Freedom to growl

The other week I was at my mum's house, chatting (as you do), when a CD playing in the background launched into a pretty raw "grindcore" tune (Heck Tate or Part Chimp or some such noise rock, grindcore-y act). 

"Ah", I said, "this is one we always joke about, mum". "'It's one of my mum's special favourites', we like to say." She didn't get it. In fact, oddly, she got quite offended, somehow thinking I was mocking her – both behind her back and then even to her face. Oh dear. My 82-year-old mother's got a good sense of humour, but sometimes … it all goes slightly wrong.

ActualIy, I don't think there are many octogenarians who listen to grindcore (though I'd love to meet them if there are), so the irony was definitely affectionate on my part.

Grrr. Grindcore. Slightly ridiculous label, but in any case in the past year or so I've been getting quite into this and related music genres. An Amnesty colleague (@ollysprague) is more of an afficianado than me, but through attending a few gigs with him my interest has quickened. I always did like the Napalm Death/Bolt Thrower/Extreme Noise Terror stuff from the 80s and 90s, so it's been interesting checking out their modern equivalents.

In a nutshell, it's probably not music for everyone, but the bracing blast of down-tuned guitars, thunderous – slightly tribal – drumming and hoarse-voiced screamed vocals is … definitely a winner in my book!

My girlfriend (a long-term martyr to my music obsessions) reckons that grindcore growlers typically sound like "they've run out of throat sweets", which is not inaccurate. But if you listen hard you can often catch some angry lyrics about police violence, state oppression and even mass killings and genocide. It's not X Factor fodder.

I'm not saying that grindcore and other metal subgenres are just about democracy and human rights (I'm pretty sure that some of the post-Black Sabbath death metal/paganist output is not: see this schematic!), but my theory is that this music is itself a sort of cry for free expression. Freedom to growl, even.

That's why the Swedish metal band Arch Enemy's support for Amnesty International's freedom of expression campaign makes perfect sense to me. Check out the band here, and – if you're that way inclined – get a ticket for their Shepherd's Bush gig in December. My mum's already got hers.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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