Are you too trve?

The other day, I found myself coming down with a case of chronic “trveness.”

The new Agalloch disc, “Marrow of the Spirit,” was getting great reviews from all over the place. The guys at Metalsucks simply couldn’t shut up about how wonderful “Marrow” was and the disc was even reviewed on National Public Radio’s Web site – an event that took Agalloch’s music to a new, much-wider audience.

However, I wasn’t very happy for them.

“Hmmph,” I thought. “Now everybody’s gonna claim to be an Agalloch fan. How did this band get so commercial? Jeeze, I never expected Agalloch to sell out.

And that’s when I realized I had a severe case of Trveness Disease, of the “trve kvlt” strain. Thankfully, realizing I had a problem was a big step in my recovery.

We’ve all experienced – or suffered from – excessive “trveness” at one time or another. If you’ve spent any amount of time at all in the comments section of places like Blabbermouth or Metalsucks, you’ll see multiple sufferers of trveness disease. While not yet included in the DSM-IV, I think trveness disease is a mental disorder, where the person afflicted believes:

1) His/her (usually his) taste in metal is better than everyone else’s.

2) His/her favorite band is a rare gem, that can only be truly understood/appreciated/enjoyed by a select, chosen few.

3) Everyone else is an idiot.

That’s a general description, but one of the main symptoms of trveness disease is “sellout syndrome,” where the afflicted person believes a favored band, once it gains any kind of popular success or acclaim, has “sold out,” “lost its soul,” “gone commercial” or lost its “trveness.”

While other genres of music probably have their own varieties of “trveness disease,” the malady seems particularly vicious in metal. Metallica is an example of how old-school fans scream “sell out” the minute a band goes big. In the early 80s, fans clutching their copies of “Kill Em All” and “Ride The Lightning” could claim they were part of a new cult; while the mass crowd was bobbing its teased bangs to Motley Crue and the rest of the hair metal gang, the “trve” could look down their noses and claim their rarefied tastes in Metallica made them superior.

That sense of superiority might have been slightly dented when Metallica made a video for the song “One” … but it was crushed all to hell when the “Black Album” was released and “Enter Sandman” was suddenly on every rock radio station in the country. The muttering (“the songs are too short; they’re not as complex as the old stuff”) began with the Black Album. When “Load” hit the street, complete with pics of the band with (oh god!) haircuts, the cries of “sell out” hit a crescendo. Once semi-obscure, now every frat boy in America was blasting “Fuel” out of his fraternity house window. The cult had been replaced by the mass crowd, and the “trve” brethren felt betrayed. They’ve never forgiven Metallica, either; the “trve” will hate every thing the band ever does. Hell, the next album could be the greatest Metallidisc since “Master of Puppets” and the “trve” will call it junk.

The same cries of “sell out!” began when Opeth (who were underground, minor-lable darlings of the “elite” metal crowd) announced they were signing with Roadrunner Records. Immediately, the message boards were filled with people accusing Opeth of trying to be the next Nickelback (who are RR’s best-selling band).

“Oh well,” one poster wrote on the Ultimate Metal message board, “it was fun while it lasted. I can’t wait for the down-tuned guitars and the off/on bass pedal. I seriously doubt that they’ll get that bad, but I’m sure that they’ll turn into another Cradle of Filth (f0r) the kiddies. I’ll dread the day when I have to cover up my Opeth ‘O’ tattoo because I see people sporting Opeth shirts all the time.”

As it happened, Opeth pretty much stayed Opeth. But I’ve no doubt the move to Roadrunner cost the band a few fans. Those “fans” are not only doofuses, they deprived themselves of good music: “Ghost Reveries” and “Watershed” were great albums that were released by, you guessed it, Roadrunner.

I understand the psychology behind excessive trveness: Metal is identity music – people who listen to metal aren’t casual about it, they’re devoted. But that devotion becomes obsessive and even harmful when it turns into “trveness” and fans start scouting for reasons to look down their noses at one another.

To borrow a turn of phrase of James Hetfield’s from “Some Kind of Monster,” the trve love metal so much they strangle it to death.

Trveness is bad because it sets up divisions where divisions don’t naturally exist. Fans of the more symphonic style of black metal all have something in common, so it becomes largely irrelevant if one fan likes Emperor while another prefers Dimmu Borgir or even (gasp!) Cradle of Filth. The “trve” fan who bought his copy of “In The Nightside Eclipse” doesn’t in 1995 doesn’t own black metal any more than the kid who got the new Dimmu disc at Hot Topic last week.

The trve try to keep metal their own and hate any band that gains a wider appeal. My sudden irritation at Agalloch for – god forbid – creating an album that a large number actually enjoy was the selfishness of a child who wants to keep all the toys to himself. Instead of whining, I should be happy for Agalloch, a band that created a wonderful body of music and has deserved every positive word that has been said about them.

If every band that gains a bit of commercial appeal suddenly becomes “false,” every metal label in the world might as well close up shop, because metal is a business and the goal is to sell records. There’s no point giving a contract to a band that is not going to move records.

And the trve put bands into a no-win situation: Trve fans want good music, but they don’t want it to be so good that it gains an audience of more than 3 people.

What do trve fans want? As I said, they want to feel superior. But the fact that their sense of superiority is built on what is, frankly, a form of mass communication (and a commercial one to boot) is more than a little silly.

The trve need to get over themselves. And I include myself when I say that.

So, here’s to treating all fans of metal equally and being civil to one another on the Web. Don’t scoff at that kid who likes Hell Yeah. Don’t snicker at the guy at the show in the Cradle of Filth T-shirt. We’re all brothers and sisters under the same flag. No one of us is better than another.

And oh yes: Go buy Agalloch’s “Marrow of the Spirit.” It kills.

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2 Comments

  1. Really nice stuff dude. Even I get pestered by couple of “trve” friends of mine whenever I listen to bands like Metallica, In Flames and bands like those.
    This “trve” phenomenon is creating divisions within the metal community. This division is as bad as maybe racial discrimination 😉
    Metal connects people and not divides them and people should realize this fact!

    Should be read by every metalhead on the planet.

  2. i can pretty much relate myself to this !


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