Into the Void: Stylus Magazine’s Beginner’s Guide to Metal

By: Cosmo Lee & Stewart Voegtlin

Posted 01/09/2006 - 08:21:18 AM by raskolnikov:
 John Zorn is referred to as a "composer" by Stewart Voegtlin in his disquisition on metal; are those quotation marks supposed to be an ironic comment on the idea of Zorn being a composer? Because that is what he is. Any perusal of his staggeringly diverse catalog will underscore that. Whether one speaks of the metal/dub experimentalism of his trio Painkiller (who featured Napalm Death's drummer Mick Harris), the klezmer-based stylings of Masada, or the mayhem of eclectic hardcore freaks Naked City, Zorn's music depends more on the originality of his composing voice rather than the more trad jazz concept of improvising. Not to nitpick, but come on--give the man some credit, not snarky commentary....
Posted 01/09/2006 - 08:27:56 AM by whiteboysushi:
 honestly, I think Stewart was just in the air-quote "zone"
Posted 01/09/2006 - 08:42:08 AM by dubidet:
 No irony there. Yes, those are "scare quotes." And Mick Harris is not involved with Painkiller any longer. They've turned into a funk "ambient" outfit. Yes, Zorn is talented, perhaps brilliant. Half of NYC is - deservedly - up the guy's arse. That's all the credit he needs. Personally, I've enjoyed the Naked City and Masada material, but I find his composed works tedious. Sorry to step on toes, but this isn't about Zorn or metal/dub fusion.
Posted 01/09/2006 - 09:09:57 AM by :
 I got into metal through a vacuum cleaner nozzle. I ended up in the dustbag and found a few coins, hairclips, a badge from the 70s that said "Hard as Nails". That sucking noise wouldn`t stop & I knew how the cat felt. The roar of a blowdryer switched to maximum heat aimed at your can imagine, my anger grew, I started killing bugs by frypan. Then it was Sepultura, Snake In Your Eye, Anal Cunt, eating my own shit just before visiting the dentist, the usual trajectory until I picked up my own gat and became a futurist machine steamer wearing two plugged-in irons like headphones at my own concerts just to up my assault. And there I was, every night, rocking live evil from my fingery talons with invisible strings of sonic electricity that descended like autosuggestion across my audience`s frail minds.
Posted 01/09/2006 - 09:22:23 AM by jhitting:
 Interesting comment, The-Disexists. You must have taken all morning to dream up such powerful metal imagery. On a separate note, is anyone not impressed by Sunn 0)))? I mean, I'm not trying to diss all of metal--a genre that's given so much to me--but they write unlistenable music. It has virtually no sound to it. It's just noise. I've never played an instrument and I'm pretty sure I could write Black One in about three days of studio time. It doesn't even sound cool. Am I missing something? If so, please let me know what it is. I've relistened to that album as loud as it goes--per the instructions on the back--and still, nothing. The titles are more interesting than the tracks. Again, metalheads, I'm appealing to you for help.
Posted 01/09/2006 - 10:47:13 AM by cosmokane31:
 stewart, i really liked your piece. metal *is* inextricably linked to setting and mindset, and for whatever reason, i didn't want to go there in my piece. i too grew up in a desolate, strip malled environment, and your piece hit that nail on the head, *and* managed to address politics, with just the right balance. horns up!
Posted 01/09/2006 - 11:38:02 AM by J_R_K_:
 this piece might be better called...
How to Further Avoid Girls: Stylus' guide to Metal
Posted 01/09/2006 - 11:56:03 AM by dubidet:
 Thanks, CK. It certainly wasn't the best of times, and metal provided a much needed escape. The salad days are not fondly recalled. And, J_R_K, there were just as many girls into metal as guys at my highschool. There are few things sexier than a chick wearing a jean jacket with a Celtic Frost backpatch.
Posted 01/09/2006 - 02:49:27 PM by bassman08:
 I like the idea behind this feature. The only real metal I've listened to intently is when I went out and bought Leviathan after seeing tons of great reviews for it. I really liked it. I think this is a good feature for 'normal' kids like me (I wouldn't really call myself an indie kid...well, maybe I am, but whatever) who want to get into more metal but don't know where to look. I mean I wouldn't want to become a metalhead or anything, but I like a little of it here and there in small doses. Either way, I'm looking forward to the rest of this feature throughout the week.
