The Weird, True Story Of This Epic H&M Troll

Photo: Courtesy of H&M.
Hell hath no fury like a subculture co-opted. That would seem to be the lesson of the very bizarre story that emerged over the past 24 hours, in which metal fans perpetrated an extremely elaborate hoax on H&M in retaliation for — what else? — selling a collection of T-shirts depicting imaginary metal bands.

Here's where the story started: In addition to offering licensed tees by bands like Slayer and Metallica, H&M recently began selling T-shirts like the ones shown here, featuring logos inspired by death metal bands. With names like Hunting Prey and Mortus, these were sort of like abstract versions of the licensed tees. No big deal, right?

Only then, a Reddit post appeared, linking to this Youtube video for Strong Scene Productions — ostensibly a promo agency for a roster of "legendary" metal bands — like Mortus, LA/NY, and other band names featured on the tees at H&M. Strong Scene's video came complete with images of demo tapes, realistic-looking band logos, and, most convincingly of all, sound clips of all the bands on the H&M tees — from the thrashy Blast, to gothy Eternal Dusk, to the psych-sludge of Mystic Triangle. Most metal fans, no matter how dedicated, had never heard of these bands, and some were skeptical. But, corroborating the bands' existence was a smattering of evidence, like one group's Myspace page, a Strong Scene Geocities site ostensibly created in 1999, and a couple Redditors who claimed to have heard the bands before.

The discovery of this trove of little-known bands was reported across blogs like The Scrapyard and Metal Injection, whose take on the news varied from "whoa, these bands were real all along" to "whoa, H&M made up a crapton of metal bands to viral-market their T-shirts."
Photo: Courtesy of H&M.
Only, it turns out, the bands weren't real, and H&M had nothing to do with the hoax. Strong Scene Productions has now admitted that it is not a metal promo agency; a Facebook page bears the description of a "one-time improvised collective art project in the vein of Spinal Tap, Monty Python, and the Yes Men." Translation? We've been punked.

Strong Scene went on to explain that the project was meant to fight the commercialization of its music scene — or something. "The whole project was to show that not all metal music is what you hear in commercial forms," the collective stated. "And, different sub-genres exist even within metal music." Okay — but that's preaching to the choir a little bit, no? After all, most people followed this story via metal blogs — an audience whom, it must be assumed, already knows its thrash from its grindcore and decries the mainstream co-opting those sounds.

We reached out to H&M for comment, and a spokesperson confirmed that the company had nothing to do with the hoax: "H&M has no affiliation with this group.  The [T-shirt] collection has not taken any inspiration from real or existing bands."

So, to review: An "art collective" put a ton of effort into making up fake backstories for H&M T-shirts, in order to teach metal fans — who already tend to be fiercely loyal to their chosen microgenre — that there's more than one type of metal.

It's a truly odd story. This writer isn't much of a metal fan, but as someone who's spent a fair portion of her life blackening her fingers in dusty record crates, I can attest that there's nothing a music fan loves more than discovering an obscure, unheard-of gem of a band (that you can then lord over all your friends). My sympathies are with the metalheads who came thisclose to hitting the motherlode only to have it all taken away. Bummer, man. (Metal Injection)

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