Hipster Black Metal. Had to happen didn't it?
Though as far as I can make out Mount Eerie beat eveyone to that a couple of years ago. Quite like that Mount Eerie/Microphones stuff actually, should give it all another serious listen.
Y'know what though? I think I'm going to stop using the term Hipster. I think I over-applied it and that maybe it was unfair to begin with.
Let's use the no-less-odd coinage positive Black Metal.
First of all I absolutely love that Liturgy album. Yep, pretentious academic theorizing is exactly what Black Metal needs. Plus covers of My Bloody Valentine (bloody awful as it happens, but it's the thought that counts). Plus, a kind of rickety/dry/No-Wave sparse and spartan intensity, as much Glenn Branca as Burzum all added up to an intoxicating new direction for rock in general, above and beyond the impact on the Black Metal scene alone. So many people "came of age" in different scenes in 2011 that earlier moaning (my own) about lack of ideas/pastiche/hipsterism seem retrospectively misplaced.
Again, as with the Ferraro and Lopatin stuff below it felt like something new was happening: if there was some real or imagined confluence between Dubstep and Drone metal, it will be interesting to see if there is any overlap between positive BM and post-dubstep. I reckon that Rustie likes a bit of Black, innit.
So obviously the other major PBM bands had releases this year too, and I dug them both. I really like the pretentious/unpretentious thing going on with these bands that punctures all the solemnity of the scene. At some points that solemnity has seemed vital, now it feels a little bit unengaged. Ideas are always important of course but they're especially important right now and it's good to see these bands come along and inject a certain contrariness and debate into what could otherwise be a rather hermetic and inarticulate scene, ironically, given how generally smart Metal fans are.
So obviously Wolves In The Throne Room and Kralice got my vote (again).WITTR are often referred to as Eco-metal, presumably because of their reliance on images of a pastoral/sublime and I like the term, adding a potentially transformative, political edge, plus they're kind of down-home, rustic types. Regular Joes. Black Metal as the new Heartland Rock.
Death Metals' smartest man (he wouldn't like that description, I suspect) Hideous Gnostic, Caina had a new one out too. How's about that Caina, eh? and his heroic disregard for any presumed listeners/fanbase. He's a one off and as I've said before, locates Black Metal (and hardcore and post-rock etc) in a particular long train of Englishness, especially in his willful iconoclasm. An album that travelled far and wide...
...... taking things off in a whole different direction really, and partly falling in with Darkthrones' (only partially successful) return to Eighties' Hardcore.
Though these guys expressed that interface most successfully and produced, through a pretty fulsome combination of hardcore and Black Metal an absolute riff-monster. In terms of sheer cathartic rush not much this year came close. Plus they had a good line in essentially Arty post BM too.
Though my favourite of them all and maybe my favourite album of the year was this bit of Dadaist Black Metal from Finnish band Oranssi Pazuzu. Something of a conceptual joke given the band members' other activities, nonetheless it opened up all kinds of new sonic and structural possibilities for metal. Was it just Blackened Hawkwind? Maybe so, but it was still a rare and otherworldy blast of satanic space junk.
Here's the message: change or die. Change or remain undead/half-alive. Change is a kind of death anyway, die in order to be reborn. Be keen to find new loves and new hates.