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Music Monday: Ronnie James Dio edition

I'm sorry Ronnie James Dio is dead, because he seems to have touched a lot of people, and they're grieved at his death. I am emphatically not one of them. What I mean is - that I hate death, all death, and the death of anyone is cause for grief - but exactly because I hate death, I do not feel grieved at the passing of the artist - just the death of the man.

Because I hate heavy metal.

You know, growing up a middle class white kids in the suburbs, the almost inevitable answer from any of my peers to the question "What kind of music do you like?" was "Oh I like all kinds of music except for rap, heavy metal and country-western." At the time it probably seemed very open-minded to us, though in retrospect I see how blinkered and bland it was. Today, I've developed a ...well, not exactly taste for, but at least tolerance for rap - especially the hip-hop that's closest to its soul and R&B roots. I'm sorry, I've never learned to like country music, except for it's oldest of the old-school practitioners, like Johnny Cash. I recognize that as a white man with Southern roots in my family, this is a major failing.

But man, I hate heavy metal.

And when Dio died, I thought about why. Because lamentations for him are omnipresent on the web over the weekend, far more so than any number of other popular or important figures that have died recently. This I find annoying for the simple reason that I hate heavy metal and don't care about it ... and if you're a fan of metal, I'm sorry but I've been secretly judging you in my brain. Actually, I'm not even sorry - I think metal is just a blight. It is harsh and dissonant, it celebrates noise, anger and volume over anything that is remotely beautiful or lyrical, and is often (though not always) performed by people with as little talent as other empty shells like Brittney Spears or...well, insert your "doesn't-write-their-own-music-and-is-a-construct-of-marketing" performer here. There are obvious exceptions, people with extraordinary talent and creativity. I can't help but feeling that their talented is wasted in a cesspool of death and nihilism.

Man, I really hate heavy metal. The more modern, the more I hate it. (Caveat: Gwar is an amazing concert to go to, and I love the spectacle and mad energy. I've seen them several times and would do so again - but I would never listen to them other than at a live performance.)

So in the shower, I'm thinking about this visceral reaction I have to metal, and all things metal-ish. And I realized it's because yes, the music is harsh and ugly, just plain ugly - but more than that, it celebrates death and violence. More than just that, it's all about hurting things, hurting people, hurting each other...destroying things. It's nihilistic...but then so was The Smiths, and I like The Smiths and (insert-your-goth-band-here). So it's not just that it's ugly - though certainly that. And it's not just that it's nihilistic.

At it's heart, (if it has one) metal is just entropy in music form. It doesn't just hate authority - punk hates authority and law, and is often ugly - it doesn't just revel in death and violence; metal hates everything. It is about tearing down, destroying...sheerly for the sake of entropy itself. I joke that entropy is the greatest of my Three Immortal Enemies, but in truth it's the force that I rail against the most. I think human endeavor is one of the few anentropic forces in the universe, and we are constantly stymied or foiled in our efforts by the one inescapable truth - all things tend towards a state of entropy. My heroes are the people who don't accept that is a defeat, and put on their pants get to work building things, learning things, and making the universe more complex, not less. The things I've done I'm most proud of are the things that made the world, or even just my life, better as a result of creating something that wasn't there before. Conversely, when I'm at my lowest I'm riding the tides of entropy, and doing little to oppose the process of decreasing order and increasing randomness.

Man, I really hate entropy.

Everyone you've ever lost, every person you've loved, and who died - you lost to entropy. There will never be an immortal person, because of entropy. Nothing anyone ever builds will last forever, because of entropy. Absolutely everything will be torn down to its constituent parts and boiled away into the heat-death of the universe, because of entropy. The stars will die, nothing will live, and there will be nothing but uniform, gray, energyless matter that is entirely entropic. This is the death not just of you, not just of the people you love, not just of love itself; but everything. Everything will cease to be, because of entropy.

So when some doped up knuckleheads put on skin-tight pants and sing a song pledging their enduring love of entropy and all its avatars, I loathe them. They are part of the problem, they are in service to the death-of-all-things, and they believe that makes them sexy and appealing. And some of you believe them, and some of you think that their service to entropy is exciting, and you like it too.

For this I judge you. And because of this, I hate metal. Because really, at the heart of the matter, distilled down to its most basic truth - I rail against death, chaos, violence, suffering, and the tearing down of all human endeavor. I can't stand the music that celebrates those things, I dislike the people that make that music, and I think the people who like that music are at the very least, wrongheaded.

If Dio hadn't died, and so many people I know been so vocal about it, I probably would have never put a structure to my feelings on the matter. But he did, and you did - so I did...and ironically, my thoughts are a little more ordered, a little more structured, and in a very small way, (a very, very, very small way) that means the entropy in the universe is just slightly lessened.

But I still hate metal.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 17th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
So. I think you're an ignorant bigot, and using Dio's death as a springboard to viciously and baselessly insult and attack the genre and community which he in large part helped define and create is disrespectful, petty and just bad form overall -- not to mention inaccurate.

Tell you what: I challenge you to listen to what may be Dio's signature track, Holy Diver, and tell me what is ugly or nihilistic or entropic about it. What in the lyrics or music is fundamentally entropic? What is mean? What is ugly (in the sense of hateful or vicious or cruel)?

