Heavy metal lyrics

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King Diamond is known for writing conceptual lyrics about horror stories King Diamond live 2006 Moscow 02.jpg
King Diamond is known for writing conceptual lyrics about horror stories

Heavy metal lyrics are the words used in songs by heavy metal artists. Given that there are many genres of heavy metal, it is difficult to make generalizations about the lyrics and lyrical themes. In 1989, two metal scholars wrote that heavy metal lyrics concentrate "on dark and depressing subject matter to an extent hitherto unprecedented" in any form of popular music. [1] Jeffrey Arnett states that metal songs are "overwhelmingly dominated" by "ugly and unhappy" themes which express "no hope" for the future. [2] Deena Weinstein has proposed one way to analyze metal song themes is loosely grouping them into two categories: the Dionysian theme (a reference to the Roman God of wine), which celebrates "sex, drugs and rock and roll", partying, and enjoyment of life and the Chaotic theme, which involves dark subjects such as Hell, injustice, mayhem, carnage and death. [3] Not all metal genres fall into Weinstein's two theme model; for example power metal's lyrical themes often focus on fantasy and mythology, camaraderie and hope, personal struggles and emotions, among other themes. Another exception is pop metal bands, which replaced "gloom and doom" themes with "positive, upbeat" songs about romantic love and relationships, part of their goal of appealing more to female listeners. [4] In metal overall, the small number of metal songs about relationships are typically about unions that have "gone sour" long ago. [5]

Song composition for voice(s)

A song is a single work of music that is typically intended to be sung by the human voice with distinct and fixed pitches and patterns using sound and silence and a variety of forms that often include the repetition of sections. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word "song" may refer to instrumentals.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.

Contents

The thematic content of heavy metal lyrics has long been a target of criticism. According to Jon Pareles, "Heavy metal's main subject matter is simple and virtually universal. With grunts, moans and subliterary lyrics, it celebrates ... a party without limits ... [T]he bulk of the music is stylized and formulaic." [6] Music critics have often deemed metal lyrics juvenile and banal, and others [7] have objected to what they see as advocacy of misogyny and the occult. During the 1980s, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) petitioned the U.S. Congress to regulate the popular music industry due to what the group asserted were objectionable lyrics, particularly those in heavy metal songs. [8] The PMRC used music professor Joe Stuessy to testify against metal. Professor Stuessy alleged that heavy metal songs focus on violence, substance abuse, perversion, S&M, and Satanism. [9] Robert Walser analyzed 88 metal songs' themes to determine if Professor Stuessy's claims were valid. In Walser's analysis, the dominant theme in the metal songs was "longing for intensity"; he found that the negative themes described by Stuessy and the PMRC were uncommon. [10] Jeffrey Arnett analysed the lyrics from 115 metal songs: he found that the top three messages were "grim...themes" about violence, angst and protest. [11]

Jon Pareles is an American journalist who is the chief popular-music critic in the arts section of The New York Times.

Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny manifests in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. Misogyny can be found within sacred texts of religions, mythologies, and Western philosophies.

Parents Music Resource Center

The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was an American committee formed in 1985 with the stated goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to have violent, drug-related or sexual themes via labeling albums with Parental Advisory stickers. The committee was founded by four women known as the "Washington Wives" – a reference to their husbands' connections with government in the Washington, D.C. area. The women who founded the PMRC are Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The PMRC eventually grew to include 22 participants before shutting down in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Metal artists have had to defend their lyrics in front of the U.S. Senate and in courtrooms. In 1985, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider was asked to defend his song Under the Blade at a U.S. Senate hearing. In 1986, Ozzy Osbourne was sued because of the lyrics of his song Suicide Solution . [12] In 1990, Judas Priest was sued in American court by the parents of two young men who had shot themselves five years earlier, allegedly after hearing the subliminal statement "do it" in a Priest song. While the case attracted a great deal of media attention, it was ultimately dismissed. [8] In some predominantly Muslim countries, heavy metal has been officially denounced as a threat to traditional values. In countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and Malaysia, there have been incidents of heavy metal musicians and fans being arrested and incarcerated. [13]

Twisted Sister American rock band

Twisted Sister was an American heavy metal band originally from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, and later based in Long Island, New York. Twisted Sister's best-known hits include "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock", which had music videos noted for their sense of slapstick humor. Many of the band's songs explore themes of parent vs. child conflicts and criticisms of the educational system.

