Finding Atheist Inspiration in Metal Music

Photo: Randy Blythe and Willie Adler at 2007's With Full Force, Wikipedia Creative Commons

I would rather go an entire lifetime without any possessions at all than to go even one day without the music I love. I am a metalhead, and many people may not realize this, but atheists have a very strong presence and voice in the metal scene – and why wouldn’t atheism be strong there? After all, metal is all about individuality and standing strong and proud against those that would rule over and subjugate us.

Choke Sermon

“Sermon sung me slow to sleep
Faster if I had a choice
With every breath another death
Still so in love with your own voice
Idle threats to hide regrets
Excuses serve to bide the time
Cover tracks, double back
We summon silence so divine

Greeted with a thundering absence of applause

Choke on your own words
Lies are venom in your veins
Burn from the inside
And never speak my name

Jesus complex, gag reflex
Trigger happy redundancy
No thrill, no chase, no saving grace
Hypnotic in monotony
Loaded with a salt rock shot
You say you're everything you're not
What might have been is all you've got
From here and now you're dead to me

Greeted with a thunderous absence of applause

Choke on your own words
Lies are venom in your veins
Burn from the inside
And never speak my name

Nothing will ever erase
Or undo your disgrace
A lonely self-embrace
They've long forgotten you
Still cling to what it was
A lost and hopeless cause
Forever mourning your loss
They've long forgotten you

Murdered slowly in minute increments of time
Pissing up a rope another moment passes by

Choke on your own words
Lies are venom in your veins
Burn from the inside
And never speak my name”

Choke Sermon - Lamb of God

I fell in love with metal long before I actually embraced rationality and logic. It was my guilty pleasure as a Christian. I would have friends get me albums by bands that were not exactly “approved listening,” sneak them home and listen to them through my headphones. I turned the volume up as loud as I could and would picture myself performing on some imagined stage in front of a huge crowd who were all enthralled by the music just as I was. While my family and many of my friends only heard what for them was noise, I heard intricacy and intimacy. I heard men and women who would scream at the top of their lungs and tell the world of their disdain for what they see. Even as a kid, I knew that these were “my people.”

For me, metal music has always been that whisper in the back of my mind that points at something and says, “That’s bullshit.” Metal doesn’t sugar-coat things. It takes the ugly and the painful, and puts it right out front and asks, “Will you be a slave to this?” The greatest thing about metal is that it isn’t very “mainstream” and most of these bands aren’t censored by their recording agencies. They speak their minds and tell it how they honestly see it. They have no problem with pointing at organized religion and giving them the middle finger. It’s the flag that we wave to the world when they try to silence us.

Too Far Gone Now to Reverse My Course and Be Subjugated

“The path I set out on took a turn
when the axis shifted
This is not the life I envisioned
What's done is done
The crime is committed
Now the beast has come home to roost
He returns with blood on his hands
Caught in the trap of meeting
the laws of supply and reprimand

My blood is boiling.

I can't feel my own skin
Though I can see it crawling
Can't expose all these sins
But I can see them falling…

There's no escape from building tension
The pressure valve has been refitted
A lost plot in constant revision
A rising storm that's never abated
You can't know enough 'til too much
The envelope is decimated
Too far gone now to reverse my course and be subjugated

And my blood keeps boiling.

I can't feel my own skin
Though I can see it crawling
Can't expose all these sins
But I can see them falling down.

This is a labour of hate.
Falling down.
This is a labour of hate.
Falling down.

This is how I choose to survive
The only way I know to exist
The road is hard and the cost is high
But I was built for this,

My labor of hate.”

– ‘Visitation’ by Lamb of God

Lyrics like these bring out so much emotion from me. I relate to every word sang and as I listen to the song, I can hear that same emotion in the voice of the singer. In that moment, we share a bond even though we’ve never met and hung out. During those moments, we become friends. All too often, people think that metal is just some loud, emotionless death-march when the reality is that metal is quite possibly the most emotional music mankind has ever been presented with. Yes, it’s guttural and raw. Yes, it’s sharp and it will cut you. Those are the things that come from honesty. The truth isn’t always nice and pretty, but it’s always the truth.

