To Hell And Back is a weekly column in which Noisey metal editor and lifelong hesher Kim Kelly explores the extreme metal underground and recommends her latest faves.
Up until last night, I’d been blissfully unaware of Threatin’s existence, let alone the tangled web the LA hard rock band’s founder and sole member, Jered Threatin, wove using the power of social media marketing—or the way that thread after thread of his scheme unraveled until the entire endeavor very publicly collapsed into tatters. I am extremely displeased to report that I have now caught up on the entire fiasco, and am still marvelling how it all went down, and the sheer audacity of the kid behind it all.
The TL;DR version goes like this: LA musician buys up a ton of followers, views, and likes on social media, stages “live” footage, conjures up phantom ticket sales to fool promoters, gives himself a nonexistent “award” from a ghost website, creates a bevy of fake labels and management companies to tie it all together. Said musician then uses all of this ammunition to pose as a booking agent, book a UK and European tour, hire a backing band, then hit the road–only to play to empty venues, because no one actually knows who this band is. It’s a wild story, and one that continues to develop; the most recently update saw two members of said backing band quit mid-tour, and the future of Threatin is now up in the air.
Threatin is potentially the first of a brave new breed of fake rock band, one that eschews the genre’s tried-and-true methods of obfuscation and theatricality in favor of cold, hard numbers. It’s not fake in the way that a band like Ghost, or GWAR, both of whom are literally grown adults in monster suits, are; it’s not even the same vein as Milli Vanilli, music’s most famous fakers, because at least those guys looked cool and could dance. Threatin is something different—it’s a bizarre manifestation of one white guy’s absolute certainty that not only could he pull off a scam like this, he deserved to game his way into success. Who cared if he hurt or misled other people along the way? He was going to tour Europe, baby! He had something to say! The fact that people would eventually start catching on once evidence of empty venues and angry promoters surfaced never seemed to have been of much concern to him. What must it feel like to exist at that level of entitlement?
As the story continued to unfurl, Threatin finally broke his silence with a cryptic tweet: “What is Fake News? I turned an empty room into an international headline. If you are reading this, you are part of the illusion. #Marketing #Psychology #SocialMedia #FakeNews #Threatin #BreakingTheWorld #MusicIndustry @NBCNews @BBCNews @JoeRogan @RollingStone @billboard.” (The reaction from "fans" thus far has been less than impressed).
So, was what appeared to be an LA dirtbag’s vanity project that should, by all rights, have been left to languish in obscurity with all the other ones, actually a grand psychological experiment? A meta commentary on “fake news”? If it was, was it worth scamming dozens of people to prove some kind of esoteric point? Motherfucker, you’re not Banksy.
The most irritating thing is that, whatever his intention, Threatin’s great rock ‘n’ roll swindle worked, netting him coverage in a number of respectable publications. Perversely, he’s now more “famous” than the vast majority of hard-working metal bands will ever be—but, while they say, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,’ I’d wager that Threatin may prove to be the exception to the rule if he continues to pursue a career in music. They also say to “fake it ‘til you make it,” but one assumes this isn’t quite what the architect of that particular bon mot had in mind.
Anyway, I brought all that up because it’s all anyone on metal Twitter has been talking about this week, and also shows how susceptible we in our metal (or hard rock) bubble can still be to the vagaries of this strange new world we inhabit. “Fake” as an adjective has become such a loaded word thanks to the big wet idiot in the White House’s aversion to actual news reporting, and at this point, a fake rock band using Facebook to scam people is as 2018 as it gets.
When in doubt, Celtic Frost (yes, even Cold Lake).
It seems fitting to spotlight a band named for one of the key years of the First World War (during which the famed "Christmas Truce" saw French, British, and German soldiers lay down their arms along the Western Front in observance of the holiday) this week, given that the so-called president—called to France to commemorate the end of this terrible war—has once again stepped on his own dick in front of 80 world leaders. 1914 hails from Ukraine, and peddle deeply atmospheric, well-polished melodic black metal whose lyrical themes revolve around (surprise) WWI.
Like the WWII buffs in Hail of Bullets, and Sacriphyx (who explore WWI from an Australian perspective), they focus exclusively on one particular conflict—one that, sadly, provides ample fodder for the most wretchedly bleak lyrical forays. 1914's latest album, The Blind Leading the Blind, was released on Armistice Day, 100 years since the end of World War I, and features a cover of The Exploited's "Beat the Bastards" and a guest vocal from Dave Ingram (formerly of Bolt Thrower, currently of Down Among the Dead Men).
Ulthar's unholy blend of black, doom, and death metal comes with a smidgen of thrash, and a whole lot of Lovecraftian horror. The Oakland trio—which is made up of underground OGs Shelby Lermo (Vastum, Extremity), Justin Ennis (Void Omnia, ex-Mutilation Rites, ex-Tombs), and Steve Peacock (Mastery)—dropped its latest album, Cosmovore, on 20 Buck Spin this week, and please believe me when I tell you that it's a must-listen.
This Montreal duo caught my eye while I was idly scrolling through Bandcamp the other day, and I've been listening to their new LP, Of Blood & Earth, pretty much nonstop ever since. It's a hypnotic, stoned dream of an album, its tendrils of heavy psych, sludge, drone, and doom set to a glacial tempo by a pair of eldritch spirits with strings and sticks for hands, and throats full of deadly siren's songs.
Once again, Caligari Records has dug up something truly rank; this time, with Bloodsoaked Necrovoid, they've exhumed a truly impressive coffin-full of Costa Rican filthy death/doom. The trio's sparsely titled second demo showcases an impossibly heavy, primal death sound dredged through the slimiest of caverns and most befouled altars of madness.
I miss Black September, and wish they were still around. They remain one of Chicago's finest entries into the annals of death, and their incorporation of crusty, HM2-fueled grime into their punishing missives was truly ahead of its time. It's been six years since they released the brilliant Into the Darkness Into the Void, and hey, maybe this'll help judge them towards recording something new? Who knows, a girl can dream...
Kim Kelly is staring into the void on Twitter.