No Hipster Metal Here

Bang Your Head Festival flyer. Germany, June 2012.

I’ve spent years trying to convince the world of metal’s radical potential. I’ve followed the obscure byways of obscure extreme metal genres in search of the avant-grade potential of this most degraded form. My heart has swelled with satisfaction as – finally – The Wire, The Quietus and other bastions of elite musical opinion have begun to embrace the metallic dark side.

But I could never entirely explain away metal’s unabashedly lowbrow side. Denim jackets, beer, long-haired power metal bands singing of Templars and dragons – all this is much more representative of metal than Sunn0)))-style hipsterdom.

I still stand by my defence of mainstream metal – that it is filled with irony and humour, that it offers an organic link to the avant garde that is vanishingly rare in musical cultures – but I’m aware that mainstream metallers have no need of my excuses.

German metal, you are my reproach! You laugh at my intellectual metaldom!

Gazing at this flyer, at a German rural roadside, I see metal at its least cool. Away from the cosmopolitan city, middle Europe’s metal hordes gather. They embrace the ‘bang your head’ rituals, the cheezy graphics, the beer-soaked denim-jacketed-arms-aloft devils horns. They worship metal’s blue-collar anti-art past, the legendary Geordie faux-Satanic speed metal stylings of Venom and the exhumed Thin Lizzy shorn of Phil Lynott’s troubling blackness, the proudly clichéd Edguy. Lower on the bill, Sabaton proclaim their cartoon war-obsession, Diamond Head try and remind us that in the early 1980s they actually mattered, Tankard offer endless variants of their odes to beer. Only Ireland’s Primordial forlornly fly the flag for metal’s subtler side.

But why the fuck not? Why not metal at its least hip? Why not German blue-collar crassness in a field?

These are my disreputable brothers (sic) that I can never distance myself from entirely. Those of us who delight in metal’s cutting edge tendencies cannot and should not reject the taint of Germanic headbanging. This is what it means to embrace something. This is metal’s incipient and unexpected pluralism made flesh.

German metal, I am of you and you are of me! We are tied together on our metal journeys! Part of me is in a field with you, part of you is reading The Wire with me.

 Commentary by Keith-Kahn Harris. Photograph courtesy Joel Schalit.



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