.Editorial - Too Extreme?
Metal Reviews

Release year: 2012
Reviewed by Goat

One of the reasons that I started listening to extreme music was for the very extremity of it. It felt right that extreme music should be 'extreme', should offend mainstream sensibilites as much in style as in sound. Yet as I get older, and closer to this dreadful mainstream that my rebellious teenage self once despised so much, I sometimes wonder what on earth I'm associating myself with. The latest example of this came with the release of Leviathan's latest album, True Traitor, True Whore, concurrent with Jef Whitehead being accused of sexual assault. I haven't written a proper review, and have decided not to. It's hard to separate art and the alleged crime of the artist, as I would normally do, when the entire purpose of the album is so clearly to attack the accuser in question, and harder still to defend to interested bystanders. Most of us into underground metal have had one of those horribly awkward moments when we are asked to defend, say, Cannibal Corpse cover art, and explaining the appeal of True Traitor, True Whore is even harder.

The most obvious thing that strikes you is what a horrible, rushed, shoddy album it is, the accusations hanging as you listen making it far more uncomfortable than any Burzum album or even daft bit of flute-enhanced Jewhating from Nokturnal Mortum. I find both Varg and Knjaz Varggoth ridiculous and unthreatening characters; Leviathan has become something truly disturbing, however, precisely for the seamless way that it fits into the metal underground. In some ways, this is extreme metal at its most perfect, doing exactly what it says on the tin by chilling the listener to the bone with no suspension of disbelief required. Sure, Whitehead has not been proven guilty and I am more than happy to believe in his professed innocence. Yet this album is a personal torrent of bile, a violent revenge fantasy, a message set to music that places message above music and suffers for it. It's the aural equivalent of throwing a rock through someone's window, a marriage of black metal misanthropy and real-world mysogyny that can't help but glamorise the latter in a way that is plainly, shriekingly wrong to anyone with even a foot in the real world. A review couldn't ignore this, and it's a step too far by any moral standards.

Declaring oneself to have moral standards when one is talking about an artform often dedicated to the shredding of that very thing is eyebrow-raising these days. There's only so long you can delude yourself, however, and making excuses for any form of bigotry in music because the socially transgressive nature makes the music darker and more interesting is just moronic. It's not just a problem with Leviathan, which has always had a mysogynistic slant to it; my colleague Charles mentioned his distaste with the 'rape you, kill you' lyrics in Autopsy's Dirty Gore Whore song, and there are numerous examples of this sort of thing going uncommented upon. I fully believe in free speech, in allowing any moron with their idiotic beliefs to have their say, but that doesn't mean it has to be accepted and even glamorised. And it's hard to see how praising True Traitor, True Whore is anything other than that, at heart.

Ultimately, this isn't a call for a new morality in underground metal - I'm nodding along to Cannibal Corpse's Kill album whilst writing this. It's not even a call for more feminist-friendly language. As off-putting to newcomers as the violence and sexism of metal is, I think the sheer aural unfriendliness is a far greater barrier to entry than pictures of dead people, which serve to reinforce a stereotype rather than create one. Plus, of course, there's the fact that female metalheads are not shrinking violets in need of male protection from icky nastiness any more than their mainstream sisters are! That doesn't mean that targeting women in metal is acceptable, however. If all you're doing is attacking people with your music, then you've become the equivalent of the worst kinds of NSBM; making music written to carry a personal message, with no merit of its own. That isn't something I want to associate myself with, whoever the target.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted
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