Grymm Comments: On the Separation of Art from Artist

Grymm KittyI’m sure by now you all know that your favorite artists don’t exactly live the lives they write about. Slayer’s Tom Araya is a devout Catholic and a proud family man. Similarly, W.A.S.P.’s Blackie Lawless gave up fucking like a beast for Jesus. Glenn Danzig loves his cats and Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth is a gamer and Sailor Moon fanatic. In other words, it’s not all that often you encounter a musician (or band) that lives up to the extreme lyrics they pen. They’re just regular, mundane human beings like you and me [Except Manowar. They live and die for metal.Steel Druhm].

But sometimes, you listen to a band and enjoy their work significantly, until you find out something horrifying about them. Yes, it’s true: some of your favorite musicians and bands are major assholes, and I don’t mean “Dave Mustaine/Ted Nugent” level assholedom, either. I’m talking about the level of questioning your own belief system after said revelations.

A few years ago, I had a co-worker who was a pretty convincing metalcore screamer. His lyrics were very engaging with a powerfully positive message. I asked him who his biggest influence was, and without any hesitation, he said, “Dude, that’s easy… Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying.” Well… needless to say, stuff happened. Really, really bad stuff. My co-worker was so disgusted that he questioned his path as a musician and even his own beliefs as a Christian. Thankfully, after a good long talk, he came to his senses and, to my knowledge, still practices his craft on the side.

And that’s not an easy thing to do, as I too have struggled with my own core values when listening to certain music. I accepted an assignment for a 20-year anniversary piece on Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse last year; an album that I love, but also knew that right around the time of the album’s conception, drummer Bård “Faust” Eithun murdered a homosexual man in cold blood near Lillehammer, Norway. As a gay man, you don’t think I didn’t have any self-conflicting issues with that? Still, it was an important, influential album that deserved recognition, despite my own personal views on what Faust did. Same with listening to anything by Dissection for similar reasons, as I would be foolish to not, at least, acknowledge that both The Somberlain and Storm of the Light’s Bane were incredibly powerful, well-written melodic black metal albums. And even though what Blake Judd did was incredibly shitty, I can at least listen to Nachtmystium’s “Every Last Drop” still, due to the fact that he may or may not have had a hand in any of that song’s conception save for his vocals, and it remains one of my favorite album closers to this day.

Danzig with cat

Of course, there are bands that I won’t go near, no matter how much praise is sung their way. Burzum, as influential and powerful as some of Varg Vikernes’ music is, won’t even make it to my hard drive. And as an added note, I want to say that it’s disturbing and somewhat disgusting that people will call for the heads of Blake Judd for being a drug-addled thief (which, in hindsight, I am guilty of and will own), and Liturgy’s Hunter-Hunt Hendrix for being a pretentious-yet-ultimately-harmless affluent “transcendental black metal” pioneer, and yet give Vikernes, who is an actual murderer and a Nazi sympathizer, a free pass. Priorities, guys and girls.

I love my black, doom, and death metal, but as soon as the word “Ukrainian” is thrown in front of it, I’m on their Facebook and Encyclopedia Metallum pages, looking for anything remotely resembling a sunwheel, swastika, Hitler mustache, National Socialistic viewpoints, etc. In fact, even with their “changing of viewpoints,” I’m still leary of how sincere Nokturnal Mortum are with their recent change of hearts. I will shut off Malevolent Creation quicker than Phil Fasciana can say “Yoo-Hoo!” Needless to say, don’t engage me on Arghoslent, either. Yet, despite all this, people have no problems separating any of the aforementioned with their crimes and/or viewpoints.

Ultimately, who you listen to and, more importantly, who you give your hard-earned money to, should be researched carefully. I’ve said my piece on the subject. Now I’m curious as to what you have to say in the comments section. Thank you for reading.

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