Friday, February 17, 2012

Meanings behind the Metal.

During the 80's there was a strong heavy rock and glam rock presence with the likes of Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, but it also saw the emergence of more extreme branches of heavy metal, including that of Thrash Metal. The most notable thrash metal bands from the period are the big 4: Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer.

Well known albums from the time full of political and social meaning:
  • Metallica - Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, Fistful of Metal*
  • Slayer - Reign in Blood**

*Fade to Black is about a man in prison awaiting execution. Ironically 3 men later went to prison and were killed for something they didn't do but the primary evidence against them was that they listened to the Ride the Lightning album.

SATANIC PANIC DURING THE 80'S. This in a sense has not ended because people...mainly teenagers are said to be influenced by metal and alternative music and this is what causes them to commit terrible crimes. Notably Manson has been the subject of numerous accusations of inciting violence, hate and Satanism. [See comment box for link to book on Satanic Panic and Searching for Satanism in Rock Music.]

** 'Angel of Death' on the album Reign of Blood is about the Nazi doctor named Josef Mengele who did horrendous things during WWII. (Slayer were then accused of being Nazi sympathisers) 'Behind the Crooked Cross' is about wars fought in the name of God. "After a life of being told "thou shall not kill" and "killing is wrong" in time of war you're told it's okay to kill the enemy for your country and for your God, even though it is still wrong." 'Mandatory Suicide' is another war based song about being drafted into the army.

Released on July 2nd 1986 as the first single from the album of the same name, I've chosen Metallica's Master of Puppets. However because it is over 8 minutes long there was never a video made for it. James Hetfield himself confirmed the meaning of the song: "Deals pretty much with drugs. How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you're taking and doing, it's drugs controlling you." This is the bands most played song, which gives you an indication of its continued relevance today.

Lyrics can be found here:

The following website gives a brief outline as to why Thrash Metal represents the time.
It basically says that the genre came about as a result of politics and the feelings of the nation at the time because of Regan and his Reaganomics. (I think the quote below links, in a way, to Less Than Zero because the death and horror within that book and those people's lives was more real than them as individuals.)

"Death metal, originally developed for the artistic vision that when death and horror are more real than individual moralization, people rediscover life."

Metal/Rock and alternative music deals with the side of life that most would overlook or want to pretend does not exist. A prime example is the song 'Jane Says' (1987) by Jane's Addiction which was about a real person the band members knew who lived in LA and was addicted to heroin and had a man who kept harassing her. Another is 'Janie's Got A Gun' (1989) by Aerosmith which speaks of domestic violence/child abuse committed by a father and the results of the pressure. The song was written after Tyler read an article in Newsweek about gunshot victims. The lyrics of the song had to and are still altered for commercial reasons. It isn't very pleasant to hear the line "he raped an little bitty baby." [Parodied on the Daily Show...Cheneys Got A Gun...when Cheney shot Harry Whittington while on a quail hunt.]
I found one site where somebody took the song 'One' by Metallica to not just be about the soldier blown apart by a landmine but as an interpretation of the pain and isolation that people felt during the 80's.

For a metal video from today which represents some of the feelings about our society and the time we live in, I would choose Five Finger Death Punch, anything from the American Capitalist album. 'The Pride' (see below) would be ideal but as the album is new there isn't a video for it. However I have also included their first single from this album...'Under and Over it' because I still feel it represents the day and age we live in, where the media and internet today manages to spread information far and wide regardless of there being any truth in it.

"(I am) What you fear most
(I am) What you need
(I am) What you made me
(I am) The American dream
I'm not selling out
I'm buying in."

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