Noisey Vs. MetalSucks: Metal Can Never Be Too Extreme
Welcome to Noisey Vs. MetalSucks, a bi-weekly column in which the staff of Noisey and the staff of MetalSucks will engage in vigorous academic debate concerning some of extreme music’s most relevant topics of the day. For this week’s edition, MetalSucks’ own Axl Rosenberg does battle with Noisey’s Jon Wiederhorn on the subject of whether or not metal can ever be TOO extreme. Read Axl’s position below, then head over to Noisey to check out Jon’s counter-argument. Enjoy!
The way I see, there are sides from which this issue must be tackled:
No, lyrics absolutely cannot ever get too extreme. To quote the perpetually-wise South Park, “Either everything’s okay to make fun of, or nothing is.” To that same end — either everything’s okay for lyrical subject matter, or nothing is. For better or worse, that’s how freedom of speech works, because the subject of what is or is not offensive to say is a completely subjective one. Of course, it’s your right to be offended by certain lyrics, but that doesn’t mean that the bands can’t write ’em.
Besides, it’s not as though metal fans are taking these lyrics serious en masse. Remember how shocked we were when someone’s throat was slit at that Deicide show a couple of weeks back? That’s because such acts of abhorrent real-life violence at a death metal show are actually very unusual. In his book Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman asserts that these morbid lyrics provide a healthy outlet for people who tend to fixate on death and violence, and I think he’s right. They may seem monstrous on stage and their lyrics may come across as depraved, but half the world’s most revered death metal musicians are total pussycats.
So what argument is there to be made that metal’s lyrics can get out of hand? There isn’t one!
Which brings us to —
If you ever read Albert Mudrian’s amazing book about the formation of death metal and grindcore, you will read some variation on this quote at least fifteen times: “We just wanted to make the fastest, loudest music we could.” Such was the motivation for the young dudes in bands like Napalm Death, Death, and other bands that have slightly-less-direct references to death in their name… and, eventually, black metal bands began to respond to what they felt was a lack of appropriate extremity in metal music. So while such mission statements may seem both naive and immature, that doesn’t change the fact that such mission statements changed and influenced the music we love forever, and, many of us would argue, ultimately for the better.
And metal has only kept going: I doubt that the Buffalo teenagers who started Cannibal Corpse could ever have foreseen bands like Portal and Psyopus, bands that push the limits of what music is and can be, and bands whose work will very quickly clear a room full of respectable squares.
Now, again: I’m not saying you have to like every band that takes extreme extreminess to the next level. I totally understand why some people don’t like bands such as Anaal Nathrakh and Graf Orlock; their music is, by its very design, a challenging listen, perhaps even an acquired taste, and almost certainly the kind of thing for which one has to be in the mood. (The word “niche” almost feels like an understatement.) But metal HAS to keep asking “What’s next?”, or it will grow stagnant. Somewhere in the world right now there’s a kid listening to Decapitated and thinking “Man, this stuff is too melodic!”, and someday, that kid is going to start a band that could take metal to the next level, that could, in effect, be the next Decapitated.
Finally, we must consider —
Extreme are awesome. They’re talented musicians who can write great songs and incorporate a wide range of elements which make their music seem fun and fresh even more than two decades after their heyday. And Nuno Bettencourt is a guitar god in every sense of that title — there’s a reason the Rihannas of the world pay him the big bucks to record and tour with them. Young, up and coming bands don’t have to sound like Extreme to learn from Extreme. Simply put: no, metal can never get too Extreme.