Feb 142015

Photo by Tim Flach


About the title of this post: I’m using the term “we” very loosely. A lot of people who visit this site, maybe a majority of you, probably don’t like disgusting music. Heavy and harsh, even angry and savage — yes. But disgusting? Not likely. I’m just as sure that many of you do. I do. But why?

I’ve had that question in my head for a long time, but like most hard questions, I put off focusing on it. What got me thinking about it last night was Durf Talitopia’s review of Primitive Man’s new EP, Home Is Where the Hatred Is, at Brutalitopia. He wrote:

These are four songs that make you feel the need to shower after listening, and then maybe consider just drowning yourself in the bathtub…. Home is Where the Hatred Is will definitely not be for everyone.  It’s uncompromising in its ugliness, relentlessly spewing spite and bitterness from every second of every song…. This is music that has little to no commercial appeal, music that most people would probably turn off halfway through the first track.  In short, it’s music made by a band that believes in it…. I love that Home is Where the Hatred Is exists, and I think it’s one of the most distinct, incredible albums I’ve heard in a long, long time… even if I might not listen to it again for a long, long time.

Durf found the EP’s final song particularly disturbing: “‘A Marriage With Nothingness’ is one of the most uncomfortable songs I’ve ever encountered, to the point where I genuinely don’t know if I ever want to listen to it again.”

I hadn’t heard that song, or anything else on the EP, until reading the review. I listened to “A Marriage With Nothingness” first, and then I started writing this post.



I doubt that an attraction to disgusting music comes naturally to most people. I think what comes naturally, in the enjoyment of rock music generally and metal in particular, is a memorable melody, an electrifying riff, a tribal rhythm — something that stays with you. If you like disgusting music, I suspect it was an acquired taste, like a shot of whiskey or a drag on a smoke. No one likes it the first time, but for some people it grows on you, if you stay with it. But why?

I know people who swear by ugly music because it captures their view of the world and their perspective on the human experience: People are shit, life is pain, the future is hopeless, the past is a cankerous sore that won’t heal. Beautiful music is a lie, it isn’t real, it’s a fiction. Beauty is what fools find in life, or something that happens to those on whom fortune smiles. But if you’re no fool, if you ain’t no fortunate son (or daughter), it has no relevance.

The thing is, I don’t have that view of life. I happen to love the world and most of the days I spend in it. In my world view, some people are definitely shits, but most aren’t. I’m sure that my rose-colored view of the landscape is a product of coming out on the winning end of the cosmic dice roll most of the time. If your past is full of lucky breaks, if the dice roll your way more often than not, then you tend to expect more of the same. That’s called optimism.

So why is an optimistic, generally cheerful person who tries to find silver linings in clouds and the best in the worst people drawn to disgusting music? Why was Death Mask by Lord Mantis one of my favorite albums of last year? Why am I getting impatient for the next release by Dragged Into Sunlight? Why am I praising the new split by Vassafor and Temple Nightside in tomorrow’s review? Why do I find Primitive Man so powerful? When nihilism and misanthropy aren’t the cornerstones of your philosophy, what accounts for the appeal of disgusting music?


Justin Bartlett — artwork for Lasse Marhaug


I’ll throw out a few ideas, speaking for myself, but I’m honestly not completely sure what the explanation is, even for myself.

I think the power of music, and metal in particular, lies in its ability both to express emotion and to provoke emotional responses. When done well, it captures and conveys feelings in ways that mere words cannot, and at its most powerful it provides a release and a relief from strong emotions (which is how the dictionary defines “catharsis”). When done well, it also changes the way we feel — it alters our moods and transforms our feelings as we listen.

Ugliness is part of life. Pain, fear, hatred, and disgust are all around us (and within us), even if we don’t allow those feelings to consume us. Maybe we need music as an outlet for those sensations, as a mechanism that allows us to preserve our own balance.

And maybe emotions that are rooted in pain, fear, hatred, and disgust are simply more powerful than other emotions, so that music which captures those moods and makes us feel them as we listen is especially powerful. Maybe Primitive Man picked their name because these emotions are the most primitive and the most ancient parts of what it means to be human.

