To Heavy Metal detractors and haters, its lyrics are beyond any critique because they are allegedly to be so poor that it’s not even worth the time to write about them. For instance, to the rock critic Robert Duncan, Heavy Metal may be described this way:
“Heavymetal: pimply, prole, putrid, unchic, unsophisticated, anti-intellectual (but impossibly pretentious), dismal, abysmal, terrible, horrible, and stupid music, barely music at all; death music, dead music, the beaten boogie, the dance of defeat and decay; the huh? Sound, the duh sound, … music made by slack-jawed, alpaca-haired, bulbous-inseamed imbeciles in jackboots and leather and chrome for slack-jawed, alpaca-haired, downy-mustachioed imbeciles in chap, too-large T-shirts with pictures of comic book Armaggedon ironed on the front.”
Gentle as an elephant, huh?
But the thing is, Heavy Metal lyrics go far beyond the well-known car-girls-sex-dope subjects and the infantile writing. To be truthful, in today’s Metal, lyrics are varied and of a very good quality. Bands write about multiple subjects. One can find lyrics that make professional writers envy them. Extremely good texts, and lyrics are a type of text, tend to be subtle, its message isn’t open and one has to think it over to get what it really means. That’s why scholars are still discussing Shakespeare, Goethe, just to name a few.
Though fans and critics completely ignored the hidden intent of this selection of lyrics, they were meant not to be harmless. In fact their intent was to pass a message which many agree that it is up to Metal now, as long it was rock’s, to be warcries of the rebellion and restlessness.
Here are some lyrics from Metal bands that fulfill the requirements. Some of them might surprise you. Here we go:
‘We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Twisted Sisters
With a quick look in the above pic and the words of Robert Duncan in mind, one may think that they were tailored to Twisted Sisters, but in fact, as funny it may seem, they were not exactly directed to them. But they do fit them.
This is the first one because as though as the message is kind of clear in it, I’ve never seen anyone commenting it. Many have disdained Dee Snider’s abilities as a lyricist. Though very simple, but not simple-minded, “We’re not Gonna Take It” has a strong message that wasn’t really captured back then maybe because of the funny video scenes. In fact, the lyrics are a Metal warcry to rebellion urging to fight the power. Take a look in some excerpts:
“We’ve got the right to choose it
There ain’t no way we’ll lost it
This is our life, this is our songWe’ll fight the powers that be just
Don’t pick our destiny ’cause
You don’t know us, you don’t belong”
We’ll fight the powers that be just
Don’t pick our destiny ’cause
You don’t know us, you don’t belong
“Turn Me on” and “Balls to the Walls – Accept
“Balls to the Walls” is the album that made Accept great in America after a long run of albums and tours. It was the first and only to receive a Gold certification. The album was soon received with a great controversy because of songs as “London Leatherboys” and “Love Child” to be accused of being homoerotic. Yet, down there in the shades of “Balls to the Wall” nobody paid attention to the lyrics of “Turn Me on” I guess because it’s clearly a song about sex. And writing about sex is what everyone expects from a Metal band. But nobody has ever thought of it as being sex from a woman’s point of view. Yeah, that’s right, Gaby Hauke, Wolf Hoffman’s wife and manager of the band, was the one who wrote them with the moniker of Deafy, nobody had any idea of whom it was. It was only after many years that she disclosed the truth about it. A slap in the face of all kinds of moralists. After all, one of the most funny thing to moralists is to see a crowd of machos singing it aloud:
“I can’t wait to get you
Down on the dirty floor
I know it ain’t a place
But come on and close the door
I’m coming down for pleasure
For bradgames all night long
Yes, indeed, I wanna have it now
All what you’ve gotta give
I’m coming to the point – where I can’t hold myself
You shouldn’t hold it back – it has to be done
Please, turn me on, turn me on, I can’t hold it
Please, turn me on, turn me on, I explode”
Title track “Balls to the Walls” goes right to it from the beginning.
“Too many slaves in this world die by torture and pain
Too many people do not see
They’re killing themselves – going insane
Too many people do not know bondage is over the human race
They believe slaves always lose
And this fear keeps them down”
Somehow it was easier in the 1980s to write lyrics positioned against the social machine. It was exactly what to expect from rock/Metal bands. Social justice was the thing to be pursued. But, Metal bands weren’t exactly the kind of rock bands the serious critics expected to write a call out against injustice. Useless to say that in fact there was a real crescent fear from Metal bands and their message. Specially when a bunch of long hairdos from a German Heavy Metal band scream loud to everyone hears:
Come on man, let’s stand up all over the world
Let’s plug a bomb in everyone’s ass
If they don’t keep us alive
We’re gonna fight for the right
Build a wall with the bodies of the dead and you’re saved
Make the world scared
Come on, show me the sign of victory
Sign of victory
Sign of victory
I just can’t imagine a band doing it nowadays with the shadows of fascism and all kinds of intolerance are surrounding us.
“Portas negras” (Black Doors) – Centurias
Centurias are one of the pioneer Heavy Metal bands in Brazil formed in 1980. This song was part of the 1984’s iconic Brazilian compilation “SP Metal 1” with two tracks “Sobre duas rodas” and “Portas negras” (Black Doors). Life wasn’t easy for Brazilian bands in the 1980s due to a lot of real struggles they had to face to survive in a country that really hated them. Most pioneers didn’t make it. Nor Centurias.
In a free interpretation, “Portas negras” (Black Doors) can be read as the doors to Metal bands that were closed, and stuck, by the big media. Brazilian Metal bands could never reach the top due to a blockage raised by the highly concentrated media which held them from reaching high audience shows.
Quando pisei na estrada (When I hit the road)
Nesse amanhecer (At dawn)
As portas se fecharam com o tempo (The doors were closed)
E não abriram mais (And were never opened)
Portas negras cairão (Black doors will fall)
Of course, it’s a very difficult matter to prove, but in a closer look, it explains why bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and other sold million copies in Brazil’s market while Brazilian bands struggled to survive selling few copies recorded in independent studios with poor distribution and lame gear.
“War Machine” – Kiss
“War Machine” is here because of these verses:
Wanna bite the hand that feeds me, wanna turn the tides
Set the demons free and watch ’em fly
Strike down the one who leads me, I’m gonna take his place
Gonna vindicate the human race
Can you imagine a guy like Gene Simmons really meaning it? That he wants to bite the hand that feeds him. Or he wants to turn the tides. Ah, come on. Not in this lifetime.
But, what if they were by another band? Slayer, for instance. They would do harm.