(In this guest post, our friend Booker both features some of the metal videos he has enjoyed most during 2013 and offers opinions about the evolution of music videos generally and about their proper use — and misuse.)
Okay, so I’ll warn you up front, I don’t know where I’m going with this post. Also, it contains some NSFW imagery. Blind leading the blind through the land of boobies? Or probably more likely: a rambling fool preaching to the much more knowledgeable choir? Sound good? Okay, let’s go…
This all started with a few videos I’ve seen that stuck with me recently, which set off that dangerous process called “thinking”; particularly hazardous in the hands of the uninitiated. First up, there’s somewhat of a process of déjà vu here, in that Andy Synn has previously posted a foray into the art of the music video about 2 years back which is still just as relevant today:
Let’s get into some of the video goodies that perked my interest – some of these have featured on NCS before.
(In this post, guest writer Tal — whose own blog is here — forcefully expresses some opinions about the shirt emblazoned with the above image released by the band Mastodon for this year’s Thanksgiving holiday. As always, Comments are welcome.)
In case you haven’t been on the internet since before Thanksgiving, Mastodon decided to mark that holiday by putting out a really tasteless shirt. The shirt, which shows a male Pilgrim pointing a musket at a kneeling, scantily clad, stereotypical image of a Native American woman holding up a turkey, has drawn outraged responses from members of Native communities (for example here and here). The band seem to think that they are doing something to raise awareness; they wrote on Facebook:
“Regarding our thanks giving shirt, whether you choose to believe or not, the American Indians were massacred by the white settlers who became the Americans we are today. this shirt represents this atrocity and celebrating in the face of this atrocity is chilling.”
They felt the need to add: “we may have a sick sense of humor, but we are far from being ‘Racist’ as some of you who might not get it are calling us.” (What’s actually chilling is that this post had over 4,000 likes as of the writing of this article.)
Mastodon in effect dismisses the criticisms leveled at their choice of imagery by implying that the critics don’t “get” the shirt or somehow don’t believe that Native Americans were massacred at the hands of white settlers, when this is not the problem at all. The problem is not their message, but the way they’ve chosen to execute it, and the band’s response just makes it worse.
I may have mentioned that I’m on vacation. “Active” is not the word for my vacations. More like “slothful”. I sleep like I’m in hibernation, eat a little, drink a lot, and talk with people unlike any I know at home. I swim with fish that make rainbows look drab, stare at turquoise vistas, and photograph dramatic clouds that leave me silent in awe (yes, silent, it’s a miracle!), every vision unlike any other, never to be repeated.
And I read a lot. I’ve read a few things during my trip that made me think about metal, even though I haven’t been listening much since this vacation began. For example, I read this final sentence from a movie review by David Denby:
“It’s a film devoted to inanition, made with considerable artistry, but it’s far from a work of art.”
My first thought was, “What the fuck does ‘inanition’ mean?” But even before finding the answer, I was thinking about whether the statement was relevant to metal. Probably a poor allocation of limited brainpower, because over-analyzing the things you enjoy is usually a mistake. But I decided yes, it might be relevant, perhaps especially at this time of year when people are compiling their Best of 2013 lists.
(Andy Synn wrote this post. Your humble editor picked the photos. Andy is in them, somewhere.)
So not only has it recently been the 4th anniversary for NCS, but apparently my own 3-year anniversary as a writer for the site came and went without me noticing.
Now, that’s not too surprising, since I can’t remember much of what happened six months ago, let alone three years, but I feel like the occasion deserves some acknowledgement from me anyway.
I don’t remember exactly how I came across the site, but clearly I liked what I found, and decided to stick around for a while. A long while. Perhaps Islander’s biggest regret will one day be that he failed to get rid of me while he had the chance!
(Andy Synn wrote these thoughts. Your humble editor selected the accompanying images.)
Ok, so it’s time for another one of my stream-of-consciousness pieces of rambling thoughts and ill-defined points. I’ve had this one on my mind for a while now, and finally got round to putting [metaphorical] pen to paper today. I wrote this all in one go, and have tried not to over-think or self-censor too much. Hopefully that way you’ll get more of a grasp of the thought processes behind things.
Ready? Then I’ll begin…
“Evil” is definitely one of those words that crops up pretty frequently in regards to Metal. Whether it’s coming from the fearful/ignorant majority who (let’s be honest, sometimes understandably) view the varied collection of beards, pentagrams, and profanity with more than a certain amount of trepidation — or from the deluded “kvlt” types who somehow think that their pretensions to “evil” make up for their complete lack of personality – it’s a word that’s often synonymous with the aesthetic (both musical and visual) that our favourite bands cultivate.
Metal is, for me, one of the few genres where many [of the more intelligent] artists are actually able to confront some of the darker, grimmer realities of the world. Few other forms of “popular” (and I use the term loosely) music deal with genocide, murder, cannibalism, political strife and oppression, loss of faith, occult philosophy… in quite the same way.
