Metal Escapism as Mental Strategy in Maddening Times

[Warning: This essay contains some ideas and links that "conservatives" might find offensive. If you object to sexually explicit material and profanity, do not read this. But if you love freedom—and good music—read on and click on the links.]

I hate these times. America (I don't say "United States," because there is nothing united about the states today, other than a general common stupidity) and the rest of Western civilization seem to be falling apart and committing suicide. Big governments and big corporations are acting like authoritarian collaborators in attacking and destroying our individual freedoms, liberties, and natural rights, while they promote "woke" propaganda to grow their power and domination over our minds and money. Meanwhile, most people apparently support the rapidly spreading authoritarianism, or they are too timid or frightened to speak out against it or do anything about it. 

I dislike my fellow Americans for allowing this travesty to happen to this formerly great country over the past several years. The only recent times that I felt proud of Americans were after the election of Donald Trump in November 2016 and during the so-called "insurrection" at the Capitol Building in January 2021. In the 2016 election, millions of Americans really stuck it to the crooked self-serving establishment by voting for the flamboyant blunt-talking outsider Trump. Then after the 2020 election was obviously stolen from Trump, a few Americans took a bold and brave stand for freedom and truth—right on the swampy territory of the big traitorous crooks at the Capitol! That was wonderfully inspirational—though, unfortunately, it prompted the evil government/corporate establishment and their sycophants in the mass media to become even more despicable and obnoxious.  

I'm in my early 60s now, and I see no hope that the situation will improve in my lifetime, because the mass ignorance and brainwashing keep getting worse and worse year after year, and the political/electoral process keeps getting more and more crooked. I see things only getting darker and bleaker over the coming decades, as the vast majority of Americans turn into obedient, compliant, frightened little sheep-slaves, their government and corporate masters go unchallenged, and there will be little or nothing to distinguish America from Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany.

Sick and tired of the news

That, at least, is how I see things today. Admittedly, it is an extremely pessimistic view that fosters depression and despondency. But I cannot inject myself with a dose of disingenuous optimism, the way most conservatives seem to be able to do. Perhaps that is because, unlike most conservatives, I have no religious faith. I think that religious faith is based on illogical, archaic myths. I prefer evidence-based facts and truth, and I like to see the honest clarity of reality, even if it depresses and angers me. Besides, I am not really a "conservative." I am a libertarian—even a libertine on some issues, such as sexuality. I refuse to recognize any authority over myself, my beliefs, or my actions. I want to say and do whatever the hell I feel like saying and doing at any time. As long as I am not physically hurting anyone—that is, anyone who doesn't deserve it—I demand that freedom. However, the news is filled day after day with authorities and experts telling me and you that we have to obey ever more rules, regulations, and restrictions—in the name of the greater good. Well, here is what I think about that: BS! 

This all disgusts me, but there is not a damn thing I can do about any of it. Democrats are the most disgusting party, but Republicans are just plain pathetic. I'm not going to vote anymore—not even if Trump runs again—because elections have become thoroughly corrupted and pointless. I am forced to live every day with more BS being flung at me by the powers-that-be. It makes me sick and tired of waking up every day sick and tired! It's high time I found a way out of this dilemma.
("High Time," Waylon Jennings, 1975)

That is why I have mostly stopped paying attention to the news, other than a quick check of the headlines on the Newsmax website a couple times a day (which usually gets me mad). I have been a news junkie since I was a teenager. But I can't take it anymore. And I have found that the less I know about what is going on in the world, the less depressed, despondent, and angry I am. It is indeed true that no news is good news. The more I stay focused on only myself and my own immediate life and the few people close to me—blocking out the rest of the world—the more likely I am to achieve some semblance of happiness and contentment.

I want no part of 2021 America. America and the rest of the Western world were at their best in the 1970s, when freedom and liberty reached their peaks. I remember. America has been declining into deeper decadence and more severe pathology ever since. Hey, America, I believe you are now an utterly hopeless and doomed case, and I want you to leave me alone! I need to block you out of my mind, so that my spirit can achieve some hope of survival. I need to mentally escape from you. 

American woman, get away from me
American woman, mama let me be
Don't come a hangin' around my door
I don't want to see your face no more
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time growin' old with you
("American Woman," The Guess Who, 1970)

Tri-part escapist strategy

Yes, for me, escapism is the best answer in this hopeless situation. Blocking the news is excellent escapism. My work provides more temporary escapism. My family and other personal responsibilities further allow me to temporarily escape from the rest of the world. But I require additional means of escapism to help me stay sane.

