Wednesday, 16 April 2014

writing about metal for the mainstream - a writer's reflections

Over at Last Rites, writer Craig Hayes has just finished a compelling and important set of reflections – Mainstreaming Metal – on writing about metal for more mainstream publications. For my own (and anyone else's) benefit, I've linked the posts here, with a few of notes on the issues I find especially intriguing about each entry.

Disclaimer: Craig's reflections are well thought out and articulated – a great example of quality metal writing. My own notes here are hastily thrown together while I drink my morning coffee and they do not constitute a well thought out and articulated response to Craig's ideas.

Part One: Failure

In this piece Craig introduces the short series, highlighting the elusiveness of "success"

Fraud (The Visiting Team)

What is the role of the music critic, and more specifically, the metal critic in the internet age? I approach this question from the position of researcher and teacher as well as practitioner, and as someone who is well aware of the gatekeeping work performed by music journalism – even if that gatekeeping happens at the level of perception rather than access. Music writing contributes to how we think about and value certain artists and albums, and I'm interested in how other critically-minded practitioners think about this work. Craig makes the case that highlighting in the mainstream only the best metal has to offer creates a fairytale vision of metal's quality and vitality.

Fraud (The Home Team)

The question of negative reviews, or their absence (first raised in the previous post), particularly hits home for me, because I'm just as guilty of hoarding most of my writing time (which is in short supply) for the music I most want to promote. And I have to admit (rather shamefacedly) that I hadn't really thought about the illusion of quality this decision helps perpetuate, although I have worried about the unintentional dishonesty of not talking about the metal that just isn't good. This issue also relates to how I manage my metal fandom. There is just too much metal to consume, never mind write about, and I construct the fairytale of metal quality through my listening practices even more thoroughly than I do in my writing. Whenever possible, I just don't listen to metal I don't like. Craig's post is making me think about the ethics of this practice.

Hanging Hipsters

Here Craig engages with the folk devil role of hipsters and posers in the underground metal scene, and to some extent he refuses to see metal as a closed club while acknowledging that ultimately it's a club with minor membership appeal. But the real meaty bit of this post is buried at the end:
Forget hipsters and posers. We really need to be welcoming and encouraging of even more female voices, the opinions of writers who don’t live in the northern hemisphere, and ideas from outside metal’s white, heterosexual audience. A fuller, more complete, representation of thoughts from the entire spectrum of metal’s audience can only be a good thing, and it seems, to me, that it makes a lot more sense to dedicate our time to ensuring that happens, than worry about whether some fly-by-night writer’s pants are too skinny. (See more at:
And by extrapolating this challenge, it might be possible to relate metal's hipster/poser phobia to a white hetero male paranoia about the threat of the feminine/queer/dark/etc "other" – a desire to protect metal as one of the last bastions of "true" masculinity (an issue deeply bound up in histories of patriarchal power and colonialism, and one of the ways in which metal, intentionally or not, often reproduces the power relations of the societies it so often critiques).

The Pot of Gold

In this final post in the series, Craig interrogates what it means to "sell out" and to what extent, or not, writing for metal in the mainstream can be considered collaborating with the enemy. This is also a reminder of how little and how narrowly "gold" is doled out for metal writing of any kind.

In any case, the whole series is well worth reading, and kudos to Craig for putting it together.

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