Most people don’t enjoy confronting such feelings or experiencing them — they prefer music that’s a form of escape from them. They would be repelled by the music of bands such as Primitive Man. And that’s why, as Durf wrote, this kind of music has no commercial appeal. But maybe it’s potency lies in the very fact that it doesn’t provide an escape — it doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of life.

I don’t mean to push this idea too hard. Undeniably, music that captures and creates moods of wonder, awe, joy, and love can be powerful, too (though you don’t find much of that in metal). So is music that captures the wild feeling of throwing off restraints. But for some of us, there is a unique power in ugly, vile, disgusting music.

So, those are my ideas. I hope you’ll feel like providing your own answers to the question in the title of this post. The Comment section awaits…



  1. Can I cite someone’s comment from another site here? Is that allowed? I’m not waiting for an answer.

    Someone using the name “Witch Hunt Riding Through” gave part of the answer that applies to me in response to the Invisible Oranges article about the U.K. dudes starting a journal about metal music (January 28, 2015). He or she says, in part:

    ”. . . I do shy away from extremely violent and racist rap music because of being able to decipher all lyrical content. Whereas, extremely violent, preferably non-racist, metal music can be listened to in blissful ignorance. I’m not trying to be ignorant, but I do sometimes like to listen to metal just because I’m mad or irritated and need a hardened, rhythmic pick-me up.”

    That is part of the explanation for me. The vocal style used in death and black metal requires that the listener expend extra effort to understand the lyrics. You have to read the lyric sheet or listen very closely, if the vocalist is coherent in a manner permitting the latter. Passive listening allows the lyrics to become simply another part of the music without transmitting their verbal content in an understandable fashion. If you enjoy the texture, energy, emotion, structure, melody, and technical skill embedded in the sounds of the song, you can still enjoy all of this without the meaning of any words the vocalist uses detracting from the experience, if you wish. This feature is one half of the reason this type of music can still be enjoyable to me even if the lyrical content is disgusting. (We are talking about lyrical content are we not? Or did you mean the musical sound itself?) Another half would be the catharsis effect you talk about and that the IO comment mentions. And another half would be elements I haven’t figured out yet. OK, that’s 3 halves but you know what I mean.

    • I was really writing about the ugliness of the sound rather than the lyrics — the wash of uncomfortable noise, the squall of feedback, the oppressive atmosphere, vocals that sound like retching, etc. I don’t pay much attention to lyrics — they’re almost always unintelligible in the kind of metal I like most, and it’s rare when I even find out what the words are.

      Also, my halves tend to come in 3s or 4s, too.

      • That would take more thought. The word “disgusting” doesn’t come to mind for me when I listen to the “Loathe” track. I like it, but I am not certain I can tell you why I like it. I haven’t heard “Marriage With Nothingness” so I can’t talk about that one, although Durf Talitopia’s description of it doesn’t make me want to listen to it. I enjoy Dragged Into Sunlight very much, and that is another band that is difficult to explain even to myself. But I never think of it as disgusting. It is heavy, dark, gloomy, and radiates a melancholy mood, but it doesn’t seem disgusting or nauseating to me. I suppose that sometimes music like this seems oppressive or uncomfortable. That seems to enhance the cathartic effect.

        Several years ago at a school I attended a Catholic priest who was one of my professors walked by and heard me listening to death metal on my laptop speakers. He asked what it was and why I listened to it. I said something about simply enjoying it, but I also said that I found it calming and that sometimes I would listen to it when I have trouble sleeping and it would send me off to sleep – sort of like a lullaby. The priest said that I must have a very disturbed soul. Perhaps that is the real answer.

  2. I like disgusting music for many reasons, I like it because reflects my philosophy and my emotions and because is more interesting, listen after listen grows in me, metaphorically thinking I have a “Metal heart” while beautiful music is fake, what is said in the lyrics is not true, most of the melodies are dumb, annoying and boring, one of my favrite releases of the last year was “Death” by Teitanblood, that is an album that I consider unforgettable and the main reason is that Metal leaves a trace impossible to erase within me!

