black metal trust fund hijinx

So I sleep badly, most of the time, and this is what I blame for this.  Woke up around 3am, couldn’t get back to sleep, and started dicking around on Facebook, where I unfortunately encountered a post from my friend Aaron alerting me to the existence of these clowns:

“So what?” you might ask. “It’s just a boring song.” Yes. Yes it is. However, the frontman of this ensemble, one Hunter Hunt-Hendrix (forgive my juvenile attitude here, but…SNORT) has decided that not only is this boring-ass garbage FASCINATING, it also RUNS CIRCLES AROUND ALL THOSE OTHER METAL BANDS THAT ARE FORMED BY PEONS NOT SMART ENOUGH TO REFERENCE ZIZEK IN INTERVIEWS. Witness his TRANSCENDENTAL BLACK METAL MANIFESTO (sorry for linking to the hipster swamp that is Vice, but sadly it’s the only place on the internets with an extended excerpt of this claptrap), and then promptly hork your guts out.

Ok, I’m not really at all invested in black metal subculture – I only like a small handful of bands (Emperor, Enslaved, Ludicra, Watain, Wolves in the Throne Room, Dissection, and Bathory if you count them), “kvlt” pissing contests bore me to tears, and certain areas of black metal have a high level of tolerance for racists and other such assholes (and yes, I realize some of those assholes play in a couple of the bands I just mentioned…thank god for used record stores, huh?) that does not sit well with me. That being said, Hendrix’s blowhard “manifesto” sits even less well with me, for a variety of reasons.

The first one is fairly obvious to anyone who listens to metal. Hendrix’s assertion throughout the piece that “transcendental black metal” – that is, black metal that does not fit strictly within the traditional formula – is some new thing (pioneered, he implies, by his band) is patently false. While some bands are certainly content to stick with the tried and true (and there’s nothing wrong with that, in my view – who doesn’t love blast beats and Satan?), bands like Enslaved, Alcest, Sigh, Melechesh and Ulver have been messing around with genre convention for years, and their genre experiments are generally much more worth listening to. I’d much rather listen to Melechesh playing Middle Eastern scales and quoting the Enuma Elish, or Enslaved combining a Viking chant with a weird proggy time signature, than witness some underfed hipster douchebag flail about dully in an attempt to (I’m guessing) ape Swans* or something.

And part of this is me being a nitpicky snob but I think it’s part of an unfortunate larger pattern of artistic expression not being considered legitimate until it’s expressed by a member of the socioeconomic elite. Hendrix has a degree from philosophy from Columbia, connections to the New York art scene, and the spare time to bloviate nonsense about his mediocre output – I am going to guess this detachment from the working-class associations of heavy metal is part of what makes him think his unremarkable music is such a big fucking deal.

Hendrix’s privileged viewpoint is visible in a few other ways, as well. In an interview, he expressed shock – shock – at the level of homophobic slurs leveled against his band. As a queer woman who has to hear that shit every time I go to a large metal show, I would like to advise him that maybe he should be a bit more informed about the subculture he’s attempting to yak about at length. Dismay is a legit reaction, certainly, but surprise indicates straight-up ignorance.

But what else would I expect from a dude who says things like this: “America is an eternal ideal representing human dignity, hybridization and creative evolution.” And later on: “This America [that ‘transcendental black metal’ represents] is a metaphor for pure unrestricted creativity, the courageous exercise of will and the joyful experience of the continuity of existence.” While he stresses that this is an ideal rather than a reality, “[a]n America that has never existed and may never exist,” for whom has this ideal historically even been a possibility? To whom does America represent those things (even if it fails to live up to them)? Sweet smokin’ Judas, man, have you ever cracked a history book at all?

Ugh. Anyway, if you’re a-hankerin’ for specifically American black metal, I’d recommend Ludicra’s tales of urban decay or Wolves in the Throne Room’s deep ecology jams (finally got Celestial Lineage recently, and it did not disappoint), both of which take on the characteristics of their environment without any weird cheerleading of American exceptionalism.

EDIT: Oh god, a response – not to me, mind, but to general criticisms of his band (notably this thoughtful, reasoned critique from Woe’s Chris Griggs). A response in which Hendrix compares himself to Wagner and name-drops Nietzsche and Henry Miller. My hatred is now thick and rich enough to drizzle over pancakes.

*nothing against Swans. I love Swans. I paid an excessive amount of money to see them last fall, and it ruled. It’s like the Pogues – love ’em, cannot stand people who try to sound like ’em.

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~ by Smellen on February 8, 2012.

2 Responses to “black metal trust fund hijinx”

  1. I can only agree with what a despicable pile of crap this man is, but I have to point out that thinking of metal, and especially black metal, as a fundamentally working class form of expression requires a personal experience miles away from the one I have ever had.
    I would even push it further by saying that metal is quite quintessentially middle-class, just as punk or all sorts of alternative rock music types those days, while whereas punk might claim some level of prole legitimacy due to it’s political roots, black metal when it arose was already a rather sophisticated pursuit. If you want contemporary working class music I am afraid you will need to look into (local) hiphop/reggae/DnB/Dubstep and chart music. Maybe rave music too if you are in the UK, but that’s about it…

    • maybe this differs by locale? Where I’m from metal was/is trailer trash music, and almost all of my metalhead buddies grew up working class. I don’t think it’s “quintessentially” anything but I think in America and in particular the part of the East Coast that Hunt-Hendrix and I are from, it is coded as working-class music.

      more later, gotta run to work

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