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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Metal Music and threat to Mental Security: A Rebuttal

A few days ago, I came across an article written by Dr. Azly Rahman, asking the rhetorical question: “Is Death/Black Metal a threat to Mental Security?

I read it at
Politics 101 Malaysia a blog that I frequently read, and it was originally posted on Dr. Azly’s blog, Illuminations: Essays by Azly Rahman, then picked up by Politics 101 at Malaysiakini.

After reading it, I posted a rather long comment at Politics 101, which I will repost here. But first, you should read the original article, which you can access from

DISCLAIMER: My response is not meant to imply that Dr. Azly, in general, is full of crap. I have read a number of his articles, and I do have a lot of respect for the majority of his works, but not this one. The best of us sometimes ventures into unfamiliar territory, and this is one article in which I feel Dr. Azly has, too. But please read
his article first, before reading my response below.

myAsylum’s response to “Is Death/Black Metal a threat to Mental Security”

On the surface, and compared with the recent spate of blind-labeling in the media about this whole Black Metal hoo-ha, Dr. Azly’s article is definitely better researched. But having a PhD at the back of your name doesn’t mean squat, if your research only goes half-way, and is skewed towards a conclusion that had been made beforehand.

This could potentially be an extraneously long reply, but I will keep it as concise as possible.

Dr. Azly correctly relates Black Metal’s early history, almost verbatim, from Wikipedia,
Mayhem et al, but neglects to include this paragraph (from the same Wiki

“By the last few years of the 1990s, the black metal scene had lost much of the violence that seemed to be attached to it in the early days of the scene.”

But that aside, Dr. Azly goes on to classify this genre of music as “Trash Culture”, basing solely on what Black (and Death) Metal appears to be on the exterior.

There is a technique in literature that this esteemed Chaos Theorist has apparently overlooked - “allegory“. In any form of, what I classify as, substantial works of art (i.e. those with more substance than what can be seen or heard, on the surface), the real thesis of what is being presented is usually hidden, or merely alluded to.

Let’s test this hypothesis. Take an excerpt of lyrics from one of the songs Dr. Azly has used as an example of the “evil” and damaging imagery that this genre of music
“represents”; I’ve
Attrocious Crimes by Massacra:

Paroxism of hatredthe horror of war
Men excel in fighting against one another
Genocidedestructionis the art of war!
Absolute crueltywholeslaughter

Collective furyperpetual fate
Extreme barbary atricious crimes
Animosity uncontrolled rage
Total butchery atrocious crimes

Now, bad grammar aside (they are Russian, I believe), it does not take a big stretch of the imagination (even the “poor Malay youth” with “poor command of English” would probably realize) to see that this song is anti-war.

Anti-war? Yes, very anti-Establishment, and very damaging, don’t you think, Dr. Azly?

I urge everyone reading this comment to look at the lyrics for yourselves, of this, and other Massacra, songs.

And in case anyone is wondering: Black Metal is not my cup of tea, and in fact before all the fuss, I’ve never even listened to much of it - it’s just that I choose to look beyond the obvious. Imagery alone should never be a yardstick - only the naive and shallow would do so. The good Doctor should really know better.

The point I’m making is this: music cannot, and should not, be used as the convenient scape-goat to blame for things that are wrong with society, no matter how unsavory the genre of music may be.

Rebelliousness is a phase in life of every normal human being. I’ve been through that stage, and I am sure Dr. Azly has too. Every generation has demonized certain types of behavior or music. 1960’s Malaysia had it’s pop yeh-yeh, which was equally reviled then - by and large, these children of Malaysia’s 1960’s have turned out pretty ok.

Hiding behind a PhD, making over-generalized ‘analyses’ and prescribing ludicrous panaceas like ‘Keronchong” or “Ghazal” for problems that are obviously more
deep-rooted and complex, reflects the cursory nature of those concerned persons who tend to oversimplify issues.

And to seek remedy from the Educators? It is exactly the “do-as-you-are-told, rote-ingest-regurgitate” education environment we have now in Malaysia that is partly to blame for the problems our society face today.

I do not mean this reply to be a lambast against Dr. Azly, but before jumping to conclusions, he and other “concerned” persons should put whatever knowledge they’ve recently Googled into relevant perspective.

Black-balling Metal, or other sub-culture music genres that are unsavory, simply for the fact that they are non-mainstream and don’t echo the Establishment party line, removes perhaps the only voice of protest that these youths have. Protest against the real rot and corruption these young eyes see manifest in our so-called mainstream, “proper” way of life.

The response above has been duplicated without any content edits from my original response.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." - H. L. Mencken