Monday, September 26, 2011

Hipster gentrification

This post is inspired by a post I just read on Rate Your Music which struck me as particularly interesting. In a thread generally about metal, one guy wrote this:

"I dabble in black metal because at times it resembles bombastic shoegaze, but I guess I'd say there is too much lion-like roaring, presumably to imitate satan's beast the antichrist in a bid to as archangel guard the lord almighty until his ultimate defeat."

What makes this remarkable is that this is perhaps the first time I've heard someone infatuated with "hipster black metal" who's willing to express the reality of what they like: not black metal itself, but some of its aesthetic tropes when combined with a style of music that they prefer. This guy doesn't claim to be into Mayhem or Darkthrone, doesn't posture as a guy who's deeply into Ukrainian NSBM, and doesn't pretend to "get" the style of music at all: he openly admits that black metal itself is not really what he's looking for. Herein lies the great gulf between "hipster black metal" and the metal scene itself- this grey area is never explored. Most of the people in their overpriced Wolves In the Throne Room hoodies see themselves as an intrinsic part of the metal scene, just like any other metalhead, when they are absolutely (and quite obviously) not.

Fans of hipster black metal/sludge/doom/what have you tend to decry the more traditionalist parts of the metal scene as elitist, but this is hardly the case. Metalheads at their root have no problem with the music of Liturgy, Thou, or any other sort of tertiary hanger-on of the metal scene; the issues lie with the ideology of the fans and their obsessive desire to belong to a community that they otherwise seem to dislike. Most outsider metal bands- those with members cultivated from punk, indie rock, or any other style- have no desire to make music that reflects and embraces the carnal musical and ideological ethos of metal itself; rather, it's an attempt to manipulate metal to the genre of their choice. Members of indie rock bands almost never form a straight-up raw black metal band that would be indistinguishable from the rest of the scene if you didn't know their pedigree; the indie history becomes in and of itself one of the most important parts of the music. Which begs the question: why form a metal band at all?

This comes to my main point, which is a phrase I've coined for this sort of activity: "hipster gentrification." Gentrification refers to when an affluent section of the population moves into a lower-class section of a city, seeking out cheaper property or a sort of "authentic culture" that doesn't exist in their own community; the result of this is that the "indigenous population," so to speak, is forced out of their own homes through rising costs of living, as existing businesses begin catering to the affluent instead of the indigenous. Keep in mind that the value judgments- the estimations of money, or of "high" versus "low" culture- are fairly irrelevant here; it's just a shorthand to describe the sort of cultural imperialism that we've seen in the metal scene.

This is not to say it has to be this way. As the starting quote of this article shows, it's entirely possible for members of other scenes (in his case, the shoegaze scene) to be, as Pavel would say, "genre tourists"; people who intrinsically understand that they aren't a part of the "black metal scene" proper, who simply desire to sample the elements they enjoy at their choosing without investing themselves fully. I would say that this is what the majority of the hipster black metal scene does, but what separates the individual above from the bulk of them is the honesty with which he expresses this value. This guy isn't a part of the metal scene, and doesn't want to be- there's merely aspects of it that he enjoys, and the rest of it he feels no need to delve into.

The inherent problem with genre tourism is that most people are whetted to a particular musical community (at least when it comes to music nerds like myself and those reading this blog,) and everything outside of said home community is treated like a playground. I'll admit it myself; the scenes with which I have a more tertiary interest (hip-hop, electronic music, noise, punk, etc.) are definitely handled, in my mind, with a lighter hand than metal, simply because I haven't followed the history of those genres extensively and haven't invested the time and energy into them that I have metal. However, what I don't do is start a breakcore project when the only member of that scene I really like is Venetian Snares. Why is that? Because I don't want to be a metalhead making a breakcore project- I'd like to make a breakcore project that stands on its own in its own musical community. Otherwise, the results would be shallow and designed to appeal more to my scene than theirs. In short, it's not my place.

However, you regularly see this in the metal scene with hipster black metal or its related substyles, both in musical and ideological form. Take, for example, Iskra, a band that earns a great deal of my ire. Iskra makes a crust punk/black metal fusion, but the black metal is pretty tertiary as Iskra very clearly resides in the crust punk scene. This wouldn't be an issue if the "black metal elements" weren't pushed so heavily, and the lyrics weren't about exactly the sort of 15 year old humanist poli-sci that black metal so staunchly opposes. This is not a natural combination of two related styles; rather, it's Iskra's attempt to humanize a genre that's not their own, and push their own personal ideology into a style that roundly rejects it. The same phenomena is obvious with Liturgy, Thou, and any other number of bands.

I don't want to suggest that ideology is the be-all, end-all of musical communities; rather, I'd suggest that the way the ideology is expressed must be in tune with the scene it's emulating. As I stated in my piece about Christian metal, I would be a thousand times more comfortable with Christianity in metal if it was expressed in a manner congruent with the bulk of the metal scene: warlike, violent, aggressive, and dogmatic. The same goes with Iskra: I would be perfectly fine with their silly far-left politics if their lyrics were violent and revolutionary. Instead, we're left with a bunch of hand-wringing lyrical imagery about how being cruel to gays is just, like, so totally mean! Even Brutal Truth did better than that (and with better music to boot.)

If you're the sort of person who isn't a metalhead but is reading this blog anyway (and apparently there's a fair number of you out there,) you probably understand that this is, inherently, not your scene. This isn't us restricting access to it; feel free to enjoy the music, talk about it, share it with other non-metalhead friends, and combine it with your own styles in rich and varied ways. Simply understand that our scene, like yours (whichever it may be,) was not constructed as a playground for you: we have our own narrative, our own history, and our own community, so if you're going to be a tourist, don't hide the camera and the fanny pack like we're not going to notice.

