Monday, December 31, 2012

Oh Lord, No.

I have a soft spot for what in the '90s we called 'White Metal'. You might know it also as 'Christian metal' but I do find a distinction between bands that are outright preaching on What Would Jesus Do (like Messiah, Tyrant or Stryper) and those that are taken with concerns of faith and morality on some higher level (like Manilla Road, Saviour Machine or Secrecy). Many bands make clear and frank references to moral systems in Heavy Metal, Jesus isn't the first choice but a choice he is. The appeal is in that they are not writing about nonsense and Heavy Metal always is best when it's not about nonsense.

The fervour of belief is akin to that of passion. It goes well with Heavy Metal if you ask me. And White Metal was the sort of thing you would go to if you agreed, that is, before the 'orthodox black metal' boom of the late '10s. Orthodox Black Metal is like the hipster listening to Manowar with an ironic veneer about it all, testing the waters before - and if he ever - comes out as an actual, honest-to-Thor brother of metal. Orthodox Black Metal people should just go join a Gnostic church and stop playing around with 'evil inversions' of a very understandable tradition of faith that predates all their superficial concerns by thousands of years.

Most Heavy Metal listeners have a knee-jerk reaction to Christian metal. Perhaps some of them have no real reason to, besides peer pressure, but I am willing to accept that some of them really feel a sense of unbelonging permeating some of the typical Christian metal offerings.

I won't be examining the whole spectrum of White Metal, not at this time (though I'm willing to, if there's enough interest. You'd be surprised how wide the range of metal there is with some Jesus in it). No, this post is about something at once much narrower and somehow broader. I was listening to this song on shuffle:

And I paid attention to the lyrics. Yep, it's a Bruce Dickinson sound-alike telling me how abortion equals murder. I got somewhat upset about the ideology this band is selling and it got me thinking on how this happened. Who opened the door for evangelical ideology in Heavy Metal? There's bands that sing about what they believe in, sure. And then there's strictly manufactured American metal of the type of Barren Cross, made as an alternative to secular metal to sell in Christian-controlled communities. Surely this is an american invention, right? It has to be!


Black Sabbath. Fucking Master of Reality. Right there.

I almost never listen to Black Sabbath after the debut and before Dio so this doesn't readily come to mind, but this is where the Christians came in. Black Sabbath left the door open, it's pretty astounding. Listen to the lyrics closely, it doesn't get more preachy than this. "I really believe it was people like you that crucified Christ". Sheesh, as if Ozzy didn't sound enough like a grandmother.

Now, I'm no Black Sabbath scholar so I'd like you, dear readers to help me. Who is to blame in the band for this? As far as I know the band at this juncture were super high on bad drugs. who had the time to be a practising Christian? Or are they faking it? Is it the old story where Ward had some supernatural scares with his necronomicon or satanic bible or whatever it was and wrote these things for penance so the dark Lord wouldn't claim his immortal soul? Did it work? How does the band feel about this tripe now? Are Black Sabbath Christians in their old age? Were they always Christians and if so how do they reconcile the devilry of the first record with it all, much less the drugs and fornication? In any case, perhaps most of you already knew, but I just made the connection: We've got Black Sabbath to thank/blame for one more thing.

Obviously Candlemass doing their little pastoral turn circa Nightfall were following after Black Sabbath but they were much more solemn and austere about it because - clearly - they were doing it for effect, not because of true faith. They were tapping into the power of belief sans belief and this is one of the (various) failings of post Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Candlemass. Does "After Forever" explain the enduring fascination of doom metal with Jesus?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Music Do the Passions Most Enjoy Themselves

Let's take the line of thinking introduced in the 'They Say Rage is a Brief Madness' post further. Here are the main genres of metal music. Let's use our pop-psychological skills to understand why they came to be, why they're not interchangeable and which of them have bridges to others while others are mutually exclusive. Have you ever wondered why nobody really has tried happy flower hippy death metal or europower about being a weakling nobody that is going to cut their wrists?

