Music of Note

January 30, 2012

On this wonderful community called Grief Beyond Belief, there was recently a discussion of songs that people find have helped with their grieving process. GBB is a facebook group dedicated to providing a faith-free grief support community, because the last thing a grieving atheist or agnostic needs to hear is that their loved ones will ‘certainly’ be somewhere, be it heaven, hell, or the next turn of the karmic wheel.

As is usually the case, much music that is used to inspire people is religious, and let’s be frank, how could religious music not be inspiring in some cases? Songs of victory over personal demons, triumph over the darkness, and peace given to those who seek it are uplifting to many people.

They are not to us.

Amazing Grace is held as the benchmark of these songs, played on bagpipes at police and fire rescue funerals, sung on inspirational albums, and for years was a personal favorite.

But I am not a wretch. I have not been found, I am still quite lost in this journey we call grieving, thank you very much. No god has saved me, my friends and family have by being there to help me when in need, and I have done so by taking the initiative and forcing myself to do things that are uplifting and helpful to my personal state.

Well and good then, that nonsense out of the way, let us consider some music I have recently heard that has helped me cope on this day by day trek through my own little Slough of Despond (I love that reference, even if I hate the sentiment of the book).

First, let’s look at my favorite Genre, metal. Metal is actually a huge genre of music, and no not all of it is about worshipping the Dark One. Death and black metal certainly focus heavily on those elements, but power metal, orchestral metal, symphonic, and yes even operatic metal (the band Nightwish was fronted by a classically trained operatic singer for several years) exist, and sing about everything from faerie tales to love.

My default ‘I feel like shit’ music is Wounds by the German power metal band Masterplan. For people who want a song that acknowledges their grief is genuine, and yet there is work to be done even as we heal, this is an anthem you can rejoice with.

Lyrically it’s a very simple song, an intro and a refrain. But the power of the lyrics “so hard to find an open door” offset by the lyrics “feel and trust YOUR inner voice/change your dream with desire/show the scars you’ve been hiding deep inside/an reveal who YOU ARE,” speak to me. There’s nothing overtly theistic about the song, and indeed it focuses on the humanity of our grief, our real wounds. It grants us acknowledgment of the pain, and then calls us to rise high, to rise and find our way out.

But metal isn’t everyone’s thing. My roommate can’t stand it, and neither can many people. Hell, many people that grew up with metal in the 80s hate what it sounds like now. So, how about some non metal bands then?

First off we have Rise Against, who are easily my favorite punk band. Their song Give it All is also an acknowledgment of the difficulty, mostly of life in general, but can be applied to our grief.

Having a reason to give our all again is our greatest weapon against crushing grief, against those who would ask us to lay ourselves on their altar. So please believe your eyes/a sacrifice/is not what we had in our minds should be the answer we hold up to every theist who tells us the ultimate in righteousness or virtue is annihilation.

Believe it or not, the Irish and Irish-Americans (hi Popi!) have an understanding of grief and how hard it can be. And sometimes what we need is just a chance to quietly vent, instead of constantly forcing ourselves to ‘feel better feel better feelbetterfeelbetter’.

Irish-American band Flogging Molly capture this spirit beautifully with their song Worst Day Since Yesterday. And it’s ok guys. You’re allowed to be depressed, and your allowed to hurt.

I just adore the semi-country music tone this song takes partway through. I was utterly shocked by it, and that’s what I’ve loved about Flogging Molly since finding them in 2001, their ability to grow and experiment. I will advise, if you want a mopey song, this one’s great, but follow it up with something happier if you’re prone to mood swings like me.

Speaking of happier, not all songs need to be about grief per se, but just wondering just what exactly is going wrong with the world around us.

Spencer Day is a wonderful musician who I hope gains a lot more popularity because he truly deserves it. He’s an admitted atheist, making his music very accessible to the nonreligious. His song A Better Way can help people going crazy and just wanting to help is good, low-key inspirational stuff. Jazz-influenced, but with a bit of a ballad feel to it as well.

So there we have it, a small set of the songs that are on my ‘grieving’ playlist. They range in topics, but so does my grief. Sometimes I’m just furious that I can’t make my world better than the one my parents gave me, and Spencer helps. Some days there’s a desire to just sit down and admit things are a bit beyond me, and out comes Flogging Molly (their album Float is great for this).

But other times I want to do something. I want to write, I want to publish my writings, and I want to kick the ass of the next person I see telling some child that hell is a real place right up into his cranium, and I reach for Rise Against.

Grief is a weird, stupid thing. Don’t let it pigeonhole you or your music.





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