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Tribute To The Lesser Played Halloween Classics

So its Halloween yet again….and for some reason it just doesn’t seem as scary and wonderful as it used to be. Maybe its age….maybe it’s the state of the world….perhaps it’s just desensitization or my state of mind. Though its still my favorite time of year, Halloween used to be "special," mainly due to the fact that I bought into this notion that Halloween is the “world holiday of metal.” Not unlike horror films, metal used to have a creep factor in the 80's that seems all too polished and mechanical in 2014. For me, it's the only time when severely under-produced records can have a massive shock value.

On the topic of special Halloween memories over the years, I distinctly remember 1986 – when Slayer had just released what is arguably the greatest thrash metal album of our time just 24 days prior to Halloween. I begged my parents for money to buy it just around a day or two before Halloween…and it literally scared the crap out of me as a 15 year old kid. Every Halloween in that time, back when more people used to celebrate it with open doors, family, friends and I used to walk 5-7 miles – filling multiple pillow cases with candy…only to return home and dump it on the floor before switching costumes to go out for another 2-3 miles before all the lights went out in the neighborhood precisely at 8:30pm. 1986 was particularly memorable because the topic of discussion was “Reign in Blood.” My friends and I gasped in terror conjured by the album mostly because it was so "rebellious" and clashed directly (and indirectly) with our Roman Catholic upbringing. These were days before we reached the age of reason. More...

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I Hear Metal Everywhere

I can tell you exactly when my love of music began. It was the fall of 1987 and my friend, Nathan, had brought over a new cassette that he promised would blow my mind. It took somewhere around five seconds, but from the first time I heard Axl Rose's air-raid-siren scream that opens Guns N Roses' "Welcome To The Jungle," I knew I was to be a metalhead for life.

Shortly after that, nearly every penny I could spare went toward the latest works by the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and their ilk. Then, as college and the Grunge Era hit simultaneously, I found my musical tastes expanding into alt-rock ranging from the likes of Nirvana and Alice In Chains to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus. In my junior year of college, I discovered the Beatles, with their total disregard for genre limitations. More...

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A Tribute To AC/DC's Malcolm Young

When the members of AC/DC convened this spring in Vancouver, B.C., to record the forthcoming "Rock Or Bust," it was both the end of an era, and the start of an uncertain new one. To be sure, the band has faced adversity and uncertainty before -- most notably in 1980 with the death of singer Bon Scott and his replacement with Brian Johnson for "Back In Black."

This time, the loss is potentially an even greater one, as the band prepares to release its first album without founder and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young. More...

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Halfway To Insanity: How The Ramones Changed Metal

Last Friday, the only remaining original carrier of the most influential name in rock music sadly left us.

Tommy Ramone, the last original member of the Ramones, was the sole survivor of the legendary quartet for ten years following the passing of guitarist Johnny Ramone in September 2004 and with no original members left alive, the Ramones will now be consigned to folklore.

They didn’t sell as many records as the Rolling Stones, open the listeners minds to new concepts like the Beatles, or even reach the big arenas in their home country, but the Ramones changed the face of rock and roll forever, somewhat literally in fact, as their uniform of denim of leather would become adopted by metal fans not even five years after they released their self-titled debut. This was just one of the ways that these four young Stooges fans would influence the music they were accused of trying to replicate.

The most important thing about any band should always be the music, and this where the Ramones helped to change things the most. Spectators of their earliest concerts in CBGB’s recall a constant barrage of noise, an assault on the eardrums without the musicians on stage giving an ounce of a fuck what the audience thought. A description fit for heavy metal if ever there was one. Of course, the first people to use the Ramones as a template for their bands were many of the young punks in Britain, a place where the band would sell out every time, in larger venues than the ones back home too. The Clash, The Damned and Stiff Little Fingers are just a few of the time who adored the Queens quartet and the DIY ethics they espoused helped bring metal back to street level when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal came along, an early fusion of punk rock and the earlier heavy metal such as Budgie, Judas Priest and Van Halen.

