Bottom of the Barrel: The Pop-ization of Metal

There were a number of things that I liked about heavy metal when I started listening to it. In addition to the music, which was certainly the main source of interest for me, there was this overwhelming sense of rebellion towards “the mainstream”, the status quo.

When I speak about “the mainstream” I don’t mean popularity. I’m happy to see that more and more people around the world are becoming metal fans, and that the genre is, for the most part, no longer seen as some sort treasure trove of idiots and criminals. I’m also not speaking about “brand recognition”; I don’t care if the bands I like are no longer “underground”. Although there are some who seem convinced that any band that is known by more than a handful of people somehow “sold out”, I don’t see anything wrong (on the contrary) with bands managing to increase their audience.

What I’m talking about is the collection of behaviors and trends that infest popular culture, and that metal opposed since its very beginnings. The obsession with celebrities, the vapidity of journalism and, increasingly, a tendency to put music second to whatever exploitative gimmick is being used.

Jill Janus in what I can only assume are 2 versions of her Captain Crunch uniform.
Huntress’ Jill Janus in what I can only assume are 2 versions of her Captain Crunch cosplay.

Although I’m sure that my criticisms could be taken as the rants of an angry old guy (and I know that there’s some truth to that) just take a look at shit like the Golden Gods Awards, featuring the same red carpet bullshit (pardon, black carpet) that you’d see at the entrance of the MTV awards. Look at any of the journalists (and I use the term very loosely) covering this pathetic sideshow and you’ll see that they’re no different than the (thankfully dead) Joan Rivers. We’re only a step away from those simple morons asking “who are you wearing tonight?

I don't know who these fuckers are, but I hope they catch the ebola virus.
I don’t know who these fuckers are, but I hope they develop Lou Gehrig’s disease.

It is really disheartening to see that while many kids are out there practicing their craft day in and day out, trying to put out the best material possible, we seem to be fixated on everything but the music, co-opting the same kind of filth that metal originally rejected. Although it would be easy to just blame all of this on places like Hot Topic and shitty bands like Evanescence, Slipknot and Avenged Sevenfold, the problem runs much deeper than that. After all, it isn’t only fans of those bands, or self-mutilating clients of that store, who devour the “tell all” news about every little shithead who’s literate enough to write a press release.

Perhaps the problem stems from our connectivity and the demands that us, the fans, continue to make from the artists. Nowadays fans expect to always hear something from the artists, and they want it now. News outlets, particularly the bottom-of-the-barrel aggregators like Blabbermouth, exploit this demand by just unleashing a never-ending barrage of bullshit, re-hashing press releases and making news out of irrelevant events. While this is just like what CNN and E! do, I think I speak for many fans when I say that we all expected more from this scene that we keep so close to our hearts.

Fun fact: The confederate flag is the least offensive thing in this image.
Fun fact: The confederate flag is the least offensive thing in this image.

Normally, when I write one of these articles, I end with some sort of call to action or a nice little summary of whatever bullshit I just said. Now I find myself unable to do it. The truth is that I don’t know what to say here, since I don’t know if there is anything that can be done in order to change this landscape. Consider not indulging in the kind of shit these people put out; don’t fall for the celebrity-cult (there’s enough of that as it is), oppose the vapidity of mainstream culture and try to stand for something better… not just in music, but in all the media that you consume.

Although it seems like a losing battle, it sure as hell beats accepting the status quo. As I heard once in an episode of OZ, “We may not win, but we ensure we never, ever lose.”

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Considered by his mother as the brightest and prettiest boy, J's interest in metal started in his early teens, listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica (coupled with an embarrassing period in which Marilyn Manson "totally represents me, man") eventually moving into the realm of power, black, and death metal. He holds a PhD in law, trains martial arts, practices law, and enjoys coming up with excuses as to why he has to miss work after going to a concert. He also dabbles as a concert photographer, you can see his sub-par work on his instagram.