Posted 01/09/2006 - 07:47:29 PM by :
 Thanks jhitting, but that was the past, these days I`m just into my flower garden, it turned out that kill none of that yourself hypnotic suggestion stuff worked at al
Posted 01/09/2006 - 08:40:43 PM by brennschluss:
 Ah, what a way to mock metal fans everywhere-an article that celebrates stereotypes as archetypes and uses cultural theory to explain the relative value of a lifestyle the authors themselves seem intent on belittling. Heavy metal is immune to the silly dialectic of intellectual theories; it exists, a true Ding an sich. There is no greater relevance, and in attempting to ascribe it one, the true beauty and pleasure of metal is sublimated to the sterile non-pleasure of post-modernism. Talk about it and write about it like this long enough, heavy metal will die, even after a prosperous forty years.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 12:44:44 AM by cosmokane31:
 brennschluss, I understand your sentiment. I'm a metalhead, no ifs ands or buts, and I don't like it when, say, the New York Times writes on metal and doesn't get it right. And I see the danger of over-intellectualizing something that is so primal and powerful. But writing for Stylus' audience is different than writing for metalheads. For me, convincing non-metalheads that metal is good requires playing on their terms. I can't just say that an album kicks ass or rules. Putting metal in a larger context can help ease non-metalheads into metal. I don't think that we're employing cultural theory or anything highfalutin in these intro pieces. Stewart's point is that surroundings and background are key to appreciation of metal. The merits of this point in, say, literature, are debatable, but for metal, I think it's spot on. The detail and emotion that he uses here goes beyond stereotypes. It should be obvious from Stewart's piece, and hopefully mine as well, that we love metal. And hopefully the rest of the pieces in this weekly feature will bear this out. Thanks for reading, thanks for bearing with our sometimes flawed writing, and understand that it comes from a desire to share this music with others.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 01:51:46 AM by :
 I don`t wish to engage anyone intellectually with these comments but, cosmokane, you said "Horns up" and then later you said "ass" in a sentence just before you said "ease ... into". Admittedly this is not enough evidence to judge you a moron. I`m going to need a few more paragraphs from you yet, but any more nudge & wink metalhead in-symbolism in your actual article WILL be noticed by ALL of your readers and you will be found wanting. Before you get up-in-ass about this, smoke a J and think on it for awhile.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 07:36:04 AM by KlausFraktal:
 In college I heard a lot of this because my dungeon master was a metalhead. Haha, it doesn't get any more legit than that, losers.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 08:53:05 AM by whiteboysushi:
 "People pay money to see athletes push their bodies to their limits. Why, then, do people settle for middling music? Death metal requires humans to stretch the bounds of musicality and dexterity, and is thus, strangely enough, an affirmation of life." Oh jesus, do we seriously need to have this discussion again? You might want to compare death metal to professional sports, but I think professional bodybuilding is a better comparison: a good thing taken to a ridiculous extreme that makes the participants think they're the coolest people on earth while leaving most onlookers vaguely nauseated.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 09:14:49 AM by bassman08:
 I sort of agree with that. Although I am intrigued by metal, I would never be one to say that other music is simply "middling". I guess I don't understand why anything else other than metal has to be second rate. Is it just because it's not metal? That's one thing I never really understood about metalheads. Most of them, at least the ones I've known, don't seem to have any appreciation for music other than metal. Now I'm hoping I'm wrong about this, and maybe you guys can clue me in, but why is that the percieved stereotype? Or is it really true?
Posted 01/10/2006 - 09:20:58 AM by whiteboysushi:
 Bassman, after I posted here I was just thinking literally that exact same thing. I think techno, metal, and hip-hop form the holy trinity of "music whose fans are most likely to dismiss all other forms of music, but which are also most likely to be completely dismissed by people with otherwise diverse taste in music".
