It didn't take long for the vultures to swoop down on the body of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, using his death as vehicle to drive home - once again - the fallacies of and prejudice against heavy metal.
Yesterday's rumors are today's facts - Nathan Gale, the man who killed Dimebag, was so distraught over the breakup of Pantera that he believed the band's demise ruined his life. He blamed Abbott for this and relieved his angst by shooting him in the head.
As with any news story that blames music, video games or movies for someone's criminal, deranged actions, the media misses one glaring point: in order for the killer to react in such a manner, he had to have some serious, deep rooted issues that go way beyond the music he listened to, the games he played or the movies he watched.
Metal has long been a favorite whipping boy of the hypersensitive, shallow-thinking My Morals Should Be Your Morals set. From the time Ozzy first barked at the moon, metal was imprinted with a warning label: This music is hazardous to your children. Freaked out parents and sociologists looked much deeper into the music than was necessary and proclaimed the genre as one that would cause its listeners to sign up for the church of Satan or become zombies in an army of juvenile delinquents.
You would think that when all these years later Ozzy became the darling of television and looked upon as a sweet, if dopey, father figure, the world would have figured out - albeit belatedly - that heavy metal is as much a theatrical act as Britney's original virginal persona.
Yet every media commentary I've read this morning on the death of Abbot has the same underlying tone - live by the sword, die by the sword. Metal is music for misfits, don't you know? What can you expect from the fans of a band whose lyrics are all unprintable in a family paper? They were heathens, I tell you! They drank and smoked and cursed!
It's all so shrill and so unnerving.
It's interesting bands like Pantera and Damageplan can be sworn off as dangerous and crude because of the lyrics, yet a guy like Eminem can be hailed as the voice of a generation even though his lyrics have more cursing than a Quentin Tarantino film and they tell stories of murder and mayhem.
Gimme the keys I'm drunk, and I've never driven a truck
But I smoke dope in a cab
I'll stab you with the sharpest knife I can grab
Come back the next week and re-open your scab (YEAH!)
A killer instinct runs in the blood
I wonder if we'll smile in our coffins while loved ones
Mourn the day, the absence of our faces, living, laughing,
Eyes awake. Is this too much for them to take?
Too young for ones conclusion, the lifestyle won.
Such values you taught your son. That's how.
Look at me now. I'm broken.
Inherit my life.
Did I pick and choose which lyrics to use? Sure. Don't you think the media does the same? All you'll hear today is how Pantera's lyrics were hostile and angry, how they motivated angry kids to act out their immoral thoughts. Most of the articles will speak in general terms. Very few will cite specific references. And if they do, you can bet no one is going to quote Cemetery Gates
. The need to make more out of this story than is there, the need to sensationalize and give it Weekly World News headlines is far greater than the need to be honest.
Of course, they will point to Abbott's nickname of Dimebag. They'll look at the Pantera DVDs and a see bunch of hard drinking, hard partying guys. And they'll conclude "the metal lifestyle is a dangerous one." And tomorrow on Page Six, there will pictures of some pop music princess with a bottle in her hand and her tits hanging out of her dress or a some boy band star holding a bottle of Jack Daniels and spitting at the camera. But, hey. They're just having fun, right? Pop Stars Gone Wild! What a riot! Give that guy some long hair and a guitar and suddenly he's a wild eyed beast who wants to eat your children.
It's not just the music of heavy metal that's misunderstood. The fans also get their share of the lies and distortion. We're all emotionally disturbed individuals with deep psychological problems, bad parents and broken homes who draw pentagrams on their bedroom floors and torture the neighbor's cats.
I grew up listening to metal. I was all of nine years old when I first heard Paranoid
and War Pigs
playing on my cousin's stereo and became hooked. It wasn't the lyrics which, at nine, I didn't understand at all. It was the music. It was the screeching guitars and pounding drums that reached out to me in some primitive way. I didn't know what Ozzy was singing about, I only knew how that music made me feel. Even at nine, I knew I was hearing something powerful that would stay with me forever.
More than 30 years have passed since I heard my first Black Sabbath album. I haven't killed anyone. I never attempted suicide. I haven't sold my soul to Satan. Like millions of others, I appreciate the music (and yes, the lyrics) without becoming so involved in it that, like Nathan Gale, I can't separate myself from the entertainment.
There are millions of people who play Grand Theft Auto who will never see the game as an impetus to go steal a car and mow down a few innocent people. But the one person who does see the game in that way will cause a posse of hyperventilating parents to claim that all video games are evil, none of them ever stopping to think that maybe this kid had mental issues that prevented him from separating reality from fantasy. Games and music are always convenient scapegoats, especially when some morality group can use an otherwise sad news item to strike up publicity for their agenda.
And so today's papers will all say the same thing - yea, Gale was a little nutty, he had been acting strange for a while and hey, did you see the lyrics to Fuckin' Hostile?
Then the article will veer off on some tangent dealing with terrible lyrics and angry undertones and somehow, Gale will become the victim and Abbott will have died by his own sword. Instead of quotes from fellow musicians talking about Dimebag's talents and friendship
, instead of references to the fact that he was one of the most influential guitarists in rock music and he was murdered in front of his own brother, we'll get chapter and verse on the wild lifestyle and brainwashing lyrics of heavy metal.