A headline like “Tori Amos Issues Challenge to Metal Bands” is hard to ignore.  So I went over to to read this interview with Ms Amos, and this is what she had to say:

“Well, look, sometimes you don’t know how music affects people. I embrace that because I don’t think that just because I talk about emotional stuff that it’s not mother—er stuff. I’ll stand next to the hardest f—ing heavy metal band on any stage in the world and take them down, alone, by myself. Gauntlet laid down, see who steps up. See who steps up! I’ll take them down at 48. And they know I will. Because emotion has power that the metal guys know is just you can’t touch it. Insanity can’t touch the soul. It’s going to win every f—ing time.”

Before we get too riled up, it’d be smart to remember that homegirl has a new album to promote, and will spout any number of ridiculous soundbites to sell some plastic. Also, the offending paragraph showed up at the end of the interview, and feels like an offhand remark. Metal news sites went apeshit over it, though, so here we are. I sincerely doubt that Ms. Amos really intends to stand onstage next to Iron Maiden (or Manowar!) and “blow them off the stage.” Unless she’s got about sixteen Orange amps to blast her whispery, piano-driven poem-songs through and 4/5 of Vader providing backup, she ain’t gonna have much luck.

To take her slightly seriously for a minute, though, there is something worth gleaning from her inane rambling. The most glaring problem here is the implication that metal bands and emotions are two mutually exclusive entities. This (mangled) sentence – “Because emotion has power that the metal guys know is just you can’t touch it. Insanity can’t touch the soul.” – is really quite ignorant, especially given than Ms. Amos has at least a working knowledge of metal (at least enough to know that covering “Raining Blood” will intrigue at least a few Slayer fans and bring ’em over to the, er, light side). To say that there is no emotion within the boundaries of heavy metal is beyond absurd, and is a sad reinforcement of just how little mainstream society “gets” it. Yes, death metal is predominantly a lyrical bloodbath — but not all of it. Black metal does spend most of its time worshipping black twilight and embracing anti-human, nihilistic hate — but not all of it. Look at Bathory. Look at Opeth, Katatonia, Mayhem, Type O Negative… look at Warning, Altar of Plagues, Worship, Corrupted, Revenge, Amebix… look at fucking NEUROSIS.

Hey, Tori. When I was an angry, pierced-up kid in high school, and my mother was lying in a hospital for months and months, drifting in and out of comas, with nothing but a lifetime of brain damage to look forward to — what do you think I was listening to? Was it your records — your artfully angsty, gentle, dreamy little songs? No. You know what cheered me up and made me feel strong, made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and convinced me that there was a bigger world outside of my six-hundred-odd person town in the middle of nowhere? A world worth living for, fighting for? It was not you, Tori. It was black metal. I couldn’t talk to my friends about how I was feeling, about the howling void of bleakness, hopelessness, and sadness that threatened to consume me. The harshness, the raw, agonizing pain and aggression and sheer misanthropic ferocity that shone through Leviathan, Xasthur, Darkthrone, Cult of Daath, Kult ov Azazel — THAT made sense to me then. And I’d be willing to bet that I wasn’t the only one. You’ve got a pretty voice, that’s much is true, and I’m sure your lyrics resonate with and empower some people… but they do absolutely nothing for me. Nothing. Where are those all-powerful emotions? That soul? That fire? Your music is not universal, Tori. You are not all-knowing, or even particularly interesting. Turn down the ego, slow your roll, and back off.

This is why it genuinely bothers me when outsiders deride and scoff at metal as nothing but angry grunting and tuneless screaming. Metal saved my life. Metal has saved many lives. Listening, playing, writing, and being involved with this scene has given a lot of lonesome, angry, confused, fucked-up and otherwise “different” kids something to hold onto, to belong to, to count on. This shit MATTERS.

This “challenge” was a publicity stunt, one that will be forgotten by the end of the day and buried at the bottom of Twitter feeds where it belongs, but the ignorance and condescension it radiates are things that we have dealt with, and will continue dealing with, for a long time coming.

But hey, we can handle it.


Kim Kelly (or Grim Kim, if we’re being formal) scribbles for a number of sweet metal publications (Terrorizer, Brooklyn Vegan, Invisible Oranges, Hails & Horns, and tons more), promotes wicked records with Catharsis PR, and road dogs for your favorite bands. Keep up with her exploits & numerous band recommendations on Twitter, or peep her blog Ravishing Grimness.

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