    • That Teitanblood album hit me the right way too, which is true of everything they’ve done so far.

      • You’re right, their music is a very plausible example of Blackened Death Metal, one of the most extreme and agressive album that we had the pleasure to hear since ever and we can use a lot of words to describe them but the truth is that some people knows how what means “dark” in terms of sound, great duo to me!

  3. Speaking as another person with a lot of great dice rolls, I must admit that my gravitation toward harder, disgusting music does relate to what I feel is a deeper, more cosmic truth. You think about the great works of literautre that live on through the ages, and they aren’t by and large, happy endings. Paradise Lost. Moby Dick, fuck even The Illiad, they all pack high body counts. the mythologies of most cultures primitive or otherwise, are full of bloodshed and incest. So part of the appeal is definitely this feeling that extreme metal gets, in a way, back to the roots of the blues (Islander, one of our mutual associates, the one who accompanied you to Gilead, probably can see the validity in this). It expresses the truth, I think, and I like that.

    I’m reminded, second, of the very first episode of Mad Men, wherein Pete Campbell tries to userp Don Draper with a strategy he’d abandoned–selling a product based on the “Death Wish.” Campbell’s pitch fails, and Don says to him something along the lines of “of course the ‘Death Wish’ is real [i think many of we smokers and ex-smokers can attest to that], but nobody will ever believe it will sell, even if it would.” I think that’s the truth as well. Extreme Metal’s appeal is primal. the death wish is real. But it cannot exist, naked, in a consumerist market.

    My two cents, anyway.

    • Worth more than two cents — thank you. I think you’re right about the importance and the primal appeal of truth in music, even ugly truths. That’s one reason why I have almost zero interest in pop music — it seems so lacking in truth or even true feeling, too calculating, too bland, too uninspired. If the strength of music is in expressing and transforming our emotions, it’s weak, it leaves me cold (and not in a good way).

      • I mean, I love pop music. but I think it does need to be rooted in strong emotion for me. the pop I like is definitely the minority, even if some of it is quite strong. There’s room for the truth in the mainstream, or at least a part of it, but frequently that part is sort of shipped in stealthily.

  4. “And maybe emotions that are rooted in pain, fear, hatred, and disgust are simply more powerful than other emotions, so that music which captures those moods and makes us feel them as we listen is especially powerful.”

    Spot on.

    Of course there are non-metal listeners who are very passionate about music and yet I think your statement is one big reason why we are all a bit too fiercely passionate about what we listen to than the average music listener? . And there is definitely a good chance that your background (or where you come from) and your world view explains why you listen to the more disgusting grime laden variants of metal. Maybe its the bringing up (and it doesn’t always need to be bad), your brush with societal values, and the like.

    I’ve constantly been asked why do you wear all this dark, horrifying T – shirts, while I really do so to a good extent because of the artwork on display. The fact is that we are at odds with how society is constantly geared to happiness, so much so when the unavoidable comes they fall into ruin. Maybe why we love disgusting music is just to gear ourselves to the unpredictable vagaries of reality, headlong and not just a conduit to escapism.

    • Well said. We are indeed fiercely passionate about metal, and yes, maybe to the point that we don’t give enough credit to the passion felt by fans of other genres of music. I’ve probably lost my own objectivity, but I do believe that in metal there is more passion, honesty, and an unflinching exploration of life in all its “unpredictable vagaries” than in most other forms of music (and certainly more popular forms).

      • “unpredictable vagaries” did sound a bit redundant. haha. My bad.

        And definitely yes.. That unflinching exploration of life is indeed what drives us to hunt for so much of music, but its been tiring as well. I quit my blog just last week, unable to take the daily dose of life and to have to manage the blog

  5. i definitely lean more towards death and thrash than black, grind, crust, sludge, fuzz, etc. so i’m not sure if the cleaner, punchier, more defined nature of those two styles qualifies as “disgusting”? if it does i don’t know if i can really give any good explanation why i like it. i’m not expressing any kind of deep rooted emotional ugliness when i listen to it or create it. listening to Slayer or Cannibal Corpse makes doesn’t make me feel like i need to shower afterwards, it makes me really happy. if it didn’t put a smile on my face i wouldn’t listen to it.