67 comments:

  1. That guy sounds like a Weakling fan. And for Iskra acting so vociferous with their message, you'd think they would actually try to enunciate the lyrics. That HGAGHHH SHAGHAAAHH BLAAAAGH shit is really fucking annoying.

    But yeah, I pretty much agree with this. Most people would be happy to simply write off what you're describing as mere genre overlap just to avoid what the real issue is. That's what a lot of people don't get and don't bother trying to understand. It's not really about the music in a case like this - it's about the attitude that comes with the enjoyment and trying to slip your own agenda into a different outlet that you feel might bolster your original one.

    It's like being emotionally smitten with shoegaze, yet deciding that your love of that genre might become better tempered by forming a relationship with metal. It's like using one to enhance the appeal of the other, all whilst jettisoning what you originally like in each one, in a bid to transcend the genres by means of some personal relationship with the two. It's not a case of genre overlap, because in this case the music has become secondary to molding a personal aesthetic, instead of just enjoying the two genres for what they are.

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  2. I don't like having to worry about whether I'd be considered hipster or any other damn thing. At the very least I ought to be considered to old to be expected to give a shit. Anyway there's a lot about this that feels nonsensical and self-contradictory to me. I think you're having a gut animal reaction to what you see as interlopers on your territory and you're inventing an elaborate rationalization for it that doesn't hold up. If you admire the guy you wuoted for his honesty, you should be honest too and just say "I don't like these guys 'cause they're different and I WAS HERE FIRST!"

    I got into metal, or at least as into it as I was able at the time, as a 12-year-old in Iowa in the late '80s. I loved Metallica (Justice was their newest at that point), Anthrax, ST, S.O.D., Sepultura, Sabbath... but I also thought Jane's Addiction and The Cure were badass. Somewhere along the line I got into industrial and then noise-rock and decided I had found something "heavier" and metal started to look goofy to me. It didn't help that nu-metal happened shortly after. Exploring the roots of underground music, I also got into several dozen other things. Point is I "left" metal and went off in about a dozen other directions. The scene I ended up hanging out in most ended up turning into indie rock.

    Sometime in '07 I found a bunch of closeout cassette tapes that my local grocery store had picked up for unknown reasons and were selling stupid cheap. I bought anything with an SST logo on it. One of those turned out to be Saint Vitus "Hallow's Victim." First couple times I listened to it I laughed at it. The third time I suddenly started to really like it. It reminded me of certain people I'd known and liked. Plus I'd been noticing that indie rock was becoming really lame and gutless. So this turned out to be my gateway back into metal. Only this time I didn't abandon everything else for it because I'd grown past thinking I had to.

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  3. [continued]



    Anyway I still love the hell out of my Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo and Black Keys. I don't think it's anybody's fucking business to put me in a box and tell me what I should or shouldn't enjoy or relate to or attempt to understand. I don't think I really _have_ a "home" genre, in fact I question the very concept. If I had one, what would it be? The '70s rock I liked when I was 8 years old? Sure, I just gave Bad Company's self-titled a spin the other day and it still sounds as good to my ears and my heart as it ever did. I never stopped loving Yes's "Fragile" and I'll defend the fucking Eagles anytime. But is that my "home community?"

    In the past, metalheads have been some of my favorite people I've met, but lately I feel like I have to be on the defensive lest certain of them find out I like The Fall and become offended with my presence. I don't like that I have to feel that way. I think it's fucking stupid. Metalheads weren't like that when I was in high school. The metalheads I knew then didn't care that I didn't have long hair and that I wore paisley shirts instead of cool metal t-shirts (I never had my own money to buy my own clothes and my parents made my haircut appointments too). Maybe I didn't "fit in" with them either, but at least they didn't care. Which was a comfort to me since I didn't fit in anywhere else. Humans naturally want to belong to something and I'm as prone to it as anybody.

    Moreover, no one is born metal or born indie rock or born punk or any of those things. At some point you chose it. Some chose it later than you and are still working on finding their way around in it.

    A good part of your "reasoning" seems to assume that people will purposely spend their own money to go to shows full of music and people they can't stand. That doesn't make any sense at all.

    If they're not _really_ into it, they'll eventually move on to the next thing, so all this huffing and puffing about them is just so much sound and fury.

    We're all really just tourists on this mortal coil anyway.

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  4. This tribalism in metal that's being espoused in this blog post died the day cable internet connections entered the home, dorm room and office.

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  5. Chuck completely and utterely missed the point of the whole article. But Yo La Tengo is awesome so whatever.

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  6. Despite the term still being in regular use, I don't think any real blues music has been made since about the early '70s. So consider that similarly, there may in fact be no such thing as real black metal anymore.

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  7. hey chuck, throughout your entire giant life story, you talked on and on about yourself, about fashion, about all the different music that you like, about how special and individual you are, but at no point do you actually talk about metal or feeling any sort of kinship to its community. oh my, you can listen to saint vitus and bad company in the same day? impressive. you must have missed the reams of indie rock, goth, punk, hardcore, and even hip-hop we cover on this blog.

    in short, your whole sprawling, inane, obsessively self-congratulatory comment is so fundamentally incorrect on so many levels that i can't think of a proper response other than "no."

    in fact, let me take the time to assure you that based on your words, no matter how many metal shirts, haircuts, or other aesthetic tropes you manage to achieve, you'll never "fit in" in the metal scene. and after all, you're looking to fit in, aren't you?

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  8. Your knee jerk reaction basically validated the opening couple of lines of his opening post.

