Has There Ever Been A Better Time For Death Metal Fans?
A week or two ago, someone over at the buzzing music media metropolis we know as Bandcamp published a brief article highlighting some exceptional death metal albums released recently; something the site does quite regularly now. These posts usually focus on some upcoming bands and are generally well-received. This post should have been no different. The only mistake I think the writer made was attempting to give a satisfying brief chronological history of the genre. Getting a consensus on past events from a group of bunch of
pedantic contrarians people renown for decades of debauchery and disagreement with literally everything in existence was a futile endeavour from the start. However, after seeing this post shared around in various circles it appeared the real point of contention for the majority of fans was that the author had the audacity to adorn the article with the quote –
“There’s never been a better time to be a death metal fan.”
Normally I’d ignore this kind of redundant chatter. But after seeing it crop up day after day, instigating a lot of argument between old heads and scenebros, it started to shit me. The older generation had basically gone the reactionary route and misinterpreted the statement as a discredit to the foundation they’d built for those damn kids who weren’t listening to their diatribes. And the younger readers, well actually yeah, they weren’t listening. As someone roughly aged in-between the warring generations who can remember the pre-internet music times, I decided to become a kind of self-appointed unbiased1 mediator and get to the bottom of this quarrel. How though? Easy! By using a hybrid of some millennial memetics and appropriating the Boomers’ time-honoured technique of building a manifestly inadequate strawman (out of their strawman, no less) and diverting discourse to my own alternate narrative.
1 this is a lie, something I learned from my elders.
Even though you can basically livestream any international gig you’d like to see these days, from 360° arena experiences to dive-bar obscurities, all the shaky phone footage being uploaded to YouTube in 1080p can’t match the experience of having your ears blown the fuck out at a live show. There’s no disputing that. And sure, there are some pretty awesome contemporary festival line-ups which travel to a much wider range of regional areas than ever before, but one look at these classic bills from death metal’s golden age in the early 90’s shows the real difference. I mean, who could forget this legendary show?
Or THIS one?
Or all these ones?
These are lineups you’ll never see repeated with that price or level of intimacy. Who could forget such a landmark event? Well, for starters, you. You can’t remember them. Because you weren’t there for any of them. There’s a good chance you weren’t even shitting of your own volition when these gigs took place. Yet you’ve probably seen the flyers posted online by someone else who wasn’t there and romanticised what it would have been like to have been in attendance. It must have been amazing!
Look, I get it. Nostalgia for things that you didn’t experience is perfectly normal. As a 14 year old, I was often lost in reverie pining for the chance to shift back to the 70’s, eating sheets of inconsistently dosed LSD and obtaining all kinds of long-since-extinct forms of STD from all that sweet unprotected sex. So yes, no doubt it would have been rad to see one of those shows, but after that, then what? You still had to go home and spend 99.9% of your listening time jamming the cassette/CD/vinyl you bought from the aggressively disinterested or overly ‘excited’ merchbro/gal.
See that’s the thing, most of your enjoyment from metal comes from listening to the music, which overwhelmingly occurs during everyday life. That is, unless, you’re not about the music; you’re into the ‘scene’. But we’ll forget about UNABASHED FUCKING POSERS for now. Not even going to enter ANY of the debates about sound quality, digital recording, media, listening devices, immediacy, dealing with shitty record stores, modern genre dilution, blah blah blah. None of that really matters in reconciling the original statement posed by Bandcampbro. Here’s why. Wait, I mean “okay, this is epic” –
YOU CAN STILL LISTEN TO THOSE ALBUMS.
Fucking revelatory, I know. But it is the one point that seems to have been conveniently ignored in assessing the validity of the original post. Not only do all those genre-defining records still exist, but they’re almost all easier to source now. Sometimes at the touch of a button. In improved quality. With extra tracks. Alternate art. You name it. You can even pick up some of those classics in Full Dynamic Range on fucking Earache, so you can still support/promote corrupt business practices just like the good ol’ days.
To make a visual representation of my point, I’ve extrapolated the idea into this easy to follow definitive list of the best years to be a death metal fan:
1. [current year]
You can probably hear the old guard now, as they start popping out of the woodwork like an army of wind-up jack-in-the-boxes with all the predictability of their morning mug o’ Metamucil. You know, the same people who say the scene is dead but think Bandcamp is an American Pie reference. Those whose online presence seems to consist solely of turning up to criticise anything people outside of their generation enjoys and asking WebMD in all-caps if they have LIGMA. Aside from riling reactionary BM dorks, perhaps the next most insufferable form of metal nerd are these obstinate OSDM chuds. Stedfast in their stubborn refusal of anything remotely recent, they’ll talk at length about how the [insert scenes] were better, but when queried about the current scene(s) will blanket it with a generic “it’s all derivative shit” statement without being able to cite a single relevant upcoming band. They don’t care. In fact, the only reason they’re mad the new Abhorrence album will suck is because it might tarnish the name they purport as legendary when dismissing an entire generation of bands they claim illusory superiority over.
Next are the <30 y/o pedants who espouse the exact same rhetoric yet without having lived it. Yes, Demilich are touring on the back of their one and only record from 25 years ago with no new album, but that’s fine, we’ve got Nucleus, Tomb Mold, et al to fill the void. If, when someone says you might like Chthe’ilist as they sound like a mix of Timeghoul and Demigod, your first reaction is to snobbishly tell them “well ackshually, Necrovatory did it first”, you’re a prime candidate for this category. There’s no denying your intimate knowledge of the genre we know and love is fantastic, that you’re an asset to the community, and that your Mum is very proud, but if you think gatekeeping the already niche demographic is somehow going to increase reverence people have for those glory days, your approach is completely backward. And if you wanna just stick to listening to your dusty old faves in exclusivity, that’s fine too. Just don’t expect anyone to take your opinion as seriously as people who maintain an active interest in death metal’s past, present, and more importantly, its future.
So, to close out this rant de redondance I’d like to pose a question – has there ever been a better time to be a death metal fan?