Metal, the internet, and the day the assholes took over.

Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone fancies themselves an expert.  This pretty well sums up the state of metal on the internet.  In addition to the five million and one review sites and blogs (such as this one), you’ve got a veritable legion of message board and comment section jockeys, all of whom believe themselves to be the be-all-end-all of metal knowledge, and all of whom believe that their opinion is the only one that matters.

Two recent incidents drove this home for me personally.  The first was when I commented in praise of the first two Phantasm films on a post on the Invisible Oranges blog.  When someone else stated that the films were just bad acting, I in turn asked who actually goes into watching a b-horror film looking for great acting, and also jokingly added that anyone who didn’t think that Angus Scrimm (the gentleman who plays the film’s main villain the Tall Man) was a fucking badass should’ve been aborted.  Who in their right mind would want everyone who doesn’t care for the acting of an obscure horror movie actor to be retroactively aborted?  How could anyone possibly take such a comment seriously?  I guess humor and sarcasm just don’t translate well to the internet (or at least to the metal community on the internet), because someone did take this ridiculous off-hand remark seriously, and replied to me as follows:

“Perhaps you’re the one who should have been aborted? Seriously, leave your opinions at home with regards to others who comment on here bro. Everyone has their right to state what is on there mind here. You’re not the exception.”

Really?  You’re honestly going to get your feathers ruffled over such a ridiculous remark that wasn’t ever directed at you (or anyone in particular)?  It’s hard enough to take someone who uses the word “bro” in writing (or in everyday conversation, ugh) seriously, let alone who doesn’t know the difference between “their” and “there”.  But the commenter then goes on to state everyone has a right to express what’s on their mind.  Apparently he meant everyone but me, or everyone except for those whose comments he personally takes an exception to.  And what a random fucking comment to take exception to.  Maybe Mr. Despondency just doesn’t care for/understand humor or maybe just my particular sense of humor? Maybe there’s no room in metal for abortion jokes?  Maybe it’s that time of the month?  I guess from now on I’ll keep my deliberately over-the-top opinions about Angus Scrimm’s acting prowess to myself.

The second incident occurred when I reviewed Deafheaven’s excellent Roads to Judah.  The band was gracious enough to post a link to the review on their Facebook page.  A lot of folks took exception to my claim that San Francisco is not known as a hotbed for black metal.  Now, I don’t have a problem with this.  In fact, I encourage constructive criticism.  However, not one single commenter was able/willing to back up their argument with any sort of evidence.  It was enough for them to state that their opinion was right, mine was wrong, end of story.  For me personally, the US black metal scene is too spread out to declare one particular city a hotbed.  There are great black metal bands from NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, Austin, etc, the whole country is a hotbed for the stuff right now, not one city can lay claim to being the genre’s Mecca.  There might be five million local black metal bands in the SF area, but if we’re talking about bands that have made a significant impact on a national and international level, I can only name a handful.  Furthermore, of that handful of bands, I only find two particularly relevant to the style of black metal that Deafheaven are incorporating into their sound.  If I’m wrong, by all means educate me, please!  I welcome it!  One of my reasons for starting this blog in the first place is to encourage meaningful discussion, and if you think I’m wrong about something, tell me why I’m wrong.  Unfortunately, simply stating “you’re wrong, I’m right” is completely satisfactory for these folks, completely negating the whole point of blogs, message boards, etc, which were (I believe) designed to encourage people from all over the world to interact in a convenient yet worthwhile manner.

I fear that just the opposite is happening in the metal community.  Social networking, message boards, comment sections, etc encourage metal fans to be elitist assholes and spread their negativity with impunity from behind the veil of anonymity.  This is why I tend to avoid them.  I have a policy at THKD of only writing about bands/albums that I enjoy, and which I would recommend to other fans (although I am extremely tempted to verbally eviscerate Morbid Angel’s latest sonic abortion… oops! Another abortion joke!  Sorry guys, it just slipped out!).  I’ve found that a lot of negativity just creates bad karma (or whatever you want to call it), and I would rather add something positive to a scene that is already seething with negativity and bickering, all from behind the cajones-free safety of user names and online personas. What’s the point of insulting people for no reason when you could be having intelligent, thoughtful conversations and a meaningful exchange of ideas?  Does no one care, or is it a matter of simply not having the capacity to engage in such discourse?  I don’t know.

