Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Heavy Metal Monday: Politics

English Socialism of 1984

Yes, a day late I know. I will not miss it despite that This one has been one I have been wanting to write since I began theming this series a month ago!


Heavy Metal music is known to be dark and pessimistic and yes it is true to a degree (depending on the type of Heavy Metal). A lot of the darkness is about personal trauma, but many bands expand this to the wider issues of politics and war. During Heavy Metal's formative years of the 1970s, few songs were political and most revolved around war, but political themes grew in the 1980s when Heavy Metal music -- as well as all other music -- faced the real threat of censorship in the U.S. This led to an explosion of politically themed music.

The Parents Music Resource Center

Tipper Gore (cover eyes or look away from blast zone. Do not look at blast until 10 seconds after first light.)
The Parents Musical Resource Center was a special interest group founded by Tipper Gore to lobby the U.S. Congress and the RIAA to control the exposure of children to lyrics containing sex and violence. The PMRC also singled out Heavy Metal and Hard Rock for being overwhelmingly white and homophobic without any real basis to go on.

The RIAA agreed to place the "Explicit" stickers on their records, tapes and discs voluntarily. Despite this a U.S. Senate committee -- led by Al Gore -- demanded that musicians explain themselves in a hearing on what the nanny-statists called "porn rock." However, Al Gore and the rest of the progressive nannies mis-interpreted the lyrics of some of the songs, seeing sex and sadomasochism when it was not there.

Dee Snider, singer for the Glam Metal band Twisted Sister, corrected the wrongful interpretations of his songs Under the Blade and We're Not Gonna Take It.

"the only sadomasochism, bondage, and rape in this song is in the mind of Ms. Gore. Ms. Gore was looking for sadomasochism and bondage, and she found it. Someone looking for surgical references would have found it as well. The full responsibility for defending my children falls on the shoulders of my wife and I, because there is no one else capable of making these judgments for us."
Dee also famously shouted down Al Gore's committee.

A lot of Heavy Metal bands sing about defending metal. Dee Snider actually did it.

Many bands, both Heavy Metal and Non-Metal, satirized, mocked and criticized the PMRC in their songs. Megadeth, Anthrax, and Danzig did so overtly, by making songs about the group, its members and its aims. Others did so subtly, such as Judas Priest's video for Touch of Evil, showing music tapes being burned in an allusion to Fahrenheit 451.

Anti PMRC Songs

Other Politics

Heavy Metal is popularly known for rebelliousnes. There are bands against statism (Megadeth and Iced Earth are best known) and others against big corporations and religious tyranny. Regardless of the details, the common thread between all of them is a strong distrust for any individual or group -- whether communist or capitalist -- with a monopoly on power. Even bands from Europe, where faith in the state is more popular than in the United States, libertarianism (called liberalism over there) is the most common theme.

Sons of Liberty

Sons of Liberty is a side project from Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer. This band sings about the power mongering of the federal bureaucracy.

Iced Earth

Iced Earth mostly sings about supernatural themes, and in recent years has made concept albums about their mascot Set Abombinae, but the band's guitarist, Jon Schaffer, is strongly libertarian. The album Glorious Burden is a concept album about the Revolutionary War and War Between the States while Dystopia is about totalitarianism.


Megadeth is the most political of any band, Heavy Metal or not. Dave Mustane, like Jon Schaffer, is a proud libertarian and is happy to point out the flaws, hypocrisies and abuses of left and right.


Threshold is a British Progressive Metal band that follows the style of Dream Theater closely. Like Dream Theater, Threshold's lyrical themes are strongly philosophical and tend to make the audience think. The album Subsurface was all about manufactured political narratives.


Sabaton sings mostly about historical wars, but has sung twice about the Holocaust and in the song Stalingrad, attacks the "life is cheap" idea of Communism.


  1. I graduate HS in 81 so I got to enjoy the early of heavy "metal" As I get older some of the newer stuff is too much. I can listen to some Opeth and Katatonia as well as Riverside. All of them I found on Pandora. I find Dream Theater has some good tunes but they all sound to similar for me.

    The fast fast speed stuff and yelling is not enjoyable... I'm getting old!! Sometimes I listen to smooth jazz all day at work ;)

    I will give some of your links a listen.

    1. Dream Theater was the originator of Progressive Metal. It is my favorite style of heavy metal but I don't listen to Dream Theater itself all that often (because DT has been stagnating in recent years). Threshold has a similar sound but more willing to mix it up (especially in recent years with the return of their original vocalist).

      When it comes to older metal I love the NWOBHM sound.