A rough chronology:

'70s Heavy Metal

New Wave of British Heavy Metal

Doom Metal

Speed metal

Power Metal

Epic Metal

Thrash Metal

Death Metal

Progressive Metal

Black Metal

Post Metal

'70s Heavy Metal and NWOBHM go together because I've yet to meet a metalhead into one but not the other : I think the main pull of the original Heavy Metal phenomenon was surprisingly non-pathologic. Teenagers actively wanting to rebel against conservative forces that predefined their path. If that's a pathology then the world can go fuck itself. There's a beautiful naivety in that era of 'angry music' that I, for one, do not feel comfortable pathologising. This begs a question and in trying to find an answer this exercise is already useful: Could it be the case that new music trends become a vessel for pathology once they have been codified, monetized and regurgitated through popular culture? When you're looking for music to slit your wrists to, you go to a genre called 'suicidal black metal'. But if you were a weird kid back in 1991 in Oslo, it probably took guts and other sublimated qualities to enter into such a vague and unorthodox subculture. If it's easy to buy and take home alone, it's probably bad for you!

In this way, I do not think a kid in the '70s was expressing pathological emotions when they got into Judas Priest, but a fifty year old today still into Judas Priest might suffer from a number of things.

So let's talk about today's listeners of 'Classic metal', or 'traditional metal' or what have you. I think the main pull there is nostalgia, not in itself a pathological emotion but certainly tied to such. What once was can only be accessed through artifacts and so on. The more treacherous feeling I could attach to the oldies is that their appreciators have a 'holier than thou' attitude, often. But that's kind of mundane in Heavy Metal circles, where most sub-subcultures have that going.

The worrying sign I've noticed is a fetish for objects. Perhaps this is a Greek-obscure-metal thing, you international readers can verify, but does it feel, sometimes alarmingly so, that 'classic metal' listeners collect vinyl and patches and whatnot in the same way they could be collecting '80s sticker sets or cereal boxes? There seems to be no differentiation of value, it's just old stuff that made an impression. I've noticed this and I'm not sure what it means yet, but it's very distressing when Manowar and Thundercats are pretty much the same thing in the minds of increasingly balding metalheads.

Doom Metal: That's an easy one, isn't it? Depression, self-loathing, solitude. Nobody understands me and I want a girlfriend/boyfriend that wears black fishnet. If there's a saving grace in this genre (psychologically speaking) is that it so triumphantly declares that it is about these things that it ends up not being so much about them but about the triumphant declaration. There's too much power in Candlemass to get really morose to. For this genre to become truly maudlin it'd take an injection from death metal, that nihilistic, meat-is-meat psychosis discussed before. Then it starts to ring true, oh the sound of the knell, the pathetic stench of dying children! But again, as long as there are violent explosions of force it can't truly be music to slit your wrists to. Play The Cure's 'Pornography' and then listen to My Dying Bride. There's really a very significant difference.

It's fascinating that Doom metal has ties to both Epic Metal and to Death/black metal. The latter is mostly understandable, it's just a more romantic take on "Pain and suffering, but why?!". But Epic metal? It would help to note that people that listen to Epic Doom Metal proper very rarely listen to doom/death counterparts and vise versa. It's almost as if there's two different genres only coincidentially both named 'Doom Metal'. But is this really how it is? I do not think so.

Doom metal as we know it today is the reinterpretation of Black Sabbath, by Candlemass in their debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. And although that record self-identifies as, well, you can guess what, its first track is 'Solitude' which is positively morose. Paradise Lost, Anathema and My Dying Bride would take that aspect of Candlemass and put some Slayer or Sodom in there, but it's not such a huge stretch once the influences have been identified.

I am still at some loss as to how actually sad the people who listen to doom metal are. I tend to project my own experiences as this genre can be said to be my 'home', more or less. This doesn't really reflect in my Master List, as there simply are not enough doom metal masterpieces out there. But those few records in the genre I'm into, I simply adore and always reference. So I tend to think that most doom metal listeners have followed a similar trajectory to my own. Perhaps I should leave the psychopathology of doom metal to someone else.

Speed Metal: if there ever was a nebulous genre of metal, this would be it. Not yet as robust as Power Metal, not as choppy and punkish as Thrash. Are there Speed metal enthusiasts out there, truly? I'd love to hear from you.

Listen, I've tried to fly the flag for Speed Metal. I think I know what it is and I can make at least two different cases that would be fairly convincing. But what does it say that I am almost 30 years old, I've listened to Heavy Metal for more than half my life and I have an encyclopedic knowledge of it and I'm still torn between two different narratives on what speed metal is? There's something weird going on there.

If there's a pathology here it probably has to do with those that want to appropriate this nebulous genre to their own ends, a la . I am hesitant to surrender fuckin' Exciter and Agent Steel to them, but perhaps that's not such a terrible loss to call these bands Thrash. Otherwise, the people into this stuff are usually also the same obscure metal guys I've addressed before.

