Many people think about metal like a savage bland and aggressive musical style with no substance. However this could not be further from the truth. Sure some bands out there are making music about hollow unimportant everyday stuff. But many bands use their stage to share their opinion and view about many important world matters.
Everyone likes some "I Fucking Hate You" by Godsmack every once in a while. It can be a nice way to channel all that frustration. And what genre is more suited for that then Metal. Yes with a Capital, because this genre is just so awesome. And we wouldn't be basing an entire webzine around it if it wasn't. Anyway, back on track.
There are hundreds of bands out there singing about many social and political issues. Often dedicating songs or entire albums about it. Many serious metalfans already know this. If you've ever looked up lyrics of NoFX or Rage Against The Machine. You'll clearly see they are quite much anti-capitalism for instance, anti-system might be a better term.
So let's explore some of them and the themes they address. Hop along and lets venture into the wild!
We have the usual suspects that a lot of us know already, the big bands. Take System Of A Down for example. They handle Armenian Genocide, corruption, the media, and activism. The one and only Boss, Bruce Springsteen has made an album donning picks and torches for the evil corrupt Bankers on "Wrecking Ball". Neil Young is livid with anger rallying about the destructivity of GMO's in "The Monsanto Years".
Those last 2 artists are not really metal but still use their music to make people aware. So it's safe to take them into this discussion. Then we still have the plainly obvious "American Idiot" by Greenday which delivers sneering critics on the Iraqi war and George Bush. By now it should be clear that these type of subjects are not exclusively reserved for the anarchistic punkers among us. But still, fuck the system!
So lets expand this much further and point to some really big truly metal ones. We got Corporate Avenger who sing about the evils of religion and the English settlers atrocities against the Native Americans. The band also sings about police corruption, and the horrors of organized religion.
The beloved and befamed Soulfly & Sepultura. Song themes include excessive use of force, police states, bio-technology, ecology and native tribes. Lamb of God is motivated by the greed and hypocrisy of politicians. Almighty Megadeth, Having a frontman who describes himself as a political and environmental activist is a plus at getting your band on this list. The band has penned songs pointing out deficiencies in the United Nations for its' many failures to act in times of crisis.
OTEP is a band that preaches self-awareness. The band levels a sonic fury at the Bush administration and war machine along with the dismantling of our civil freedoms.
Inspired by the Anarcho-punk movement, Napalm Death spewed it's toxins at anyone and anything in power. The bands political leanings tend to skew towards the leftist socialists. We also have Belgian homegrown talent like Belgian Associality and Fleddy Melculy. The first one is old skool punk with short no bullshit songs. And the second one takes more like a metalcore approach with subjects of various nature all involving critics on society. For example the hyping of metal subculture by hipster people wearing a "tshirt of Metallica", or criticism on the inability of BMW & Audi drivers to use their turn indicators.
So you have this whole string of metalbands who see many wrongs. And there are most definitely hundreds more bands that do this too. But these are the most notable and popular ones. Some bands take it a small step further and base their repertoire around ecological ideologies. And here we delve into the dark obscure world of black & death metal. Stereotyped as a hotbed of satanic, occult and hellraising fury as the genre was known for during their popularity explosion. This was not often true. It started out as a more introvert bleak melancholic view of humanity trampling over nature, religion and things like that. It grew into satanic goat slaughtering. But an understream developed of more serious bands raising awareness around ecology and nature. And inspiring action on that awareness. One of them is French pride Gojira. They are growling two decades about the planet's impending environmental collapse.
Other Green” black metal bands include Wolves in the Throne Room, from Washington; Velvet Cacoon and Agalloch, both from Oregon; self-declared “eco-metal” band Avakr, from Indiana; and Panopticon, from Kentucky. And they feel they have more than enough reason to mourn the slow death of our environment at the hands of profit-driven interests.
Some are even coining new names for this kind of ecologically driven metal fury. Dark Eco Metal, Green Metal(no kidding, especially after you consider Dark Metal, Black metal Unwhite metal, etc) or Environ Metal. These are all very young deep underground bands so this might be the start of a complete new genre. Much like we saw the rise of the pagan/viking genre 2 decades ago. Some bands even take very hardline positions.
