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Metal is the Devil’s music?

Metal is the Devil’s music?

Metal is not the Devil’s music! Ok? Are we all clear on that? There is no such thing as the Devil’s music. All music is created by humans and by that logic (depending on what religion you adhere to) all music is created by god. Having said that, there is a clear and undeniable connection between Satan and metal music that cannot exclusively be chalked up to religious fundamentalists just making that assumption. To find out why that is we have to go a bit further back, before metal, to the advent of rock and roll (or even further to jazz and blues).

What all these genres had in common since their beginning is an underlying message of rebellion, nonconformity and individualism. Now, anytime a youth culture butts heads with the established mainstream and goes out of it’s way to be as different as possible from the previous generation it is bound to be satanized (pun very much intended) and called immoral, twisted and somehow disrespectful to the culture that came before. It’s human nature, I believe, for youth to perceive flaws (existent or not) in the environment they were born into and rebel against them, while the old guard sees everything said youth does as the bastardization of their values and often the end of civilization as we know it.

Now imagine what happens when the mainstream in question is overtly religious and the culture it is stigmatizing preaches nontradition and freedom of thought but also has messages of vice, lust and sexuality. Why of course it is labeled as the Devil’s music! That was the fate of rock and roll back in the day. Sure, it did inspire young people to perhaps question their traditional religious upbringing and sure, it did have some messages that could be perceived as antichristian but any mention of the Devil had absolutely nothing to do with Satan himself (for example Elvis Presley's “You’re the devil in disguise” is clearly a love song and not a shout out to Baphomet). In fact, looking at it from today’s perspective, any perceived connection between old school rock and roll and devil worship, whether it was justified or not, is simply laughable. Even if you believe that rock and roll was the Devil’s music and promoted Satanism, it seems like child’s play when compared to the openly antireligious or satanic bands we have today.
Nevertheless, it was because of this label of “Devil’s music”that rock and roll garnered that the themes of Satanism, occultism and generally dark imagery bled into metal music. When seen in the light of such ostracization in the 50’s and 60’s, the open use of satanic symbolism by metal bands that came after seems more like keeping in tradition with their rock roots or even provocation (giving the proverbial middle finger to religion and the establishment) as opposed to any truly held beliefs. In fact, for a lot of bands that is exactly what it was. A way to appeal to their audience (predominantly angsty, misunderstood teenagers), a way to stand out… in one word, a gimmick.

A good example of that is Black Sabbath, a band whose name, coincidentally, was taken from a horror movie and had nothing to do with their religion. Their first few album covers had clear occult and antichristian symbolism and their lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne, is known for sporting long black robes on stage, wearing an inverted cross and biting the heads off bats. According to the band, it turns out this was never intentional and the reason for it, besides Ozzy being batshit insane (again, pun very much intended), was that their music label wanted to promote them as such, as an “occult” band, in order to appeal to their target audience and sell more records. This continued and continues to this day with the casual use of satanic symbols, demons, pentagrams and the like having even less to do with actual satanism (or even a marketing ploy to elicit shock value) and more to do with following a set pattern of accepted and fan approved imagery that has become intrinsically tied to the metal subculture. If you take the time to read the lyrics of most metal bands, even ones who actually use satanic symbols, you will see that more often than not they will have nothing to do with religion, let alone Satan, and are usually messages against authority, against war and oppression, songs about some sociopolitical issue, songs inspired by fantasy and mythology (but not the underlying religion) or songs addressing the psychological and emotional woes we all feel at times. At times, they don’t even touch upon such grim subjects and have open messages of peace, love and understanding that you wouldn’t expect to be delivered via tasty riffs and bestial growling.