    • I saw Cannibal Corpse for the first time last week. Even though I was crushed to the point of breathlessness in a too-dense crowd, I did leave with a smile on my face. 🙂 I almost never have a smile on my face when I listen to more disgusting forms of metal, which is part of the conundrum I tried to explore in the post (and I’m still not sure I have the answer to why I don’t stay away from it).

      • Yayyyy!!! I’m both extremely jealous and extremely happy that you got to see Cannibal Corpse! 🙂
        i totally get why many metalheads go to a dark place while they listen to certain bands. but for me it’s always been a fun escape, kind of like watching “Nightmare on Elm Street” of “Friday the 13th”.

        • Yep, Cannibal Corpse were playing with Behemoth, with Tribulation and Aeon opening. I just wish it hadn’t been so jammed at the venue — I’m pretty confident they way oversold the place.

          • Gonna catch that myself here in Chicago on Friday, assuming they let me in (it’s all ages, but my lack of a government ID at present has already presented quite a few conundrums).

            • They seemed like a natural pairing with Cannibal Corpse, but I was disappointed. The drums were way too high in the mix, and the non-stop blasting drowned out a lot of the other instruments. I think Aeon has some cool guitar melodies on record, but I could barely hear them, and so the songs tended to just all sound pretty much alike.

              • that’s too bad, i love that band. but i’ve noticed that same issue with many of the younger death metal bands, without a good experienced sound guy of their own the guitars can get lost in the mix. when i saw Obituary last fall the mix was incredible, the guitars were just crushing!

  6. One of the main complaints I hear from people who categorically dislike metal music is, “how can you listen to this, you can’t even understand anything they’re saying.”

    I’ve always been one who didn’t particularly care about lyrics – as I’ve often said, unless they particularly stand out as really well or really poorly written. I pay way more attention to the music, and generally my ears treat the sound of the vocals as another part of the music.

    Having said that, I’m much more interested in the overall tone/vibe/feeling of songs, rather than what they’re literally about. And (finally getting to the point of the article I’m responding to) – for the past few decades I’ve gradually developed much more of an inclination towards tones and sounds that are unpleasant and un-pretty. For the most part. (Admittedly, I do often enjoy the contrasting juxtaposition of little bits of gorgeous melody or dulcet sounds set against the ugliness.)

    Mostly, I think it’s just an aesthetic preference for me. I don’t have an especially negative or bleak worldview, nor do I usually enjoy the horror movies or other similar art forms that often traditionally go hand-in-hand with listening to this kind of music… I just really perfect things that sound unpleasant and imperfect. That’s likely why I also have such a strong aversion to things that are auto-tuned, synthesized, and programmed. The artificiality that too-often goes with a lot of modern music styles (modern metal sometimes included): it’s so perfect that it is unreal and, frankly, not at all enjoyable to my ears.

  7. The mainstream is already saturated with faux-positive, mindless feel-good music. What I find especially appealing in underground music (e.g. extreme metal) is that it doesn’t play by the same rules. It is a free-for-all, and nasty, ugly music is one aspect of this. Dunno, maybe I’m fucked up, but I get fucking chills from music like Gnaw Their Tongues, or Khanate, or Pig Destroyer, or whatever – its music beautiful in its ugliness.

    I think I’ll close this post with a Pig Destroyer quote:

    She asks me how she looks
    And I tell her
    That she’s as lovely as the vultures
    As pretty as the larvae of the fly

  8. I get asked this question a lot – i tend to find myself around a lot of people who decidedly do not listen to anything this “disgusting”. And to be honest, I have no fucking clue why I like stuff this disgusting. Maybe it’s because the evolution of my tastes happened so slowly and gradually, but I really can’t point to a reason why “Hammer Smashed Face” scared the shit out of me at one point, and became a nostalgic classic for me no more than a few months to a year later. I could point to some of the arguments presented above – while I personally have had a hell of a good roll of the dice in this game of life, I know that, in the greater world, there’s a lot of shit that goes down, and I’m much more of the mind to want to confront it in some way, rather than escaping it through some flimsy, nauseatingly repetitive pop song. There’s also the argument that metal, and perhaps some other harder-to-find genres, have more of some unnameable substance to them, and seem to have more weight behind them in some capacity than would a given pop song. All in all, though, I truly have no idea how my music taste got so fucked up in relation to the “norm”. At some point, I just kinda stopped asking myself and went with it.

