beast of prey, Femme
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À propos de moi


Metal began in prototype form with Black Sabbath, whose trademark occultism symbolized life in terms of the eternal and ideal, while their gritty, sensual, lawless guitar gave significance to the immediate and real. The resulting fusion of the bohemian generation with a nihilistic, dark and morbid streak birthed early metal. Those who had rejected the hippies and found no solace in social order embraced this music and lost bohemians everywhere began to find new directions in this sound.

Having been thus born of the rock tradition early metal remained much within that framework, with dual lineages existing in Black Sabbath, the proto-metal architecturalists, and Led Zeppelin, the blues-folk-rock extravagantists. While the 1970s struggled to develop further the innovations in rock between 1965-1969 the influences that hit metal were primarily from European progressive rock. These musicians used classical theory to give narrative context to themes which in the popular music style repeat through cycling short complementary phrases or riffs which center motives. This technique migrated classical styles adapted from acoustic guitar and espoused structure over total improvisation.

As metal grew in the middle 1970s, its fragmented nature brought it both commercial success and hilarity as a retarded younger brother to rock. The rock side coupled with trash rock bands and formed stadium metal, which was the apex of metal's popularity and the nadir of its creativity, with bands being known for musical illiteracy, hedonistic excess and often mind-wrenching stupidity in interviews. These bands would come into full flower in the 1980s, but marked their territory well before the turn of the decade. On the other hand, however, some of the most dramatic growth in metal occurred when bands merged progressive leanings with desires for traditional solid, sing-along songs.

From this fork in the metal path came three greats whose influences cannot be underestimated, birthed in the early 1970s but becoming most dramatically influential in the 1980s: Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Iron Maiden. Each had musicians from a progressive background who added new ideas to rock and metal, whether the neoclassical guitar duo of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton or the melodic basslines of Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. Even Motorhead, the simplest and most basic of the three, wrote songs with a melodic baroque tendency that rivalled that of the Beatles, except without the flourishes and happy feelings. Bridging between psychedelic space rock like founder Lemmy Kilmister's Hawkwind, aggressive punk and simplified metal-rock in the style of Blue Cheer, Motorhead sounded like a glass-gargling vagabond and an impromptu jail session band, but developed much of the technique and basic riff forms for the hybrid music to come.

The more obscure and threatening NWOBHM bands grew with the subgenre in the 1970s to oppose commercial slickness with direct and primal music. Angel Witch and Diamond Head and eventually Venom tore technique to its basics to get to the ballad-meets-firefight balance of rebel music. All of these fused the DIY attitude of punk bands with the epic nature of metal and created as a result music that was bold and far-reaching but accessible, both to fans and to those who would like to pick up their own instruments and emulate it.
Metal - [ Speed Metal/Thrash ]
Metal aged and so did the generation that produced the hippies, drifting into commercialdom and then self-hatred for losing sight of basic goals. Having lost both of their fundamental systems of iconography (traditional + hippie "revolution" and New Left) within a decade while most of the population remained ignorant to both, the youth of the 1960s and 1970s were more cynical and materialist as they aged than any previous group. This awakened a scavenger coming to carcass in the 1980s which rolled into glorious rehash of the commercial ambition of the 1950s, leading to a wave of denial and an ever-present conformity in face of new fears: drugs, technological warfare, disease.

A desperate paranoid climate emerged underneath the murmuring denial neurosis of commercial social doctrine. Ideology in popular music became an intense moral crusade of horror at the history of humanity to that point, hearkening back to WWI-era dissent. In this environment, metal updated itself with the aggression and simplicity of hardcore, and came back for the attack in at first two hybrid genres: speed metal and thrash.

Speed metal took the classically-influenced structures of neoclassical progressive heavy metal from the 1970s and merged them with the palm-muted, choppy strum of violent British hardcore, as well as the whipping speed-strum of the more fluid crustcore genre. An example of the first influence can be found in violently alienated bands like The Exploited and Black Flag, where the latter originated in Amebix and Discharge, who twisted three chords into a song where the guitar playing was fast but the drumming and vocal delivery slower, creating like ambient music a disorientation of pace and thus of activity. Thrash was crossover music based more in hardcore, so unlike speed metal, which added hardcore riff stylings to metal song forms, it added metal riff stylings to hardcore song forms.

