Just because he plays black metal for fans of black metal, and is all bleak and black and misanthropic and secretly a dirty San Francisco hippie, Leviathan’s Wrest thinks he can sneak covert science fiction references past us. He cannot. First it was a beefy sample of The Agent from The Matrix on the Leviathan / Crebain split. I’ll admit that wasn’t covert so much as completely blatant, but it was a major WTF moment just the same, given how resolutely inward-looking Leviathan’s airless nightmare closet of a world usually is. Now, on Massive Conspiracy Against All Life, his most recent and supposedly final album, he has a song, “Merging With Sword, Onto Them”, that is ten minutes of black metal carnage culminating in a buried melody that is an unmistakable clone of Vangelis’s indelible Blade Runner theme. I wonder how many other people have noticed.
In my alternate universe, there is no TRL, and people find music through their friends and impassioned record store staff and critics who give the music they love the attention and respect it deserves, instead of being prey to marketing and publicity operations and the fifty billion forms of payola that hedge us all in. That’s where I want to live!
I agree that LOTFP is needlessly paranoid; I agree that most of us start with Def Leppard or Lamb of God before we get to Make A Change… Kill Yourself; and I agree that Decibel is not going to suddenly make the trve kvlt disappear in a flash from Avenged Sevenfold’s stage pots. I still think he / they make many acute observations about the relationship between metal’s margins and the musical mainstream, and that the relationship is, and in some ways needs to be, antagonistic. He defends the borders between “us” and “them”, and that kind of policing, as annoying as it can sometimes be, is part of what preserves metal’s energy.
You and I both came up through the e-music underground, so we’ve been through the situation where that tension collapsed, more or less, and it left a vacuum that sucked most of the good music in behind it. It’s not that the mainstream coöpted the margins, it’s that the margins sort of shrugged or ran out of energy, and with the exception of tiny pockets in Rotterdam and Ljubljana and east London, the renegade spirit that animated the early rave / techno / jungle scene is almost totally dead.
At the same time, I agree with Sandy: I want people to like this stuff, because I love it and I enjoy it when my friends enjoy stuff that I love. That’s why I write about music. If it weren’t for the inclusiveness of the metal community (to sound totally corny for a moment), I wouldn’t even be here. In large part it’s the unfeigned enthusiasm of metalheads (in the pit, shivering in long lines waiting to be let into The Pound) that sucked me back into heshing after a long chunk of my life mostly ignoring it.
Metal fans own metal because they control the terms of the debate and have deep convictions about what they like and don’t like, and what they will and won’t accept as “true metal”. Just look at the LOTFP. They can be dogmatic and dictatorial, but also incredibly enthusiastic. Just look at the the wave of American one-man black metal bands (Xasthur, Leviathan and Krieg being the ones with which I’m most familiar – pity about the Twilight album): all those guys are a pain in the ass to work with (or so I hear), and prickly to the point of sociopathy, but they are clearly motivated by deep (if inscrutable) passions. And for all their accomplishments as musicians, I think they’re fans first and foremost. That’s the beauty of metal, or any other marginal art: there is no line between fan, performer or critic. We all have a stake (and the fans and performers get more votes than the critics, which is absolutely how it ought to be).