A future is only meaningful if it presents multiple possibilities. If our options include only choices of which glossy gadgets or artisan handcrafts to purchase, then we do not consider this much of a future at all. What, though, can be said about those who opt out and choose to buy nothing? We are not hopeful. One can spend their time at work, at play, in the office, the cafe, the classroom, or the cabin in the woods. Regardless, life always amounts to a choice between the accumulation of economic capital or social capital. The contrarian is the avant garde who presents the next ideas in line to be monetized and turned into commodities. Those who spend their lives fighting to "get outside the system" are fools who don't realize they're still working for that system, and aren't even getting paid for it.
Where does that leave heavy metal culture when its relevance is predicated upon regarding itself as the ultimate arbiter of adversarial outsiderness? Too often we find it resembling a defensive dogma in which adherents must find ever more granular definitions of what is and is not "true" in order to sustain its pretense. Our question: Is there anything more bourgeois than claiming for oneself the mantle of judge in the court of ideological purity? The history of extreme music appears to us as a type of gentrification that acquires taboo and exotic social enclaves in order to territorialize them, tire of them, and move on.
The mistake of counter-culture is that its audience is imagined as a collective mind that is to be convinced of something. This something is the "counter" in counter-culture, and it is always a gesture toward some secret (occultism, coolness, technical mastery, etc.) that the performer has and their audience lacks. In metal, the intensity of the music serves only as a weapon to create a path for this stunted transference. You are thrashed, killed, blackened, covered in sludge, or doomed to hell, and then left with the mystique of a performer who had some grand and horrific notion (...and all I got was this lousy tour t-shirt). It is unsurprising that these ideas would be foregrounded over emotions in a culture whose most amplified voices are mostly male, often white, and almost uniformly straight.
Ideas are invariably the product of their context. This is why counter-culture always hides behind a secret: because it is impossible to actually get outside of culture in order to be opposed to it. Once the idea-possessing counter-culture performer is understood within this dilemma, it seems to be a rather cheap illusion. In many ways, feelings are the opposite of ideas. They are the chaotic and complicating component of life which cannot be articulated. They are impossible, yet they are always present. Given the aforementioned masculine makeup of most heavy metal spaces, it is obvious why the appearance of emotional intensity is immediately shunted toward anger and punishment. We see this as a mostly bad thing.
Instead of conceptualizing the spectator as a mind that is hungry for thoughts and effects, we look upon them as a body that is open to emotions and affects. We are not moved by the promise of the limitless mind. Instead we find inspiration in the experience of being embodied, acknowledging all its physical limits, differences, and inabilities, while affirming our capacity for love, shame, rage, joy and remorse.
The mind is a fated dead-end. All potential lies in our bodies.
released August 3, 2016
Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Ali Jaafar at Ecstattic Studio.