I’m not sure when/where this elitist asshole mentality began in metal, but the sooner all of us start working together to stamp it out, the better off we are.  Metal should not be a refuge for cowards and know-it-alls.  It should be a place for people to feel empowered, to thrive and grow and develop camaraderie without having to worry about anonymous/chickenshit internet bullies sullying the experience.  In other words, grow a pair or get the fuck out.

I do find it interesting that these folks are more than happy to slag off something other people have done, but aren’t actually contributing anything themselves.  They are more than happy to take and take and take, but unwilling to give anything back that might actually enrich the discourse and free flow of ideas surrounding the music that they claim to love.  These are just the sort of people metal has no use for.  If you don’t like someone’s writing/webzine/etc, show them yours (or write/start your own, that’s what I did).  Teach them something.  Make a suggestion for what they could be doing better.  Help your fellow metalhead out with some constructive criticism, back up your arguments so the other person can learn and add to their knowledge base.

Of course, anyone who follows me on twitter knows that I’m guilty of spreading some negativity of my own.  In this respect, I admit that I am a hypocrite.  But I recognize it and am actively working on it, as well trying to give something that’s largely positive back to the metal community (through this site) in order to counteract my occasional outbursts of negativity/grouchiness.  I’m not so sure that others do.  I don’t expect people to be positive at all times and I think we all know that there is a lot wrong with metal right now, but I do expect people to back up their opinions and to convey them in an intelligent manner w/o resorting to name calling and bullshit.  For example, I’m currently working on a piece with a fellow blogger right now that will shed some light on my low opinion of Liturgy, a band that I have undoubtedly served up a lot of ice-cold haterade for.  I can back up my hate with some (hopefully) relevant, intelligent discourse.  Can you?

I realize it isn’t all bad.  There are plenty of great bloggers, reviewers and commenters out there that write in a way that adds something positive to this beautiful, fucked up mess we call the metal scene.  I’m pleased that there have never been any overly negative comments here at THKD in over a year of existence. That might have something to do that the traffic/readership here is relatively low compared to a site like Invisible Oranges, Blabbermouth, Metal Review, etc.  My concern however is that those folks are part of an ever-shrinking minority.

So what does this all mean?  It means that I for one, am tired of this stuff being considered ok, or as part and parcel of the status quo for for online metal discourse. It means that I’m fed up with these self styled elitists being allowed to take a shit in my front yard, leaving me to clean up after them.  It means that I think there are others out there like myself who are sick to death of putting up with these douchebags constantly pissing on our parade.  It means that it’s high time we took metal (and the internet) back from these unconscionable shitheads and showed them who’s boss.

So, who’s with me?

18 thoughts on “Metal, the internet, and the day the assholes took over.

  1. Leviathan is/Lurker Of Chalice is from Oakland and I’d wager there’s some of that in there as well…though I think there’s a way, way bigger shoegaze influence than Weakling or Post-rock…there’s A LOT of Chapterhouse pillaging on Roads To Judah!

    The internet is a breeding ground for opinions from every moron under the sun (the “blogosphere” anyone???), but I think one’s ability to not take ANY of it too seriously is the key, one man’s snarky vague insult is the next Metalsucks poster’s troll. You’d think that saying things that are so silly they could only be construed as sarcasm would be reasonably transparent, but you’re dealing with people who most likely spend more time arguing with people they’ve never even met in person than they do having an actual meaningful conversation in meetspace.

  2. Hmm. Lots to chew on here.

    First, I’m not really one to tell the disgruntled to start their own blogs in order to further validate their opinions; there’s already too much bullshit to sift through. Plus, that line of criticism rubs a little too closely to every critic’s most maligned commenter cliche: “Well, I don’t see YOU putting out albums and touring! Write me an album as good as A Sense of Purpose, and then we’ll talk!” (This drives me nuts; does anyone give Roger Ebert shit for his lack of a directorial resume?)

