Friday, September 20, 2013

More Entrails, Please

I wanted to draw your attention to "A Very Dirty Lens: How Can We Listen to Offensive Metal." It's a very long article, but I've summed up what I take to be the most important parts.

I've written fairly extensively on the topic in the past, and, to pull a quote out of this one that describes me as a hypothetical person:

"They might argue that it doesn’t matter when you can’t decipher the lyrics anyway… it’s simply about the stirring sounds. Putting aside the contentious to enjoy the transcendence from the mundane that black metal provides is a stance taken by many, but it’s also a position that others would see as weak, and there’s an entire red and anarchist black metal scene backing that view."

The article quotes some academic as saying that even INSTRUMENTAL music is political if the artist has said that an idea inspired it. That should be laughable, and it ignores the entire history of art criticism, which holds that once a work is created, it's no longer controlled by the artist. But the article seems to agree, and take the stance that simply by doing anything in the world you are doing something political.

The article also claims that it's contradictory to support freedom of speech while also claiming that politics doesn't matter. How did that get past the editor? That's nonsense, on its face.

On occasion--because, to my chagrin, metal titles are usually in English--I am confronted with such messages. Mostly I just think an album title like "Filthy Psychotropic Children of the Non-Consensual Ovary Pounding Prison Factory Fuck Porn" is hilarious. Who in their right mind would take that seriously? Same goes for some Norwegian hillbilly espousing some fringe view.

If they were sane, they wouldn't be making good music.

I wanted to highlight this quote from Brice Ezell: "My theistic beliefs are, in some metal circles, laughable, or at the very least unpopular. Yet, aside from when people degrade or murder people for ideological reasons, I not only invite but demand opinions different from mine. Those who disagree with me aren’t enemies to conquer, they’re brothers and sisters in arms. I become a better thinker, and subsequently a better person, when I’m challenged by the beautiful brutality of metal in all its voices. When it comes to controversy, I like it as downtuned as possible."

Josh Haun of That's How Kids Die said it best: "[M]etal lyrics are pure fantasy. . . . Even these bands with members that espouse reprehensible social/political beliefs are living in a fantasy world; Varg Vikernes and Rob Darken can blog and play dress up all they want, but last time I checked their ideology had already failed miserably as of about seventy years ago."

It's weird that I agree with Haun about this, because we've argued about it in the past. Perhaps we were arguing past each other.

"Fuck you for even thinking that metal needs explaining." That may sum it up even better.


  1. awesome. i was arguing this with invisible oranges last week. may have to rekindle that debate. i definitely have to read the whole thing now.

    what i find fascinating about it all, is that first of all it presupposes we all agree what constitutes "offensive." as you point out, that's clearly a subjective judgement call.

    additionally, people tend to focus on imagery/lyrics as though that's the most important factor in appreciating the music. once again, that's only way to appreciate the music. or it assumes you have to endorse something in its entirety to appreciate it.

    i'm always fascinated by the personal baggage people bring to abstract things like art and music and how we all have blindspots in our thinking when confronted by alternate interpretations.

    1. that's only *one* way to appreciate the music.

    2. Exactly. The assumption that bothers me is that there is any kind of message intrinsically involved in listening to any kind of music. People like me, who just enjoy the music, are just brushed over in this conversation. I think we're a larger demographic than you would imagine (I've met at least one at my work).

  2. When I was an associate the appellate partner at our firm once criticized a motion I wrote. "I see you didn't have to be brief," he said.

    I tried to read it but he was all over the place. And he used too many adverbs.

    1. The structure was definitely lacking, but I've had enough of talking about that for one week. I can't say I noticed the adverbs.

  3. These kinds of debates can be interesting, but they really all come down to the fact that we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. Trying to pretend that everything is a political statement, and that we must understand and agree with that statement to enjoy the product, is just ludicrous.

    1. Can't you see that you're making a political statement right now? Or at least that's how I imagine their response would go. And thus, the word "political" loses all meaning.

    2. Exactly. It's that whole "once everything is X, nothing is X" issue, since a word only carries meaning so long as there is a difference between the things to which it applies and the things to which it does not apply.