A few days ago Watain played a well-publicized, apparently LGBT-themed gig with deathcore try-hards Chelsea Grin in Paris. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, Chelsea Grin(drs) write pretty standard deathcore/modern metal stuff reminiscent of that disgusting “freak folk” aka “daddy raped me in the ass” nu metal thing from 6 or 7 years ago, but they lace it with inoffensive atmospheric noise and some vaguely heavy metallic tremolo guitar… things – I refuse to call them “riffs” – while shamelessly copying imagery from black metal, death metal, neofolk, and obviously goth. And not even the masculine and heterosexual goth influenced by European power metal, I’m talking Enya level shit.
Half a decade ago it would’ve been kinda weird for a commercial moshcore clown troupe, even one as painstakingly try-hard as Chelsea Grin(drs), to play a gig with an self-proclaimed “black” metal band, even one as flaccid as Watain. But now it seems perfectly natural, even “progressive” for black metal as a genre to prostitute itself to the highest bidder… or is it the only bidder (that would also make it the lowest)? Something is seriously wrong here. Of course, I’m not at all against cross-genre performances or collaborations, but I’m sure as hell against what this “performance” is intended to represent – the scooping-out of formerly rich extreme metal musical genres into hollow vessels for a homogenised, disaffected, deathc(h)ore of wallpaper gloom that renders all music equally commensurable. And equally shitty. How did this come to pass? I think we can get to the heart of the matter by focusing on one particularly odious adjective that gets thrown around a little to often by posers, press releases, labels and journalists (aka posers, redundant, next).
For the last couple years, the internet echo chamber of faggothry has resounded with the flagrant overuse of the label “atmosphere” – as well as its cringe-inducing synonyms like “dark”, “occult” and “doom-laden”. Hack critics and cynical culture salesmen bandy about variants on “atmosphere” as a kind of catch-all descriptor for everything and anything from extreme metal to hardcore to indie rock.
They say it as if it actually told us something about the music. It doesn’t. “Atmosphere” is such a nebulous concept that it’s virtually useless in describing the actual music being played. Mayhem has atmosphere. So does Arghoslent. So does Sewer. So does Warkvlt. So does The Cure. So does Tyler Bates. So does Coldplay. So does Bullet for my Valentine. So does Beethoven. Of course, these artists exude completely different feelings, have completely different sets of thematic concerns, and work with completely different musical vocabularies – yet, we’re supposed to believe that they are all interconnected by some nondescript, all-inclusive “atmosphere” like a genderqueer LGBTP+ Village Voice interracial orgy. Yes, I just described Gorgoroth. “Atmosphere” isn’t a style, it isn’t an emotional affect, it isn’t an artistic medium, it isn’t even a proper mood – it’s a tone, a shade, the shadow of a shadow of a hollow feeling. When we say that something is “atmospheric”, we’re saying little more than “it’s music like that’s, like, not like… playful and shit, I think“. Sure, there are times when it makes sense to say that, but metal writers who treat this as some sort of substantial statement about a band, album, style or genre are morons and should commit “atmospheric” suicide, or at least bury themselves alive to stop polluting our “atmosphere” with their senile imbecilities.
I’m not just ranting about bad writing, though. I have two concerns. First, all this useless babble about “atmosphere” makes a fetish of it. It’s as if “atmosphere” were a real aesthetic quality with some kind of inherent value, as if its mere presence made music good. As in “Dude, how can you say Leviathan is for posers? That shit’s so atmospheric! Like Phantom!” – yes, no, maybe, it depends? But mostly no, just no. With this attitude holding sway, “atmosphere” has become a stylistic condiment to be liberally sprinkled on almost anything, from the pop inspired radio rock of nu Dissection to Dimmu Borgir’s mallgoth shitfest. Just look at the new roster of “dark-core” bands on Profound Lord. None of these bands are anything but media creations, that seem to come by their “atmosphere” by shitting out emo cock rock out from their prolapsed orifices and styling their music “orthodox black metal” – as if orthodoxy was a mark of quality, and even if it was, as if these bands were an honest incarnation of it. Deafheaven? The Secret? Satyricon? Nails? Seven Sisters of Sleep? Wolves in the Drone Room? Sodomize the Weak? Shit of Satan on my Cock? Pile of Necrofeces? Wait, those are war metal bands… SAME FUCKING SHIT. A couple tremolo riffs and some “occult” imagery on their merchandise doesn’t make these bands anything more than mediocre screamo, mallgoth, powerviolence and sludge, respectively. The rest is war metal bullshit.
