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A simple plea

Andrew Miller | Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Goatwhore.

What comes to mind when you read that word? I think the only legitimate answer to that is the amazingly talented blackened death metal band formed in New Orleans in 1997.

That’s right.

Goatwhore.

And don’t you ever call them a metal band. They’re blackened death metal. What is blackened death metal you might ask? Well, as Wikipedia tells me, blackened death metal (also called “death/black metal” or “black/death metal”) is a fusion genre of extreme metal utilizing elements of death metal and black metal.

“But surely there cannot be this many genres of metal?”

Oh, I was once as innocent and na’ve as you. But as it turns out, after listening to countless lectures on metal music from my good friend Paul, metal is as diverse a species as homo sapiens. There’s heavy metal, death metal, black metal, grindcore, rapcore, nu metal, the ever popular groove metal, folk metal and my personal favorite – Viking metal, a veritable Wonka factory of metal.

Now of course you raise the very important question, “Am I supposed to care about all of this garbage?” Yes, actually, you are – and here’s my first point: there are so many genres of metal that a new metal band can potentially come into existence and claim it is its own genre simply by saying it has fused the styles of two different bands who have done the same thing before them. There aren’t this many genres of metal because the music is different enough for such variations to exist; this “genre”-fication exists because otherwise new metal bands get pegged as being followers. And we all know you cannot be a follower and still be metal (exclamation point).

But then what does this discussion of metal say about music as a whole? Surely such an underground style as metal can’t represent the entirety of the music industry. Well, I tend to think that it can, especially when it’s one of the best-selling genres in the business. It may pain me to realize that, but as Paul tells me – metal fans are billions strong.

So now the problem isn’t metal, the problem is music. What kind of an industry could let itself get so out of hand? A world completely controlled by the economic interests of record executives and production teams. Yet that’s what the industry has always been. For instance, rock bands in Britain weren’t getting enough publicity because of the Beatles, so along came the concept of the “British Invasion” and every Herman’s Hermits or Dave Clark Five cashed in. But the demands of an industry didn’t cripple music as much as they do now.

Today we see people inventing genres that don’t logically make sense as a cheap tactic to sell more records. Executives have found a perfect way to convince avid music fans that what they’re producing is new and different, and therefore really, really awesome. Musicians, influenced by such action, have followed suit: we’ve seen how Eric Cartman learned that in order to sell a million records, all he had to do was form a Christian rock group. Yes, even religion has been exploited so more money can be made.

And it’s not just music. Look at higher education. Young academics seeking advancement opportunity have to find niche markets. An appreciation of a holistic and comprehensive understanding falls by the wayside as more profit can be culled from ever-increased specificity.

So what can we do? Will “genre”-fication last forever? If it does it could have lasting ramifications and repercussions. Once enough of a precedent has been set wealthy and powerful individuals will start to believe that the model will work everywhere. The government will decide to stop legislating on behalf of the country and only legislate in favor of the personal desires of the Congress. Doctors will only work on projects that profit them personally – there go our hopes of curing diseases like Cancer and Alzheimers.

Personally, I don’t think music “genre”-fication will continue forever, but we have to be careful in how we handle the problem. Here’s my plan. First step: stop the problem at its source, which as I pointed out is metal. We need to condense all different forms of this branch of rock into one category, one place where Cannibal Corpse and Metallica will be forced to compete against each other in the market. The heightened economic competition will lead to a natural survival of the fittest; metal fans will be forced to choose to listen to only the best the unified genre has to offer. From here, the number of metal bands will dwindle until the population becomes sizable enough to be ignored by the main-stream media. Once these groups are denied attention, people will stop listening. And then, after people stop listening, the music industry will get the memo.

I started with metal and I ended with metal; the chiasmus of my column shocks even me as I review it. But it ultimately became necessary to promote a change that will aid our culture. Eliminating metal will bring us to a new place, a better place, a safer place. My friend Paul isn’t going to like this news, but I think he’ll realize that it’s for the greater good.

Stop listening to metal and you’ll save the world … or at least you’ll stop promoting what I consider to be the most annoying form of music out there. Maybe that’s why I wrote this column. A-thank you.

Andrew Miller is a senior English major. He can be contacted at amille15@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.