2. SOCIAL STUDIES – Social Studies is the other major category most used and explored by metal bands. From history, to sociology and government, metal has glorified and provided opinions on several facets of the social studies curriculum.
a. History: Almost as frequently seen as Literature in metal, History is embraced in nearly every sub-genre, from glorifying war in death and black metal, to exposing lesser known tragedies in power/traditional metal and everything in between. Iron Maiden gave us ‘The Trooper’ (based on the Charge of the Light Brigade during The Crimean War), ‘Aces High’ (a tale from the perspective of a Royal Air Force Pilot during the Battle of Britain in WWII), ‘Paschendale’ (inspired by WWI’s Battle of Passchendaele), ‘Como Estais Amigos’ (a reflection on The Falklands War), and ‘Alexander the Great’. Slayer provided ‘Mandatory Suicide’ (a statement about the Vietnam War draft), ‘Angel of Death’ (illustrating the work of Auschwitz concentration camp Nazi surgeon Josef Mengele), ‘Eyes of the Insane’ (exploring the mental trauma experienced by an American soldier in the second Gulf War), and ‘Jihad’ (a perspective on the events of September 11, 2001). Grave Digger’s 1996 album “Tunes of War” centered on Scottish history and its struggle for independence. And both Metal Church and Artch recorded songs about the sinking of the Titanic (‘Rest in Pieces (April 15, 1912)’ and ‘Titanic’, respectively). In 1989, Running Wild recorded ‘Battle of Waterloo’, which was about Napoleon’s ill-fated campaign. And on their following album in 1991, they recorded ‘Little Big Horn’, illustrating Custer’s Last Stand. Ex Deo has released two albums emphasizing the rise and glory of The Roman Empire. In 2002, Italian power metal band Thy Majestie released “Hastings 1066”, a concept album exhibiting the infamous Battle of Hastings. Sweden’s Torchbearer also provided two colorful contributions – the 2004 album “Yersinia Pestis” (discussing the Black Plague) and the 2006 album “Warnaments” (outlining naval warfare during World War I). Bolt Thrower has made a career of discussing all aspects of war, not so much glorifying the act, but displaying the negative effects for the world to see, culminating in an excellent track designed to help history students learn the dates of significant wars entitled “Through the Ages”. Iced Earth proved to be serious history buffs when it released “The Glorious Burden” in 2004. The album kicks off with a rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and launches into a series of songs inspired by history (primarily American), such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 9/11, dogfighting in WWI, The Battle of Waterloo, The American Revolution, and The Battle of Gettysburg.
b. Sociology: Or more appropriately Social Issues/Problems – since the dawn of the genre, thrash metal has explored, discussed, and spat venom at social issues. From hunger, drug abuse, and overpopulation to unemployment, inequality and animal cruelty, legions of metal bands have been educating its fans to the ugly face of the real world. I recall when I was in 10th grade, I completed a project outlining the social issues presented on Atrophy’s “Violent By Nature” album alone! That one CD contains songs bringing to light concepts of euthanasia, vivisection, desensitization to violence, corporate greed, drug abuse, the prison industry, overpopulation, and depression.
c. Government: While it is a severely topical category, very few bands attempt direct discussion about government activities. Those that do usually approach the task with incredible thought and attention to their audience, and the lyrics typically blend government activities with their societal results. The early work of Dying Fetus and the collected works of Misery Index benefit from this, as they shared lyric inspiration from bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton, who has a master’s degree in International Communications and Politics – evidenced brilliantly in songs like ‘Partisans of Grief’ and ‘For Us Or Against Us’. Napalm Death, Brutal Truth, and many other grindcore bands also share their opinions on government in inimitable fashion.
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