Death Metal’s Best Ode to Women
My mother’s always been a good sport about my metal addiction. She’s never pestered me about wearing t-shirts that say “Circle of Dead Children,” or became enraged at the incessant thump of double bass drums through the walls. Just last week she was kind enough to endure a whole hour of brutality while I drove her into the City from her house in Westchester. Despite the pain in her leg from her surgery not a week before, she absorbed, without a hint of discomfort, the sounds of Misery Index, Horna and The Ruins of Beverast. She is an awesome mother and a saint.
One issue, though, that she’s always begged me to address, is women in metal. The way she sees it, metal is a boys club. Women are actively excluded and when they do make an appearance, it’s as token eye candy or fodder for some twisted lyrical concepts (Cannibal Corpse’s “Fucked With a Knife” comes to mind). My first instinct is to dismiss her observations as the out-of-touch ramblings of a middle-aged parent, but the truth is that from a statistical standpoint, she’s absolutely correct.
Very few bands feature female members and when they do, they’re often relegated to keyboards or worse, bass guitar. The same goes for the thematic treatment. Bands like XXX Maniak, who make extreme, violent misogyny (their last album was called Harvesting the Cunt Nectar) the focal point of their art, far outweigh feminine successes like Arch Enemy and Ludicra, both fronted by extremely aggressive female vocalists, or Gorod’s former drummer, Sandrine, whose work on their 2006 LP, Leading Vision, I consider to be the pinnacle of tasteful, memorable drum work (just listen to “Blackout”).
At face value, these practices are objectionable, but in truth, I believe that many men have good reason to feel anger towards women, either from a painful past relationship or experiencing a life of rejection due to appearance, and there are far more harmful ways for men to deal with this anger than posting a “No Girls Allowed” sign on their club house. I think we’d all prefer that they just sit down and write a song about it than inhale a bottle of whiskey drive over to a girl’s apartment at 4 a.m. It’s like painting therapy in a mental hospital, just a release of emotion onto a unfeeling canvas. So what if the picture they paint is disturbing? It can’t hurt you if you don’t look at it.
That said, some bands do manage to break away from the lady-bashing, either with some talented female members, or in the case of Insomnium, a worshipful melodic death metal ballad. For four albums, these Finnish metallers have been pumping out some of the most mournful, tear-jerking doom-death this side of the afterlife. The perfect soundtrack to a lonely Autumn walk in the woods, their melodies could squeeze tears out of a stone.
Their second LP, Since the Day it All Came Down, featured the track “Daughter of the Moon,” a post-apocalyptic lament for woman-kind. The song tells the story of some unseen future where our beloved better halves have been lost forever and the remaining men hopelessly wander in search of their treasures. “Vanished is the light we had/Hidden deep in rimy soil/Bereft of us the one we cherished/Lost for ever our love,” growls Niilo Sevänen. “For what mirth there is left in life/For a motherless son/What solace in this world/For a widower to find”.” It may be delivered in a gruff death metal grunt, but the lyrics are refreshingly touching in their vulnerability.
The climax comes when Sevänen’s character believes he has found his love. The song comes to a standstill, carried by a twinkling acoustic interlude as her ghostly visage comes into view. “Slender the shape in night/Unbearable the beauty/Shining in the silvery light.” Then comes the tragic realization: “Unattainable this illusion/But an image in my troubled dreams/Hewn out of yearning.” The track finishes with a mournful doom riff, overlayed with a delicate, feminine melody that perfectly expresses perfectly the character’s sense of desperate longing.
Examples like this one may be few and far between, but they’re proof that at least some of us have grown up to be perfect gentlemen.
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