“If you listen to black metal, but don’t know what phase the moon is in, or what wildflowers are blooming, then you have failed,” said drummer Aaron Weaver of Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room. The band takes a hardline approach toward the need for environmental conscientiousness through music.
There's this band, Cherem, there also Oi Polloi, you could try Deadlock, Heaven Shall Burn, and indirectly SOAD. Did you know that they printed their last 2 CDs in recycled paper and with vegetal ink? Also supposedly, Queensrÿche's album The Warning is about the destruction of the environment through mankind's reliance on technology.
psychedelic & spirituality
Now here is the part we really venture in other worlds. The rabithole will go deep on this one. It is a known fact many of the biggest musicians ever used mind altering substances like hennep, weed, shrooms and other means. It is no surprise some bands tend to base their music, lyrics or both on these topics. Often also exploring the whole world spirituality has to offer.
Meshuggah uses polyrythms to overwhelm the listener. When they're on point they feel like a hammer to the brain, in the most pleasant way possible. Depending on how liberal your definitions of 'metal' and 'psychedelic' in this context are. You got a number of options: Isis, Sunn, Sleepytime, Gorilla Museum, Lightning Bolt. Also, Animals as Leaders and Scale the Summit can be pretty psychedelic. Obscura is an amazing German progressive death metal band and some say there is evidence in their lyrics that they are "in the know".
If you're into the heavier side of things, definitely check out Persefone. I'd begin with just the Spiritual Migration album as a whole, tracks like Mind as Universe, Meta Meditation, The Great Reality, Returning to the source, etc. Even Opeth sounds very psychedelic at times.
Muse is another megaband who is way out there. Their earlier albums handle about government oppression, civil uprising & drone warfare. But on their later albums definitely take into space. In 2006, Muse released their fourth album, "Black Holes and Revelations". Singles like Supermassive Black Hole", was released as a download in May 2006. The second single, "Starlight", was released in September 2006. "Knights of Cydonia" also scored a big hit. They released a live DVD called HAARP in 2008. In 2012 they released Second Law. Which is inspired by the second law of thermodynamics.
The most well known band in this line to delve in deep enlightened spirituality is Epica. Which was actually one of the main inspiring factors for writing this.
They have been singing about philosophical matters for the past 15 years. Their 2005 album "Consign to Oblivion" handles about the lost Maya civilization. The Divine Conspiracy about religions.
Aside from the concept of such a conspiracy, The Divine Conspiracy finalizes The Embrace That Smothers, which began in After Forever's Prison of Desire (Prologue and parts I-III) and continued in Epica's The Phantom Agony (parts IV-VI). In short, The Embrace That Smothers is a collection of 10 songs (Prologue and parts I-IX), which talks about the dangers of organized religion.
"Design Your Universe" deals with the power of thoughts and imaginations and is the first album based on new breakthroughs of the Quantum Laws in physics.
Mark Jansen stated:
"It proves that we are all connected to each other on subatomic level. Also, it shows that we can create or at least influence matter with our thoughts…"
2014's "The Quantum Enigma" is a no-brainer.
In an interview lead vocalist Simone Simons explained what was the main inspiration behind the album: "Well in quantum physics they have done this experiment and they found out that whenever you observe particles they take a certain shape – and when you are looking away, it’s a different shape – so in a way you can say you never know: ‘What is reality?’ We determine our reality through our observations, and if we would look away, reality would change"
They even take this concept to a whole new level on 2016's The Holographic Principle. Where they really lay out very complex serious spiritual subjects such as Ascension, the matrix, the dualistic reality, the holographic reality, karma, universal laws, the co-creative consciousness, the effect of fear and love on your state of mind and body frequency. freeing yourself & mankind, the energetic reality of the world & universe around us and many more.
"The holographic principle is a principle of string theories and a supposed property of quantum gravity that states that the description of a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on a lower-dimensional boundary to the region"
Whoa, that is heavy science stuff right there. in a way, this is also oriented in the spiritual realm. But we will not get into the specifics of this. We are just musical chaps anyhow.
So this is a quite expansive but not complete overview over lyrical and musical themes into social, philosophical & spiritual topics used by metalbands. If you have any more bands or suggestions, please let us know.