Hate Mail (#1)


Some days, people write in with interesting questions. Interwoven among the constant stream of Viagra spam, your-mother-wears-boots invective and penis photos from metalcore bands, a glimmer of hope: the question which opens doors to other ideas.

From: anonymous@sodomy.org
Subject: A band’s political inclination vs. quality
Date: Wed, 25 May 2016 07:42:19 -0800

I guess this question is for Brett, though I couldn’t find an email specific to him:

How do you reconcile listening to a band whose lyrics run contrary to your own political/social views? Does it even matter? Take the DRI song “Gun Control”–if you disagree with the message of the song, does that tarnish your enjoyment of it?

Let me flip the narrative here: how much more would I enjoy the song if it had some message that was either incoherent or sensible?

I can’t claim to know if “Gun Control” is a serious statement, or designed to be funny; I find the song hilarious because of the random gun noises and the chorus: Lock ‘n’ load / We need gun control.

For me the solution is to never ask artists to write about anything outside of their experience. Some bands are at home in philosophy or politics, but most are not, and so songs that capture a “feeling” that has run true through their own lives are the peak for them.

But, back in the 1980s, certain punk bands and fans made a big ruckus by telling people that if they did not sing about “social issues,” they were bourgeois sellouts and possibly anal hamsters. So bands did the best they could, which usually meant cribbing viewpoints from those that they admired.

For this reason, I take very little of it seriously. The best songs are vague impressions of what goes wrong in the human soul, turned into poetic fantasy about war, evil, sodomy and murder. These are much better than social issues songs. Did anyone else notice that Slayer‘s output fell in quality the instant they started writing about real world issues like serial killers, instead of vampires and Satanic angels attacking heaven?

I live in a world where I disagree with most, on the order of like 98.6%, of what I read/hear/see. Our society has been in decline for a long time and all of our assumptions are based on lies. I would prefer it to not be this way, because in my experience lies are self-deception and lead to big failures. But for that reason, metal songs about stupid ideas do not stand out, but they also disappoint, to be honest. They could have been better without the silliness.

I keep listening to them. I find it interesting how much overlap there is between myself and some political philosophies. I still listen to Napalm Death, even though I’m sure their lyrics are just The Communist Manifesto translated into the kind of inspirational language Barney and Jesse heard at their Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, respectively.

On the flip side, there are bands with whose lyrics I agree, but the music does not appeal. I avoid those. Dumb lyrics — including viewpoints I find moronic — do not sabotage the music, but the converse is true. I have been blessed in that I rarely listen to lyrics anyway because, as a friend of mine said long ago, any musician worth his salt will have spent time learning music, not studying politics.

Then again, the more I see of life, the more it seems to me that politics is a question of outlook. If you are a realist who wants life to forever improve in quality, you take one path; if you are in denial, you take another and spend all your time singing about silly fantasies to make yourself feel better. When lyrics are of the latter nature, it is hard to ignore, like a presidential candidate wearing a diaper or something…

It also seems to me that those who are the most realistic also make the best music. For them, every idea relates to something real, and they feel an intense desire to push for what they see as good. This is the same passion that pushed cavemen to capture fire, and scientists to invent vaccines, and explorers to climb Mt. Everest. They are tormented by the lower position in which we find ourselves.

Fortunately, most of death metal, black metal and speed metal is closer to my point of view than away from it. But when dumb lyrics come along, whether from dumb political ideas or just dumb regular ideas, it would be a lie to say it does not detract from the music, but it does not drive me away. I listen anyway, and reflect on how much better the song would be without the foolishness.

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25 thoughts on “Hate Mail (#1)”

  1. Kőse says:

    That is why I love incomprehensibly harsh vocals, the corny nature of the lyrics could possibly ruin the experience.
    If the message does not radiate cringe worthy awkwardness (90% of all black metal ever released), but presents well constructed ideas that I don’t agree with – well I can still entertain a thought without accepting it.

    1. zerothworld’s dust says:

      I love the song without the vocals, like “The Way” of Therion, like constructing a space-time through the develop of Riffs, instead of using the words to tell people what the song is going to say.

      1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

        The music itself always says something, but music is better at describing certain things, and words are better at describing other kinds of things.

        Therefore, when they are used in conjunction, a more complete picture can be painted.

        Take the lyrics for “Key to the gate” combined with the music, as an example.

        1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

          Of course, some things are best described with no words at all. It depends on what is supposed to be expressed.

        2. zerothworld’s dust says:

          You are right, sometimes the lyrics will resonate with the artistic conception of musical styles.

          But I find some lyrics writing is without logical, unlike political slogans, or other specific things. Like Seems to want to awaken people’s Unconscious(not Preconscious) through the scattered words/phrases, e.g. Averse Sefira?

          1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

            Most of the time I enjoy lyrics depicting huge cocks and sweaty balls, although being gay has nothing to do with being passionate about metal music.

            1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

              Most of the time, I enjoy impersonating other people to make them seem gay.

              1. C.M. says:

                You don’t have to be gay to appreciate huge cocks.

                1. Morrigan says:

                  Indeed. Just ask your local Social Justice advocate. I tricked my boyfriend into sucking off a transgender guy. He has no idea that while he’s doing that crap I’m getting some huge PoC meat.

                  1. C.M. says:

                    If only more people were enlightened enough to know that this is the only way to combat institutionalized oppression… we’d have more blowjobs and fewer shitty faux metal bands.

