The Conscious Ape

Born in Dissonance

A love letter to a musical pandemonium:

There is an inherent beauty in extreme metal’s oppressive and caliginous cacophony, a beauty in a more profound and more permeating sense. Some would say that metal, more precisely sub-genres like death metal, black metal or grindcore, is nothing but wretched noise, a harsh attack on the auditory senses. I vehemently disagree. Sure, it is extreme, brutal, at first listen without sense or direction, kind of music, but if you give it a try and really sit and listen, you will find a territory uncharted before. The vast expanse of the extreme metal subgenres is as immersive and easy to get lost in as in the Sahara desert. Ardent and burdensome, piercing and macabre at the same time. A graveyard of melody and philosophical lyricism spliced with gore, horror, sexuality, depravity, abstraction and so on.

A band like Meshuggah gives us a good glimpse into the genre. Lyrics woven with tenebrous images of chaos, consciousness and paradoxes paired with nonhuman, aggressive music give us a premonition of a band trying to get a release from their human bonds, to become one with the onerous sound that they are reproducing, a machine-like, gargantuan sound of industrial weight devoid of humanity or melody. Analogous to them, we have a band like Anaal Nathrakh, a fine mixture of black, death, industrial, grindcore, and so much more, a true musical inferno, and it is absolutely magnificent in its atrociousness. The vile screams and growls are ear piercing, the guitars and drums oppressive in the best way, and to top it all off, a lyrical barrage of violence, nihilism, misanthropy and philosophy. And all of that is just a mere glimpse of this nightmarish world. If that is what you can find in the mainstream upper echelons of the genre, you can only imagine what lies in the murk of the underground, that visceral part of the genre that every fan of metal just fawns over.

Musical projects like Gnaw Their Tongues or Genocide Organ(technically not metal but a harsh noise project, but put here due to corollary extremity of the sound) are probably near the pinnacle of what lies under this voluminous umbrella of different sounds. I do not possess the words to describe the torturous soundtrack of the deep recess of hell that their music is; you will have to listen for yourself and try and judge it.

No matter what you look for in music, respite or an invigorating jolt of energy, simple background noise or a deep, ponderous contemplation on the meaning of life, you will find it here, in this swamp of unknown devilries. But only if you are willing to take a plunge in it. You can find a band like High on Fire that sounds like a dinosaur-swallowing tar pit decided to make music or a concept album like Menschenmühle by Kanonenfieber on the horrors of World War I. Ecologically woke bands like Gojira that sing (or scream) of our hubris and destruction that we brought upon this world, or enjoyable but straightforward bands like Exhumed that just like to growl about gore and brutal stuff. Or maybe you like to listen to challenging and technical music; we got you covered. Tech-death bands like Cryptopsy or Archspire are your best entry into this particular subgenre, a subgenre of lunatic speeds, incomprehensible growls and delicate intricacy; there is something for everybody under the umbrella of extreme metal.

The dark underbelly of the community:

Not all is flowers and rainbows, though, in the metal world. Musically speaking, there is not much to single out; if you like it, you love it; if you don’t, you either hate it or are indifferent to it. There are some problems, though, with the lyrical themes of some bands, for starters, that range from promotion of nationalism to the question of hatred of women in slam metal. Regarding nationalism, it is a cantankerous topic. Still, there is no doubt that there are bands that openly promote horrid ideologies like nazism. Regarding the apparent misogyny of slam metal, I would say it is an empty claim; slam is nothing but an extension of death metal that has been singing (growling) about horror and gore since its inception, like horror movies, it’s nothing but speculative fiction. Metal is an easy scapegoat for those with an agenda.

A thing to take into consideration is that it is not metal music that is at fault here; it is not the extremity of sound that has allured people with horrid ideas to the genre, music and art have been used since time-immemorial to promote abhorrent views, the first example that comes to mind is Richard Wagner, a classical composer from the 19th century that promoted german nationalism and disseminated anti-Semitism; which ultimately was one of the inspirations for the nazi ideology. But still, one should not put his head in the sand and pretend that all is peachy in the metal community. Some scoff at this sentiment and think art is just art, but history shows us otherwise. Nothing is so simple.

Moving on from that hornet’s nest, the biggest problem of any community was and is the inbreed elitism. Hatred of new and exultation of the old, every metalhead surely heard, or maybe even uttered some of these unforgettable evergreens:

  • Iron Maiden is the best fucking band ever

  • Metallica sold out if you don’t listen only to raw black metal demos recorded in a basement with a broken mic through a tape recorder are you even a black metal fan


  • Deathcore is garbage, I only listen to real death metal

  • Metalcore is for fags

  • You listen to , they are fucking mainstream bro!

  • NU-Metal is not metal

  • Power metal is gay

  • Megadeth vs Metallica debate

  • the society doesn’t understand us

And on and on and on, and everybody pretends that they don’t care and that they are unique, even though everybody in the scene looks alike, sounds alike and thinks alike. The tribal effect of being on one side and throwing faeces on the other is universal; we all act like apes, it just so happens, when it comes to music, for some reason or the other, we metalheads are organized like hordes of savages, but instead of clubs we have keyboards and instead of caves we have our mothers basements, and the only “love partner” we draw to that cave is our own hand, but united we stand in dispensing hatred and vitriol on the mainstream music and Taylor Swift’s or Justin Bieber’s of the world and of course between us and our preferred subgenres. Compartmentalization and separation are the bread and butter of any thriving metal forum, community or clique. It’s a sad ordeal, but not one to take seriously.

I must admit, though, I was a victim of the same mentality for many years, more than I care to admit to; through all of my elementary and high school years, I was a proud metal “purist”. I discovered metal at the age of seven, with Maiden and Metallica (thanks to my mother and uncle) and went on being a dumb idiot for the next 10 or so years. I tell myself, you were a kid and didn’t know better, but I did; I just chose to be an elitist dickhead. But I learned better and moved on from the idiot that I was.

Rainbow In The Dark:

But I don’t want to make it all sound like doom and gloom; these problematic few are just that. A few. They only give the impression of the whole community being like that because it is the assholes that are always the loudest and brashest. You will find many fans outside of all this; they dress inconspicuously, they don’t stand out, but you will see them at the back of the venue at the concert, bobbing their head and enjoying themselves, despite all else. Not every metalhead is clad from head to toe in all black with patches and badges. If you are new to the scene, don’t let the assholes drive you away or embitter you to the music, they are nothing but a sardonic bunch of gatekeepers and dickheads, and there is much more to the metal, a whole plethora of different sounds, themes, and straight-up crazy shit that create this beautiful amalgam of dissonant sound that we call extreme metal.