All that I’ve written so far applies to most metal bands and metal music in general but, of course, seeing as how metal has become such a massive clusterfuck of musical styles over the years, what with it’s hundreds of genres, subgenres and subsubgenres, there are bound to be exceptions. Namely, there is a good chunk of bands (mostly of the Norwegian black metal persuasion) that are truly and unapologetically satanists. They are the ones who throw pig’s blood on their audiences, cut themselves on stage, defame crosses and offer blood sacrifices during their performances… and on their days off, burn the occasional church or two. All things considered though, and especially considering the widespread perception of metal as being somehow tied to the Devil, the truly satanic metal bands are a minority.

On the other side of this spectrum there are metal bands who are deeply religious and don’t shy away from showing it in their lyrics and their performances. There’s a whole genre called white metal or “christian metal” that is pretty much all about worshiping god, loving Jesus and praying for salvation. The funny thing about such religious bands is that, like with the bands who brandish satanic symbols, most people don’t really care about the religion of any given musician. If metal fans like the music a band is playing, they will listen to it. If they don’t, they won’t. The underlying faith of said bands members will usually have little to no consequence.
There are, of course, examples of other religions finding their way into metal music, from Islam and Judaism to Buddhism and paganism (so much paganism!) but by and large most metal bands are secular in nature, satanic symbolism notwithstanding. Considering the mostly uniform antiauthoritarian and individualistic nature of metal culture, even if a band touches upon religion in its lyrics, (excluding the truly satanic/christian/spiritual ones) the odds are it’s going to be a rant against organized religion and not a rebuke or praise of the faith itself… because what is organized religion if not the ultimate form of conformity.

On a personal note, I’d like to point out a paradoxical phenomena where, in spite of its philosophy of “Fuck the mainstream! I’ll listen to whatever I like and nobody will tell me what’s appropriate and what isn’t”, the metal community sometimes has this ugly tendency of shiting all over something they don’t deem worthy… be it a different genre of music or, more often, other genres of metal that they don’t like for one reason or another. This hypocrisy is best illustrated with examples of religious bands, most often Christian, catching flack for their beliefs. Being mocked, ridiculed and called stupid for believing in some form of deity or higher power by the same people who say nothing to other bands who are self proclaimed satanists or pagans.

Why? Because believing in Satan (a byproduct of Christianity by the way… one can’t worship the devil without also believing in god) or Odin is somehow more “metal”? Well... If I’m being perfectly honest, it kinda is, but still. It’s stupid, inconsistent and hypocritical. Alas, this too, I believe, is a part of human nature and the tribal mentality that is hard coded into our genes so much so that it rears its ugly head even in the predominantly open minded and free spirited community that is the metalhead subculture.

Bottom line, metal isn’t the Devil’s music and never really was. Even with today’s openly satanic bands, even with today’s explicit lyrics that would make a 1950’s censors head explode, even with today’s stage performances that would make Ozzy blush I would posit that today metal is even less satanic than it was in its infancy. For one, I believe this because we are just too used to it… the shock value is gone. We are so desensitized to sex, violence, blood and gore that all the things that had given the title “Devil’s music” to metal bands of yore now seem quaint and cute when compared to the time we live in. Just watch an episode of Mr. Pickles, a freaking cartoon, and you’ll see what I mean.

Another, more important, thing is that with the rise of secularism in the world each following generation is stepping further and further away from religious fundamentalism and thus rendering religious/satanic symbolism in metal more and more meaningless. Making it more of a brand than a serious hot topic issue. Consequently, you have a growing number of people who consider themselves christian but might listen to Rotting Christ because they like their sound, you have satanists who are increasingly becoming akin to philosophers, focusing more on the aspects of free will that satanism teaches and less on its religious undertones and you have pagans who would rather advocate getting back in touch with nature and embracing and older, simpler way of life than they would preach about gods who bang hammers to make lightning or what have you.

Ah, what a great time to be a metalhead!

Ghazghkull Journal author

Posted: 1 year 1 week ago by Jazzy #2915
Jazzy's Avatar
:woohoo: Nomen, you nailed it :D I laughed so much to this caricature I spilled my coffee :lol:
Posted: 1 year 1 week ago by Nomen #2907
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Oh, well...