    • I just went with it too. And as time has passed my tastes have become more and more extreme. I haven’t figured out the reason for that either. I shudder to think what I’ll be listening to 5 years from now.

  9. This is something I have never understood. Perhaps it is because as an adult, I came (and come) to metal via Jazz (though metal came first, it’s a convoluted story) and then later, Deleuze (even more convoluted).

    One thing that frequently occurs in discussions such as this is the tendency of writers to NOT get deeper into the essential and arbitrary “constructedness” of pleasure/pain. Although horribly unfashionable now, the postmodern concept of metanarratives is very useful here. Metanarratives of pleasure/displeasure/discomfort/pain in music are not only common but enduring, yet what we often forget (sly Revolting Cocks reference FTW) is that they are placed in social/cultural/political/temporal matrices.

    In other words music has different functions, purposes and value depending on context. Where it is a direct expression of cultural identity, music that falls outside of established parameters is often (but not necessarily) devalued, considered inferior or unpleasant.

    In Europe, where the concept and practice of rhythm as a musicological element, as a valid compositional technique remained woefully under-developed (indeed development was even actively opposed even post-Jazz) as it ran counter to the “common sense” of harmonic principles established in both folk and classical musics.

    Fast forward to the early twentieth century: this is a time where jazz has dismantled harmonic/melodic norms by making use of disgusting rhythms, unpleasant/vulgar cadences, irregular modes and traditions.

    Jazz (particularly the noisy and avant garde types) still has the power to shock and even by today’s standards, the most conservative/banal/”pleasant” jazz can be a disgusting affront to a certain type of musical listener.

    Continue the hayaokuri to the second half of the 20th century. Electrified instruments used in certain ways are considered unpleasant. Volume, feedback, deliberate dissonance/assonance. Yet many of these unpleasant expressions have become staples of a range of contemporary musical genres and in some cases integral (where would rock be without feedback, sustain and distortion?). Yet again, for some people, the very sound of a distorted guitar is deeply unpleasant, regardless of its genre affiliation.

    Same again for metal. Simply add blast beats, greater volume, time changes etc.

    Once we understand that these are simply musicological/stylistic elements that are part of a broader musical history they lose their power to shock or disgust. Similarly, if we examine the social/cultural location from which we experience music the arbitrary nature of disgust becomes more apparent.

    One point, however. The physical experience of music does produce actual physical stimuli. Loud volumes DO damage hearing. Highly amplified low frequency sounds hit us in the chest rattle dental fillings, highly amplified high frequency sounds can cause other vibrations and frequencies within a certain bandwidth do assault the ears because of the underlying biology of human hearing etc.

    BUT these effects can be achieved regardless of genre, subject matter etc.

    Which brings me to the topic of performance.

    At what point does “disgusting” music lose authenticity? In other words, the music referred to in the above piece is often performed. It’s level of disgust is something that relies not only on certain suppositions about what disgust is but also on the intentions, mood, physical condition and ability of the performers and audience.

    If you go to see a disgusting band several times a year, does the disgust wear off? What about the performers, imagine playing several gigs per week, playing the same songs… to what end? Can self loathing, self-disgust, malice, disgust at the world etc be maintained indefinitely?

    TL;DR – when I was a kid I thought Godlfesh’s Street Cleaner was terrifying, brutal and non-musical. Years later, I find it groovy, melodic and insightful. I learned that notions of disgust are not only social and cultural but are fragile, impermanent and reside mostly in the listener him/herself.

    • Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and thoughtful comment, even if it is one that makes me feel somewhat foolish for writing what I wrote.