Posted 01/10/2006 - 09:23:12 AM by dubidet:
 sure, if you're working from stereotypes. but, i've got as many jazz, classical, and rock records as i do metal. go figure.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 09:40:44 AM by bassman08:
 But do you know why that might be the stereotype? It just seems curious to me, because I've encountered it so many times before.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 09:50:35 AM by dubidet:
 I don't know bassman. I mean, I know loads of people that listen to just "indierock" or just "noise." I know loads of people that listen to Pavement and Prick Decay, too. There are times when I go for months listening to nothing but Black Metal; there are others when I listen to nothing but Webern and Morton Feldman. This sounds like a ethno-music/quasi-sociological project for someone, rather than something that can be delineated concisely. Don't you think?
Posted 01/10/2006 - 10:18:48 AM by wmdavidson:
 If nothing else, the album cover images in this article are good for a laugh. Rock on guys.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 11:25:06 AM by bassman08:
 Yeah, I suppose it is. I ws just curious to hear your thoughts on the matter. Either way I find it interesting. Looking forward to the rest of the article.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 12:01:25 PM by ecorcoran:
 They're not quite as canonical as the ones you mentioned, but I think that Atheist's Unquestionable Prescence and Meshuggah's Destroy Erase Improve are both great albums to help people (especially those from an indie rock background) get their feet wet. The latter was probably the first death metal album I got into (excluding Reign in Blood which I still say is a Thrash Metal album). While not pure Death Metal, Opeth's Deliverance/Damnation also make a great stepping stone into the genre.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 12:35:47 PM by digestion:
 I'm not sure what's waiting for the rest of the week, but if you have a thrash section, Reign in Blood should definitely be there, not in death metal.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 01:00:24 PM by dubidet:
 Technically, Slayer is a "thrash" band. Yes. So it would logically follow that Slayer's "Reign in Blood" would be a thrash record. Yet, the lyrical content and structural language of speed metal used in RIB transitions the record easily from thrash to death. Admittedly, this is splitting hairs, and with so many subgeneres, classification begins to take away from the listening experience. Let's not get caught up in this.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 01:16:45 PM by J_R_K_:
 that celtic frost girl is a dude. and where's the behemoth?
Posted 01/10/2006 - 01:30:31 PM by pabanks46:
 I think I read this article already, but better.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 06:17:57 PM by clem_bastow:
 MONARCH TO THE KINGDOM OF THE DEAAAAAAAD!! Choice. Though I *do* kinda agree that Slayer is closer to thrash than death. Whatevs though. Will you be featuring Cannibal Corpse? ;)
Posted 01/10/2006 - 07:17:11 PM by dipdip:
 A sweet article, thank you very much for it. Seeing that thee emergence of stylus' metal contingent was sudden, it is good to see these ideas addressed. I would've liked to see a longer "best of 2005" from cosmolee than 10 albums, on a tangent-note.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 07:47:22 PM by brennschluss:
 An interesting album list, but not all that essential. Entombed's Left Hand Path is as much responsible for the Swedish/Scandinavian death metal scene as Slayer; not for nothing is it called the "Sunlight Sound." Forget Reign In Blood as death metal, put in Kreator's Pleasure To Kill to hear the real thing, right down to the vocals. I'm sure Sepultura doesn't deserve a mention either, despite heading up a substantial Brazilian scene. Beneath the Remains has every bit the intensity of Slayer, yet without the pretension of ATG. Just an opinion though.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 09:24:37 PM by dubidet:
 Read Gravity's Rainbow much? Yes, I completely agree. Kreator, Entombed, sure. Love 'em. But, omissions are inevitable, aren't they? There was no conscious decision made to draft the Death Metal Canon; you can find that on tons of different websites, right? This is obviously a more personal list, for better or worse. Besides, you did say Metal was a "true Ding an Sich." Considering this, isn't Metal - according to you - wholly unknowable? If you subscribe to your own beliefs, then you would have been unable to offer your opinion in the first place; one cannot construct an expression of judgement about something that cannot be judged.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 11:04:17 PM by ex.person:
 Kudos to SV for putting things in perspective. As a reaction to super-imposed order both spiritual and political, metal most certainly exist in a unique social context...and filled with stupids. Scenes need belitting, no matter the soundtrack. Cosmos picks are for the most part horrendous, but it should be interesting see the rest unfold. As for Reign in Blood, that album's break (along with Hell Awaits) from traditional thrash norms can't be understated, and you can hear a large influence on a few improtant albums already listed like Deicide and Suffocation.