The best escapism for me is—and always has been—music. Music is part of the timeless "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" strategy for dealing with the wicked world. Call me a nihilist. I don't care. That description is probably suitable. I do believe that life in these modern times is basically meaningless—other than sharing love with the very few people I care enough about, while the rest of the country and world wallow in their self-made hell. Thus, I see nothing wrong with focusing on sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

I won't talk about the "sex" part of this tri-part strategy here—because I don't want to totally offend your sensibilities with my libertine views on that "naughty" subject. But I will briefly discuss the "drugs" part before moving on to my primary focus on music.

I have never actually done drugs, other than the rare line of coke and the occasional drag on a weed (only when I'm with social acquaintances who are engaged in those behaviors). For whatever reason, such drugs have never done it for me. But alcohol is a drug, and I have definitely used and abused alcohol over the years. After two DUIs, I finally learned not to drink and drive. But I still drink, usually a glass or two of wine every day. Occasionally—when feeling especially depressed or stressed or just in a mood to get drunk—I may drink to excess. That's when "I feel so good, I feel so numb…"
("Feel So Numb," Rob Zombie, 2001)

Getting drunk not only helps me escape for a few hours, but it also serves as a sort of reset or reboot for my brain. A day or two after numbing my brain, my mental mechanisms seem to function better, and I feel sharper than before. You will never hear the health fascists tell you that. I've been a drinker for more than 40 years, and I still have virtually perfect physical health in my sixth decade. "Drinking is bad for your health" is not necessarily true. The anti-alcohol crusade is more fascist health propaganda, similar to the propaganda about the COVID-19 virus. (I have proven to my satisfaction that the virus hysteria is a big lie, mainly through my multiple close unmasked encounters regarding that unspoken part of the tri-part strategy, with no ill effects on my health.) All that said, I never let alcohol, sex, or any other personal indulgence interfere with my professional or personal responsibilities.

Rob Zombie—my metal hero

Now to the "rock 'n' roll" part of my escapist strategy. Rock music reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, when rock was actually rock—with high-energy wailing singers, hard-pounding beats and driving rhythms, long show-off virtuoso electric guitar solos, and drummers who drummed the hell out of real drums. Think of Robert, Jimmy, John Paul, and John in Led Zeppelin—or Dickey Betts and the Allman Brothers Band.
("Trampled Under Foot," Led Zeppelin, 1975)
("You Don't Love Me," Allman Brothers Band, 1971)
The 60s and 70s were also the peak of creativity for country music. That's when country music was still simple and honest and based on hard-core country principles. But the 70s were also when there was an infusion of rough-edged rebelliousness into country from the "outlaw" movement, which combined redneck and rock attitudes. Think of Waylon Jennings. And the songwriting in country music was never more intelligent than in that era. Think of Kris Kristofferson.
 ("Lonesome On'ry and Mean," "I'm a Ramblin' Man," Waylon Jennings, 1975)
("Loving Her Was Easier," Kris Kristofferson, 1972)

Unfortunately, both real rock and real country are dead today. Both have lost their rawness, rebelliousness, and realness and morphed into safe shallow forms of pop. However, there is a form of rock that remains very much alive and well today. It is metal. Today's metal does not usually have the great guitar solos of 1970s rock, but it typically has the high energy, hard drive, and rough raw rebel edges of rock at its best. And it provides fantastic escapism. 

My favorite metal artist is Rob Zombie, a guy born in 1965 in Massachusetts with the name of Robert Cummings. Zombie's music and videos are often filled with knowledgeable cultural references to Americana from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. He is just a few years younger than me, so he and I apparently have the same cultural touchstones. His music and videos are known for their elements of horror, sci-fi, witchcraft/Satanism, and profanity. They are also known for their overt sexuality, often involving his beautiful blonde wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. The horror movies that Zombie has directed—especially House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects—feature similar elements, with a focus on human brutality. There is magnificent over-the-top masculinity about Zombie and his art that is totally out of tune with the times.

The main thing for me is that I think Zombie's music, videos, and movies are a lot of crazy cool fun. They don't take anything too seriously (for example, the Satanic references are just for show), they celebrate individual freedom and rebelliousness, they provide a release of pent-up anger and emotions, and they always make me feel good. That includes even feeling good about America—America as it used to be, when it was still a free country. Notice the glorious down-to-earth white trash, the respect for historic American pop culture, and the American flags in RZ's videos. (I have no idea what Zombie's political beliefs are, and I really don't care. Refreshingly, unlike most famous people in music and movies today, he rarely discusses political or social issues—other than the fact that he's a vegetarian and a supporter of animal rights, which I'm cool with.)

