Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Here's What Behemoth's Nergal Really Meant To Say About Extreme Metal Lacking "Spirit"

BEHEMOTH (photo: Facebook)

Blabbermouth has posted an article with the somewhat inflammatory (and slightly misleading) headline of BEHEMOTH's NERGAL Says Many Of Today's Extreme Metal Bands Lack 'Rock Spirit'. If one were to base an opinion around that headline alone, it wouldn't be surprising to see that people might get their panties in a twist over that statement... but hear me out.

Nergal of Behemoth is absolutely right, though as most of us would do if we were put on the spot, he didn't really elaborate enough to protect himself from the unwarranted rage of the oversensitive. Therefore, I will attempt to translate for Nergal and make clear just what exactly he was trying to say, and the point he was trying to make - and then, you too will be in total agreement (at least, I hope).

First things first: Blabbermouth was indeed trying to incite reactions from the metal community with that headline. It's called click-baiting, and pretty much every website/blog is guilty of employing this tactic. After all, you're just going to pass over the article if the headline just read "Nergal talks to EMP Rock Invasion about extreme metal", you would likely just scroll on past it.

If, however, that headline were hinting at Nergal throwing an insult at hard-working extreme metal bands that have not yet enjoyed success similar to his, that would piss you off, yes? Especially if you were a musician in one of those bands. Therefore, because it invokes a stronger reaction from you seeing as how it possibly references or involves you or bands that you may like, you'll be more likely to click and read; but you're also just as likely to enter into that article with unfounded bias.

So, taking out the sensationalist headline, we have what Nergal actually said in regards to bands these days (excerpted from the Blabbermouth article):

"I like hooks. I mean, we all [grew up on] rock and roll, and I like rock and roll song structures."

"I'm officially [an] anti-fan of today's extreme metal bands that are just taking part in this rat race, trying to play as many notes as they can, play as many arpeggios within three-minute-long songs as they can, and it's just missing hooks, it's just missing the point. There is no rock spirit within the music."

[When asked what defines 'rock spirit' for Darski..] "Balls. There's balls in riffs and in the songwriting and in the approach. I don't think it's definable. It's either there or it's not, and I'm sure that [BEHEMOTH's latest album] 'The Satanist' has a lot of balls."

By the way, you can also see the full interview at the bottom of this page.

For now, though, back to the point. After reading the full context of those particular sentiments, it's pretty clear that he's not knocking all extreme metal bands that aren't named Behemoth. He's not being contemptible to those who haven't seen success, and he's not calling out any one band in particular.

He's simply pointing out that which we already know; that there are a shit-ton of bands out there just trying to ride the coattails of bands before them, going through the motions, keeping to a formula that has been tried-and-true successful for bands of the same genre. There are too many bands out there that pay no heed to the actual feels that a melody can give you, instead shooting for complexity or chaos, or just meeting the status quo of generic extreme metal.

After all, just because you can change time signatures 100 different times in a song doesn't mean that song is going to sound good. You can be the fastest, craziest shredder in the world, but all that means nothing if you can't play music that either illustrates something powerful in your mind's eye or gives you those wonderful goosebumps you get when true "metal magic" happens.

Take a moment and think of your favorite band. Like, your absolute favorite band of all time. It doesn't even matter what genre. Picture them and play one of their songs that you love in your head. What does that song make you feel? Is it something like this?

That, my friend, is what Nergal is talking about.

"Rock spirit" is not a status symbol. It is not the number of fans, nor their wealth. It is not overly-processed, poorly perceived pop sewage put forth to appeal to everyone's baser sensibilities. It is not lyrics that lie, lyrics that insult or lyrics that make no goddamn sense. It is not simplistic beeps and boops, nor is it the sound of a 90's dial-up modem (otherwise known as "dubstep"... *shudders*). It is not any saccharine "earworm" that is thought up by applying sneaky subliminal marketing tactics beneath comically basic jingles. It is not men singing about objectifying women, and it is not women whoring themselves on a stage and demeaning themselves for attention. It is not thoughtless drivel that MTV or VH1 tries to feed us because the so-called "musicians" have thousands of dollars to burn on self-promotion and submit their stuff to every TV and radio station until we are so over-saturated that we hate it passionately but still know the f$&king words to the whole song.

"Rock spirit" is referring to the euphoric feeling you get when a riff sounds undeniably amazing. Well-written music is anything written in deep thought, performed with passion and feeling, and comes from the purest or darkest part of the heart. It is unfettered imagining that overcomes the boundaries of speech, stirring up emotions more powerful than can be described. It can only be felt. There are no words one could utter that comes close to the divinity that music holds to those who take the time to feel it in their bones.

Yes, musical tastes are always a factor. Typically though, there is a certain level of ability and heart that a band/solo artist must portray in order to generate a sound that truly tugs at our strings - and that is universally true across every genre. With the exception of dubstep (and I'm exempting Lindsey Stirling for being in that category because her orchestral work is beautiful and absolutely has the "spirit" Nergal was referring to, so I just do my best to tune out whatever slight dub-ish elements she sneaks in there), there are artists in every single genre that have achieved the true spirit of music, the "magic" so-to-speak, that draws forth the goosebumps from the depths of our very souls. No one person or band can do it all the time, every time - although Insomnium is pretty damn close to it - but it's been done in every style of music since the beginning of f*$#ing time.

That is what Nergal is talking about. Looking at it that way, you can pretty easily see what he means when he says there are way too many bands out there now that are just doing well because people want to seem "cool" by liking them if they're popular with friends, or people that claim to support them to fit in and really don't listen to them at all. Just because a band is "metal" doesn't mean they're going to be good, just as good things aren't completely exclusive to only metal. There is good music of every possible style yet conceptualized by man.

I think he's more trying to get across that we really need to support the bands who bring us that coveted energy, the ones that speak to our souls, and not just like or promote every band across the board because they are of a certain genre. Honestly I don't think we're doing too bad a job of that as it is, keeping in mind the broad spectrum of tastes (some of which are a little hard to understand the reasoning behind them), but we could always do better.

Ah well. Thus concludes my translation of Nergal's latest public service announcement. Stay metal, Behemoth. \m/

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