“You listen to music that scares people.” I remember the day a work colleague said this to me. The conversation started among a group of us about what music we each liked and which bands we regularly listened to. At the time, I was hesitant to reveal the music I listened to but I divulged anyway. I told my colleagues that I listened to mostly punk, hardcore and metal music. Afterwards, the conversation went silent. What my colleague told me seemed to be a natural response; a reflex response to something that lacked understanding.
Now, I can understand why someone would tell me that I listen to music that ‘scares people’. These genres of music tend to get a bad rap among conservative, mainstream circles because they associate these genres of music with what they think is violent – deafening music, yelling and growling, messy mosh pits, sweaty circle pits and heavily tattooed and pierced fans. Yes, these genres of music can sometimes be associated with violence but this has always been an ill-informed stereotype.
The mainstream can be seething with mediocrity
Humans express themselves creatively, and it’s creativity that defines humans as a species. Music is one way in which humans express themselves. Yet, music is a broad topic that attracts a varying degree of opinion. Herein lies the trap; opinion can be driven by a lack of understanding and knowledge.
Music can be a vehicle for change in our society and those who play music are seeking a change they want to see in their world. However, music can be a money-making machine for many and the resulting music can lose its effect on people; messaging and agendas get lost in the financial mess if not forgotten entirely. Mediocrity quickly sets in.
For years, metal, hardcore and punk music has been at the forefront of communicating an agenda to fans. The agenda is mostly simple and straight-forward – there are unresolved issues in our society and music is a way to shed light on these problems while releasing frustrations. It only makes sense that veganism exists in these genres of music because those who are making this music see the injustices that are occurring behind closed doors. Some bands sing about slaughterhouses, others choose to sing about farmed animals locked up in cages while others sing about veganism being the new ethic. Shedding light on these issues may seem scary to some, but isn’t this the point of music? Should music attempt to scare us and attempt to challenge the status quo? Oftentimes, it’s the status quo that’s doing the most damage.
When kindness and compassion are misinterpreted as violence
Fans of metal, hardcore and punk music aren’t immune to the issues in our world, and they tend to support the bands that want to change our society. This is the action of the individual when the individual feels helpless because society’s problems seem overwhelming and unsolvable. Those who listen to metal, hardcore and punk music want to give rise to the voices that can’t speak. There is a plethora of bands out there that sing about kindness and compassion towards animals, but the tone of voice you hear onstage may be associated with violence.
When was the last time you wanted to get a point across? You used your voice – you increased its volume and used direct language to make maximum impact. This is no different in metal, punk and hardcore circles and it’s often the loudest voices that get heard the most. The louder you yell, the more people will sit up and take notice. Also, it’s about reaching out to that emotional, subliminal place in someone’s consciousness using evocative lyrics. This is not violence in this action; rather it’s the actions of a revolution.
Similarly, bands often struggle to be heard not to mention the many animals that find themselves in the never-ending cycle of factory farming and animal cruelty. Screaming from a place of kindness and compassion on their behalf is not violence. Music, just like veganism, is a form of activism and activism brings about awareness to the issues we experience in the world.
Some of the metal, hardcore and punk musos that do good by the animals
Over the years, there have been countless bands doing good by the animals. Some of the earlier bands like Napalm Death and Carcass sung about animal rights, while later bands like Propagandhi and Earth Crisis highlighted the plight of animals trapped in systemic cruelty or questioned their listeners to look at what was on their plates. The issue of ‘humane slaughter’ is also raised, which is now a hot topic in the meat industry and argued against by vegans. Even punk bands from a Hare Krishna position, like Shelter, brought their religious beliefs and veganism (or at least vegetarianism depending on which band member) to their audiences.
Furthermore, Oderus Urungus from metal band GWAR teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) to create a video that slams the fur industry. Alissa White-Gluz, vocalist for Swedish metal band Arch Enemy campaigns regularly for vegan issues. She replaced previous vocalist Angela Gossow who is also vegan. Another campaigner for vegan issues is punk icon Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, guitarist from Misfits, who has often stated that vegan is ‘metal as fu*k’. He also featured in a hilarious cooking video for PeTA in order to break stigma and stereotypes surrounding vegan food, metal and to some extent masculinity. Another vegan is Jona Weinhofen, guitarist for metal band I Killed The Prom Queen, and he regularly speaks openly about veganism via his Instagram page.
At the end of the day, it’s all about standing up for those who are powerless
So, yes, I do listen to music that scares people but standing on the fence is even scarier. All that really matters is that you stand up for what you believe in and music can help you achieve this. Music can also break through the monotony and make you question what is really going on in your world. Metal, hardcore and punk music can also help release those frustrations you see in the world while you try to find a solution in your life; a more kinder and compassionate way to live. Music is also an effective way to help you arrive to an essential lifestyle change.
While I’ve been a fan of metal, hardcore and punk music for years, it took me years to come to veganism. But slow change is much more effective than no change at all. Music has helped me question my world and help me unfollow the status quo. Music helps to shape culture, but it can also help to change culture and question tradition. Metal, hardcore and punk music does this effectively.
To finish, I’ll leave you with some lyrics from Earth Crisis’ New Ethic: “Veganism is the essence of compassion and peaceful living. The animals are not ours to abuse or dominate.”