Dec 172013

I’ve sure been seeing a lot of “hipster” the last few weeks, as year-end lists of metal have been rolling out and people have been commenting on them. There are certain albums, mainly Deafheaven’s Sunbather, that routinely get blasted with the “hipster” label. Earlier today we even got a “hipster” comment on one of the lists we posted at NCS — applied to Ghost BC’s Infestissumam.

“Hipster” is a word I almost never use, mainly because I’m not sure what it means. I do know that it’s a disparaging, belittling, derogatory label of some kind. As used in the metal community, maybe it’s supposed to mean “not true metal” or “not good metal”. But the sense I get is that it’s used most often to mean “metal that people who aren’t metal heads like” — and apparently, the more non-metalheads who like a metal album, the worse it must be.

I definitely get the sense that Deafheaven have been victimized by that latter situation. The album is showing up on all sorts of year-end lists at big entertainment web sites, often mixed together with music from other genres such as indie and hip-hop. For some people, that seems to be enough to brand Deafheaven’s music “hipster metal”. I suspect something similar has happened to Ghost BC (I even wrote about the phenomenon here). This bothers me. Continue reading »

Apr 302013

When I intend to listen to an album with the thought of reviewing it, I usually avoid reading other reviews. I want to form my own impressions based solely on the music and pick my own words to describe it; this may explain why my reviews leave so much to be desired. However, I read several reviews of Ghost’s new album Infestissumam before hearing it, because I wasn’t thinking about reviewing it for this site. After all, the music is barely metal, if it’s metal at all. Also, it has actual singing in it.

The reviews I read weren’t in mainstream publications or on mainstream sites, though Infestissimum has been reviewed in plenty of those places. I was reading reviews on metal blogs. I couldn’t help but notice that even most of the positive reviews had a defensive or apologetic tone, a kind of “they’re good for what they do, as long as you’re not expecting X, Y, or Z”. And the negative reviews panned the album for not having enough X, Y, or Z — whatever the reviewer was demanding but couldn’t find in the music, such as heaviness or gripping riffs.

Some of the negative reviews came from people who seemed to really like Ghost’s first album, Opus Eponymous. This later puzzled me after I listened to Infestissimum, because it’s not like the band made some kind of radical course change without putting on the turn signal.  I don’t think it’s different enough from the first album to turn praise into a pan.

I began to have a sneaking suspicion that Ghost had become the victim of a combination of two things that don’t go over very well here in the underground: success and gimmickry. Continue reading »