Dee Snider American musician

Daniel "Dee" Snider is an American singer-songwriter, screenwriter, radio personality, and actor. Snider came to prominence in the early 1980s as lead singer and songwriter of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister. He was ranked 83 in the Hit Parader's Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time.

Ozzy Osbourne English heavy metal vocalist and songwriter

John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne, also known as The Prince of Darkness, is an English vocalist, songwriter, actor and reality television star who rose to prominence during the 1970s as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. He was fired from the band in 1979 due to alcohol and drug problems, but went on to have a successful solo career, releasing eleven studio albums, the first seven of which were all awarded multi-platinum certifications in the United States. Osbourne has since reunited with Black Sabbath on several occasions. He rejoined the band in 1997 and recorded the group’s final studio album 13 (2013) before they embarked on a farewell tour which culminated in a final performance in their home city Birmingham, England in February 2017. His longevity and success have earned him the informal title of "Godfather of Heavy Metal".

History

There were "heavy"-sounding bands before Black Sabbath, such as Led Zeppelin and Cream. However, the use of "dark and aggressive music" and "offensive lyrics" at the same time was started by Black Sabbath. [14] Black Sabbath 's second album Paranoid (1970) "included songs dealing with personal trauma—'Paranoid' and 'Fairies Wear Boots' (which described the unsavoury side effects of drug-taking)—as well as those confronting wider issues, such as the self-explanatory 'War Pigs' and 'Hand of Doom.'" [1] Deriving from the heavy metal genre's roots in blues music, sex is another important topic—a thread running from Led Zeppelin's suggestive lyrics to the more explicit references of glam metal and nu metal bands. [15] Some themes are excluded in most heavy metal, such as optimistic, hope-filled songs, songs about romantic love or songs with a 1960s counterculture message of trying to change the world. [16] In general, metal lyrics are not lighthearted [3] and they do typically not make use of satire. [17] Music critic Robert Christgau has called metal "an expressive mode it sometimes seems will be with us for as long as ordinary white boys fear girls, pity themselves, and are permitted to rage against a world they'll never beat". [18]

Black Sabbath British heavy metal band

Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler, drummer Bill Ward, and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

Led Zeppelin English rock band

Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The band's heavy, guitar-driven sound has led them to be cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal. Their style drew from a wide variety of influences, including blues, psychedelia, and folk music.

Cream (band) 1960s British rock supergroup

Cream were a British rock power trio formed in 1966 consisting of drummer Ginger Baker, guitarist/singer Eric Clapton and lead singer/bassist Jack Bruce. The group's third album, Wheels of Fire (1968), is the world's first platinum-selling double album. The band is widely regarded as the world's first successful supergroup. In their career, they sold more than 15 million records worldwide. Their music included songs based on traditional blues such as "Crossroads" and "Spoonful", and modern blues such as "Born Under a Bad Sign", as well as more current material such as "Strange Brew", "Tales of Brave Ulysses" and "Toad".

Themes

Occult

Black metal bands have song lyrics that refer to occult subjects and death. Nokturvras.jpg
Black metal bands have song lyrics that refer to occult subjects and death.

Occult themes [19] and references to "occult religious practices" are used in metal lyrics. [20] References to Satanism and Gothic horror are present in heavy metal lyrics. [21] As an example of references to Satan, the song "Hell Awaits" by Slayer "glorif[ies] Satanic rule". [22] The metal band Cradle of Filth writes lyrics which mix "Satanism, occult" and horror movie themes. [22]

The occult is "knowledge of the hidden" or "knowledge of the paranormal", as opposed to facts and "knowledge of the measurable", usually referred to as science. The term is sometimes taken to mean knowledge that "is meant only for certain people" or that "must be kept hidden", but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends pure reason and the physical sciences. The terms esoteric and arcane can also be used to describe the occult, in addition to their meanings unrelated to the supernatural.

Satanism group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan

Satanism is a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, although a few historical precedents exist. Prior to the public practice, Satanism existed primarily as an accusation by various Christian groups toward perceived ideological opponents, rather than a self-identity. Satanism, and the concept of Satan, has also been used by artists and entertainers for symbolic expression.

Goth subculture contemporary subculture

The goth subculture is a subculture that began in England during the early 1980s, where it developed from the audience of gothic rock, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The name, goth subculture, derived directly from the music genre. Seminal post-punk and gothic rock artists that helped develop and shape the subculture include Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Joy Division, and Bauhaus. The goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify and spread throughout the world. Its imagery and cultural proclivities indicate influences from 19th-century Gothic literature and gothic horror films. The scene is centered on music festivals, nightclubs and organized meetings, especially in Western Europe.