(In this post, Andy Synn offers thoughts and opinions about the challenges that upwardly mobile bands face once they reach the peak of success within the confines of metal, and about the risks of attempting to make a leap into the mainstream. Your thoughts, as always, will be welcome in the Comment section.)
Oooh… there’s that word. The “M” word. A term so divisive I bet half of you just vomited from sheer internet-based rage. A word so contentious we had to invent our own subdivision of it (the “metal mainstream”) just to better separate the “true” from the “false”.
But… does it have its place? And if it does (and I think it does)… what are we going to do with it?
After the jump… my lengthy, stream-of-consciousness, pseudo-philosophical ramblings on the subject!
(Andy Synn offers some thoughts, and some questions, about why we do what we do here. The artwork above is a new piece by Sam Nelson, and it’s here not because it resembles Andy Synn but because I like it.)
Something that comes up occasionally, both online and out in the real world, is the question of what a review is really for? What is it trying to achieve… what is the point… heck, why even bother?
So I thought it might be interesting to put down a few thoughts about why we here at NCS – or at least, me personally, since I’m not aiming to speak for anyone else really – do bother writing, blogging, and putting our thoughts and opinions out there.
Although I’ve had this column in my head in a vague form for a while now, just recently a couple of (minor) incidents have helped me start to crystallise this question of who/what we are writing for, who our audience might be, and – notably – who our audience definitely isn’t.
(It’s been a while since we received a guest post from Dane Prokofiev (who writes everywhere and has his own blog at Zetalambmary), but today he returns with an argument about why it’s worthwhile to use band comparisons in music reviews.)
I used to dislike comparing a band whose album I was reviewing to another band in my written reviews and only resorted to doing so when I found absolutely nothing interesting about the band’s music to be worthy of description through the use of metaphors. Ever since my exposure to Saussurean semiotics, however, I have changed my mind.
Saussurean semiotics posits that there is no intrinsic connection between words and their meanings. That is to say, it is not natural for the word “dog” to refer to the concept of dog-ness. The word “dog” is a linguistic construct, something that is distinct from the concept of dog-ness. What English-speaking people label as “dog” is labeled as “الكلب” by Arabic-speaking people , “chien” by French-speaking people, “hunder” by Icelandic-speaking people, “犬” by Japanese-speaking people, and “狗” by Mandarin-speaking people. The fact that people use different words for the same object in different languages means that there is no particular connection between the word “dog” and the thing that we refer to as a “dog”.
The product of this arbitrary relationship between the signifier (“dog”) and the signified (the concept of dog-ness) is called the sign, which is the mental image that is conjured in a person’s mind when he or she sees the signifier and understands that it is referring to the signified, aka certain properties that constitute the thing-ness of something.
(A long-time NCS supporter who calls himself Utmu has written a paper for a college course about metal. We’re already somewhat involved, having published three previous pieces by Utmu that were sort of groundwork for the paper (here, here, and here). So we’ve decided to post the pay-off, especially because it’s likely to be controversial. Please do give us and Utmu your reactions in the comments.)
I’ve been excited about this for some time now, as my Facebook friends can attest (just ask them, I wouldn’t shut up about it for a week or two). I realize that this paper tends to go against what NCS is about in that it is somewhat bleak, but I think this needs to be said, and discussion is always important.
I’m not sure how much context I put in this paper, but if any of you have any questions about anything in this I’ll do my best at answering them. I also realize that this is a pretty divisive topic insofar that I’m on one side and virtually everyone else is on the other. But it’ll be interesting hearing your comments and concerns.
It should be noted that this is my informed opinion, and although I believe that there could be some objectivity to art, I’m skeptical of objectivity in relation to some of the topics discussed in my paper.
I will ask one thing of you all, I’d like to try an uncommon form of argumentation (if any of you feel like debating this). Try to use argumentation in the form of proofs. For more information on this form of argumentation, please listen to Daniel “Awesomebeard” Cohen at 2:32:
I promised you a shot of the NCS staff with heads as well as torsos, and I don’t lie. This candid photo was taken by a helpful Seattle police officer on Thursday night at the corner of 6th and Union, just prior to the kind of pat-down from a stranger that you usually have to pay for. I’m pretty sure one of our group got wood, but I’m not saying who it was.
Actually, I just made that up. We didn’t really get a frisk job from an officer of the law. We endangered no one but ourselves, but in truth I’m feeling pretty destroyed today because our revels now have ended and, like spirits, my NCS comrades are melted into air, into thin air. Which is to say, they have gone home, and the great NCS Seattle Confab has ended. The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself of our time together, yea, all which it inherit, have dissolved.
You know things are bad when I start quoting Shakespeare.