Tuesday, January 8, 2013

RE: Do you want Heavy Metal to survive?

This is in direct response to "Do you want Heavy Metal to survive?" from Poetry of Subculture, one of my favorite blogs. Anywhere I say "you" I am addressing Helm, the writer of that blog, and not you the reader (though feel free to pretend I'm talking to you, if you want, all zero of my readers).

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This might be dangerously long and uncensored...

I play this game on my iPad called Outwitters. It's an asynchronous strategy game with no computer controlled opponents, meaning that I can only play it with other people, and since I don't know anyone in so called real life who plays this game, I must rely upon the continued existence of a community who plays the game online in order for me to be able to play it. Therefore, I want the popularity of this game to flourish, I want the developers of the game to turn a profit so that they can continue to support the game and release updates to it, I want the game to survive. If no one else plays the game, then I can't play it. The game would be dead.

There's potentially this sense that if Heavy Metal isn't popular then the game its fans play might die. There will be no more bands, and therefore no more records to buy (or pirate?), and therefore no more concerts to attend, and therefore no more game to play, and therefore, I suppose, they would then have to grow up or find another game. Is this the attitude that members of the modern heavy metal scene have? Hard for me to say. I don't talk to them. This isn't why I listen to metal. I'm not part of any scene.

So I'm not sure how much more I can say about that. So I'll speak about myself instead.

Obviously, the strict mutually exclusive dichotomy you present is a fabrication, and I'm aware that you are using it only as a tool (you said so, duh). But I find it difficult to speak about the ideas here without at least acknowledging the fact that there are parts of myself in each of the two camps. There are probably also parts of myself in other camps entirely, but I haven't really thought about that yet.

In the simplest sense, I want Heavy Metal to survive. This then means more and more music for me to listen to. I don't share your practice of not listening to new music. When I choose bands to listen to, I typically don't use their age or period of existence as a deciding factor. I don't usually think about it. In fact, it never occurred to me to do so, and even when I was young, I listened to anything and everything from any time period. My first two King Crimson albums were In the Court of the Crimson King and the ConstruKction of Light, at that time their latest. I didn't care about the time difference then. And I don't now.

Of course, lately I've been focusing on exploring subgenres of metal with which I had been previously unfamiliar, and therefore I have been primarily and specifically using categorization as the deciding factor for what I listen to. Time doesn't enter into the equation, except as it relates to understanding what happened historically.

In another sense, I want Heavy Metal to survive. I have this possibly quixotic urge to be the guy that opens the door to another broad substrand of metal's history. More on this later.

In a different sense, I do not want Heavy Metal to survive. This doesn't mean that I want Heavy Metal to die, only that I lack the desire for it to survive. I understand that the death of Heavy Metal does not mean the end of interesting music or art in general. There will always be something that I'm interested in listening to, even if it isn't metal. And that's fine. In addition, as you point out, the death of Heavy Metal doesn't mean its complete annihiliation, as its history remains, carved from stone. It may be forgotten one day, but not during my lifetime. So what do I care?

In yet another sense, I want Heavy Metal to die. I've long felt that the most enduringly human characters from fiction are those whose deaths are depicted in the text. You've said about a zillion times something to the effect that death is a necessary part of the human condition. That James Bond goes on and on and on forever and always comes out alive makes him a pathetic hero, because he is in no danger. He is immortal and impossible to relate to as a human being because he is not human. That Sydney Carton dies in Charles Darnay's place makes him a hero that can inspire heroism in the reader. There is nothing about him that places an impenetrable wall between fiction and reality. One might argue that Bond needn't be capable of death because it is escapist entertainment, not high art. But since we're talking about Heavy Metal here (I didn't forget), let's consider whether we want our metal to be escapist entertainment or high art. Perhaps this is a stupid thought on my part, and that's fine. There are stupid parts of me. Shall I deny them? The point is that the death of Heavy Metal somehow seems to bring to it a greater sense of importance and value. There is not an inexhaustible supply of it. The amount of music that can be written is finite, no matter how much they may argue against this.


Is there somewhere for metal to go that isn't merely a revisitation of what has come before? Is there something for me to compose in the metal universe that hasn't already been explored.

Absolutely. Probably.

I suspect that my ability to figure this out is both limited and strengthened by my relative lack of knowledge about Heavy Metal. I mean here that my knowledge, though not insignificant or unsubstantial, is by far incomplete. I am not aware of everything that has happened in metal (is anyone?). Thus, I am in danger of proposing a direction for metal that has happened but of which I am not aware. On the other hand, I am not aware of everything that has happened in metal. Thus, if I should suggest a formula (meaning a set of symbolic ingredients, not write a verse like this and a chorus like that and 1-2-3: you have a hit!)--if I should suggest a formula for a new direction of metal that has been implemented before, I may be unaware of the results and therefore uninfluenced by the nuances of that attempt. Therefore, my own attempt may be more effective, or effective in a different manner, or the ingredients may combine in ways heretofore unknown and unseen.

I suspect that there's somewhere to go in terms of how the ingredients are utilized. I'm about to be exploring this, or at least I feel as though I will be soon.


If you're still with me (sorry for the rambling length of that!), I have some questions for you...

1. I'm under the impression that you write metal yourself. In the context of the motivations you present above for entering into the metal scene, how do you understand the relationship between accepting the inevitable death of metal and simultaneously creating more of it? I think you've perhaps touched on this a little when you wrote that "we all have a death drive. To realize how it functions and to what imaginative ends it urges us is, instead, a delight." I wonder if you might be willing to elaborate.

2. Maybe I only had one question. Can't think of what else I wanted to ask or whether there was anything else.


  1. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts on this post, Erenan.

  2. You are very welcome! Thanks for reading!