Wednesday, October 7, 2009
LIKE A WILD INDIAN FROM OUTER SPACE: THE TOP 5 MOST PATRONIZING METAL SONGS EVER WRITTEN ABOUT THE PLIGHT OF NATIVE AMERICANS
Above: This guy isn't actually crying about the trash. He's just bummed out that Testament sucks now.
It seems that almost ALL metal bands, at some point in their career, have ONE stepping stone they must share. From thrash bands to traditional metal bands to power metal bands, this rite of passage is as common as it is absurd, and throughout the decades has served as a common denominator shared by most metal bands as they've stepped up onto the big stage stage of mainstream popularity.
I speak, of course, of the "what about the Native Americans?" song that you will find in the back catalog of a multitude of your favorite bands, a seeming prerequisite for acceptance in the metal world. But why do suburban white guys feel so compelled to sing about the Native American plight, using terms like "we" and "us" and "THE WHITE MAN"? The concept itself seems patronizing at best, and completely offensive at the very worst. Aside from Testament's Chuck Billy (who is Pomo Indian) writing songs like "Trail of Tears" and "Allegiance" (Nuclear Assault and W.A.S.P. both had songs called "Trail of Tears" as well, but neither was explicitly about the Indian plight), it seems that the vast majority of metal songwriters have very little reason, justification, or authority to write about the rape of North America as if they were there.
As we discussed in last week's post about Dethklok, I prefer to keep politics the Hell out of my metal. I love ALL of the songs on this list unequivocally, but am at odds with the basic foundation that they were built upon. Are these guys trying to convince us that they fought side by side with the Native Americans against the British? Because quite a few of these bands ARE British.
I know, I know. people have the right to sing songs about whatever they want. Freedom of speech. Look it up, Cobras. But while I myself am by no means a member of the No Fun Club, I do find these particular songs a little silly. Do you disagree? Awesome! Tell me all about it. Shit-talking is the highest form of flattery.
So without further ado...
5) "MANIFEST DESTINY" - D.R.I.
Album: Four of a Kind (1988)
Alright, I admit it. This song is just an appetizer. "Manifest Destiny" is more a song about Christian greed than it is about the plight of Native America, but these lyrics are a dead giveaway:
"They called themselves Christians
And gave themselves the rights
Disguised as missionaries
They were really after gold
Many Indians died for that
How many's never told."
D.R.I.'s attempt to write a "what about the Native Americans?" song was half-assed, and as such might also explain why they failed to reach the high-profile notoriety of other bands on this list. But bear in mind that this is also the band that likened themselves to "wild Indians from outer space" a couple years later.
I'll give you a pass this time, D.R.I., but I might not be so generous in the future...
4) "RUN TO THE HILLS" - IRON MAIDEN
Album: The Number of the Beast, 1982
This song comes in at #4 for the sole fact that everyone knows it, everyone has sung along to it, and everyone learned it on the guitar when they were 15. It's been part of the heavy metal subconscious since its release, and as a result scores lower for its lack of obscurity.
But Steve Harris' lyrics score high for the repeat usage of terms like "us", "we", and "the white man". And what about that VIDEO?!?! Maiden is walking a fine line of self-parody here, whether they are aware of it or not. Taking on the point of view of "the white man" later in the song just confuses the issue:
"Raping the women and wasting the men
The only good Indians are tame
Selling them whiskey and taking their gold
Enslaving the young and destroying the old."
Wait. You started off the song from the Indian's point of view. Now you're the "white man"? Are we supposed to side WITH you or AGAINST you? You ARE British, right? What the fuck, Maiden? What the fuck.
3) "SAVAGE" - JUDAS PRIEST
Album: Stained Class, 1978
Again, a totally kick-ass song from one of Priest's best albums. But consider the paradox:
"You poisoned my tribe with civilised progress
Baptising our blood with disease
You christened our bodies with sadness and suffering
Saying then that your god is well-pleased
What have we done to deserve such injustice
Explain to us please if you can
But you can't, no you can't, we can see it in your eyes
Of us both who's the primitive man"
Harsh. But wait, YOU GUYS are British too, right? So who really IS the REAL "Savage", Halford? I don't mean to be a dick here, but the Native Americans don't really need your help. Maybe there's another oppressed minority you might be more suited to assisting through your music. If only I could think of one...
2) "INDIANS" - ANTHRAX
Album: Among The Living, 1992
Jeez. From the word "Injun" written on the flipped-up visor of Joey's hat to the ridiculous headdress he puts on at about the 3:30 mark, this video clip (and song itself) are a fine example of Anthrax's cartoon-ification of social issues. And the lyrics! Good heavens!
First they guilt trip us with lines like these:
"We all see black and white
When it comes to someone else's fight
No one ever gets involved
Apathy can never solve."
Before getting all "inner city" with lines like these:
"Even though they know how much
Their lives are really missin
were dissin them..."
And then finally demanding that we both "Cry" AND "Die" for the Indians!
Get off your high horse, Anthrax. I don't like being told what to do, especially when you're telling me to die. Maybe you should just get off my fucking back and stick to writing songs about comic books. Even though the "WAR DANCE!" mosh part still gets my nads pretty pumped, I still have my "reservations" about this song.
1) "SPIRIT HORSE OF THE CHEROKEE" - MANOWAR
Album: The Triumph of Steel, 1992
Jesus Christ, Joey. How many times have we been through this?
Manowar's ham-fisted approach to writing songs about "serious issues" has fallen completely flat again. Put away the encyclopaedia, dude, and just keep writing songs about METAL, ASS-KICKING, and BEING MANOWAR.
"The trail of tears began for all the cherokee
The white men came to trade & borrow but then they would not leave
Some of us were taken by boat, and died at sea
Those of us who lived were sold to slavery
We welcomed them as brothers knowing nothing of their greed
Born hunters not the hunted as the white man hunts for me
We are descendants of the animals we live among the free
Our trail of tears would end one day at wounded knee."
Wow. "us", "we" AND "the white man" MULTIPLE TIMES in the FIRST VERSE. Sorry, Maiden. Manowar ALWAYS wins. And then DeMaio pulls out all the stops in the bridge:
"Red Cloud, Black Hawk, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo!!!!"
I can just picture Joey DeMaio's furrowed brow as he cracked open the ol' Manowar Metal Encyclopaedia to write that gem of a line. "Let's see, how many famous Indians can I think of?" Hmmm...
This song always brings to mind those old Looney Tunes "Little Hiawatha" episodes from the 30's or 40's or whatever. Big, clumsy, racially insensitive, and dumb. LONG LIVE MANOWAR!
A shiny nickel goes out to anyone who names a Native American-themed metal song that I forgot. And I'm talking REAL METAL here, so no fucking Nightwish.