It would seem that the bemoaned, real “underground” of metal music and counter-culture movement is not actually dead, but has rather only gone deeper underground with the rise of the Internet and the transformation of its gross material into the new funderground. A theory could be that, rather than enrichment, the Internet has since opened up the general underground to easy access by the mainstream. The masses had already participated heavily in the underground, but things were under control because limitations made it so the masses were not able to override the a natural flow of thoughts and material .
With the current technological set up and naive exposure, the masses have become empowered to invade, appropriate and disregard to a chaotic and disastrous result. Perhaps most artists themselves did not understand that the greatness of transcendental metal flowed from closed circles fostering an inner culture, which essentially was a counter culture in contradistinction from the rest of modern Western globalizing culture.
So, perhaps “underground” is not the proper word anymore, since it has become inadequate to present circumstances. I would say that the truest artists (to go back to a meaningful black metal termed maligned by those unable to glimpse the transcendental) purposely hide away from the profane eye. Avoiding, not fearing it, though. As such, these are not underground anymore, but rather hidden in obscurantism, which should not be confused with the laughable(to someone of actual intelligence) occult-pandering/signaling of the boutique metal bands, to borrow and transpose a term from Vijay Prozak.
While we talk about the remnants of bands that at one point made a difference musically, we have lost contact with the actual elite that remain spearheads of transcendental achievement, and who have adopted an even more hermit-like attitude —thus the decision to connect rests mostly outside our own hands, except as hunters of their materials and potential. In my view, Future profoundly relevant, transcendental art, different from merely good and competent but still mundane will likely come from equally hermetic artists.
One should by now realize that this should not be called a ‘spearhead’ as that summons incorrect connotations of ‘progress’, which is alien —nay, anathema, to true art. Art shifts and individual forms morph, but the essence of beauty is immutable.
In the past, those who were interested in the real core of metal music interacted with that now-gone underground as an organic part of it, sharing in its culture, rather than invading or imposing mainstream values on it. New conditions dictate that today, interested individuals must find an analogue to that. That, of course, does not necessarily imply BBS boards, physical letters and tape trades, although these means should not be outright discarded either.
Simply playing the role of commercial fans or journalists will not do. True/underground/transcendent realms demand whole beings with merit, not detached consumers or mouthpieces of commercial deterioration. These latter types are prone to be regularly ignored, rejected or at most used but not allowed a way in.
These are, however, and in spite of any impressions, merely observations, intuitions and speculations.
Thus we must move forwards, towards a way of being part of that hidden culture, not “go back”. The difficulty implied is, of course, that one cannot fake being part of a culture, and if one actually is to adopt it truthfully, a process that demands time and inner conflict most likely will ensue before that comes about. Some would even go as far as to say that one has the character and traits, or one does not. And so black metal reveals itself, once more, as the extremist and elitist transcendental art movement it has always been.
These are only suggestions, and I do not claim anything for myself.