Death metal songs involve themes of "horror, gore and environmental and social decay", including descriptions of dismemberment and "botched forensic procedures." [20] James Parker states that while the use of Hell- and underworld-oriented themes in heavy metal can be "dark and disturbing", they are "honest about human nature", and as such, listening to metal lyrics can be beneficial for listeners' mental health (he says metal lyrics can "kee[p] us sane"). [23]

Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. It typically employs heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars, played with techniques such as palm muting and tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, aggressive, powerful drumming featuring double kick and blast beat techniques, minor keys or atonality, abrupt tempo, key, and time signature changes, and chromatic chord progressions. The lyrical themes of death metal may invoke slasher film-stylized violence, religion, occultism, Lovecraftian horror, nature, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, science fiction, and politics, and they may describe extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia.

Human nature is a bundle of characteristics which humans are said to have naturally. The term is often regarded as capturing what it is to be human, or the essence of humanity. The term is controversial because it is disputed whether or not such an essence exists. Arguments about human nature have been a mainstay of philosophy for centuries and the concept continues to provoke lively philosophical debate. The concept also continues to play a role in science, with neuroscientists, psychologists and social scientists sometimes claiming that their results have yielded insight into human nature. Human nature is traditionally contrasted with characteristics that vary among humans, such as characteristics associated with specific cultures. Debates about human nature are related to, although not the same as, debates about the comparative importance of genes and environment in development.

War and violence

A key theme in heavy metal lyrics is the "pointless horror and destruction of war". [24] A number of heavy metal songs criticize war, including "War Pigs" (Black Sabbath); "One" (Metallica); "Symphony of Destruction" (Megadeth) and "Now You’ve Got Something To Die For" (Lamb of God). [24] Heavy metal has a "lyrical fixation with dark themes, including war, destruction, doom and misery." [25] Heavy metal lyrics focus on the "poetics of destruction", such as "death, mutilation [and] physical violence." [26] Ronald Pogue states that death metal songs have "…violent, aggressive and angry lyrics". [27] Later thrash metal bands' songs "question[ed] injustices such as ... warfare". [28]

Religion

Some metal songs criticize religion, such as "Death Church" by Machine Head, which "critici[zes] the hypocrisy of the Christian church." [21] Metal groups "…seek out every…avenue to assault religion", including "religious hypocrisy", specifically Christianity. [29] Metal songs use themes from the New Testament Book of Revelations which focus on apocalypse (e.g., Iron Maiden’s "Number of the Beast"). The metal subgenre with the most emphasis on apocalyptic themes is thrash metal. [30] Anti-patriarchal themes are common in metal. [31] Black metal song lyrics usually "...attack Christianity" using "…apocalyptic language" and "Satanic" elements.[ citation needed ] Bands with explicitly Christian lyrics make up a distinct subculture in the heavy metal community, sometimes called white metal in contrast to black metal.

Women

Heavy metal lyrics have been called "…callous toward women" [32] and the PMRC claimed in the 1980s that metal songs are misogynistic and that they promote rape and other violence towards women. Andrew Cope states that claims that heavy metal lyrics are misogynistic are "clearly misguided" as these critics have "overlook[ed] the overwhelming evidence that suggests otherwise." [33] Craig Hayes states that metal "clearly empowers women". [29]

Cope states that there are styles of rock music that contain misogynistic lyrics, but he says this is mostly "blues-based rock music" and "cock rock". [34] Contrary to the claims of anti-metal critics, Cope states that "metal has opened up a space for women", and there has been significant growth" in the number of female metal performers since the mid-1990s. [35] Some metal bands even have male/female co-lead vocalists (e.g., Nightwish and Lacuna Coil) and in the 2000s, mainstream metal magazines such as Terrorizer have had a number of articles and cover stories about female metal artists. [36]

Drugs and alcohol

Jack Daniel's whiskey is celebrated in heavy metal culture. Head shops sell T-shirts and belt buckles with the brand's distinctive label. Carnivore has a song about the drink, entitled "Jack Daniels And Pizza". Jack Daniels bottle.jpg
Jack Daniel's whiskey is celebrated in heavy metal culture. Head shops sell T-shirts and belt buckles with the brand's distinctive label. Carnivore has a song about the drink, entitled "Jack Daniels And Pizza".