      “I learned that notions of disgust are not only social and cultural but are fragile, impermanent and reside mostly in the listener him/herself.” I really can’t argue with that. I also can’t argue with the proposition that in other genres of music at different points in time, performers pushed beyond existing norms to make music that “disgusted” traditionalists.

      I should probably just give up now, but I’ll venture this further question: is the kind of jazz that disgusts traditionalists (or fans of more melodic, more structured music) really indistinguishable from the kind of metal I was trying to write about? Is the emotional impact really the same? I don’t think so. I’m not talking about music that’s disgusting or ugly because it’s jarring or dissonant or refuses to follow regular cadences and forms. I was trying to focus on the kind of sound and atmosphere that generates a particular kind of emotional response and captures a particular kind of mood.

      Or at least that’s what I thought I was doing.

      • Thanks for the reply, I was in academia for a while (mostly education with a splash of today’s most hated cultural theory [boo! hiss! – can you hear them scream]) so I get the feeling people’s eyes just glaze over when they read me in metal blog comments.

        Perhaps it was because I was running out of time but I could have unpacked the latter half a bit more. But just to clarify, I am interested in the concept of “disgusting music” and I am interested in teasing out exactly what we mean when we say this.

        I am less interested personal/emotional/scene responses (not because it’s less valid, just that it is more common/normal and therefore there already exists a significant space for it to be discussed in such terms among like minded peers, and cos I’m contrarian).

        1. My point is that intrumentation, timbre and dynamics are only a single element of what constitutes disgust. They have a powerful effect on evoking the disgust emotion because of the way we give emotional and psychological relevance to them through daily repetition and cultural norms (whether they be of the pop world or self-policing metal heads).

        2. Then there are lyrics but as you said elsewhere, not really the point.

        3. Other musicological elements such as time changes, basing swing on shifting meter, dissonance etc also contribute to disgust.

        4. Technological elements (amplification, effects, sound spectrum manipultion)

        5. Genre identification (this is the most fuzzy and kind of goes back to the emotional response I referred to earlier). As in “we’re anti-music, disharmonic, we hate the world, we’re grimy and we revel in the profane (whatever that is) Again, I’m not opposed to this at all, I just think that sometimes people want to connect with something “disgusting” in order to explore something disgusting in themselves or because they feel a resonance with disgust. In a way, it is about community building.

        6. What is the purpose of the disgust “we” feel at listening to disgusting music? Is it just self-indulgence? Is it that we enjoy feeling “immoral” at times (the meme of the devout Southern white Christian man who desperately wants a fat black cock in his ass and who wants to lick it clean post-coitus, comes to mind)


        It ultimately, to me, this form of disgust relies on consensus for qualification, thus what is “disgusting” at one point in one community no longer disgusts in another community at another time.

        Finally, Islander, you said:

        “I was trying to focus on the kind of sound and atmosphere that generates a particular kind of emotional response and captures a particular kind of mood.”

        And I think you really successfully articulated that in the original article.

        However, what I ask you is:

        What are the quantifiable elements that establish “sound and atmosphere”?

        And what I challenge (not refute or oppose) is the causal link between music that possesses certain musicological elements, is of a certain genre identification etc to “generate” an emotional response.

        Perhaps it is because I grew up listening to JG Thirwell, Einsturzende Neubauten and other first wave industrial stuff and more or less deconstructed my capacity for disgust through musical performance.

        Perhaps it is because I have children these days and not even shit stained hands on my face or a freshly vomited pool of cream penne on my pillow disturb me much…

        Perhaps it is just simply because I am too contrary.

  10. As I’m writing this I’m listening to the new Dodhemisgard song, and at least personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that I like ugly music because of the madness it portrays, it’s a side of life not usually heard in music, hard to confront, hard to enjoy, I view it also kind of the saying about first admitting a problem before being able to solve it.

    When people get disgusted by this kind of music, as mentioned above, like the violent lyrics to rap, it’s because we are presented with something usually shunned in the day to day, but once embracing it, it stops being bothersome, one can understand it and revel in it. (Not sure if I’m actually saying what I want to say, it’s not a feeling that easy to describe).

    It makes me think a bit of Sheogorath, from the Elder Scrolls Universe, in particular Oblivion and the island where he lives, one side consumed by madness, the other wacky as well, but controlled.