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  9. interesting, so you're just going to wholly ignore the multiple occasions where i state that non-metalheads being involved in the metal community is not a problem in and of itself. i understand that actually appreciating a community, style, or artform in a manner that isn't as glib, restrained, and ironic as possible is awfully gauche these days, but perhaps your aging gen x-style quips could change out their flannel for something a little more contemporary.

    or at least you could get even briefer with a "u mad bro?"

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  10. Am I doing the same thing to doom metal if I decide to play my guitar tuned low because I like the way it sounds?

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  11. All I meant to get at by pointing out the long and twisted development of my relationship with music is that things are not as black-or-white as you make them out to be. I don't think I'm so special. But it's an illustration that music subcultures aren't these tribes that w're born into and stuck with for our whole lives, they are matters of choice and curiosity -- and that therefore your whole "genre tourism" and "home comminuty [genre]" concepts are complete bullshit. Anyone who is still defining their identity according to a music subculture past the age of about 19 is kinda retarded.

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  12. I'm kinda siding with Chuck on this: enjoy reading this site, I'm probably a hipster, but too old to give a fuck.

    As you were.

    (not suggesting C. is a 'hipster' obvs. just me)

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  13. don't you see a little bit of cognitive dissonance in crowing about how little you care how you're seen

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  14. If I seemed to talk a lot about myself it's because I've never been anyone else and so can't speak for them. The point of the story was to lead up to the challenge to you to tell me what, given this history, my "home" community is, if you would have me retreat to there and never try to be part of yours. If you actually pay attention my story you'l find multiple places in my story where I allude to feeling a kinship with metal and metalheads I have known. Your kind of attitude basically ruins any such kinship for anyone who might be just starting to feel it, by pushing away anyone who doesn't meet your little standard. I'm long past being concerned with conforming, but I am naturally compelled to resist hostility, which is what I'm feeling here, so if I come off a bit obsessed with this topic, that is why. But I guess, whatever, go right on ahead and kill your own scene, see if I give a shit.

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  15. you fundamentally do not understand anything about the post. nowhere does it say that anyone should be pushed away or shut out- that's your own insecurity projecting. what i simply don't want to see are people deliberately warping the principle elements of the metal scene to make it more like another scene, which is what happens in hipster black metal. god forbid the iskra fans feel left out, eh? they sure would contribute a lot to the community.

    as for what your "home" scene is, i really don't care, and i'm inclined to believe it's whatever allows you to feel the most impressed with yourself.

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  16. Chuck, I agree with you that the idea of a musical "home community" is the weak point of this article. I think it makes sense to talk about many fans of underground, subcultural music as having genres in which they feel "at home" (be it metal, hardcore, goth, noise, etc), but clearly that's not how most people listen to music. But I think you latched onto the "home community" idea because it gave you an opportunity to criticize the essay, rather than stepping back and seeing that it's really not that important to what Noah was saying.

    Who Noah (and I) are calling out is the guy who gets into a certain small segment of metal bands because those bands sound LIKE a genre that he's already more into. It doesn't matter what his "home" genre is...indeed, he might not have one! What's important is that he digs Darkthrone because it reminds him of hardcore, or WITTR and it reminds him of "post-rock," or Bone Awl because it reminds him of noise music. He doesn't really explore the rest of metal, or even the rest of black metal, but suddenly he is "REALLY INTO BLACK METAL" and has bought a variety of merchandise and is eager to tell you about his opinions of bands that actually matter to you. This guy sucks. And the problem isn't that he's strayed from some "home genre," it's that he's engaging superficially with this music that he purports to be into. It's not where he's coming from, it's the inauthenticity of where he's going. Noah put it simplest in a conversation I had with him a while back: "Hipsters who are into metal aren't actually into metal--they like the bands that sound LEAST like metal, and MOST like the styles of music they were already into before they moved on to metal." They're afraid of/uninterested in enjoying and learning from the genre on its own terms.

    And I think THAT attitude is all that "metal hipster" refers to. While there really ARE some total hipster nerds out there who will swerve from Prurient to Satanic Warmaster in mid-conversation and start trying to tell you what your music means--I know because I've met them--it would be really hard to reduce this new, insincere way of "being metal" to any one group of people. If anything, most of the people on the "hipster metal" scene are hardcore kids who aren't hipsters at all (and who are sometimes cool guys).

    So, in conclusion, Noah's point was simply that it's FINE to listen to black metal out of passing curiosity or an interest to find sounds related to the ones you already love. Maybe it's even cool that people are getting interested. But it's best when these curious people ACKNOWLEDGE that that's what they are, instead of claiming to be "really into metal" and fearfully dismissing actual metal fans as "close-minded kvlt purists." Because the minute someone shows me a band that combines Burzum, Mogwai, and Dead Can Dance in a way that's actually GOOD, I'll be all ears.

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  17. If that's the kind of guy you're worried about, then i submit you are giving waaaaay too much attention to something that doesnt deserve it. They should simply be ignored and not engaged with. There will always be people like that in any scene, but left to their own devices they never gain any critical mass in it because their interest isnt deep enough to make then stick around so they eventually move on. We actually feed their presence the more we acknowledge it by getting all up-in-arms like this; plus all this furor feeds into and strengthens the latent reactionary, purist, stagnationist elements that are what really ruin scenes, because its so easily confused for them. It happened at least twice with punk rock, and look where it got that, its just another dopey mass-culture nostalgia trip now.

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  18. I wish it were as simple as ignoring them, but unfortunately they're not just listening to metal, they're attempting to play it, and they're generating a body of critical writing that validates this horrible decision. And THAT was the real thrust of Noah's argument--when you don't understand that your interest is really in a very narrow section of a genre, you end up producing horribly shallow music when you attempt to play in that style. Noah respects breakcore enough to acknowledge that he doesn't really "get" breakcore, is only into the breakcore projects that sound like metal, etc. Therefore he doesn't make breakcore.

