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How heavy metal is keeping us sane

How heavy metal is keeping us sane
April 30, 2011, 09:19:00 AM
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/05/how-heavy-metal-is-keeping-us-sane/8443/

Basic argument: our society is in denial about reality, and metal appeals to the mythic, so both (a) informs us of reality and keeps us from going into oblivion and (b) shows us a grander vision of existence.

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“We seem to move on a thin crust,” warned Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough,

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    which may at any moment be rent by the subterranean forces slumbering below. From time to time a hollow murmur underground or a sudden spirt of flame into the air tells of what is going on beneath our feet.

Though written in 1922, this is metalspeak, pure and simple. The venerable mythographer was presaging not only the basso quakes and pyro-blasts that have long been a staple of the larger metal shows, but the metal mind-set itself. Since its invention (to which we will return in a moment), heavy metal has been the popular music most ardently devoted to Frazer’s underground magma pools, and most grandly expressive of their inevitable eruption. Metal’s commerce with the lower realm has been extravagant, ridiculous, and covered in glory. The sleeper parched of his dreams, or purged of his nightmares, goes swiftly bonkers: without fantasy there is no reality. It might be argued—indeed, it will be argued, by me, right now—that heavy metal has kept us sane.

Under a frustrating, neutralized modern reality, there is true power/nature and we fear its emergence.

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Nu metal, the big metal noise of the ’90s and early ’00s, has come and gone. Metalheads never really went for it—too much rapping in there, and not enough warlocks. Where was the dread? The moral-astronomical scale?

Metal is not rock.

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The great scholar of heavy metal Robert Walser, doing research for his 1993 book, Running With the Devil, interviewed a Twisted Sister fan who told him that the easy-listening music favored by her mother had made her paranoid. In Walser’s words: “It so obviously seems to lie to her about the world.”

Hidden reality, behind politeness and illusion.