Posted 01/10/2006 - 11:21:29 PM by Hone_Heke:
 Dubidet: As an interested-in-many-genres-except-metal fan, I`m a possible convertee. I`m horribly interested in this distinction debate between Thrash & Death regarding Reign In Blood, and I ask you this serious question. Are you able to delineate more concisely for me the *structural language of speed metal* in technical terms?
Posted 01/10/2006 - 11:31:43 PM by dubidet:
Posted 01/10/2006 - 11:47:27 PM by brennschluss:
 Dubidet: Metal as an intellectual exercise is wholly unknowable, hence the difficulty in explaining and elucidating exactly what Heavy Metal is. Take death metal for example: It's an arbitrary delineation based as much on personal taste as on objective criteria (the same could be said for all the various metal subgenres). This makes death metal understood as a series of singularities: Obituary is death metal, Carcass is death metal, Morbid Angel is death metal; but it doesn't work to take the sounds/qualities of said bands and extrapolate outward to find other death metal bands. Which is why Arkhon Infaustus is black metal, Zao is Christian metalcore, Behemoth is black metal, Napalm Death is grindcore. I proffer my opinion to prove my point: Writing about heavy metal does nothing to help people understand heavy metal; it's too visceral to every be captured with the written word.
Posted 01/11/2006 - 12:22:21 AM by Hone_Heke:
 I see, so what you`re saying is that you`re not a musician, but a writer dealing only in terms that metaphoricise what you hear, and have read elsewhere that the structural languages of death & thrash are not the same. But what I was really offering you was the chance to knowledgably explain G 7th bridge A# bflat D to G to Gflat to E 1st within the Schon-Elix flat bass pattern that dominates the North European chapters of Death. And how Urman`s counterpoint to thrash is to up-fret some of the G changes against an A flat progression, in theory at least, although it depends partly on the feedback amps to convey some of the lower end dissonance. Got it.
Posted 01/11/2006 - 09:59:50 AM by bassman08:
 Reading the history of black metal is somewhat akin to trying to follow a daytime TV soap opera, only more confusing because of all the Scandanavian names. I mean, seriosuly, my mom watches "The Bold And The Beautiful" and I thought that shit was hard to follow...
Posted 01/11/2006 - 11:32:44 AM by dubidet:
 I hear ya bassman. soapy.
Posted 01/11/2006 - 05:37:22 PM by YearOfTheHex:
 i commend the both of you for doing this wonderful deed and exposing and hoping for all th hipsters that they will not seclude themselves in rooms full of arcade fire, bloc party, and whatever else new release receives the most attention, even if they are good albums (which i believe they are). my one question is, where is the emperor? for those trying to make a transfer of being introduced to a genre that will take them aback no matter where they start perhaps, i think Emperor, apart from being one of the most legendary black metal outfits, would be a great and easy place to start to ease yourself into more 'out-there' guys like burzum and the certainly proved to be a great place to start for me a couple months back, and now i find myself steeped in metal want and loving this list for helping me out as well to fill in some gaps. but the question remains... where is the emperor, fellas?
Posted 01/11/2006 - 06:50:59 PM by dubidet:
 Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse is one of my faves, YearOfTheHEx. Unfortunately, we only had so many slots. Katharsis, Darkthrone, and Vlad Tepes were the three that I wrote up that didn't make the final cut. There are going to be exclusions. Nothing meant by it.
Posted 01/11/2006 - 07:04:02 PM by :
 stewart, I really liked your piece. but stewie baby you have yet to declare your public like for cosmo`s `piece`. are you playing the aggressive to his passive? either way, less than the content of the article, the interaction & growing mutual affection between the two of you has been beautiful to watch this week. perhaps, the article might better be entitled "Brokeback Stylus Feature"
Posted 01/11/2006 - 07:43:35 PM by dubidet:
 Hear that? It's cable access crying out for you.
