If you have been following us for any length of time, you have likely caught on that we here at Heavy Blog are an opinionated bunch. Yes, we obviously have many many feelings when it comes to all sorts of music-related topics, but unsurprisingly this also carries itself well over into the realms of other forms of art, media, culture, sports, and, yes, politics. Hence how we have wound up with this, The Void Screameth, where on the internet, nobody can hear you scream, but we can at least pound the keyboard until something legible comes out and hope that one or two other people read it!
Given that existence the past month or so has really just been continual scream, you’ll have to forgive us if we’re all a bit more exhausted and lacking in the ability to muster up written screams, petty or serious, than usual. Only two entries this month, but both ones that are well worth your time, especially given that my contribution is long enough to cover several “normal”-sized ones. I wrote it the weekend before the election, and even though it is political in a sense, the words are just as relevant and important as they were then and will be a few months from now when Trump is evicted from the Oval Office.
Wherever you are, I hope you were able to rest this past weekend. There is so much still broken and fights that need to happen, but we all deserve a little break. As a treat.
You are not alone responsible for the state of the world, nor for your own reaction to it
As I am writing this we are only a few days out from the US elections here. By the time this publishes and you’re reading this we will hopefully have definitive answers to who will be in positions of power for the next 2, 4, or 6 years. Regardless of the outcome though, a single fact will remain: the world is a fucking mess right now. Pandemics, out of control fires, more extreme and frequent weather-related events, greater and increasing economic inequality in many of the richest nations, rising threats of fascism and anti-democratic regimes throughout the western world. These are all cataclysmic problems that will still be around for a long time to come regardless of who is in power.
Unsurprisingly, all of these humongous problems and their many side effects have made a ton of people chronically depressed and anxious. Fears of losing your job, your home, your health, your life can do that to people. And yet none of this has stopped legions of entities, political, media, corporate, and more from constantly trying to convince us that single individual actions will “fix” these problems. The onus is somehow always placed on us as individuals to take responsibility for both ourselves and for the state of the world and conditions that we never had a real say in to begin with.
Take the environment, for instance. When I was a kid in the 90s the mantra ad nauseum was that only we could save the planet through the careful sorting of recyclable plastics, metals, papers, etc. That would later morph into saving the planet through consumer choices like ditching incandescent light bulbs for CFL or LED bulbs, or purchasing a hybrid vehicle that would emit fewer greenhouse gases. If that were all the case that these individual actions would all add up to great benefits and savings for the planet as a whole, then surely by now we should be seeing real dividends.
So how has that turned out? China refusing to simply take all of our recyclable waste has thrown the entire system into chaos, with tons of material winding up in landfills anyway and the rest becoming far more costly to everyone to continue transporting and processing. As for consumer choices on energy-efficient appliances and vehicles? Well, we’re still barreling head-first into apocalyptic levels of warming that will have incalculable effects to the entire planet’s populations. Even as the pandemic raged and many of us stopped driving almost altogether as remote work and school became the norm, as well as seeing most consumer air travel completely halted, estimates are that at its peak global carbon dioxide emissions dropped from 10-30%, which may sound like a lot except when you take a second to realize what the remaining 70-90% represents. If all of us stopping emissions-heavy travel could only take that little out of the whole picture, it means that most of the rest has little to nothing to do with us or the individual choices we make. Instead it’s the current cost of doing business as usual in global economies.
And there’s the real rub, because we are being constantly lied to about what effect we can actually make on these huge, country and global-scale issues. Even when it comes to the personal side effects that these problems create, we’re still being fed lies about individual choices we can make to improve our lives. This article from The New Republic – detailing the cottage industries selling “hacks” to improve your life during the pandemic, either through new-agey self-help advice or, more often, by pushing more things for you to buy – was actually the inspiration for this entire rant.
While these articles offer useful pieces of advice to be gleaned here and there, the fact that they insist that individuals can cope with world-historical (and in some cases completely preventable) crises by changing outfits or sexting is ridiculous. The problems at hand are political, not individual, and so the solutions must be political as well.
Most politicians and corporations want to sell you on the idea that individual actions in isolation can and will change and fix the world. It doesn’t work like that though. Voting in elections matters, but only if there is a public infrastructure in place to actually hold elected officials accountable for their actions, and only if there are actually choices available to people to accurately represent and reflect the will of the people. Buying an electric vehicle won’t change shit if the way they’re manufactured and transported uses up the same amount of energy derived from fossil fuels (not to mention reinforces terrible labor and anti-union practices; looking at you Elon).
