I often feel somewhat indignant being a metalhead, for I feel as though we are constantly judged, condemned, and even ridiculed by those outside the circle of our “metal brotherhood.” Sometimes people ask me what kind of music I like to begin a simple conversation, and when I say “metal,” they often jump to hilarious and completely prejudicial and absurd conclusions. One such incident recently resulted in someone laughing in my face and asking, “You listen to those songs about killing puppies and Satan?” Seriously. Is that really the connotation associated with metal in 2015? Really?
Clearly the man has trouble thinking outside the tiny shoebox that is his life, and there were plenty of ways to diffuse and squash the situation, but I just decided to give a half-giggle, one of my misanthropic staples to avoid extending an awkward situation, and volley back with a simple “Well, I’ve never heard one about puppies.” I guess it comes with the territory though.
These bizarre situations, which seem to occur every time I discuss music with some new stranger, got me thinking. Is the lyrical content of what I listen to really about sacrificing infantile canines to the dark lord in order to satiate some insane cultish bloodlust? Now, as an avid lover of math and psychology (and puppies), I decided I wanted to know what all these songs from my beloved style of metal music that I have grown to love were actually about in general. Only one way to find out. It’s experiment time, baby!
I created a shuffled iTunes playlist consisting of roughly 1,000 of what I would consider many of my favorite songs from all genres. These are also songs that I’ve heard countless times throughout my life. There’s black metal, death metal, blackened death metal, deathened black metal, power metal, heavy metal, heavy power metal, stoner metal, shoegaze (What is that anyway?), old time rock and roll, pop, a few hip hop tracks, music from games like Xenoblade Chronicles, and everything else in between. I tried to get a decent balance of genres for the list too, but obviously it is a little skewed toward metal just because of my own personal preference.
I kept a record of the four to five songs I heard each morning and afternoon on the way to and from work for a few days and attempted to classify each song into some sort of subjective lyrical category that I just made up. In several cases, I even had to look up the lyrics just to attempt to figure out what’s going on, and in many cases, I was stumped. Without further adieu, here is a list of what came out of the speakers inside my truck (in no particular order):
Bruce Springsteen, “Nebraska”
Johnny Cash, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”
Obituary, “Violent by Nature”
Vomitory, “Regorge in the Morgue”
Paganizer, “Bullet in the Head for the Undead”
Raekwon, “Incarcerated Scarfaces”
Faith No More, “Kindergarten”
In Flames, “Bullet Ride”
Smashing Pumpkins, “1979”
Oasis, “Live Forever”
Skid Row, “The Threat”
Obituary, “World Demise”
Napalm Death, “Silence Is Deafening”
Guns N Roses, “Civil War”
Keep of Kalessin, “Crown of the Kings”
Iron Maiden, “Aces High”
Nile, “Annihilation of the Wicked”
Vintersorg, “Cosmic Genesis”
Nightingale, “Nightfall Overture”
Immortal, “At the Heart of Winter”
Immortal, “Beyond the North Ways”
WASP, “The Headless Children”
Iron Maiden, “The Apparition”
Dark Funeral, “Open the Gates”
Emperor, “Thus Spake the Nightspirit”
Entombed, “Living Dead”
Marduk, “Into Utter Madness”
Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”
The Beatles, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”
Judas Priest, “Rock Hard, Ride Free”
Iron Maiden, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Iron Maiden, “Heaven Can Wait”
That is a fairly representative round of random listening, if I do say so myself. And I can’t wait to hear from fanboys about why certain songs should be in other categories either, but I digress. I’ve always been a big fan of the musical culture shock of following Marduk with the Beatles and whatnot.
The experiment revealed that the leading category of lyrical content was the one ominously dubbed Evil/Occult, which accounted for 7 of the 33 tracks in the round, or 22% of all tracks played on the iPod. The dubious Death/Violence category featured the second most-prevalent lyrical content, sporting 6 tracks or 18%. Looks like we’re on our way to a psychological disorder or becoming some type of sociopath. Guess I should just go ahead and have myself committed.
Not so fast, my friend. Those two categories account for just 40% of all tracks played, and to be honest, the context of some of the allegedly “evil” tracks amount to nothing more than a silly late night horror B-movie that nobody would complain about. The Death/Violence category was also full of surprises like the always violently terrifying Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, and rapper Raekwon. I guess death and violence happens in other genres too. Weird, eh. Who would’ve thought?
So that leaves the remaining 60% of the lyrical content from my playlist belonging to, for lack of a better term, pretty harmless subject matter like astrophysics, ancient Egypt, Vikings, pumping your fist on a motorcycle, or the perils of kindergarten. Scary stuff indeed.
I think the moral of the story here is that metal has its weird, disgusting, and disturbing lyrics. Then again, what genre doesn’t? Just because my metal brethren and I bang our heads and pump our fists to something loud and aggressive does not always mean we’re out to have some giant mosh pit séance or judge and maliciously murder an innocent civilian with a big knife. Bård Eithun killed a man just like Biggie Smalls did just like Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. We all have our dark and ugly sides regardless of whether it’s along with a blast beat or a 6/8 swing. Maybe my ridiculous little study here will open some eyes. Thanks for reading.
And see, not one single instance of a satanic canine sacrifice.
Article by: BH