    I think the epidemic of pseudo-elitism stems from the general social awkwardness of metalheads; many of these people don’t know how to have a real conversation in person. (For example, there’s a local death metaller that I was introduced to–due to our obvious common interest–but I cannot stand to speak to, simply because he speaks exclusively in negative talking points. He sounds like a robot repeating transcripts of forum posts.) Basically, poor communicators communicate poorly.

    However, I don’t want to downplay the significance of negativity, as long it’s pointed and purposeful. I dig that you use your platform only to promote causes that stoke your metallic fire, but I think negative criticism still holds a very important place in today’s metal scene. With the increasing hyper-segmentation, an everything-is-awesome attitude is becoming increasingly prevalent. And let’s face it. Everything ain’t awesome, and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

  3. What’s kind of interesting to me about this whole phenomenon is how it spills back into real life, where people are starting to be much ruder and more intolerant because they’re getting used to mainly communicating online. And of course related to that…the entire death of the art of conversation, where people just poke at you with grunts as if they if wish you had a keyboard installed on your body…

  4. Thanks for another good read, Josh.

    I don’t think this problem is limited to metal. I’ve seen similar levels of negativity and hostility on sites about all sorts of genres. Even supposedly ‘posi’ hardcore kids and crusties act like elitist arseholes towards each other online. I suspect it’s a symptom of the comments feature that’s become a staple of all kinds of websites. It makes it more tempting to fire off a few biting sentences than to chew over what the poster’s said and come up with something thoughtful; especially on sites like Invisible Oranges, where the sheer flood of responses to every post makes it hard to get any to-and-fro going.

    Or perhaps I’m just bitter that nobody ever comments on our posts at Lurker…

  5. One benefit to online conversations is the ability to edit yourself BEFORE clicking send. In face-to-face conversation I’m constantly tempted to contribute attempts at wit. Quite often these attempts are wrong-headed, but the pace of the conversation demands I get my thoughts out there ASAP. This can lead to many regretful statements. While typing out a response, one has the advantage of reviewing how it might sound to someone else. I was involved in the conversation on IO. While I appreciate your passion for Phantasm (Angus Scrimm is indeed a badass) and your attempt to defend it, you’d have to admit that it came across as very juvenile and more importantly, not-funny. The type of fight-picking remark you find all over meathead metal discussion boards. However, the poster’s response was completely incommensurate with your remark. He should have noticed your sarcasm. It was blatantly obvious.

    I appreciate your dedication to elevate the metal conversation. I really do. I think you’ve got a nice little blog here. 99% of what you say is useful. Unfortunately, that one percent is what tends to get noticed. I’m sure the wrong-headed poster would never have responded the way he did had he know of your overwhelmingly positive contributions.

  6. “although I am extremely tempted to verbally eviscerate Morbid Angel’s latest sonic abortion… oops! Another abortion joke! Sorry guys, it just slipped out!)”

    Using the word abortion as a pejorative has never made much sense to me. It seems to be used as a way to describe a band’s latest, poor offering. Primarily, the word abortion refers to the act of removing a fetus from the womb before it’s natural time. More generally it refers to stopping progress on an action before completion. If you go outside of established definitions I suppose it can refer to the product of an abortion, namely, the bloody mass of monstrous dead flesh. So, when you call the new Morbid Angel album an abortion, do you mean it was underdeveloped, and perhaps if given more time, something worthwhile would have been produced? Or, do you mean that the result was a bloody mass of monstrous dead flesh? Jus’ wunnerin.

    Don’t get me started on the proliferation of the term “Godfathers of …” to refer to the creators of a genre.

  7. While I agree with you that everyone is an “expert’ these days.. (tumblr is a great example of this..i came across many 17-18 year old experts on what is “true metal” and Im wondering how long these people could even possibly have been listening to metal to have formed such roots and strong opinions). BUT this is the internet, i think the rule of thumb with ANY social networking sites is you to have to approach it with a grain of salt and a sense of humor. Ive been a diehard Morbid Angel fan for 18 years and i think the new album is horrid. Ive made a few jokes on twitter about it which REALLY got under a few people’s skin, which amazes me. If you like something, why should it really matter what anyone else thinks? I dont see it as bringing negativity into the metal scene, its just me saying my 2 cents on a cd. I personally like hearing the negative and the positive. I dont want to read a zine where everything is just flowers and rainbows reviews, Im a big girl, I can handle reading that my fave band has put out a piece of garbage. :D

