in Foucault, and quote Alex Steffan on the inlay. These are discussed in the profound platform of rock lyrics, where they can, I assume, take more complex form.


It will be hard for the next hipster bands to go beyond these kings, these champions, these dynamos of pretentiousness within metal. Things here go to very high levels.


Why aim low if you can go far, isn't it? In practical terms, on the real world, the result is metal that would like, basically, to be the band Neurosis, only more repetitive and hence boring after about around six minutes.


Pierre Henry, one of the founders of musique concrete. A true avant-garde musician, Henry represents the tradition of a concern for the music itself, not an aesthetic obsession with clothing and accessories, or the lifestyle placed around it.

Being outside of the package of youth culture, his art does not use scams like curious clothes, robes, shirts with logos and related paraphernalia to validate his work. As you can see, in this photo he uses an imposing red blouse. His records also do not attempt to compensate for the absence of a deeper musical creation with layers of beautiful artwork or inserts with silver lettering. In the case of Henry, the artwork is really mature and cutting edge, everything else is peripheral, and there's no need to distract or mislead the listener with stylistic pyrotechnics.



Karlheinz Stockhausen. Like Henry, a true musical researcher, distant from the poses and affectations of looks, the fashion varieties within youth movements.

 His work, based on mature studies made with sound, is independent of the aesthetic varnishes, manneristic props and aesthetic-centred pseudo noise vanguards of hipsters, these which are actually the core of hipster metal and without whom the music, which is superficial, does not hold up.


If Sunn O focused on learning how to be avant-garde, they might be able to do what Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal achieved in the above track, which effectively creates a gloomy ambience. Recorded in 1971.

Terje Rypdal. No robes. No stylish tattoos. No posing. Unaffected. The music speaks for itself.

The French progessives of Shub-Niggurath. Cadaveric and necro putrid music made ​​by adults, not pseudo-intellectual posers. Musical sophistication and creation within a dark, experimental and obscure perspective. Particularly effective is the transition in the profane segment between 2.30m and 2.50m.

When hispsters do it right - the good hipster metal bands.

Now, you didn't see this one coming!


Changing my ruthless and critical bias, being benevolent and generous, I can see the good that hipsterism brought to metal. Therefore let’s try to focus on the good side of it all.


It should be noted that, despite my profound criticism, many hipster metal bands are excellent. For example, one of the best places to find new extreme metal, to me, is this tumblr:


http://fuckyeahhipsterblackmetal.tumblr.com


Now let’s think: why is that in an environment as full of affectation and falsehood as tis, quality also emerges?


There are a few reasons. Many of these bands just want to break concepts and patterns within heavy metal musical proposals. The willingness to be creative is there, this is important and will lead to at least some kind of attempt at creativity. And it is through “trying new things” as a method that something improves. Mastodon, Kylesa, Liturgy, Baroness and even the posers of Cult of Luna and others took introspection, experimentation, different references and unusual songwriting and made ​​great, great music, and great records within the metal format. They took heavy rock forward. Had the courage and vision to combine different elements of post-punk, psychedelic rock, progressive, stoner, math rock, indie, death metal and hardcore in their music.


And in some cases it did really work.


Traditionally, metal and its musical genres are taken by aesthetic and musical conservatives. Hipsterism opened the gates for elements that are well regarded by a group of people to be combined. Post punk and black metal, for instance. This idea opens up many possibilities, it is evident that the merger can be a happy one.


I particularly like Mastodon, kings of progressive, epic, metal. Another good band is Kylesa. How can one not admire a band with Laura Pleasants, a young woman who wears t-shirts by Joy Division, G-Anx (yes, G-Anx, the obscure Swedish band which played experimental grind) Amebix, Bolt Thrower, Black Flag, Joy Division and others? Everything leads to the logical conclusion that she must be a good person to marry, to have children and raise a family with.

Excellent references and taste, that the lady has, with no doubt.





