Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Appropriation of metal culture: The neverending saga



If you've been down with metal long enough, you've come to expect the appropriation of its aesthetics. You can almost set your clock by it. As of late, however, a new type of appropriation has come to my attention...not that by large companies, publications or fashion designers, no. I'm talking about the use of iconography from the world of metal by other subcultures, all in the spirit of irony. Yes, some of the people who do this claim to have street cred, but I've checked and it's very seldom true.

I'm not going to dwell too much on the subject of subcultural irony (because I'm wearing a dry clean only sweater today, and if I start going down the path of "irony" I'll throw up all over myself in disgust), but I find this interesting. Why? Because to me, if you use iconography from another subculture in an ironic fashion, you are in a sense indicating the superiority of your culture over that which you are appropriating. It's clearly done in a mocking fashion.

Remember way back when hipsters started to wear mesh trucker hats? Clearly, the intended message was that a well educated white kid was slumming by putting on such wacky attire. Facial hair, and mullets soon followed, then hi-tops. So, now that metal is being used ironically all over the place (partially as part of 80s and 90s culture revival, which is now considered "old school") only one question remains:

Where does metal rank in the world of subcultures? According to the poster above, cycling/bike messenger culture ranks over metal. But that, perhaps, is merely because metal usually lacks a sense of humor and seldom uses irony. Metal is concerned only with evil/dark/serious imagery and messages. As a result, it gets beaten to a pulp in the subculture playground. Metal is also not self aware. An obvious giveaway about how fake many of today's Headbanger's Ball-grade metal bands is that they think the very music they play is funny. They are self aware, and thus not metal. What that argument says about this blog, I don't know. And I don't want to discuss that. Because we're hella metal. Anyway, a real metal band would never have a poster, record cover or lyrics with any sense of irony or attempt at humor. Yes, Sacred Reich had that song about how they listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Anthrax had I'm the Man...but those songs sucked and were un-metal. Yes, grindcore and other sub genres flirted with humor...but you wouldn't see a poster for a real death metal fest in Kentucky with characters from Saved By The Bell or something....though AC Slater was a dope drummer, and could probably play some tight blasts.

What do Metal Inquisitioners think? Let's discuss.


40 comments:

  1. Reminded me of my favorite Mitch Hedberg line, "I have a jacket that is dry clean only, which means...it is dirty."

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  2. those cycling fuckers. first it was: http://metalinquisition.blogspot.com/2008/07/cycling-and-metal-merchandise-marriage.html , and now this? i'm so filled w/ rage, that i'm gonna head outside to my bike, blast some Slayer out my boombox that's in the front basket, and ring the bells all day long!! grrrr

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  3. yeah, this blows. reminds me of that fuckin homo streetwear company that jacked the death and nuclear assault logos for their shirts.

    worse still, i'm convinced some girl i know (and can't stand but have to deal with occasionally because she's friends with my girl) is buddies with the dude who started it. I can only imagine that i will have to meet him at some point and will have to try really hard not to stab him.

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  4. you should keep the tempo with the bell on your bike. that would be rad. ding ding ding ding ding ding ding.

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  5. i tried, but the damn tassels on the handlebars kept getting in the way. i did manage to get through the chorus of 'War Ensemble' though. WAAAR ENSEMBLEEE! ring..ring..ring..ring..

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  6. one trick is to try to follow the china in war ensamble, rather than the snare. so, on the chorus you can do

    war ensnable - ding ding
    waaar ensabme - ding ding

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  7. The appropriation of modern metal culture irks me like a white-head on my dick slit. It's just another reminder of why we are all metal and the other people are fucking gay. Yes, there's a lot of ridiculous bullshit in metal, but certainly the amount is substantially less than in Punk rock, Myspace rock or hippie crap. Come on, dancing bears and mushrooms? That wasn't even cool when I was a toddler in the early 70s. If I saw that shit on The Electric Company or when watching an episode of "Thundar the Barbarian" I certainly would've uttered the prepubescent equivalent of "that's just fucking gay."

    Whoever made that flyer for the bike homos should have his penis filetted and his balls deep fried. Just for being a cheeser.

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  8. I feel like there's a big difference between self-aware and being a douche, which is really what the whole appropriation thing comes down to. I consider myself self-aware about the music I listen to, because I think about it all the damn time; not just how awesome it is, but WHY I think it's so awesome.

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  9. Fuck metal, Mario Lopes is AWESOME.

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  10. bike snob nyc does a thorough rundown (while misidentifying morbid angel as a grindcore band, but no matter: i read that 'spin' article back in the day, too) here:

    http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2008/09/urban-alienation-cultural-carnage-and.html

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  11. Yeah HM cannot be when the artist wants to be ironic. What is irony but a defense anyway? You are right to see the connection between self-awareness and irony. First these posers go 'what the hell am I doing, people are gonna laugh at me and my metal!' and then they laugh about themselves first, to show you 'they know' and that it's ment as a 'joke'. It's a social defense. Real HM doesn't give a fuck, it never did. Preemptive strike, motherfuckers. Posers leave the hall.

