I'm sitting here, even as we speak, watching the video for the Disturbed song, "Stricken", and was thinking about the lack of serious heavy metal songs that take an honest look at human relationships. Most heavy metal songs, when they deal with issues of sexuality at all, tend toward the "Let's Screw" end of the spectrum (W.A.S.P.'s "Animal" being the epitome of the type; if you don't know it, check it out because I won't post it). Yet, rooted as it is in the rage and angst of young men, I have always wondered why it is that there has been so little exploration of these real and honest feelings in an art form dedicated to them.
"Stricken" is, in fact, a good example of this too-rare bird. Dealing with the honest feelings that usually come when relationships fall apart, it is far better than the, "I hate you, I hope you die" kind of thing that one can find (and can be amusing at times).
I suppose part of these musings are rooted in the fact that we are too often told that rage, deep sadness, the confusion the often accompanies loss of relationships are "negative" emotions. We have been conditioned to believe that these are "stages" through which we must pass towards an equanimity that should be, in some nebulous way, the way we "really" should feel. Except, of course, rage, mourning, confusion are also real. More than that, they are usually more honest reactions to our lives than equanimity. Part of the popularity of heavy metal stems in part from an embrace of rage and confusion that "mainstream" society deems "negative". I know that, for my part, my attraction for the genre is rooted there. There is little that is more satisfying at times than to put on some music that is so loud and aggressive it blots out thought, allowing these other feelings to come forward. Far safer than buying a gun and either eating it or using it someone else, or even kicking the dog, it does little more than annoy the spouse and neighbors, while giving me a few minutes of freedom for these feelings.
I also think part of the mainstream disdain for heavy metal is rooted not in disgust at its alleged simplicity, its maxed-out volume, or some kind of vague, aesthetic disdain for such a prole art form. Rather, I think it is fear. Fear of the rage, fear, and confusion that lies at the heart of the music. Those uncomfortable which such "negative" thoughts and feelings are repelled by a music that revels in them, tries to bring them to the surface, and in a really good heavy metal concert, allows such thoughts, actions real free reign.
Songs such as "Stricken", which deal with the confusion after the end of a relationship; Black Sabbath's "I", which confronts the confusing lack of identity too many of us, but certainly adolescent males, feel head on; Metallica's "Fade to Black", perhaps the single best song to capture the feelings of a suicide; Dream Theater's "Blind Faith" on God's silence and absence, and the resulting refusal to accept it without question - these are just a few examples in that far-too rare breed, the thoughtful, serious heavy metal song.