Heavy metal lyrics make references to "substance abuse". [20] In an analysis of Black Sabbath songs from 1970 to 2013, 13% of the songs had substance use references; however, 60% of these references depicted substance use in a negative way. [37] "Contrary to the notion that heavy metal music glorifies or encourages substance use…, Black Sabbath’s lyrics…weave a cautionary tale of how persistent substance use can hijack free will, become the dominant focus" of the user's life, and lead to misery. [37]

Weinstein states that drugs are not used much as a lyrical theme in metal, because drugs do not "resonate with the power" of heavy metal music (Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf", a song that celebrates marijuana, is a notable exception). [38] Andy Bennett states that the classic era-heavy metal themes of sex, drugs and rock and roll are not present in extreme metal; in these subgenres, if songs refer to drugs, it is usually a warning about the dangers of drug use. [26] There are a number of metal songs that celebrate drinking alcohol and drunkenness, e.g., Saxon’s "Party Till You Puke"; W.A.S.P’s "Blind in Texas".; [39] AC/DC's "Have A Drink On Me"; Hellyeah's "Drink, Drank, Drunk"; Black Label Society's "Born To Booze"; Carnivore's "Jack Daniels And Pizza"; and Hammer Fight's "I Didn't Like Drinking (Until I Started Drinking)".

Rock and roll and metal

There are a number of metal songs which "praise rock or rock and roll", but these songs should not be thought of literally, as extolling the merits of early 1950s rock and roll. Weinstein states that in these metal songs, the words "rock" or "rock and roll" refer specifically to heavy metal and its important role. [40] Examples include AC/DC's "Rocker"; Judas Priest's "Rock Hard, Ride Free"; Sammy Hagar's "Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekend"; Twisted Sister's "I Believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll"; Motorhead's "Rock ‘n’ Roll"; and Ozzy's "You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll". [40]

Some songs are self-referential to the genre. Many of these songs directly praise heavy metal (or simply "metal") and celebrate its importance. Examples include Sammy Hagar's "Heavy Metal"; Judas Priest's "Metal Meltdown"; Metallica's "Metal Militia"; Anvil's "Metal On Metal"; Venom's "Black Metal"; 3 Inches Of Blood's "Metal Woman"; Exodus's "Metal Command"; and Manowar's "Die For Metal". Some songs refer to both metal and rock and roll, such as Rock Goddess' "Heavy Metal Rock 'n' Roll".

Sexual aspects

Heavy metal lyrics contain themes about "sexual excess". [20] Some metal songs by Cannibal Corpse contain a "depiction of sexualized violence". [29] Weinstein states that while "lust and sex" are important lyrical themes for most metal bands (apart from Black Sabbath), sex is depicted as fun and "without commitments", but it is not depicted as sadistic or violent, as critics of metal lyrics often claim. Examples of sex-themed metal songs include AC/DC’s "Shoot to Thrill"; Krokus’ "Long Stick Goes Boom"; AC/DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie" (about a sex doll); Motörhead's "Fast And Loose"; and WASP's "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)". The Mentors became infamous for their sexual shock rock lyrics, most notably the song Golden Shower which had its lyrics read during the PMRC hearings. [Citation Needed]

Politics and social themes

Craig Hayes states that politics is inherent in every metal band's message; he states that while these political messages vary, they are often being a critique of "mainstream political and social mores." [29] While thrash metal bands aimed their songs at a "...similar suburban working class audience that characterized the hardcore scenes", "thrash metal musicians were much less ardent in their politics than most hardcore bands" because for thrash musicians, hardcore was too "preachy" and "message"-focused (e.g., left wing hardcore songs like Dead Kennedys' "California Uber Alles"). [28] But this does not mean that thrash bands did not have lyrics with political content; thrash bands did "question injustices such as industrial capitalism, warfare, the environment...and social control". [28] As well, lyrics in thrash metal often deal with social issues and reproach for The Establishment, using direct and denunciatory language, an approach which thrash borrowed from hardcore punk. Anti-patriarchal themes criticizing authorities and institutions are common in metal. [41]

Metal genres

Black metal

"Black metal songs are meant to be like Calvinist sermons; deadly serious attempts to unite the true believers". [42] Misanthropy, global catastrophe, war, death, destruction and rebirth are also common themes. [43] Another topic often found in black metal lyrics is that of the wild and extreme aspects and phenomena of the natural world, particularly the wilderness, forests, mountains, winter, storms, and blizzards. Black metal also has a fascination with the distant past. Many bands write about the mythology and folklore of their homelands and promote a revival of pre-Christian, pagan traditions. A significant number of bands write lyrics only in their native language and a few (such as Burzum and Arckanum) have lyrics in archaic languages such as Old Norse.

