Definitions of the words in the title to this post from The Oxford English Dictionary (online):
an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.
1970s: from Greek mimēma ‘that which is imitated’, on the pattern of gene
When Richard Dawkins coined the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, he wanted a word like gene that conveyed the way in which ideas and behaviour spread within society by non-genetic means. Since then the word has been picked up to describe a piece of information spread by email or via blogs and social networking sites. A meme can be almost anything—a joke, a video clip, a cartoon, a news story—and can also evolve as it spreads, with users editing the content or adding comments. Common collocates in the Oxford English Corpus are spread, pass, and transmit: as with the Internet sense of viral, meme uses the metaphor of disease and infection
Ask Vildhjarta, because I have no fucking idea.
Vildhjarta is a Swedish band that has generated quite a bit of buzz in the by-ways of the interhole over the last few months. Fuck, “buzz” is an understatement. It’s more like cult status, but with transitive properties: Fans worship Vildhjarta, who in turn worship Meshuggah. You can hear it in the music, of course, but there’s also this comment by the band’s Daniel Bergström, from a June interview in The Rock Island Journal:
“We have never made a huge fuss about being unique or groundbreaking. Really, we are all ripping Meshuggah.”
Well, I actually think he was being modest, because there’s more going on in Vildhjarta’s music than straight-out Meshuggah-ripping. But this post isn’t really about the music — there will be a review of the band’s debut album Måsstaden at this site soon, as in tomorrow morning. It’s about THALL.
That word seems to have quite a lot to do with that buzz/cult thing mentioned above. The word has spread like wildfire among aficionados of djent, but not only them. It has become not only a password but an attraction, a way of luring people into Vildhjarta’s music out of pure curiosity.
Where did it come from? There’s a limit to how much time I’m going to spend searching for the origin, but what I’ve found is this: The earliest appearance I found was in this May 2011 video clip released by the band announcing their signing by Century Media:
Actually, it’s possible that this song fragment on Soundcloud pre-dated the video clip above. The fragment is called “thall1″:
Then, the word showed up again in this little clip posted on July 3. It’s a collection of riffs that later appeared on the album. Note the name of the clip and the word stenciled on the guitar. By the way, I don’t know who the dude is who introduces the clip. Sounds like he’s saying, “Hello. I’m Chris, from the beautiful World of Warcraft,” but I’m not even sure about that. (fyi, Vildhjarta’s name comes from the Swedish edition of Dungeons and Dragons — an expansion book about a magical forest called Vildhjarta.)
Then “thall” showed up yet again in the title of this brief clip from August:
By August, of course, the word was already in full viral mode. As far as I can tell, it has no meaning (“Thall” is the name of a city in Pakistan, but I highly doubt Vildhjarta is referring to that). And the fact that no one knows what it means — except possibly Vildhjarta — is part of its coolness.
I doubt that even Vildhjarta knew that the word would go viral or become a full-fledged internet meme, at least in part of the on-line world of metal. In fact, they probably didn’t even intend for that to happen. But if they did, they’re fucking geniuses. Maybe someday we’ll find out where they got the word.
Surely this has happened before — where a band has coined a word or phrase (perhaps in a song) that has become a meme, taking on a life of its own but also linking back to the band themselves as a kind of viral marketing implement. If you know of other examples, leave us a comment (and feel free to comment on any other thoughts you may have about this post). And I’m not talking about something like “Loutallica” — that’s well on its way to becoming a meme as well, except it has become a synonym for ass-suckage, and the band(s) themselves didn’t coin the phrase.
With the success of “thall”, you can bet your butt that other bands will now be consciously trying to coin something similar for themselves. Good luck with that. And one more thing,