Posted 01/11/2006 - 10:15:14 PM by brennschluss:
 How was it decided which albums to include? I was surprised, but not necessarily disappointed, to see Darkthrone left off the list, especially considering how often they are name-checked by so many "kvlt" black metal bands. They should take much of the blame for an uncountable number of terribly produced albums. As an aside though, Hammerheart by Bathory is one of my all time favorite records; there aren't many black metal albums that compare to its scope either lyrically or musically.
Posted 01/11/2006 - 10:46:49 PM by dubidet:
 Darkthrone was in the unedited piece. Sorry. Hammerheart is one of the best. Interesting to see the progression over the years; sad that he's gone.
Posted 01/12/2006 - 11:53:48 AM by KlausFraktal:
 Yeah! Grindcore!
Posted 01/12/2006 - 02:15:57 PM by YearOfTheHex:
 great grindcore segment cosmo...but im curious if you've ever had the opportunity to listen to Siege? i guess it's all a matter of contention as to when grindcore 'started' (was it repulsion? siege? napalm death? whatever) but i must say that 'drop dead' feels to me like the ultimate early grindcore classic that no one ever gets to hear since it went OOP on relapse some time ago...i understand leaving it off your list since it's damn near impossible to get, but i was curious if you had heard it what your thoughts on it were? anyway,this has to got to be my favorite stylus piece in some time, you guys keep up the stellar work, looking forward to expand on some doom knowledge tomorrow
Posted 01/12/2006 - 02:33:59 PM by cosmokane31:
 i hear you on the siege and repulsion. both can be found on the audio companion cd to albert mudrian's excellent book "choosing death: the improbable history of death metal and grindcore." the case has often been made that they're the first grindcore, which is an entirely valid claim. throughout this "beginner's guide," i've made my picks based on accessibility to the non-metalhead, both musically and commercially. stuff that's out of print or hard to find isn't of much use to the average person. napalm death may or may not have been the first, but they were the first to put grindcore in the public eye, so they're a good starting point.
Posted 01/12/2006 - 05:56:24 PM by sewage666:
 On Grindcore... LARM, 1979 On the opening of this article... "In case you haven't noticed, it's hip to like heavy metal again" and 5 seconds after that sentence was actually formulated in the writer's mind, metal spontaneously became tragically unhip.
Posted 01/12/2006 - 05:58:52 PM by sewage666:
 On the use of jazz and other genres in metal and the supposed success of fusion metal, I have one word... Mordred. No wait, I have two more... Funk Metal. Thanks for killing the nineties!
Posted 01/12/2006 - 06:34:20 PM by dubidet:
 Mmm. I eagerly await your next aphorism.
Posted 01/12/2006 - 07:37:37 PM by dipdip:
 I really think that if someone new to metal picked up Godflesh cos they were interested in a genre that provides "the most noise possible in the shortest time possible...songs are brief, brutal, often less than a minute long" they might be a little confused as to what grindcore is.
Posted 01/13/2006 - 10:24:33 AM by boilingboy:
 Wow, I'm definitely impressed. Not only is it great to see a feature on metal in Stlylus, but the choices are impeccable. Yob's "Quantum Mystic" was one of my favorite songs of last year. Most of all, it's gratifying to see Godflesh included. Justin Broadrick is an underappreciated genius.
Posted 01/14/2006 - 02:25:26 PM by roadrunner:
 gotta luv all those great 90s grindcore klassiks! oh, wait...none more nineties? also, is Agoraphobic metal? if so, rock 'em to the top of everything and ferget what you think the metal you like is! also, Repulsion - the lost klassik? c'mon cosmo, pick up my pace!
Posted 01/14/2006 - 10:41:34 PM by DrewKatsikas:
 "If heavy metal is simply loud rock music..." Do me a favor and turn up a copy of "Beggar's Banquet" as loud as it will go. Fool. I cannot take this article this slightest bit seriously if you're gonna make claims like that.
Posted 01/15/2006 - 11:35:04 AM by digestion:
 Generally, I think this article serves its purpose as being a good introduction to the different types of metal; but I have to say it's pretty inexcusable to totally neglect Repulsion. Horrified still holds up today and doesn't sound dated at all, and it's widely available due to its recent reissue. It's a pretty vital piece of grindcore history and much better and more important than, say, Leng T'che. Overall, though, well done.