A number of the NWOBHM artists cite the Ramones as an influence, including former Iron Maiden frontman, Paul Di’anno, who in an interview for the bonus disc of his album, "The Living Dead," referred to Joey Ramone as the most recognisable voice in rock. Early recordings of the bands live shows, and indeed the ferocious speed they brought to the recording studio, certainly showcase what could be regarded as an early form of thrash metal. The break neck speed, chainsaw guitar and confrontational vocals fit into any playlist alongside the likes of Exodus or Vio-Lence and before long, several recognised names in the thrash genre such as Metallica, Rigor Mortis, Ratos de Porao and Anthrax would cover their songs, not to mention the band being honoured by another forbearer of thrash, Motorhead in their song, "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." More...

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Denim And Leather: Celebrating 35 Years Of NWOBHM

This month marks thirty five years since one of the most important terms in heavy metal history was coined. After a show featuring Iron Maiden, Angel Witch and Samson, Sounds writer Geoff "Deaf" Barton wrote a review of the concert in which a phrase was used that still stands strong today. It was the time when head banging public was introduced to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The term was arguably created to cause a stir amongst fans who would argue that heavy metal bands in Britain was nothing new and that the likes of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest had been packing out large venues and appearing on such television shows as Top of the Pops for the last few years, despite the dominance of punk rock. However, these bands were different. They possessed the energy of punk but had the look and volume of the early metal bands before them. They took heavy metal away from the grandiose indulgence which some bands had become embroiled in and brought it back to the common man.

It was truly an exciting movement, full of high quality bands which would go on to influence hundreds more and in some cases, become superstars themselves. More or less every metal fan will be able to tell you that Iron Maiden was one such NWOBHM band, with a slightly smaller number being able to point to Def Leppard as another group from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal who went on to stardom after the release of their excellent self-titled EP and debut album, "On Through the Night," following which they shifted direction to the band we know today. More...

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From Dicks To Chicks

When a very attractive, scantily clad young woman claims she loves metal, get a second opinion.

Yeah, I said that.

And I’m not claiming you’re all fakes, female metal fans. I know you’re out there. Most of us can personally attest to that. I’m talking about the posturing selfie types.

You know the ones. They lurk online, Facebooking, Tweeting, posing in metal-looking gear with an Impaled Nazarene logo prominently displayed, skin showing, pouty siren’s call etched across the face.

Sometimes they actually go to the lengths of posting music videos, and when they go there, they go big. “ROOOOTS, BLOODY ROOOOTS <3 METALCHICK FOR LIFE <3 DEATH TO ALL BUT METAL” and so on. Methinks the ladies doth protest too much.

With a few exceptions, these girls do this for one primary reason: they know how to attract men via the path of least resistance. Make that ZERO resistance. Metal is an overwhelmingly male-dominated genre, fostering a “homoerotic relationship between bands and their fans,” as former Sepultura merchbabe Marta Svetek puts it.

So when such a photo goes up, the hungry dogs swarm for their scraps, as it were. You don’t even need to read the Tolstoy-length comment thread to guess its simple pig-swooning gist. How could some girls resist?

A female musician I spoke with, who wishes to remain anonymous (more on that later), recalled of playing with her former metal band:

“Crowds of girls would come into the club between sets and prey on all the guys, then go outside for nearly the band’s entire set, probably blasting Miley or One Direction in their earbuds. I actually remember talking to some girl about a band whose T-shirt she was wearing. She said, ‘Oh, this band? I just thought the shirt was cute.’”

This tactic has suckered many a metalhead, and many enterprising folks have seized on it. Why else would countless popular metal sites and blogs hire “spokesmodels” to push their merchandise? Why else would niche custom fashion lines like Toxic Vision gain such a mammoth following? Why else would 70,000 Tons Of Metal hire “pool girls?”

Why, in other words, does metal culture virtually have to IMPORT hot women like Julius Caesar providing for the appetites of his legions?