Power Metal: in its europower incarnation I think there's little pathologic in there at all. We could make the case for arrested development, but truly, it's just happy pop music, sometimes genuinely uplifting. I can find no fault in this. It's not really Heavy Metal anymore, but that's a different class of argument. Go on, europower-lovers, keep listening to simple, bright, childish music! If you're over 20, I hope you have a sense of humor about yourselves, at least! I'm probably wrong. Check the comments section.

It can get darker if someone is really, really into this stuff along with role playing games, computer games, superhero comics, reddit and men's rights activism but there we would be branching off of in a broader 'psychopathology of the internet' and that is too daunting a swamp to wade into.

The US Power side of Power Metal is dominated by the syndromes common to obscure metal collectors and whatnot. A weird sense I get often from them is that they have a non-taste. They choose music based on extra-musical criteria, yet they sometimes land on a gem and can appreciate it as marginally different from their Medieval Steels and Killens but not by much. The more technical the US Power gets, the more it bridges into the delusions of grandeur common to progressive metal proper. We'll get to that later on.

Epic Metal: Here's where it gets ugly, though. Although tangentially connected to power, epic metal is not about speed and singalongs foremost. Epic metal can be slow or fast, pompous or savage, ethereal or blunt. Its core, defining characteristic is pathologic in itself. It thinks it's better than everything else. Avarice to the highest degree, worse than the excesses of progressive metal, its delusions of grandeur are this toxic because it doesn't have to qualify its claim to be better than anything else. Progressive metal goes 'listen to all these notes we're playing, this is hard, right? So we're better'. And black metal says 'listen to this romantic art, it strikes a real chord, doesn't it? So we're better.' But epic metal just says 'we're better than everyone else and if you don't agree then you're obviously not epic metal at heart'. Fan the sparks of will, be your own disciple!

Manowar have a lot to answer for. A band of meager talents, with about 10 amazing songs to their name, truly individual, for good or worse, have staked a territory in Heavy Metal that is unassailable by any outsider by virtue of being an outsider. There will never be a dialogue between epic metal and other genres, much like there is very little between epic metal fans and anyone else.

The toll for such avarice is high. With every decade, the epic metaller grows more despondent and frayed by the cognitive dissonance. If he's the best, then why does his belly grow this much with every beer? If he's the best, why does he fail to maintain a healthy relationship? If he's the best, why haven't Manowar put out a great album in the last 20 years? There are no answers, friend, there's only bad choices you have made!

Thrash metal: Well, there's a degree of delusion there. Thrash thinks it's 'grown-up' metal, but it's just dumber punk with more palm mutes. At least it has a dionysian core so some thrashers are having fun. The most physical of the genres of metal, it's connected with skating, moshing and being an adolescent. I guess arrested development here too. But I'd say thrash is pretty harmless and most of all a phase for most listeners. A thrasher in their fifties might truly be a sad sight, though.

Death metal and Black Metal we've covered before. A note on 'Suicidal Black Metal' though, as it's a startling Reality moment in heavy metal when they came up with that. ALL Heavy Metal demands holocaust, it is a cruel mistress. You must die to live forever. Is it surprising that the genre named 'Suicidal Black Metal' sounds exactly like the prelude of hysteria that culminates in self-harm? Keep it under control, lonely boy or girl. Things will not be getting better, but the way, though dim, will become slightly clearer with time. You can make it.

Progressive Metal is pretty bad. Delusions of grandeur, solipsism, loneliness, the works. Never before have music fans been so certain of their own superiority for having done not much more than listen to music with lots of notes. Perhaps jazz fans are more obnoxious. The worst aspect of progressive metal fandom is that it can carry on in later age (I speak as a person very much interested in progressive metal). Unlike thrash, it lacks in physicality, it's not a body release. Its modernist/humanist dream carries on, uninformed by the ontological disintegration of these movements in the hands of capitalism. The most important characteristic of progressive metal is that of self-importance. Do me a favor and ponder on the name of this blog for a moment. Right?

There is an even worse bridge between progressive metal and death metal, where we get 'brutal technical death metal'. If there's ever been a music for emotional disconnection, here it is. The blunt trauma of blastbeats and chroma further peppered with shards of scale debris, who would subject themselves to this and for what purpose? Incomprehensible, rhythmic vocals either singing about gutting that whore or exploring the cold cosmos (is there really much difference?), I really wouldn't know what to talk about with fans of this genre. Well, we could find some common ground on how good the first two Cryptopsy records are, I guess.

