So, the last 24 hours have been fucking weird. When I woke up this morning, it looked as though high street retail chain and everyone's favourite source of cheap belts, H&M, had been sussed out for creating online profiles for a load of fake metal bands, peppered with the occasional bit of neo-nazi imagery, all in the interest of flogging some t-shirts.
In a news story that originally appeared on Metal Injection, and has since been reported by Fact, Complex and innumerable other sites, H&M had come under fire for potentially unleashing "one of the more ill-advised marketing campaigns in recent history."
They reported that H&M are currently selling a series of T-shirts with the logos of what appeared to be obscure metal bands on. However when you looked up the bands, they could all be traced back to a collective called 'Strong Scene Productions'. If you visit their Facebook page, you do indeed see the band names from the shirts (MORTUS, MOTMROS, LANY, MYSTIC TRIANGLE et al) littered everywhere, alongside gig posters ($250/300 for an underground one-day festival), biographies ("The purpose of Mortus is to serve the almighty Sathanas and spread the black semen of the holy goat onto all lands") and artwork that features a goth'd up version of the models featured above. But all of this was created en masse within the last week.
Metal Injection reported that some of these invented bands had ties with the National Socalist Black Metal scene - that is, to put it bluntly, raving neo-nazis. So, if this was all a marketing ploy by H&M, then somebody really, really fucked it. However, given that this time last year, H&M were forced to withdraw a line of vests featuring the Star of David with a skull in the middle following accusations of anti-semitism, the idea that someone from marketing sacked off the research aspect of their job once again didn't seem all that unlikely. Even so, something about it all didn't quite add up.
It now turns out, H&M had absolutely nothing to do with the making of these bands whatsoever. It was all a giant parody by those behind Strong Scene Productions who are, essentially, genuine metal fans who took one look at H&M's most recent “metal-inspired” items of clothing - complete with fake bands and patches that work from a brief of “generic heavy metal imagery” - and thought, I'm done with high street chains badly commodifying my music. They decided to play a deep and brilliant joke on H&M, by actually creating the "bands", making them really right wing and then spreading them across the internet for the world to join the dots.
Henri Sorvali of Finnish metal band Moonsorrow/Finntroll is one of the people behind the idea. So, I got in touch to chat with him about the marvellous media shitstorm he helped creat for one of the world's biggest retail outlets.
Okay, real talk, Henri - do any of the bands on Strong Scene Productions actually exist?
No. Every single band was created on the basis of the patches in the H&M spring collection clothes.
Is this a backlash against the commodification of metal by high street retailers?
Partially, yes. But we also wanted to point out the fact that you cannot commercialise a subculture without actually knowing all the different aspects of it. Knowledge on your product is essential in marketing, and Strong Scene supports self-awareness and education for everyone on the matter. And no, I also haven't been hired for a job by H&M either, which the wildest rumors claimed!
This all seems like a lot of effort just to troll H&M. So the real question is, why bother?
The purpose of the group (consisting of literally tens of people from different areas of music and media around Scandinavia) was to create discussion on the fact that metal culture is more than just "cool" looking logos on fashionable clothes, and has many more aesthetic and ideological aspects in different subgenres than what some corporations are trying to express. The metal scene is varied, controversial and a sort of a wolf you can't chain into a leash and expect it to behave on your terms like a dog. Strong Scene as a collective has absolutely no political nor ideological intentions, and is only bringing the conversation to the level it should be discussed at. Think of us as the one-time "Yes Men" of metal music.
You're in a metal band yourself - Finntroll. Any connection between the subject matter on the albums (battling trolls etc) and the online trolling we see today?
While this would be a rather clever place to actually drum for Finntroll´s media publicity, this has nothing to do with that. You call this trolling, we call it cultural jamming. And Finntroll just kicks out the jams in other things!
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