Shattered we are forced to see the crimes of war committed in Ukraine. We do grieve any dead, any injured, any driven to escape from the fights and any who remained for which ever reason now suffering.

No war. Impression from Berlin (Feb. 27th, 2022, by MsCesarLittle)

February 24th, 2022 will be remembered as the day Putin sent his army to war with Ukraine. His troops invade a neighbouring country for which there can be neither excuse nor any explanation.

There has never been any war in human history that has not caused casualties of innocents!

War has been the topic of many metal songs. Those who have thought it appropriate to glorify war in their anthems may now see they have been mistaken. Those who pointed on the cruelty of violence, or the cowardice of the leaders commanding others to kill and die only for their own greed may find themselves on the moral high ground now. Unfortunately, none of it can soothe the pain or save any life in the Ukraine right now.

Metal is war and war is metal – in the ears of the mainstream, but also on a psychological level. Then again metal is also a child of the hippie era, a revolutionist and has always been highly political. Follow us on this journey into the war in metal.



Metal – Children Of The Revolution

Metal has always been political or at the very least ever since Black Sabbath released “War Pigs”. Sticking with this very song: metal has always stood up against war and expressed political opinions. Is it really political to stand up against war? Not only. It is moral, social, at least partially religious, humanitarian, and anthroposophical and last but not least: survival instinct.

The very basic characteristics of any metal genre are: loud, powerful, and aggressive. Metal screams, it wants to be heard and it can be easily heard.  As such, metal often scares those who are not familiar with or is even mistaken to provoke aggression. But actually the opposite is true: metal festivals are the least violent. There is for example sort of a tradition in Helsinki after the Tuska Festival. The police reports very few if at all incidents at the festival.

A message left on a park bench near the Russian embassy in Berlin (by MsCesarLittle)

Metal developed in the uprising late 1960’s which makes it rebellious by birth. A key motive of this rebellion was speaking of the cruelties of WWII. Teenaged children demanded to learn what really happened – not in history lessons – but first of all their families. The very roots of metal have grown from the anti-Vietnam-War peace movement!

It was a taboo to speak of the WWII crimes as it was a taboo to speak of the ongoing violence in Vietnam. Metal lyrics have shattered taboos and spoken of the unspeakable not only war but also mental health, fatal diseases or death itself. It has pointed on violence against kids from parents, teachers or religious leaders.


Speaking of The Unspeakable

Metaphorically metal only whispers the unspeakable: Stylistically metal songs also cloud the unspeakable by using harsh vocals and cloak them in heavy riffs, massive bass lines and rushing blast beats. When metal vocals set in the instruments keep their volume even in the chorus.

The privilege of the musician is not only that he/she can sing of the unspeakable but also express this unspeakable in a wordless form. Composing metal music has become a common therapeutic approach to cope with one’s inner aggression, pain or grief. Just listening to metal is a therapeutic approach to deal with the dark sides of life. Uttering this unspeakable is voicing out loud what otherwise is silenced in the core of the soul, well hidden from the public but even more importantly from one’s own conscience. This is also one reason why metal has to be loud!  Consequently metal is not only the metaphorical expression of the noise inside each of us, it reveals this noise to be the war inside each of us. This justifies to name metal a cleansing mechanism for the soul for both parties: the active one and passive one consuming it. The darkness, the bad things, the violence and frustration and whatever else is too hard to cope with can be shaped into metal music. It can become an audible version of Edmund Munch’s “The Scream”, horrible, beautiful and relieving in the very same moment.

The Power Of Singing

The essential feature of harsh vocal techniques is their degree of distortion making it difficult to understand the lyrics. It takes time and practise and still there will be lyrics remain incomprehensible at all. And yet even metal heads sing along with their masters on stage, following their lead, following their commands, repeating out loud their message. Which image pops up in your mind thinking of masses chanting a song together? A religious celebration? A crowd singing the national anthem in the beginning of a soccer match? A stadium full of rock fans shouting out loud “Born In The USA” with the Boss? Or a scene in a black and white news movie from then 1940’s?

Protests in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin (by MsCesarLittle)

Singing together – all the more in a large group – is an instrument to cause or show identification with the particular group independent of its purpose or aims. This tool is as old as humanity and has been used for the better and the worst. The precentor can easily become the manipulator. If this is only the charismatic vocalist of a Finnish Black Metal band commanding his crowd to start a pit, so be it. But human history is full with names of power-greedy and –driven sociopaths manipulating their people and sending them to war. We all have stood in the crowd, banged, moshed and shouted together and experienced the magical band of this joint frenzy or intoxication. In the end it is only a small detail determining which of the both it is: The content of the message. Unfortunately our brain is busy singing along and blending in the group while it better had capacities to analyse what we are singing and by that proclaim!