The band Kylesa has characteristics that firmly place it on the hipster metal scene. Following the lineage of music made by bands such as Mastodon and Baroness, Kylesa uses up modern conventions of stoner metal, sludge and doom to build up their sound. Their songs feature intricate passages, dissonant guitars, some progressive moments, plus alternance between clean and screaming vocals. All features placed in high regard by hipster bands, conveying much style, the appropriate use of references and influences, and the right attitude. Beards and a cool working class look complete the package.

Kylesa, however, reaches excellent results with its music. They take heavy metal forwards, and contribute to the genre with creative compositions, which expand the new progressive metal they lead, with Mastodon and Baroness. These three bands, inserted in the hipster context, can focus on the music, and take it to a new level, bringing extremely creative song writing and references to their work. In this case, the preoccupation with musical research gave us fruitful results. Not everything is a valley of tears in the hipster universe!

Formatting within hipster metal, as well as in traditional heavy metal, is incredibly strong. What should and should not be done aesthetically is heavily patrolled and that includes ways to compose and write music, since there are sounds which are stylistically approved and some which are disapproved. One only needs to think of the features and conventions of new metal, absolutely unacceptable in a hipster metal band, since hipsters reject the whole idea of ​​"groove" in their compositions; that's too mainstream, man!


Neo-reactionary/retro-conservative, neophyte metal.


As stated, heavy metal has a reputation for demanding "fidelity" to the concepts it creates. The penalty to the breaking of these rules is a ban. The reactionary metal newbie kids of the website Metal Archives surely know that! They present an interest case; the neo-metal reactionaries. People who didn't live through the era of the creation of the main heavy metal genre conventions, but who think that they are the ones who can establish what heavy metal - as a genre - is. It is as if 2014 Rockabilly scene people dictated which bands are rockabilly and which are not, and not music history, audience perception and musicians.

The teenage perception of reality again throws in the "us" against "them" way of excluding itself from society to understand one's own identity, and therefore anything which is seen as "mainstream" is not taken into consideration.

Mainstream is a key term for the understanding of the phenomenon. According to these infants, no intelligent life exists outside of the world of rock and roll, beer drinking, concert going and record collecting and general night life - the heavy metal scene - so any understanding of music which proves they and their peer-group are making mistakes of judgement is rendered unqualified, as it does not belong strictly to the peer group. When it does come from the peer group, if the difference of opinion or fact presented is threatening enough and conflicts with canonical dogma, the one who brings up the evidence will be called "a traitor", a "sell out", and "not metal anymore". The evidence erased, and if the person(s) insist, they will be disregarded and ignored.


To begin mentioning the occasional astrophysicists, doctors, lawyers or what have you, here and there, who play grindcore on their spare time wouldn't change much. It is not their profession, activities or interests that make them a part of "metal", but their involvement with the above named metal-centric social habits and scene-related activities that does it, or does not. Correlation doesn't mean causation, remember. 

There certainly are very intelligent people playing heavy metal, they just happen to be elsewhere. They are the "sell outs", and aren't burdened by a myopic understanding of the genre, which separates "the mainstream" (all of society and how it operates) versus the "values of the scene" (as if the heavy metal scenes and musicians were that uniform, seamless, and coherent in their own analysis of the music and the habits of heavy metal as a subculture or "scene"... Which, again, boils down to the habits mentioned above, of people "hanging out" around the music-concert circuit.)

This group literally believes that no other human group is qualified to understand what heavy metal music is, only the children playing within their playground and following the views of an "upper echelon" of self appointed small minded children. Usually the ones with the coolest clothes and toys on the playground. Granted, due to its collaborative nature, a well-built system and good cataloguing methods, their website is resourceful and well done, but the "elite" that commands it has an infantile view of what music is.

What good comes out from technology on a fool's hands, my friends?

These people represent a whole generation of nostalgia-ball metalheads. People out of time and place, who have a childish appreciation of the conventions of metal created in the 80s, and little else from that.

They have no grasp of the origins of metal, suffering from deep ignorance of what really are the conventions that set a band as a heavy metal band. Due to this ignorance and to teenage prejudice, the infants exclude from the heavy metal canon metalcore and nu-metal. Bands such as Converge, Slipknot, Korn, Deadguy, Today is the day, Oceano and the such are deemed "not metal enough", in spite of their clear metal roots, music and connections. By the same token, metal pioneers, who were appropriately named heavy metal during their time, Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep being good examples, are ignored, even though they created many of the basic conventions that became standards in metal.
   


