Thought of the Week: Heavy Metal Silliness

Iron Maiden, in all their aging glory.

Iron Maiden, in all their aging glory.

I came across a fascinating tidbit yesterday about a catholic school and its radio station. Certain heavy metal bands, it seems, are not allowed to be played or mentioned because of the moniker the band members chose to take. Quite a few of them are pretty vulgar and I won’t repeat them here, but some just made me laugh, because they are actually pretty popular – Alien Sex Fiend, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth, and even Heaven Shall Burn. If metal is completely not your bag, baby, then bear in mind that Alien Sex Fiend (completely not metal, but whatever) reached #3 in the UK charts with E.S.T. (Trip to the Moon) in 1984; Cannibal Corpse had a glorious cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and even Heaven Shall Burn write songs mainly about their disgust with racism and injustice.

Some of the most notorious songs are – notoriously – misunderstood by a surprisingly wide demographic.

However…it isn’t like we don’t bring it on ourselves (I include metal bands and fans together, because honestly there isn’t one without the other). Band names like Cannibal Corpse and Revolting Cocks (a side project of Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen; remember Ministry? Every Day is Halloween?) are, frankly, absurd. Granted, there is a strong element of provocation in heavy metal, which is one of the reasons the stricter religious sects are often so put out; religion is often a target of condemnation in metal lyrics (note: religion, not god). No one really likes to be called a hypocrite, and this sort of cynicism abounds in metal.

Some of the most notorious songs are – notoriously – misunderstood by a surprisingly wide demographic. Marilyn Manson was famously excoriated after the Columbine shootings for his song Get Your GunnGet Your Gunn, of course, is about the murder of physician and abortionist David Gunn in 1993 by a pro-life activist, and not, in fact, a suggestion to go out and get gunns. Even heavy metal choir boys Iron Maiden are often called out for the well-known The Number of the Beast, which naturally is about the fear of evil, and the hypocritical actions people take to protect themselves. The members of Iron Maiden are in fact outspoken christians.

Heavy metal has been a part of my life (has more or less defined it, in fact) since my early teens, and while there is a lot of ‘serious’ stuff out there, there are also some examples of spectacular silliness. Take German New York power metal band Manowar:

Just a tad disturbing, wouldn't you agree?

Just a tad disturbing, wouldn’t you agree?

These guys wrote a heavy metal song about playing heavy metal, and in an impressive display of sheer pig-headed stupidity managed to garner themselves three records for loudest band in the world (in 1984, 1994 and 2008), reaching as high as 139 dB. In case you’re wondering, this is about the equivalent of standing with your ear to the engine of a 747 during takeoff. Good stuff.

Rob Halford – none more metal.

Rob Halford – none more metal.

We even look silly, with our unkempt long hair, leather underwear and inability to appear even remotely appropriate for a job interview. We like to shock people, which is probably because we were all shy nerds in high school and want to get back at all the sliced-white-bread twerps that grew up to have 2.4 children, 2 cars, a dog and a six-figure salary.

So yes, catholic school – ban our music. I wouldn’t want Goatwhore playing in my own child’s school either, even though I blast in the car on the way to work every day (not really – I’d actually never heard of them). In fact, bravo for allowing heavy metal to air on their radio station at all. A lot of ‘non-denominational’ schools wouldn’t be so brave. Now if only we had some actual catholic heavy metal bands; Avenging Pope would be awesome.