Quoting Paul Fussell in his funny book Bad, “Music grows BAD as . . . it becomes pretentious and asks to be treated respectfully.” This describes the whole world of pop. But now let’s stick to extreme metal, as defined by genre zines like Pit and Decibel.
One reads of some thick young man who toils in study “of the brittle breakdowns and militant messages of Earth Crisis records, while also reading up on veganism [and] politics . . . [thus] passing through the crosshairs of his pen were such forgotten targets as organized religion, apathy, and consumption.” As tortured unintentional humor, it’s tops.
Lucky for us, there are a couple things even better than orthodoxy in metalcore. For instance, death and math metal, or the conceit that higgledy-piggledy blasting noise is good because it takes brains to play it; and/or guttural burping for vocal tracks, delivered under the delusion that printing the lyric sheet makes entertainment. Only Lee Dorian of Cathedral knew how to get around the latter, shouting “Dyn-O-Mite!” and calling himself a disco supernova/master Casanova during breaks in the down-tuned riffs.
Lawnmower Deth, too, put a whoopie cushion under the pretensions. Fifteen years back, Sharp Fucka Blades of Hades riffed and grunted for two minutes before segueing into calliope music. Recently, Vincebus Eruptum furnished “Who Farted?” —the “vocalist” spilling the question over dirty crunch, pausing a moment before adding, “You did!” Jibes make records memorable by opening unlistenable style to the off-limits: hooks or head-banging rhythms, like “Who Farted” ‘s unexpected lurching groove. However, just trying to do funny without rock muscle is lame, disqualifying all the Agoraphobic Nosebleeders (Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope) and Morticians (Hacked Up for Barbecue) of the planet who trade only in one-liners. Be daring, idiots—end the crummy CDs and write your lyrics in blogs, à la National Lampoon‘s old Rolling Stones parody “Flatulent Girl:” “I’m looking for a girl who goes poot everywhere.”
Today’s men (and a few women) of metal are too tough, because to be a laff riot is weakness and no frailty is brooked when Calvinist tasks are required—for instance, “giving your blood to the doomsday machine” for Arch Enemy’s Dead Eyes See No Future. With a really strong girl at the helm to also sing a Manowar tune, their music is as pompous and strict as necessary, hence, sufficient for boys with vagina dentata fantasies. Meshuggah’s I—from Scandinavia, just like Arch Enemy—is another Hobson’s choice, the math metal cranking of widgets at 9 a.m. in the bottle cap factory. Both record covers show eyeballs from Hell, perhaps not so much great minds thinking alike as too many chips of lead paint in the art department’s beer.
Blood Duster’s “I Wanna Do It With a Donna,” though, is the best catchy death metal song, perhaps ever. The cookie monster wants to sniff his Donna’s hair but is pushed aside for the chorus, delivered exuberantly by a Donna ringer. The opening number of the CD quotes AC/DC, telegraphing a whole lot of blooz riff and a killer drummer. In “Sellout,” the cookie monster sings his wish for a hit single. Fat chance—but at least it doesn’t require a libretto.