These bands, old and new, are ones whose lineage is clearly embedded in the tapestry and family tree of metal. It doesn't if matter the baby metals of the small, self-centered circles of "underground metal" critics with little grasp of rock history like it or not. Rock and heavy metal history (books, historians, journalists, musicians, the majority of fans and music consumers, academia, awards, and so on) already treat these bands as such, and these artworks will be seen by future generations as a part of heavy metal.

It is kind of cute to observe them insisting in judging art through their infantile scene perception. They amount to half a dozen mentally challenged youths who suffer a phobia of new metal riffs, down tuned 7-string guitars, "groove", too much "crossover" and whatever that isn't "true metal" according to the particular aesthetic created from the NWOBHM until around 1990.


As the peer group is composed of like-minded identity seeking "metalheads", which all obey the same conventions as in any cultural group, a certain stability/homogeneity of opinion is reached, and the only opinions, ideas and views respected are the ones which are aligned with official speech. These are people whose ideas, criticism and arguments only work in their own little playground. Hence, when other "metalheads" change, add other sounds to their music and risk evolving, they are named traitors. In arguments, contradictory evidence is erased, locked, ignored or distorted. Never dealt with and maturely reflected upon. Discussions between these people are constantly patrolled, and dilettantes, people with contrary views and with evidence that contradicts moderators are punished and blocked. Truth hurts, Pro-Pain has warned us! Not everyone is a good loser. Or an intelligent one.

A childish and otaku-nerd like obsession with the names of fads, genres and sub-genres is developed. If one names a band "drone-doom" metal instead of "post-avant metal", countless pages of binary code are dedicated to determine in which sub-drawer of a youth music scene the band should be put. Aesthetic, lyrical and compositional habits of the band are endlessly nit-picked, in a fruitless and false exercise to prove who can categorize music better. 


The fascist and infantile process of these young apes also includes a dose of fascism. All opposition is judged according to assumptions they make about the background of the opposer, and not the arguments and data presented. Therefore if one is a "rock journalist" from "Spin Magazine", by default he knows nothing about "the scene", no matter what this person REALLY is, knows, had done and comes from. His view is therefore disconsidered. Only opinion which belongs to and is aligned to official speech is considered. "Your opinions and the information you bring are wrong, because you are xxxx". Fill the xxxx with white/rich/poor/black/from Rock Hard Magazine, and pour down your prejudice in it.

Aligned opinion is welcomed because it is not attempting to be democratic. It is predictable, and obedient to the infant scene-Stalins.


It goes with the adolescent mindframe, and the search for a peer group and identity. Solidity to one's "character", as looked within a music scene. It's kind of cute to look at, actually. Of course, they learned to observe things within this mentally challenged capacity with older, stupider metalheads who are as close minded as they are, have no notion of the history of popular culture, and so on. They inherited - if not the lifestyle - at least the moronic behaviour. These are old metalheads, still having the youth "scene" as the center of their lives. Maybe with some alcohol thrown in as well. If not that, certainly some kind of ignorance, through which they filter the world.

As history moves on, and Oceano, Led Zeppelin, Slipknot, Korn, Deftones, Blue Cheer and other metal bands will keep being immortalized in documentaries, books, interviews, films, periodicals and so on celebrating the bands and their role in the genre they played in, heavy metal, no matter what half a dozen crybabies who miss a decade they didn't live in think.

The identity crisis brings on the idea of holding on to certain values​​; specific riffs, kinds of make-up, costumes, clothing and artistic mannerisms. This positioning also permeates hipster metal, as "the mainstream" is also the enemy of these bearded youths, but it reaches its peak, probably, in black metal bands, which must always be "trve" and "kvlt". Absolutely underground. The fewer people know about you, the better. 

Black Metal, second wave, babies. The exclusivity of this youth centred subculture, associated with noise and the occult, darkness and an anti-status quo stance, sounded too good to the hipsters.

 Metal Archives moderator.

