As you may (or may not) well know, last year we started a series of posts regarding metal music lyrics and whether they could be used as an educational tool, not just for students but for people in general.
Our series kicked off with Eastern Front (Candlelight Rec.) and now we are happy to announce the resurrection of this series with Sweden's Scar Symmetry (Nuclear Blast Rec.). Scar Symmetry's drummer and lyricist Henrik Ohlsson was happy to sit down with us and discuss this topic. We will be announcing our next band very shortly, but for now make a cup of tea, sit down and enjoy what Henrik has to say about this topic.
In general do you feel that heavy metal lyrics can be used as an educational tool?
Yeah, in terms of learning English it has been a great tool for me personally. When I started listening to Heavy Metal at the age of eight I quickly expanded my vocabulary beyond most of my classmates (at least those who wasn't into Heavy Metal, ha ha). At the age of fifteen I knew ten different synonyms to the word "rot" thanks to Death Metal!
I guess that Heavy Metal lyrics can be educational in other areas as well, first and foremost as an introduction into various subjects. Actually I think that the value of Heavy Metal lyrics has been generally overlooked in many ways, people that don`t know anything about Metal automatically dismiss it as crap consisting of cuss words, Satanism and sex... but boy, are they wrong! There IS some of that as well, obviously, but it`s only the tip of the iceberg.
With respect to Scar Symmetry, do you feel that the lyrics can be used in science and philosophy lessons?
Well, yeah! Why not? At least I think it can be used to lure students into science and philosophy, to sort of catch their attention. Especially if they are Scar Symmetry fans or at least fans of Metal.
Since your forthcoming album "The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)" is a concept release, could you give us a guide to what each song represents and then tie this into an educational context?
The first track called "The Shape of Things to Come" is basically an intro and it poses some of the questions that are dealt with on the album as a whole. As the emergence of trans-humanism shoots forth there is a possible threat looming and the intro kind of sets the atmosphere for the nightmare scenarios that occur later on in the story.
The song "Neohuman" is a long epic track and it is written from the perspective of the "modifiers" who transform regular humans of flesh and bone into modified cyborgs. They can`t understand how someone could say no to eternal life and they are pretty aggressive in their arguments for the neo-human age.
"Limits to Infinity" is written from the perspective of the elite, the hidden hand, those who rule the world behind the scenes. They know a lot about how reality is constructed, the secrets to infinity and why the term "as above, so below" is such a profound philosophical sentence. Their plan is to merge with machines, colonize other planets and leave the rest of mankind in their misery on a planet that is barely habitable.
The song "Cryonic Harvest" deals with cryonics, the preservation of bodies in nitrogen tanks. This is something that is done today but in the lyrics they can actually resurrect the bodies and welcome them to "digital immortality" thanks to recent technological advances.
"The Spiral Timeshift" talks about the fact that you can`t stop an idea when the time for it to happen has come; it doesn't matter how much you oppose it. It also talks about the psychology in introducing a new idea to the world - at first it is completely denied, then massively opposed, only to suddenly become an indisputable truth. This is connected to the theme presented on the album where people slowly accept the unacceptable.
The instrumental track "Children of the Integrated Circuit" obviously doesn't have any lyrics but the title refers to the modified humans of the neohuman age.
"Neuromancers" is a song that is again written from the perspective of the "modifiers" and it goes deeper into their mindset and how they perceive themselves as gods. I guess you can say that they showcase the ultimate manifestation of hubris.
In the closing epic track "Technocalyptic Cybergeddon" we get to see things from the perspective of a neo-human being. He has been modified and initially feels a part of the next step in evolution, but now there are things emerging from inside of him that he didn't know was there. He has implants in his brain, and in other parts of his body, and all of a sudden this has caused him to lose control of his own thoughts. He is being instructed by the programmers of his software to do things that he would never normally do. Like killing "regular" unmodified humans who is seen as lesser beings. What seemed like a blessing has quickly turned into a hi-tech curse! And that is where the first part of this trilogy ends.
I guess every song could be used in education about philosophy and science, particularly how we react to new things introduced into the world and what the consequences of trans-humanism might be. The lyrical content is pretty dystopia-based obviously, since it is Metal music. But you can use the lyrical content as a gateway to the subjects presented on the album no matter if you are positive or negative towards these things.
You can watch the lyric video for "Limits To Infinity" below
Carrying on about the forthcoming album, what does the title mean and is this part of a series of concept albums (focusing on the Phase I: Neohumanity part)?
The Singularity is a well established term describing the point where artificial intelligence exceeds human capacity. Neohumanity is a description of the new human beings who are no longer just flesh and bones, they have implants and various technological modifications - thus a whole new species has been created.
"The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)" is the first part of a trilogy and it will continue into other areas in the second and third phases, adding new elements to this epic piece of work.
With this in mind to finish this article up, do you feel that metal music carries more intellectual lyrical content than say against pop music? Do you hope that students studying philosophy or science could become inspired by your lyrics for their essays, etc?
I don`t think that ALL of the lyrics in Metal feature deeper lyrical content than your average pop band, but there are certainly a lot of examples where Metal gives more food for thought than the traditional "I love you, baby" lyrics often found in mainstream music. I am always honored when someone becomes inspired by my lyrics, I`ve met a lot of fans who have gotten into quantum physics, philosophy and science thanks to the subjects presented on the Scar Symmetry albums. That is truly an honor. If we can inspire someone in any way, shape or form to improve their quality of life then I think we have basically accomplished and exceeded our goal.
The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity) is out now via Nuclear Blast
Upon the recent unveiling of the Heavy Metal degree at New College Nottingham, I spoke to one professor Mr. Liam Maloy (MA, MPhil, BEng, PGCE) of whom is an FDA Music Course Leader and Tutor Lecturer in: Songwriting, Band Performance and Industry Practice.
He has been in the past the music coach for the Joy Division film "Control", with his band Johnny & The Raindrops he has releases six albums. After being awarded an MA in Popular Music Studies, he is currently studying a PhD in Children’s Music at the Liverpool IPM.
In the interview I discussed with Liam the metal degree itself; what it entails and what are the prerequisites, how it is attracting interest from overseas as well as how this will benefit the British metal scene.
Below you will find first a link to the Heavy Metal degree and below that a link to the Roland Academy staff from which you will find Mr. Liam Maloy.