Heavy Metal Terror

Friday, November 13, 2015, marked yet another day of tragedy as Islamic extremists from the self-proclaimed Islamic State used AK-47s and suicide bombs in a series of coordinated attacks on Paris, France.  Six sites were hit throughout the city, with the worst being the Bataclan Theater, where the capacity crowd of 1500 were held hostage and 89 people were killed during a concert by the California band Eagles of Death Metal.

Contrary to the band’s name, Eagles of Death Metal are not a death metal band.  In fact, they are not even classified as heavy metal.  But that does not mean that the heavy metal world has not reacted to the band’s loss, to the Paris attacks, or to terrorism, in general.

Rock & roll has been vilified as marking the downfall of civilization since before the term was coined by Cleveland DJ Alan Freed in 1951.  It’s lyrics, driving beats, and decibel levels seemingly make people lose all control over mind and body; it’s listeners seen as rebellious, insurrectious youths–and worse.  And rock’s evolution into hard rock, heavy metal, and its many sub-genres is certainly no exception.  However, the people who listen to, and perform, heavy metal music have the same hopes, concerns, fears, and joys as anyone else.  And when it come to terrorism they react in a variety of ways, just like anyone else.

Immediately following the Paris attacks, many in the hard rock and heavy metal world did what many others throughout the world did–took to Twitter to voice their concerns.  The Australian band AC/DC tweeted “We mourn this tragic loss of life and stand with the world to salute your joie de vivre. Paix.”, Slipknot singer, Corey Taylor, sent “love and thoughts to the French people” and expressed the hope that “justice is done for those who died & those who were hurt”, and Anthrax guitarist, Scott Ian, simply told everyone to “Kiss your kids, hug your partner and hope somebody somewhere has a plan.”  Others expressed anger, calling the attacks “sick”, “cowardly”, and “appalling”.  And others, still, noted that they, too, take the stage every night, and an attack like this reminds them of their vulnerability–and hoped the band and their crew in Paris were safe.  Of course, we later discovered they were not, as news of Eagles of Death Metal merchandise salesman, Nick Alexander’s death was later confirmed.  Eagles of Death Metal eventually made their own statement, expressing their grief, thanking authorities, and reminding the world that “love overshadows evil”.

Heavy metal bands were similarly affected by the tragic attacks of 9/11, which are reflected in their songs and in their actions.  Like what they have to say, or not–heavy metal artists are rarely at a loss for words.  Perhaps one of the most profound reactions to that event came from the American power-metal band, Iced Earth, and its singer, Matt Barlow.  Following the Sept. 2001 attacks, Barlow took stock of his life and left the successful band the following year to get a criminal justice degree and became a Georgetown, Delaware police officer, before eventually returning to the heavy metal stage in 2007.  With a new frontman, the band released its 2004 world history-themed CD, The Glorious Burden, which featured songs such as the US National Anthem, “When the Eagle Cries“, and “The Reckoning”, which warns our enemies that “justice shall be done, nowhere to run.”

As authorities investigated and arrested suspects in the days following the Paris attacks, many heavy metal bands currently touring throughout Europe practiced the entertainer’s mantra of “the show must go on”.  And as investigations turned up more planned attacks against European targets, and ISIS statement claiming the attacks marked the Bataclan concert-goers as “apostates“, and warned of future attacks, several shows did, indeed, go on.  Some shows, however, did not.  Heavy metal acts, such as Motorhead, Marilyn Manson, and Papa Roach, canceled Paris shows that had been scheduled for days after the attacks.  Similarly, other bands, such as Five Finger Death Punch, cancelled shows scheduled for others cities in France.

But as the days moved forward and touring bands moved on to their next gigs, some resurgence of relative normalcy did happen.  Motorhead moved on to Germany, playing shows throughout the country. In Dusseldorf, the band’s classic song, “Bomber”, seemed to have a new and special resonance with the crowd, as air raid sirens preceded lines like “we shoot to kill, and you know we always will. It’s a bomber, it’s a bomber!” as a metal-framed bomber adorned with pulsating lights and a French flag “flew” above the stage.

However, at least one other heavy metal band felt compelled to completely cancel the remainder of its European tour.  The American band, Lamb of God played shows in Ireland and Germany in the days following the Paris attacks.  But on Nov. 18, citing security concerns that have yet to be made specific, the band and its touring guest, Children of Bodom, canceled its Tillburg, Holland show just moments before the doors were set to open.  Reaction from the band’s usually-loyal following has been mixed, with some showing support for the band’s decision, while others expressing sentiments, such as “the terrorists have won”.  In an official statement from the band’s singer, Randy Blythe, his immediate reaction to the threat was that he did not wish to put anyone, including the band or the fans in harms way, which was succinctly stated as “fuck this, I am done here“, and that the band did not wish to play “terror alert hopscotch through Europe right now just to play a few heavy metal concerts”.  He says he hopes people will understand–but, in typical heavy metal fashion, exclaims that he doesn’t much care if they don’t.

Heavy metal songwriters tend to pen lyrics that reflect the darkness that society encounters, so time will tell if the Paris attacks of Friday the 13th will leave a lasting impression upon the heavy metal world, as the New York City attacks of 9/11 did.  On the more mellowed side of rock, UK fans of Eagles of Death Metal launched a campaign to send the band’s Duran, Duran cover of “Save a Prayer” to the top of the charts, with the original artists vowing that any proceeds it gets from the cover will be donated to charity.  As each individual in our chaotic world tries to move on from these latest atrocities, the idea of saving a prayer for those not alive to move on seems an appropriate response for now.

