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The Blame Game

From the PMRC pandemic of the 80s to more recent reports of inciting suicide, heavy metal has often been demonised as a negative influence by the media. Dani Filth is fed up…

In the wake of another poorly-constructed nonsense-piece in the UK press that connects teen suicide to heavy metal, we thought it right to publish this column from Dani Filth in which he points out the vilifying nature in which tabloids write about our world.

Originally published in Metal Hammer issue 259 (August 2014)

 “A sixth-former who became introverted and withdrawn... was found hanged after spending his final three hours searching for death metal songs on YouTube, an inquest heard.”

So begins a nasty little article that is so very typical of today’s guttersnipe journalism, forsaking fact for friction. Nasty because it fails to address the real issue that the boy in question was suffering from multiple teenage anxieties. Dangerous because it demeans depression and tars everyone who listens to heavy metal and/or dresses in black as either potential suicide victims or conduit psychos susceptible to ‘dark-themed’ music. This is evident as the ‘death metal’ the headline boasts of actually turns out to be Pinkly Smooth and My Chemical Romance. 

There’s an association cast between metal subculture and everything that is immorally wrong in the world. It just wouldn’t sound as sensationalist if the victim had a thing for dubstep, would it?

And strangely enough, that quote isn’t torn from an early 90s tabloid coup, a time when Judas Priest were on trial for inciting suicide through subliminal messages ‘hidden’ on their albums, the most horrifying of which turned out to be the very Satanic ‘Give me a peppermint.’ No siree, the quote is from a UK tabloid newspaper, published on April 25th, and once again witch-mongering journalism has pushed the blame squarely onto the metal peg, thus masking the real issues lurking behind this sad and tragic case.

Heading back 15 months prior to this, the same paper also reported, with similar paparazzi relish, that a pupil at the same school in Rotherham killed himself after listening to death metal on his iPod. And at the same school there were further failed attempts in what is regarded as a ‘suicide cluster’, though in my humble opinion, this was far from clear.

Get past the headlines and in both articles it becomes apparent that choice of music is not the issue here: it’s everything else going on in a cluttered teenage life. Indeed, an (un)healthy interest in metal was probably the poor lad’s only lifeline in what was clearly a befuddled life (his parents had recently divorced, which is never nice for anyone).

I remember being at school and it was a proper nightmare at times: scaling the crest of puberty, peer pressure to drink, to smoke, to get laid, to fit in and then on top of everything else to succeed in education or else your fate was sealed... though I admit none of this ever did my future-self any harm (he says, eyeing the cutlery). But that’s me. For thousands of others that’s simply the hors d’oeuvres of a rather unpleasant meal of woe, with bullying, no doubt, being another damning factor.  

As the father of a teenage daughter (and despite the role reversal of me being the death metal aficionado here), it makes me question the trust I put in those who are supposed to protect our children from the horrors of the world, be it in the classroom, playground or from the man with the brown mac at the school gates. To me it seems that  this awful business has been ‘swept under the carpet’ in fear of a school’s reputation being tarnished.

Now, who do you feel is to blame here? Heavy metal music that was, quite possibly, the escapism a troubled soul needed; or the school system that failed to act on matters months earlier, despite a previous student taking his own life and a further three failed attempts by others? The whole thing reeks of ineptitude. And what do we get? A derogatory headline insinuating that metal is to blame. What a crock!  

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