Simple: because metalheads (i.e., dudes) like to stare at girls’ tits and asses, and some girls, spurred on by the “hot groupie fantasy,” (in Svetek’s words) like to provide such sights. Capitalism, baby.

I’m not saying I’m above all this, and I’m not exactly judging the arrangement. I believe in the free market. However, I don’t have to embrace everything the market produces, and one very dubious aspect of this Budweiser-ad approach in metal is when it manifests in the music itself. More...

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Best Metal Newcomers Of 2013 Explored: Part 5

For our 2013 year-end awards we included a category for best “newcomers” – those bands that released debut albums well worth hearing.

To help get you acquainted with the best new talent releasing albums you may have missed, we’ll be looking at each of the bands nominated for the “best newcomer” category by our staff. Today, senior reviewer Progressivity_In_All looks at:

Damnation Angels

With one of the coolest names of the incoming class of 2013 bands, Damnation Angels strikes hot at the anvil of heavy metal to forge their sound out of equal parts power and symphonic metal. Hailing from Doncaster, England, a tag-team of brothers handle the drums and guitar: Will and John Graney, Stephen Averill handles bass guitar, and Per Fredrik 'PelleK' Åsly contributes impassioned clean vocals with a powerful voice that can pace about anywhere within a four-octave range with no problem.

The debut album, "Bringer of Light" (reviewed here), landed the band a prestigious opening spot on the main stage of 2013's ProgPower USA festival, where a stateside audience greeted Damnation Angels' debut in the country.

The sound of Damnation Angels is one steeped in tradition, and a damn fine iteration of it at that. When not involved with Damnation Angels, lead vocalist PelleK has his own self-titled project that he writes for, releasing a bombastic Christmas album just before this last Christmas (on the cover art, Santa Claus is riding a giant fire-breathing dragon). Fast on track to become the next Timo Kotipelto, young PelleK is leading Damnation Angels into the future with style into what will be their next record, "The Valiant Fire," which was announced to the ProgPower USA crowd during the exclusive performance of "Finding Requiem" from the album.

If you want to see more of the best new talent 2013 had to offer, be sure to check out the previous entries:

Part 1 - covering Witherscape, Gloryhammer, and Cnoc An Tursa
Part 2 - covering Vista Chino, The Resistance, Raven Lord, Skan, and Lord Dying
Part 3 - covering Avatarium, Gloryhammer, Bane of Winterstorm, Artlantica, and Heavatar
Part 4 - covering Gloomball, Damnations Day, Vista Chino, and Beezelfuzz

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Best Metal Newcomers Of 2014 Explored: Part 4

For our 2013 year-end awards we included a category for best “newcomers” – those bands that released debut albums well worth hearing.

To help get you acquainted with the best new talent releasing albums you may have missed, we’ll be looking at each of the bands nominated for the “best newcomer” category by our staff. Today, writer OverkillExposure looks at Gloomball and Damnations Day:

Gloomball

Guitarist Björn Daigger of new German import Gloomball states, “We refer to our material simply as rock music, but you could also call it alternative metal or modern rock.” Of this variety, the rock-radio highway is annually littered with misses, but Gloomball’s debut “The Distance” is a gut-punching hit. Daigger and co-songwriter Alen Ljubic (vocals) composed seven new tracks atop four previously existing songs from the band’s demo days, tossed in a cover of Robert M. Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out” (from “Rocky IV”) for good measure, and recorded a killer record with massive crossover appeal. Ballsy, thunderous, and groovy enough for headbangers young and old, melodic and heartfelt enough for a cathartic singalong session, “The Distance” expertly captures the essence of Five Finger Death Punch, late ‘90s Machine Head (sans the rap), latter-day Shadows Fall, and even some power metal and the understated progressive brilliance of acts such as Scar Symmetry.

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Best Metal Newcomers Of 2013 Explored: Part 3

For our 2013 year-end awards we included a category for best “newcomers” – those bands that released debut albums worth hearing.