Hipster art.

In hipster metal and its variants, the artwork of bands include references to abstraction, fractals, post-modern avant-garde art or elements of fine art and fine-arts, such as art-nouveau themes and techniques. They are intelligent people after all, well educated, and would never tolerate cover illustrations with a comic book mutant or B horror. This type of art, direct and spontaneous, was what accompanied the original bands of heavy and thrash metal. Nowadays they only appear on revival acts or pastiches of these same genre, where creation has ceased. As the spontaneity of this kind of expression is not taken seriously any more, it is exercised within a ghetto. Metal became something like rockabilly; a subculture that just emulates a very short and specific period of time, in details.


  Album artwork for Morbid Saint, 1988.  Here the ill-executed horror figure was used to sicken and frighten. Today this art is seen as kitsch, and it is valued in a retroactive context in which its impact is not one of disgust and fear, but of being a historical, comical portrait of a sub-group.

The same type of art used in the 2000s, within an aesthetic revival  with a knowledge of the limits of this art and its caricatured  impact. In this case the artwork is of the Rio de Janeiro based thrash metal act Farscape.

 The same attempt to shock and disgust sought by heavy metal bands of the 80s and 90s in the art of ultra - cult artist Justin Bartlett, not accidentally also known by the appropriate nickname "Vberkvlt ". In this image the search for shock works through the combination of monstrous images of poisonous, repulsive animals and occult graphics, connected to the blasphemous and the magic, indicated by the profane symbolism. This is all done with detailed, fine-art skill. However at the same time his style retains certain primitiveness, a child-like aspect, which increases the shock of the images. This art is different from the poorly designed and immature horror of old thrash and death art, due to the fact that it is a mix of high art with symbols ad images which could really be connected to what could be a study of the occult, referring to medieval art , alchemical art, satanic grimoaires , etc. No cheap horror here, my friends. Satanic evil shit from history. Or something like that!

  In other words, we are no longer talking about skulls scribbled in notebooks, but an art which is possibly connected to the true dark side of the collective unconscious. This could be a profane, ancient "study" of relations with Satan himself!
 
 “Nephicide”, by the band Jogger. Here the black metal aesthetic is mentioned in terms of pastiche, parody, irony and perhaps nostalgic memory.


One of the best hipster metal bands, Baroness, consistently use fine art that one of the band members produces himself on their covers in order to convey the idea of music made with quality. Their song writing combines harsh elements with progressive melodies.



  Mastodon makes use of progressive elements in their music, abounding with thematic albums and abstract and spiritual lyrics. Their album covers always contains intricate and "intelligent” art, with references and appropriations from established sources. There is a profusion of references to art-no nouveau on hipster metal albums. Alphonse Mucha rolls in his tomb – fast as a blast beat .


Much of hipster aestheticization reaches a new sub-niche in the new bands that play stoner and doom metal. An intense fad has risen around this genre, which is again strictly retroactive, and which enjoys wide appeal and acceptance in the European scenes, particularly in England (Desert fest and Roadburn fest would be the Meccas for this). The scene that supports this revival has a fascination with seventies aesthetic, technology, artwork, literature, fashion, cinema, periodicals and lifestyle, and consequently with the continuous and rampant use of drugs, as it seems. The glamour of being a consumer of any substances synthesised in a basement that a dealer has throw on one’s hand is back, at least in some circles, apparently. This also brings some elements of indignity and degradation to this scene. 1970s elements have a strong appeal also due to a supposed "organic "faithfulness which is intense and deep. It was the pre-digital world, man. Orange amps and analogue recording.

Paradoxically, what these bands do is look for something human and analogue within popular culture, the mass produced/reproduced universe which is the world of rock music. The acceleration of the distribution of information through the internet helps the standardisation of these styles, and leads to a rapid uptake of props, designs, types of art, haircuts, clothes and views enforced by the prophets of the sub-genres. The access to details of the lives and habits of artists, previously limited to pictures in books, records, magazines, fanzines, letters/pamphlets,  and advertising material is now widely supplied digitally, anywhere and for free. The possibility for appropriation and copying is huge. Another reason for local and individual originality to go down the drain.