    Basically, the "metal hipster" mentality isn't just the attitude of these harmless people who research the genre online and add it to their catalog of geekery...It's people like WITTR making awful music based on a misunderstanding of metal and where they stand in relation to it, and its critics like Brandon Stosuy and the twat from The Needledrop telling the world that this music is brilliant.

    In short, it's important for people who really care about metal to counter this deluge of shit culture because, in the words of the Gang of Four, "what we think changes how we act."

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  19. Another miatake that is made is when a few of these people latch on to certain bands, lashing out at those bands, blaming the bands for some of their fans. Especially because these are so often the bands pushing artistic boundaries, which relates back to the purist element, and stifles innovation. I think A look at metal's history reveals that one of the strengths behind its enduring quality has been its willingness to evolve. I came across WITTR when looking for a metal band, and while i xan understand the comparison ive never considered their atmospheric elements to be an intentional attempt to be shoegaze or post-rock. I believe their appreciation of black metal to ve sincere, and to have been a powerful inspiration to them, if not in all its specific ideological points, at least in the intensity and fervency of its commitment to them, and also for its sense of strong connection to place. I believe the band's appreciation to be sincere, even if that is not the case for every individual that claims to be a fan. If you feel that their music isnt good thats one thing and any decent scene can abide that kind of difference of opinion. But dont attack the artists motivations unless you have some pretty solid evidence other than they have some douchey supposed fans.

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  20. I would be happy to attack WITTR's motivations, but I didn't do that at all in what I just wrote. I have no doubt that they and Krallice and all the rest "appreciate" black metal and could namedrop a lot of bands in the genre. And clearly it's "inspired" them because they try to play it. It's the MANNER of that appreciating and being inspired that I question. But more than that, I think they fundamentally misunderstand black metal and metal in general, and that's evident from the music itself, which absolutely blows--it succeeds neither as black metal nor as metal nor as music.

    Also, it's a classic canned rationalization for USBM to say "you're just hating on them because they're pushing artistic boundaries!" Zero boundaries are pushed by WITTR...other, more serious black metal bands have made the stupid decision of throwing lots of ambient music in the middle of their songs. And other, more serious black metal bands have explored their riffing ideas with considerably more to show for it. Other, more serious black metal bands have made music that verges on New Age meditation music. For real. If Krallice pushes any boundary, its the bounds of my attention span. Moreover, making something new should never be an end in itself. Make something new because it deserves to be made. Better yet, make something new because it NEEDS to be made.

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  21. wittr does nothing new in black metal. they simple do it with more artsy album covers, easily digestible melodies, and all the trappings of "sophisticated" black metal for people who believe that songs about satan and goats are beneath them. the slavic scene was doing what wittr does now point by point by point but in a less fashionable, mass-market way. the popularly lauded hipster black metal bands are not doing anything new; they're simply marketing themselves better than the bands who actually created the style.

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  22. OK but now it merely sounds like your problem with the bands is simply that you don't think they're good, and you have certain ideas about _why_ they aren't good (that they misinterpret the genre). That doesn't have the least to do with all this "hipster" nonsense.


    A fruitful discussion of scene politics needs some grounding in cultural theory, at which I am at armchair level at best, but I'll give it a go. As I see it there are two forces that ruin sociocultural movements. The first is stagnation, which comes from within; the second is what the Situationists called "recuperation", which is imposed from without, basically its co-option by the surrounding official culture: the official/pop culture attempts to absorb and neuter the movement in order to make it a "safe" outlet for nascent youth rebellion. In this way a movement is replaced by a mere "genre," with its hollow promise of community. In a comment on the "metal jumps the shark" post I point to this latter as something I see threatening metal at this time. I believe it goes beyond this hipster black metal thing -- "black metal" is merely the canary in the coal mine for what is coming in the larger sphere of metal as a whole.

    Unfortunately, stagnation often arises out of the backlash against recuperation in its early stages. Members of the scene respond to the threat with a reactionary program to keep the scene "pure." Ground-breaking artists who exhibit influences from or draw in fans from other scenes are lashed out against. When this impulse is allowed to take over, recuperation wins the more easily.

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  23. Metal has survived worse. It came through both 80s pop("hair")-metal and "nu-metal" intact. It did so specificzally by _not_ falling to this reactionary purist impulse, but instead by _stepping up_ innovation and evolution in the underground. For example, one of the ways it did this in the 80s was by cozying up to and inviting influence from the hardcore scene, which was an outgrowth of punk. The "crossover", "thrash", and "crust" phenomena happened from this. Today, hardcore and metal are close buddies with a lot of overlap. Much of what we consider to be the aesthetic of modern metal actually comes from hardcore and various offshoots of this era of metal/hardcore alchemy. Even the anticommercial ethic of black metal owes much to old-school hardcore. Arguably, the moment where Metallica started to suck was when they abandoned their hardcore influences. As for the nu-metal era, metal stayed vital this time by incorporating influences from the heavier sides of indie and "alternative" underground rock -- notice the frequent references made by leading metal musicians these days to such influences as Unsane and Swans, who were never considered metal bands in their earlier heyday. Meanwhile, traditionalist undercurrents like trad doom help by providing continuity through all the changes and evolutions.

    Innovation in an artistic movement necessarily comes primarily through inspiration from outside, much as tribal societies mitigated the effects of inbreeding by importing members from other tribes, usually via marriage. To extend the genetics metaphor further, relate artistic stagnation to inbreeding; outside influence to interbreeding; and experimentation to mutation. Genetic biodiversity is crucial to the long-term survival of a plant or animal species or a human community, and the artistic equivalent thereof is likewise vital to the long-term survival of a sociocultural/artistic movement. Mutation (experimention) alone cannot provide significant diversity because so few large-scale mutations are viable and most die in infancy.

