By Devon PrestonSPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
In late August of 2014, 31-year-old James Evans of Central City, Kentucky was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill school students after posting a Facebook status containing lyrics from the metal band Exodus’ song, “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer).”
From Evans’s case derives an important discussion on freedom of speech through expression of music. Yes, lyrics that state, “Student bodies lying dead in the halls, a blood splattered treatise of hate. Class dismissed is my hypothesis, gunfire ends the debate,” are far from bible hymns, but it should be remembered that they’re merely song lyrics, not meant to be taken as a critical threat.
And Evans didn’t even originate the lyrics. Gary Holt, the lead guitarist of Exodus released a statement after the incident, scolding: “The idea that an individual in this great country of ours could be arrested for simply posting lyrics to a song is something I never believed could happen in a free society.”
Perhaps unbeknownst to Holt, that idea is not so far fetched. Though Evans’ case is one of the few to result in arrest, censorship of violent musical lyrics, such as those found in metal music, is no fresh topic. In fact, ever since its inception in the late 1960s, the metal music industry has created quite a stir.
Metal emerged during an age of expanded counter-cultural rebellion, where drugs, sex and violence plagued lyrics and tainted the ears of virgins across the radio-centric USA. No genre shocked audiences as much as metal. To this day, it is difficult to hear the disturbing lyrics of a metal song and not assume that avid listeners would act on the bands’ provocations.
But a few crazy people aside, most people who engage in the metal community chose to be apart of this type of music culture because it is surprisingly positive for those who don’t fit the societal norms that pop music embraces.
With its thick, guitar-heavy emphasis and melodic drumbeat, metal music commands listeners to focus on its instrumental element before they can even think of analyzing the aggression in the singer’s chainsaw vocals.
Metal encourages and thrives on the energy of every performance, embodied in the act of moshing. So with lyrics that scream of death and dance moves that expel rage, it is only natural to assume that these suggestive behaviors would carry out into the everyday world. But the assumption should stop there.
Metal continues to be one of the most scrutinized genres of music, expelled from society just like those who choose to participate within its community. But instead of reacting immediately and judgmentally based on the genre’s lyrics, consider that metal music acts as a release, a form of art and a way to express feelings beyond the realms of conventional society.
The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.