I am half prepared to understand 'djent' as a variation of 'brutal technical death metal', from this vantage. Their listeners are similar.

Post Metal: oh, the tortured apostates, Why are you're still trying to understand non-metal music through your heavy metal experience and aesthetical tools? For how much longer will you link jangly indie post-hardcore ambient noise bands of the week and claim they are 'crushing the earth' and 'raping half of your (mine) record collection'? Yes, Russian Circles really are the new Manowar. Such dissonance between object and impression I can only expect leads to chronic grumpiness of the highest order. Irony, waves and waves of churning irony are employed to convey a distance between esthetic information and pure 'enjoyment of music, brah' that simply isn't there. A complete lack of useful equipment to understand where post metal came from and how its (meager) offerings are best utilized.  Does post metal sound deep? In the same way a person can appear intelligent by speaking very little. All that will be left from post metal will be a few neurosis, isis and pelican records.

There's strands I didn't touch, like power groove, hair metal and despicable sludge (if it is a type of metal at all, I doubt it) because I do not have enough experience with them and am not eager to amend that gnostic gap. Oh, and I forgot Grindcore because it is forgettable.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Helloween - Victim of Fate

Do you hear the thunder crack, readers?

Destiny is split asunder. The hero's tale can be rewritten, destiny shall die, willpower cradles the hilt, hope is the blade!

This is it. This is where Helloween become something more than a Teutonic speed metal band, this is where the formalist vantage will stop proving fruitful for us and we shall have instead to get in touch with the Eternal Return, teenager pathos. We shall have to... feel. I know it is difficult, lonely men, women and cyborgs out there, but we must and we shall!

Every time I listen to this song, I get so pumped, I'm not going to cut and paste these lyrics from some website, I am going to type them out while headbanging to the song. There shall be no spell checking!



I was born in the rotten part of the town
The biggest trap I've seen
Wherever you go wherever you get to
Evil's all around

My mother's a bitch my fathere's a killer
Getting paid for murder
Fight in the front in the ???
The only way to survive

Wanted for murder they'll never catch me
I'd much rather die in this bloody war

Fly high, touch the sky
Never know the reason why it ends

Fly high, touch the sky
Never know the

I had to kill people to save my own life
I don't wnat to go to hell
I started at the bottom
I'm headed for the top

I'll never return I'll never go back
to that god-damn part of the town
Headhunters won't get me 'cuz I'm not stupid
But this ain't the life that I dreamt of

Wanted for murder they'll never get me
I'd much rather die in this bloody war

Fly high, touch the sky
NEver known the reason why it ends

Fly high, touch the sky,
Never know the reason why it ends

What now lonely man,
Who is standing in the shadows of the streets
YOu're left alone with no helping hand beside you

You hide from the daylight
Living in darkness
You've got no friends
You can trust nobody except from yourself

The only shape stands beside you
It's the shape of Lucifer
Laughing with a satanic smile

And his friend death
Sharpens his shickle

You don't want to die, do you?
But you will!

You will burn in hell.


Fly high, touch the sky
NEver known the reason why it ends

Fly high, touch the sky,
Never know the reason why it ends



The second 'wild' solo is full of power. My soul doth elevate.

And finally:


And yet,
I feel about ten years younger after listening to this.

I am not dead. Though I will die, eventually, I have now for a moment completely forgotten. The lyric of this song is at odds with its musical presentation because Helloween are on a trajectory, perhaps unbeknownst to them as well. They are not a cynical speed band with morbid tales for us. They are a power metal band, and their music gives hope, it points to the light.

The thema of this song is close to that of those that followed it on the first part of this record. Imagined - probably extrapolated from teenager experiences - difficult life, having to do sinful acts to survive. Pursued by carriers of nemesis (hilariously, headhunters. I am imagining Charles Bronson in Deathwish), there seems to be no way out, death is certain.

And then, out of the blue, this chorus. What does it say? "Fly high, touch the sky. Never know the reason why it ends". This is not the sound of tragedy, it is, instead that of triumph. Focus especially on "never know the reason why it ends". This is such a human, naive look at the face of death. This music takes that simple line, which in other contexts could exist in some morose existentialist poem and makes of it in a totality-of-the-real inversion, a deposition of faith, a decree: It will not end, it doesn't end. It never ends.

