Heavy metal has got to be the most controversial music genre in modern history. Satanism has always been at the centre of the controversy. Bands like Iron Maiden have had their records burned in protest of their lyrics but the metal community has bigger problems that cannot go ignored.
The community is a breeding ground for hate speech and that needs to change.
Last month, Australian blackened thrash band Deströyer 666 stirred up controversy at a Stockholm festival after giving their opinion on a #MeToo-inspired campaign in Sweden called #KilltheKing. The movement’s intent is to fight harassment, abuse, and misogyny in the Swedish metal scene.
“Some women in this country have a problem with us. I know what they need. Hard d**k! F**k these political c**t suckers,” frontman K.K. Warslut said.
This behaviour happens often enough in the extreme metal scene to be recognized as a serious problem.
Misogyny, homophobia, and racism run rampant in online metal forums, with racial, homophobic and sexist slurs a common sight. And some of the bands aren’t much better, going beyond their music in support of their politics.
Artists such as Phil Anselmo (ex-Pantera singer) and Varg Vikernes (sole member of Burzum) have shown support for white supremacy with Anselmo even screaming “white power” and Nazi saluting at a show in 2016.
Some would argue artists like Anselmo and Vikernes don’t actually allow their views to enter the music and the lyrics they write. However, supporting their music funds their hate, and if you complacently allow hate speech to fester in your scene, you are part of the problem.
To bring about change, the metal community needs to stop supporting these kinds of artists.
A similar issue that has worked its way into metal is Nazism. A whole subgenre of black metal, National Socialist Black Metal (or NSBM), holds Nazi sympathies. It’s a small subgenre without a lot of followers but famous enough to give the entire black metal genre a bad reputation as a genre of white supremacists.
While it may seem a small issue, a subgenre that uses Nazi imagery, holds Hitler in high regard and praises the genocide of a group of people shouldn’t be tolerated. Bands like this shouldn’t get record deals.
In order to change the community for the better, everyone within the metal community needs to speak out against this form of hate speech.
Obviously, the problem of hate speech within metal wouldn’t be well known if everyone in the community supported these hateful ideas. There have been bands in the past to speak out against bigotry in metal. Robb Flynn of Machine Head spoke out against Anselmo’s actions in 2016, having performed with Anselmo right before he screamed “white power”.
Protector from Austrian black metal duo Summoning spoke against Nazism in black metal in an open letter in 2014 which said, “National Socialism-supporting bands are constantly spreading their political thoughts, I think the time has come to finally stand up and show people that Nazism is not the only ideology of the current metal scene.”
Protector spoke about where the letter came from in an interview with Noisey. He said, “When I saw that my music was used for a ‘tribute to the Third Reich,’ and someone wanted to create such a connection, then it was clear for me to react on it,” referring to Nazi propaganda videos on YouTube that used Summoning music as their soundtrack.
These are two great examples of metal artists speaking against bigotry, Nazism and racism. No one from inside the community has spoken out against metal’s misogyny or homophobia. No musicians have called out K.K Warslut or Deströyer 666 for the comments made in Stockholm.
More artists need to stand against hate speech in metal to create a positive change in the rest of the community.
Metal is a strong genre for strong people. If more people like the women in the #KilltheKing movement stepped up against bigotry, the community could become even stronger.