  8. The above are good points. Metal kiddies on msg board/FB etc. can get silly and cruel, but political blogs and things like that are the worst. People ruinously flame each other on those sites…

    I’m sure you know the line from Shelley about how critics are like viper’s heads that can bite/kill even though they’re already dead… :)

  9. @Astral Zombie – That’s one thing that disturbs me… these people that spend their whole lives on the computer, forsaking any sort of real life interaction. I mean sure, I sit in a cubicle in front of dual monitors for eight hours a day at work, but I am also constantly interacting with my co-workers during that time, and when I’m at home I try to only spend the amount of time absolutely necessary with the laptop in order to write for/maintain this blog, check e-mails, etc. Otherwise I’m hanging out with my wife. It seems like mankind is rapidly losing their social skills, not to mention sense of humor due to constantly being on the internet.

    @PGC – I’m strongly considering it! As much as I don’t like to encourage negativity at THKD, I firmly believe that Morbid Angel deserves to be called out for releasing this turd!

    @Rev – I agree with you there is a place for negativity in metal criticism. Bands and labels should be held accountable for releasing a subpar record. However, I don’t really see an “everything is awesome” attitude in today’s metal scene. I do see a lot of people becoming more accepting of mediocre and shitty releases. I can’t help but wonder if everyone really made a concentrated effort to ignore the crap a lot of these metal labels put out, and by ignore I mean don’t buy/download/write about it etc, would labels continue to put it out? I also agree with you that there is a lot of shit to sift through, but I’m a firm believer that if someone is not giving you what you want or not filling a void that you feel exists, then you should take a shot at it yourself. Part of why I started this blog is because I felt (and still do feel) that there are only a handful of review sites and blogs that are really bringing a level of discourse to the metal table that goes beyond the typical this rules/suck mentality that often accompanies the genre, and I wanted to be a part of that. I will always encourage others to do the same if they think they have what it takes.

    @UA – I will definitely agree with you that people have gotten ruder and more intolerant. I think the internet is partially to blame, but also look at how ignorant, crude and shallow most popular forms of entertainment have become. Surely this plays a role too? I’m glad I have never had anyone poke/grunt at me in public. ;)

    @Rob/LURKERSPATH – Thanks for bringing that to my attention, I’ve never really bothered to trawl messageboards and such for other genres, but I’ve often wondered whether or not they get as vicious as some of the metal ones certainly do. As for no one commenting on your posts at Lurker, don’t be discouraged, getting people to comment these days is like pulling teeth. When I ran Sonic Frontiers.net we NEVER had comments, with the exception of some guy that took exception to my positive review of Ludicra’s last album… the guy went to the trouble to read all my old posts, went to my myspace and listened to my music (which is no longer posted), the guy basically stalked me… it was beyond creepy, but I took him down hard with a reply and never heard another peep from him. Anyway, that went way off track, but my point is hang in there and the comments will come.

    @Miskatonic – You’re absolutely right that my remark was juvenile. I’m not necessarily ultra-passionate about Phantasm, but I am definitely ultra-passionate about the horror genre as a whole and it bums me out to see it maligned for utterly absurd reasons (such as lack of quality acting, does anyone really go into ANY of these films expecting oscar performances?!) so I guess somewhere in my ridiculous excuse for a brain, it seemed like a good idea to throw out an absurd remark that I felt was equally as absurd as saying that Phantasm is a bad movie because the acting isn’t up to par… it made sense at the time, sort of. But as I said in the piece above, I’m aware of my bad tendencies and am trying to actively work on them.

    As for my use of the word abortion to describe the new Morbid Angel album, the answer is a little bit of both. Taken as a whole, the album is a “bloody mess”, a complete train-wreck, it is shockingly bad. If you pick the album apart though, the traditional death metal songs sound extremely underdeveloped, not to mention the attempts to incorporate electronic/industrial elements. I’m all for incorporating those types of influences into metal, I love bands like Thorns, Godflesh, Prong and DHG to name just a few. Had MA let the synthesis of death metal and electronics happen naturally instead of slapping them haphazardly up against each other, they could’ve been on to something.