To help get you acquainted with the best new talent releasing albums you may have missed, we’ll be looking at each of the bands nominated for the “best newcomer” category by our staff. Today, writer/reviewer CROMCarl covers Avatarium, Bane of Winterstorm, Artlantica, Heavatar, and the previously mentioned Gloryhammer. Here's what he had to say:

Avatarium

Just when you thought Leif Edling was done making Candlemass albums - relegating the epic doom pioneers to live duty only - the man goes and reinvents the genre again with the creation of Avatarium. Backed by powerhouse guitarist Marcus Jidell (Evergrey), drummer Lars Skold (Tiamat), and keyboarist Carl Westholm (Krux/ex-Candlemass), the band was bursting with talent and vast doom pedigrees.

All initial trepidation of how vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith would fare was cast aside on the album's first spin. Her haunting and gorgeous vocals showed as much immense power as it did frail honesty. The band laid waste to all doom that came before them with one of the best debut albums since Candlemass' "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus." The band was not only my top newcomer of the year, but came in second in my overall Top Albums of 2013 (see the review here).

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Best Metal Newcomers Of 2013 Explored, Part 2

Each year in our annual metal awards we take a look at the best “newcomers” – those bands that released debut full-lengths worth your time.

To help get you acquainted with the best new talent releasing albums you may have missed, we’ll be looking at each of the bands nominated for the “best newcomer” category by our staff. Today, writer Rex_84 covers Vista Chino, The Resistance, Raven Lord, Skan, and Lord Dying. Here's what he had to say:

Thanks to Facebook and local venues, there was hardly a day that went by without receiving a flyer or like request on an unfamiliar band. Bands from around the globe injected new ideas into sounds we know well. In the end, however, my list mostly consists of new bands containing members from the artists I've gotten to know and love through my years as a heavy metal fan.

Vista Chino

Vista Chino rose from the ashes of Kyuss Lives when former Kyuss guitar Josh Homme and bassist Scott Reeder sued the band for "trademark infringement and consumer fraud." Although no longer containing the "Kyuss" in their name, Brant Bjork easily filled Josh Homme's shoes. Vista Chino's debut "Peace" is the fuzzy, desert rock album Kyuss fans have long for since the group disbanded nearly twenty years ago.

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Best Metal Newcomers Of 2013 Explored, Part 1

Each year in our annual metal awards we take a look at the best “newcomers” – those bands that released debut full-lengths worth your time.

In addition to the standard slew of burgeoning metal bands getting their footing in 2013, there were several new projects created by established members of the scene that dropped some of the best albums of the year.

To help get you acquainted with the best new talent releasing albums you may have missed, we’ll be looking at each of the bands nominated for the “best newcomer” category by our staff. Today content manager xFiruath covers Witherscape (which ended up winning the category in our 2013 awards), Gloryhammer, and Cnoc an Tursa.

Witherscape

An instance of the champ coming out of retirement to show the young pups how things are done, Witherscape marks the return of European metal legend Dan Swano, who has spent the last several years behind the sound board instead of in front of the microphone.

Rather than going in the direction of his various ‘90s projects, this band is essentially a progressive death metal outing, with some strong classic metal leanings. “The Inheritance” was an album I greatly enjoyed on first listen, and have only come to appreciate even more over time, to the point it’s now among my most played metal on any given week.

To find out more about Witherscape, you can read our interview with Dan Swano, or check out my original review of the album right here.

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"That's Not Metal!"

“THAT’S NOT METAL!”

One of the most oft-hurled accusations among metalheads, to a point where people waste inordinate amounts of time bickering over this crucial distinction on which one’s very identity seems to depend, usually online.

Why? What’s hanging in the balance here? For let’s face it: at the end of the day, this is music we’re talking about – an art form, subjective by definition, and utterly dependent on individual taste. While arguments over politics and religion can get pretty silly, the importance attached to such views is still far more understandable than the absurd fervor with which many fans defend metal’s imagined gates of purity.

