“You can listen to whatever you want in the [float] tank.” My thoughts immediately went to grindcore band Wormrot. I prepped their 2016 album Voices [shown below, left] for my next session. When the album queued up, after Runaljod: Ragnarok by Wardruna concluded, what an incredibly subversive moment! Twenty-six minutes later, I gained a deeper appreciation for some of the most abrasive music I’ve found outside atonal noise music. What’s the appeal? Isn’t pop music nicer?
I probably listen to The Beatles more often than Nirvana. They’re just not as cathartic. While songs like “Yesterday” and “Help!” express emotions like nostalgia and regret, for me, Nirvana pushed the emotion into more visceral territory with “Serve the Servants” and “tourette’s” as two examples. When you feel frustrated, angry, or sad, you tend to feel alone or a bother to others. Hearing others express that builds empathy and helps you overcome those hardships.
I don’t regularly listen to abrasive albums like In Utero [“alternate” version shown above/below, right], Voices, or GUITAR WOLF albums. Just when I need to be kicked out of negative thought patterns. Or when feeling sick becomes a headspace manifestation, outside of physical symptoms like colds or headaches. Venereology by Merzbow was particularly helpful with pouring out all the negative emotions, enabling me to logically plan an escape route out of a stressful situation.
In a sense, listening to abrasive music is a way to complain away the emotional thoughts preventing us from thinking clearly. It’s not always negativity. Amon Amarth includes uplifting or encouraging lyrics about self-empowerment in songs like “Live Without Regrets” and “Under Siege.” Motörhead will always be the hardest working band around, for me, and a constant reminder to give it another go. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) always reminds me to aim for better.
That’s also why I like going to concerts. You can’t pause the performance, and if you don’t like your view you have to move, so there’s a physicality dedicated to being there with the music. There are risks of fights and I was once lightly punched in back where I wore an Arch Enemy logo. With consideration for tragic concert events, I just don’t see concerts, overall, as any more dangerous than most other events.
The overall frustration, then, might be because we’re sold this fairy tail life that everything’s gonna be alright. We’ll get a nice, comfortable life. We’ll have a quaint job with a happy household. All too often, those dreams are shattered, and we’re just left with the growing sense that life is completely unfair. There may be quiet moments of respite within, yet overall it’s a cruel place, so there’s a hidden truth within abrasive music.
When life is nice, that’s when abrasive music doesn’t sound appealing and sounds unnerving. When life is rough, that’s when abrasive music can make all the difference.
Success in life involves reframing situations and fighting against transgressions.