Washington Think Tank: What’s Your Favorite Lyrical Subject?


Sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. These three lyrical topics are the foundations of rock-based music, but if we peer a bit beneath the surface, we’ll find a particularly rich cornucopia of different subjects, especially in metal. From war to suicide to zombies to religion to industrialization to elves to quantum singularities and everywhere in between, there is no lyrical stone left unturned in metal. Though many of these topics are partitioned within specific subgenres, anyone who truly wants to find a specific lyrical topic within a specific subgenre can surely do so. Today’s Think Tank is a celebration of this rich diversity that’s there to be found should you seek it. The world thinks we only listen to music about death and violence. Let’s prove them wrong.

Today’s Question: What’s your favorite lyrical subject?

Even just looking at newer releases this year, we can find a bounty of diverse topics in some unexpected places. Death metal, long held by the public to be the realm of schlock and horror movie imagery, has been molded into a nuanced tale of political commentary in Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s most recent (and well-received) work King. On “In Aeternum,” the band grapples with the historical precedent of the divine right to rule and the inherent justice (or lack thereof) in a monarchical system.

Black metal may often be the realm of religious commentary or mythological exploration, but last year’s contentious Isolate by Mesarthim strode a much different (and celestial path). Space is more often the uncharted reaches within which tech death bands experiment and craft their miniature galaxies, but the introspective Australians adopted the void as their own, plumbing its depths as a foil of the vast expanse of emptiness and emotional waste within each of us. If that’s too atmospheric and thoughtful for you, there’s also the cold, xenomorphic aether of Darkspace.

Even power metal, the dominion of high fantasy and swords’n’sorcery has grown much in recent years. Though the majority of releases in this subgenre still tend to focus on distinctly Tolkien-friendly topics, Judicator‘s epic At the Expense of Humanity took a more science-fiction oriented tack, probing the depths of human identity in the face of the impending technological singularity and the loss of self that will ensue. In a world of collective consciousness, what is the value of a soul?

So now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite lyrical approach? Do you prefer to swing your sword and charge into glorious battle, or do you abide by a distinct KISS rule (Keep it Satan, stupid)? More than just the what, though, tell me the why? Does the sci-fi approach act as an effigy upon which you crucify your fears of modernization? Do you seek a Milton-ian path of independence and free will?

For my part, I tend to prefer lyrics that delve into mankind’s rich tradition of mythology. Perhaps these stories make me feel connected to the great men of the past who exulted the most virtuous characteristics of their societies. Or maybe I’m just a big dork. Either one.

Don’t know what the Washington Think Tank is? This is a periodic column where your former President poses a pressing question and allows the top minds at the Toilet ov Hell to investigate his query.

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