Toilet Talks: Art, Politics, and Metal


Welcome to the debut Toilet Talks, where a handful of editors have a few beers and talk about metal.

The theme for this first one was pretty loose, but I had a few questions relating to “Themes in Metal” that needed answering. The discussion has been lightly (heavily) edited for coherence.

joaquin Soon after the election, people were saying “well at least we should get some good metal out of this”, which is a dumb thing to say, but generally art and the way we perceive it changes with the political climate. It has been a few months now, what has changed?
joe_thrashnkill If abject poverty and human misery resulted in great art, most of the world would be pumping out  [fire emoji] metal constantly.
dr_dubs I have noticed that some of the more well-spoken lyricists in metal, like Doug Moore, have become more vocal on social media. Bands like Pyrrhon seem to be pursuing a line of more socially conscious lyricism in metal that transcends the silly escapism we tend to hear typically. That obviously isn’t universally true.
joe_thrashnkill I think some folks that would prefer to just ignore politics are realizing that they’re going to have to confront what’s happening.
dr_dubs Joe, what do you think of the argument that we’ve both seen that metal is supposed to be escapism?
joe_thrashnkill Uhh. I suppose there’s always going to be a segment of metal that IS pure escapism. Lots of dudes love their Lord of the Rings LARP metal.
hessianhunter Metal isn’t “supposed” to be anything. No art is “supposed” to be anything except what the artist wants it to be. If you like your metal to be escapism, lucky for you there is a whole lot of that. If a band uses their platform to talk about real-world politics, that’s their artistic choice and it’s nonsensical to be upset at them for it. Roll your eyes all you want at “mixing music with politics”, but know you are also effectively rolling your eyes at Black Sabbath for writing “War Pigs” after putting out an album of pure fantasy nightmare fuel.
joe_thrashnkill Who wrote the lyrics to “War Pigs” I just can’t imagine Ozzy putting together a coherent sentence, much less an allegorical song.
dr_dubs I think it was supposed to be Walpurgis originally.
dr_dubs “The original title of “War Pigs” was “Walpurgis”, dealing with the witches’ sabbath. “Walpurgis is sort of like Christmas for Satanists. And to me, war was the big Satan”, said bassist and lyricist Geezer Butler. “It wasn’t about politics or government or anything. It was [about] evil. So I was saying ‘generals gathered in the masses / just like witches at black masses’ to make an analogy. But when we brought it to the record company, they thought ‘Walpurgis’ sounded too Satanic. And that’s when we turned it into ‘War Pigs’. But we didn’t change the lyrics, because they were already finished.”
joe_thrashnkill Well shit. There goes our argument for everything forever.
joe_thrashnkill Thanks a lot, Geezer.
dr_dubs “It sounded cool.” – Metal lyricists, a lot of the time.
dr_dubs Do you think those people are doing a disservice to the art/genre?
joe_thrashnkill I think they’re doing a disservice to everyone by recycling the same fucking book for 40 years. Read a new book, dummies.
dr_dubs lol
joe_thrashnkill But not necessarily – in response to your question. Escapism, by itself, isn’t necessarily bad. We all need an escape from time to time. There are limits, of course. See: “Gamers”.
joe_thrashnkill But if you wanna create music with your own message, you have to confront the real world in one way or another.
dr_dubs Right. I think the election is radicalizing folks on both sides. For every Danzig supporting the travel ban, you have a Nux Vomica donating proceeds to Planned Parenthood.
joe_thrashnkill I wish that folks would be radicalized further left than the current #resistance crop of liberals BUT I DIGRESS. You’re right. Seems like people are doubling down.
hessianhunter I kept hearing that about punk, not metal at all. But at least in my neck of the woods there has been an ENORMOUS uptick in artists being blatantly political not just in their subject matter, but in their operation. Among my musician peers, local shows are now benefit shows as a standard, whereas that used to be an occasional thing.
joaquin We are still pretty early in a typical album cycle in relation to the election. I assume there will be lots more to come in the next few months.  As HH mentioned, it seems like the benefit shows are proof more is coming.
joe_thrashnkill So where does that leave us? Dudes like Doug Moore are learned and articulate. Punk holds it down, as always. YG put out my favorite rap track in 5 years with “Fuck Donald Trump”.