The tension between this chorus and the lyrics and the musical motifs of the verses (which are again, speed-thrash of that era) was not lost on the band. The middle slow atmosphere building section deepens the disparity of emotion. This song is a wild ride. It was for twelve year old Helm and it still is. A masterpiece. There are rough edges, sure, but they also helped to break a specific mold (That of the Judas Priest / Iron Maiden multi-part quasi-mythological epic, to be exact). Helloween needed those edges to push them towards hyperbole, and through that to the palace of wisdom, the road to awe.

The second solo section, it's just the final statement of what I am describing. At first ordered and lamenting, then wild chaos breaks loose. Fly high. Touch the sky. You will not die.

Fuck it, we're not stopping. Let's talk about 'Cry for Freedom' as well because this is a trajectory nearing its end and I don't want to wait four months to reach my own metaphorical ejaculation either (and I wonder at what position does that put you, dear readers).


This is a beautiful, ferocious power metal song. It is the perfect ending to a record that starts from solipsism and the terror of the I and ends with a social critique of injustice in its most blatant form. There is no exact political regime named in this song and therefore all are targeted. The structure of  totalitarianism is targeted.

The intro to this song seems like something Judas Priest would do, only and blatantly without the pipes of one mr. Halford to grace it, it becomes a different thing. Halford knew well of the theatric capacity of metal music and his stories, many of them centering on the 'we're not going to take it anymore' theme, were as much performance as say, that slice of Victorian melodrama, "The Ripper". This isn't to say that Halford didn't get into it but as any performing artist will tell you, their training is not to immitate, it is to inhabit. But it is still a performance. That the young audience of Judas Priest elevated their songs to true anthems of the oppressed (or imaginably oppressed, as it were) stands as a monument more to them than Judas Priest. Other bands, with their rugged edges and more meager talents would cut much closer to bone, the theater would become much more secondary to the message. Other bands, simply, did it better than Judas Priest.

Helloween, for example. Kai Hansen is, at this point, a very rough voice. Nasal and without great control of his vibrato, very accented and sometimes tonally shaky. This stops a lot of listeners from getting into this era of Helloween which is a shame because with the arrival of their full time singer, Michael Kiske, the said theatricality came with full force. There's a punkish vitality with Hansen on the vocals that is sacrificed. As I've said before, Kai Hansen is inviting to sing with (not over, his voice is still much more powerful than most). He knows he's no Pavarotti but he's going to hit that high note anyway. Sing with him.

This is the lyric of the calm before the storm. It's truly touching if you destroy the distance.

"Freedom, the cry of all slaves will be heard.
And the tyrants will feel the steel of our sword

The chains will be broken by all slaves on the earth
Forever to be free from their load"

This flows dramatically into a lead section that winds down with such grace that puts the violence that follows in even starker relief. This is truly savage. Death metal can eat it, The contrast between beauty and force shakes me in such a fundamental way that tales of gore and guts never have and never will.

"Time has run out for all you tyrants on earth
The slaves are heeding the call
Making an end to all this terror and pain
An end to your lies and your law

Taking away all your gold and your money
'Cause dead men don't need it anymore
Much too long we've felt the slash of your whips
So now you will feel our swords

Freedom, the eternal cry will echo high in the sky

The day will come when all power has been broken
Your blood will flow down to the gates of Hell
Satan will wait for your souls
Pray to your god, he won't help you, he's dead
He won't fool our minds and our souls

(I'll overlook the lamentable choice of allegory what with loads and being free of them, I didn't get that as a child and I'm sure Helloween didn't either.)

This is a fast song, but with such compositional nuance. First of all, the reverbated chorus of oohs after the first verse. This is OUR voice, we are meant to join in. This is a song for all of us, we are included, in such a vital way. Helloween can't do it alone, we can't overthrow tyranny unless we understand ourselves as part of a 'we'. This is a core characteristic of Heavy Metal that turns to the light. Those given to solipsistic pursuits will forever understand themselves in isolation. The light will only serve to blind them. It is in the shade that their objects of desire can best be understood, their subtle nuances in texture and form. Simpler forms, closer to black and white, in light and darkness, those inherent to the language any collective understands, as common currency to communicate and consecutively carry on as a cohesive core. The dangers of such maneuvers are recorded in history as a startling remembrance of atrocity and horror. Yet Helloween, closer to such horror than you and I are now, in 2012, still rally to the call of 'Freedom', for all slaves on this earth. Do you join in on the song?