    Thus metal is done a disservice by getting so wound up about outsiders taking an interest in the metal scene. We can criticize their interest as false or superficial but in so doing we risk driving away sincere interest and adventurous innovation.

    If you think I'm full of shit here, feel free to provide alternate theory.

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  24. edit: "Even the anticommercial ethic of the _original_ black metal scene owed..."

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  25. You know dude, I must say, I do think you're full of shit on this. I'm tired of this thread, but here are a couple simple points.

    1. You insistently miss the core of what we are trying to say. "Hipsterism" in metal just IS the mentality that produces and valorizes this new wave of shit music. The music isn't bad BECAUSE it's a misinterpretation of the genre, its simply bad music because it's poorly written and governed by hack aesthetic ideas. But that comes about, in part, because of a misinterpretation of the genre. A misunderstanding of where the music is coming from and a misunderstanding of how best to go about doing something new with it (of course, the second misunderstanding stems in part from the first).

    2. Sure, stagnation is bad, but I can't think of a scene that died because of it. Can you? Punk sure as hell didn't--punk died because it got co-opted by people eager and excited about doing new and constructive things with it. Crass and the Dischord Records crew, to name names. Those guys did far more damage than the everyday blokes from the suburban UK hammering away at the same 3 chords.

    3. We aren't against doing new things. In fact, whenever we find a metal band making cool, genuinely progressive music we post it on here straightaway! But we sure as hell don't subscribe to the progress narrative you just laid out (which is, of course, CENTRAL to the justification for hipster black metal). The drive towards innovation for innovation's sake is simply an artistic sublimation of the capitalist drive towards novelty. It's a deadening compulsion that leads only to more shallow, cut-and-paste attempts at "doing something new." Black metal by definition rejects this way of judging music, and the broader way of seeing the world that it reflects.

    4. Outside influences are fine. Of course they're fine! But you made a slip in comparing the cross-pollination of the 80s and 90s with the co-option that's going on now. There are tons of differences, and one that is simple but important is a point you made yourself--back then it was metal guys drawing on outside influences, whereas now it's "outsiders taking an interest in the metal scene." One thing to be working from within a tradition towards interesting outside sounds, quite another to misconstrue that tradition through the lens of said outside sounds. One thing to use non-metal music in a metal way, another to try and "redeem" metal from its metalness by making it more like "respectable" art music.

    5. You're pretty confused about this stagnation/recuperation distinction. Your point about a reactionary backlash is well-taken...this can lead to some pretty bad music, which is itself ultimately ripe for recuperation (Katharsis). You seem to be suggesting, though, that the hipster USBM crew are the "ground-breaking" artists bringing in outside influences to save the scene. No! These are the forces of recuperation, par excellence! If metal needs a new spurt of innovation to fight that off--and I'm not sure your true but you may have a point--that innovation's gotta come from some other place.

    6. AS WE HAVE SAID BEFORE, THERE IS NOTHING GENUINELY INNOVATIVE ABOUT HIPSTER BANDS. their incorporation of "outside influences" usually means seizing on something that was already present in BM and exaggerating it until its resemblance to its indie rock analogue becomes obvious to the Needle Drop guy. When they go beyond that, it's simply to stitch disparate parts together. But there's no new music there, just two pre-existing styles shoved side by side or on top of one another. And it's always an injustice to BOTH styles. Take Altar of Plagues for example. Maybe their new stuff is better, but from what I've heard it's generic postrock via Explosions In The Sky and generic black metal via Burzum. The seams are visible and the music blows.

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  26. (ok, that was a lot more than a couple of simple points. but I'm done now.)

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  27. (and by "your true" i meant "you're right.")

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  28. OK let's approach it from another angle: if outsiders intruding on metal is a problem, where do we get new metalheads? Oh I see: outsiders intruding on metal is only a problem when don't get it and/or form bands that suck. Wow, way to generate a lot of useless heat just to say something stupidly obvious.

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  29. However, you are dead on right to draw a distinction between outsiders appropriating metal versus metal artists seeking ideas from outside metal. It's an important distinction that I admittedly overlooked.

    But this only leaves us with the question, how does one know if another, or even oneself, is coming from within metal? What is the standard for membership? I think much of where I'm arguing from is to challenge those who claim to know what the membership standard is to state and define it clearly, and as far as I can tell, no one can. So that leaves us lacking an objective standard that can be realistically agreed on and applied, and having to acknowledge that people become metalheads or punks or whatever by their own choice and their own actions, which leaves anyone unqualified to judge their metal-ness, as it were, because no one has followed them around their whole life or lived inside their heads.

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  30. Indeed, how does one even answer the question themselves of whether they are a member of some scene, other than just declaring it by fiat?

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  31. hey chuck if outside ideas are so crucial to artistic expansion, how exactly do you explain black and death metal (the most important developments in metal by far) which originate purely from within the scene itself with no exterior influences.

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  32. I submit that such "declaring membership by fiat" is exactly what you are doing in the negative sense, by inventing this category called "hipster bands", throwing a bunch of bands you don't like into it, and then declaring them not members.

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  33. WE ARE NOT AGAINST "OUTSIDERS" GETTING INTO METAL. We are, as you said, against their doing stupid shit with it, which is what happens when they relate to it in the way we call "metal hipsterism." Anyone who makes a genuinely sick metal album is, pretty much by definition, NOT AN OUTSIDER ANYMORE. Justin Broadrick has always been more a music nerd than a dedicated metalhead or punk, but he's never been a hipster dilettante (except maybe with Jesu).

