We all know a guy like this. They claim to be really deep into metal, but are in reality actually “shouldercore”. Now, before any of you ask “what the hell is shouldercore” I’m going to explain what I mean with shouldercore.
Shouldercore are the people who you meet in daily life who claim to be very much into metal. On first look, they appear as if they are the real deal. They’ve got their Burzum shirt on, they’re banging their head up and down to the right rhythm, they’ve got their combat boots on, everything seems right. But as I found out, looks can deceive.
Mine was called Andrew. I saw him at the office, and decided to talk to him. Bad idea. Now if you’re anything like me, you’ve got a hard time keeping up with the latest stuff. You’ve been forced to take a full-time job, you’ve got a girlfriend, perhaps even a wife, and although metal is still in a special place in your heart, she just does not receive the attention you would wish to give her.
And so you ask them, what have they been listening to, what gigs are worth going to, etcetera, you know the deal. And they will give you advice, if you ask them between four eyes. “Ulver is definitely good stuff, I’d go see them if I were you” they say. And so you go. After all, this is the band that got you into black metal.
And so off you go, combat boots on, ready to mosh all night if need be. Upon arrival you immediately notice something is wrong. Twenty euro for a ticket. Now, I don’t know about you, but anything more than ten euro and I expect to see a tour featuring multiple bands. Yet this is Ulver. Did Ulver really get this big? If they are the next Emperor, why didn’t I hear anything after their first two albums?
You shrug it off, cough up the money, hand over your leather coat to the wardrobe girl and head back upstairs.
Immediately, your first reaction is shock. “No moshing. No headbanging. What’s going on here?” You ask yourself. You look for answers, but find none. You’re not first, thank God. A geek with glasses, short hair and a red T-shirt is sitting in the front row. How cute. His first concert. You think back to the time you visited your first concert.
Now, I didn’t get into black metal right away. By the time black metal arrived in my country, I had enough hair on the back of my head to make my own ponytail, and a wide collection of band shirts for every occasion. Thrash metal, power metal, death metal, doom metal, plain ol’ heavy.
You don’t bother with picking special shoes. Nobody looks at your shoes, unless they’re girls or gay, and picking up girls at a metal concert is like challenging the alpha male in a wolf pack, as any girl you see is there with a big bearded dude. Much better to pretend you don’t see the girls.
As I think about girls, shoes T-shirts and ponytails, I snap out of it as I see the room is slowly filling itself. Girls with tattoos and short skirts. Where is the black? A group of guys my age, with button up shirts of various colours, awkwardly trying to sneak through the room. There we have it. Another geek, with a video-game meme shirt. Baaaad news.
I breathe a sigh of relief as you see the first broad shoulders covered with blonde hairs move through the doors. An Iron Maiden shirt. Of course I love Iron Maiden, but you would expect something more… underground… for a black metal band.
I decide to look back in front of me, as it is the music I came for, not to check out guys and girls born a decade after me. Music has started playing, and roadies put a lot of equipment on the stage. “Well, this is certainly more than the standard drum set back in my days.” Suddenly the memories start flowing in. “Didn’t they start making neofolk after their first two albums? Yes, I think they did…” Who would have thought, neofolk could get so big. Laptops are brought onto stage. “Dark ambient, cool, I can handle that.”
A big bearded roady enters the stage. I laugh. “This guy looks like a hipster at a hip hop concert.” Wait a second. They’re clapping. This is… Garm. I quickly learned that in a crisis situation, you make mistakes. You tap the shoulder of the guy next to you. “Is that Garm?” You politely ask, hoping to hear laughter and denial. “What, you mean Trickster G.? Yeah man.” Trickster G. What’s going on here. This can’t be happening.
The lights start to dim, and the music begins. Well, “Music” that is. The guitar is lacking, and it seems as if most of the stuff is pre-recorded. You begin to get panicky, as you notice the most mainstream and poppy of ambient/worldmusicish sounds enter your ears. Whatever copy of FL studio these guys picked up I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem to feature any distortion plugins.
Now you’re continually seeing visions in front of you, in which the ambient drones break down into snare rolls, and Garm, or “Trickster G.” as he is apparently now known, starts to rap. But I am spared the agony. They don’t rap, but the music stops, and I manage to get myself to clap, as I mostly feel relieved that it’s over.
But now, the show begins. What follows is difficult to describe. An agony inducing mix of hip hop beats, jazz instruments, vocal samples, random street noises, electronic synths and G.’s increasingly painful voice. No screams, no shrieks. Just clean singing. Think power metal, but without the melodic aspect. This is not black metal. This is Jazz music on PCP.
Now, I’ve seen a lot in my life. I’ve been in fights, got my ass kicked, kicked other people’s ass, drove my car into a backyard, and saw my woman in labor pains, but I could not sit this out. I can’t do it. Immediately I had a horrific realization. I updated my Facebook status. All my metal buddies could see me bragging that I would be here. Now note, this was in the days before I had a smartphone. I had to go. If I would update my status while the concert was busy, I could deny I was ever there, and it was all a misunderstanding.