Here's an interesting experiment. There's a very specific part of this song where you might feel compelled to sing back to mr. Hansen (aside from the 'ooh' vocal chorus section). It's when he goes "The day will come when all power has been broken" and we reply "Your blood will flow down to the gates of Hell". Do you feel it? The cadence of the lyrics there give a huge opening for a second voice to say that line (it sounds like it is two different takes in studio as well). Listen to this song and if you feel it inside you to resonate any truth, do kindly sing along to that line there. Give it your best growly angry shouty voice if you don't have a proper range. What do you feel? Did your hand curl up as if tracing the contours of some invisible orange? Did your eyes open wide, did you scare your cat? That little tiny bit of dark power, the essence of all magic, it truly exists and can be summoned with such remarkably low-brow art that sometimes it scares me that society has worked out at all. We can be so easily swayed into a malignant, total fantasy that I am not even directly concerned with when that fantasy becomes action. That the fantasy exists inside us and can be brought to the surface by such a compositionally simple trick astounds me. Here's Helloween and then, think about a Richard Wagner.

This is powerful music, hence, power metal. It is not a formalist definition. Double bass and palm muted riffs do not make power metal. Achieving that sense of fantastical power and assigning that strength to the service of listener agency makes it power metal. The birth of this genre has little to do with how many major keys or singalongs there are in the piece and everything to do with coming up from the darkness into light, acknowledging a sense of belonging (even if the group one chooses to belong to is entirely fabricated, as in "metal brothers") and achieving a sense of positive motion by harnessing beauty.

Helloween would go on to become more beautiful, more inclusive and more refined in their approach, gaining a large following. Even the months between this EP and the "Walls of Jericho" record proper mark a difference, though not such a sizable one as with the records that followed with their new Bruce Dickinson-esque singer. The themes they will expand upon in the next few songs are those of the last few of the EP, as if they understood there's something more to what they only glimpsed at. The opener of "Walls of Jericho" is a monumental creation and it serves as an inspiration to anyone who has ever composed anything to see a band go from grasping at the vague structure of a concept in point A to mastering the perfect sculpture of it six months later in point B. But let's discuss that next time.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

They Say Rage is a Brief Madness

Alternatively: "On the topic of death metal, black metal and why death/black is (mostly) a sham."

For those of you that haven't managed to penetrate into the aesthetic of the more extreme genres of Heavy Metal, this piece might serve as a key. For those that are well versed in and enjoy these genres, it might help to further illuminate why there's such a sizable disparity between them though they appear on the surface to be easily interchangeable.

To get anywhere with this I will provide a semi-historical definition of genres that are, on the whole, more nebulous that I make them appear. I say this to preempt notions that there is black and death metal quite outside the modern paradigm. I know. But in that there exists a paradigm to begin with should provide enough basis to examine it. This world is the best world there is by the virtue that it is the only world that exists and so forth.

Death metal, as examined here is of the American mold (though not necessarily from the US). Muscular, very compressed and given to violent swifts in tempo. Dense composition, usually very chromatic and emphasizing chaos more than velocity. There is no respite. Melodic sections are easily throwaway if the band feels like it. There is no center or showpiece. The vocals are usually deep and growled as with Suffocation and Immolation, or in middle, menacing drawn-out and unintelligible grunt as with Obituary or Autopsy.

Black metal, as examined here is of the early '90s Scandinavian type, as typified by Dark Throne, Burzum and Mayhem. It grows in reaction to the death metal described above. It appropriates some of its technique (indeed, the teenagers that pioneered black metal's second wave mostly played in 'trendy' death metal bands before that - when they were twelve). Its characteristic remains a return to the romantic core of Heavy Metal of old, or a further romanticized understanding of it by Norwegian teenagers, as it were. Long tremolo phrases in minor keys, with a restrained and normative use of disharmony (malformation versus beauty). Repetition and drone, a floating atmosphere. The vocals are predominantly raspy or screamed.

Let's also peruse two audio examples before we move forward.