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  34. What? Black metal was influenced by death metal and crusties. Death metal grew out of thrash, focusing on its darkest elements, with some influence from doom, and blastbeats adopted from grindcore, which itself grew out of metal-influenced hardcore and crust, where they came about as a mutational innovation derived from pushing fast tempos to an extreme level.

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  35. Okay, making a good metal album is a good standard of metal membership for musicians, what about for non-musician fans?

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  36. I don't know... never mind. This is going in circles, pretty much as I expected.

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  37. However I think I've discovered my category in your taxonomy. I'm a music nerd. I'm gratified to find that you don't just lump music nerds in with hipsters. :)

    Look, in the end, I'm not here to pick a fight, I'm here to try to understand, and this means challenging things that don't make sense to me.

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  38. for non-musician fans, how about being genuinely interested in exploring stuff outside the Pitchfork purview, and being able to talk about/enjoy the music on its own terms rather than on the terms of noise or punk or indie? people who understand where the music's coming from, and--optimally--have a kind of nonpatronizing respect for the "weird" and "scary" ideologies behind it. of course you can only know this shit by hearing them talk or seeing what they write. i've met plenty of people who haven't built their lives around metal but TOTALLY qualify as people who fundamentally "get it." people with good bullshit detectors, who appreciate the real shit and can smell the fake stuff a mile away.

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  39. All right, fair enough. It's pretty subjective but of course it needs to be. I would qualify that the real/fake axis is itself subjective and bound to exhibit some difference of opinion, but I'd suppose a real desire to _find_ the real shit and hear out others' opinions on what's real counts for something. I think a good bullshit detector, at least one specific to a given subject, is something you have to develop through experience and learning though. Speaking for myself of course.

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  40. Outsiders getting into metal isn't a problem at all. Nok seems to be trying to expatiate what conditions exist for it become a bad thing. There are certain idealistic mindsets for the creation of different styles of art, and metal takes a rather unique one. That's the point to me; 'hipsters' being honest about their 'genre tourism' is all fine and dandy, it's that us metal dilettantes feel that they cross a pretty solemn artistic line when they decide to immerse themselves with creating an art they have tenuous knowledge of. Maybe that's the simple point: outsiders listening to it and learning about it is just fine and even encouraged. But it's when they feel the boldness to try and represent metal themselves (by either playing it or playing expert on it) when they haven't yet reached a certain point of sincerity and dedication as a fan or listener, that it becomes artistically vapid.

    Admittedly, the whole reason this seems like a big deal is merely because maybe in the metal world it is more so than other genres. Extreme metal has a much more staunch and demanding code of conduct to support the extremity of the scene, which has always thrived on purity via honesty and rich devotion. The hipster doesn't have any of that, but yet not having any of that isn't what makes one a hipster either. One can merely enjoy their cursory listening of metal as a non- or semi-fan, but it becomes hipsterdom when that person feels the self-indulgent need to try and make a rushed and unnatural leap in involvement in order to feel more legitimate, instead of just naturally getting into the music gradually and taking a position in it when they feel they've grown close enough to the genre. The poser/hipster wants to be something without investing the time and energy into becoming it, and it's the hatred for this laziness that seems to be the focal point here.

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  41. That's still subjective enough to open up to disagreements about who has been lazy and who hasn't -- again, none of us has followed these people around all their lives, we don't _really_ know the depth of their involvement, and I think we should be careful of making that claim against a band just because you don't think they're good, or because they work a stylistic combination that you don't think works well.

    But it's not farfetched to say that someone who doesn't really understand a musical form but attempts to offer up a work in that style is more likely to make something of lesser quality. It actually reminds me of that scene in Until The Light Takes Us where Fenriz (yeah I know, y'all hate that guy, probably hate that movie too, but I just made this mental connection and found it interesting) is having that phone interview where the interviewer asks him about the rumor that he's into electronica and whether he's going to make an electronic album, and he gets kinda pissed and says that it's not his proper place to make an electronica album, that he's not one of those people who hear a couple electronica tracks and think they can go do that too.

    But on the other hand that was supposedly part of the early appeal of punk, the "i can do that too" feeling people got after seeing their first punk show or hearing their first punk record inspired people to create something honest and immediate who otherwise may have gone on thinking that music-making was something for other, exalted people. I suppose that's just a way in which metal and punk are different beasts.

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  42. i don’t think it’s a question of metal and punk being “different beasts” (although they are). what "early appeal of punk" are you talking about? if you’re talking about the very early appeal of punk, there wasn’t really anything that was going to be shallowly appropriated (i mean, musically at least--visually definitely), and then arrogantly brought to a “new” level. i mean take “post-punk” (if we’re going to the very very early appeal of “i can do that too")--were bands calling themselves EVER “post-punk”? no. but you have shitty bands today calling themselves, on their own websites even, “post-black metal.” do you realize how obnoxious this is, especially when their knowledge of metal is dilettantish? when they’re just picking and choosing a few things here and there to appropriate formally (and badly) into their music at most and then lead into a completely new direction like they’re some sort of pioneers? there’s also the attitude that a lot of the ideologies in metal are ridiculous or weird--that they’re above that.

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  43. "hey chuck if outside ideas are so crucial to artistic expansion, how exactly do you explain black and death metal (the most important developments in metal by far) which originate purely from within the scene itself with no exterior influences."

    This is so fucking wrong it hurts everyone here.

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  44. I know it seems dickish to pick apart listeners and determine how much of a serious fan they are, but that really is the root of the problem. And like the post before this, it is pretty annoying when they throw on labels to their metal genre of choice or simply try too hard to be legitimate. And when they clearly stick out in that yet try to deny it, it's pretty annoying and pointless.