Classic speed metal bands were Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, Slayer, Anthrax and Prong, but these were the largest and most commercial and many others existed concurrently. Thrash remained underground and lasted for less than a decade, thus it retained its primal trio of Cryptic Slaughter, the Dirty Rotten Imbeciles and Corrosion of Conformity, although it is academically interestin to mention offshoots like Suicidal Tendencies and Fearless Iranians From Hell, both of which were more punk rock and rock'n'roll than the core of the thrash genre. Although toward the end of the 1980s people began referring to bands like Destruction and Kreator as "thrash metal," it makes more sense to identify them as essentially speed metal bands which borrowed attributes from thrash and nascent death metal bands.

At one point praised by Robert Fripp for remaining apart from mainstream culture, these bands faced a growing divide in the music industry, namely the availability of cheaper recording technology (thanks to advances in digital and manufacturing ability) as well as, for the first time, the ability to press records and CDs in small runs, giving rise to a horde of smaller labels. While hardcore punk bands had maintained the DIY aspect for years, they were unwilling and unable to make any money doing so, but in the 1980s the ease of access to these technologies meant that small, independent ("indie") labels could both publish ecclectic rarities and not go bankrupt in the process.

For youth growing up during this time period, life was an uncertain and duty-bound prospect, threatened on one side by ICBMs which could arrive in a matter of minutes and vaporize cities, and on another by a tide of reactionary politics and social conformity which forced people into norms to avoid the risk of standing out and being tacitly avoided by employers and potential social contacts alike. Speed metal and thrash bands, who were in the crux of generational exchange, experienced both worlds: the public image and the private reality, including political dissidence.

Their hardcoresque anthems of social and political dissent are leftist but even more so, "rejectivist." The world is pushed back and its mechanisms declared incompetent. Many began the slow spiral into fatalism, where either through belief in religious mechanisms behind historical growth or a lack of ability to apply their passion, lapsing into a hedonism of self-destructive principle. The hedonistic attitudes and hail-satan paeans to deviant creativity evaporated as a politicized theory of what ought to be done, inherited both from hardcore punk and the surrounding public culture, seized metal. Songs were written about the evils of drugs, the mistreatment of American Indians, the oppression of minorities by a WASP majority, the desire for individualist independence from the conformist horde, and the abuse of our natural environment.

At its inception a genre of palm-muted, Morse-codish riffs and epic song structures the speed metal of the 1980s held out until the 1990s before being absorbed. Speed metal and "social consciousness" dimmed many fantasies; it had become as moralistic as both the conservative society and self-righteous countermovement against which 1969 metal had rebelled. This caused dissent among those who felt that both commercialism and this moralistic trend were absorbing the "free spirit" they had admired in the music previously, and that it was becoming predictable and self-destructive in its tendency to sound like everything else. In contrast, electronic music was exploring increasingly existential themes and broader questions of intent, eschewing the moralistic humanism which overran speed metal and thrash.

Death metal existed without a name for many years, being influenced by both the extremes of speed metal (Destruction) and Thrash (Cryptic Slaughter), as well as carrying forward influences from hardcore (The Exploited) and Gothic influences to original heavy metal and industrial. In fact, like a genetic profile, the genre is not identifiable by a single trait alone, but by a collection of traits and the common ideas that allow them to be organized as such. Riffs from The Exploited, for example, could be transplanted into modern death metal without being out of place (especially from their "Let's have a war..." album); similarly, distortion and song structures from Destruction can be played "in style" by death metal bands without seeming out of place. However, what unified these concepts, and gave the genre its name, was its literal morbidity: it did not praise death, nor warn of it, but explored it in a strange obsession designed to reinforce the existence of "ultimate reality": the physical, natural, objective world in which we live, and in which we die. In fact, the early death metal especially can be explained almost exclusively by the Hellhammer slogan, "Only death is real."