    I still remember the first time I listened to a Behemoth song (one of my first exposures to actual extreme metal) and thinking it was horrid, even though I already listened to thrash and melodeath, but I kept coming back to it.

    After that came things like Anaal Nathrakh or Portal or Mitochondrion or Deathspell Omega, then Dragged Into Sunlight and Teitanblood; without fail, repulsive upon first listen, but now sounds that I enjoy. A matter of letting it sink in, assimilate it. Embrace that other part of reality.

  11. You know, I think you should go on hiatus more often Islander – don’t take that the wrong way 😉 – because it seems like whenever you do you come back with sublime posts like this. I’m thinking back a couple of years maybe there was some post with clouds in it you did after a break. All I remember was there were clouds.. and it was sublime. Now this.

    Strangely this reminds me of a link a friend shared on facebook – arguably one of the poppiest, un-disgusting, superficial inventions of this age (well, one could argue it is disgusting in its own way….). It was a link to some article where the author was going on about how our modern culture is always geared towards the pursuit of happiness, and there’s this cultural pressure to always be happy (how often has someone asked ‘how’s it going’ and you said ‘good’ when you meant ‘meh’?), and they were wondering about what it’s like for kids to grow up in this environment: would they come out afraid of feeling lonely, depressed, disillusioned? Thinking that these feelings were some sign of personal failure or that something was ‘wrong’ when really they’re just natural human emotions? It was a nice observation on how the pursuit of happiness could lead one to fear sadness, or not be able to really accept that sadness isn’t equal to failure.

    I don’t really have much more to add on that than others have commented here – how metal feels much more real because it connects in a way false optimism doesn’t. Conversely, I think it’s also why optimistic, high energy metal hits home too – because it isn’t an always-on phenomena – it feels more real. There’s nothing like something absurdly heavy, yet optimistic, which leaves you with a big stupid grin on your face. (“Oh my god this is so fucking heavy… and I’m so happy right now.. am I happy because it’s heavy or because it’s happy? Oh fuck it, I love this shit!!”… come on, we’ve all been there 🙂 )

  12. I think your idea of catharsis is spot-on. Historically, Greek tragedies ended very poorly–and bloodily–for the protagonists, but the audience supposedly felt a little lighter coming out of the plays. I distinctly remember the first time I saw a really brutal noise show live, I thought, “Man, those guys must feel really CLEAN after that.”

    And that’s been the role of “disgusting” music for me throughout my life: a vent. I don’t generally think of myself as a misanthrope, (I am acutely aware that my life as a straight white dude in 2015 means I’m better off than 99% of humans who have walked the Earth during its entire history) but Lord knows there are plenty of times when I feel a surge of fury or anger or hopelessness. That’s just part of being a sentient being. When I listen to something that transports me, where I can scream along or bang my fists on the steering wheel or whatever, I feel much better afterward. I don’t take out my aggressions on real people in the real world because I have this blessed means of purging myself in a way that hurts exactly no one.

    Also, one of the comments above mentioned how they were initially frightened by much of the music they later came to love. That’s a consistent trend for me. I want something that’s going to have a real, visceral effect on me–like that damn Tietanblood! Most music–hell, most art–becomes worthwhile to me by expressing an intensity of emotion, whether that’s some teenybopper singing about a broken heart or a trve beast snarling about the end of days. If it feels real to me, then it has value because it brings me into contact with my real feelings, instead of the anesthetized, sterilized version of feeling that’s pressed on us by what is at this point an uninterrupted flow of marketing hoo-hah. Different sorts of music might appeal to me intellectually, emotionally, or physically, but I find that “disgusting” music often rolls all three into one.

    Good question, good discussion.

    • And just so no one misconstrues that “straight white dude” comment, by “better off” I mean that–through no doing on my part–society treats me better, not that I’m actually better. I can marry who I want, reach into my pocket without a cop shooting me, and get paid better than others who do the same work. Not a situation I created or exploit, but I do acknowledge that the roll of the dice that is my genetic background left me much more privileged than others.

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