Doomsday in the MP3 Wars

Excavating Stoned Metal From the Internet

Here at the Teleological Office of Morbidity and Burial (TOMB), we are constantly on the watch for the latest application of technology as it relates to doom and stoner metal. The Net has hardly gone unnoticed in this matter, and it came time to investigate how doom metal bands were using the latest electronic gimmickry to undermine the oppression of the fascist insect recording industry.

At TOMB, it was observed that industrial noise acts had built great electronic monuments online, although mostly monuments to the equivalent of nothing. Even the shunned author of the Melissa virus was a would-be rock star in cyberspace. TOMB analyzed his work; it was dire stuff. The writing of computer viruses does not translate well to art.

However, doom metal on the Net had to be more promising. Living, as it does, at a weird intersection of pot-smoking-as-religion and EC Comics horror, if anything could ride the Net without being consumed by the technology, it was doom. The TOMB plan was to harness the electronic winds to collect a record's worth of doom metal tunes, burn them onto a CD, and evaluate the results against predictions of worldwide economic catastrophe foretold by the fascist insect recording industry. The project, named E Pluribus Doomen, took about a week to complete—snatching 30 minutes here and there, plumbing the Net for free music, and hauling it back to the computer.

The first thing learned from E Pluribus Doomenwas that enjoyment of the project was inversely proportional to the amount of time spent on chickenshit not directly related to listening to doom metal—most of the dotcoms aimed at making a buck off online music don't understand this need for true convenience (not convenience as defined by IPO-bent computer geeks) in the slightest. And this is one of the dirty little secrets that entertainment journalists don't tell you as they veer between wet-your-pants gurgle over the latest Net music gimcrack and industry paranoia over the alleged nefarious acts of digital pirates: The commercial Net operations are hedging their bets on the electronic revolution, operating under the assumption that online music might not make them rich, but that hype, advertising, obfuscation, and the selling and accumulation of consumer profiles gathered through the analysis of click-click-clicking patterns before the actual delivery of digital goods—the imposition of chickenshit on the potential consumer—will. This secret really puts the boots to the silly techno-journo-futurist wish that someday, somewhere, all the rock music in the world will be available online in one place via one simple pathway.

Napster is hardly an alternative. TOMB performed a quick and dirty analysis of the technology and determined Napster had no good doom. Zero real variety. Just a commoner's view of Black Sabbath. Thirty percent of the pirate MP3s available were "Iron Man," and almost 50 percent of the entire pile—a couple hundred files—were a subset of "Paranoid." If this strikes you as an unimaginative (ab)use of technology, you're right. And it's an ailment that afflicts most of Napster's generously named "musical community." Tech-journo and teenage euphoria aside, it's not unfair to characterize it as a conduit of mind-numblingly overlapped unauthorized swag served and maintained by "music users" generally possessed of somewhat less wit and taste than K-Tel-type "greatest hits" programmers. If it's the "end" of the recording industry, so be it. But TOMB doubts it.

However, at least as far as the E Pluribus Doomen experiment was concerned, a fan site—stonerrock.com— remedied all of this. Stonerrock kept the chickenshit to a minimum, acting mostly as a vehicle for the appreciation of doom metal. Plus it had something none of the "pro" dotcoms had: a personality not defined by salesmen.

Its virtual library made a reasonable amount of apparently artist-sanctioned material available for the choosing. With a little help from the smaller independent labels devoted to the subgenre, E Pluribus Doomenwas in business. Once enough music had finally been carried back to the TOMB supercomputer—or, actually, when our patience with Net twiddling had expired—it took a mere half hour to arrange and burn Doomen.

(Aside: Remember how, not too long ago, the fascist insect recording industry tried to convince everyone Rio MP3 players were a fearful evil, akin to constipation in the Middle Ages? Well, now most of the new computers in stores come stocked with CD burners and Rio MP3 managing software. The time it takes to burn a new CD that will play in all CD players—including portables which cost about $60—is about the same time it takes to arrange and download slightly less music to a Rio player, which costs $100 more. Parties in the industry wanted the Rio banned! As a public service, TOMB developed an IQ test for determining if you need one: Do you have less sense than it takes to pour piss from a shoe when the instructions are printed on the heel? If your answer is "yes," you "need" a Rio.)

Anyway, back to E Pluribus Doomen. At TOMB, the view is that most doom metal has the same silly charms associated with the horror short stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Doom is predictable and corny, but comfortable—operating from a script where Tony Iommi is the Great Cthulhu; Palm Desert, California, the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane; Kyuss, the Elder Gods; and Hawkwind's Space Ritual and the first four Black Sabbath albums, The Necronomicon.

The highlights of the TOMB anthology included: (1) "Power Time" by Scott Weinrich's Spirit Caravan. If there was a Heisman Trophy in doom metal, Weinrich would be the first winner, hands down. Weinrich's the only true triple threat in the genre: He writes, he plays, he sings. Had Tony Iommi recruited him after Ronnie Dio left BS, the world'd be a different place. (2) "Homophobic/Alcoholic" by Mustasch: Every home-rolled anthology needs a redneck/hardcore polka/doom hybrid. (3) Puny Human had the best name. On "Jimbo the Hut," you can shake your hips to the beat as someone gets tossed in a pit. Danceable doom! (4) Doom is a dish best served cold. Thorr's Hammer, from Norway, furnished the epic, eight-minute-long "Norge," which sounds like Joan Jett doing a slick dirge-and-duet combination with the troll under the bridge. After which, he eats her.

Subsequent picks included Orange Goblin, Goatsnake, and Molehill. Near the end of the process, the shroud of woe in the room had become so thick, TOMB thought it best to dispel excess anxiety with something slightly more upbeat: namely, Half Man's sludge-blues instrumental, "Two Perverted Men in the Swamp," which had a kind of jaunty quality. Insofar as doom can be jaunty.

Unfortunately, generating the cover art for EPD on the TOMB supercomputer looked like another exercise in chickenshit, so the task was bypassed in favor of a trip to the refrigerator. Then, after a few more listens to E Pluribus Doomen, those involved in the experiment got up from the couch, went to the record store, and paid cash money for CDs by Spirit Caravan and Orange Goblin. Thus fulfilling some of the needs of the fascist insect recording industry.


George Smith editsThe Crypt Newsletter ( crypt@sun.soci.niu.edu). E Pluribus Doomen is not sold anywhere. To duplicate: stonerrock.com, mansruin.com, punyhuman.com, one CD-R, one average TOMB-style PC, some tolerance for chickenshit.


Other articles from Take Back the Net (Special Section)

LEFT BEHIND by Ward Harkavy
The Radical Right Got Wired Fast. When Will Progressives Catch Up?

RIGHT THINKING by James Ridgeway
Want to Understand Conservatives? Read Them.

FROM THEIR VAULTS TO YOUR DESKTOP by Russ Kick
Finding Documents the Man Wants to Hide

VIRTUAL MARCHERS, REAL RESULTS by Meg Murphy
Fight Back Online

KEEPING UP WITH THE NAPSTERS by Eric Weisbard
At Pho, a Thousand E-mails a Month Track the Great Digital Debate

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