    And Metal Inquisition being "hella metal" is debatable - that's right I'm calling you out!! - 'cuz it's apparent that you some of you guys once loved HM and took it seriously and then you got your hearts broken when you realized that a lot of the people involved in the metal scene were douchebags and in no way corresponded to their 'evil' image for real. So now you listen to slam metal and glam and claim this is better than the sacred forms that never sold out like good old Metal Blade Metal! Not all bands were lying and not all metal musicians were washed up and worthy of ridicule, you were just listening to the wrong ones!

    But you guys like Forced Entry and Confessor amongst all the glam and slam (that's a name of a blog right there) so you're alright, though not 'hella metal' by any stretch. I suggest mandatory 'Heavy Metal appreciation hour' daily listening and perhaps there's hope for you yet. Start with Voivod and Celtic Frost.

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  12. it was certainly a revelation to me when I was about 13 and began to see that metal was not really as evil as I thought at one point. still, i think the fact that i kept on rocking out to Tankard and went on to buy most early releases on Grindcore records, as well as the Necrosanct album on cassette show that even that couldn't stop me. i'm true, but i'm also not the kid that heard slayer in 1989 for the first time anymore. i'm in another league. it's how in golf they have Seniors tournaments? that's the league i'm in. not retired by any means, but lets just say that it takes more than a blast beat and a hard-to-read logo to impress me. i've been to battle my friend. i was in some of the early milwakee metal fests with my brother.


    also, the argument could be made that this is a whole lot like the issue of being patriotic. who is the real patriot, the guy who blindly follows the government, or the guy who questions and tries to improve a country and its government, and is genuinly concerned. with that in mind, i hereby salute the metal flag and sing the metal national anthem. what is the metal national anthem you ask? It's track two on Side B of the Predator album. Metal Blade, 1985.

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  13. lets just say that it takes more than a blast beat and a hard-to-read logo to impress me.

    I can't think of anything more un-metal than being easily impressed by all and anything that resembles metal. One owes it to themselves to be critical of the things they love.

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  14. This post reads sorta like my unformulated gut-reaction to all the mainstream media reviews of Metallica - all of them packed with lazy out-of-date cliches about metal, the scene, the bands, the fans....ugh! And I don't even like Metallica, never did never will...but yeah, whatever. Death to everything!

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  15. that sacred reich song was soooo fuckin stoooopit.. and of course,it came out right when ALL the other ones trying to be "open minded metal" came out..

    shows you how dumb bein open minded gets you..

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  16. Speaking of Forced Entry, how does "We're Dicks" fit into the irony schemata?

    And just how metal was Strapping Young Lad? I mean, their whole schtick was poking fun at metal's excesses by exaggerating metal's excesses. "Far Beyond Metal" is pretty damn metal in my book, and yet is nothing but self-aware.

    Is Judas Priest self-aware? Those guys are like 85 or something, they gotta know that what they do is just silly. Does YOUR grandpa dress like that? And yet,... very very metal.

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  17. Speaking of Forced Entry, how does "We're Dicks" fit into the irony schemata?

    I think they ment it. There's other types of humour besides the ones based on saying something and meaning the opposite. Check out Carnivore too. HM can be pretty seriously funny, and funnily serious.

    And just how metal was Strapping Young Lad?

    City was pretty metal. And it was dead serious. Dude was angry for real then.

    I mean, their whole schtick was poking fun at metal's excesses by exaggerating metal's excesses.

    Actually it's not just that in my opinion. They do this a lot but they do other things too.

    Is Judas Priest self-aware?

    Oh yes, yes they are. Halford is a smart person. Also he has repeatedly gone on record to say that HM was 'dead' at various points in time and yet here he is. I don't consider him leaving the metal field a sell-out at all, people have interests and they can wane or they might have been right to feel betrayed by transient tastes etc. But when you go off to do a pop album and then when you fail and somehow HM is popular again you rejoin your dinosaur metal band, that's when you have sold out.\

    And yet,... very very metal.

    What's so metal about Priest nowdays? To be metal you have to be authentic. They have history's weight going for them, but they're not authentic anymore.

    It's alright to not like Judas Priest! Metal Inquisition doesn't like Voivod! There's no sacred cows.

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  18. 1. AC Slater was a solid high school wrestler and is a solid amateur boxer. a guy that posts on mma.tv fought him a few years ago and got knocked out.

    2. i have always hated metal blade metal. ALWAYS. regarding slam metal, my friend told me several years ago "it's funny how the bands you listen to are super obscure yet still have no currency."

    3. forced entry are great, and the cheesy "funny song" is a classic element late 80s/early 90s thrash

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  19. I used to get PISSED when i saw those Less Than Jake t-shirts with the Slayer logo...or any band that's molested the Iron Maiden logo for that matter...

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  20. yeah, like the dashboard confessional t-shirt which takes the AC/DC logo with the lightning bolt and makes it look like D/C

    fucking makes me RAAAAAAGE

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  21. the more you worry about all that noise, and concern your self with fashion, "true" or "not true" the more you are as fashion conscious as sweet valley high girls. accept that you look like everyone else and get on with it.
    trying too hard to look a certain wy is too similar to the awkward teen years where you're trying to find your own exterior identity

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  22. it's NOT alright to not like judas priest. period.

