The irritating myth of "hipster metal"
Oakland’s powerhouse stoner-revivalist group Saviours drops through 3 Kings Tavern tonight and you know what that means: Sour-faced, humorless jack-offs all over are preparing Internet screeds on “hipster metal.”
If there’s one thing in the world more head-slammingly dull than reading a bunch of online Realness Police argue about what constitutes real hip-hop, it’s reading similar web manifestos by metal’s “trü-kvlt” militia. Did they happen to spot a Mastodon album at Best Buy? Must be “hipster metal.” Did they read an interview with Boris in which Wata expressed enthusiasm for pop music? Must be “hipster metal.” Did they spot a guy enjoying The Sword who had an ironic T-shirt or thick-framed cheaters? Must be “hipster metal.”
Apparently having forgotten that one of the key elements of metal’s appeal is its egalitarian populism, these sneering exclusionists—who are far more snobbish than the so-called “hipsters” they claim to denigrate—get off on casting anyone out of the real-metal club who doesn’t fit their definition of realness. The amount of things the anti-hipster-metal crowd has forgotten in pursuit of a self-satisfaction high is alarming: That metal has always aspired to mass appeal (is anyone going to tell Bruce Dickinson that he does “hipster metal” because he can afford his own jet?); that metal has blended with the indie/punk scene for more than 25 years (Greg Ginn, anybody?); that metal—even in its most extreme forms—has always served as a safe haven for nerds, geeks, and losers, not as another avenue to keep people like that on the outside. But none of that matters to the more-metal-than-thou crowd: They’re in it for the inside-baseball high they get from defining micro-cliques and keeping people out of them.
In fact, that’s one of the hallmarks of the “hipster metal” complaint: It’s never about the music. Who gives a shit if Mastodon is familiar with the concept of irony? Shouldn’t the only question be if the band will ever make an album as good as Leviathan again? Boris doesn’t give a shit whether anyone calls it a metal band, so why should we—especially when Absolutego can still peel the paint from your brain? Anyone who listened to Saviours’ Into Abaddon album, or caught The Sword’s punishing set at last year’s Ozzfest, and still finds himself focusing on what demographic the guy next to him at the show belongs to instead of the mind-blowing sounds shrieking through his ears, has no right to call himself a metal fan, because he's obviously more concerned with his own back-pocket sociology than the music.
None of this is to say that there’s no role for examining these and other issues. There are, indeed, metal "fans" who are hipsters, sniggering indie-rock jerk-offs who get into black metal because they think it’s funny, jaded scenesters who show up at a Gorgoroth show seeking the snob high you get from listening to something your friends look down on. But those people aren’t justifications for not listening to Saviours or The Sword. Why deny yourself great music just because someone you don’t like is listening to it too? Come to think of it, hipster metal fans and hipster metal haters deserve each other; let 'em take it outside and rehash the same arguments about authenticity that they’ve been having since Tony Iommi had fingertips. The rest of us will be inside, enjoying the actual music.