    @Jillowar – This is a great attitude to have, but unfortunately I think you might be in the minority. I think too many people don’t understand that so much of what they read on the net, probably 99% of it or more, should be taken with that grain of salt you mentioned. A lot of people get their feathers ruffled over things that really shouldn’t even concern them, your twitter comments about Morbid Angel being a perfect example of that. Someone else’s opinion, whether it’s in a review, a tweet, etc shouldn’t deter you from enjoying something.

    @UA – I avoid most anything to do with politics on the internet like the plague.

  10. >the guy went to the trouble to read all my old posts, went to my myspace and listened to my music (which is not longer posted), the guy basically stalked me… it was beyond creepy, but I took him down hard with a reply and never heard another peep from him.

    Wow. That’s very strange…

    There have been people calling, at least for the last year, for an end to online anonymity. If everyone’s IP was visible and that led to a page that listed their name, address, phone number, a picture, etc. I think 75% of all online idiocy would end…

    As it stands now the internet is like one giant high school…

  11. Well, what I was alluding to with the “everything-is-awesome” comment is the prevailing sentiment that everything should have it’s place. For instance, some comment-lobbers will voice their contempt with a certain piece by claiming that we lack the proper context to assess a certain band from a certain sub-subgenre. Some people seem to think that you need to be a devotee of a specific style in order to qualify to comment on it, which is absolutely absurd. (I’ve even seen the guy that runs Willowtip write to one of my colleagues, “Based on your previous reviews, you obviously don’t even like technical death metal, so I don’t even know why you’re reviewing this,” or something to that effect. This colleague is actually the vocalist for a technical death metal band, but that’s beside the point.) It’s almost symptomatic of the millennial generation as a whole: Everyone needs to feel special, and praise is consistently sought after. They don’t want to live in a world full of checks and balances, they want constant gratification and validation. When someone deprives them of this (or pisses in their sneakers), they stamp their feet and throw a fit. In order to calm them down, we say, “Yes, child, everything you want to like IS awesome. Just play over there with the rest of your friends.”

    Instead, we should be saying, “Your taste is awful, but here’s something you might enjoy, and it doesn’t suck sackfuls of cock.”

    As for ignoring the “crap” that labels will put out, I don’t think that will have any effect whatsoever. As journalists, we’re not so influential that we can just wash our hands of something and hope it disappears. It’s our job to opine, not stand idly by. In political journalism, if someone is being an ignorant asshole, they are taken to task. If record labels are pumping out shit sandwiches, do we take them to task as well, or do we bury our heads in the sand and hope that kids just stop buying into PR hype? I think it’s just as important to tear things down as it is to build them up. If everyone just keeps building and building, things get too crowded, too diluted, or both.

  12. Rev said everything I wanted to say, but more eloquently.

    I definitely prefer writing about stuff I like over stuff I don’t like, but sometimes, you gotta call out bullshit for being bullshit. The way I look at it, very little of what comes out is either truly awesome or truly terrible. Most of it is just…there. I never write about that’s just there.

  13. @Rev – Thanks for clarifying, it seems that I somewhat misinterpreted your “everything is awesome” point. I will agree that it’s silly for someone to have to be a devotee of a certain genre in order to review it. In fact, I’d imagine that you’ll probably get a more honest, less biased opinion from someone who isn’t constantly riding a particular band or genre’s jock. And you’re absolutely right about the constant need for gratification and validation in modern society, I blame the way children are being raised and schooled for a large portion of the that. I’m not going to name names, but I see/know kids that are so coddled that they don’t even know how to order for themselves in a restaurant for chrissakes. Basically, we’re raising a generation of wimps and attention whores.

    Now, to the point of ignoring the crap that labels pump out like so many widgets out of a factory, I’m not suggesting that you bury your head in the sand or that or that metal journalists/reviewers are the be-all-end-all of taste-making (although some certainly seem to think they are). I personally think that ignoring a shitty album altogether and letting it rot in some dark corner of the metal universe, never to be heard from again says a lot more about its quality than wasting the time and effort to actually listen to it repeatedly and then reluctantly vomit up 500-1,000 words on how much it sucks does. That’s just way more time and effort than I’m willing to spend on a shitty album. One day it dawned on me that I only have so many hours in a day and so many years in my lifetime, and I’d like to waste as little of that time as possible on garbage music.