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  23. "Open Minded Metal" hahaha. WRATHCHILD AMERICA

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  24. One owes it to themselves to be critical of the things they love.

    Exactly. I couldn't have said it better. If only punks and hardcore kids could grasp this.

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  25. I understand the questioning of what makes someone (or band, or lifestyle) metal, but at what point does all this moral relativism stop, and at what point do people draw the line?

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  26. If only punks and hardcore kids could grasp this.

    You're hanging out with the wrong punk-rock kids.

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  27. Have you ever thought that they may be metal fans AND ride bikes as a hobby ? Close-minded fucking morons. BTW, how metal does a dry clean only sweater look with a mesh hat, mullet, and sweet pair of Avia's look ?

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  28. All you haters suck my balls.

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  29. I love Metal and have for a long time, but "being Metal" is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of. I'd way sooner wear a dry clean only sweater than some crappy Metal band's t-shirt (and I do both). Looking and/or being Metal (and I realize they're not the same thing) only matters when you care about what other people think of you.
    PS: I hate joke songs on Metal records. Worst example: "Junk Food" from ASSASSIN's "Interstellar Experience".

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  30. "bike snob nyc does a thorough rundown (while misidentifying morbid angel as a grindcore band"

    can you read and comprehend at the same time?? He says nothing about morbid angel being a grindcore band.

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  31. There's a surprising amount of hostility toward metalheads here, judging by some of the comments. People who use terms like "close-minded" usually respond to questions about their musical tastes by saying "I like everything," so they can avoid being questioned and/or mocked. They avoid these questions and challenges because their personalities are in a constant state of flux and thus, they have no real and permanent identity ( see the term "poser"). Being metal isn't about how others see you, it's about how you see yourself. I don't look particularly metal, I don't wear band shirts as often as I used to, but I do listen to metal alot of the time. I just don't understand this fear of labels people have. Perhaps it doesn't allow them to feel free to like metal whilst they adorn themselves with semen-enhanced myspace haircuts and wear backpacks to shows? If you have a problem with other people who are secure enough in their identities you should probably be listening to The Cure and Weezer so you can convince other people of how eclectic and "open-minded" you are. Fag.

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  32. i got a good laugh out of all this....thanks for brightening my day.

    - a "fucking gay" cyclist

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  33. I understand the questioning of what makes someone (or band, or lifestyle) metal, but at what point does all this moral relativism stop, and at what point do people draw the line?

    There is no point where I will say that there stops my subjective view of things and an 'objective reality' starts. People waste too much time trying not to offend with their opinions and beliefs by all the time reminding how it's just 'their opinion' and 'their point of view' and they 'could be wrong'. Well what, do you have other people's opinions as well? Your own is all you have. And of course you're probably wrong, we're all probably wrong, we don't discuss to reach a grand universal truth, we discuss because it's fun, because we need to communicate. With the realization that there is no such thing as objective truth the speaker is armed with self-assuredness in his own wrongness as much as everyone else's, and therefore can concentrate on the important parts of discussion, not the neurotic desire to be 'correct' all the time.

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  34. i'm bummed that my dry clean only sweater got made fun of. that sweater looks mighty spiffy on me actually! really. Perhaps I could combine the two and create a line of dry clean only metal sweaters. Ahhhh, the mere thought of Blue Grape Merchandise producing a cashmere Deicide sweater....that would be pure class. I would wear one to work everyday. I keep it classy out there.

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  35. fuck those cyclying mother fuckers! they tried to steal my hella metal identity man! how dare they!?

    serious? "we are hella metal"?? that is the lamest thing i've ever read.

    but really... "metal" is full of ironies. all these bands portray themselves as brutal and hardcore, then the camera's go off and they clean up the fake blood, and get in their BMW's and go home to their wife and mini-poodle. frankly the whole genre takes itself WAY to seriously.

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  36. the use of "hella" is a rather obscure reference. in the late 80s James Hetfield started using it in order to show his california street cred. Perhaps most memorable was the use of the word in discribing his then-new haircut (long on top, shaved sides and back.) he used it in interviews to the point that RIP magazine printed a pullout poster of his new haircut with the label "James' New Hella-do". Now you understand the reference and use of the word.

    Regarding the very fakeness of metal and the fact that metal musicians take themselves way to seriously and are actually laughable...that's the purpose of this entire blog. we are aware.

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  37. Yes, humor and metal are ordinarily best kept out of eachothers hair, so to speak. But I draw your heavy attention to the always brutal, frequently hilarious examples set by Macabre, Bloodduster, and my personal favorite Pungeant Stench as fine exceptions which may or may not prove the rule.

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  38. ahhh Macabre. absolutely true. they were funy. i don't know if they knew their haircuts were funny..or their headsets (ala Garth Brooks) but their lyrics certainly had humor.

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  39. If you think that's bad...

    http://www.usmagazine.com/photos/on-and-off-couples?slideshow_id=859&o=5

    Not sure whether he's appropriating ST or 80's LA gangs in general but... wow.

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