  2. js says:

    How about a harder question. How do you reconcile the conservative values of order, and being content with your lot in life, with the rage, hatred, and discontentment of metal?

    1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

      This is a “when did you stop beating your wife” kind of question, as it assumes contentment.

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton%27s_fork? The question is a bit more subtle than the example (one could also call it a more general false dichotomy) because it’s supposed to trick someone into answering in a way which can then be used against him regardless of the path he choses.

      1. js says:

        I was awaiting this type of reply, almost wrote “inb4 false dichotomy”. I purposely left the question simple so as to provoke thought, it’s painting with a broad brush, yes, but certainly not trying to paint anyone into a corner. I don’t claim to have the answer to this question, I’m just curious what other people think about it.

        Metal talks about waging war on heaven, being the “fist in the face of god”, overthrowing the current order. Am I incorrect in claiming the opposite, preservation of order, is a trait of conservatism? Maybe that’s where my question breaks down. Conservatism only wants to uphold order if it’s healthy, and when it’s not, it wants to kill it with fire like a metalhead.

        If I were to answer my own question, I’d say that it’s a yin and yang type thing. Accepting “evil” as necessary is part of being a more whole human being. Also conservatism is a political philosophy, whereas metal is music, so I’m kind of comparing apples and oranges. As art, metal has more license to make absurd statements than conservatism.

        1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

          Is Brett a conservative?
          Because metal is not more conservative than it is progressive, if we are speaking in political terms.
          That is why the question is silly to me.

          1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

            no more*

        2. OliveFox says:

          You seem like you enjoy politics more than music. Possible stray from the “other” site?

          Metal talks, and is, about much more than you claim. Is your question intended to provoke a political response as opposed to a musical one?

          I easily can dip my feet in Neo-Nazism, Deep Ecology, Anarchy or classic Conservatism without losing my understanding of the objective and subjective nature of enjoying and appreciating art for what it strives to accomplish. Values do not always have to be reconciled in such either/or statements. Values, though often defined in concrete ways, come organically out of the action we take in life and the consequence of experience within those actions. They only become a value “system” with strict definitions when we extend it into a community and weigh it against our understanding of the current society.

          I assume you aren’t trying to convince yourself of anything, and just want to provoke interesting responses. So cheers on that.

          1. js says:

            I see why you would think I’m an Amerika.org transplant based on my comments, but I’m actually a metalhead first and a conservative second. I’ve gone through long periods of my life with a very destructive, angry, hopeless, torn up inside state of mind, and metal has been the only thing able to touch how I feel. I just feel like the conservative is saying “The truth, where is the TRUTH? What is RIGHT?” meanwhile Demoncy is playing in the background and Paul Ledney is laughing while all order decays and death prevails, and the soulless masses of humanity are in the middle being lukewarm animals, profiting a little here and there, avoiding the extremes.

            I guess at the core I was asking if the two are compatible or mutually exclusive. Maybe what they have in common is that they both probe deep into reality and try to deliver the most meaningful thing possible, with metal offering experience and feeling, and conservatism offering a system for the most fulfilling way to live, whereas liberalism hides from life and tries to preserve illusions.

            1. Ludvig B.B. (vOddy) says:

              Metal is not an ideology. It is an attitude and a way to look.
              It can therefore lead to many political positions, including conservatism.

        3. David Rosales says:

          I think we could start by setting apart the Punk attitude from the Metal attitude.
          I mean the Black Sabbath attitude, the Slayer attitude, not the Motley Crue attitude, who aren’t really metal but a caricature for the mainstream.

          Punk is, as you say, “a fist in the face of God”. But despite what some lyrics might seem, metal at its best strikes me more as looking “beyond the current order, beyond religion, etc”, the keyword here is BEYOND, as opposed to the AGAINST of the in-society, in-time attitude of Punk and other protest movements.

          In other words, metal is not social protest, it is transcendental incomformity. It is more than just semantics.

          1. Meek Metalhead says:

            The problem with protest music is not that they are against something, but that they are outright denialist.

        4. Rainer Weikusat says:

          I’m sorry but the only thought this provokes is that this is a silly, loaded question worded such that people ought to think positive about “conservatives values” (There is no such thing. Assuming so-called ‘conservatives’ have values – and they can’t all be gadzillionaires trying to fool others into being useful to them – so some probably do, these values are necessarily either hollow or universal) by picking some random, “nice sounding” examples (or actually, a random nice sounding example and a vaguely offensive one) and ought to think negative about ‘metal’ (BTW, are we talking about music or material?) because it’s textually associated with human feelings usually understood as negative. But you’ll find a lot of “rage, hatred and discontent” whenever sufficiently many people are examined even if they spend all their time watching reality soaps on TV.

          1. Have you read Ideas Have Consequences and Ecce Homo?

            1. Rainer Weikusat says:

              I didn’t hear of the former until now and the latter is the one book written by Nietzsche I never completely read. I was very interested in his works when I was 15 – 17 but in retrospect, mostly because it was radically different from the worldview hitherto presented to me and because he was an exceptionally talented wordsmith. But I stopped reading philosophical texts altogether shortly afterwards on the ground that I ought to be able to think for myself instead of just agreeing or disagreeing with other people’s opinions. There’s also a lot of wisdom in really simple statements, eg, a probably accidental gem from ‘Nailed to the Grave’ (another Interment song): “When your life has ceased/ You will end up in a grave.”. The whole thing nicely explained in just 12 words.

              1. Rainer Weikusat says:

                Some nice music to go with that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgEkyeRTNdE

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