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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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