However, Roadburn stands as a very interesting festival, with usually a very eclectic line up and some exclusive concerts happening there. Due to the experimental aspect of the festival, many creative bands are brought together. Bands such as Voi Vod, Napalm Death, Electric Wizard, Godflesh, Sabbath Assembly and many other talented musicians have performed in what is one of the most interesting festivals in Europe. The stoner scene suffers from too much hip, but that doesn't mean that this is a desert of no quality. Recent bands such as Rammesses, Electric Wizard, Ufomammut, Titan and others have produced quality material, making the genres around doom metal one of the interesting centres of production for current heavy music.



Awesome, beautiful retro-nude artwork in a poster for Roadburn Festival.



Awesome, geometrical-framed, psychedelic retro-artwork in Roadburn poster.




Awesome "The cabinet of dr. Caligari" like titles!


Beautiful retro-fine art, I don't know, Aubrey Beardsley or Harry Clarcke, retro-retro inspired art for Roadburn poster. This is cool, cool, cool and again, just so fucking stylish, sophisticated and cool. 

And I am serious. I really like it. 



 Electric Wizard. One of the biggest - and one of the best - of the stoner metal bands. Definitely one of my favourites. I only buy their vinyl! Please notice the silk scarf  singer Jus Oborn, band founder, is wearing. The prop reaffirms the 70’s retro references, as well as it brings an artistic and "sophisticated" look to the frontman, as opposed to the simplistic uniform of ripped jeans and biker jackets used in eighties metal.

Candlemass, inventors of the stoner/doom metal performed by Electric Wizard, on an image produced during the '80s. Worthy of note is the typically "heavy metal" uniform worn by the band members. There are no lost intellectual intentions here. Working class clothes that convey the idea of ​​lack of intellectuality, diplomas, readings or any inclination in these directions. Please also notice  that while they roam the planes of Sweden, they keep their manes in profusion, powerful, joyous, wild and free.

 
Aaron Turner of the band Isis, owner of the record label Hydrahead.

One of the greatest authorities in hipster metal, Turner embodies all the characteristics of the medium: a detached and cool “attitude”. Unaffected, indifferent to some, but at the same time slightly arrogant. A serious look, the look of an artist, a beard that gives him authenticity, and at the same time, the countenance of an eccentric. Tattoos with geometric shapes, shirt with naïf art . In a relentless pursuit of credibility and demonstration of artistic maturity, Turner cites in his blog playlists and "reading lists" of avant-garde artists. The more modern, new and varied, the better. Names like Kathy Acke, Alleypisser and Mario Diaz de Leon are brought incessantly , defined poetically by Turner as his "intake" or "vital supplies", in other words a "mental diet" of sorts, with which he, a deep artist, nourishes himself, in a continuous state of ecstasy and creative contemplation.
 

Modelling himself as a personality and a celebrity, his bands, lyrics, themes, references and especially the art direction of his label on a whole that turns him into a true super-hipster icon, Turner is adored, followed and worshiped by devotees hipster metal.
 

Unfortunately Hydrahead has gone bankrupt.


Post-modern in all its aspects, Turner’s art seeks to counteract the shocking and childlike art of monsters, creatures and fantastic settings which are standards of heavy metal. His images are abstract, evocative and surreal, done with the goal of giving the impression that the artist refers to something deep, complex, mysterious, and related to the core of human experiences and perceptions. A mystery!

In his blog, Turner proves that it is a sophisticated and sensitive human being. Like a being made ​​of light, a poet, an artist of the soul, a wanderer of emotions, he recounts his adventures through the world in anecdotal and poetic form:

 “wooden wall next to a construction site in Munich germany. once again i was out in search of a nice place to walk and breathe, away from the club environment. i walked for quite some time through the city, passed some sort of mammoth fair/carnival, ate a nice thai dinner by myself, came almost to the city center before having to turn back, and managed to catch this wall as the sun was setting and the light was golden.”