This outlook, a primitive denial of all that asserted the existence of society on a level above or more important than natural reality, was not explicitly political, nor was it identifiable with any social movement except perhaps fragments of existentialism, nihilism and naturalism; it was certaintly not studied to that degree by the majority of death metal bands and fans. However, by taking this route, death metal avoided the increasing politicization of post-hardcore music which was occurring around it, and the consequent "internalization" of dialogue to the point where a genre only existed by the barest of aesthetic commonality: it used the same instrumentation and distorted, but shared no culture or musical direction or belief system. Over the next two decades, this litmus test for a genre would be reinforced time and again, with genres that could not maintain shared direction collapsing into commerce.

Many bands applied the styles -- chromatic progressions, fast strumming, ambient rhythms -- into different incarnations of a new genre, death metal. The mainstream-moral/underground-nihilist dichotomy was illustrated in the songwriting of older metal bands, which followed too much of the friendly rock music format and allowed itself to anticipate the conditioned desires of the listener, as contrasted to the new music which emphasized structural change (narrative) over finding a convenient harmony and riff and sticking with it. The innovations of Discharge, allowing chromatic riffing to be used in the context of melodic songwriting, and of Bathory, in building song structure around the shape of its riffing, were applied in the works of bands obsessed with death, mortality, and the obscurist predictions of mythology. Apocalypticism, which in speed metal bands had been a dire warning, was here a foundational assumption. As part rebel and part insurgent structuralist, metal broke the scale into broad tonal leaps and chromatic rhythm playing where the structure was the message, not the root note to which it was harmonized or the conventions of such construction followed; key is used carelessly if at all at focal points of intersecting themes in motif development, eschewing the cyclic silhouette of rock form.

This was most clearly defined in the second generation of the new style, which began with Sepultura, Massacra, Possessed, Necrovore and Morbid Angel, whose music was both a radical primitivism and a futurist adaptation of classical theory. Although many elements of metal and hard rock remained, what was emerging that made the genre distinct from all others was a way of taking a "riff salad" and shaping it into a changing pattern which eventually revealed a conclusion. Much as Mozart's music would dance through motivic change for most of its duration, finally uncovering its central theme, a gentle melody, in death metal a thunderous barrage of chromatic riffs prepared the listener for certain expectations in tone and phrase shape, then brought out the conclusion, like the last stanza of a poem: that which explained the journey and why its conclusion was apt. This style was most reminiscent of past centuries of Romantic and Naturalistic European poetry, art and music, but was missed by all but a few death metal fans - not, however, by the innovators creating music in the genre.

Aesthetically, death metal was abrupt and disturbing to most because of the vocals, which were organically distorted by pitching the voice either lower or higher than normal and forcing it to volumes not normally invoked except in an open-throat shout. It was a guttural growl, like that of a defensive animal, and it matched the often-downtowned guitars and layers of thick distortion which as often as not cut out the middle ranges of sound in favor of low-end and high-end. Drums used an extreme form of syncopation known as double bass, in which two bass drums were played alternatingly at high speed, destroying the syncopatic effect in the context of the song but providing a buffetting, urgent constant rhythm. In this genre, power chords exclusively were used, and new forms were incorporated including dissonance. Further, rhythmically the genre operated more as ambient bands do, with percussion framing the music but not leading it on, avoiding the expectation-based "funky" rhythms of rock, bluess and jazz. The result was that even without analyzing the music most listeners identified it with something unearthly, morbid, malevolent and antisocial.

