Conquer All: Inspiring Metal Lyrics

Nergal, saying "get your shit together! Conquer all!" (src)

One stigma that bugs me is the one that says heavy metal (or extreme metal, black metal, death metal) is nothing but pissed off, hateful youth who rebel for rebellions sake. There is an element of truth to this, but the world of metal is often an outlet for passion that can breed positivity. Countless metalheads relate to the darker side of life that the metal world captures, and this goes way beyond any faux Satan-worshipping or wearing all black. I want to illustrate two solid examples of bands who, to the common listener, may seem “scary” and obscure, but have, in my opinion, supremely uplifting lyrics.

Consider Behemoth, one of Poland’s most internationally-known bands, a force to be reckoned with both live and recorded. In the track “XUL” off the album Demigod, vocalist Nergal writes:

All things exist in me
I believe in naught save myself
My sermon steadfast and proud:
There is nothing but god in me!

All things stir in me
With joy and suffering
My sermon steadfast and proud:
There is nothing but god in me!

I love these lines, as they encapsulate a very secular humanist outlook on life, one filled with both “joy and suffering,” but with the statement that, in the end, you have to belief in yourself. Behemoth is quite critical of traditional religions, so the implication of “god” here is a very abstract one, more akin to “god” being nature, or just an essence, as in Taoism.

When Nergal battled Leukemia last year (which actually prompted the compassion of black metal fans) many worried it would be the end of a great band. Not so, as he triumphed through it all, relying on the strength of his family, friends, and worldwide community of fans. He said recently, in an interview regarding the disease:

I really see Behemoth’s attitude as a very positive thing anyway. Even though our music is serious and angry, it’s all about just marching over the top of any obstacle or problem whatsoever.

And to me, that’s how metal should be! Consider the Dimmu Borgir song “Gateways” that was released in late 2010:

Be the broken or the breaker
Be the giver or the undertaker
Unlock and open the door
Be the healer or the faker
The keys are in your hands
Realize you are your own sole creator
Of your own master plan

Again, supremely invigorating words: you have the power, you have to do the work, and you can choose whether to be broken, or do the breaking! Break down problems, break up confusion, break stagnation! Everything can be overcome. The album the song derives from is entitled “Abrahadabra,” or “I will create as I speak” – a reference to Aleister Crowley’s “The Book of the Law.”

Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir - look how motivational he is (src)

Unfortunately, I could find little to justify DB’s position on the empowering nature of their lyrics. Perhaps introspection isn’t something they advertise in their “tough” interviews! Regardless, that’s the beauty of lyrics – we can interpret them anyway we like, and I think that sometimes, they are some gems within the endless stream of cacophonous metal prose.