Finding joy in uncommon places
I doubt any metalhead could have said it better than August Burns Red did with their newest piece of merch, a shirt that reads “Angry music for happy people” across the back.
Metal music has an undeniably angry tone. Its instrumentation is always aggressive, and the sound of the screams is intolerable to a majority of people. Even so, metal music is not truly an angry genre. While on the surface, metal music is angry in tone, it is in reality a genre of emotion.
To get a grasp of this topic, we’re going to look at the lyrics involved in metal music. In metal, most fans agree that a major concern of what makes a good band is good lyrics. The lyrics involved in metal music are rarely joyful or uplifting on the surface. This is a reality that few, if any, metalheads would deny.
But the lyrics are also very rarely “angry.” Instead, lyrics within the metal genre are often heartbreaking. The songs are about loss, about bitterness, about confusion, about hopelessness. Within the Christian metal genre there is usually a difference, but not much of one. Instead, Christian metal bands typically highlight the struggles that many Christians endure. Doubt, isolation and loneliness are just a few topics included.
There are, of course, exceptions to this. Particularly within Christian metal music, the lyricist will often take a new perspective in order to find the bright side of the matter. One example of this is August Burns Red’s “Mosely,” a song about a friend who died in a car accident.
The beginning of the song is dark, as Jake Luhrs wrestles with the death of his friend, but the end of the song takes on a much more joyful tone as he declares that he will see him again someday. Oftentimes, Christian metal is also worshipful; the prime example
of this is For Today, whose lyrics are typically devoted to declaring the glory of God.
Even with these exceptions in mind, metal music has a bad rep for being angry. August Burns Red recognizes this with their shirt. Their claim of metal being for happy people counters the stance of Being as an Ocean, who tweeted over two years ago, “I’ve learned that hardcore music is not for happy kids with perfect lives.” These two statements certainly seem to contradict, but in reality each band gives a portion of the truth of metal music.
It has been my experience that metal (and hardcore) music does not cater to happy kids with perfect lives. It seems the kids at the shows I have been to find themselves there because of their ability to empathize with the band — or rather, the band’s ability to empathize with its crowd. There is an intimacy found between people when they understand each other’s pain. There is community and comfort found in this.
And in this community, there is joy to be found. I concede that no joy can surmount the joy given to us by Jesus Christ, but I also recognize that Jesus Christ has given us many ways to be joyful here. I can find joy listening to lyrics that I empathize with because of the community and because Jesus has allowed me to find joy in that community. Through this I am joyful, and through this I am happy.
We all have lacked joy at some point in our lives; we know the heartbreak, loss, bitterness, confusion and hopelessness that so many metal bands write about. But in Christ, and in everything Christ has given us here on Earth, we can find joy. We can be more than happy people listening to angry music; we can be joyful people being uplifted by angry music. And that is brutal.