I’ve been a metalhead since 1970, when I was all of three, due to my older sister’s and her boyfriend’s tastes for what was then called ‘Acid Rock’, which included my beloved Black Sabbath.
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Since then, which is now 34 years, we have seen a number of unfortunate by-products of Sabbath’s dark outlook on the false lovey-dovey vibe of the ‘60’s and their occult imagery. This includes, in no small part, their use of the Bad Guy Down There as a fixture in more than a few of their songs. Now, we’ve now got a serious problem.
If you’re a heavy metal listener to any degree, by now you know that there are just too damn many bands sporting pentagrams and baphomet goats and bleeding, crucified naked women and sinister, unreadable logos that just cry out ‘Hey! We’re into Satanism! Buy this album!’
It was only truly interesting, for me, when Venom first did this to get laughs and cash. They took the most occultic themes in Sabbath’s lyrics and mixed the simplicity of punk rock with Sabbath’s doomy riffs and made albums like ‘Black Metal’ (uh-oh!), ‘Welcome to Hell’, ‘In League With Satan’ and ‘At War With Satan’. The last one, in fact, was blaring from my tape player when I rolled my first car, totalling it. Which song was it? ‘Manitou’, which was about a Native American war god coming back to kick the white man’s ass. As a Native American on my father’s side I found it an instant classic. However I took it in a healthy context, the same one in which I took Iron Maiden’s ‘Run to the Hills’ (Native Americans fighting the genocidal US Army on the midwestern plains – some things never change). Heck, I took the whole ‘Number of the Beast’ album in that context.
None of these bands meant it that way, and Venom was just trying to piss them off. Who was ‘them’? 'They' reared their ugly heads a few years later, marching behind Tipper Gore and the PMRC. Now of course they’ve got more than they can ever hope to handle with an absolute DELUGE of satanically-themed rock’n’roll albums, even reaching far beyond the scope of the Heavy Metal genre.
Now, they’ve got to cope not only with Heavy Metal but sundry sub-genres of it such as Black Metal, Gore Metal, Goregrind and good ole’ Death Metal; now there's Goth, Darkwave, Goth Metal and Goth Punk.
Even Black Sabbath, God love’em (I duck quickly from any small arms fire from the Fundie Right), can’t hope to compete with sickos like Roz Williams of Christian Death (old school Goth band). He hanged himself after recording tons of albums about things like worshipping Jeffrey Dahmer and other rotten bastards... like Satan.
If you’re curious as to how bad this situation is, pick up a copy of a magazine called Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles (http://www.bravewords.com) out of Canada but distributed fairly widely in the United States and Europe. Just flip through it and listen to the sample CD. Look at the damn ads and the articles, the reviews and the interviews.
There is just no way to be sure just how many of these musicians are really trying to say something and how many of them are just selling CD’s on shocking content. Did I ever buy a CD to piss off my parents? In fact, no. I was in high school when W.A.S.P. put out their debut via import (the only way they could release it in the USA at the time): ‘I F*** Like a Beast’ (which was also the chorus of the title track). I found it a titillating proposition to purchase it, but I felt that the music just wasn’t deep enough for me to spend my money on it.
I find that today, the existence of the hardcore W.A.S.P. fan nation is flabbergasting because its numbers are in an inverse relation to the quality of W.A.S.P.’s music (run-of-the-mill and exploitive). Back then, even with Venom, it was just a matter of shocking people and exciting the kids to be rebellious (and eager consumers). The corporations picked up on this tactic to create gangsta rap, after all, so we all know how this works.
The social damage is apparent when a band like Cannibal Corpse mocks Tori Amos for her radio spot on behalf of victims of rape by using portions of her spot in a song called ‘Stripped, Raped and Strangled’, which by all appearances takes the concept of the rape and murder of women in a very humorous stride.
But since Satan has become a major selling point in music, a lot of bands feel that it’s useless to compete unless you join the bandwagon. With the advent of Black Metal (as we understand it to be) it has even become dangerous to society to the point of burning down churches. It even gave rise to a racist strain of Heavy Metal music heretofore unseen in the genre (and unwelcome!). (See my previous article on this topic, Racist subversion in White Popular Subculture Subcultures: The Infection of Punk, Hardcore and Heavy Metal .)
One of the worst results of this trend is that music, beginning in the 1990’s, now deliberately sets a tone of despair, self-hate, misanthropy, nihilism and fatalism, even violence and homicidal satanism in order to appeal to a youth culture that these trends have created. There is even an emerging subculture called 'Rape Rock', and the monicker says it all. Misery loves company, so it’s hard to convince people that these very things are in fact bad. There is now a truly massive cultural scene built around this – the ‘Dark Music’ scene, which encompasses the darker end of Metal; Goth; Industrial; Darkwave and some punk rock, plus an emerging subgenre called Dark Ambient.
I’ve always been one of those people who could enjoy Halloween all year ‘round, but now we’re overloading on Official Dark Content. Everything is damn Dark now. There’s even http://www.thedarknetwork.com , where you can find everything culturally Dark. Dark this, Dark that. Hell, go to the mall and just go into Hot Topic already, and buy your black vinyl skirt or pants or studded gauntlet and your Marylin Manson T-shirt and be Dark already, will ya? The Devil wants you to accessorize so his most market-savvy minions can make more dollars than the televangelists he has working on the other street in the Name of God. Why? It’s an easier sell to tell people straight out who you are, I guess.
Is it really Satan? Does it matter? It’s capitalism at nearly its worst, leaving the market to determine what mainly goes into the minds of young people instead of their own life experiences, the teachings of their elders and what they develop in their own ruminations: it’s an indoctrination that’s just as unhealthy as that from the government and its media minions.
And I, as a metalhead, have had enough.