For all the fun metal has to offer – heck, I wouldn’t be writing about it were I not an avid fan – its overall fanbase is popular music’s most self-loathing and self-destructive, collectively and metaphorically speaking. In fact, many metalheads may take issue with my inclusion of metal in the “popular music” category, which itself is, I believe, the root of the problem.

Examining the sometimes-bizarre pathology of metal’s less-than-savory fanhood has long been an interest of mine, and while I don’t have the space (and you certainly don’t have the time) to unravel all my thoughts here, I will submit this: “That’s Not Metal,” quite often, is a smokescreen, a self-deluding attempt to marginalize an album, band, or entire subgenre one doesn’t like or doesn’t feel represents him.

It is a cultural form of denial. For when one identifies himself as Metal – and it’s a strong, dominant form of expression – all it takes is a ladle of insecurity to send him scurrying to defend the uniqueness and purity of his very identity.

I will now evaluate a pivotal development in metal history that may help explain the origins of this splintering trend within the genre. More...

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A Crowd Funding Success Story: A Sound Of Thunder

You’ve heard the term or perhaps engaged in a pledge and it’s seems to be all the rage these days: “crowd funding.” Some people may view it as the band version of “panhandling,” but when you consider how much the music business has changed since the rise of the digital age in the face of internet file sharing, rampant illegal downloading and lagging world economies, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea, right? What better way for a fan to feel like he or she is part of the business then to strike up a good old-fashioned pledge drive. Over the last year, there have successes as well as disastrous failures, mediocre output and subpar notifications from smaller local bands and well known acts. But, is crowd funding something worthy of slapping down your hard earned cash in these bad economic times? You only need only look to one band that has risen above the rest, proving twice over that there is power in this medium: A Sound of Thunder. Its members (Nina Osegueda, Josh Schwartz, Jesse Keen and Chris Haren) are shining examples of what is right about crowd funding. More...

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ProgPower USA XIV: At A Glance

In its 14th year for 2013, the ProgPower USA Festival is one of the longest-running US festivals, and the longest-running US multi-day festival to feature bands from outside the US.

This year, it has the special distinction of being the US debut show for five bands. Totaling more than a hundred and twenty band performances in its time, it has developed a reputation as a tastemakers’ festival, heightening awareness within the US of foreign bands.

It can be a daunting festival, price- and endurance-wise, but it’s one that should be considered if the genres it derives its name from at all turn your head. Here’s what you can expect from this year’s celebration of the fast and the nerdy down at Center Stage in Atlanta, Georgia, starting on September 4th. More...

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Varg Vikernes Was Always a Ticking Time Bomb

This is an opinion article, not a news story, and it doesn't necessarily represent the views of the other contributors at Metalunderground.com.

My reaction to yesterday's arrest of Burzum's sole member Varg Vikernes wasn't shock, it was laughter. The guy was convicted of manslaughter and arson and the French were dumb enough to not only let him into their country on a farm far away from prying eyes but also purchase a number of firearms that he even photographed himself with. What exactly did the Gendarmerie Nationale think he was going to do? The only part of this that's shocking is that it took this long for the French to actually arrest him.

To expand on why exactly this scenario was inevitable, it's that Varg believes in the innate supremacy of all Germanic people while living in a country of Southern Europeans that also has a large Arab minority. This along with his self-imposed isolation was probably going to bring him to his breaking point.

After the British were involved in a scandal where it took them years to finally deport two radical clerics with ties to Al Queda, why would the French bother with somebody who's even more obviously a security risk? Even if the authorities were jumping the gun and there was no terror plot, Varg has to take some responsibility for his reputation. I mean, really, does this photograph look innocent to you? More...

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Bands That You Never Gave a Chance

My personal confessions are less about what I enjoy that would shred my credibility through a wood chipper and more about which bands I used to despise that I'd never talk shit about today. Namely, I used to really hate System of a Down, Iron Maiden, Behemoth and Chimaira. After only hearing a handful of songs from each, I decided that all were overrated before actually giving their discography a real chance.

