In this bimonthly column, staff writer Doug Moore takes a very close look at extreme metal lyrics. Some will be serious, some will be silly, but they’ll all go under the microscope.
Scott Hull has a knack for teaming up with distinctive lyricists. He got his start playing guitar in Anal Cunt, alongside premier muckslinger Seth Putnam. His best-known band is Pig Destroyer, whose vocalist J.R. Hayes has already appeared in this column. Currently, he’s active largely via the drum-machine grindcore act Agoraphobic Nosebleed—arguably the most depraved of the bunch.
ANb vocalist and primary lyricist Jay Randall has both Putnam’s provocative spirit and Hayes’s flair for language at his disposal. He uses these gifts to deliver some of the strangest and most unsettling lyrics to be found anywhere in the metal world. Some topics on tap: accusing Christian Scientists of systematic child rape, Relapse Record’s WMD stockpile, the ethics of stem-cell research, the evolutionary (dis)advantages of homosexuality, and giving kids cigarettes for Christmas.
Randall’s lyrics appear to offer little more than shock value at first, but post-modern intertextuality and incisive commentary often lurk beneath the grime. “Timelord Two (Paradoxical Reaction),” the bizarre high point of 2009’s underrated masterpiece Agorapocalypse, exemplifies this trope:
Alesis time machine
Seventh bastard son of the seventh bastard son
Locust abortion technician with deicidal tendencies
I traveled time to kill an unborn Christ
Umbilical carefully collected, put into cryo-freeze
But I’ve returned to godless times
Times of understanding and peace
The evidence was everywhere
I had not slain our savior, but the beast
In a world where I never existed
No friends, no family, no ANB
My cargo sold for next to nothing to some Japanese
That years later was rumored to have had programmed
The world’s first blastbeat
At first, “Timelord Two” appears to be mostly gibberish. It opens with a bunch of wink-and-nudge band references—Voivod (Phobos and Dimension Hatröss), Iron Maiden (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son), Butthole Surfers (Locust Abortion Technician), Suicidal Tendencies, Deicide, and eventually Nocturnus‘s The Key. Randall can string in-jokes together; so what?
These verses, along with the title, actually explain much of the song. The Timelords are a race of immortal, time-traveling aliens from the classic BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who. Time travel figures heavily into this song, as well as into the even weirder “Timelord Zero (Chronovore),” Agorapocalypse‘s hidden opening track.
Now let’s take a look at that Nocturnus reference. This classic progressive death metal band famously wrote a song about traveling back in time to kill Jesus in the manger—thus “I traveled time to kill unborn Christ,” which in turn also explains “deicidal tendencies.” So “Timelord Two (Paradoxical Reaction)” is about Jay Randall using Timelord technology—or an Alesis drum machine—to travel back in time to kill Jesus before he can spread his message. Metal!
Then we get to the consequences of merking fetal Jesus, and “Timelord Two” starts to pick up steam. Turns out that blasting the Virginborn has some unforeseen consequences. Sure, it turns mankind all peaceful and copacetic, but in a classic time travel cock-up, Randall inadvertently erases his entire life, along with his band and all traces of heavy metal. Whoops.
Panicked, Randall sells his recovered “cargo”—Jesus’s umbilical cord—on the cheap. (In a typically bizarre ANb twist, nobody actually sings the line about the cord.) The Japanese man who buys it goes on to “program the world’s first blastbeat.” The band’s three vocalists deliver this last line over a crushing and fittingly time-twisted slam riff.
I’m not sure why the buyer is Japanese, beyond Randall’s general interest in Asian culture. (His online label is called Grindcore Karaoke.) But the connection between Jesus’s umbilical cord and the reappearance of metal is clear. Randall’s telling us, in his sneering fashion, that metal depends on an opponent to rail against. Without something—religion, government, responsibility, et cetera—to contrast itself with, metal loses its purpose. It exists only in the shadow of a prevailing notion.
As for the Voivod and Butthole Surfers references? Red herrings. This is Agoraphobic Nosebleed, after all.