joe_thrashnkill But there’s a big chasm with the rest of metal.
dr_dubs Joe, to that chasm thing, I think that just segues back to what HH said. I think folks are attracted to the art for different reasons, so you’re always going to have different creators bringing in their own ideas and aspirations. Some want to play metal because they love the larger than life aspect; some because they like the angery nature of the music; others because they want to play something technical. As long as there’s a fanbase for it, you’ll still have NSBM alongside anarcho-grind, I reckon.
dr_dubs And I think, to a degree, the heterogeneity is necessary.
dr_dubs Or at least good, I mean. I’d be pissed if there was only stoner metal.
joe_thrashnkill We need metal to embrace collective action and unity. Which might be a bit antithetical to its roots.
hessianhunter There are a handful of politically informed and thoughtful people with a large platform due to their metal bands, but I really don’t trust musicians to lead meaningful political movements. Within their artistic role, they’re good for fundraising and propaganda and not much else imo.
joe_thrashnkill Follow up question: WHO DRANKIN?
dr_dubs I had my last beer earlier while packing. I’m not done packing, so I guess I need more beer.
joe_thrashnkill I don’t like to victim blame, but it’s your fault for allowing your supply to dwindle so low.
hessianhunter My coworkers have me hooked on Twisted Tea, the trashiest alcoholic drink this side of wine spritzers.
joe_thrashnkill Uh.  Isn’t that like a Mike’s Hard Lemonade?
joaquin I had a Founders KBS, ~12% abv, right before this. Not the best idea. Alright, let me dig up the next question as we have a very unwelcome guest.
joe_thrashnkill Goddammit no, not Randall
therandallthor therandallthor has joined the channel
joe_thrashnkill FUCK
therandallthor You will never rid yourself of me.
therandallthor I’m 3 beers deep.
therandallthor And I’m with HH on this, art is supposed to be what the artist wants it to be. I like my LOTR escapist LARP metal, some people like a bearded guy with a loud guitar through orange amps screaming about real life problems.
therandallthor I think they’re wrong, obviously, but people think I’m a child for worshiping Tolkien. Taste is subjective.
hessianhunter Taste is subjective except for the part where Randall likes things, in which case they are wrong and bad.
hessianhunter Objectively.
dr_dubs Randall, I guess that’s kind of the weird thing about having such a variety of stuff under the metal umbrella.
therandallthor It’s a blessing and a curse! On the one hand, there is endless nerd bait power metal out there for me. On the other hand, there are THOUSANDS of albums released every year. After years of trying, I’ve found it to be totally futile to try to keep a grasp on everything that’s coming out.
dr_dubs I feel like you have to at least try to be a qualified critic, but burnout is real. I’m just so tired of generic bands.
joaquin Next question! Without getting bogged down in extreme views (we talk about how we will or won’t tolerate that a lot) could you see yourself getting down with a band with an opposing viewpoint that is a little more tame? Like if bank-deregulation deathcore was a thing?
joe_thrashnkill Uh. Maybe. I’d probably buy a bank deregulation core t-shirt and just not listen to the music
dr_dubs I don’t think most artists’ personal moral codes align perfectly with my own, so I think, with all aspects of consumption, it’s just a matter of doing the best you can and trying to support what matters to you while ignoring things that aren’t dealbreakers.
hessianhunter Everyone is problematic, where you draw a line of choosing to not support someone is totally arbitrary. I’ll never wear a Burzum shirt because it’s more important to me that people don’t mistake my Scandinavian ass for a white nationalist than to have people know I like “cool edgy shit” but then again I’ll rock Bad Brains merch even though that band was full of antisemitic homophobes.
therandallthor I mean, I like Iced Earth and I’m pretty sure Jon Schaffer believes some whacko stuff. Two bandmates are crazy libertarians. As long as their beliefs aren’t antagonistic or toxic, I’m not concerned about them personally.
therandallthor Trying to avoid listening to BM bands with toxic members has been an absolute nightmare to keep track of for me.
joaquin Shifting away from the political, metal seems to compulsively stick to fiction to convey meaning. Why are we so afraid of our feelings?
joe_thrashnkill Feelings are dumb.
therandallthor ^
dr_dubs A recent counterpoint was that Bereft album, Joaquin.
dr_dubs That album’s feelings made it heavy!
