Is it my mind within your life?
as I tear open your throat
Or is it my life within your mind?
as I suck on your open wound…
– Lori Bravo, Feral Viscera (Nuclear Death – Bride Of Insect)
Lyrics in heavy metal, and especially extreme metal, are rarely given the credence that their writers would desire. This shouldn’t be altogether surprising; death metal and black metal evolved out of the sing-song repertoire of conventional heavy metal so it could elaborate on the art of story-telling and world-building through the music and the music alone, relinquishing, for the most part, the need to sink hooks into the listener by the time-honoured route of memorable choruses.
Mutant christ, loving christ
Know me with thine naked eyes
Holy christ, one tenth the size
So unlike the other christs
– Lord Worm, Mutant Christ (Cryptopsy – Blasphemy Made Flesh)
However, save for the rare exception, extreme metal lyrics have continually scraped the bottom of the proverbial imaginary barrel. Perhaps not due to dint of effort on behalf of the musicians; after all, a large majority of metal musicians would want their words to be received with as much diligence as the music. Indeed, for many gifted musicians, writing music is far easier than writing lyrics, and it would be natural to assume a deep-seated, if not always explicitly expressed, longing on part of the writers for their work to be treated with a modicum of interest.
Look what’s become of you;
lost for days beneath the scorching sun,
without water you’ll never last,
but we’ll wait…
Now we sense you’re almost dead,
our noon day meal has come at last,
carrion baked in the sun, we sat…
– Lori Bravo, Vultures Feeding (Nuclear Death – Bride Of Insect)
But extreme metal lyrics are almost always painfully boring. There are only so many ways to talk about death, gore, and Satan, without becoming a moribund cliche. Many metal musicians, talented as they may have been at their instruments, have not exactly been great wordsmiths, either due to lack of literary prowess or singing in a language different from native tongues. As a result, metal listeners become increasingly jaded with age, giving up the pretense of eagerly poring over booklets in search of subliminal meanings to the words, a task undertaken with much glee in younger years when everything about this music is a seductive lure for the senses. The bar is reset to a far lower standard, and listeners go along with the make-believe, dispensing with the official lyrics and painting their own world of images as befitting the music.
Nature abhors a vacuum,
The same is true to a tomb…
It cannot be empty.
A barren womb of plenty…
A vacant grave must be filled.
For this the Fathers’ will,
Material birth be abjure,
A mother’s cunt is unpure.
– Lord Worm, Graves Of The Fathers (Cryptopsy – None So Vile)
However, if we continue to place death metal and black metal on the lofty pedestal that we do, then it is but natural, and perhaps even expedient, to demand the same rigour of the lyrics as of the music. Well, maybe not, but it does certainly help when someone comes along with a talent for expressing in language what the music does in notes. A lot of old bands possessed this attribute in abundance; they might not always have been elegant but they were perfectly capable of delivering a concise, hammer-blow of a line that would stay indelibly etched in memory as accompaniment to the timeless music underneath.
We were sitting in a circle
beneath the corpse tree
our parents’ dried remains hanging above us…
when we looked to the northern sky
it was dark – and for now
the wind brings rain…
– Lori Bravo, The Corpse Tree (Nuclear Death – …for our dead…)
Nuclear Death‘s Lori Bravo and Cryptopsy‘s Lord Worm were two gifted writers that went a long way in fulfilling the portent and the promise inherent in extreme metal. The music their bands played was of an uncompromisingly fast nature, vacillating between grindcore and death metal with a feral intensity not found in vast swathes of either genre. It was a music on the precipice of collapse, barely reined in as the pebbles underfoot started slipping down the rockface. The intense and evocative words written by these fine musicians provided a consummate fit to the music, suggesting a mind on the brink of breakdown, dealing with its deepest fears, insecurities, and anxieties expressed as a blanket repugnance for humankind at large. In them we also find ultimate proof that this is not a happy music made for mass consumption and tea parties. Both these bands and their primary lyricists showcased a smudged and crack-veined mirror to see our pock-marked reflections in; the mind is not a pretty place to live in and the world is fucked for good.
On Sunday we did acid
and climbed to the top of a mountain
to watch the colors descend.
At the top we met a young girl –
said she was going to jump
we talked her out of it
and we became her friends…
On Monday we ate of the magic herb
and took the girl to buy clothes
so she would look nice
she then told us her story:
her mother always hit her
and her father would often rape her –
and we consoled her…
On Tuesday and Wednesday
we became closer
gaining her trust…
On Thursday she cried some more
and said she loved us for loving her
we became her family…
On Friday we did acid
and bought film
for our movie camera…
On Saturday we ate of the magic herb
and we shot the girl up with heroin
then, in turn, we fucked her
in every conceivable way…
then we cut her, and she cried
she knew what we are
then we shot her in the face
and all the while
the camera did not blink
– Lori Bravo, Days Of The Weak (Nuclear Death – …for our dead…)