Metal in the Media



liturgy(“My Ivy League education taught me how to over-analyze the Norwegian church burnings into Oblivion!”)

I’m not a metal isolationist, and I’m all for seeing our favorite genre given exposure in mainstream media outlets; just the other day I praised Pitchfork’s Brandon Stosuy for doing a great job in bringing metal back to the famed indie snob publication, and I’ve said that I think it’s pretty cool that NPR is getting into the metal game. But Sasha Frere-Jones’ recent black metal focus piece in the New Yorker made me want to punch a wall.

I’ve always had a problem with Frere-Jones’ writing; it’s my personal belief that music critics should spend more time writing about the actual MUSIC than the cultural events and historical significance surrounding it. Frere-Jones’ articles generally read like pretentious college history papers that prove made-up theses for the sake of proving made-up theses instead of any kind of analysis of what’s going on inside the notes, what’s being played. But let’s leave that aside for now and take this most recent article at face value; it stinks anyway.

That Frere-Jones holds up Liturgy as a the poster children of modern black metal should be a gigantic red flag to anyone who knows anything about anything at all. That he credits them with developing the “burst beat,” a modified version of the blast beat that death metal drummers have been doing since the ’90s… well, just chalk that up to ignorance. And this is my primary problem with the article; why is it that mainstream music writers always flock to black metal? As if death metal, deathcore, djent, hardcore, metalcore, doom or any other metal sub-genre — love them or hate them — aren’t relevant to modern music fans and don’t have anything interesting to offer. Frere Jones makes it plainly obvious that he doesn’t know very much about metal as a whole — although he sure tries to make it appear as if he does, while also putting on a guise of “I’m dumbing this down for mainstream consumption” — and the article’s contents end up being laughable.

Our friends at Crustcake have done a fantastic job of picking apart Frere-Jones’ article. If I could hug Crustcake’s Andrew Wilhelm through my computer screen I absolutely would, ’cause he’s done a much better job of explaining what’s wrong with the New Yorker piece than I could have. I’m not going to re-print the critique here because it’s full of great points and you should really read the whole thing. After you read it you’ll no doubt agree that that Frere-Jones is a hack who should stick to covering the latest Grizzly Bear album or whatever.


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