3. SCIENCE – One must dig a bit deeper to find evidence of science in heavy metal, but it is definitely there. Aspects of Biology, Psychology, and Astronomy present themselves in surprising ways.
a. Biology: Usually found in the bowels of gore-grind, a subset marriage of grindcore and death metal, biological activities and excruciatingly vivid depictions of anatomy. For example, Carcass (our aforementioned friend of Vocabulary) made ample use of medical textbooks when writing songs like ‘Incarnated Solvent Abuse’ (a song about sniffing glue made from human fat) and ‘Excoriating Abdominal Emanation’ (which eloquently explores a violent enema). Impaled, just as, if not more tongue-through-cheekily than Carcass, took the gauntlet and ran with it with overtly descriptive tunes about morbid operations like ‘Operating Theatre’ and ‘Trocar’. And not to be outdone, Exhumed joined the party with ditties like ‘Postmortem Procedures’ (explaining an autopsy) and ‘I Rot Within’ (about a failed attempt to excise an intestinal abscess).
b. Psychology: One band immediately springs to mind when mentioning the term “psychology,” and that is Florida legends Death. From its 1990 album “Spiritual Healing” through to its untimely demise in 1998 with “The Sound of Perseverance”, Death explored the realm of psychological disorders, emotions, depression, effects of imagination and dreams, and the strength of human will.
c. Astronomy: While metal bands are not overtly technical in their observations of astronomy, their interest level depicted is more than enough to pique a listener’s curiosity to explore and research what they are talking about. For example, Norway’s Covenant released a 1998 album entitled “Nexus Polaris”, which contained astronomically-charged songs like ‘Bizarre Cosmic Industries’, ‘Planetarium’, and ‘Planetary Black Elements’. The following year, Crimson Glory released “Astronomica”, which, among other fantasy-fueled astronomical topics, included the track ‘Cydonia’, which is a region of Mars that has been the topic of controversy since Viking I found face-like images on its surface in 1976. And Gamma Ray’s 1997 album “Somewhere Out In Space” contained many songs centered on the fantasy and reality of astronomy, with songs like ‘Cosmic Chaos’, ‘Beyond the Black Hole’, and the title track.
4. FOREIGN LANGUAGES/CULTURES
- Students can often gain interest in foreign languages and cultures by way of listening to foreign bands that sing in their native tongues. It’s a well-known fact that many students about a decade ago started taking German due to the rise in popularity of Rammstein, an industrial/metal band that sang love poetry, completely in German! So it stands to reason that pockets of fans of Scandinavian and Russian folk and black metal music would feel the desire to learn more about those languages for the same reason. The more popular the band or genre, the more people will want to know what they’re saying.
- This one is a bit of a stretch, as it pertains more to Art Appreciation, in that some metal bands actually use classic paintings for album cover art. But that is not to say that one cannot learn something from exploring the original works. A sampling includes:
- Bolt Thrower’s “The IVth Crusade” cover is a print of the 1840 painting “The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople” by Eugène Delacroix
- Morbid Angel’s “Blessed Are the Sick” cover is a print of the 1895 painting “Les Trésors de Satan” (Satan’s Treasures) by Jean Delville. [Hexenhaus used the same image for their album “A Tribute To Insanity”.]
- Celtic Frost’s “Into the Pandemonium” cover is a portion of the 1504 triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch.
- Bathory’s “Blood Fire Death” cover is a print of the 1872 painting “Åsgårdsreien” by Peter Nicolai Arbo.
- Their “Hammerheart” album cover is a print of the 1893 painting “The Funeral of a Viking” by Sir Frank Dicksee.
- Thought Industry’s “Songs For Insects” cover is a print of the 1936 painting “Soft Construction With Boiled Beans: Premonition Of Civil War” by Salvador Dali
- Their follow-up album “Mods Carve the Pig: Assassins, Toads and God’s Flesh” cover is a print of Dali’s 1945 painting “The Apotheosis of Homer”.
- Candlemass’ “Nightfall” cover is a print of the 1842 painting “The Journey of Life – Old Age” by Thomas Cole
- Their follow-up album cover “Ancient Dreams” is a print of Cole’s “Journey of Life – Youth”
- And their “Tales of Creation” album cover is a reworking of Gustave Doré’s engraving “The Creation of Light”.
This may appear to be an awful lot of work to compile, especially for a teacher who has very little free time on his/her hands. However, it is not necessary to use it all…or at all. And this is merely the tip of the iceberg of the wealth of knowledge one can discover through the world of metal music. What is suggested in this piece is a simple method of updating some archaic teaching practices by adding a little spice…and volume. Metal is not all nonsense. Sure, some of it is, but every genre of music is littered with boneheads. On the flipside, how many genres are broadly expressive enough to encapsulate even a portion of what is discussed above? And that, my friends, is the point of the lesson today. Study hard, and we’ll see you next year.
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