Metal Lyrics: A Race to the Bottom? Has Porngrind Gone Too Far?
Band Photo: Anal Blast (?)
I love art that shocks just for the simple shock value and the awkward looks I get from people when I mention enjoying things like "Fanta Claus" and "Postal 2." So it goes without saying that I've done my fair share of listening to bands with lyrical themes glorifying every single perversion and depravity imaginable. But once you've pushed things to the crudest and most vulgar level possible, you hit a wall and say to yourself, “Wow, this is completely fucking pointless.”
Yes, I've been there. I've listened to Aryan Terrorism's xenophobic calls for violence. I've sung along to the homophobic hate hymns of Impaled Nazarene and The Meat Shits. I've even praised the lyrics of Rupture Christ and Woods of Infinity with the term, “Pedo to the metal!” Looking back on all that now, it just seems beyond juvenile since intentionally upsetting people and violating taboos doesn't do anything productive. Getting knee-jerk reactions out of people doesn’t make you more enlightened just because you aren’t bothered by the things that other people would prefer not to think about. At some point, you need to move past The Death of God and onto the Reevaluation of All Values. Yes, reality is filled with all sorts of horrible things but that hardly means that the most horrific are the most real and the most terrifying are the most true.
If you're going to cover topics that shock people, it's important to know why they're shocking instead of merely labeling the majority of civilization as a bunch of prudes and have the bullet glance back at the shooter. Blindly glorifying things that you know are wrong is about as subtle as turkey slapping your own mother in the face for the hell of it and contains as much intent, purpose and meaning as the aforementioned action, which is to say, next to none.
Take for instance, the topic of misogyny. There are ways to explore it without running down the street screaming, “Gary Ridgeway was a true American hero!” It's the fine line between something like Silent Hill 2 and Irreversible on one side and Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and Rapelay on the other. It's also something that more often than not, metal is on the wrong side of. There are bands who can use sexist themes but still portray them in a manner that at least has some dignity to it like Pig Destroyer and Strapping Young Lad. Metal, however, is more often than not saturated with bands like Anal Blast and Waco Jesus who aren't exploring anything - they're just degrading people, which furthers a stigma against metal as a culture and community and ensures that metal shows will continue to be such complete sausagefests that no (straight) man will ever be able to get laid at one.
And that begs the question. How much have the extreme lyrics of bands like Cock and Ball Torture and Jon Benet Ramsey stigmatized the entire metal scene? Is the race to be that much more shocking and juvenile really worthwhile when there are so many more intelligent ways to explore the same issues without degenerating into a glorification of infibulation? Moreover, how is any date a man brings home going to react to your copy of Cesspool of Vermin’s “Bestial Necrophilia?”
Even beyond the concerns of marketing and sales, how much harder will the bands that actually have something to say get neglected because, “Haha, I rape young boys” is the norm? Does having a message that isn't about cheap shocks and extreme violence with no context make a band “false metal” since it doesn’t conform to the norms of the metal scene? And how much is this obsession with being that much more disgusting dissuade musicians from making the high-minded concept albums that Immortal and Dream Theater are known for because of fears of not finding a target audience?
These are questions that I can't answer since I'm only one person and not the entire metal scene. However, to me the race to be most depraved band in the world is getting old and after growing out of my love for cheap shocks, it's a shame to see that most of the underground extreme metal scene is still trying to see who can be more immature than the next band. There needs to be more unsigned bands who pursue different lyrical topics simply for the sake of diversity, since you can only listen to so many songs about raping somebody with a chainsaw before it just becomes stale and routine through predictability. And we have to ask ourselves if this elitist, “more foul than thou” cultural extremism is creating a stigma against metal to the point where bands who do pursue lyrical themes have trouble finding acceptance. At what point can we ask ourselves these hard questions instead of trying to hide our Devourment CDs anytime a co-worker peers over our shoulder out of a fear of appearing sexist?
For instance, this is a great example of exploring sexist themes in a mature way:
This is not:
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