From here the genre bloomed, splitting into several different styles. Massacra was representative of the flowing, liquid, high-speed strumming style that rapidly included bands like Incantation, Hypocrisy, Vader, and later, the heavy-tremolo and electric blistering distortion-clad bands from Sweden, including Dismember and Entombed; Morpheus (later Morpheus Descends to avoid legal conflicts with the hard rock band from Sweden) established the percussive speed-metal-influenced style of choppy, muted riffs and precise drum patterning, a subgroup that included Sinister, Suffocation, Suffer and Cryptopsy; Possessed created a style somewhere in the middle that eventually included bands like Therion, Demigod, Monstrosity, Deicide and Unleashed. Sepultura reverted to being a speed metal band before getting in touch with their punk and world music roots, and Celtic Frost veered into glam rock before calling it a day. Sodom remained consistent, but gained instrumental prowess, making their new music unrecognizable to older fans. For each of these styles, diversification occurred, sometimes with interesting results.

Some blended jazz with death metal, as did Atheist and Cynic; others mixed in grindcore for an aggressive but often blockheaded style called "deathgrind." Some tried to work ambient into the mix, as did Kong, and a few worked on hybrids with past versions of metal and rock, most of which were absorbed by their rock half and thus were unpalatable to metal fans, and equally unrecognizable to rock fans, causing the bands to either shift fully to rock music or to give up entirely. Some found a balance between the faster and mid-paced styles of death metal, to which they added simple but spectacularly effective melodic composition; good examples here would be Amorphis and Demilich. In summary, this was the genre of metal so far which created the greatest room for variation, in part because it was unified by a belief system more than a lifestyle choice, and in part as a result of its broad range of musical applications and few "rules" or genre conventions, despite having a clear musical identity in its nearly-keyless, atonal-and-dissonant friendly melodic structural form of composition.

Death metal had taken the style underground, but also generated a flood of "angry" mainstream imitators and sellouts. Bands like Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, and Tool made use of death metal imagery or technique in the format of complacent suburban music designed to fill lives with distraction. For many, death metal died with the explosion of the Swedish scene and lyrics like those to the first Therion album - selfconscious, moral, and pious while being anti-religious and "metal," in a conflict that while not touching the music defined the decomposition of focus in the genre. Morality was "safe." So were rock hybrids like Entombed's "Clandestine." Flamboyant useless stylings of rock music and stadium heavy metal crept in alongside a dearth of ideas and repetition of known formulae. It seemed as if growth had made the genre too self-conscious, and as a result, it had abandoned itself to the methods of its antagonists.

Worth mentioning in the context of death metal is the rise of a similar genre, grindcore, which grew from punk and thrash melded by convenience, to which the guttural vocals and detuned guitars of death metal were added. While the earliest bands such as Master and Carcass achieved some success, they eventually felt pressure to diversify and found themselves constrained by the emphasis on constant slamming rhythms, like rock based around expectation and not continuity as death metal was, as well as the need to be "extreme" (interestingly, Carcass spawned Napalm Death which in turn spawned Godflesh, leaving a trail behind its creators in search of a flexible but aggressive yet musical artform). Lyrics from Carcass were baffling to most as they consisted of humorous descriptions of illness soaked in the language of medical doctors, with latinate words falling into the gurgling voice like a radio broadcast from the land of the dead. Bolt Thrower, from England like Carcass, adopted a more "epic" style, describing conflict in both ancient and modern times, and Blood, from Germany, who took on a mythological-occultist view, added to a genre that was otherwise strikingly literal like punk bands; Napalm Death and Terrorizer provide examples of this general direction.

In its own way, this music was both deconstructive and constructive. Its nihilism and alienation escaped the rules of society entirely and exceeded the limits of religion and conventional morality; it was born to be offensive and thus marked itself as not only not belonging to society but happy in that alienated view, preferring a separate truth to a compromise with something it saw as false and in denial of mortality, thus unable to seek any meaningful values (when life is infinite, and the self is the limits of perception, is there any reason to care about anything but gratification?). Unlike most genres of the time, however, its deconstruction was predicated on the notion that if enough of society were removed, a truth could be seen which was less constricting and less without value. This was years later a fulfillment of the Jim Morrison summary of William Blake's basic theory that if humankind could remove its perceptive confusion, it would see the world as it is - infinite.

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