I’d like to introduce you to a favorite music genre of mine: doom metal. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry—it’s not the sort of music that’s likely to show up on the Billboard Top 100 any time soon. You have to hunt for it, though not too far—there’s a lot to be found. The incredibly dedicated website doom-metal.com has nearly 2,000 bands listed that classify as doom metal of some kind.
Doom metal itself has its roots in the late seventies/early eighties, and is defined by Wikipedia as:
… an extreme form of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much “thicker” or “heavier” sound than other metal genres.
Doom metal can be split into a variety of sub-genres (sub-sub-genres?), including (again according to doom-metal.com) atmospheric doom, death doom, epic doom, funeral doom, sludge doom and stoner doom. Many of these have overlapping elements, and I wouldn’t blame the uninitiated for failing to understand how funeral doom can have death metal elements, yet not be classified as ‘death doom’. In fact, to the untrained ear most doom metal would likely sound similar: heavy guitars, thumping bass, and comparatively slow tempos.
The godfathers of doom metal are probably the Swedish band Candlemass, whose first album Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986) kind of says it all. Pioneering the death doom genre in the early 1990s were three British bands, often known as the ‘Peaceville Three’ (for their record label): Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. Of these, My Dying Bride have probably gone on to the greatest commercial success, whose seminal 1996 Like Gods of the Sun charted in the UK at #131 (phenomenal for what is essentially an underground genre).
Why am I telling you all of this, apart from sharing my love of a certain style of music? The point I’m trying to make here is that there is a phenomenal amount of music out there that goes largely unrecognized, and unappreciated. Ninety-nine percent of these doom metal bands do not—can not—live off the music they create. I have no doubt many would love to, but there are too many bands and too few to appreciate them.
The same is true of writing. Never before have there been so many people in the world trying their hand at story-telling—or at the very least, never before have so many stories been so accessible to so many. Amazon is flooded daily with new releases from independent authors, and as difficult as it is for a reader to find something worth reading, it’s even harder for an author to make their voice heard. My own book, The Redemption of Erâth: Consolation has been on sale since July 2014, and I haven’t sold enough copies to even pay for my Starbucks habit.
Now, I didn’t write The Redemption of Erâth for instant fame and success. It is, like doom metal, a genre-specific piece of work: namely, fantasy. It isn’t going to appeal to everyone out there, even though I deliberately wrote it to be as accessible as possible to as wide an audience as possible. I’ll be astonished if I’ve sold 100 copies by the time it’s been out a year.
What this means is that whatever support I do get—in the form of sales, reviews and mentions—is all the more meaningful for being so seldom. I feel a personal connection with every sale of my book—not because I know the reader personally, but because the sales come in single digits, and I can easily imagine a single person stumbling across a new story and wanting to give it a shot. I’m not sure how Stephen King imagines his readers, but I suspect he doesn’t picture every single one of them individually.
It’s important to support independent artists. Not because without it, we wouldn’t make a living—most of us earn our income in ways unrelated to our art—but because each sale, each review, and each star rating goes straight to our hearts. I’d like to finish by mentioning a band I came across whilst browsing doom-metal.com. It’s a one-person band from Norway called The Fall of Every Season, and he’s so far released two albums: From Below (2006) and Amends (2013). The genre is firmly funeral doom metal (extremely slow, guttural vocals and beautiful harmonies), and he has precisely five ratings on iTunes for both albums. All are 5-star ratings—clearly his music is enjoyed by those who’ve listened to it—but his reach is obviously not widespread. I intend to write a review of Amends, so that Marius Strand knows someone else out there appreciates what he’s doing.
Not all independent art is good, and not all is equally deserving of your attention, but your thoughts mean a lot more. Stephen King has Publishers Weekly and the New York Times for reviews; all we have are you.
Now go buy my book!
One thought on “Thought of the Week: Supporting Independent Artists”
The comparison between doom metal and fantasy is quite apt. I came to a similar conclusion after entering a fantasy story in a local fiction contest; I realized that I might as well have been trying to sell black metal (my preferred subgenre) to Ed Sheeran fans. Apologies for tainting your blog with Sheeran’s name, by the way. (Not that it’s that grave of an offense.) Regardless, both fantasy and metal have stylistic aspects that the mainstream doesn’t necessarily appreciate. For example, worldbuilding in fantasy and dour atmospherics in black metal.