And so I headed back. I watched the seconds on the clock tick away as the wardrobe girl looked for my black leather coat. She found it. Finally. Now I had to make a quick getaway. How would I be back at my place in time? There was no way. It’s a two hour ride home with the train, the concert would be over. I had to find an internet café. I asked the nearest passer-by, who gave me directions, and I hastily entered the café, where I ordered a drink and paid for the computer. Ten euro down.
Now, computers instinctively feel when they should be slow. This one however, had a natural talent. Naturally, this was the computer on which tourists had installed every shitty game they stumbled onto through the pirate bay. Whomever the genius was that manages this computer seems to have freed up diskspace by simply deleting C/program files every time the hard drive got clogged up. The result was a wide collection of broken shortcuts and error messages on startup.
But I had no time for this idiocy. I started up Internet explorer as I could not find Firefox in the long list of desktop shortcuts. Immediately I was greeted by the sight of five different toolbars, and a strange search engine named “Find Gala”. I had no time for this nonsense, and started up Facebook. I looked on the right bottom side of the screen. 23:10. The concert officially goes on for twenty more minutes, if I’m not mistaken.
My password. I had forgotten how to long into my account, as my own computer automatically stores my Facebook password. I decide to send a new password to my email.
I open my inbox, but hotmail is slow. I refresh. Nothing. I refresh again. Still nothing. I realize I had blocked Facebook in hotmail as I was sick of the spam. It should be in my spam, and there I find my password. Finally, at 23:22, I manage to log into Facebook.
I decide to check on my previous status. A hipster douche-bag colleague of mine has liked my status update and responded. “Wow, I’m so glad to see you’ve gotten more open-minded about music! Good for you! -Jamie” I can feel my right hand beginning to tremble. I have to react, and quickly.
New status update. “I promised my cousin I would go with him to Ulver, but I listened and I just don’t think it’s the right kinda music for me. Hope he’s having fun though.” There. That should clear things up.
I shut down the computer and head out. After a gruelling ride home, I find myself back in my home town. I walk the way home, and kiss my wife on the cheek. “How was it?” She asks. “Oh it was great honey, but I’m tired. I need to go to bed.” And so I head to our bedroom, close the door behind me, and collapse.
The next day, I’m at the office. “How was it Bill” My fellow metal-head Andrew asks. “Oh, I didn’t go.” I try to brush it off, hope nobody hears us. He becomes even louder. “What, Jamie said on your wall he saw you there!” I’m shocked. “He did?” I quietly ask. “Here, let me show you.” Andrew says.
He shows me my Facebook. And there I see it. Jamie had posted on my wall. “Such a shame you had to leave early Bill. You really are married to your job. Hope you enjoyed the show as much as I did though.” I read it again. This was really happening.
There was a conspiracy against me. This was the only explanation that made sense to me back then. But what was going on was arguably worse. Andrew was a wolf in sheeps clothing.
Make no mistake, I had always had doubts about Andrew. Andrew was younger than me, but yet, he seemed to know little about metal. Ask him his favourite old school doom, and he could give you two bands. Reverend Bizarre, Candlemass, there it ends. He claimed to have gotten into metal through Opeth. Now Opeth is an embarrassment, but we all have our issues. But something did not feel right. Opeth was a cover.
I had to ambush him. I had to know what was going on here. A week later, on Friday afternoon, I looked as he walked to his car with his MP3 player in, ran up to him, stole an earphone and put it into my ear. “WHY DON’T PRESIDENTS FIGHT THE WAR, WHY DO THEY ALWAYS SEND THE PO-” The headphone was yanked back out of my ear. “Dude, don’t do that, you’ll damage my earphones.” He tried to play dumb. I didn’t say anything about what I just heard.
I just asked him. “Why don’t you ever wear your hair in a ponytail?” He looked me straight into the eye and said: “Because it’s too short for that.” He showed signs of nervousness. I asked him: “Why is your hair shoulder length? Do you cut it?” He looked at my feet, and said: “I haven’t been to a barbershop in years. My hair just grows slowly.”
“Andrew…” I said. “Look at me.” He looked up to my face. “You’re not ponycore. You’re shouldercore.” I shouted. “What do you mean?” He asked, visibly shaken. “YOU’RE NEW TO METAL!” He had to hold back tears. I was silent for a moment, before I continued. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to insult you. Please just be honest from now on. If you don’t know enough about a band, don’t pretend to be an expert. There’s no shame in learning.” And so we shook hands, and I walked back to my car.
The lesson I learned was this:
Always go with your instinct. A man can be shouldercore, or ponycore. If you want to maintain your reputation as being “pony to the bone”, do not take advice from people who are shouldercore.