Posts Tagged dehumanization
There are many hidden pleasures in being a metalhead. That moment where you start talking to a stranger and realize he actually knows that Peter Steele was in Carnivore before he was in Type O Negative. The moment where you are at the gym and you see a person on the workout machine next to you wearing a Carcass Heartwork tee-shirt. That feeling you get when you are watching a bad, 1980s made-for-television movie about high school and notice one of the extras wearing a jacket with a giant Nuclear Assault patch on the back. You’ll meet a ton of people throughout your life who think metal is nothing more than bad hairstyles, ripped up jeans and “Enter Sandman”, but that moment when you really feel the presence of another member of our bizarre little community is truly a compelling experience.
There is another type of joy that being a metalhead can produce. Very few things are as invigorating as the feeling of completely freaking out unsuspecting strangers with your music and all of the insane, preposterous imagery that surrounds it. A bunch of senior citizens walk by you in the mall. They notice you rocking that vintage Cannibal Corpse “Eaten Back To Life” shirt and quickly avert their eyes. You imagine them wandering around Sears twenty minutes later muttering about how society is in the brink of collapse and decrying the death of all that is sacred and humane.
I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a cheap thrill, but there are some days that this sort of savage and surreal amusement can fill you with a genuine zest for life. Over the years, I’ve learned how to create and actively seek out these sorts of situations. I’ve experimented with many different methods of achieving this sort of “gore-vana”, in some cases with disastrous consequences. However, the one sure-fire place I know I can count on creating a minute or two of total metal-induced awkwardness and not be forced to spend an evening in the county lock-up is at the drive-thru window at fast food restaurants.
You drive up to the window with the first track of Suffocation’s “Effigy of the Forgotten” (Liege of Inveracity) booming through your speakers. The person working there has probably spent most of the day having their humanity completely ignored or, even better, being scolded by vengeful, self-righteous morons deeply scarred by the fact that two weeks ago the Wendy’s forgot to include packets of ketchup with their Value Meal. They are in that mode we so often see in consumer cultures, where the employee is simply treading water in the hopes of surviving the low wages and disrespect that are supposed to one day connect them to that shining pot of gold that politicians and suckers like to refer to as The American Dream.
Then you come along, blasting Frank Mullen’s doglike vocals and Mike Smith’s demented blast beats. That blank stare quickly changes into an expression of total confusion. What sort of person listens to this madness on purpose? Is this person a psychopath who feeds on the blood-curdled screams of the children locked in the trunk of his car? What does this unshaven weirdo hear in this music that I can’t?
You are the great and frightening Other. The Alien. The one who awakens them from their post-capitalist, slumbering nightmare for a brief second in order that they have something to post about on Twitter before they collapse into the awful sameness of reality television and quiet rage.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated a few songs that I believe are perfect for these moments. If you are having a boring afternoon and want a little more adventure in your life, try blaring one of these the next time you are picking up a cheeseburger. (For added effect, wear corpsepaint and sing along loudly and off key)
10. Anything From Gorguts-Obscura. I say anything because, as much as I love that album, I have no idea of the difference between any of the songs. (This also applies to most pre-2000s black metal)
9. Vader-Decapitated Saints. Those fast, indecipherable vocals are great, particularly if you are able to bug your eyes out and work up one of those Charles Manson looking stares.
8. Misfits-Bullet (Before you start whining about the whole it’s not metal, it’s punk thing, please understand that I find that conversation almost absurd and pointless as listening to someone describe how to properly prepare hog maws) The lyrics from this one are bound to at least elicit a smirk from your mark. Particularly when you get to the part where he starts saying, well, you know….
7. Slayer-Altar of Sacrifice. This one is a bit tricky. It involves timing. If you can manage to have Araya bellowing “Enter To The Realm of Satan!!!” right as you are presented with your jumbo-sized Diet Coke, you will achieve maximum effect.
6. Metallica-Creeping Death. Same as above except you need to sync it up with “DIE…BY MY HAND!!!”.
5. Suffocation-Liege of Inveracity. We’ve discussed this.
4. Manowar-Black, Wind, Fire and Steel. It’s not the most intimidating song on this list by a long shot, but something about that note Eric Adams holds for a half an hour at the end of the song really works for the situation.
3. Cannibal Corpse-Hammer Smashed Face I’ve tried many different options when it comes to inducing Cannibal Corpse freakouts, but for my money, this is the one that produces the most terror.
2. Morbid Angel-Hatework Part 70s horror film score, part growl from the depths of Hell, this song has a way of leaving lasting scars on the uninitated. For years, I used the last three minutes of God of Emptiness, but this seems to make more of an impact.
1. Deicide-Dead By Dawn This song, by far, has gotten me the most perplexed, stupefied looks. Glen Benton isn’t good for much, but making some high school wage slave drop a Frosty all over the register is an area in which he excels.
