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?