Go Finish Your Homework, or No Beers For You

From Blabbermouth:

Blackwell Publishing has just released a book called “Metallica and Philosophy”, which is said to be as “a provocative study of the ‘thinking man’s’ metal band.” A description of the book reads as follows:

“Hit the lights and jump in the fire, you’re about to enter the School of Rock! Today’s lecture will be a crash course in brain surgery. This hard and fast lesson is taught by instructors who graduated from the old school — they actually paid $5.98 for The $5.98 EP. But back before these philosophy professors cut their hair, they were lieutenants in the Metal Militia.

“METALLICA is the ‘thinking man’s’ metal band and the headbanger’s CNN. Snobs and music critics have often dismissed METALLICA as mindless noise; we’re here to set the record straight. ‘In pursuit of truth no matter where it lies,’ this book considers questions that philosophers have been pondering for ages, including: Does METALLICA’s music provide an Aristotelian catharsis or does it just make kids go postal? Can ‘Fade to Black’ save you from suicide? Are we all in the ‘Sanitarium’? How can we ‘Escape’ to be free? What can Nietzsche tell us about the God That Failed? What can Descartes and ‘One’ tell us about the relationship between the mind and the body? Did Lars make a sound argument against Napster?”

“Metallica and Philosophy”:

* Is a provocative study of the “thinking man’s” metal band
* Maps out the connections between Aristotle, Nietzsche, Marx, Kierkegaard, and METALLICA, to demonstrate the band’s philosophical significance
* Uses themes in METALLICA’s work to illuminate topics such as freedom, truth, identity, existentialism, questions of life and death, metaphysics, epistemology, the mind-body problem, morality, justice, and what we owe one another
* Draws on METALLICA’s lyrical content, Lars Ulrich’s relationship with Napster, as well as the documentary “Some Kind of Monster”
* Serves as a guide for thinking through the work of one of the greatest rock bands of all time
* Compiled by the editor of “Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing and The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer”

“METALLICA is more than just a band, and this book is much more than just a ticket to ride down memory lane. This is an in-depth analysis of the soundtrack to your life. So start your CD player, fire up your iPod, or, better yet, break out the old vinyl. We’re going’ for a ride with the four horsemen, and a few philosophers too.”

Commented ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian: “The most elucidative dissertation on METALLICA ever written. And a kick-ass read to boot!!!”

Added Joel McIver, author of “Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica”: “‘Metallica and Philosophy’ is, at long last, the book which finally gives everyone’s favorite headbangers due credit for being intelligent, questioning, and even cerebral.”

For more information, click here.

Hooooo boy. What can I say about this that isn’t going to come out bitter and spiteful? Pretty much nothing. The spite is, of course, in reaction to how Metallica has let us all down in recent years with the advent of documenting their therapy sessions and then releasing one of THE worst albums- by anyone’s standards- of this decade. Just about anything linked to them from now on is going to take more than a spoonful of sugar to slide down this old-school fan’s gullet.

Still, this isn’t a product of theirs, per se, so I’m curious- and thankfully, the authors do come across as being well-informed about their subject. While I don’t think that they’re completely out of their mind to link the career arc of Metallica to a philosophical paradigm, I do think that the tagline is a bit of a misnomer: “a provocative study of the ‘thinking man’s’ metal band.”


No. Who told this guy that Metallica represented the “thinking man?” And when did Dream Theater and Queensryche lose that distinction? Clearly Metallica are more complex and nuanced than, say, the Sex Pistols- but a thinking man’s band they are not. Yes, they reference Lovecraft. Yes, they speak of war, of religion, of politics- this is not to imply that the men themselves are stupid or poorly read; simply that as a whole, Metallica do not represent a lifestyle of secondary education and a quest for knowledge, nor are they known for being progressive (see previous article about how they’ve been playing in the same key for decades). To wit: let us hearken back to the days of Alcoholica. Of the Metal Militia. Of young men getting in drunken fistfights and indiscriminately banging groupies (yes, they did it too- you just never heard about it, because Tommy Lee was the one getting all the attention for it during those years. Metallica knew how to keep quiet about their conquests). They’ve cultivated an image that was more working man than thinking man; more disaffected proletariat than college professor. Point is, if they are indeed “thinking men” in the sense that they’re of a refined attitude and carefully measured actions, then they’ve been doing a bang-up job of keeping it under wraps.

That said, I think that the long and varied history of Metallica does present a viable macrocosm for life philosophy, and I’m curious to see how the author draws connections between Decartes and “One.” Seems a bit far-fetched on the surface, but I’m always down for a little intellectual gravy on my metal steak and potatoes. If nothing else, it will likely expose many people to classical philosophical ideas in a palatable way- even when presented in a neat little pop culture disguise, I won’t turn that down.

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