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Thoughts on metal and negativity

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I was thinking about this, and I realized that it is actually quite odd to link metal (in a generic sense) with negativity.  A significant portion of metal music (from any subgenre) is quite exciting and energetic.  The dynamism that often takes the center stage in metal almost seems to be the opposite of negativity (which I would associate with inaction).  The act of doing anything seems to affirm some sort of dedication to life and existence that a truly negative person would shun. 

Thus, I find it interesting that "misanthropic" black metal musicians would spend so much time and effort creating something for other people to hear.  If you truly hate society, people, and life then why would you even bother to create at all?

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18 minutes ago, Balor said:

I was thinking about this, and I realized that it is actually quite odd to link metal (in a generic sense) with negativity.  A significant portion of metal music (from any subgenre) is quite exciting and energetic.  The dynamism that often takes the center stage in metal almost seems to be the opposite of negativity (which I would associate with inaction).  The act of doing anything seems to affirm some sort of dedication to life and existence that a truly negative person would shun. 

Thus, I find it interesting that "misanthropic" black metal musicians would spend so much time and effort creating something for other people to hear.  If you truly hate society, people, and life then why would you even bother to create at all?

Most metal bands take certain topics like "misanthrophy" or "satanism" (though, a very incorrect variant of both terms) just to add artistic value, but rarely follow these sentiments in real life. Sort of a gimmick to be honest, I can get behind that if the music is good enough to speak for itself

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44 minutes ago, MattCantina said:

Most metal bands take certain topics like "misanthrophy" or "satanism" (though, a very incorrect variant of both terms) just to add artistic value, but rarely follow these sentiments in real life. Sort of a gimmick to be honest, I can get behind that if the music is good enough to speak for itself

I think that you are largely correct on much of the metal image of "negativity" being a gimmick, and I agree that the music should be the main reason that one listens to a band.  However, it nevertheless slightly irritates me that some bands would employ such powerful motifs in an inauthentic manner.  Rather than have their art embody themselves (their actual values, beliefs, etc.), they employ them to project a fictitious image.  In a sense, this seems to demean their art form.

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28 minutes ago, Balor said:

I think that you are largely correct on much of the metal image of "negativity" being a gimmick, and I agree that the music should be the main reason that one listens to a band.  However, it nevertheless slightly irritates me that some bands would employ such powerful motifs in an inauthentic manner.  Rather than have their art embody themselves (their actual values, beliefs, etc.), they employ them to project a fictitious image.  In a sense, this seems to demean their art form.

Art is a very powerful tool, but also very subjective; an artist ( in this case, a metal band ) should be free to express his own ideas. Their interpretations of such topics might be completely fallacious -as indeed some really are- but I can't argue against art being in the eye of the beholder. To a certain extent, even fake satanism ( jokingly depicted) can be considered a form of art.

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1 hour ago, MattCantina said:

Art is a very powerful tool, but also very subjective; an artist ( in this case, a metal band ) should be free to express his own ideas. Their interpretations of such topics might be completely fallacious -as indeed some really are- but I can't argue against art being in the eye of the beholder. To a certain extent, even fake satanism ( jokingly depicted) can be considered a form of art.

I think, however, that all that you described can be achieved whilst also remaining true to oneself.  As I think more about what I said earlier, I realized that I was pretty much just rehashing annoyance against fake, sell-out bands.

This conversation also brought to mind the concept of escapism and fantasy in music - where you create a new, and deliberately fake, world in which you can forget about reality.

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On 5/17/2018 at 5:03 PM, Balor said:

Metal in many ways rejects the norms of society (though it is worth noting that it has many norms of its own).  Breaking away from the herd provides one with an interesting level of objectivity about society that could not otherwise be achieved from within.  Just because something is normal, popular, or "light" does not entail that it has any quality or insights to offer.  In many ways, the people who deliberately do something unusual or different often have the most to offer and learn from.

What exactly is "the herd"? Please elaborate. There is no "the herd". Society is a collection of herds, and just about every one of them thinks they're special. Christians, satanists, metalheads, pop fans, classic fans, every one of them thinks they're special. And they all are, they all are special in their way. I think it's an illusion to think metal as a subgroup is any more or less special than any other subgroups and therefore somehow its members can have any level of objectivity about society. We all see the world and our fellow human beings through the filters of the groups we belong to, all our minds are clouded by the shared beliefs of the groups we belong to. No one is truly objective about society as a whole. To be truly objective one would have to be a member of no group, and that is impossible.

EDIT: To answer the original question, I think someone else adressed it already, I don't think of the music I listen to as dark. My mother does. Most metalheads wouldn't what I listen to call dark. I would call most extreme metal dark. One of the posters in this thread doesn't. I think negative is just really in the eye of the beholder when it comes to music. 