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These particular lyrics stand as a personal anthem for me. If I were to have a theme-song, ‘Visitation’ would be it. I’m honest enough to state without hesitation that I hate religion and that this is a labor of hate for me. Not a hate of any people, but an absolute loathing for the worst ideas of mankind and the doctrines that offer justification for them. I will be loud and vicious and attack these worst parts without relent. I am focused, driven and determined, and all of those were born of hatred for these religions that have raped humanity for far too long. I am not alone in this – there is a whole community of us out there and we are growing – and metal is playing its part very well.

Guilty

“Never fear the truth, or a lie correctly used
When everything you do comes back three times to you
By any other name, the guilty still remain
Suspended in the feign, pawn to his own intentions

Still hidden in the fold
The story bought and sold
Commodified indoctrinate expendables into the splendid lie.

Bound by the chain of lies you've wrapped around you
You're trapped in regression
Dying in the face of the truth

Stoic in silence we're blind inside the void
Ruins remind us of all we've destroyed Dead rail
No way back from here
The mainline to nowhere

Still hidden in the fold
The story bought and sold
Commodified indoctrinate expendables into the splendid lie.

Bound by the chain of lies you've wrapped around you
You're trapped in regression
Dying in the face of the truth

You're just gluing your amber eyes shut
As the world keeps spinning around your cage
While you're waiting for the ghost to bite.
And that ghost will bite.
Still spinning in the veil
Locked in beyond the pale
Internalize and fabricate escapable
Into the deadly lie.

Bound by the chain of lies
Filled with aggression,
watch you die in the face of the truth.”

– ‘Guilty’ by Lamb of God

I do have words of my own and I use them as often as possible. I do my best to state my case in my own words. Sometimes, however, these musicians just seem to say exactly what I’m thinking and feeling in a way that I feel that there are no better ways to express it. For me, each and every song is an anthem. These songs are part of the soundtrack of my life. In all honesty, my love of this music defines me more than even the label of atheist that I wear proudly. If someone asks who I am, they’re most likely going to hear “metalhead” as the first thing out of my mouth.

The Undertow

Being a form of art makes music open to interpretation. It is meant to evoke feeling and emotion from the listener and that feeling and emotion is meant to be a personal thing. You and I may take something very different away from having listened to the same song – or made a different emotional connection. What brings tears to my eyes may only sound like noise to you. This is how it’s meant to be and what it’s meant to do. Just like any painting or sculpture, not every song or style of music is going to appeal to everyone. This is what gives us an amazing diversity and so many genres to choose from.

The thing that so many people fail to see is that, I could have replaced the word “music” in my previous paragraph, with the word “religion” and the statement would still be true. There is no absolute truth in music, nor is there any in religion. They both act on our emotions. The question we must each ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing and able to control our emotions – or are we going to blame the rest of the world for our inability to take some personal responsibility for our emotions and the actions that occur because of them. There are a great many out there who would have the rest of us shoulder their blame – and we must fight this constant undertow.

“You always needed people like me
Directions for your fingers to point
A crooked dealer's blaming spree
I'm guaranteed to disappoint
You're weak and scared and cutting raw deals
But fortune always favors the bold
I'll bet it all and crush your bluff
I'll never yield nor ever fold.

And I won't shoulder the blame.

I am the one who's left to take the fall
I fight the constant undertow.

You always needed a distraction
A target for the stones that you throw
To draw attention to your actions
I'm tailor made so lock & load
Oh, you're telling tales
You spineless coward
Your word's not worth its weight in shit
Back against the wall, belligerent.

I won't shoulder the blame

So high and mighty But when the bottom drops out
You're gonna find me standing where you left me.

I am the one who's left to take the fall
I fight the constant undertow.

Deal the last hand, let the cards fall where they may
From your castle made of sand you're looking down at me
So high and mighty But when the bottom drops out
You'll have to face me waiting where you left me.

I am the one who's left to take the fall
I fight the constant undertow.”

– ‘The Undertow’ by Lamb of God

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