(Yesterday we posted BadWolf’s review of Lord Mantis’ forthcoming album, Death Mask. The review led to some interesting exchanges in the Comment section, most of which revolved around the album’s controversial cover art by Jef Whitehead. BadWolf now follows up with this post.)
Here at NCS, we are blessed with a great stable of readers and commentators. For the most part, you guys respond with decorum and thoughtfulness, even when we cover transgressive and confrontative music, like the kind we covered yesterday in my review of Lord Mantis’ new album, Death Mask. That album features a striking piece of cover art, which some people have claimed is transphobic, or otherwise vile toward transgendered persons. That artwork was produced by another controversial member of the metal community, Jef Whitehead of Leviathan, among other projects.
In that thread, Charlie Fell, bassist and vocalist in Lord Mantis, spoke up. And he had this to say:
“The art work wasn’t meant to offend it was made to be a portrait of myself destructiveness as well as my minds eye view of my humanity and sexuality. The last album also featured a transgendered Christ on it and its been a theme in our cover art through out the bands existence. Im not always the best with words and come off a bit crass and insensitive to some people but I have no problems or prejudices with any race, gender (cis, trans or otherwise) or sexual orientation.
“I myself am a jew and work at a gay bar in Boystown Chicago and also was in a relationship with a transgendered woman so I can tell you that the band does not advocate violence towards anyone besides ourselves, hence the noose and the scars and the agony of the figure on the cover. I haven’t had the most privileged life and the bands art is a direct reflection of my own misery and was not intended to be some sort of tasteless shocker. We wont change the album artwork but hopefully your comments and blog posts that have been circulating will further bring awareness to the statistics that you have pointed out there.”
These comments come in the wake of a controversial interview Fell conducted with Laina Dawes at Noisey (here).
In my review, I expressed that I felt the album cover was relatively lacking in artistic content. Apparently I was quick to judge. Clearly Fell and the rest of Lord Mantis do mean something by the piece.
Many people will still feel offended by the work, regardless of Fell’s comments. Which is fair. The piece exists separately from Fell and Whitehead’s intentions. It is now its own entity, existing in the world around us. A world that, despite the best intentions of many people, is still quite dangerous for our transgendered brothers and sisters.
At its best, metal creates a safe space for musicians and listeners to express their feelings, thoughts, desires, and repulsions. Sometimes the world does not accommodate such safety. If there is a silver lining, it is that this piece has engendered more discussion of transgender issues in the metal community than I have ever seen. Hopefully this dialog can continue, here and elsewhere. I want that dialog to be open, and honest, and move the metal community at large into a place where it can offer our transgendered comrades the same safe harbor that I, in my privilege, have enjoyed.
On behalf of the NCS crew, I’d like to thank Charlie for speaking out, and to thank you all for keeping the discussion alive—and safe. (But if you’re here to spew hate and nothing more, fuck right off.)