Two days after the horrific events in Paris where hundreds have been killed, the french government has decided to retaliate by bombing Isis. Once again, the only answer to violence is just more violence. It seems that government have difficulties to grasp what the law of talion entails, a concept so simple that even Soulfly wrote a song about it. With this selection of songs, I would like to explore the musical representations of what war leads to. Not the war of warhammer or fantasies where the good guys prevail but real war where people get killed and some survive and then try to make sense of the horror they experienced.
Despite their album covers sporting artwork done by John Sibbick, Games Workshop’s main artist (the company that produces the Warhammer role-playing game), Bolt Thrower‘s song have always been the violence of real wars and not fantasy fights between elves and orcs. Through the ages, the conclusion to the IVth Crusade (1992) finishes the album with a song composed of two main riffs where Karl Willetts enumerates the major wars of the world in a monotone robotic voice. As each conflicts is named, the succession of conflicts makes those « exceptional » events seems inevitable. A tragic but realistic musical representation of the circle of violence humanity is trapped in.
Hail of Bullets is a band about the history of major conflicts. This song, from their first album, Of frost and war (from 2008), talks about the conditions under which the two German and Soviet army fought on their way towards Moscow. Despite having the advantage of the battlefield, the two armies struggles to find victory and none prevails in this conflict. This song is a very good example of musical storytelling as the rhythm accelerates during the conflict to finally come crashing down at the end as Martin Van Drunen (Asphyx) lets one of his classic roar pierce the wall of guitar while the riffs looses all structures and turns into feedback like the wall of snow falling down on both armies. Even when everything seems to be in favor of one camp, nothing is ever decided and tragedy can strike at any time. Hate and violence only brings more suffering.
A rather explicit take on war, Uncommon valor (A Vietnam story) (from Jedi Mind Trick‘s last good album, Servants in heaven, kings in hell from 2006) is basically a song about american soldiers landing in Vietnam and the consequences of the war as they come back and suffer from the use of chemicals in war and post traumatic stress disorder. RA the Rugged Man‘s verse is particularly accomplished as the rapper details the experience of a soldier with a very fast flow to give life to the anxiety suffered by this man as worst comes to worst when he comes back to the US. A testimony about the horror of war and how its shadow continues to live through the one who survive.
Although one might disagree with the anti-christian artwork, the lyrics of the title track of All Pigs Must Die‘s first album (from 2011) express anger towards people who uses a set of morals to justify violence. Rather than target a whole religion, we must remember that their twisted worldview does not represent a whole culture, and that the perpetrators are men, not gods, who use symbols to justify their actions to create more hate and violence.
Early funeral (the concluding song of 18.61 from 2010) is one of the most poignant song composed by 108 and a sadly appropriate way to conclude this selection as it all comes down to death. The soothing acoustic melody carries Robert Fish‘s voice as he describes the slow disappearance as the body and the mind withers to finally come to an end. As he slowly repeats the final words, the songs feels like a mantra made to accept the inevitable. For the one who left us and for all of us who are left behind.