joaquin Bereft got all my feelings tingling.
therandallthor Idk if yall jam Mount Eerie, but his latest is one of the most raw, open and emotional albums I’ve ever listened to. A Crow Looked at Me.
joe_thrashnkill Yeah, I’ve heard lots of people say that it’s a very emotionally difficult record. And to that I say, “Why in the fuck would I want to go through that?”
therandallthor I actually enjoy really depressing albums like this, I can’t tell you why though. It just feels good to be cripplingly sad through someone else. I connect with it I guess?
joe_thrashnkill Life is hard, man. I’m not trying to fuck around and ruin my day by listening to someone’s record about the saddest shit in the world.
therandallthor It’s hard to put into words for me. It’s a really melancholy feeling that somehow has a positive effect on me.
dr_dubs Actually, that does raise an interesting point. I think most of us have struggled with depression/anxiety at some point. I tend to resonate more with more melancholy music when I’m in a down period. I guess seeking commonality?
therandallthor Like someone else went through a life ruining time, but they were strong enough to pull through it and share their message with us. That’s incredibly uplifting and powerful to me.
dr_dubs But maybe metal artists just aren’t good at expressing those feelings well? Hell, Jonathan Davis has been trying to figure it out for almost 30 years now.
dr_dubs Sidenote: Korn is the worst band.
therandallthor Giant Squid’s debut album has been one of my “I’m sad but need something to lift my spirits even though the music is kind of sad too” for about 5 years now.
dr_dubs Metridium Fields?
therandallthor Yes. It means a ton to me.
dr_dubs So good, dude.
therandallthor I can only escape to fantasy worlds for so long before I need to crash into depressing reality again.
joe_thrashnkill The only valid emotions are minor frustration and extreme rage.
hessianhunter I think theatrical art trends toward caricature of emotion rather than genuine expression, and I would argue most metal is pretty theatrical, and not just goofy power metal with synth solos. I mean, why are you yelling like that? You’re sure going through a lot of work to make your drum triggers sound like you can play 1 million bpm at the same volume you would play at 100.
therandallthor People who like metal and maintain that power metal is “too cheesy” baffle me.
joaquin I think everyone disagrees.
richter richter has joined the channel
therandallthor Type stuff. Hit enter.
joaquin Alright, well now that the armless one has joined, let’s get into my last question. What themes are you tired of seeing? Personally, I’ve seen far too many promos that use some obscure and very specific psychological concept like “each track represents a lobe of the brain as described by Freud’s theory of liking your mom too much.”
hessianhunter Various forms of psychosis have been done to death. Serial killers, comas, whatever.
joe_thrashnkill Rockin’ and/or weed.
dr_dubs Lovecraft. We are past peak Cthulhu.
dr_dubs These nerds need to start reading Algernon Blackwood or something.
hessianhunter It’s a trend that mostly died in the 80s but boy oh boy do I hate thrash songs about thrashing.
richter Subconscious dissolution into the transcendence of the singular void inside the emptiness of your infinitely central oneness with the nothingness of … uh … albacore tuna.
dr_dubs Void.
therandallthor Definitely “the void”.
therandallthor It’s the current Satan.
dr_dubs We need a ten year ban on “the void”.
therandallthor I cringe horribly every time someone says anything about the void and grasps invisible oranges at me.
therandallthor Power metal bands also need to quit writing their own fantasy storylines.
therandallthor Rhapsody even quit doing that. And Rhapsody INVENTED doing that.
dr_dubs You think existence is pain? Try figuring out health insurance.
dr_dubs HH, you need to activate your trap card to get more of them to do so. (That’s Magic, right?).
joe_thrashnkill This next song is about my gold foil Charizard.
dr_dubs Is there a Beyblade themed album?
joe_thrashnkill Y’know what FUCK THAT. Write more songs about baseball cards.
joe_thrashnkill Jose Canseco deserves his own fantasy epic.
joaquin Alright, this thing is getting’ long. Time to call it. Any last words?
therandallthor My cat has been meowing a lot lately.
hessianhunter Literally 10 feet above my head a Robocop themed punk band is rehearsing and they are probably my favorite new punk band since White Lung.
joe_thrashnkill Listen to the podcast, you fucks.
dr_dubs Randall has a fidget spinner.
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