Saturday, May 17, 2014

Time and Archive

Heavy Metal's pretty big on inhumanity. A fantasy uninhibited by the limits of flesh, of weaknesses and passions, unbounded by place, indeed seeking a certain type of placelessness. Almost timelessness.

But only almost. There is one function of time that Heavy Metal is in love with. It is not the eternal now, nor is it a week ago or two years ago and of course it is not a tomorrow. If there's one thing Heavy Metal spits on, it's tomorrow.

Heavy Metal instead, lusts for History. History means 'the past', but it also means 'an archive'. The past has power because it is necessary to invent it, and therefore infuse it with our fantasies - that is how we can justify to ourselves that what we want is not just want, but truth. Willpower is not enough to shape a History, we also need an order to the narrative, a painstaking, thorough codification of parts and how they come together. A simple story that we can teach. That is what an archive is, a science, a memorized blueprint for a terrible weapon.

History is power.

I started this blog pursuing this end. Creating an archive of what-happened-when-and-why, understanding what Heavy Metal did to me by harnessing the power of history (personal or otherwise makes no difference). I was, and remain, equipped to do this because I know things, I've put in the work, I have suspicions of language, I can feel it when a conclusion is near.

And yet, this blog will not conclude. It will not reach a logical endpoint. I will never create this archive of one hundred examinations of great Heavy Metal records. Is it because I don't want to, anymore? I couldn't say, until recently. Obviously, I had noticed I was diverging from my initial mission statement but at no point had I realized I wouldn't eventually get back to it.

I realize now that in my desire to understand Heavy Metal and what it did to me, I have constructed a framework that prescribes its own limitations. They are borne from and tainted by a pursuit of power that is aside. Erecting an archive might get me hard, but, increasingly, that's all it can do. And it's been useful and interesting, but at least now I realize why I can't keep doing it and I'm going from one derivé to another, circling around my point.

This circling, this ambiguity, this scattershot approach suits me much more. As far as I'm concerned, the 100 records thing, I've proven my point. Anyone can read the reviews that are there and extrapolate further on matters of taste and 'should I listen to this record or not?'. If you've found what I've written so far useful, then yes, you will gain much from filling in the blanks with the master list.

I am - and will continue to - step aside from expectations in how I deal with Heavy Metal in this blog. I will discuss records and songs and moments and whatnot, but not towards a glorified History. There will never be a lush opening of the museum. I want there to be ambiguous spaces, holes of meaning and challenges in a narrative which was becoming more and more air-tight. Heavy Metal remains dead, a decomposing corpse upon the altar of History. We achieved all we ever wanted and the price we paid was an endless masculine performance, a reenactment of an imagined glorious past. We were never teenagers, we were men. We came into being as men, before that we never even existed.

To gain anything useful if that is not a satisfying conclusion, we must learn to forget a little.

In practical terms, you may not even notice a difference, but don't be alarmed if you find yourselves much more reluctant to believe anything I have to say in the future.


  1. Quite elucidating, that reviewing and archiving itself is also a form of pursuit of power. We become the owners of history, the authorities, thinking we can conquer eternity itself, thus consciously or not seeking to retain our position, feeling enmity towards any change of the status quo. It feels kind of depressing, knowing that we'll eventually be yesterday's news ourselves, right? We can't really stop seeking power (nor I'm convinced that we should) or effect on the world, but we could at least surrender to the timelessness of honesty (not to say truth, which I know won't ring well with you). Become less rigid, but also more critical (and self-critical). Discourse on heavy metal is missing this to a huge extent (especially in relation with its anti-social and self-affirming aspects) even at these intellectual-ish corners of the internet that seem promising. Which is completely logical anyway, since people get into heavy metal in the first place to escape from criticism. But if we were always "Men" we should have also learned the hard part of it by now...

    (By the way, the heavy metal enmity of tomorrow could also be reflected in your own pessimism about HM's future in front of an idealized past, did that ever occur to you?)

  2. You're understanding me very well and yes -- my enmity of tomorrow is a chicken and egg thing with HM. Did I get drawn to this type of music because of it, or did this type of music bring it out in me?

    We know what the answer is in Historical terms: HM was borne during the cold war, the peak and collapse of grand narratives, it's a shard of broken dreams and dreadful realities, it culminated in an off-beat crescendo with the so-called 'end of history' and it's both a product of and a reaction to post-modernism, blah blah blah

    But I do think the less is directly said about a HM future, (were such a thing to exist and to be quantified), the best. Even without an archival viewpoint, waxing poetical about the glorious HM tomorrow is as masculine and therefore restrictive as holding rigid to an invented HM past. The best thing to do about a tomorrow is to just act it out without a script. Be involved in the doing and let it be (mis)understood in its moment. I am working towards this goal, as I know you are.