A walk to this man is not a mere walk, as it is for us mere mortals. No, it is more than that. He is a flâneur. A walk for this Renaissance man is a poetic, sublime experience where he feeds on oriental food, and – sensitive being that he is – has an epiphany when he finds the golden reflection of a setting sun in the evocative texture of a wooden wall. Details of a prosaic and “everyday-like” beauty that would escape the heart of a less polished observer. Only a true artist possesses this sophisticated and delicate sensibility.

In the 80s and 90s punk and heavy metal declared themselves bastard genres, and they did so with pride. Lemmy and Motorhead were always surrounded by beers, women and stories of excesses abounded. Kiss and the saga of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley ravaging hundreds (thousands?) of women. Metallica called itself Alcoholica. Punk bands proclaimed anarchy, hedonism and nihilism.

As one can see, the guys above are not exactly intellectuals. However they helped invent a whole musical genre, thrash metal. Isis helped to invent pretentious people with their closed eyes in gigs. Well, I guess we all leave the legacy we can.


Hipster metal, or maybe we should call it “designer metal”, is, much like the revivalist scenes of thrash, death and black metal, obsessed with “street-cred”. Extreme metal originally developed as a genre made and for the outsiders, the nerds, the ugly and the ignored. Pseudo-intellectual metal puts style above all, and it brings the idea of “cool” (kvlt) to an environment which was characterised for being the place of the socially forgotten. 



Satanic-retro fashion - on the catwalk!


The retro-scenes, on the other hand, feed on an endless source of internet photos of their chosen scene; 70s satanic stoner Pentagram metal, 80s crust and swedish punk, "first wave" black metal, early now so-called "second wave" Scandinavian metal, and so on. Google images reigns supreme, and its references of Wendy O. Williams, Bathory, 80s post apocalyptic WW3 films, Mad Max rip offs, images of early horror expressionism and unearthed Sarcófago pictures run through tumblr, nourishing the cosmetic needs of thousands of beautiful girls who dress like 80s metal vamps. Girls who weren't in the audience at the time at all - there barely were any women in extreme metal concerts when those genres configured themselves. And rarely the ones that were around were magazine/model material like we have now. Few women tolerated the absurd noise and shocking images of extreme punk and metal which were around in the late 80s and early 90s, and the ones who did didn't really bother trying to look like an extreme version of Kathy Perry, actually having a more "normal" look, as opposed to the use of sexy clothes and make up.

We live in a more cynical and disenchanted culture, in which violent music has already reached many, many millions. This is 2014, where Slipknot uses blast beats and has an enormous audience. Nothing is underground anymore. Like Patton Oswald has said, it is time for nerd culture to die.



Fashion takes over. I can assure you that this is not promotional material made by the bands in the mid 80s. Probably, the content of these clothes wasn't even born when those albums were released. I can also assure you that these bands never thought this would happen. The twists and turns of society, subcultures, youth culture and popular values are truly amazing.

Repackaged in a retro-fashion concept, the images and mannerisms, conventions, become vintage and safe. The chiselling of the retroactive aesthetic became as interesting as a fashion show, and the fashion show brought in the fashionistas into metal. Both men and women. Music is now secondary. To some, it always was.


Things within designer metal are a little pseudo-poetic, ironic, laconic and at the same time intellectual, mysterious, avant-garde and symbolic. Nothing is purely music. It is a complete package of marshy meanings, which refer to the core of human existence. Why settle for Dragons? (unless you are ironic; Goblin Cock).


In June 2007, fashion designer Alexandre Herchkovitch presented his "black metal collection" to the São Paulo Fashion Week, bringing the world of high fashion closer to our dear underground black metal. Video of the event above, a few photos below:


 

Yes. We went from the "inner circle", i.e.: what in, the whole world, was a handful of teenagers drinking and recording crappy tapes with lyrics about b-horror, and suffering from hang overs in public spaces, people like these:

 
Or these:

To these:
 



Kings of hipster black metal, "Wolves in the Throne Room". Lyrics concerning the connection between man and nature, life linked to organic agriculture, promotional photos defining the members as people of a folk, grass-roots origin, music made with "environments" and "atmospheres". Claims of their music being "meditative" and quoting kraut-rock bands as an influence guarantees an int intellectualised complex aesthetic, forming the supposedly refined aura that the band wants to convey.