Death metal

The lyrical themes of death metal may invoke slasher film-stylized violence, [44] religion (sometimes Satanism), occultism, Lovecraftian horror, nature, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, science fiction, and politics, [45] [46] and they may describe extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, torture, rape, cannibalism, and necrophilia.

Extreme metal

According to ethnographer Keith Kahn-Harris, [47] [ page needed ] the defining characteristics of extreme metal can all be regarded as clearly transgressive: the "extreme" traits...are all intended to violate or transgress given cultural, artistic, social or aesthetic boundaries. Kahn-Harris states that extreme metal can be "...close to being...formless noise", at least to the uninitiated listener. [47] :33 He states that with extreme metal lyrics, they often "...offer no possibility of hope or redemption" and lyrics often reference apocalyptic themes. Extreme metal lyrics often describe Christianity as weak or submissive, [47] :40 and many songs express misanthropic views such as "kill every thing". [47] :40 A small number of extreme metal bands and song lyrics make reference to far-right politics; for example, the Swedish black metal band Marduk has an obsession with the Nazi Panzer tank, which can be seen in works such as Panzer Division Marduk (1999). [47] :41

Nu metal

Lyrics in nu metal songs, which may include hip hop music-style rapping, are often angry or nihilistic; [48] many of the genre's lyrics focus on topics such as pain, [49] [50] angst, [51] [50] bullying, [52] emotional issues, [52] [53] abandonment, [52] [53] betrayal, [52] and personal alienation, [49] [50] in a way similar to those of grunge. [52] [49] [50] [54] A lot of nu metal lyrics that are about these topics tend to be in a very direct tone. [53] Describing Korn's 1994 album, one reviewer stated that the "...lyrics were raw and confessional in nature, addressing themes of child sexual abuse, violence and drug use." [55] In 2000, The Guardian stated that nu metal lyrics are "...filled with doom and bitterness", "[l]ots of swearing", criticism of "the 'system'", with "[v]ery little sex, [and] no satanism." [56]

The Michigan Daily wrote about Limp Bizkit's lyrics, writing that the band "used the nu-metal sound as a way to spin testosterone fueled fantasies into snarky white-boy rap. Oddly, audiences took frontman Fred Durst more seriously than he wanted, failing to see the intentional silliness in many of his songs". [53] Dope's lyrics are usually about sex, drugs, parties, women, violence and relationships. [57] In 2013, Lucy Jones of NME stated that "a lot of nu metal lyrics...depic[t] women as mere sex objects and she states that Courtney Love declined to "perform alongside Limp Bizkit and System Of A Down" due to their allegedly sexist statements. [58] Limp Bizkit's lyrics have been described as "misogynistic", [59] such as the 2013 song "Ready to Go", with the lyrics "is that your bitch, cause she told me she’s ready to go."

However, some nu metal songs have lyrics that are about other topics. P.O.D. have used positive lyrics about promise and hope. [60] The nu metal [61] song "Bodies" by Drowning Pool is about moshing. [62] Wayne Swinny of the nu metal band Saliva said that the band's song "Badass" was "meant to be one of those 'sports anthem kind of songs'". [63] According to Josh Chesler of the Phoenix New Times , the lyrics of Deftones, who were once a nu metal band, "tend to have complex allusions and leave the songs open to many different interpretations." [64] Raw Alternative praises the lyrics on Incubus' Make Yourself (1999), noting they are not "...as angst-y as most of its [nu metal] contemporaries either, and instead takes turns into the philosophical and ethereal." [65] Michael Siebert states that a "...significant portion of the genre’s appeal was in the lyrics", with Korn and other groups dealing with "transgressive themes"; Linkin Park "...frankly address[ing] suicidal ideation and alienation"; and Slipknot and Mudvayne expressing "nihilistic rage". [66]

Power metal

Power metal's lyrical themes often focus on fantasy and mythology, camaraderie and hope, personal struggles and emotions, war and death, or combinations of the listed themes. Power metal songs focus on themes that "appeal to the listener's sense of valor and loveliness". [67]

