As a genre, stoner doom has some fairly definitive characteristics: slowed-down tempos, rumbling low-end bass and rhythm, a focus on mountainous, hypnotic riffs, and a certain intangible haze cast over it all, creating a psychedelic-glazed listening experience. But perhaps most importantly, stoner metal worships at the altar of marijuana. Proudly wearing its influence on its sleeve (and name), stoner metal varyingly employs marijuana as a muse, a political rallying cause, an artistic aesthetic, and generally as the raison d’etre for the (sub)genre as a whole. From the smoke-filled cough intro in Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” to Sleep’s epic journey to Jerusalem to Dopelord carrying the genre’s torch in one hand and a bong in the other, stoner doom is fundamentally and un-apologetically intertwined with marijuana. And yet, as firm of a grip as the green leaf has on the genre, there are contingents within the stoner doom scene that don’t embrace weed with the same fervor as their counterparts. Indeed, as counter-intuitive as it seems, examples abound of bands in the stoner doom realm that either explicitly or implicitly eschew the very association with marijuana that the scene largely views as a prerequisite.
Some might say hair metal died in the 90s when Nirvana disrupted the rock industry. Yet, all of hair metal’s celebration of excess and sexism, musical dilution, and market oversaturation is present in today’s mainstream country scene. The factory seems to have just moved from the Sunset Strip to Nashville. It’s massive appeal to young listeners has created a divide in the country music scene not unlike the divide in the metal scene in the 80s. On one side industry titans argue that Bro Country is just the music of the times and that old people are just whining about being left behind. On the other side, more “authentic” artists are rising under the banner of “real country.” This is all quickly acessible on Wikipedia and Saving Country Music in more depth. But is Bro Country really just the second coming of Hair Metal? Or does Hair Metal deserve a little more credit?
We’ve all got that one friend, unless you’re dishonest or just really good at dissociating from other humans, who says and does dumb and sometimes really offensive shit primarily due to the lack of an ability to think what they’re saying or doing all the way through to its logical…
There’s an inherent alchemy required to successfully combine two seemingly disparate forces into something new. Famous, enduring pairings can be volatile and even counter-intuitive at first glance, but when done properly the result can be something far greater than the sum of each part. Peanut butter and jelly are each perfectly enjoyable on their own, but when paired together they create one of the most well-known and universally enjoyed sandwiches in modern history. Likewise, Calvin is a perfectly funny — albeit bratty – cartoon character and, similarly, Hobbes is a charming and occasionally profound tiger. But it’s their pairing that creates something greater: a friendship that serves as a vehicle for an entire comic strip, a philosophical and temperamental foil for each character to bounce off, and the sheer intangible joy the strip provides readers by allowing us to live inside their friendship. By fusing two independently enjoyable ingredients, an effective pairing can not only allow for a greater appreciation of the pair’s individual components, it can simultaneously create something richer and more meaningful in the magic as well.
In the past year as I stood around at a house show, engaged in my normal Saturday night rituals of alternating between watching whatever band was playing and socializing, I heard a statement that disturbed me deeply. Among the casual chatter it was delivered as a light hearted quip, one not meant to shock but rather to gently tease. It came as someone recognized my friend but could not put a name to the face. My friend, casually joking with the stranger, said “just remember me as the one black guy who goes to shows”. They both laughed and I did as well at the time but something about that statement rubbed me in the completely wrong way.
When I found out that Ben Hopkins was outed as an abuser and rapist I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken for my friends who loved PWR BTTM. I was heartbroken for all of the queer kids and young queer adults who looked up to this band who (at the time) appeared to really care for their communities. They were activists. They were one of us. They held space for a community of people who didn’t quite fit in anywhere else. PWR BTTM stood up for us. They were just like us, and when people like us are ousted we see ourselves in them and we lash out. We grieve. We process. We take action. We compartmentalize. We move on and hope we won’t have to deal with this again until we do, because this is work that never stops.
Black metal deserves every single piece of criticism laid at its doorstep. Let’s be very clear on that before we begin. You don’t get to base your genre of music on despicable, and sometimes plain murderous, figures and then act surprised when people levy enhanced and abrasive scrutiny against you. (I mean, you definitely can do that but it’s just childish and coy.) A genre which actively courts racism, nationalism, violence and shock images should not be surprised when people pick on it; you’re asking for it and, deep down, you fucking love it. Black metal wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the knee jerk reactions of mainstream culture towards it, clear and cut. If black metal’s original antics were simply taken in stride, if they were treated as the petulant children they so often were, the genre would have been stillborn.
Over the past couple years, we’ve published two massive articles about the current state and impending trends of music consumption—my deep dive on the tough realities of streaming platforms and Nick’s bullshit-free synopsis of Nielsen’s 2016 music industry report. While both of these pieces had minimal references to metal, the research and analysis we presented outlines some staggering changes to the entirety of music, changes that continue to expand and show no sign of slowing. And though it’s been just over a year since I channeled my B.A. thesis on streaming for my deep dive, Billboard published a story that compelled me to revisit the topic and write down my thoughts as soon as possible. The facts of the story are relatively simple—because Billboard now incorporates track streams into the sales figures they consider, The Weeknd’s Starboy remained at #1 on the Top 200 for this week because it technically “sold” more albums than The XX’s I See You, landing the British indie pop trio at #2 on the list despite selling more actual albums. This story stopped me in my tracks, as it poses an equally intriguing and worrisome question – are streams and purchases comparable, and what are the implications if Billboard thinks they are?
Ah, Meshuggah. Whatever one’s opinion of them might be, there’s no denying that the Swedish masters’ constant innovation has had an enormous impact on metal of almost all kinds. However, we’re at a point where the amount of bands that are either heavily inspired by them (or choose to ape their sound entirely) increases exponentially year after year; and so, the question of whether the forward-thinking giants can remain in their long-held position at the top arises. With a new record hardly two months away, we’ve recently been treated to “Born In Dissonance”, the first new track from the band in about four years. But how does it hold up, and what does it bode for the new record?
It’s become rather acceptable that at this time in my life, musicians that I knew who played music from the 60s, 70s, and even 80s, will pass away. David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston are all names that come to mind when I think of “gone too soon”. However, when I woke up to…