    Also meant to say 'devotee' in my "us metal dilettantes feel" sentence, to clear up any confusion, ha.

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  45. I'd say movements have usually fallen prey to some mixture of stagnation and recuperation, and it can be difficult to see where one ends and the other begins as they feed into each other. However, I let this lie there because it wasn't relevant at the time and would have ony become a distraction in the discussion, but Pavel, you're completely off base about what happened to punk. Your jab at Dischord is based on nothing more than the fact that you just don't like Fugazi and think their music is annoying. Dischord and Fugazi were founded and run by people from directly within the DC hardcore scene, not outsiders trying to co-opt punk/hardcore to change it (hardcore being a punk thing then rather than a metal thing as it's since become). It would seem your understanding of punk history is about on part with mine of black metal.

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  46. @most recent anonymous: props dude, thanks for joining the fray! we are totally on the same wavelength. i wanna add that "hey, I can do that!" obviously MEANT something totally different in early punk than it does in The New Wave of Fake Black Metal. these 2 versions of the same utterance are almost the inverse of each other...the first is the exclamation of someone who is immediately captivated by the SPIRIT of the music, and who can contribute ONLY his spirit to the music (he'll pick up the chords on the fly). the second is the presumptuous declaration of someone who finds the music appealing in terms of its surface aesthetics, and thinks that because he's played post-hardcore or technical death metal or whatever, he can "totally play that shit."

    In the context of 70s punk, certain people DID have the latter reaction. Those were the professional musicians who were on the scene pre-punk and went on to form New Wave bands or boy band punk. And in the context of modern black metal, certain people DO still express the former reaction, the "hey I can do that" of early punk. Those are the zealous teenagers who read the Necronomicon and go out and form bedroom black metal bands that sound exactly like riffless Darkthrones. Generally not the best music, to be sure, but I am SO glad it exists. And that shit is often the butt of jokes made by hipster musicians and critics--"oh, those corpse-painted kvlties, will they ever learn?"

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  47. It's a neat trick though being able to assume that anything you don't like in a genre is the product of interlopers coming in and fucking it up.

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  48. @chuck's last comment: Nah man, I totally meant what I said about Dischord. No, I don't think they were outsiders. I think they were completely part of the punk/hc scene, I just think they were lame-ass dudes with bad ideas about what punk should be, and surprisingly narrow minds for people whose battle cry was "progression!" Of course, I'm talking more about their musical and ethical ideas than their music itself, some of which was pretty damn good. But I do see the dumb ideas coming to a head in projects like Fugazi.

    And seeing as punk was my first love, I do know a thing or two about it. Sure, you probably know way more about the 80s US scene than I do, but that's because it never interested me much aside from The Misfits and Negative Approach. Though in the last year I've come to realize I've been too close-minded--the Boston and New York scenes kicked ass, and it's long since time I gave more serious attention to the proto-alt shit like Dinosaur Jr.

    The punk I know well and love to death is stuff from 78 and before. All time favorite band is The Stooges. The oldschool hardcore I love is the extreme shit from the UK, Sweden, Japan, Italy, etc. The "other" 80s punk. Not all of it metal by the way!

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  49. Chuck: and yes, there have been PLENTY of "true punk" and "true metal" bands responsible for driving the music into the ground. The Exploited etc with punk in the UK (though I don't mind listening to it), the 80s thrash glut in the US, the wave of shitty Emperor wannabes in the late 90s that helped discredit the highest aspirations of the genre and set us up for whats going on today... etc

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  50. and i allow that one of these days someone may totally school me about Dischord or whatever, and maybe it'll be you, but please let's not get into it now...i need to be done with this thread now that we seem to have SOME sort of mutual understanding about black metal (I hope!).

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  51. i dunno. feeling like you don't belong anywhere and are completely isolated is why i adore Dead's lyrics and early MAYHEM so much. he gets over-mythologized for sure, but the guy really could write powerful works of art. and musically, "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" is the absolute zenith of isolation, decay, loneliness, and sorrow. outside and beyond everything.

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  52. hey morgenstern why don't you actually say something instead of just fucking whining like a sullen teenager at a wedding he didn't want to attend

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  53. I was also thinking of the 90s underground punk-rock resurgence that I witnessed, which stagnated pretty quick even when they tried to inject ska into it. It produced a ton of forgettable, soundalike bands, and endless stupid arguments in the pages of Maximum Rock & Roll about what was punk and what wasn't -- not intelligent arguments like this one either, but idiocy like what kinds of shoes are punk. Does anybody give a fuck about Less Than Jake or Digger or anymore? Or shit, even NOFX or Screeching Weasel? (Operation Ivy and Rancid notwithstanding, I personally think their records have held up nicely).

    Blues music would be another example of a stagnated scene, nothing interesting has happened there for decades but there are still tons of lame-ass bands regurgitating the same old shit. Whenever someone comes along and tries something new with it, they get decried as not "true."

    But yeah, I'm getting burned out on this too. It's been educational, though, and I think we've come around to some kind of understanding if not necessarily agreement.

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  54. hip hip hurray! hip hip hurray! hip hip hop hop hap hap!

    cool article and comments!

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  55. Wow...

    The op and Pavel's subsequent comments constitute probably the most articulate takedown of the whole hipster metal thing that I've seen so far. If I could give you guys a terrorist fist jab right now, I would.

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  56. @Supreme: Thanks so much dude! Terrorist fist jab right back at you. I am also working on a WITTR review that I hope will be devastating.

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  57. Late to the party as usual...