    @Andy – You’re right, 99.9% of metal releases are hopelessly mediocre. I’d rather focus on that 0.1% of awesome shit, I just don’t have the time or inclination to deal with the rest.

  14. I don’t mind negativity if people take the time to explain themselves. I am glad that there are contrary opinions out there being expressed, as I find it’s often by reading and comparing differing viewpoints that you can learn the most about a subject, and come to the best understanding. For example, I really enjoyed that Liturgy debate on Spinal Tapdance. That sure as hell wasn’t all roses, but it was both entertaining and enlightening.

    I’ll admit that straight-up negativity on Twitter usually has me rolling my eyes though. It’s just not productive; there’s rarely anything illuminating about a 140 character snipe at something. I look at it this way, especially in the case of music: you drop a quick plug for something you enjoy, and it might encourage a reader to take a couple minutes and Myspace/Bandcamp/Youtube/whatever it, and they can make up their own minds. You broadcast that something is shit, and… then what? Are you telling me it’s not worth looking into that release? In this case I’d say Josh’s point stands: saying nothing would have had a the same (perhaps greater?) effect as slagging it, because I probably wouldn’t have come across it anyway. Personally I try to save negativity for contexts where it might be more meaningful. I could easily just be being over sensitive on this point though.

    As far as people’s conduct on the internet in general goes, in general good and bad discussions each lead to more in kind, and widespread anonymity and the ease of publication (in the form of, say, comments and forum posts) has caused the base level of communication to sink to awful lows. Unfortunately I think it’s too much to ask to try to raise this base. Civility and clearheadedness will probably remain the minority online. But, you can cultivate areas for reasonable discourse to make the whole thing a little more bearable. When it happens naturally, all the better. Hell, I probably would have submit this thing at least 10 minutes ago if it weren’t for the quality of thought that came before in these comments, forcing me to have a go at coherency.

  15. I know exactly what you’re talking about here. People don’t get sarcasm on the Internet, and it’s their failing, not yours, when it’s as incredibly over-the-top as that. If they can’t get it, I wouldn’t let it bother you.

    Here is a post of mine that recently had a back-and-forth where the other person, unable to convince me that I was wrong, resorted to name-calling–and concluded that because I had an “incorrect” opinion on one album, that everything on my blog is unintelligent (something I’ve never been accused of by anyone who’s met me in real life, at the risk of sounding pretentious). Why can’t people just recognize there will be different opinions? I don’t know. Another problem is the “If you don’t like this, you’re a poser/dolt/fool” attitude.

    That said, I have a couple observations/pieces of advice. One, rise above it. Do not degenerate into name-calling or their negative attitude. Be constructive and explicit with where you agree and where you disagree. You will never lose the debate if you follow that rule. You may not win, but you will not lose.

    Two, negative criticism is a good thing, but don’t seek out negativity. By that I mean, blogs such as Heavy Blog Is Heavy regularly do posts on something they know they will hate. I see no purpose in that; it’s juvenile, unhelpful, and generally contributes to bad attitudes. But on the other hand, if you go into everything looking for something positive, but find you end up not liking it, you should talk about why. This can be constructive, or at the least help someone else to avoid wasting their resources on something bad.

  16. @ MJQ – Very, very well said, sir. I don’t think you’re being overly sensitive at all. Negativity can and should be used in a constructive manner, the problem is that it so often degenerates into that base level of communication (name-calling, etc) that you bring up in your final point. Well it may be next to impossible to elevate the level of discourse across the board, I’m going to do my best to make THKD a haven for thoughtful and intelligent dialogue.

    @ Full Metal Attorney – “That said, I have a couple observations/pieces of advice. One, rise above it. Do not degenerate into name-calling or their negative attitude. Be constructive and explicit with where you agree and where you disagree. You will never lose the debate if you follow that rule. You may not win, but you will not lose.”

    Yes! If everyone followed that credo (myself included), I’d be a happy man. Thank you for posting that!

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