From its earliest years, heavy metal bands have aimed at "…breaking taboos and inciting debate" with their "confronting music, themes and imagery", which is a key part of metal's "creative culture". [29] Craig Hayes acknowledges that metal lyrics have included "…hurtful, heinous and horrific ideas"; indeed, he states that "a lot of metal strives for offensiveness for the simple pleasure of misadventure", which leads to "mind-bending, degenerate and wonderfully hostile musical journeys" that provide a "purge and release" for listeners. [29] Metal lyrics contain "abundant potentially offensive material", due to "metal’s inherently transgressive nature." [29] Most of the time, metal explores transgressive themes symbolically, with the "transgression serv[ing] as a…tool of expression", as with any other artform. [29]

1980s–1990s

In the 1980s, the lyrics of heavy metal led to "panicking parents"; however, since then, "culturally, metal has lost its boogeyman" status to gangsta rap. [68] In 1985, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider was asked to defend his song Under the Blade at a U.S. Senate hearing. At the hearing, the PMRC alleged that the song was about sadomasochism and rape; Snider stated that the song was about his bandmate's throat surgery. [69] In 1986, Ozzy Osbourne was sued because of the lyrics of his song Suicide Solution . [12] A lawsuit against Osbourne was filed by the parents of John McCollum, a depressed teenager who committed suicide allegedly after listening to Osbourne's song. Osbourne was not found responsible for the teen's death. [70] In 1990, Judas Priest was sued in American court by the parents of two young men who had shot themselves five years earlier, allegedly after hearing the subliminal statement "do it" in a Priest song. While the case attracted a great deal of media attention, it was ultimately dismissed. [8]

In 1991, UK police seized death metal records from the British record label Earache Records, in an "...unsuccessful attempt to prosecute the label for obscenity". [47] :28 In 1997, the Egyptian police jailed many young metal fans and they were accused of "devil worship" and blasphemy, after police found metal recordings during searches of their homes. [47] :28

2000s

In 2012, the Norwegian metal band Taake, which was nominated for the Norwegian Spellemann Award (the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award), included allegedly anti-Muslim lyrics in their music, including the phrases "To hell with Muhammud and the Mohammedans" and their "unforgivable customs". [71] In 2013, Malaysia banned Lamb of God from performing in their country, on the grounds that the "band’s lyrics could be interpreted as being religiously insensitive" and blasphemous. [72] Specifically, the Malaysian government indicated that the band has used "excerpts from the Quran" in their lyrics. [72]

In 2014, a Russian court banned the lyrics and album covers of Cannibal Corpse on the grounds that they depict "violence, the physical and mental abuse of people and animals, murder and suicide", which the court held could "damage the mental health of minors". [73] In September 2014, a man from Kentucky who "posted the verses of the Exodus song "Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)"" on his Facebook account was "jailed and accused of terrorist threats". [74] The lyrics the man posted on Facebook read: "student bodies lying dead in the halls, a blood splattered treatise of hate / Class dismissed is my hypothesis, gun fire ends in debate." [74] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is defending the man, using a First Amendment of the Constitution of United States of America freedom of speech argument. [74]

Impacts

Alleged violent, drug-related, antisocial and occult content or impacts

Heavy metal has been the subject of critiques from "music industry watchdogs and parents’ groups for its violent, drug-related, sexual, antisocial and occult lyrics". [32] During the 1980s, the PMRC, an advocacy group which was against the alleged presence of negative themes in popular music, used music professor Joe Stuessy to testify against metal. Professor Stuessy alleged that heavy metal songs focus on violence, substance abuse, perversion, S&M, and Satanism. [10] Walser analyzed 88 metal songs' themes to determine if Professor Stuessy's claims were valid. Walser found that the themes Stuessy claimed were common in metal were actually uncommon in heavy metal songs. In Walser's analysis, the dominant theme in the 88 songs was "longing for intensity". [10] Jeffrey Arnett states that metal songs are "overwhelmingly dominated" by "ugly and unhappy" themes which express "no hope" for the future. [2]

In an experiment on aggression and heavy metal music, male college students who were exposed to violent-themed lyrics from the metal band Protest the Hero (the songs "Bloodmeat" and "Limb from Limb") behaved in a more aggressive fashion. Specifically, the students added more hot sauce to a cup of water that they believed that another person would have to drink. [75]

