Here is a little thought my brethren in screaming gibberish about murder, dragons and philosophy : Should we support smaller bands and artists trying to survive the harsh music industry of the day, whilst trying to cater to the masses and at the same time, remaining true to their roots, expressions and creative pursuits? I hear the responses! It is an overwhelming one… yes over another yes! Here yes and there yes! Apart from the black Metal elitists for whom any band with 13 monthly listeners is a sell-out, everyone else agrees. Wait, for the black Metal elitist putting your song on Spotify is a sellout move! But hey, everyone else agrees. The verdict has been established. It has been proven. Metalheads can agree on something. We can close the book. But they are metalheads… It is not that easy… Not this one…
You see, in theory, just like any fancy utopian ideal, Metalheads do agree that smaller and newer bands should be encouraged and supported. Of course, the band has to sound good. And fresh. Even if they fit neatly into one genre, they should have character. Bring something new to the table. Something unheard of. Something distinguishable from the herd. Something that resonates with you. No doubt about that. But if they have great music, every good soul will agree the creativity they have channelled should be mediated to everyone to be appreciated, cherished and loved. A chance to be a valuable part of someone’s life. A chance to fix a bleeding heart or a racing mind. Yes, if you have good music, you should definitely be heard.. That is the sentiment. Right! Right? Metallica. Slipknot. Polyphia. Spiritbox. Sleep Token. Wolfgang Van Halen. Well Mammoth WVH is not a Metal act but the Rock and Metal communities are intimately intertwined. So without technical snobbery, what do all these artists have in common?
Too big. Normies and girls listen to them. It is not the people’s fault. Boo-hoo. They are sell-outs. Bunch of posers. Their music is unbearable. Some used to sound good, even great but they are all horrible now. What is the difference, new or old?
Well here is the thing. A majority of Metalheads complain about their preferred genre not being big enough. They whine about the genre being shunned by the mainstream media and sulk about the ordinary man not showing appreciation towards it. But they want the genre to be authentic. To have bite. A kind of darkness it cloaks itself in that everyone else is scared to talk about. Something deeper and more substantial. Abrasive, controversial, passionate and primal. Something that is unique to us only. Only we in the Black Circle understand. Then do these people lack the intellectual faculties to understand why the regular bloke fails to be appreciative, why commercially appealing bands are the solution or do they just love the pain of the cognitive dissonance it causes us all?
But here is the catch. Metalheads cannot agree to being hateful. Well, there is a subset of metalheads who agree with the previous group that metal is not as appreciated but like me, blame it on the folks who arduously yield their swords to keep the popularity of bands in check. Like the crusaders in their righteousness, they march to stamp on anyone whose music is heard by a normie. But here comes the self righteous guy who accepts everything to rescue the genre. On the side of perceived truth, they trample the crusaders with inclusive logic because it is their duty to save bands and shield them so they don’t end up ravaged. To ensure they are heard. For the future of the genre and it is legacy! Wars have been fought, keyboards broken, screens turned around and politicians dragged out from the core of humankind. And yet, no one agrees. The genre remains obscure and feared. Sure a few mainstream outlets have done some metal inspired acts or made lines of products with morbid imagery. All in all, however, what it did was double something. The number of self righteous groups. Now it stands at two.
Then there are the gatekeepers of gatekeepers, the guys who believe no one but truly evil people should be let into the gates of Metal. Everyone else is a poser. Bands who promote themselves beyond their initial audience are posers. Fans who want to expand the reach of the genre are posers. People who are not born with corpse paints are posers. Oh Lord, what hell did we break loose?
But these are common occurrences everyone in the metal community is aware of. It is as ancient as time immemorial, you will get used to it. There is no point writing about it, unless your creative juices have run out and you are scouring for some topic people will click on regardless. But I did. Oh crap, I am a poser…
Let’s address an elephant in the room no one talks about : large Metal media. Loudwire and Metal Injection. Ah, those guys. Corey Taylor’s thoughts and Dave Mustaine’s grudge for Metallica. They cannot report one interesting thing. These days, they don’t even have any headlines that are particularly about anything that is novel in metal. They write about weird celebrities who either listen to metal, wear Metal merch or some TV show or movie that has an ounce of metal in them. Nobody cares about it. The comment sections say it all. No one’s interested in that or what Corey Taylor thinks about that. The fans want TRVE metal. TRVE! Give them what they want What do they really want?
And here comes the irony of all ironies. As soon as these news outlets mention anything said by a musician who is not a giant of fame like the Hetfield’s and Osbourne’s, the comment section is expected to be supportive. However, any new album that is mentioned, anything about how they get their tone, anything about their writing process that is mentioned gets ridiculed and slandered to the extremes. Under a recent post in Loudwire about Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch being misidentified by some drive-thru employee to be David Draiman of Disturbed, the overwhelming response was, “Ivan who?”. Now, I don’t like Five Finger Death Punch nor would I act as though they are not popular enough. I do not necessarily carry the general sentiment that they are not metal but let’s not even start with that. I also agree that it is not Metal news and already anticipate the immediate response about him sucking. But the truth is this : This is not an isolated case, it happens all the time. Every time a big metal outlet mentions a relatively unknown musician or group, they are met with responses, heavy responses. Criticized for being unknown, that they are not relevant since they are not big enough of a deal to be made a fuss about. Somehow, their mention doesn’t elevate their publicity but rather diminishes it in the eyes of fans. Somehow, everyone suddenly agrees they suck. Even people who do not listen to them now know they suck. They are never given a chance. Everyone has heard of them but only because they suck. Why? Because big news Metal outlets decided to give them the spotlight. A chance to shine. But rather than being supportive, what do they get? Nods of irrelevancy. Yeah guys, way to go to support smaller bands!
Of course, that is not always the case. Some bands have hugely benefited from such exposures. Their streams have gone up and they have created a dedicated fanbase of loyal headbangers. But even that has a catch. If they get too big, they will get reported more. And we all know what happens then right? The circle of life, the feedback loop from hell. Oh save us all from this misery! So where am I getting at? Nowhere really. I just observed something and penned down my observations. If I am being honest, I typed them in. I am not interested in saving big Metal media. Because I honestly agree that they report on too many things that are not Metal. I am also not here to say one group is better than the other, that I am someone above you who sees you as puny mortals in some blog. I am just as biased. Just as susceptible. Just as big of a keyboard warrior. I am human. I am a headbanger. I am a Metalhead.
All I wanna address is this intolerant attitude. When do we stop this polarization? When do we get over this Us vs Them? Because this disagreement is subtly giving rise to bigger and worse disagreements. The world is polarized in more ways than one now and it has never been worse. I do not need to mention the things that are going on. And it is sadly finding its way into our community. Into this haven.
Our Headbangers Haven.
I have been humorous, perhaps a bit self righteous in my delivery. But I know metalheads like that. Some grit, some attitude. It is incomplete without that. But I carry good intentions, I genuinely do. I don’t plead, posers do. What I ask of you is to reflect. Give a thought to what you believe in and think about. Because small acts are disposed of on the big stages. And I do not want to witness some grand act of stupidity. Remember, every note creates a solo, every instrument a song and every song an album.
Tolerance. That is what we need.
Justified, well formulated tolerance, not silly peaceful nonsense.
That is what should separate us. We are humans. We need our community. So you want them? This is the only Us vs Them that should exist.
Use your brains. Think critically. Don’t be brain dead.
And until then…
Written by Josh Mastiff.