Sunday, June 12, 2011

Metal Rulez!

I keep on saying that I'm not a metal head, yet I keep on writing about the metal bands I'm listening to. I can understand how that might seem like the kind of pretentious denial that indie hipsters have been practising since the media discovery of youth subculture. You know the "don't label me" tripe?
The issue, there, though is that I don't care if you label me. You want to say I'm a Metalhead, Punk, poseur, Indie hipster, aging grunge head, whatever, I don't care. It's your call, because it won't affect me.
The reason why I wouldn't label myself as any of the above is because my aesthetics don't conform to the rules of the genres. I don't care about virtuoso musicianship- I see that as a trap. I don't think loudness or distortion prove much of anything- they're just tools to get across feelings and thoughts. I don't care about tempo because I'm not much of a dancer. I could care less about which clothes the musicians wear, and I don't care what instruments they play either. I'm not one for "authenticity" in the music- by the time I get to hear it, it's in the world of commerce anyway, so quite frankly, authenticity, "being real", and so forth are already compromised. I don't believe that a song, in and of itself, does anything- it's what people do in reaction to it that counts. So, when I say I'm no metalhead, no goth, or no punk, it's not me trying to put myself above it- I'm warning any potential readers that my tastes are bound to disappoint you, if you are one of these.
I can give you two examples from this morning.
I've been listening to the new Pain cd- "You only Live Twice", and the last Surfact Cd "Euphoria". So, Pain, as you may or may not know, was Peter Tagtgren's side project from Hypocrisy, his thrash/death metal band. I say "was" because the sales and longevity of Pain are starting to eclipse Hypocrisy's. So, "real" Metalheads are prone to hating Pain, because it's taking Peter bit by bit away from "true metal' and more into experimental dance pop. Certainly, there's tons of industrial metal on even this new record, and it's probably heavier than several of the prior Pain records, but the parts that are bringing in a bigger audience and that I like about Pain, and not Hypocrisy is the reliance upon Pop songcraft- there are hooks, choruses, and relatively straight forward dance beats. There are harmonies, and moments of reflection, not constant intensity. This isn't a top 40 Pop confection, to be sure, but still, as compared to Hypocrisy, it's ABBA. Now, I really am a big fan of Pain (the band, silly) because I'm not a big fan of Pain (the physical sensation, dummy)- and that's what the "real" metalheads seem to be missing. They like everything to be intense. The terms they'll use from "shredding" to "brutal" all convey the intensity adequately- they like pain. I don't. So, I'll listen to Pain, all day long before I'll listen to Hypocrisy. Some intensity, some moments of extremity are valuable as shade to the light, but I don't want everything to be about that. I like some sunshine with my rain.
Which brings me to Surfact. Now, if you're not in Denmark, there's a good chance you won't know who I mean. They're a Danish rock band that sound, for all the world, to me, like Filter, but with much better production. We're talking American Pop Princess levels of production. The kind of studio glitz that makes everything into a kind of midrange hum and drone. You know that very comfortable buzz that makes stuff on the radio pleasant enough to hear that you don't change the channel, but you cannot remember a single note? That kind of production. So, why listen to Surfact, and why not just listen to Britney Spears? Because it's still rock, underneath all that shiny glitz. It's like diamonds- where it's very, very pretty, but sharp enough to cut through glass. The edge that it has isn't about hurting or cutting, though. It's more about urgency and plaintiveness. That kind of vulnerability, that kind of humanity inside the glitz is far more intriguing to me than either the raw honesty or cool glamour that most pop music serves up. Surfact sound like teenagers given shiny new sportscars by Daddy. I can understand how some folks would hate them, but I feel for them, a bit, having been given things they don't really seem to grasp. I'm willing to bet, they thought they were gonna be an Ozzfest styled band, and had no idea that they were being made into Linkin Park's poppier cousins. Enjoying that runs a bit counter to the punk and metal stylebook, don't you think?
So, If you want to think I'm any kind of purist do so at your own peril....

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