People at the top want to sell us on the idea that we can change the world because it sounds nice, but also because it shifts responsibility. Why push for legislation that quickly phases out fossil fuels for industrial use in manufacturing, transportation, and energy consumption when instead we can tell people to buy light bulbs and cars? Why create a national strategy for pandemic containment when we can tell towns and people to make up their own minds about how much risk to place themselves in, as if they have any say in whether their employer decides to give a shit about their health?
So what is the solution then? A large part of why we buy into these myths of individual action is because it feels good to think that we can be in control of our destinies and that our actions can have larger effects. I’m not going to tell you that the answer is to just give into the state of the world and accept the doom while crawling into a corner and feeling miserable constantly – though, crucially, if you are feeling that way, it’s okay! It’s not your fault and you should be allowed to be depressed and anxious without feeling that it’s a personal failing.
The only real solution to all of this lies in a simple reframing of our actions. We cannot change things through individual action, but we can make changes through collective action. This means organizing in your communities, online, and beyond around core beliefs and outcomes. Yes, it does mean organizing around politicians to place certain people into positions of power and then making sure we get enough people to vote for them. But, more importantly, it requires continuing that work once all the votes are counted. Winning elections is only the first step. Organizing and mobilization can never end. It means holding all elected officials accountable, even (especially) the ones you voted for. It means sometimes voting for people you don’t love and then working tirelessly after to change the system so later on you can get someone better in. It might mean threatening to bring the entire system down if it’s the only way to make your voice heard and create necessary change so you and your peers can live healthy, safe lives.
Find a group online or through social media you like that’s doing good work and join it/follow it. If you can’t volunteer your own time, maybe throw some cash their way for resources, or vice versa. Find people in your community who you can team up with on either a single issue or range of issues. I guarantee they exist. The more people you have taking responsibility, the less any one person feels they need to do by themselves.
Those in power who are actually responsible for the many ills of the world want you to believe that either your actions don’t mean much or believe the lie that in isolation they can. Don’t give them that power. If you want to change things, you should change things. If you want to fight, you should fight. But no one should have to do it alone. You are not alone responsible for the world, and you are not responsible for how the problems of the world will bring you down. But at least together we stand a chance.
Metal is about giving a shit, actually
I try to avoid ranting about “trends” because, more often than not, they just pass and are discovered to be nothing but a string of coincidences or a limited phenomenon. But I think the trend of “this vocalist sounds like they don’t care” has been around for long enough for me to address it. It started in the indie sound of the early/mid 00’s and the unaffected affectation (I said what I said) of the aloof, detached vocalist that became super popular during it. That’s fine, in and of itself; indie has its own aesthetic and that sort of image serves its purpose. But the thing is, this idea has started to seep into metal in the last few years as part of the genre’s bid for “maturity”.
We’re not going to get into that bid here because that would spin off its own post, one which would probably go on for thousands of words because I absolutely despise this bid. Quickly stated, the idea one which has haunted metal since its inception: metal is childish, its anger is immature, it’s not “real music”. These ideas leads to the belief that, in order to “make it big” or “make important music”, metal artists must eventually move on from their angry, passionate roots and make music which is more “serious” and “deep”. Examples? The list goes on for miles but: Opeth, Gojira, The Contortionist, Leprous, just to name a few bands that move in blog-related circles. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that vocalist common ground. These changes are not limited to vocalists but definitely often manifest in it.
Whether it’s a move away from harsh vocals (which is fine in and of itself) or the acquiring and deploying of a disinterested, distant sort of sound, these vocal styles are deemed (and justified) by the often use of the word “mature”. The idea is that growls or screams or over-the-top, emotional singing is childish. It’s emo. It’s just a phase, mom. But here’s the thing: it’s not just a phase. Those kinds of styles are what metal is all about because metal is about giving a shit. Metal is about feeling deeply and not being ashamed to express that passion. It’s about defying the norm of a capitalist, alienated, and “ordered” society which wants us to work, consume, and obey. Those maxims are also (surprise) tied to the idea of “maturity”. Being an adult is settling down, settling period, it’s about abandoning your dreams and the depth of the emotion you had as a childish and becoming grey, manageable, governable.
Which is not to say that every single metal band that goes slightly less heavy is complacent. There are perfectly great ways to make “soft”, calm, rebellious music. But too often are these moves tied into this idea of maturing, of becoming “more serious”, of moving away from the passions, emotions, and excesses that lie at the base of metal and at the center of metal’s struggle against the mainstream.