Daniele Valeriani: “Vexilla Regis Prodeunt Inferni” (2017)
(Andy Synn wrote this thought piece — and provides some musical recommendations at the end.)
As part of a new initiative here at NCS, designed to give Islander some time off over the weekend (as well as serve as an intervention for his crippling blog addiction), I’m planning to put together a little something every Saturday – be it a review, an interview, or an opinion piece – to help tide over our readers until the inevitable Monday (editor’s intrusion: and Sunday!) rush of content comes back around.
So here goes nothing…
First off, don’t worry, this piece has nothing to do with “politics”. It’s just a funny title.
As a matter of fact I originally started writing it late last year, but held off on finishing it in order to put some much-needed distance between what you’re about to read, and the prevailing (and divisive) political climate at the time.
So if you were looking for some in-depth socio-political commentary on how the state of the Metal scene also reflects the state of the world today… well, you’re out of luck.
But stick around and I’ll probably get to that in a few weeks when I’ve run out of ideas…
All joking aside, what I want to address here is the issue of those people – whether fans or bands, critics or commentators – who seem to dedicate more time to complaining about the state of the scene today than they do actually enjoying the vast array of music that’s out there.
This phenomenon is nothing new of course. In fact ever since the first group of cavemen came up with the idea to bang a few rocks together in rhythm there’s been someone waiting in the wings ready to declare that things were better “in the good old days.”
Closer to home, you don’t have to look back very far to see how this sort of thing – the declaration that [x] is going to be “the death of Metal” – pops up every couple of years, and ultimately never proves to be anything more than unnecessarily negative hyperbole.
They said it in the ’80s, when Glam Metal started gobbling up the public consciousness, they said it in the ’90s when Grunge started taking over… and then again when Nu-Metal began storming the charts soon after… and they kept on saying it, again and again into the new millennium, most notably in response to the rise of the Djent scene, and then, most recently, when the whole “Post-Black Metal” sound unexpectedly took off.
And every time, it’s proved to be bullshit.
Of course in the modern age the advent and proliferation of the internet has helped to amplify these voices to a shrill, ball-shrivelling shriek, making them harder to ignore in the process.
But, for me, the most HILARIOUS aspect of this whole “things were better back in the day” attitude is the fact that it’s patently obvious just how many fantastic bands there are out there in the world today…
…and just how EASY it is to find them, if you’re only willing to open your eyes/ears!
Blogs, Bandcamp, Metal-Archives, recommendations from friends, from bands themselves… heck, even the most mainstream of Metal magazines will still feature one or two gems every now and then. It’s never been easier to find a new band to love, playing the style that you enjoy.
The real problem is that too many people would rather spend two hours bitching about how “all Metal sucks these days”, than take ten minutes to find something new to listen to and love.
Now I’m not denying that Metal has its trends, but, unlike more mainstream genres, these trends are not the be-all and end-all of the style.
As much as you might not like that Djent or Deathcore or Post-Progressive-Astro-Metal are currently the “in” thing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a smorgasbord of bands still pumping out killer slabs of Brutal Death Metal, Old School Thrash, or truer-than-true Black Metal (to name but a few).
But… if you really do think something needs to be done to “make Metal great again”, what exactly can you do?
Well, for one thing, just telling people that they’re wrong, that their taste is bad, etc, is never going to work. All you’re going to do is piss people off and make them dig their heels in. Do it often enough and you’ll completely burn your bridges.
A better tactic is to simply introduce them to some other, better, bands which they might like instead/as well. Don’t attack them. Learn what they like, what they’re looking for, and give them some better options.
As I said above, a big part of the problem is that a lot of people are simply used to having their tastes dictated to them on a platter by magazines and radio. And when what they love is no longer the “in thing”, they feel disenfranchised because these outlets are no longer catering specifically to what they love.
So that’s why people need to step up and remember that the “scene” is more than just the bands. It’s the people, the fans, who love the music too, and it’s not enough for these people just to be exposed to the so-called “gateway” bands. They need to be shown that there’s more to the scene than that.
And though you can’t control what people like (not directly, at least), if you truly think that a band is “great”, then you should be confident that their greatness will shine through.
Of course, it’s also vitally important that you throw your OWN support behind the bands that you love.
In the words of the late, great, Terry Pratchett:
“The phrase ‘Someone ought to do something’ was not, by itself, a helpful one. People who used it never added the rider ‘and that someone is me’.”
So if you want things to get better, start supporting the bands you think ARE better. Recommend them to your friends. Retweet, reshare, and spread the word online. Go to their shows. Buy their merch. Let the band themselves know you appreciate what they do.
Every little bit makes a difference. Every little bit increases the chance that the bands YOU love, the bands YOU think are the best, will break through to a wider audience.
We don’t need to make Metal great “again”, we just need to make more people aware of how great it already “is”.
So, to put my money where my mouth is, here’s a handful of recommendations to get you all started.
If you like what you hear, pay it forward!
Wederganger – visceral blast ‘n’ groove Black Metal from The Netherlands
Neter – punishingly tight, hellishly hooky Death Metal from Spain
Treyharsh – lurching, riff-heavy Sludge-core from France
Karnon – crushing and captivating Canadian Death Metal
Hands That Lift The Oceans – highly atmospheric Black(ened) Metal from Germany
Defying – dark Polish Prog-Doom
Bestia Arcana – dissonant, devastatingly aggressive Black Metal from the USA
please to forgive me for being rudely out of context here but i came across this new album of Vin De Mia Trix:
Palimpsets, it runs and runs for more than an hour and a have; an abyssal death/doom journey, but have similarities to Schammasch and Battle Dagorath, and have some Diamond head moments too… i am almost sure i listened to it 3 times already, just today! i think it should be a paramount landmark of 2017, or at least a serious album of the year contender. and it will be great reading a review of it here. thanks for your hard work and dedication!
I dislike the word “better”. “Different” sounds more appropriate when telling someone about a new band. Someone ripping through a 10 minutes song that’s got tech death or whatever music theory nonsense isn’t an excuse for it to be/called “better”. Metal needs to be different not better.
I’m afraid you’ve a) misinterpreted what I’m saying, and b) used it to make an unnecessary ad hominem attack on Tech Death.
At no point do I say anything like “this band plays more notes, so they are therefore better”. So it’s not really an excuse to just criticise “music theory nonsense”.
What I actually said was that it’s no use simply telling someone “this band is bad”. You need to offer them alternatives. Learn what they like, and don’t tell them to stop listening to Band A, just introduce them to bands B, C, and D, who you honestly think do it better. Quality will out.
For example, I happen to think that that Ghost Bath are painfully mediocre. They’re the milquetoast of the “Post Black Metal” scene, whose success is largely down to a mix of media hype and their own bland, inoffensive sound.
So I’d recommend bands like An Autumn For Crippled Children, Violet Cold, Lantlos, and Heretoir as superior alternatives, and hope that these bands (who I honestly think are far, far better) will thus gain a new fan.
Looking back at decades of metal, I can’t say metal ever had a bad year. Yes, there were fads that took away the attention from artists that made great music and who should have gained more recognition, but in the end a lot of metal isn’t made for big audiences and represent an inward journey that you can enjoy strolling through the woods or just sitting in the dark with your eyes closed, music being your one and true companion.
Thanks for the article Andy! I really enjoyed some of the songs you posted. It’s always nice to find new bands to add to my ever -growing list!