EDIT: @Crusader: I think what is so interesting about fantasy, from the perspective of a story teller, is that you can explore views you don't personally believe in through your characters.

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18 hours ago, AltairEndian said:

What exactly is "the herd"? Please elaborate. There is no "the herd". Society is a collection of herds, and just about every one of them thinks they're special. Christians, satanists, metalheads, pop fans, classic fans, every one of them thinks they're special. And they all are, they all are special in their way. I think it's an illusion to think metal as a subgroup is any more or less special than any other subgroups and therefore somehow its members can have any level of objectivity about society. We all see the world and our fellow human beings through the filters of the groups we belong to, all our minds are clouded by the shared beliefs of the groups we belong to. No one is truly objective about society as a whole. To be truly objective one would have to be a member of no group, and that is impossible.

I think that there is a significant grouping of people that can broadly be labeled "the herd."  There is no shortage of humans who view the world uncritically and superficially, constantly aligning themselves with what is easy, safe, and socially-approved (and especially the trendy) - they are the herd.

I would not categorize all of metal as being a special subgroup, but rather would only consider the more extreme subgenres to be so (along with other extreme forms of art and music, i.e. Dada, noise music, etc.).  Specifically, black metal, in taking a militantly anti-normal approach to image, sound, and ideology, is able to grant itself a degree of freedom from society at large, and, hence, access to a position of objectivity that would have been otherwise unreachable through more domesticated approaches.  By aggressively separating oneself from a group, the group itself can become an object of study.

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5 hours ago, Balor said:

I think that there is a significant grouping of people that can broadly be labeled "the herd."  There is no shortage of humans who view the world uncritically and superficially, constantly aligning themselves with what is easy, safe, and socially-approved (and especially the trendy) - they are the herd.

I would not categorize all of metal as being a special subgroup, but rather would only consider the more extreme subgenres to be so (along with other extreme forms of art and music, i.e. Dada, noise music, etc.).  Specifically, black metal, in taking a militantly anti-normal approach to image, sound, and ideology, is able to grant itself a degree of freedom from society at large, and, hence, access to a position of objectivity that would have been otherwise unreachable through more domesticated approaches.  By aggressively separating oneself from a group, the group itself can become an object of study.

How do you know there are? Are there any studies that show that we become less critical as a society?  What evidence do you have that convinces you that there is such a significant group? I think the opposite (but don't know any studies verifying either view) is true: The herd is an illusion created by a small group of people being very vocal about something. It's like with fanatically evangelical Christians. Most Christians aren't, but the few who are are so vocal about it that it seems that there are a lot of them.

But doesn't objectivity mean that you acknowledge both the good and bad aspects of something, not just the bad? Does black metal actually acknowledge the good aspects of society?

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On 4/27/2019 at 12:21 PM, AltairEndian said:

How do you know there are? Are there any studies that show that we become less critical as a society?  What evidence do you have that convinces you that there is such a significant group? I think the opposite (but don't know any studies verifying either view) is true: The herd is an illusion created by a small group of people being very vocal about something. It's like with fanatically evangelical Christians. Most Christians aren't, but the few who are are so vocal about it that it seems that there are a lot of them.

But doesn't objectivity mean that you acknowledge both the good and bad aspects of something, not just the bad? Does black metal actually acknowledge the good aspects of society?

In regards to studies, I would cite the declining rates of students with majors in the humanities and/or philosophy.  These disciplines make it their focus to critically analyze the world around them, and not many people, at least in the US, are deciding to pursue study in these fields.  The majority are instead pursuing technical degrees that will guarantee them good pay - but not necessarily critical analysis.

Objectivity does not mean recognizing the good and band, but rather the truth - good, bad, both or neither.  However, many might claim that bm often represents a bulwark protecting/enforcing freedom of speech.

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There are studies on how music effects people, of course, though they do tend to focus more on music's positive effects. These studies, so far as I can find, don't look at extreme music genres however.

 

Personally I find the extreme emotions captured in say black or doom metal serve as a means of actually managing those emotions in a positive way. Rather then be down for days on end over something or having all this pent up aggression and just snapping I can express those feelings through music and function like a normal person.

 

When it comes to metal being held in negative esteem it's an attitude that isn't as prevalent these days. Sure you get the odd person who says something stupid when you say you're a metal fan. What you don't see as often is the old attitude that metal is unsophisticated, evil, music for simple people who'll probably wind up killing themselves or someone else.

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Traditionally, it has seemed to me that people with a negative disposition are strongly correlated to 'outsider' genres like metal. However, because such a strong emotional connection to music such as metal is made, and because music generally gives listeners a sense of catharsis that is uniquely personalized, through that means people able to overcome whatever negative disposition they may have had. Also, it seems to me that negative outlooks on life are greatly diminished when met with an increased sense of community, and, these days, the metal community seems less divided. It seems, too, that people today are less willing to let one single thing like taste in music define themselves. 

