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  #1  
Old 05-02-2007, 08:26 AM
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Metal and Politics

What do you think about metal songs with political content? While some have complained around here that this is a metal discussion board, not a political discussion board, it occurs to me that metal and politics have always been intertwined. Black Sabbath has political songs (e.g., War Pigs). Iron Maiden has political songs, even early on (e.g., Run to the Hills), and certainly later (e.g., Afraid to Shoot Strangers). Metallica of course has plenty of political songs, and so does Megadeth, and Anthrax, and virtually every thrash band of any consequence. And then you have plenty of overtly activist metal bands like Rage Against the Machine, SOAD, Otep....

So what do you think? Is this as it should be, or not? I have always loved metal in part because of its spirit of resistance and opposition -- its fierce independence against authority and received wisdom. So overt political content seems to me to be an unavoidable part of metal and its surrounding culture. But I don't get the impression that all of ya'll would agree with that. So I'm asking, what do you think?


A related question is this: is it even possible for metal music to be apolitical? Or do all songs -- even escapist fantasy epics, and straightforward pro-metal anthems, and "book report" songs, and love songs, etc. -- have a significant, underlying political component?
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  #2  
Old 05-02-2007, 08:47 AM
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"The problem comes when you find harangue passing off as art. It seems to me the best art is political and you ought to be able to make it unquestionably political and irrevocably beautiful at the same time." – Toni Morrison, my emphasis.
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  #3  
Old 05-02-2007, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by zgodt View Post
What do you think about metal songs with political content? While some have complained around here that this is a metal discussion board, not a political discussion board, it occurs to me that metal and politics have always been intertwined. Black Sabbath has political songs (e.g., War Pigs). Iron Maiden has political songs, even early on (e.g., Run to the Hills), and certainly later (e.g., Afraid to Shoot Strangers). Metallica of course has plenty of political songs, and so does Megadeth, and Anthrax, and virtually every thrash band of any consequence. And then you have plenty of overtly activist metal bands like Rage Against the Machine, SOAD, Otep....

So what do you think? Is this as it should be, or not? I have always loved metal in part because of its spirit of resistance and opposition -- its fierce independence against authority and received wisdom. So overt political content seems to me to be an unavoidable part of metal and its surrounding culture. But I don't get the impression that all of ya'll would agree with that. So I'm asking, what do you think?


A related question is this: is it even possible for metal music to be apolitical? Or do all songs -- even escapist fantasy epics, and straightforward pro-metal anthems, and "book report" songs, and love songs, etc. -- have a significant, underlying political component?
I basically agree with everything you said in this post (except I wouldn't call Rage, SOAD or Otep metal, but that's almost irrelevant here).

And you're definitely on to something with that last part. Take the whole pagan/viking theme for example--instead of using the old cliche of Satan (which Venom basically beat to death as soon as they instated it) as an expression of rebellion, later bands (Bathory being more or less the first) used ideas about paganism, war as a virtue, strength/honor etc. etc. as an expression against common modern ways of thinking. I've never been an all-out folk-metal guy myself (though I do love and appreciate the stuff), but I do feel that the pagan warrior sentiment more fully captures the spirit of Metal than the Satan metaphor (unless you're going for Milton's romantic Satan, who is, well, metal as fuck). But more bands are concerned about virgin sacrifices and pentagrams, which is unfortunate.
  #4  
Old 05-02-2007, 09:10 AM
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And I think the main reason why it became law to keep politics off of here is because it always, always degenerates into people just screaming at each other about what they're very convinced is true, regardless of how full of shit they are. It's just not worthwhile, so it's better to keep it off altogether.
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:14 AM
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And I think the main reason why it became law to keep politics off of here is because it always, always degenerates into people just screaming at each other about what they're very convinced is true, regardless of how full of shit they are. It's just not worthwhile, so it's better to keep it off altogether.
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:15 AM
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A related question is this: is it even possible for metal music to be apolitical?
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Old 05-02-2007, 10:26 AM
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  #8  
Old 05-02-2007, 11:04 AM
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I don't know if every song is political, certainly not overtly so, but I think putting politics into music often makes it more interesting lyrically.

When it comes right down to it, though, it's completely irrelevant what they're singing about if they can't write a decent song.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:35 AM
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  #10  
Old 05-02-2007, 11:58 AM
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There was an editorial in our university newspaper several weeks back by the typical Muslim-bashing, gun-loving, Bush-voting editorialist that usually opines about how the rest of us "don't get us" and "want America to lose" about music and politics. Not surprisingly he wrote a long diatribe about how Beethoven wasn't political, and thus no other music should be too. He urged artists' to consider their legacies: nobody will care about your politics when you're dead, so why bother now and potentially alienate people? Every single example of political music he included were those typically flagged as “liberal” or “left leaning” leaving me to feel he could’ve better summed up his editorial as: It’s only okay if I agree with it.

However, the quote I posted earlier is from an article by Toni Morrison I did a brief presentation on a few weeks ago (we read Jazz in one of my classes) and I brought up the editorial and we talked about that in relation to the quote.

My own thoughts are this: Be political, if you want to. The argument that you should consider your legacy is, frankly, retarded. Why do I care what people think of me when I’m dead? No offense, but if I write a political song I couldn’t care less if people refuse to listen to it in 50 years solely because they disagree with it. If it’s something political that motivates you to create then by all means it should be expressed. Music – art – is about passion, and if what you’re passionate about involves politics, then why shouldn’t you go for it?

I can understand Morrison’s point about “harangue” however, but that’s a hard one. One person’s harangue, might not be to someone else, right? We tried to come up with some examples of harangue passing off as art. I suppose you could include forms of propaganda in there. My professor suggested that perhaps some of Ayn Rand’s work could be considered harangue (I think I would be inclined to agree.)

Bottom line: I think any and all forms of art should be political if that’s what the creator has in mind.
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