They just released a Tangerine Dream rip-off album, just like Euronymous said it should be done by stylish black metal acts, and which Varg hinted at. I bought it in transparent vinyl. It is seriously great.


The number of new-age, post-black metal hipsters in their apartments "meditating" by candlelight, while listening to them must be considerable. When mom knocks on the door and tells the kid to come to dinner it surely spoils all the dark atmosphere. During their concerts the Wolves require that "no flash photography” is taken, so that they stay in the shadows of obscurity. When I read that I felt like turning on an enormous spotlight connected to an eternal strobe effect while playing "it's raining men" in the face of our Al Gore black metal enthusiasts.

 Rob Halford, the legendary singer of Judas Priest. One of the bands that created heavy metal. In the 90s, when Halford had his electronic band “Two". Halford, influenced by the Zeitgeist which didn’t tolerate the ridiculous of metal, declared the genre as being “dead” during an interview.

Later, when traditional heavy metal was revitalised due to its kitsch value, and it became something seen as the legitimate expression of an “epic impetus” (great name for a band, wouldn’t that be?), detaching itself from current affairs and becoming “vintage”, Halford reconciled himself with the sub-culture, connecting again with his own heritage, and resumed his activities as a singer of heavy rock.


Conclusions.

Are there any conclusions, my reader? I don't really have something oh-so-clever to conclude this exposé. I think we should all come to our own conclusions... Or not. The cycle of those scenes is an interesting one to watch, and since the end of world war 2 we have had the youth market with its fascinating ups and downs, and with its equally fascinating production of popular music. It has generated a lot of garbage, but also a very large quantity of good art, which may survive hundreds of years and perhaps last in history as a legacy of how millions saw art, and communication.

The hipster metal approach seeks to attempt to create something new within heavy metal. However, with the exception of bands such as Kylesa Mastodon, Deafheaven and a few others it seems to have an aesthetic obsession, and it operates in its art through pseudo-musical research. Attitude, visual impact and the positioning of oneself as a deep, poetic avant-garde, artist seems to be something more important than the work itself, creating a direct link between the image of the artist and what the work is supposed to tell us about him as a person. 

 Con-artist, junkie, rip-off scammer and thief, Blake Judd brought two things into black metal: the use of Joy Division t-shirts an the pioneering use of what one may call the black metal narcissistic selfie. This is a man who calls himself Zephirus, I think. That satanic and blasphemous condition doesn't stop the demon Zephirus from taken that much needed snapshot after combing his hair to the front in order to impress some groupie. His musical combination of stylish post-punk elements with extreme metal has some good moments. Specially that addicts album. It is all a bit derivative, but there are good ideas here and there.

Art works as a channel for the manifestation of the image that the artist wants to convey about himself, his lifestyle and personal artistic taste, and not in order to develop art for itself. We know so little about Shakespeare and his life, we know so much about hipsters and their frappuccino's and, as we have seen, Thai food.

To reach the limits of the possibilities of creation done with guitars, bass, vocals and drums becomes more and more difficult, we have over 60 years of the history of rock music behind us and many experiments were already done within this format. The vague indications of avant-garde in hipster metal; the philosophical quotes, poetic images, the "ambient/atmospheric, meditative, suggestive, textural, symbolic, occult, abstract "hastags that take over their production don't seem to be enough to characterise a whole new wave of bands producing something like the movements of heavy, thrash, death and black metal of the past. At least not one which is as interesting, and to a degree a cohesive genre, as those were.
 

Two meaningful public moments in different times during the life of the same man. From dark creature of the night to underwear, skinny-dipping, thin, holiday-enjoying Norwegian citizen. Darkthrone's Fenriz decided that posing as a menacing satanist for decades was too much, maybe as bad as playing live, decided to become a funny public figure, almost a parody or a caricature of what people might think he was. He seems at ease with his condition as a part of a history of extreme metal, and, in the end, not to take it too seriously. His self-applied irony resonates well with the hipsters, who enjoy his image, and Darkthrone.