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It's about the feelings, not the music or lyrics. If you don't like it you should not force yourself to. Metal aims to speak to a specific type of personality who is drawn to the extreme or people looking for a thrill among other personality traits, thus many also like horror movies while many normal people don't.

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On 6/14/2018 at 6:08 PM, MaxFaust said:

Aye. I am. Which is probably why all those black metal boys like me so much.

There's nothing admireable about the human race. We're basically just stupid monkeys, not even smart enough to recognise the good shit that we've got. So we fuck it up and turn it all to worthless crap. Again and again, with the idiot dance of "success" and sieg heil to the industry and corporate mindlessness.

The human body is more stupid than monkeys and many other animals. Our brains cannot process information nearly as quick as they can - doesn't have the sampling rate or even the bandwidth. I don't know how we came to be but I don't see human beings as superior to other animals. This is very much their planet. They often look at us like aliens and that tells me all I need to know. I'm neither prey nor predator, Just here. Don't know why.

I don't view this as negative though. If you want to put emotional stock into things, sure, it's probably quite disparaging. It's positive in the manner that it is functional. It can allow us to assess things and when taken to the extreme, will simplify life in some areas. So these thoughts are good because they can be used.

No offense to anyone. We're all shit and we're all brilliant stars at the same time.

I don't dislike the humans, though I won't pretend to understand most of them.

Certainly, in the brief period of time that I've been here, I've made a couple of interesting connections that should result in good things happening.

And believe or not - I consider myself an optimist. I'm just honest and realistic at the same time; Whilst being romantic and fantastic.

 

On 6/14/2018 at 6:08 PM, MaxFaust said:

BTW ... the word "occult" means hidden. As in hidden from sight, from the obviousity of rational thought and logic. In many ways, sex is occult ... because it's a thing that's hidden and feared, something that everybody has to figure out for themselves, what it means and how they wish to relate to it, but it's an important thing to most people so it will not be denied.

Depends on how and where you're doing it. Sex hasn't always been occulted for me. Some of the best sex in my life has been very public. Can't say anyone took a picture but I'm sure hotel security has some interesting CCTV tapes.

 

For me, negative is a lack of action. A detraction from something. Darkness is not inherently negative. As MaxFaust has highlighted: It is occult. The dark and the unseen can tickle our fears but can also be used in a variety of ways. Desensitisation to fear of the dark is one positive aspect of dark metal. If it feels empowering - If it stirs the imagination - If it encourages action: Then it is positive.

There is complex joy in black metal for me. It is an expression of vitality in the recognition of our ultimate destination and exploration of our magickal powers.

"What can cure, can curse". It's how you use it and how you relate to it that matters.

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For me, these dark currents in most of the metal bands I listened to when I was 15-17 yo, have acted as a catalyst in seeing through mainstream morality. I already had a tendency towards that, but the music and texts of e.g. Venom and Mercyful Fate speeded up the process. I never took the satanic messages and imagery literally; they were a metaphore (and/or allegory) to me.

I grew up to be a fairly harmless person though :D

 

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On 5/11/2018 at 1:23 AM, Balor said:

Honestly, I have always just liked the aesthetics of dark themes.  Listening to negative music does not make me feel dark, and often feels quite meditative to me (depending on the song/band/genre).

I'm not sure how much I agree with this video.  There seem to be philosophically justifiable positions that are able to posit some objective sources of meaning and purpose.  Furthermore, it goes nowhere to discount the validity of said positions.

Couldn't agree more with this sentiment, I see it as purging the negativity from my life. It allows me to be a kind and polite person in a way, cheesy as that sounds...

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On 7/18/2020 at 4:29 PM, Sabazios said:

 It allows me to be a kind and polite person in a way, cheesy as that sounds...

I guess it depends on the level of negativity that one is talking about too, though.  I imagine that something like Blasphemy or Mayhem might work out some bad thoughts in a positive way, but I have some doubts on occasion when I listen to stuff that is genuinely anti-social/negative/extreme.  Sometimes it feels more like a meditation in darkness, filth, etc. than a purging of it.

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3 hours ago, Balor said:

I guess it depends on the level of negativity that one is talking about too, though.  I imagine that something like Blasphemy or Mayhem might work out some bad thoughts in a positive way, but I have some doubts on occasion when I listen to stuff that is genuinely anti-social/negative/extreme.  Sometimes it feels more like a meditation in darkness, filth, etc. than a purging of it.