Holy shit did I regret that later on after listening to Chimaira's self-titled album, Iron Maiden's “Powerslave”, “Zos Kia Cultus,” and the entirety of “Toxicity” (although I still maintain that “Chop Suey” has always been overrated and overplayed and I'm not a fan of the title track on “Resurrection”).

It's hard to look at yourself after talking shit about music that you were completely ignorant about. Eventually, I moved on to "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,” “Resurrection,” and “Steal This Album” and realized that I was talking out my ass and sounded like one of those guys who calls eurodance “techno” but has never listened to speedcore or confuses hip-hop with R&B. More...

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Typical Reactions When Mainstream And Metal Clash

It’s the age old argument, right? Mainstream ignores and/or shuns metal (unless Metallica is present) and at the same time many in the metal community would rather keep it that way. If metal is accepted by the mainstream with open arms we would all suddenly need to find another form of music to listen to, I guess.

I do not believe that metal accepted by the mainstream is entirely horrendous, since greater acceptance would recognize so many bands/musicians that deserve just as much as pop counterparts and open the doors for more releases and more tours, especially here in the U.S. It would also further validate those of us who spend our lifetimes promoting the scene. “Mainstreaming of metal” does not necessarily have to mean that the music turns commercial.

However, I live under no delusions that broad sweeping acceptance as a form of relevant musical art will ever come true, and I’ve accepted the situation for what it is. With that said, it still pisses me off when the two clash with the obvious tired and repetitious reactions. Case in point: the video of little six year old Aaralyn, who appeared on the NBC talent show “America’s Got Talent,” with her brother Izzy to perform the original song “Zombie Skin.” Check it out here:

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Separating Art From the Artist

I personally find the idea of putting people on a pedestal to be incredibly naive and childish. At some point, whoever you idolize as being perfect will turn out to have some sort of horrible character flaws that you'll never be able to forgive. People are human, and with that comes not being perfect. Hence why I'm able to say that I don't mind somebody's offstage behavior as much as I do the actual music. In the same way, I don't care about lyrical themes that embrace politics that I disagree with. More...

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Spirit In Metal: A Tribute To Jeff Hanneman

Yesterday, the news broke that the world of heavy metal had lost a true giant. The death of Slayer guitarist, Jeff Hanneman was a shock to many followers of metal, and especially for fans of the band, who are known to be amongst the most manically devoted in the history of music.

Almost immediately after people learned of the news, fans of Jeff and Slayer celebrated in a fashion befitting of the man: By getting drunk and blasting "Reign In Blood" as loud as they could. Hanneman's death is arguably the hardest hitting news since Ronnie James Dio passed away three years ago, and perhaps the biggest shock to thrash fans since Metallica bass player Cliff Burton was killed in an automobile accident in 1986, and at only 49 years of age, he will be considered by many to have been taken from us too soon.

Jeff Hanneman's journey began on January 31st 1964, when he was born in Oakland, California to a German father who fought for the Allies in the Second World War. This, along with the participation of his brothers in the Vietnam war, forged a lifelong interest in all things military for Jeff, a subject he would regularly cover in his lyrical contributions to Slayer. In 1981, Hanneman went to audition for a local band where he met another young guitarist named Kerry King. The two got on well and began jamming covers of songs by the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, before deciding to form their own band, the lineup of which was completed by the addition of King's former Quits bandmate Tom Araya, and pizza delivery guy, Dave Lombardo. Hanneman stated that one of his favourite memories of the early days was whenever people booed them, assured by his confidence to actually get on stage and perform. Of the four members, he was the one who enjoyed punk music the most, a genre he claimed he "forced" onto Dave Lombardo to the point where in 1984, the two of them, along with future Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George, formed a punk band named, Pap Smear, which folded a year later on the advice of producer, Rick Rubin. More...

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Metal Lyrics: A Race to the Bottom?

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. More...

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