Sunday, July 25, 2010

Metal and Islam

A Brief History of Metal's Anti-Religious Side, and Criticism of Its Failure to Target the Muslim Faith

The anti-religious bands of metal today are either idiots or pussies.

For at least the last 30 years, metal music has often treated religion with antipathy. The trend began in the late 70's with groups like Pentagram and Venom, who used images and lyrics insulting to Christianity purely for its shock value. Some fans took it seriously, whether because they thought it was serious or that it should be serious, and truly anti-religious and anti-Christian groups like Bathory and Mayhem hit the scene.

Metal is, with few exceptions, born from nations with a Christian religious heritage. So, it made sense for the ones seeking shock value to target Christianity. But now the idea is divorced from shock. It became an "ideal", so why do they continue to focus on the Christian faith?

I recently wrote a letter to Decibel about this conclusion, simplifying my observations to fit in the space of their letters:
Nergal was just acquitted of publicly denouncing religion, thank God. Freedom of speech is too important. If he had torn up a Koran, he would have faced the same charges, but he'd also have a fatwa on his head. Just look at Lars Vilks and the late Theo van Gogh. Or compare the stories of Melechesh in a Jewish state to Acrassicauda in a Muslim one.

Paging through your August issue, I found plenty of anti-Christian images and statements, but nothing targeting Islam. Exodus puts a small arsenal in Vitruvian Man's hands, along with a Bible. Not a Koran, as if to say evil is being done in the world in the name of Christianity, but ignoring Islam. Now, with Italian groups like Nefarium I get it--they're inundated with Catholicism everywhere they look. Anyone else can have only two reasons for this. First, they're doing it for shock value. If that's the case, they should go on tour with Kiss, Mötley Crüe, or some other shock rockers.

But let's just say they're anti-religion because of their beliefs. Well, if they're anti-religion generally, they should insult every religion. If they're anti-religion because they think it's a force for evil, they should call out the one that's the biggest problem in today's world.

The only reason they don't is because they're scared. Well, to them I say, stop being a bunch of f**king pussies.
They had plenty of time to get it in the new issue, but they didn't. Are they scared, too?

Whether the Muslim faith is a "religion of peace" is not the issue here--that's a subject for another day. The issue is freedom of speech.

Christianity has a long history of enduring and even tolerating both criticism and insult, particularly since the "Enlightenment" of the early 18th century. Both society as a whole and Christian belief itself benefit from this tolerance, and people cannot be free without true freedom of speech. On the other hand, every public insult to Islam (real or perceived) is met with mindless outrage, threats, and, in some cases, murder. Islamic nations criminalize apostasy and non-Islamic proselytism, including the nation we are trying to make into a free one (Afghanistan).

Fear of reprisal has led people of free nations to censor themselves on the subject of Islam.

These thoughts really started to bother me with the whole South Park debacle. Those champions of free speech--who have mocked Christianity many times without any problems--were censored by their network out of fear. As this article put it, "In an era in which virtually no subject, however disgusting, is taboo on television, the very name of Islam’s holy figure is barred from the airwaves." This article explains why submitting to self-censorship only perpetuates the problem: "This is why Islamic supremacists issue threats and practice intimidation in the first place: because it works. These Hollywood dhimmis are only making sure that this sort of thing will happen again."

(The maker of the most publicized threat to the creators of South Park was arrested this week for planning to join Al-Shabab.)

There is a solution to this problem. We need to act and speak without regard to the possibility of reprisal. And we need to insult and criticize Islam every chance we get. If we do it enough, eventually they will get tired of being pissed off all the time, and get used to it. And maybe, hopefully, far in the future, join the civilized world in tolerating freedom of speech.

