In 1999, I bought an album by Orgy. It was called Candyass. It was a ridiculous affair, really, the band decked out in outfits reminiscent of Poison, belting out nonsensical, nihilistic lyrics over a steady drone of power chords and synthesized drums. I loved it though, the dark sound, the aloof anger, the volume. From there, I got more and more into the metal scene. At first, it was just bands like Metallica, Korn, and Slipknot. I can’t say I was ever the type of sheep that would listen to these albums and the go out and get my hair spiked and yell at preps “DON’T GIVE A FUCK! DON’T EVER JUDGE ME” like the little mallcore goth kiddies that infest the flocks of modern youth.
Just like the punk of the 70s and 80s, modern hard rock and metal as well as modern rap (until it forays into the fantasy-fulfillment, bling-bling area of the genre) are all intent upon their weak notions of iconoclasm, providing a cathartic means of communication/entertainment for the poor downtrodden blacks or the whiny suburban white kids. Metal and hard rock is inherently nihilistic (or at least existentialist), asserting generally that all values are baseless, at least save for the “independent” precepts of the individual listners. Punk, traditionally, is anarchic, insisting that free reign is inseparable from free will. Both concepts are essentially nonsense, at least when taken to their logical conclusions.
A few bands have bothered to break free of the simple angry noise tendency of such genres and explore actual social activism, such as Rage Against the Machine or U2. It’s a pity, then, that neither band can make good music.
My friend ffanatic and I both got into postrock. You might know a little postrock yourself, if you’ve ever heard Radiohead, which is a more palatable, if esoteric and dispassionate, example of postrock. Another postrock band, Godspeed You Black Emperor! actually made it onto the pages of Spin, once.
Postrock is largely an underground movement, like punk, but without the squalid rage or vacuum of talent that marks the latter. It can range in musical scope from somewhat traditional instrumentation (Aereogramme) to an incorporation of string and other instrumentation (Esmerine, A Silver Mt. Zion), to surrealist (almost amusical) instrumentation (Set Fire to Flames). Postrock deals with much headier concepts than simple anger, depression, et al. One Aereogramme album was about the plight of coal-mining towns. One Godspeed…! album was about vast (and sometimes hidden) corporate ownership of, well, everything.
Postrock can span the gamut, can contain just as much iconoclasm, dissent, and push as their powerchord contemporaries, but manages to do it without the fringe Satanism, National Socialism, violence, or debauchery. Perhaps that’s why I find myself shying away from the label of “metalhead” and sticking to my noetic guns of progressive and post rock.