Friday, 7 August 2009



Last weekend I went to a rather splendid gig. No, I didn’t spend any time standing in a field watching Machine Head wipe the floor with Fatty Durst and his mates. Neither did I shed a tear while the horribly overrated Trent Reznor forgot to play his greatest hits. And, sadly, I didn’t get to see Linkin Park doing whatever it is that they do that people seem to like so much. Seriously, what the fuck is all that about?

Anyway, no, I didn’t go to Sonisphere. Instead, I went to see Annotations Of An Autopsy headline a show upstairs at The Garage in Highbury, North London. Contrary to popular belief, it’s the kind of thing that a dwindling band of us music journalist types genuinely like to do every now and then, often in preference to hanging around backstage at some dreadful corporate event, missing all the bands and wanking each other off in a frenzy of self-congratulation and mutual hatred. Yeah, I actually like going to “little” gigs. And this was, despite the increasing stature of the headliners, a pretty low-key affair, attended by considerably less than 100 people and, thanks to Sonisphere and appalling weather, generating barely a blip on the rock ‘n’ roll calendar. Nonetheless, I dragged my lardy carcass up to the Big Smoke because, and this is the main reason I’m writing this, this gig was a particularly brilliant example of how the British death metal scene is currently in an insanely rude state of health. Aside from Annotations Of An Autopsy, the bill also featured Trigger The Bloodshed, Viatrophy, Dyscarnate and the charmingly-named Fleshrot. Every single one of these bands is bringing something fresh and new – with varying degrees of originality, but that’s beside the point – to a scene that has, for many years, preferred to revel in its own obscurity and lack of ambition. But unless you’re a total dimbo, you can not fail to have noticed that the last few years have seen a massive explosion in interest in death metal and its attendant subgenres – from grindcore to, dare I say it without sniggering, deathcore – and, in the States at least, this kind of music has never been anywhere near as popular.

Now at this point I’m sure that two or three of you – the spottier ones that have had less physical contact with members of the opposite sex, I imagine – will be spitting your cornflakes across the room in abject horror at the suggestion that bands like Annotations Of An Autopsy and Trigger The Bloodshed can be in any way regarded as a credible part of the UK death metal scene. Well, tough shit. They are part of it and, at this moment in time, they’re doing a lot more to propagate its reputation here and around the world than any number of dogged underground stalwarts bands. Not that there’s anything wrong with the underground scene in this country, of course. There are literally hundreds of great extreme metal bands in the UK and there is a very close-knit and self-contained community of death metal die-hards that are quite content to exist away from mainstream eyes and the interference of bigger labels. That’s totally cool and I have utmost respect for anyone who would prefer their death metal to be unsullied by notions of success or popularity (and I’m not being sarcastic, believe it or not). But what I find completely objectionable and worthy of nothing but contempt and scorn is the kind of attitudes that you can easily unearth on any extreme or death metal online forum, particularly when the subject of the “new breed” of death metal bands is raised. To give you an example, there is a rather brilliant death metal band called Ingested. They’ve just released their debut album, Surpassing The Boundaries Of Human Suffering, through Siege Of Amida Records. It’s fantastic. Ridiculously brutal and deeply unpleasant on every level. But some of the moronic drivel I’ve seen written about the band, purely because they’re signed to a label that people might have actually heard of and because their album sounds like it was recorded in a studio, rather than piece together using bits of shit and twigs in someone’s shed, is enough to make me clobber the cat with the nearest shoe. Doubtless the same sneering, elitist claptrap emerges whenever a band like Annotations Of An Autopsy or The Boy Will Drown or Ignominious Incarceration (all excellent bands, by the way) dare to make music that aims for and reaches a slightly bigger audience than one you could fit in your stinking front room – and isn’t it time you tidied up and hoovered the carpet, you filthy hippie? – and then have the audacity to refer to it as death metal. Oh, what utter bastards! How dare they dilute the purity of our sacred scene! That’s not death metal! It’s got breakdowns and they’ve got short hair and their fans wear girls’ jeans and they’ve got a MySpace site and MUMMY I’VE WET THE BED AGAIN!!!!!

I’ll level with you. Purists bore the piss out of me. Listen to what you like and shut the fuck up. No one’s interested in whether you think a new band are “true” death metal or myopic and unmotivated enough to languish forever in a non-scene populated by autistic bell-ends that only ever talk amongst themselves. That wasn’t good enough for Morbid Angel or Obituary or Suffocation or Malevolent Creation or Carcass or Pestilence or any of the great death metal bands from the genre’s first and second waves. It’s not a proud achievement to aim at. It’s a deliberate choice and one you make knowing full well that its purpose is to create division and to limit the number of people that can enjoy what you do. Fair enough. It’s a bit weird, but it’s your choice. But unless you have a mental age of 11, there’s no reason why anyone should have to do anything they don’t want to do in music. The whole point of the fucking thing is to enable people to express themselves however they see fit. If you think that Annotations Of An Autopsy are a deathcore band – whatever the toasted shitnut that means - then good for you, but your opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s merely because you’ve appointed yourself guardian of some mythical code of ethics. I’ve been listening to death metal since the mid ‘80s and although I cherish the old school stuff with the same love and devotion that I regard Maiden and Megadeth records, I’m still perfectly happy to see death metal evolve and change and morph into something else, something new, and maybe even something that I don’t particularly like or understand. God knows, there are some shitty bands around at the moment, but there are also a lot of fucking fantastic ones too, just as that show in Highbury demonstrated. If you play extreme metal and you put your heart and soul into it, you can no more “sell out” than I could put on a frock and do a convincing impression of Kate Moss. Even if I sucked my gut in.

The moral of the story is this: don’t be a whiny bitch. There should be room for everyone: underground and overground, long-haired and Toni & Guy-approved, grizzled purist and clueless newcomer, old school and new school…just don’t waste your time, and the time of other more fragrant, sexually active people, trying to undermine the efforts of other hard-working and passionate musicians by filling online forums and comments pages with mindless vitriol and unqualified remarks about how death metal is being spoiled by kids with daft haircuts. Purism and elitism and that whole we-were-here-first-and-we-know-best attitude are, at best, idiotic and laughable. When the next Annotations Of An Autopsy album comes out, I’ll be first in the queue, because they’re a kick-arse death metal band with great songs. If you don’t like them, or any other new school band for that matter, don’t listen to them. No one’s forcing you. And if you don’t agree with me, so what? What kind of fucked-up world must we live in if we can’t disagree about things without resorting to childish insults? You fucking poser. Fuck you and good night.