If Islam is the Problem, What is the Solution?

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Nine years ago, 19 men with a perverted sense of righteous martyrdom commandeered four passenger planes in an attempt to take down The World Trade Center, The Pentagon and the White House. Three of the planes reached their target with devastating effect. The fourth plane, the one headed for the White House, crashed in Pennsylvania when the hijackers were overcome by the heroic passengers. The 19 men had one thing in common that has presented the United States of America with one of its most compelling crises of conscience. The 19 men were all devout, radical Muslims. Now, a country whose fundamental principle is freedom of worship is faced with how to evaluate Islam. Recently, we have seen an evaluation that is frightening in its paranoia, a paranoia that seems to grow the further we get from that terrible Tuesday morning.

Suddenly an entire “industry” has arisen around being “non-Muslim experts on Islam”. I won’t use the word Islamaphobe which carries too much baggage. Let’s just call them self-professed experts. They would have us believe that Islam is not even a religion, but rather a vile social movement disguised as a religion. They cherry pick the Koran to prove how evil the “religion” is.

As they warn us about the evils of Islam, the experts are short on solutions. Let us buy their perspective wholesale. Let’s say that Islam is on the same level as the Nazi party and the KKK. What are we to do about it?

Convene a cross denominational panel to publicly draft a declaration that Islam is not to be further recognized as a religion.

Have the United Nations prepare sanctions against every predominantly Muslim country on the planet, to outlaw the practice of Islam or face penalty.

Engage our ground forces and air force both within the United States and around the world to destroy every existing Mosque, since they are terrorist incubators.

Arrest and detain every practicing Muslim in the United States with conversion to one of the “sanctioned” religions being the only condition for release.

If Islam is the problem my friends then what is the solution? If Islam destroyed the World Trade Center as many would have you believe, then how can we allow Islam to exist?

If the proposed solutions I have laid out are repugnant to you, then perhaps you should reevaluate your attitude toward Islam.

We either believe that religion is a force for good in the world and that only individual men are evil or we commit ourselves to the dangerous exercise of defining the good religions vs the bad ones and then take the necessary steps to root out “evil”.

The next time you go quoting Newt Gingrich, think about what you’re willing to do to solve the problem as Newt has defined it. I say the solutions make it crystal clear that you have defined the problem incorrectly.


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Why the Times Square Bomb Was a Bust

Much has been said since last Saturday night about how primitive the bomb was that Faisal Shahzad left in the back of the parked SUV in Times Square. In fact, as Jon Stewart brilliantly pointed out, some newscasters came dangerously close to teaching Shahzad how to do it right. But has it occurred to anyone that perhaps the bomb was not so much amateur but simply not ready yet? Picture this scenario:

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Faisal parks his SUV in Times Square and turns around looking dementedly toward the rear of the vehicle. “I have but a few steps yet to complete the explosive and then I will teach the infidels a thing or two” he says with a devious laugh. As he prepares to put the final touches on his weapon of mass destruction, he gets an irrepressible urge. “Damn I’m thirsty. Mmm, there is a 7-Eleven across the street. Man could I use a Slurpee right now.” So Faisal leaves the SUV running while he runs into the 7-Eleven for his refreshing beverage. By the time he emerges from his fine dining, he sees a mounted policeman across the street looking at his car. “Curses,” says Faisal, “Western civilization has tempted me with their sinful concoction and foiled my plan!” Faisal Shahzad then runs into the darkness of the night hoping never to be found.

But seriously, is it just me or does it seem that al Qaeda blew its intellectual load on 9/11? Tragedy though it was, one cannot deny the genius of that attack. A multi-site, coordinated attack using a trusted means of transportation as a fleet of missiles. Back in the day, comedian Bill Maher caught a lot of grief for saying that. His timing might have sucked but he was right on the money.

Since then we’ve had a couple of notable Three Stooges attempts at terrorism. Richard Reid couldn’t set his shoes on fire to save his life (or to kill others). Umar Abdulmutallab caused mass destruction only to his testicles. And now Mr. Shahzad joins the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. It could be argued that the only reason Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan “succeeded” was that he was in a position of trust where people knew him but did not fear him. Had he wandered into a random supermarket and started firing one has to wonder if he wouldn’t have shot himself in the foot first.

We can only hope that the caliber of terrorist recruited by these radical Muslim nutjobs remains this lame. Keep them coming boys, since once we catch them all they do is spill the beans on the rest of you anyway. You’re actually helping our cause by sending us incompetent fools who don’t hold up well under interrogation.

Oh, one more thing. On MSNBC tonight I could have sworn I heard that we know what “training camp” Shahzad attended. Could someone please explain to me why we know the location of terrorist training camps and we have not bombed them to smithereens yet? Rather than kill lots of innocent people with drone attacks aimed at one or two al Qaeda leaders, why don’t we flatten these training camps? OK, let’s give Karzai, Zardari and Saleh two weeks notice. You guys bomb the crap out of the camps or we come in and do it ourselves. While we’re at it, let’s take out Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki once and for all so he can stop inciting folks to do his dirty work.

Then let’s present the entire story of our victory over terrorism on …. South Park.


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