Perception of lyrics by listeners

Deena Weinstein states that heavy metal lyrics are "…meant to be heard rather than read" from a page. [76] Weinstein states that the "total sound" of the band in metal is more important than any of the parts, including the lead vocals. [76] Weinstein states that metal lyrics should not be interpreted literally; instead, she states that they are "figurative" and "suggestive". [77] While Weinstein states that the lead vocal part is not as important as the overall sound of the band, "Wass showed that 87% of adolescent heavy metal fans knew the lyrics to their favorite songs". [78] Similarly, Professor Hannelor found that metal fans "…listen more and know the words [of songs] better than fans of general rock music." [79]

Positive effects

Andy Bennett states that while extreme metal’s lyrical themes include "...destruction, decay and disease, disillusion, corruption through power, confusion and isolation", these themes "resonate" with the real-world challenges that young people face in modern society. [26] Bennett also states that metal lyrics can enable young people to deal with and "face the difficulties in their lives." [26] Epstein and Pratto state that "…many heavy metal songs have socially constructive lyrics" which show "…concern for the world that youth will inherit." [80]

Craig Hayes states that metal "clearly empowers women, and people of all ethnicities, sexualities and classes.." [29] Queer heavy metal fans have stated that metal lyrics "…spoke to [their] experiences of trauma, oppression and marginalization". [81] Metal is a "fantastically visceral vent" to purge frustrations and provide catharsis. [29] Josh Haun argues that "…metal lyrics are pure fantasy", so listening to violent lyrics is no different than watching a horror film. [29]

Hayes praises metal lyrics for addressing "challenging" and "contentious" issues in its lyrics, in contrast to "bland" chart-topping pop music which does not examine these serious issues. Hayes states that the challenging nature of metal lyrics "inspire discussion", as metal lyrics are "unquestioningly thought provoking". [29] Robert L. Gross states that heavy metal can be viewed as a "…musical and cultural excursion into fantasy land". [82]

A study indicated that heavy metal is a positive influence on smart children and teens; it was called "a comfort for the bright child". [83] As well, the study showed that "…intelligent teenagers often listen to heavy metal music to cope with the pressures" of being smart. [83] The study found that metal listening is not associated with delinquency and poor academic achievement. The study indicated that teen metal listeners use metal to "…help them deal with the stresses and strains of being gifted" (highly intelligent), as it acts as a "cathartic" to enable the teens to deal with alienation and "purge…negativity". [83]

Potential concerns

Epstein and Pratto state there is a risk that metal listeners may misunderstand or misinterpret song lyrics, since it is hard to hear the words in the "…complex, loud" music. Metal songs typically have powerful, heavily distorted guitars and loud, aggressive drumming, which can make it hard to hear the vocals. For example, even though Ozzy’s song "Suicide Solution" is about the "evils of alcohol", "many…listeners [incorrectly] believe the song advocates suicide." [80] A study states that young people who listen to heavy metal and some other types of rock have an "increased risk of suicide." [84] Young heavy metal fans have "more problems with school authorities and teachers" and these listeners are more likely to engage in "delinquency" and "reckless behavior" (the latter issue was also associated with listening to rap). [84] A small number of "ultranationalist black metal" bands have "…controversial far-right political opinions" [29] related to Nazism or racism.

Craig Hayes states that since metal artists constantly explore "transgressive topics" in their song lyrics and themes, there are examples of metal songs with "…sexism and misogyny" and "racism, [and] homophobia". Hayes states that as a result of this "transgressive" exploration mindset, some metal song lyrics "…will [always] be offensive to someone." [29] Gavin Russell states his concern with specific "post-millenial metalcore...splinter genres’...obsession with the punishment of women" and their lyrics, which he alleges "justify…violent misogyny". [29]

Related Research Articles

Speed metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) roots. It is described by AllMusic as "extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding" music.

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead work. The lyrics often deal with social issues and criticism of The Establishment, using direct and denunciatory language, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.

Doom metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much "thicker" or "heavier" sound than other heavy metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom. The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, who formed a prototype for doom metal with songs such as "Black Sabbath", "Children of the Grave", "Electric Funeral" and "Into the Void". During the first half of the 1980s, a number of bands from England, the United States and Sweden defined doom metal as a distinct genre.