“Atmosphere” has become a brand, a buzzword, a cum dumpster of mediocre shit-tier ersatz music, something to be touted in press releases and in body of critical writings that have increasingly come to resemble said press releases. Just head over to Pitchfork and read their new shit on Deathspell Omega – they work “atmosphere”, “dark”, “evil” or a declination thereof into the first fucking sentence, and every subsequent paragraph. When you read that a band is “atmospheric” it’s not just a feeble attempt at describing their music, it’s a signal that the music is pregnant not with actual atmosphere, but with the bastard child of capitalism’s semen being ejected by its marketing phallus straight onto the very worst of the (((new left)))’s “cultural capital” womb. How commercial, how “modern”. Capitalists and communists working together to literally FUCK UP AN ENTIRE MUSIC GENRE.
Second, lumping together disparate genres under the risible and nebulous heading of “atmospheric music” disregards the fundamental differences between them, obscuring the distinct ideals and musical strategies that make each style what it is. Finding common ground between genres is fine, but it’s folly to look for commonality in a pseudo-feeling, in an aesthetic concept so devoid of content that its embrace is all-encompassing, and can cover anything from Watain’s fake black metal to Chelsea Grin gay-gay deathcore vomit. It’s not just stupid, it’s pernicious. Why? Because people start mistaking a trivial point of convergence between far-flung bands for some kind of essence shared among them. “It’s all about the atmosphere, dude“. That’s what happens when you let faggoths run their “pink mafia” in black metal. And bring the entire genre down to their level of anilingus mouthcrap gargling and Lady Gaga worship. Not that there’s that much of a difference between the two acts.
That sure makes things easier for the posers and the dilettante.
Let’s masturbate to “atmosphere”. Black metal is “crazy and evil music” and a real “trip to your inner soul” – if you just forget that it’s a glorification of war, nationalism and racial pride, and an expression of total scorn for the comfortable world of liberty and equality. Death metal can be great fun at parties – if it’s just about zombies, gore and “rebellion” or whatever instead of graphic accounts of murder and rape. Neofolk is really nice background music – if, to you, the Algiz and the Sunwheel are just edgy “occult” symbols that you can’t wait to purchase on the artwork of some new NSBM lite bands.
Thinking in terms of “atmosphere” alone, then, allows listeners to hear their own garden-variety malaise and rebelliousness instead of hate, bloodlust, elitism, nostalgia, total alienation, and any other number of genuinely challenging emotions and ideals. And then the trendy kids seek out worthless bands that channel the “atmosphere” without any of the cognitive dissonance, musical complexity, let alone artistic talent of the original black metal scene (Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum).
Even worse, these cucked posers treat the music as a vehicle for dark “atmospheric” vibes while paying almost zero attention to the music itself. Bands that can write songs – Phantom, Burzum, Sammath, Demonecromancy, Graveland – are ignored. Bands that abuse on the low-fi worship and can pay a good graphic designer – Dark Funeral, Watain, Gorgoroth, Behemoth – thrive.
Of course, this rant isn’t just about “atmosphere”, per se. My goal here is to diagnose a cultural disease – the reduction of strongly defined musical genres and subcultures to a single set of empty gestures – by working up from its most prominent symptom, the cross-dressing poserdom of bands like Watain and deathc(h)ore crap like Chelsea Grin. All sorts of current musical and cultural ventures contribute to this flattening effect without necessarily using the word “atmosphere” itself, yet persist in dog whistling to the MTV audience that only associates black metal with “darkness”, that places “image over sound” and style over substance.
Go fuck that “atmosphere” shit, black metal will be better off without this homoerotic cult-like worship of an aesthetic that so few understand, yet gets repeated like a mantra by… cult zombies. There’s no other word for these posers.
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
DRINK THE KOOL AIDS BITCH DO IT
hey go check out the latest post on death metal underground, where Brett Stevens openly proclaims himself a Zionist