Denver Journalist Calls Metallica “the Perfect Soundtrack” for “Totalitarian Violence” and “Far-Right Republican Leadership”

  • Axl Rosenberg

Kyle Harris, the cultural editor for Denver media outlet Westword, has reviewed Metallica’s recent concert at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and his review is… well… odd.

See, Harris repeatedly focuses on his political interpretation of the band… an interpretation which seems to fundamentally misunderstand Metallica’s work and possibly art in general.

Here are some key excerpts:

“In a stadium so vast, the whole thing felt like a rally concocted by Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph of the Will. Being there helped me imagine how thousands gathered after Hitler came to power, wowed by a daddy figure who offered up nothing but charisma, hate and brutality.”

“The band’s shock-and-awe style comes off as ideologically muscular, the perfect soundtrack for far-right Republican leadership. Coincidentally, the hyper-manly band last showed up in Denver nine years ago, toward the end of W.’s warmongering presidency, and now, this year, early on in Trump’s.”

“Perhaps the outfit’s stadium show provided an alternative to violent political machination. Still, when the band broke out ‘Master of Puppets,’ tens of thousands of us belted ‘obey your master.’ It was pretty creepy.”

It almost seems like, prior to this concert, Harris had never experienced any Metallica before, doesn’t it? (And I’m not even talking about the fact that he praises “Hammett’s hair-metal sex appeal.) Even if Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett (especially) weren’t so vocal about their anti-Trump feelings, and even if James Hetfield is as conservative as we suspect he may be, the band has repeatedly taken a clear stance against tyranny, war, and groupthink for the entirety of their existence. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” takes its name from Ernest Hemingway’s devastating novel about the horrors of World War I, and features lyrics which would surely demoralize any soldier (“On they fight, for they’re right, yes, but who’s to say?/ For a hill, men would kill, why? They do not know”). “Disposable Heroes”… well, it’s called “Disposable Heroes,” so that’s pretty cut and dry, but in case you’re daft, it also features lyrics like “You will die when I say.” And “One,” the MTV mega-hit that launched the band into mainstream consciousness and set them down the path to superstardom, was inspired by Dalton Trumbo’s unmistakably anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun. The video for the song even prominently features footage from the film adaptation of that book.

Even Metallica’s most recent release, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, includes a track, “ManUNkind,” which is clearly railing against violent religious fundamentalism:

Awaiting for Adam’s return
Smiling as we watch it burn

I’ve become

Hostage to my mind
Left myself behind
Blind lead blind
Quest to find
Faith in man(un)kind

These do not seem like the tenets of a band that supports guys like Donald Trump and George W. Bush, do they?

Even “Don’t Tread On Me,” the band’s only truly jingoistic song (which wasn’t played during their Denver set, by the way), has a hint of irony: it opens with a piece from the musical West Side Story called “America,” during which a group of Puerto Rican immigrants debate whether or not the U.S. is all it’s cracked up to be.


I suppose you could argue that “Battery” has fascistic undertones… but the band didn’t play “Battery” at this particular show. Even “Seek & Destroy” would be a better option if you were trying to prove that the band’s music has right-wing subtext… but Harris chose instead to cite “Master of Puppets,” a song about addiction.

Which brings me to the bit about Harris maybe not quite grasping how art works. Read the final two paragraphs of his piece:

“There is something ethically ambivalent about Metallica that raises a profound question: Does the band embrace or repudiate state violence? Is the music a deeply rebellious act or just another injection of speed into the arm of a violent system?

“Metallica forces us to ask those questions, to feel the violence. But it’s not up to an artist to decide what his or her music produces. It’s up to us.”

Well… duh. Isn’t all interpretation of any work of art out of the artist’s hands once its been consumed by an audience? Isn’t that, like, just how art works?

And that’s not even getting into the more insidious subtext of Harris’ assertion — that art cannot explore any point of view other than that held by the artist. It goes without saying that this would limit artists to a ridiculous degree, and a countless number of metal bands would no longer to be able to perform vast swaths of their catalogue… fuck, death metal would pretty much be out of business altogether. It’s the kind of thinking which leads people to believe that Marduk are Nazis and not just a Satanic band discussing a political group whose members are most certainly burning in Hell.

Of course, art can also have politically questionable subtext, as we’ve seen. But there’s zero evidence that this is the case with Metallica. And if nothing else, you’d think Harris would know that the band’s members are also part of the Illuminati who helped murder Chris Cornell so they could spread their liberal, homosexual agenda (or something).

You can read Harris’ review in its entirety here. Let’s hope he’s not assigned to cover Slayer next, because WHOO BOY!, that would go poorly.

Thanks: D DM

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