What do “Photograph”, “Cum On Feel The Noize”, “Rainbow In The Dark”, “Looks That Kill”, “You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll”, “Bark At The Moon”, “Rebel Yell”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Lick It Up”, “Tell Me What You Want” and “Sister Christian” all have in common?
Man, 1983 was quite a year, maybe the most revolutionary year since the 60’s and The Beatles invasion. It’s also the year that metal and rock music became a commercial force and a massive influence on society. Along with the rise of MTV, culture changed dramatically.
Metal and rock music made governments introduce censorship stickers on new releases. Leaders and their wives thought they knew better, so they lobbied hard to make sure we knew if the album had rude or vulgar or violent lyrical themes. Preachers and TV evangelists became rich and famous when they condemned the art form and told their followers the devil is on the loose, only to be caught with their pants down in seedy motels.
The satanic panic might sound funny today, however back then it was real. Lawyers took artists to the civil courts because suddenly when records got played backwards some scientist found they had subliminal messages telling kids to kill themselves.
Band T-shirts had been around before, but nothing like the 80’s. A whole new billion dollar industry came about, because of the imagery. We wanted the T-shirts. It told the world we are a member of the club. It was like being sworn in at a bikie gang and getting your patches. Today, the same T-shirts are found in Kmart and Target stores. Hell, one of the Jenner girls put her face on em for publicity. But back then, you had to go to the concert or to a specialised record store that sold them to get them.
And as the genre became more popular it became a part of pop culture. And people in the know keep telling us it became diluted because popular doesn’t mean it’s the best. It just means popular. And the more popular it got, the more dumbed down the music and the lyrics became. Everyone keeps on saying that hard rock and metal committed suicide because the lyrics that addressed society got hidden in the background for lyrics about having a good time, rock and roll and having a good time.
Maybe that was the case for a certain between 1986 and 1992 for some bands, but in my view, rock and metal music got some popularity credibility back both musically and lyrically, with the excellent “Slave To The Grind” from Skid Row, Metallica’s self-titled black album, “Empire” from Queensryche, “Seasons In The Abyss” by Slayer and “Countdown To Extinction” by Megadeth.
These five albums released between 1990 and 1992 addressed a lot of issues lyrically and it also foretold the rise of a new scene that would address similar lyrical concerns like depression, anxiety, paranoia and dark thoughts.
“Foreclosure Of A Dream” is about predatory banks foreclosing on people’s houses, while “Della Brown” is about poverty/homelessness in an advanced society. Guess not much has changed in the 25 plus years.
“The Unforgiven” is about parental control of the infant, who is growing up in a family with views out of touch with reality. We are all products of our tribes. The viewpoints of people who are around us, rub off on us. There is no escaping it.
“Countdown To Extinction” addresses our quest to destroy the food chain for trophies which in the end leads to our extinction while in “Resistance”, Geoff Tate is singing about the environment and how this is our world, we all share it, we need to stop abusing it, we need to stop neglecting it and we need to co-operate in trying to save it. “Skeletons of Society” address the aftermath of nuclear war as the fools become the wise and the rich become the beggars as nothing here remains because the end came so fast.
Climate change and extinction of certain species is a divisive topic. You either believe the evidence or you don’t. Corporations that stand to lose money are doing their best to hijack the conversation to suit themselves and the environmentalists are seen as roadblocks to human advancements.
What is clear to me is that nature always win. As much as humans try to control nature, nature always strikes back with storms, cyclones, rains, earthquakes, rising sea waters, tsunamis, heat waves, wild fires, cold fronts and hurricanes. Believe what you want, but remember, nature is forever while we are not.
“Architecture of Aggression” and “War Ensemble” address war while “Ashes in Your Mouth” addresses the aftermath of war. And in 2017, war is still present. Budgets for war and counter terrorism teams is more than education and health.
“Slave To The Grind” is about working 9 to 5 and not wanting to do so, but fearing if you don’t do it, you will get left behind in the rat race. Even more so today. With our lives in so much debt that we cannot pay it back while we are alive, the rat race is becoming a race to the bottom of the bankruptcy barrel. People lie about how much they earn just to be a member of an exclusive club.
“Best I Can” addresses gun control and how accidentally discharging a gun at home can lead to serious consequences. “Hallowed Point” also addresses guns and what guns can do the body. In the words of Araya, guns can turn flesh into confetti.
This is a controversial topic in the U.S as the Constitution gives the people the right to bear arms and the gun lobby is powerful in Washington and leaders are too scared to pass/support laws because they would lose the support of the Gun lobby in their own electorates. So every President is faced with doing press conferences after a massacre and no President has passed laws to reduce the deaths of gun violence.
In Australia, we had the Port Arthur Massacre and after that gun ownership laws got changed and a lot of automatic weapons got banned and surprisingly the Government leaders stood firm against the lobby groups.
“Symphony Of Destruction” is basically summing up a simple man’s rise to become a leader of a nation which is run by a faceless government and then letting that power get to their head as they destroy the world as we know it.
“Quicksand Jesus” addresses a person losing faith in their God and then feeling lost without that layer of support they believed they had in God. Then you have “The God That Failed” which James Hetfield wrote about his Mum’s belief that God would cure her cancer instead of science and medicine.
“Monkey Business” addresses street social life.
“In A Darkened Room” addresses child abuse.
“Captive Honour” addresses doing time for crime.
“Don’t Tread On Me” addresses U.S pride while “Wherever I May Roam” addresses the human spirit of travel/adventure and having no place to call home.
“Wasted Time tackles the effects of drug use on people close to you. “Skin o’ My Teeth” addresses suicide by wrapping your car around a tree while “My Friend Of Misery” addresses depression.
“Get The F Out” and “Riot Act” tackle censorship. “Blood Red” is about supporting citizens in their fight for freedoms and rising against totalitarian regimes.
“Creepshow” addresses how people put it all out there for fame, which more or less is summing up Facebook and other social media sites 15 years before they happened while “Mudkicker” is basically about what trolls do on the internet today.
“Empire” address gangs and their rise to societal power while “Expendable Youth” addresses inner city gang violence.
Cycles come and cycles go in music. It was just unfortunate that the record labels abandoned musicians who got classed in a record label genre for a new record label genre called Grunge.