I grew up listening to metal. I have also had more than my fair share of interactions with various manifestations of the American Right for well over a decade.
With that in mind, I can say with confidence that heavy metal music has done far more to advance authentic right wing aesthetics, values, and yes, even philosophy, than all the failed institutions of the Beltway Right put together.
Whatever the political opinions of the artists involved (if they even have any), metal belongs to the Right. From the most simplistic party sing alongs to the highly complicated creations of serious artists, metal repeatedly stresses themes of conquest, self-overcoming, strength, and conflict. If the primary value of the Left is equality, than the primary value of the true Right is hierarchy. The common thread between an anthem about drinking with girls to the heavy drone of doom meal is the rejection of egalitarianism and the pretty lies of modernity. If leftists can “Imagine” along with John Lennon a world where the Last Men loaf about all day where there is “above us only sky,” metal provides the battle songs for those things it’s still worth to “kill or die for.”
Metal is about seeking glory and excellence–Wagner for the working man. Even a leftist who tries to channel metal will find themselves presenting an image of strength, vitality, and self-glorification. Whatever the political beliefs of a left wing headbanger, the aesthetics betray them.
The same cannot be said for what passes as the conservative movement’s “aesthetics.”
Some Christian conservatives hate metal because of the anti-Christian beliefs and symbolism of certain people involved. Obviously, this paints the genre with too broad of a brush–it’s worth noting that the “Satantic” imagery of many early artists was used to symbolize evil as something real and something to be feared. This is a far more respectful treatment of Christian theology than the contemporary Christianity–which holds faith as simply a means to fit in the occasional day at an inner city homeless shelter, stripped of any divine significance. Besides, most Christian conservatives today seem more intent on competing for who can adopt the most half-starved African children to bring to their McMansion than ensuring a promising future for their own children. So we shouldn’t be too concerned with their cries about how “evil” metal is.
Even those authentically anti-Christian metalheads attack the faith from a different perspective than your usual campus leftist. Metal is filled with critiques of the Christian religion for displacing the indigenous spiritual traditions of Europe, for allegedly promoting egalitarianism, and for serving as a force of repression on extraordinary individuals. It echoes Oswald Spengler’s charge that Christianity was “the grandmother of Bolshevism.” This is hardly the same old recycled anti-Christian tripe.
Beyond the ideology and aesthetics, metal is profoundly a “localist” genre. Bands must develop a following and work their way up, rather than simply being imposed on all of us by some record producer at age 19. This goes for a lot of the “pirate radio” that first popularized the genre as well. What was best about local metal radio shows was that they were proudly local institutions. The announcers were amateurish, half the bands were unknown, you couldn’t get a decent signal once you left the confines of the city it was based out of, and it utterly lacked the gloss and professionalism of a major radio station. It was something unique, an acquired taste. You would actually find out about new bands or new songs from it–something you can hardly get from major radio today.
When conservatism was serious, local institutions were prized for their own sake, with communities serving as the proper basis for affection–the “little platoons” in Edmund Burke’s phrase. Today, conservatism is composed of 20-somethings making 20 something a year plotting to give deracinated corporations tax breaks. For me, it’s the same conflict as listening to a new band on a metal playlist or hearing the same Rihanna “song” yet again on a “professional” station. The latter can only be called “culture” by a true cynic and serves as evidence that popular choices are imposed from above rather than the spontaneous “free market” of conservative/libertarian fantasies.
Metal as a genre, even in its lowest form, relies upon musicianship. At its best, it can sublimate profound themes within complicated melodic structures. You can’t “fake” good metal. It’s no accident that many younger metalheads find that they “graduate” to classical when they get older, in the same way that the talented musicians who pioneered the genre owe a debt to the maestros of Vienna and Bayreuth.
In today’s popular music, you can substitute Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Rihanna, the animated corpse of Britney Spears, and whatever else they are promoting in and out of any given melody. It’s hard to say if anyone would even notice–as long as you keep the autotune on. The themes are predictable, the melodies hackneyed, the “message” cliched–express yourself, even (especially) when you have nothing to say. Popular music is the soundtrack to American-style democracy, and I can think of no greater condemnation. If I can slightly borrow a famous phrase, when someone tells me the pop station is “culture,” I release the safety catch on my revolver.
Clearly, if conservatism is about upholding the established order, heavy metal music is hardly the kind of thing champions of the long extinguished Ancien Regime would be comfortable with. Of course, that’s sort of the point. We don’t live in a world where the “Establishment” is patriotic landed aristocrats defending the interests of Church and Crown. We live in a world where Fortune 500 companies fund groups that combat “white privilege,” where multiculturalism has joined hands with Goldman Sachs, where the justification for this System is outlined for you in your mandatory diversity training in the classroom and the corporate boardroom. It’s their system, not ours. Why do we want to make it more efficient or cut their taxes?
The Right can’t look to Burke in this context–they should look to Burzum. The System must be dismantled and metal is the soundtrack to that Revolution–even if the people playing it aren’t aware of it.
Want to do something that will make a difference? Save the money you were going to waste on supporting another huckster conservative politician promising to save America, and go buy some metal records instead.