Metal bands have a beautiful combination of ballsiness and self-importance to put themselves out there, and risk looking hilariously self-serious. Simply put, there’s no scene that gels better with my high school philosophy class than metal. You’d always rather read Kant listening to Ulver over Modest Mouse. So with that in mind, we felt it necessary to pick a specific school of philosophy/theology that best associates with a specific subgenre of metal. Because if there’s anything we’re sure of, it’s that Socrates would’ve loved blast beats.
Doom Metal = Nihilism
We start with the easiest one. The grinding sound that we, as people, are all slowly moving towards inevitable death and decay, immortality is a haughty lie, and there’s nothing in the world to be optimistic about outside of the self-realization that life is meaningless, can only be associated with Doom Metal. Thanks Iommi, we wouldn’t have gotten here if it wasn’t for you.
Death Metal = Puritanism
So you might’ve thought death metal was a shoe in for nihilism right? A common mistake! Obviously death metal shares the same general sense of hopelessness as nihilism, but there’s far too much Christian iconography in death metal to write it off to the everlasting void. Death metal has most in common with Puritanism, where pleasure is bad and no matter what, you’re probably going to hell.
Black Metal = Absurdism
Absurdists embrace the looming reality that humanity’s constant quest to find meaning in life will always come up empty, so instead of worrying about the angry taste of lost value, we should instead listen to a whole bunch of Watain.
Viking Metal = Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and the entire history of ancient Greek philosophy
One of the things professors forget to tell you when they go on extended tangents about the brilliance of Socratic logic is that all of those marble men were, quite literally, pagans. That’s right! When you pick the brain of Plato you are referencing the work of someone who’s about three degrees away from being a straight-up druid. Viking metal doesn’t quite fetishize classical philosophy, but it sure does love old weird beliefs. The Greeks are an obvious fit.
Progressive Metal = Confucianism
Progressive metal requires a group of four to seven people to put their music degrees to good work, and come together in epic, 15-minute anthems, built specifically to sell ugly shirts to 12-year olds. Confucianism is all about finding your role in society, and excelling at it to the best of your ability. If you play keyboards in Dream Theater, you better be the best keyboardist you can possible be. What we’re basically saying is, Confucius plays keyboards in Dream Theater.
Drone Metal = Stoicism
Just pure fucking emptiness. The sound of death and life vibrating together. The bleakest thing you could put your ears against. Zeno of Cithium thought that by eliminating all passionate (read: destructive) emotions, you’ll be able to achieve a sage-like balance to your life. If you’re able to stay fully attuned to a Sunn O))) Record for its entirety, you may very well be a stoic.
Sludge Metal = Transcendentalism
Deep down you know that you are awesome and the spirits are real, and if you keep raging back against all the bullshit of daily life you’ll eventually mute all the wandering institutions and elevate yourself to a happy place. The best sludge metal albums feel like you’ve finally overcome all your petulant youthful rage and are now fucking the goddamn Empire State Building. We’re not saying that’s exactly what Emerson was going for, but it’s not totally far off either.