Following are just a few of my favorite RZ creations:
("Dragula," 1998)
("Well, Everybody's F------ in a UFO," 2016)
("Foxy, Foxy," 2006)
("We're an American Band," 2013)
(final scene from The Devil's Rejects, featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird," 2005) 

Diverse metal bands

There are many other metal performers that I enjoy listening to and watching, and together they show the vast diversity of this form of music. Cannibal Corpse is an American "death" metal band whose music has been denounced by many politicians over the years (including Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in 1996). Their music has even been officially banned in some countries. Critics claim that their lyrics glorify and incite violence and express too much anger. Frankly, I can't even understand what the singer, George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher, is singing (or shouting/screaming). I just like the raw emotion being expressed.
("Hammer Smashed Face," Cannibal Corpse, first released in 1993)

I can relate to the anger of this music (because I live with a functioning brain in these maddening times), and I can thoroughly understand the desire to lash out with violence (because there often seem to be no other options). I think it is wonderful that, in this politically correct day and age, there are still a few musical artists who are nasty, rebellious, dangerous, and anti-establishment enough that politicians feel a need to denounce them and ban them. Hey, isn't that how rock was started back in the 50s—as dangerous rebel music that upset the safe status quo? 

But by the 1980s, rock de-evolved into the status quo, becoming the mild, safe, sell-out establishment that it remains today. I knew things were getting bad years ago when they started using Led Zeppelin music in TV commercials to sell Cadillacs. And, of course, rock even got its own "Hall of Fame." That's as safe and establishment as you can get! Thankfully, a lot of metal bands, like CC, are able to thrive as outsiders who proudly exercise their free speech rights—and their rights to piss off polite people.

Biala Piesc ("White Fist") is a political metal band from Poland. They celebrate white pride and anarcho-capitalism (the supremacy of private entities over government agencies). Given these beliefs, the band in inevitably condemned for being "racist" and "hateful." As has been observed by others before me, isn't it interesting that blacks can have black pride, but whites are not allowed to have white pride? It is also interesting to note that many right-leaning metal bands come out of Eastern Europe. That is surely because folks there know what living under leftist tyranny is like (Americans will soon learn what the Poles have long known), and Eastern European metal bands are expressing their rejection of socialist ideas and their love of individual freedom through metal.
("Anarchokapitalisci," Biala Piesc, 2013)

Mournful Congregation is a "funeral doom" metal band from Australia. Their music, which is really quite beautiful, represents a pessimism about life and an embrace of death. It is considered "sad" music. Strange how sad music always makes me feel good.
("Remembrance of the Transcending Moon," Mournful Congregation, 1999)

For something completely different… there is Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. This English rock/metal band does an amazing job of replicating the groovy psychedelic rock sound of the 60s. They make you think the fabulous freedom of the 60s and 70s can live again—rising from the dead like a zombie!
("I'll Cut You Down," Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, 2011)

The crazy cool artistic thing about these diverse metal bands is that they all express exactly what they want to express—no matter how dark or antisocial or unconventional or weird or sick or out of step with the times they may be. Unlike almost all other forms of music today, they give no regard to being safe or nice or socially acceptable or to promoting any politically correct agendas. They are all simply having fun, creating art the way they choose to, and expressing their freedom and liberty—and making some money along the way. 

And for fans like me, this metal music provides an avenue to escape from a sick time, a sick dominant culture, and a lame sick society in which I do not want to live. In any form, metal serves as an escapist antidote to the fascist-authoritarian rules-and-regulations group-think social-justice white-hating new prudes running America and the Western world today.

Metal loves liberty 

One final thought for you to consider:

America was a nation founded on rebelliousness, revolution, and love of individual liberty. But that nation is no more. It has been transformed into a land of compliant sheep-slaves, thoughtlessly obedient to the senseless whims of their corrupt authoritarian masters. Isn't it fitting that one of the most traditionally American (i.e., liberty-loving and rebellious) avenues of entertainment today in 2021 is wild heavy metal music? 

As long as metal exists, maybe modern America is not as bad and hopeless as I thought. Now let's all do some headbanging and raise our devil horns for everyone to see!
("Superbeast," Rob Zombie, live in Texas, 2014)

The author, A.J. Smuskiewicz, is currently drunk on cheap wine and blasting Rob Zombie at top volume, and he has no idea what horrible things Dementia Joe and Crafty Kamala are up to. In other words, he is in a state of escapist bliss.

Rob Zombie by N/A is licensed under Metalhead Zone Metalhead Zone