Power metal is a subgenre of heavy metal combining characteristics of traditional heavy metal with speed metal, often within symphonic context. Generally, power metal is characterized by a faster, lighter, and more uplifting sound, in contrast with the heaviness and dissonance prevalent for example in extreme metal. Power metal bands usually have anthem-like songs with fantasy-based subject matter and strong choruses, thus creating a theatrical, dramatic and emotionally "powerful" sound. The term was first used in the middle of the 1980s and refers to two different but related styles: the first pioneered and largely practiced in North America with a harder sound similar to speed metal, and a later more widespread and popular style based in Europe, South America and Japan, with a lighter, more melodic sound and frequent use of keyboards.

Christian metal, also known as white metal, Jesus metal or heavenly metal, is a form of heavy metal music usually defined by its message using song lyrics as well as the dedication of the band members to Christianity. Christian metal is typically performed by professed Christians principally for Christians who listen to heavy metal music and often produced and distributed through various Christian networks.

A number of heavy metal genres have developed since the emergence of heavy metal during the late 1960s and early 1970s. At times heavy metal genres may overlap or are difficult to distinguish, but they can be identified by a number of traits. They may differ in terms of: instrumentation, tempo, song structure, vocal style, lyrics, guitar playing style, drumming style, and so on.

Pagan metal is a genre heavy metal music which fuses extreme metal with "the pre-Christian traditions of a specific culture or region" through thematic concept, rustic melodies, unusual instruments or archaic languages", usually referring to folk metal or black metal. The Norwegian band In the Woods... was one of the first bands commonly viewed as pagan metal. Metal Hammer author Marc Halupczok wrote that Primordial's song "To Enter Pagan" from the band's demo "Dark Romanticism" contributed to defining the genre.

<i>Metal: A Headbangers Journey</i> 2005 film by Sam Dunn

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey is a 2005 documentary film directed by Sam Dunn with Scot McFadyen and Jessica Wise. The film follows 31-year-old Dunn, a Canadian anthropologist, who has been a heavy metal fan since the age of 12. Dunn sets out across the world to uncover the various opinions on heavy metal music, including its origins, culture, controversy, and the reasons it is loved by so many people. The film made its debut at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, and was released as a two-disc special edition DVD in the US on September 19, 2006.

This is a timeline documenting the formative events in heavy metal music before 1970.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (song) single

"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is the opening title track of British heavy metal band Black Sabbath's fifth album, released in 1973.

Screaming (music) voice type

Screaming is an extended vocal technique that is mostly popular in "aggressive" music genres such as heavy metal, punk rock, and noise music. In heavy metal, the related death growl vocal technique is also popular. Intensity, pitch and other characteristics vary between different genres and different vocalists.

Death growl voice type

A death growl is a vocal style usually employed by death metal singers but also used in other heavy metal styles, such as metalcore. Death growls are sometimes criticized for their "ugliness". However, the harshness of death growls is in keeping with death metal's abrasive music style and often dark and obscene subject matter. The progressively more forceful enunciation of metal vocals has been noted from heavy metal to thrash metal to death metal.

Children of the Grave song by Black Sabbath

"Children of the Grave" is a song by Black Sabbath from their 1971 album Master of Reality. The song lyrically continues with the same anti-war themes brought on by "War Pigs" and "Electric Funeral" from Paranoid, adding in Geezer Butler's pacifist ideals of non-violent civil disobedience. Two previously unreleased versions of this song are released on the deluxe edition of Master of Reality. The first is a version with alternate lyrics, the second an instrumental version.

Heavy metal subculture

Fans of heavy metal music have created their own subculture which encompasses more than just appreciation of the style of music. Fans affirm their membership in the subculture or scene by attending metal concerts – an activity seen as central to the subculture, buying albums, in some cases growing their hair long, wearing leather jackets and t-shirts with band names and logos and most recently, by contributing to metal publications.

Heavy metal guitar

Heavy metal guitar is the use of highly-amplified electric guitar in heavy metal. Heavy metal guitar playing is rooted in the guitar playing styles developed in 1960s-era blues rock and psychedelic rock, and it uses a massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos and overall loudness. The electric guitar and the sonic power that it projects through amplification has historically been the key element in heavy metal. The heavy metal guitar sound comes from a combined use of high volumes and heavy distortion.

Heavy metal drumming

Heavy metal drumming is a style of rock music drum kit playing that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom and the United States. With roots in blues rock and psychedelic/acid rock drum playing, heavy metal drummers play with emphatic beats, and overall loudness using an aggressive performing style. Heavy metal drumming is traditionally characterized by emphatic rhythms and dense bass guitar-and-drum sound. The essence of metal drumming is creating a loud, constant beat for the band using the "trifecta of speed, power, and precision".

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