In the 80s we had on stage semi-literate junkies, drunk, screaming leftist slogans, anti system chants and general teenage statements regarding horror and war films, as well as celebrations of partying and of teenage angst, the usual adolescent expression; feelings of not being understood, alienated from society for being too "weird", or perhaps too "intelligent" for this system. In the audience, youths who came from the working or middle class backgrounds, many from dysfunctional homes, pushing each other and beating one another, in pogo and slam dancing pits. Their highest aspirations were to get drunk and socialise through music.

Nowadays we have pseudo-intellectuals with hipster glasses and neck tattoos, some of them playing dissonant or "deep" riffs and singing abstractions about Jung and Foucault, or playing one not with their guitars and Orange amp blacklines, leaving that reverberating for 30 minutes while wearing bathrobes. On the audience? Educated middle class people, designers, 3D artists, bloggers (like me!), video makers, twitting and sharing everything with their iPhones, wearing ultra tight trousers and displaying embarrassing haircuts.

On the other side of the metal spectrum, the reenactors and cosplayers of the years between 1979-1993, who copy everything from NWOBHM to 80s crust to Bathory to 90s death metal.

Is there intelligent life in between? Yes, a little here and there. And some were quoted on this lengthy piece; Kylesa, Mastodon, even Liturgy, who are pretentious but sound great. There are also very good black, death and heavy metal bands, some attempting new things with different levels of success, but it is all done in local scenes, with quality work emerging here and there.

Some of the best of the more "modern" metal has seen is quite old now.

Metal, and rock in general, are very retro at this moment. Let's see if things have changed in a few years, and maybe address the subject again. Meanwhile, I will think of a future post, with some other bands which are still musically relevant to make company with the ones I already mentioned. Bands such as Monstrosity, Infernaeon, Lykathea Aflame, Cryptopsy, Deathspell Omega, Nader Sadek, Azure Emote, Enslaved, Tryptykon, Mayhem, Vader, Pine Barrens, Carcass, Hearse, Svart Crown,  Shining (the jazz-metal one), Voices (UK death metal) veterans and new musicians alike, have released interesting material in the last 10/15 years. 

We are not without hope, boys and girls!


6 comentários:

SamuelWyattCole disse...

this makes you a hipster.

St. Croix disse...

"Hipster" is a dumb word and I regret ever using it to describe other people because apparently, as I listen to both Cult of Luna and Darkthrone, I am one. But then, saying I am means I'm not...right? Confusing.

Ah, whatever. Good on you for writing a manifesto of this length, although it did get a little confusing. Are you a proponent of intellectualism and Profound Emotional Connections in music, or aren't you? Is this about finding middle ground between the beer-women-rabid youth and the Foucault-absinthe-esoteric youth? Dare I ask how you feel about Katatonia?

Anônimo disse...

Manowar

Joaquim disse...

Manowar is aweome. Katatonia: haven't heard much. My prejudiced memory of the late 90s filed it under "generic My Dying Bride metal" and that's not really something I go after. But I would definitely check them out. I am not a preponent of anything besides honesty, sincerity and spontaneity. None of these can be found in hipsters.

Anônimo disse...

Este é um dos poucos posts nas internets que eu nunca me esqueci. Por favor, arrume os links das imagens da versão em português!

E volte a escrever aqui se houver uma única gota de motivação.

gravortex disse...

am on board with alot of this. It's always been music first to me. I don't belong to any particular scene. I'm 31 and live in small town middle America. There isn't much of a scene. I first acquired a taste for metal thru numetal. A bit embarrassing perhaps, but I've certainly moved on. I'm extremely interested in the modern black metal, or post black metal if you prefer, movement. For that I give credit to Enslaved, and Arcturus the most. My favorite album right now is a few years old but new to me, is Altar of Plagues "Teethed Glory and Injury" a band considered hipster metal by many but has been extremely well received by most metal fans that gave it a chance. I do have one small quibble. Though I never followed Aaron Turner's blog and u made reasonable arguments for your opinion of him. It was a little disappointing to read actually because I was an enormous fan of his work with Isis and still hold those albums in high regard. Anyway, thanks for the enjoyable read! Cheers!