The original article was indeed filled with some inadequacies concerning genre specificity, as more than a few commentors pointed out. It was interesting, if a bit overwrought, but I think most folks can sympathize with the general concept of catharsis via sound.
The follow up was basically shameless fan service, but some interesting patterns emerged.
You not only have genre snobs, some of whom were performing fact-checking (Slayer being thrash, not death metal) and some of whom were being jerks for the sake of being jerks. On top of that, you had the anti-snob folks who were also being helpful or jerky. That’s fascinating. Genre is such a powerful social divider that you have preemptive snobbery!
Also, please note that when cropped correctly, Tom Araya looks a bit like Abraham Lincoln.
Anyway, a more interesting point is that “death metal” means “loud, obnoxious, fast rock music” in popular culture, much like how kleenex is a tissue and a jeep is a four wheel drive vehicle. For some, this is a source of consternation. But how important is the difference between metal genres? It’s not like anyone misunderstood the original author’s point – not even those folks who showed up to go “Oh, I just don’t *get* metal and it’s so talentless and terrible anyway.”
Those folk understand catharsis better than anyone, what with the whole routine of dressing up in their mom’s old clothing and masturbating to their reflection while their favorite The Magnetic Fields songs play in the background.
Some of the comments also highlight my glib-but-true observation that metal passed from the domain of burnouts to the domain of nerds, as you can see in the “I’m not a stereotypical metalhead…” posts. You’re someone who listens to music but doesn’t dress like Alice Cooper? And you like reading? Wow!
Of course, some of this is a reaction formation to the whole “oh it’s so terrible and gruesome” thing, which is dang silly. But when that reaction is replaced with “but they sing about, like, philosophy and stuff!” – yeeeeeeesh. Both statements are about taste tribes – be it a music’s stupidity or “difficulty” or even its political acceptability – and not music. It ascribes far too much importance to the wide canopy of “metal”, either pro or con, and misses the larger point, which is that people are trying to describe their own relationship to music and episodes of their lives which encapsulated this reaction for good or ill.
In this light it’s completely ok that “death metal” is a synonym for “loud, obnoxious, fast rock music”.
When I was a young lad I’d listen to Seasons in the Abyss before every football game. The live double album Decade of Aggression was the first cd I ever bought. I probably called it death metal when trying to get my friends to listen to the still-amazing version of “Angel of Death”. And yet I never really got into metal proper, not really moving beyond Slayer and Metallica up to …And Justice For All.
A lot of this failure to follow through was having absolutely no roadmap or peers to help guide me or expose me to new sounds. The only other folks at school who listened to Slayer were burnouts who hated me due to a personality conflict with one of their clique leaders. The radio didn’t play other metal much beyond some Megadeth, whom I detested, and a bit of Danzig, which never really struck my fancy.* Other than that, ears were innundated with the NWOBHM stuff that was fast moving into “classic rock” territory. I did like later Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath‘s first album, but I really knew nothing of what was going on.
My friends listened to soft rock – think Eagles or ABBA, no shit – or the cream of the new old school hip hop. Which is great because I know all the words to “2000” by Grand Puba.
I really wish someone had given me a few of Death‘s early albums, though.
Hell, that song still holds up now. It’s good! The vocals aren’t too silly, something which still murders my ability to enjoy bands whose instrumentation I otherwise approve of, and the drumming is sick as hell.
A few tips would have been helpful. A lot of the blame lies with my young, snotty atheism, and regarding the whole “evil satanic blah blah” aesthetic as being too religious and too silly – i.e. beneath me. Which it mostly was, but still. I missed out on some good things in there. More ha-ha funny is that I then mostly jumped into industrial rock for a while, which is just as silly in its own way.
So what does my story have to do with genre? Not a hell of a lot, beyond some cautionary words about dressing like King Diamond. (The cautionary word is “Don’t dress like King Diamond.”)
Thank god for the Internet, though.
* Glenn Danzig came to one of my football practices, having grown up nearby and being friends with one of the assistant coaches. He was nice, very built, and surprisingly short.
** Genrefication can also lead to discontent: http://www.anus.com/metal/about/metal/metalocalypse/
But I agree about “Show No Mercy”.