The Atlantic Monthly Recommends Listening to Metal

I had no idea, but my obsession the last few years with listening to as much Black Sabbath as possible has helped me understand the world as it really is, according to a strange article in this month's Atlantic, a bottomless grave of war and despair:

Nu metal, the big metal noise of the ’90s and early ’00s, has come and gone. Metalheads never really went for it—too much rapping in there, and not enough warlocks. Where was the dread? The moral-astronomical scale? The itchy, hybrid bounce-crunch of Korn and Limp Bizkit seemed linked less to metal’s traditional concerns than to the blocked ducts and thwarted entitlements of a generation of football players. But even here metal was still performing at least one of its offices, doing bootleg rage therapy for a mass audience: in the moiling and roaring of Korn’s Jonathan Davis, especially, something fundamental seemed to be seeking an outlet. Other bands of the era had more typically metallic preoccupations. Fear Factory was obsessed with technology and the dissolution of the individual: “Must not surrender my God to anyone,” sang Burton C. Bell, “or this body will become carrion!” Slipknot, masked and boilersuited, the maddest of them all, had its fans going about in T-shirts that read People = Shit. Which is, you must admit, succinct.

The great scholar of heavy metal Robert Walser, doing research for his 1993 book, Running With the Devil, interviewed a Twisted Sister fan who told him that the easy-listening music favored by her mother had made her paranoid. In Walser’s words: “It so obviously seems to lie to her about the world.” An Avenged Sevenfold fan might say the same today about the music of Jack Johnson, or John Mayer, or Jason Mraz, or any of the golden troubadours on heavy rotation at your local Starbucks. I don’t mean to be ungracious about Starbucks—I happen to spend a good deal of time in Starbucks—but heavy metal reminds me that Starbucks, like much of modern life, is a fiction. Go through the membrane, break the crust, and everything is metal.