Saturday, November 7, 2009

Philosophy and Metal: Nothing But Shame

Aside from riding a lot and listening to terrible music i also go to university. There I am doing philosophy. Naturally i find the topic both interesting and terribly hard.
So when two of my interests combine, I always pay attention (cycling and philosophy never go together because pros are too busy saying banal things like: "I gave it 110% but never pulled through with the goods", and amateur's are too busy emulating said pros).
I came across an article on regarding the 'Philosophy of Metal', which can be found here:

Aside from being over-blown, verbose, and largely wrong, it was a very interesting read. The idea that metal might have a philosophical back-bone, other than drunk men wanting to compose 'sweet riffs', was kind of encouraging. It makes metal seem more like an artistic movement, rather than an anthises to one.

I became discouraged however when i saw this picture:

Aside from being a terrible band, I am sure that Cannibal Corpse has no philosophical backing. The article pointed this out, quite rightly. I am sure that some bands do. Many bands have a pseudo philosophical approach, such as Morbid Angel, but they are about as comprehensible as CC vocals.

The idea that heavy metal started out as a reaction to the hippy music of the 1960's seems too easy an explanation, as it doesn't take into account the punk and hardcore that was so important for its development. There is also the issue that because metal is so broad it encompasses far too many views and espouses to many opinions for it to have a unified philosophy per se. To make claims that metal is the 'strong mans' music, and then relating to Nietzsche and his nihilism seems to miss the point. Metal, if anything, is often the bastion for those who crave belonging and find it in the metal sub-culture. These are the people who are 'metal heads' but clearly don't understand it beyond a superficial, horns in the air way. Beyond that, though it is common to equate metal with depression and despair, i have often found metal to be life affirming. Not simply in the way i listen to it, but also in what the music is trying to achieve. Thrash bands were politicallyy aware (at least for a time), black metal bands explored naturalism in both the human world and in nature, death metal was often not without a social voice, etc, etc.

I have no doubt that much of what the article says is correct in some ways, but to me it seemed overly simplistic, and missed some of metal's finer, more subtle points. Metal, if anything, is a cross section of both social consciousness and complete ignorance expressed in a musical form that is often unpallatable. I have always been convinced that the difference between a good and a bad metal band is the substance behind the music itself, whether it be through good or interesting lyrics, or their actions in life.

When all is said and done though, nothing describes the tingle down the spine when you hear a kick ass riff.

Maybe that is the true philosophy of metal: the animalisitc reaction we all get when we first hear it, before we have a chance to falsely intellectualise what it essentially so much noise.

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