In his inaugural blog post on Bandcamp, Andrew Dubber wrote about the trade-offs that come from being a musical omnivore. On the one hand, you can never listen to enough music to get the depth of knowledge in any one genre that say, a true metalhead may have of Finnish melodic death metal. On the other hand, you get a breadth of music that a specialist lacks. An omnivore can still listen to some Finnish melodeath, but won’t miss out on Sigur Ros. Another joy that comes from omnivory is that sometimes it allows you to see hidden threads in the zeitgeist.
In some cases, this makes listening to music more fun. Exhibit A:
The first time I saw Fleet Foxes’ beautiful animated video for “The Shrine/ An Argument,” I was so blown away by the beauty of the music and the art that I didn’t give much thought to how much the unfortunate ungulate in the video was like the creature on the cover of Mastodon’s The Hunter.
Then, a couple of days ago, Mastodon released a new video for “Dry Bone Valley,” featuring animation. Something about the origami-like forms of the animations was reminiscent of the Fleet Foxes video. The similarity is subtle, but I don’t think I’m imagining it. Is there any connection between these two very different bands beyond their both being amazing? Maybe not, but I enjoy both videos more for the unexpected similarities.
Exhibit B: This wonderful new-to-me video by My Brightest Diamond (ironically discovered on the Angry Metal Guy blog) is a powerful song dedicated to the victims of human trafficking. It uses noh masks to powerful effect. Then, a couple of days ago, Gorilla vs. Bear posted this Zebra katz video, also featuring noh masks.
This thread is more obvious, and somewhat unsettling. The symbolism of the masks is the same in both cases. But the contrasting attitudes in the lyrics change the impact entirely. Alone, “Be Brave” would have been an uplifting affirmation of feminine strength. Alone (or without the noh masks and ominous beats), “Ima read” could be read as tongue in cheek, and may have been meant that way – Njena’s smirk at the end seems to imply that it is.
Together, the two videos form a feminist dialogue. You can’t write off “Ima read” as irrelevant or simply humorous when faced with the knowledge that My Brightest Diamond is raising money to respond to the real present-day problem of women subjected to sexual slavery.
Especially when I consider the initial response to Canadian writer Natalie Zed’s new series on women in heavy metal, this has been a week when crossing genres has done much more than let me enjoy a variety of music styles. It has forced me to think. Sometimes music is about more than just having fun.