    Anyway, having made it through this huge dialogue, I have to voice some serious support for what the blog staff are saying. I share a similar disdain for people who have failed to grasp the essence of a genre before trying to contribute to it. If you think Under a Funeral Moon was nothing more than a necessary stepping-stone on the long road to WITTR &co., then you should think twice before making that demo.

    Having said that, I do occasionally find myself captivated by metal and metal-'influenced' music that was written from an outsider's perspective: I have no interest in singer-songwriter/indie rock, but thought Mount Eerie's 'Wind's Poem' was a really convincing and enjoyable record. Similarly, I think WITTR are onto something good. I agree that in no way are they a 'bright new hope for the scene', but something about it just clicks with me. I look forward to your review - keep an eye out for ours eventually, too.

    I think a lot of the hostility to such music is tied up with a person's identity as a music listener, and I think that's totally reasonable. As a trad folk musician, I find it execrable when bands (metal bands are especially guilty) claim to be incorporating elements from English folk music. Note that this has NEVER been achieved: instead, such bands merely play up to the expectations of the folk metal genre (stupid 'olde worlde' sounding melodies that have a firmer basis in film soundtracks than any real traditions) or extract what they *think* are the folk elements from bands like Pentangle (e.g. that dreadful fucking Sub Rosa band). Pentangle were decent, but they had as much jazz in their music as they did folk. If you try to distill the folk from Pentangle you only get a very weak idea of folk. Similarly, if you try to distill a sense of Black Metal from Drudkh alone and then try to produce your own take on that distillation, it's going to be bollocks. So, as you can see, I'm touchy about artists trying to do folk in the way that you guys are with metal, so I totally sympathise, and 99% of the time I hate outsider attempts at metal too.

    Anyway, thanks for all the food for thought. I'll have to give some serious thought to why I like WITTR but a band like Crooked Necks makes we want to injure someone.

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  58. even later to the party. i really love discussions about music in terms of 'scenes' and 'authentic' vs 'inauthentic'. everyone ends up sounding like kind of an asshole. blame it on our biological/cultural need to classify and label everything.

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  59. @Sean: Yeah bro, fuck classification, it's all just music in the end. We should stop using restrictive things like "concepts" and go back to just FEELING the world. Plus, I'm so tired of narrow-minded people with "ideals" and "principles," I just wanna let things BE, you know? Peace and love, dude!!!

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  60. i'm not going to fall in the same trap as chuck. there's obviously no debating things here. i just meant that obviously if these bands didn't get labeled or label themselves as 'black metal' you guys wouldn't be writing exposés about what's getting your panties in a bind. don't worry, friend, we all get a little insecure sometimes. peace and love.

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  61. @Sean: I think the length of the thread indicates that there IS debating things here. Chuck, to his credit, had actual ideas and wanted to discuss them. The notion that "if there was no black metal there'd be no arguments about black metal" is about as obvious and uninformative as it gets. Call it whatever you want, Forest will always rule and Krallice will always be a shallow attempt to appropriate whatever it is that Forest were doing. Or should we stop labeling bands with pretentious, immature things like "names?" Krallice could be The Barr and Marston Quartet, surely a lot truer to their *serious progressive musicianship.*

    I definitely have my panties in a bind about this! Absolutely! I love this music and hate shitty fake versions of it. But I'm going to hazard a guess that the guy who restarts a dead thread after months, just to leave the intellectual equivalent of a self-righteous fart, is also a little bit hot and bothered. Just sayin'.

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  62. nah, neither hot nor bothered. my original comment was relatively innocent. you kind of blew it out of proportion. all i'm trying to say is that 'genre' is an arbitrary notion. to deem something inauthentic based on a fabricated set of rules does the listener a disservice. every 'genre' goes through this debate and it doesn't mean anything. i'm glad you're passionate about the music you like. however, you don't need to waste your time attempting to discredit music you think is 'fake'. those who subscribe to the same rules you do will continue to. why should you care if someone doesn't?

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  63. "why should you care if someone doesn't?"

    why are you commenting if this debate is such a standard thing that's repeated all the time.

    (a: you like the bands that we don't and are trying to simultaneously take us to task while appearing detached and aloof)

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  64. @Sean: Noktorn's right, that's the oldest forum maneuver in the world...

    But there's a misconception in what you wrote that's actually worth addressing. We're hardly "deem[ing] something inauthentic based on a prefabricated set of rules." For one thing, black metal CAN'T be reduced to a set of rules like that, it's a spirit not a "sound" and the point is that these bands don't have it. For another, if you read this post and thread more carefully, or read many other things we've written on this blog, you might pick up on our central concern: all the fakery, all the "not getting it," leads bands to produce music that is really awful on its own terms, or any terms.

    Sure, plenty of great music doesn't conform to genre boundaries, or makes you reconsider ones that already exist. And it's certainly possible to make black metal-influenced music that's not true black metal but is completely authentic. Ludicra was a great example--they fundamentally "got it," but in their later stuff they weren't trying to DO it, because they wanted to do something that came authentically to THEM. they brought black metal into a project that was very much their own thing, and in that way had a much more authentic relationship to both their BM source material and their own music than the bands who pretend to re-invent BM or glibly appropriate its cliches.

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  65. pardon my forum faux pas.

    but i completely agree, black metal, like any other music, can't and shouldn't be reduced to a set of rules. what's left, then, other than the completely subjective emotional gut reaction of the listener? if some 15-year-old gets ahold of a wolves in the throne room album and thinks "yep, this feels like black metal to me", who is anyone to say he's wrong? "not getting it" doesn't enter into it. with any luck, his listening to krallice will lead him to forest or emperor or darkthrone and he'll realize what he's been missing.

    i want to apologize for the comment about not allowing debate. this has been fun and i'm glad i was able to do it. keep blogging about what you love.

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