A natural force for solving the problem is found in metal music, a genre with a history of anti-religious content. But they're not doing it. A search of Encyclopedia Metallum on lyrical themes for "anti-Christian" turned up 1699 different bands, but a search for "anti-Islam" turned up 8. I'd like to give all of them some press here to show my support, regardless of whether they also target Christianity:

1. Black Soul (split up)
2. Dechristianisierung Europas
3. Devilmind (changed its name, and apparently lost its focus on anti-Islam)
4. Infidel (I am getting their 2008 album Destruction of Mecca as soon as I'm done writing this)
5. Monolith (who became The Monolith Deathcult--I own one of their albums)
6. Muslimcorpse (split up)
7. Regnum Aeterna (split up)
8. Taghut (I'm getting their 2008 release Ejaculate Upon the Holy Qur'an as soon as I'm done writing this, despite scathing reviews on Encyclopedia Metallum)

And, thanks to a reference in one of those reviews, I'll also be checking out Ayat. And I'll be happy to support any band that takes up the cause.


  1. I'm actually a big fan of Ayat. I own their latest album and it is truly a great example of industrial death/black metal.

    This was a very interesting and thought-provoking post. I have never really considered why there are not more Anti-Muslim bands out there. Great job.

  2. Thanks! I'm working on going toward slightly fewer reviews and doing more of this kind of thing (trying to do a more general type of post once a week).

  3. Mrs. Metallattorney5:49 PM, July 29, 2010

    Metallattorney and I were discussing this post. I pointed out that MOST metal bands have far more exposure to Christianity than to Islam. Metallattorney has informed me there are precious few bands that originate in countries where Islam is the predominate religion. Most bands are from countries where Christianity is the dominant religion. Generally, the simplest explanation is also the most likely...

  4. Ah, but Islam is in our faces all the time in the last decade. That's certainly enough time to draw their attention to it, especially in countries with a large influx of Muslim populations or in NATO countries involved in the war in Afghanistan. If you take either of those factors and combine it with a country with a strong extreme metal scene, it should come out: Sweden fits the bill. "In 2009 a report made a statement that there are 450 000 to 500 000 Muslims in Sweden, around 5% of the total population, and that the Muslim Council of Sweden reported 106 327 officially registered members." (

    The most blatant example is Exodus, as I pointed out above. They are American, so they fit all three characteristics, and yet they put the Bible in Vitruvian Man's hand.

    Even assuming your position is correct, and it may be, there still needs to be awareness of the issue. Islamic radicals cannot destroy my freedom of speech, or my freedom to hear the speech of others, through fear. And metal is the perfect place to start.

    And another point is, insulting Christianity isn't even controversial anymore, so if they're trying to shock people or piss people off, there's one easy thing they can do.

  5. I couldn't agree more with this post. The reason most genuinely anti-religious bands claim to attack Christianity is it's use to destroy and control people. One look at modern religious fanaticism shows that Islam has massively overtaken Christianity in these areas. You hear about the Spanish Inquisition all the time... well that was terrible but it's not like it's still fucking going on today. That bullshit about how Islam is a religion of peace makes me laugh too, since at its roots Christianity is a religion of peace as well. Funny how they'll look at the ways Christianity has been applied (while they ignore its tenets and positive attributes), but then the same people do the exact opposite for Islam without ever feeling the least bit hypocritical.

  6. Thanks for the comment. I agree with you entirely, and I've had the exact conversation you're implying here on more than one occasion.

    One thing I didn't bring up in this post is how tired and non-controversial it is to insult Christianity anyway, especially in the two countries where it happens the most. Norway and Sweden are the two most secular countries in the world (you can look it up), so when Norsemen say they don't like Jesus, it's not exactly edgy. And besides, it's been done to death. Find something else. Insulting Islam is exactly that.

  7. Totally true. Any statement about hating Islam gets people shocked and offended these days, which is exactly why metal bands originally went after Christianity. Now anti-Christian lyrics have become such a generic staple that even Christian metalheads don't notice them half the time anymore.

    I also think a cop-out worthy of note is the whole "we're against all religions, not just Christianity" thing. A lot of bands say that, but they still never actually say anything in their music about any other religions. If they oppose them all, why single out just one over and over? I'm still torn between the two prime suspects: laziness and cowardice.