In fifth grade each of us we were each partnered with a “buddy” who we would help with various things. I forget most of them, but one was shopping at the ‘school store’ for presents to buy their parents. One of the specific instructions our teacher gave us was to make sure the younger kids didn’t just buy something on the basis of liking it themselves, since the purchases were for their parents, not them.
Whenever I hear a song or musician I like and want to show it to someone else, I have to remember to apply that same gift-buying principle: just because I like it doesn’t mean someone else will. Usually when I’m discussing music with someone (save for those times spent mocking the inanity of whatever happens to be playing on the radio), it ends up being more for that unspoken acknowledgement that we’re different.
But feeling unique and special can often just be another marketing niche as well, and many industries thrive on it. Being different without a true plan of action, a confident grounding in a worldview and hierarchy of what is important and why, makes a person that much more easily led. To be different by itself could be as much of an indication of frailty, foolishness, or malfunction as it might be of uniqueness.
Revolution is de rigeur now. We are all revolutionaries by virtue of flowing along with the current, to the extent that in order not be in-line with the revolution, you need to be mistreated by the society around you so much that you feel that no matter what you do in your life, you won’t be able to fulfill your mission in life until that society dies.
This is why heavy metal for example, arose from the lower class in England, and not in the upper classes somewhere in North America. Among the lower classes because they were not suited to the system, and in the UK because of its simultaneous relationship to rock n’ roll and its proud European past. Heavy metal is now most popular in Northern Europe, especially Finland. Northern Europe, where the Germanic Ur-spirit has generated images like Edvard Munch’s Scream and Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead, where warriors fought for centuries against the Christians, the birthplace of the Eldar Edda, and the modern world’s last fight against globalism.
Tragedy, darkness, and myth are what comes to mind when I have to remember not to bother showing music to people. I’m the kindergartener who wants to buy a new toy and buy it for someone else who, by their nature, won’t appreciate it. Sure, maybe the pleasant breaks in the music, some of the buildup perhaps may have pleasant acoustic sounds, or calm relaxing ambiance, or something like that. But that’s the point; it’s there as a necessary part of the whole. That’s why it’s epic, because we can’t understand chaos as chaos until we know what serenity is. If we don’t get to meet Adam and Eve before they fall, we’ll never know what it means to be sinners. Like a good story, it reminds us not simply that we’re free, but reminds us what freedom is, and that it costs.
Northern Europeans will keep making metal as long as there is a modern world and there are Northern Europeans. Metal is not revolutionary like rock n’ roll is. You can hear rock n’roll in supermarkets and such places because they’re not a threat to the consumer-society. The modern world is revolutionary. Metal seeks to reject rather than rebel. It wants what is right badly enough to hate what it feels is wrong, which is why any metal musician hates the commercialization of his music more than anything else in the entire world. You’ll find no such attitude from the members of Kiss for example.
Metal is often nostalgic for another time, and many of its makers and listeners often end up making and listening to ambient and neoclassical music. It has this odd sense that the violent and traditional past meant something more than what we have today, for all its faults. It is exclusive instead of inclusive. It is mystical and violent, where most other forms of music are suffocatingly docile, as if the devil on your shoulder were whispering to you to drop your sword, unclasp your armor, abandon your post, eat drink and be merry, just be yourself, you’re perfect the way you are…
Maybe metal’s followers are too weak or too slow to adapt to the world, or maybe because they never would have fit in anywhere at any time and cling to dreams that let them believe the world is evil. Still, maybe some of them are sleeping giants; barbarians preparing themselves for when Rome falls…