In popular perception, this is what 'Death Metal' summons:

 In popular perception, this is what 'Black metal' summons:

Death metal has ill intent towards you, dear listener. Were it a psychic force capable of manifesting physically as in some '80s b-movie, it would gut you and devour your entrails. It would symbolically make you into a womb to enter once again, and eat back out of from the inside. Its malice is that of the sociopath. It doesn't understand you and it has no interest to. If it has a fascination with you, it is to make your 'inside' come to the outside so that you, the hypocrite that you are, that is so taken with the idea of any metaphysic quality or spirit residing inside you, will finally concede the point that 'only meat is real' with your passing. No, not death. Death is not real, it is no more real than life is. There are no metaphysics when the worms eat your flesh. What there is is nonsense and pain.

Death metal is for the socially impaired. Manchildren, neckbeards and other nerds that do not know how to talk to a girl. Their gateway into understanding comes through shock treatment. They imagine a vicarious violence not because they desire to inflict it but because it is at least quantifiable. Why? Because it's funny. How? Painfully. They empathize with the victim-as-victim, not the victim-as-human. The bitch was asking for it. These people are mostly harmless for what they do best is write otherwise. Those you should fear are those that haven't written a word and are just smiling at you, ever-smiling, fitting in. There is a sociopath in your workplace. Someone in your family has tortured small animals for fun.

The cookie monster vocals that the genre favors bring into stark relief the truth of the genre. It is a man trying to appear inhuman by lowering the pitch of their growl. When was the last time you've heard a person, consumed by a murdering rage, growl like a demon in a film that they will kill someone? That's right, never. That voice is not normative, it is how a social introvert imagines rage to manifest. They will never test their growly voice in the highschool cafe-- excuse me, while they "gut that prostitute". This is how the social critique against the questionable subject matter of death metal is explained away by its audience: never tested. Pure fantasy. Leave us alone. Boys only in this tree-house.

The monster in death metal is a monster of sociopathy, of loneliness and stress, of delusions of grandeur. It is very life-affirming to play with the symbol of death and alienation. To make it as clear as possible, Death metal is the imagination a serial killer, as perceived by a mostly-normal introverted teenager.

Black metal has ill intent towards your world, dear listener. Were it a psychic force capable of manifesting physically it would be your ruthless philosopher autocrat, cruelly sentencing you to darkness and imprisonment while all the while explaining to you why it must be done. And you would agree. It would strip you of your humanly characteristics because you do not deserve them. In that it can imagine these characteristics it follows that they exist and they are of value. It, then, understands you, or at least has tried enough to exist besides you. It knows of no other way to contribute to this world, it has never felt the transcendental value of offering something to the world with no wish to see returns, besides perhaps its new black metal CD (in hand-numbered copies, to be sure).

The piercing scream of black metal is that moment when that entity gives up on your world, and the resulting triumph in its minor-key dirge is that of autonomy, of being unchained from your conventions. Metaphysics are all that exist. The flesh is a nuisance, in fact it might be there expressly to not be touched. To be resisted, as all temptations besides the call of death. Many of these teenagers wrote their peans to dark gods and spirits before having felt a man or woman's sexual touch. Most that listen to it certainly can attest to what thrill came first, that of the Awe of Death or the Cry of Passion.

Black metal is for the socially impaired. Pale-faced peter pans and outcasts, the 'weirdos'. Their gateway into self-actualization (or fantasy thereof) is through the triumph of will, through the blood-red flowing romance inherent in Heavy Metal. Any violence they imagine has no real external object, it is not about you; It is self-inflicted. The 'depressive black metal' trend was the final, crass (and of course American) realization of what all black metal ever was. The mistress has a high price, she demands holocaust. The voice of black metal, the piercing shriek or grating rasp are the manifestations of hysteria. A hysterical person might end up killing you, but only because they didn't manage to destroy themselves first.

The monster in black metal is the ultimate representation of social alienation. It is the capitalist Atom-person, outside social context, its burning romance without avenue to offer to the world. It is not a careless automation, all blades and pincers, mangling all flesh, living and otherwise in its path like death metal is. It is a painted scowl on rosy cheeks, a constant dialectic between life, the value of life and the tragedy of mortality. Black metal doesn't want to die, but it will if it has to in order to live forever.

From the above point of view it can be easily extrapolated why it is almost impossible to have effective and convincing black/death metal. Furthermore, it is very clear why black metal had to come out of death metal, and why black metal bands that in later age return to death metal were, and are, mostly laughable for it. Choose a side, lonely man.

Or at least, so I posit. I welcome contradiction, discussion and examples.

The gardens of this Subculture will be watered with some regularity again.