A Sick Portrait of Extreme Metal
by: Pedro Azevedo
Thursday, February 3rd of the year 2000. A few minutes past 10pm, Portuguese television station SIC began showing a less than half hour long program about the "music of the devil", the "extreme sounds" which arrived to Portugal "nearly ten years ago". For a number of reasons accumulated throughout SIC's existence during the nineties, I personally find their journalistic credibility very poor. The TV equivalent to British tabloids? Maybe. They can certainly exploit certain subjects in a somewhat similar way too often, and their program about extreme metal, beneath a thin "investigation journalism" coating, was just an attempt to exploit the subject in such a way that the masses would want to watch.

August 1999 saw the vocalist of a Portuguese death metal band called Agonizing Terror interrupt his vacations with his wife and go home to stab his parents to death for no apparent reason. This made several front pages as being a "Satanic ritual" in which other members of the band had allegedly participated as well, but unfortunately for the media it seems to have turned out to be none of that. It was just a crime like countless others every day. Nevertheless, the band's music and lyrics were brought into the case and there was plenty of talk in the media for a few days regarding death and black metal's aggressive nature. There were even a few hazy references to the Norwegian church burnings that happened a few years ago.

SIC picked up the case back then. They tried, but failed to get anything but negative answers to the question "Could their music have caused this homicide?", which was repeatedly asked to members of bands, a well-known radio show host and a sociologist, among others.

Now they decided to bring the subject back, for no apparent reason. This time it was more of a report than an attempt at inquisition, but still always seeming to intend to expose something potentially dangerous that had invaded our country and the poor minds of our unprotected youngsters, who should instead be spending their time watching SIC's highly interesting and educative programs. Excuse the sarcasm.

Besides a few short, very low-quality distorted parts of rehearsals and concerts, a few seconds of the latest Moonspell video clip and some very distant background sounds, music was never the subject. The show only dealt with the ideas behind the music. Those who were interviewed were usually given the "you can explain your ideas for half an hour if you wish, we'll cut it down to ten second blocks anyway" treatment. Among these were members (usually vocalists) of Marduk, Firstborn Evil, Decayed, Grog, Holocausto Canibal and Genocide.

Marduk seem to have been chosen to replace Cradle of Filth as the most extreme black metal band known to society thanks to their recent performance in the Hard Club [CoC #45]. Their live anti-Christian words and gestures were repeatedly shown, most of which were examples of several of black metal's worst cliches. The Decayed vocalist meticulously explained many other extremely basic and poor black metal cliches, especially with a remarkably bad quote from their lyrics. But isn't black metal supposed to be about misanthropy instead of inviting TV cameras over to your bedroom?

The Grog vocalist shared a story he used for his death/grind lyrics about a guy who engages in necrophilic activities with his dead and buried mother. This was complemented by Holocausto Canibal presenting some examples of their early Carcass-like Portuguese song titles. Again, showing such poor cliches instead of something more intelligent induces the formation of a distorted, mediocre image of what extreme metal is about. On the other hand, death/grind act Genocide [CoC #44] tried to explain that their lyrics are about criticizing what they think is wrong in society and that their name refers to the genocides that repeatedly happen in society's history (and not something that they want to see happening). However, saying that their lyrics are also concerned with environmental problems is unlikely to be taken seriously.

Moonspell's Fernando Ribeiro did us all the favour of stating that anyone without any knowledge of music or talent whatsoever can form a successful black metal band. He should have saved that comment for the day when Moonspell's music has some real quality again, since _Wolfheart_ remains their best effort for reasons the band apparently fails to grasp. I expected much better comments from Ribeiro. It's almost funny to see Moonspell still being related to black metal, though. In the meantime, Anton LaVey and the Norwegian church burnings are briefly mentioned and the Marduk, Decayed and Moonspell vocalists talk about Satanism and explain some reasons why they dislike Christianity.

Firstborn Evil's vocalist was the one responsible for most of the good quotes -- ironically the same person who back in October had stated that "the only real difference between death and black metal is in the lyrics" (even though he fronts a black metal band). First he talked about his lyrical subjects, which are fortunately above black metal's lowest cliches. Then he mentioned that he thinks people who are prone to being influenced can be influenced by countless things besides music and also talked about prejudice against metal in general and against those who listen to it.

The author stated that the reason why people listen to extreme metal is that they "need to show their rebellion, shock the world and transgress" -- "Let's see if you'll be shocked by the transgressions you're about to watch" was the host's answer as the show began. Excellent professional SIC(k) journalism. In their opinion, "Death and black metal fans all want the same: speed, raspy vocals and the more aggression the better." But nothing like talented extreme music (or even music at all), apparently, according to them.

Most of us should be used to all the prejudice against the "noise" we listen to and the "sick" subjects behind it by now. We know better than that. However, the fact that they are trying to harm something they don't understand (and never will with narrow-minded programs like this one) and trying to "expose" it through misinformation and unrepresentative examples instead of leaving it alone is something I find highly infuriating.

Amidst all this, of course not even one decent bit of extreme metal was clearly heard during those nearly 30 minutes. Some things will never change.

(article submitted 5/3/2000)

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