Or, if you think I'm cherry-picking with Holy Diver, we can go through his top ten tracks besides Holy Diver: Man on the Silver Mountain. Rainbow in the Dark. Stand up and Shout. Rock and Roll Children. We Rock. Last in Line. Hungry for Heaven. I Could Have Been A Dreamer. Straight Through The Heart.

Pick any one. Pick all of them. If you can find one of them that's ultimately hateful or entropic or whatever other smears you tried to apply to an entire musical culture, I'll apologize for this entire post.
May. 17th, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
See, I'm gonna disagree.

Metal, as well as any other musical style, is a way to express oneself. The same can be said for poetry, writing, film and several other things but for the purposes of this, lets go with metal. I get metal. Not ALL metal - there were some things I've been exposed to that sound like breaking glass and air moving through a dirty oil filter - but a good amount of it.

I think that same form of expression is what allows Davy here to go ahead and talk frankly about his feelings about the musical style he doesn't appreciate. It's not for him. I like Abba and Aqua - that's not for many people who like metal. In fact, I'm sure if members of those bands die, there will be plenty of people talking about how they sucked in a much less respectful way.

I think he's honoring Dio in his own way - the musical expression touched the people around him and it encouraged him to evaluate his own feelings on the matter. In much the same way as "Holy Diver" (the album and the song) can assist in self discovery, the dislike of that style has encouraged self discovery here.

Also, I'm fairly sure posting something like this on one's own journal can't constitute a baseless attack. If he had done it on yours, sure.

May. 17th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
It's one thing to say "I hate entropy". I'm down with that.

It's another thing to say "Metal is hateful because it is ultimately entropic". It's right up there with "D&D is satanic" and "People that wear all black are just maladjusted attention-seeking whiners".

I don't care where he said it. It's still baseless and attacky.
May. 17th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
That's open to interpretation.

Metal does feed off of a violent and questionable base. Dio himself sang songs of axes and demons and slaughter. I didn't find that to be horribly off the mark. However, he also sang about a myriad of other topics such as facing adversity (Caught in the Middle), love betrayed (Another Lie) and hopelessness (Egypt). But for each of those, he had a song like Fallen Angel which talks about a criminal lifestyle.

Then we look at the "beat" of metal - some people get it and some don't. It took me YEARS to like Hammerfall. It grew on me. Before that, it was noise. Now, they are a main stable in my playlists.

I think asking for someone to be more respectful is okay. But telling them they are wrong in their opinion about something exhibits the same intolerance being displayed and is counterproductive. I get it - I had the same reaction when he said he didn't like metal. But on his journal, in his space he invites us to come and read those thoughts is exactly where he should share these revelations. I, for one, appreciate that I understand him better.

May. 17th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
Disagreeing with a premise -- especially if it's an unsubstantiable blanket premise like Dave's -- is not "intolerance", and it's that kind of fuzzy-headed wishy-washy framing that ensures that birthers get equal time to express their views on national television.

Dave's statement, especially taken in context of Dio's music, was as absurd as saying "all Mexicans are illiterate", and roughly as offensively absurd to the minority on which he's seen fit to opine. He's just wrong, Wasta. There's nothing intolerant about pointing out that the Emperor is naked and obviously quite chilly.

You know, if he had made the arument that, say, Scandinavian black metal from the 90's is ultimately entropic in nature, I could have seen the argument. I wouldn't wholly agree (I think it's ultimately anti-establishment and anti-Christian, and entropic only as necessary to accomplish its ends), but there's some solid meat to that premise.

Dio's brand of metal, or metal as a whole? Dave's point is absurd. Absurd and ignorant and pissing in the face of a beloved icon.

Edited at 2010-05-17 09:58 pm (UTC)
May. 17th, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
Gosh, wasn't Dio's band named "Black Sabbath"?

Answer me this: what is metal? What separates it from punk, say?
May. 17th, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
Fortunately there's more to you than your awful taste in music. Anyone who's as obsessed with Bruce Campbell as you are can't be all bad.
May. 17th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
If we can harness the power of the Chin, we can cure cancer.

May. 17th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
I was actually talking about Mike - but all right-thinking people ought to take heart from The Bruce.
May. 17th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
I just think you have terrible taste.
May. 18th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
I don't like metal because of a confluence of things - unattractive men with a poor taste in women and alcohol, too much screaming or guttural throat sounds [insert NSFW joke here], and really, really, really bad hair.
May. 18th, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)
Your post reminded me of you, standing in a used book shop in Burbank, telling me that good books don't have happy endings.
May. 18th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
Was I wrong?
May. 18th, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
It's rare....
....But it's been known to happen.

From time to time.
May. 18th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
I hate metal too.
May. 18th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
And puppies.
May. 18th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, and midgets.
May. 18th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, and before I forget - even though I love ABBA, I really hate Fernando.
May. 18th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Perhaps intentionally or not, you've pointed out something to which I haven't given enough thought. Is hating anything ultimately entropic? The Buddha (and O-Sensei!) teach us that we are the universe, and nothing else. If I hate metal (or puppies, midgets and Fernando) am I, in fact, hating myself?

May. 18th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
In other words - if I hate anything, does that make ME Fernando?
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )


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