The second song on the record “Carnal Forge” is one of the more lyrically challenging songs I’ve encountered. When I first got a copy of the record, I sat there with a dictionary for an hour trying to figure out what on earth Carcass was talking about. Jeff Walker is known for having a remarkable vocabulary and this song proves it. Unless you scored in the top one percentile on your college boards, you are going to need help with a few of the words he uses. As a service to our readership with IQs below 160, I took the lyrics and clarified them a bit.
(A massacre that takes many different forms)
(A vulgar, disgusting display of death)
Sublime enmangling steelbath
(A glorious, destructive bath)
Of escheated atrocities
(Of things lost to the State through terrible acts)
Enigmatic longanimity of ruminent mass graves
(Quiet graves that show a mysterious ability to suffer without sound)
Meritorious victory, into body-bags now scraped…
(A great win worthy of recognition that is shown by a high body count)
(The authority and power of piles of dead bodies)
The dead regorged
(The dead shot out of their graves)
Osculatory majestic wrath
(A union of beautiful anger)
This carnal forge
(Human forms beaten and molded like a blacksmith working with metal)
Desensitized – to perspicuous horror
(No longer able to feel the awfulness of horror)
Dehumanized – fresh cannon fodder…
(Humans reduced to objects and killed on the battlefield)
(Something awful being praised for its greatness)
(An obvious massacre)
Dehumanized – cannon fodder
(Murder in a way that is clean and neat)
(Murder made holy)
Desensitized – to genocide
(No longer capable of feeling what is wrong with mass murder)
(Piles of dead bodies ruling over the land)
(Death shot upwards)
(Being drenched with blood)
(Bloodshed and death turned into something else)
In the cold, callous dignity of the mass grave…
(Respectful mass graves without feeling)
(Violence taking different forms and leading to a massacre)
Cruel, mendacious creed
(Evil, lying system of belief)
Sublime, murderous bloodbath
Of fiscal atrocities
(A massacre having to do with money)
Inexorable mettle in redolent consommé
(Unstoppable courage blended into a pleasant smelling soup)
An opprobious crucible of molten human waste…
(A disgraceful furnace of melting bodies)
(Bodies piled up to the sky)
(Endlessly shot upwards)
The smelting butchery
(A process of separating metals, a process of slaughtering animals)
Of the carnal forge
Desensitized – to pragmatic murder
(No longer feeling the horror of murder which is committed for practical purposes)
Dehumanized – into cannon fodder…
(Turned into non-human form and destroyed without feeling)
“Carnal Forge” is a searing study of the horrific nature of war. The whole “war is bad” theme has been done to death in heavy metal, but through the use of clever language and Joycean puns, Carcass is able to breathe life into a hackneyed lyrical concept. The major motif in the song is the monstrous merger between mechanized and human form. The effect is that the listener has a difficult time distinguishing between the two. This melding of forms stresses the concept of dehumanization in an even more immediate way. When Walker sings of “inexorable mettle in redolent consommé” he is giving the image of a soup made from mettle (courage) but also a soup made from metal (the human form turned into scrap). “Fiscal atrocities” means the destruction of capital, but also is meant to imply physical atrocity (the destruction of the human form). In these puns, we see a world where the lines blur between the animate and inanimate. When this line is obliterated, so are we. Our willingness to see humans as objects makes it possible for us to murder those who share our likeness. It is in the Carnal Forge of war that our human characteristics are lost.
The ultimate irony of this destruction through desensitization is that it is so engrained in some circles that it is not greeted with horror. Instead, it is celebrated. Soldiers who return are feted with parades; those who do not are given dignified, stately memorials. The dead do not care about these things. They do not care about the flags that cover their caskets, they are not interested in the soldiers firing skyward in their honor, and they do not gaze proudly at their names etched into stone walls. They cease to feel anything in the name of country or God or safety or resources or land or whatever-reason-was-given-to-them as they take their final journey into endless night.
There is no honor in death. The dead only know coldness and silence. Yet through a stroke of pure madness, many believe that the great wrongs that have been committed can be righted through ceremony. The louder we shout our love for the soldiers, the easier it is to forget the great waste of life that has been sacrificed in our names. Even the veneration of the dead is an act of objectification that makes future suffering more possible and even more likely.
Remembrance of their anguish does not wipe the slate clean. It is not for them; it is for us. A genuine act of contrition would be to create a world where massacres are entirely unacceptable, no matter who commits them. We do not live in that world. Instead, we live in a world where idle actions and traditions absolve us of our responsibility to stop the madness of war.
(Special thanks to Metal Matt Longo for his brilliant edit of this. Thanks to his fine work this article is being simulcast by the good folks over at MindOverMetal.org. Stop on by. Tell’em Keith sent ya!)