I don't know if you're meaning like lyrically or musically though, I tend not to be interested in lyrics so much, I'm all about the music. For instance I've always been a fan of drudkh, I only found out earlier this year that they're considered NSBM, when I first learned that I thought "well that's fucked then, cant listen to that anymore" but then I thought, the lyrics are in Ukrainian anyway, which I dont speak, fuck it the music is quality, I care not for their ideology. So I guess for me it's the energy of the music that purges away the negativity... does that make sense? Probably not haha

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9 hours ago, Sabazios said:

I don't know if you're meaning like lyrically or musically though, I tend not to be interested in lyrics so much, I'm all about the music. For instance I've always been a fan of drudkh, I only found out earlier this year that they're considered NSBM, when I first learned that I thought "well that's fucked then, cant listen to that anymore" but then I thought, the lyrics are in Ukrainian anyway, which I dont speak, fuck it the music is quality, I care not for their ideology. So I guess for me it's the energy of the music that purges away the negativity... does that make sense? Probably not haha

A friend brought this subject up recently and I'll say here what I said to him, if you like the music you like it, should you have to translate all lyrics of a band you enjoy? I personally don't think so. 

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36 minutes ago, Natassja said:

A friend brought this subject up recently and I'll say here what I said to him, if you like the music you like it, should you have to translate all lyrics of a band you enjoy? I personally don't think so. 

I really like noisesters Scarlet, musically fantastic, but lyrics are mainly about suicide, I personally find suicidal concepts less appealing than anything really, but the music is quality.  You have to kinda tread carefully tho, cos you cant really go around saying "I like an NSBM band" and not expect the pc brigade to fall on you like a tonne of bricks...

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12 hours ago, Sabazios said:

I don't know if you're meaning like lyrically or musically though, I tend not to be interested in lyrics so much, I'm all about the music. For instance I've always been a fan of drudkh, I only found out earlier this year that they're considered NSBM, when I first learned that I thought "well that's fucked then, cant listen to that anymore" but then I thought, the lyrics are in Ukrainian anyway, which I dont speak, fuck it the music is quality, I care not for their ideology. So I guess for me it's the energy of the music that purges away the negativity... does that make sense? Probably not haha

Not just lyrics, though.  Sometimes the negativity extends to cover art too sometimes.  I suppose that I am pushing the boundaries of the discussion, though, as my response was at least partly referring to power electronics/noise music as well (stuff like Xenophobic Ejaculation or Zyklon SS).

I think that Drudkh is a highly political band, and their political views seems to come out at least partly through their music itself.  However, I never really considered their music to be negative - it seems too romantic and warm for that.

In terms of metal, I was thinking about stuff along the lines of Konflict (whose music videos consisted of clips of various bombings/gunfights from the Sri Lanakan civil war) or Catasexual Urge Motivation (with pictures of gore/corpses as album art).  Sometime the negativity seems too strong to just dissolve into the music.

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4 hours ago, Natassja said:

A friend brought this subject up recently and I'll say here what I said to him, if you like the music you like it, should you have to translate all lyrics of a band you enjoy? I personally don't think so. 

The voice of reason returns. This is what the forum (and life in general) needs more of.

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On 7/20/2020 at 4:55 PM, Balor said:

Not just lyrics, though.  Sometimes the negativity extends to cover art too sometimes.  I suppose that I am pushing the boundaries of the discussion, though, as my response was at least partly referring to power electronics/noise music as well (stuff like Xenophobic Ejaculation or Zyklon SS).

I think that Drudkh is a highly political band, and their political views seems to come out at least partly through their music itself.  However, I never really considered their music to be negative - it seems too romantic and warm for that.

In terms of metal, I was thinking about stuff along the lines of Konflict (whose music videos consisted of clips of various bombings/gunfights from the Sri Lanakan civil war) or Catasexual Urge Motivation (with pictures of gore/corpses as album art).  Sometime the negativity seems too strong to just dissolve into the music.

That's a fair point, I do really enjoy most black metal, but some bands I have chosen to steer clear of due to band name, album name or cover art, again anything that's too suicidal, or screams of racial hate, I mean you don't often come across bands with nazi symbolism, I guess you have to seek those guys out a bit, but the suicidal stuff is fairly common, bands like ghostbath etc... shame really because the music might be really good... that being said I really liked "10th sublevel of suicide" talk about contradict myself huh? 🤫

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Perhaps it's a matter of them having too much metal on or in the brain, but I don't understand metalheads. It's apparently fine to write lyrics glorifying actions like rape and murder, brutalizing women including genital mutilation of women, necrophilia, anti-Christian anything... but just don't write some words about race, Nazis, Muslims or whatever flavour of the month that is trending on twitter. I'm just waiting for that fateful ironic day that metal music is no longer about the usual gore, but Tipper Gore instead.

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