The other day, I was driving around listening to the radio and "Crazy Train" from Black Sabbath came on the radio. From very early on, I was taught to avoid heavy metal at all cost. It was the devil's music, etc. Now, I'm not so worried about these things. I mean, really, listen to this stuff. What's so scary about these lines from "Crazy Train"? "Crazy, but that's how it goes. Millions of people living as foes. Maybe, it's not too late. To learn how to love, and forget how to hate." Seriously? What is demonic about that? What is wrong with that? I would venture to say it's perfectly dead-on.
I've been mulling this one over for years. Iron Maiden. The one song I knew and loved was "Run For The Hills," which is about the plight of Native Americans, focusing on the endless droves of white men coming and taking over their land and though they fought them hard and fought them well, in the end, there really was nothing they could do except run for the hills. Seriously, what is demonic about that? Again, I would venture to say it's perfectly dead-on. Even poignant. And heart-wrenching.
So, the other day, I decided to go to youtube and well, listen to nothing but Iron Maiden for, I don't know, an hour or two. First off, Bruce Dickinson's voice is amazing. I've always known that. From knowing and loving "Run For The Hills". The guitars were great. Melodic. Relentless. Classical, almost. The music was intense and infectious. And not once was I compelled to worship the devil. Even when "Number Of The Beast" came on. It was just good, somewhat dated, heart-thumping music.
Just for the halibut, I decided to go and check out a couple wikipedia pages on the band. I settled on one of their discography pages, particularly on their album, Piece Of Mind, which is regarded as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time. When I got to the below excerpt I was more than a little surprised. Read it and I'll give you my thoughts afterwards.
Excerpt from Wikipedia page on Iron Maiden's Piece Of Mind shedding light on the album's compositions: "Lyrically, the album largely reflects the group's literary interests, such as "To Tame a Land", inspired by Frank Herbert's 1965 science fiction novel Dune;  "Sun and Steel", based on Yukio Mishima's 1968 essay about samurai Miyamoto Musashi; "Still Life", influenced by Ramsey Campbell's 1964 short story "The Inhabitant of the Lake", and "The Trooper", inspired by Alfred, Lord Tennyson's The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854). Film influences are also present, such as "Where Eagles Dare", based on the Brian G. Hutton 1968 film, scripted by Alistair MacLean, and "Quest for Fire", based on the 1981 film by Jean-Jacques Annaud. On top of this, "Revelations", written by Dickinson, includes lines from G. K. Chesterton's hymn O God of Earth and Altar, while the remainder of the song is influenced by Aleister Crowley. More exotic influences include Greek mythology, albeit slightly altered, for "Flight of Icarus". "To Tame a Land" was meant to be entitled "Dune" after the novel. But after seeking permission from Frank Herbert's agents, the band received a message which stated, "Frank Herbert doesn't like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially bands like Iron Maiden" and were forced to change the name."
Okay, yeah, so what's so demonic about that? Yes, there's some Aleister Crowley in there, but it's not like the album is flushed with devil worship or something. In fact, if I was going to sum up their subject matter with anything, I would go with, well, nerdy. How do I know this? Well. I'm a nerd. I mean, check this out, Dune? Samurais? Tennyson's The Charge Of The Light Brigade? Greek Mythology? And finally, some Aleister Crowley? This isn't overly demonic. It's overly literary. I mean, really, it sounds like a college class syllabus. It sounds like the stuff that used to intrigue us, when we were teenagers, curious about life and death and everything in between.
So, I guess I'll sum it all up like this...like beauty, I think evil is in the eye of the beholder. Nobody knows what good or evil is lurking in anyone else's heart. So, in the mean time, we'll just go with this: if it walks like the devil and talks like the devil than it's probably no more than what you perceive the devil to walk and talk like. Or it's a really killer metal song.