If Putin Was a Metalhead …

The art of protest and a clear message. (by MsCesarLittle)

The power of singing, the power of the precentor puts the rock star and the metal vocalist dangerously close those who misuse these tools in the worst manner.  In this very regard, dictators, despots and autocrats are the scum bad-boy rockstars among the politicians. Unfortunately they do not suffice with shredding on stage, screaming their lungs out or even raiding hotel rooms. No, they imprison, violate and kill. Characteristics for psychopathic, or sociopathic personality disorders are found as leading qualities of despots and dictators.

Speaking of the unspeakable is what dictators do, too but not for the sake of mental health or demonstrating for justice, peace or equality. It is simply a tool of gaining and growing power. The dictator’s rhetoric creates fears of the others, marks the common features of his followers, and provides easy solutions such as scapegoats or simple measures promising miraculous results. They refer to at least partially untold common feelings of a nation/group of people/ethnicity – the revelation for the people stand on the same base: they can relate, they can believe. Opposing opinions will gradually turned into a feature of missing support for the common good and then into hostility. This allows to remove those individuals from the group even by violent means. This holds true for media trying to reporting unbiased or even critically. Consequently they will be marked as hostile and removed. The group then is in line and manipulation can go on undisturbed. It can lead even to war – as it did in September 1939 and now in the year of 2022 in Ukraine.

But if Putin was a metal head, he might bite off the head of bat or command his crowd to start a mosh pit but never a war!


Filters – The War Of Information

The world is full of stages. The metal vocalist’s stage is not much different to that of the news speaker on TV or the politician in his parliament, on a press conference or speaking to his citizens. [Allow me to point out that wars have nearly always been started by men and men do still dominate the metal business. So the male address seems only too appropriate in this context.] They all are precentors and they attach to their audience all the same.

Still there is the problem of filters. They are omnipresent. There are filters polishing advertisement photographs but more importantly each brain filters information input before it generates the output even of the very same piece of information. What I hear is never what I say unless I decide willingly to repeat word by word. And even then my body language and mimic will show if I agree with what I quote or not. Consequently, there can be no absolute truth.

The lyricist uses his filters to illustrate and create a poem to be sung.  As an artist he creates art. The news speaker sums up the course of events which filters what he thinks relevant from the less or irrelevant. Nevertheless, any seriously professional news speaker is marking his own opinions explicitly. He aims to sell information. The politician will always speak solely from his own perspective and always in intension to achieve a particular reaction. His goal is power so he can achieve his goals. If this politician is dictator, what goal will that be?

While we [meaning each of us living west of the Ukraine-Russian border] it is obvious who is the aggressor attacking a country and who is the victim facing violence and destruction. To us Vladimir Putin is a despot rather than a spiritual leader figure. He sells his “Badass Russian Hero” image and escalated on a new level in order to achieve his empire. But we don’t know what his and his cronies’ rhetoric look like from inside Russia. Only one thing we can be sure of: their filters are not our filters. We suppose he sells lies to justify what cannot be justified.


Responsibilty For The Message

We are metalheads, not warmongers even if the music we love may scare the mainstream. And yet we are responsible for what we say, sing, growl, scream and shout. Sabaton released “The Unkillable Soldier” only weeks ago. How do their lyrics echo in the hall of images from the ongoing war in Ukraine? What kind of message do their war glorifying so-called tales send to the soldiers fighting an actual war they never wanted to fight?

This is not a civil war. The casualties, destruction and cruelty of a civil war is no better, not even different from the invasive war Putin brought to Ukraine. But the cause and reason for it are entirely different and that makes all the difference! All the civil wars we had in the world since 1945 were highly complex, regional conflicts.  There were numerous proxy wars posing to a certain degree the threat of further escalation up to a WWIII. And yet none of those compare to the current war and how close this puts us to an uncalculatable escalation.


Sharing Is Caring

“The war definitely overturned [my] values,” agrees Jinjer’s Eugene Abdukhanov. “I’m not thinking about my job, my business, my band, popularity, anything like that. I am only thinking about my family because they are outside of Ukraine. They really need me, and I cannot be with them.” (Excerpt from BBC, read more here

It is on each of us to do what we can to stop the war and stop the escalation. However far from Ukraine you are right now, you can still help the refugees and the injured. You can easily donate for medical or food supplies in no matter how much you can afford to give. And most of all you can still stand up against war, against this war. Do it the metal way, do it loud even if only figuratively loud.

While we have learned only recently from Eugene Abdukhanov/Jinjer that he and his band mates and their families are as save as that can be for the moment, we have no idea what has become of all the other fellow metal heads in Ukraine. We can consider them fighting. And for that they deserve our solidarity and all support we can provide. This is why we share Eugene’s video message here in which he explicitly asks to share this message as much as we can.

#standwithukraine #endwarinukraine



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