Heavy Metal Can Help You Survive Anything
Or, how riffs can help us cope in a post-Kavanaugh world (plus new tunes from Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Iron Reagan, Cloud Rat, and more).
Photo courtesy of Ragana
To Hell And Back is a weekly column in which Noisey metal editor and lifelong hesher Kim Kelly explores the extreme metal underground and recommends her latest faves.
It’s only October 11, and this month has already been a uniquely difficult one for American women and nonbinary people. An alleged attempted rapist was confirmed to a lifelong position on the Supreme Court. We marked the one-year anniversary of the sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harry Weinstein that turned Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement into a mighty wave. The number of trans people—most of them women, many of them of color— murdered this year reached 22. Thousands of indigenous women across the border in Canada are still missing.
Meanwhile, a fascist with a proudly admitted history of sexual assault is still President. He repeatedly used his platform to denigrate and mock sexual assault survivors and their allies, and just this week, his First Lady publicly cast doubt on the veracity of survivors’ testimony. The Republican war on women and anyone who isn’t a straight, white, cisgender man with a US birth certificate continues apace.
September was bad, too. So was the month before that one, and the month before that, ad infinitum. It has never been a good time to be anything but a white man in this country—a stark, inalienable truth that will linger as long as we allow it to do so. It is, however, a good time for those of us pushed to the margins—denied our rights, robbed of our autonomy, our voices left stifled in our throats—to get angry. Very angry. And what’s the best thing to do when you’re angry? Throw on some heavy metal, sit down with some trusted comrades, and start organizing.
This past year, I was fortunate enough to speak with the women spearheading the Swedish metal scene’s own version of #MeToo—an explicitly anti-racist, anti-sexist, survivor-focused movement they dubbed #KilltheKings, which then split to become #MetalToo. It was inspiring to learn about the networks they’d built up, and to see the solidarity at work within a scene that often feels like it wants to tear us apart. As Dear Darkness—one of the movement’s foundational groups— wrote in a Facebook post, “We must unite across borders, women, nonbinary, and men, to work for an equal hard rock and metal scene together. A scene where we can all share the love for the music on equal and safe terms, as a team. It’s the music that unites us, and it’s the music that should hold us together.”
Music—particularly metal—is very good at holding you together when you feel like you’re coming apart at the seams. It’s what has brought me peace amidst the deafening roar of the past few weeks, and has always been a refuge for me when times were tough. As much as metal has saved me, though, it’s also left me with some terrible scars.
I have been doing this job for a very long time. I was 15 when I first started writing about metal, and 16 when I started interviewing bands. I have spent literally half of my life in metal spaces, alongside an ever-rotating cast of creative, talented, inspiring humans of every gender, including hundreds of truly wonderful men. I cherish those friendships and connections, and am so grateful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had. Men have been my mentors, my friends, my confidantes, and my partners.
But, scattered throughout all the concert halls and label offices and tour buses and backstage bars, there have also been a lot of shitty men. Men who did not always have my best interests in mind. Men who had more social capital, more clout, more entitlement. Men who thought they owned the world and everything in it. Men who were stronger than me. Men who’d drank too much.
If you’re a person who participates in the metal scene, you’ve probably come across one or two of them—hopefully less, probably more. I hope to all things unholy that you haven’t, though, because the damage they inflict can be debilitating. It’s always unacceptable, and always undeserved, and it can come back to haunt you when you least expect it—like, say, when you’re sitting at your desk at work, trying to finish up your column for the next week while ignoring the bad news crawling down your screen, and then… a memory pops up, unbidden, unwelcome, but stubborn as a deer tick. You try to shake it off, bury yourself in your work—the capitalist in your head offering a comforting distraction from the outside noise—but still, it lingers. It always will. The only way I’ve found to deal with it is to crank up my headphones, and power through. To listen to something that makes me feel strong, and let the notes wash away the pain.
For me, right now, that something is Ragana, who released a new split with Thou on September 25. They’ve been there for me a lot since they released 2016’s immensely powerful LP You Take Nothing, and at this point, it’s almost eerie how well their release schedule syncs to my personal traumas. As vocalist Maria told me about its title track, "Part of that song is me being like, 'Yes, you take it. I am so exhausted, but you can't actually take anything from me; I'm always gonna be my whole self with all my feeling and emotions and love for everybody and everything, and all my memories.”
The Bay Area anarcha-feminist guitar-and-drums duo works in graceful tandem to harness just the right amount of rage, pathos, and frustration, and their screamo-informed blackened doom feels pure and necessary. It feels like they read my mind, filter it through a screen of ash and bone, then bring it to life in sweet, thundering sound. They stare into the void, and let their lips curl. Defiant. Cathartic. Strong. You take nothing.
Crank it louder. Let your bones shake.
Never forget how powerful you are.
The genre-skipping Michigan grind trio have just released two compilations, Silk Panic and Clipped Beaks, that lovingly gather up tracks that had been hithero scattered across a series of splits with other like-minded sonic destroyers like Crevasse, Disrotted, Moloch, Drugs of Faith, Test, and The World Is A Vampire. These songs technically aren't new, but it is an absolute treat to be able to consume them all at once; I'm currently binging on guitarist Rorik's perpetually inventive riffs, drummer Brandon's propulsive percussion, and vocalist Madison's serrated howls and wistful whisper like they just dropped on Netflix.
The deathrock-drenched Oakland anarcho-goths in Mystic Priestess are giving me so much life (or I suppose I should say, death) with their latest EP, No Tomorrow, Only Today. Ripped straight from the grave of the 80s, their tunes sound like a mashup of Bathory's best album and Siouxie's worst nightmares, with plenty of swagger and spite to keep things from getting too grim.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
British oddballs Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats are back with another proto-metal-slash-doom potion. Their latest for Rise Above, Wasteland, offers a heavily melodic dose of dark psychedelia, bolstered by spun-out riffs, vintage organs, and soaring alien vocals—if you dig this band, you're going to eat this shit up.
I've been following Corubo's indigenous Brazilian black metal noise terror for years now, and am obsessed with their furious new split with raw metalpunks No Más, Nascidos para Sofrer, Vivos para REVIDAR! The record dropped earlier this week, on Indigenous People's Day, and lyrically excoriates the ruling classes, colonial destruction, and Christian hypocrisy. Suffice it to say, it's the perfect soundtrack for class war (especially if your cadre fucks with blastbeats).
The Richmond metalpunk boys are back in town with a new EP, Dark Days Ahead, that features tracks culled from the sessions for their most recent LP, Crossover Ministry and will drop on 10/12 via hardcore crew Trapped Under Ice's label, Pop Wig. Wrap yer ears around "Patronizer" above.
This is a damn good old school death metal album from a gang of Pennsyltucky newcomers who have clearly studied the greats and come out with a few putrid ideas of their own. I've been sleeping on this band for awhile now—don't make the same mistake!
Kim Kelly is Noisey's resident metalhead; she's also on Twitter.