Perceiving positivity in dark music Some might say that you like what you like and that tastes in music, art, literature etc. should not be disputed. However, as a former literature student, I believe that not only is it good and healthy for yourself to understand yourself and your likes and dislikes and the reasons behind them, but it also provides a good basis for intelligent conversation. As one former teacher, whom I truly respect, said in one of her lessons, there are very few things more annoying than asking someone why they like/dislike something and them not being able to form a proper opinion about why they enjoy something or not.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about why I like the music that I listen to, the books I read, the works of particular visual artists whom I admire and so on and so forth. It pretty much started when somebody in my life recently asked me why is everything I like so dark. Why does the music I listen to sound either sad or creepy? Why are the books I read, either sad or, well, creepy? Why is the art I admire, purchase or create myself always so dark? In the exact moment I couldn't really, to my shame, come up with a better answer than ”because I just like those kinds of things”, but in truth I had never really thought about this before. I've always ”just liked” all these things and I never looked for a reason behind my tastes. However, after giving it some thought, I have started to make sense of a lot of my preferences.
I cannot possibly touch on every subject in just one post, so I will try to create a series of posts, in which I will be talking about different aspects of why I, as a goth, enjoy some of the dark things that I enjoy. Through these texts I am aiming to express my personal view on these things, to help non-goth/non-alternative people who might read them understand some of our dark tastes and to give others who are confronted with the same questions I was a starting point from which they can develop an understanding of their own preferences and an understanding of themselves.
In this first text, I want to talk about why I adore some of the dark music that I listen to, because I have come to realize some very interesting things.
Non-alternative/non-goth people tend to not be able to perceive the subtle themes presented in most of the dark music and, if they also don't understand the language in which the lyrics are written, then they might misinterpret it even more. To better illustrate this point, I will use my family as an example and I am convinced that most goths who will read this will find a lot of these situations familiar. When I was a baby-bat in my early teens, my parents were quite convinced that I'm secretly worshiping Satan and that all my friends were drug-abusing alcoholics with poor hygiene (?!?), because I was listening to HIM. Of course, they had the word ”infernal” in their band name, the music contained electric guitars, the symbol of the band bears a close resemblance to the sigil of Baphomet, they all wear black and the singer wore dark make-up. Later on, when I moved on to even darker and even louder things, I kept being asked how can I listen to that noise or how could I stand to hear those screams (aka. growling). There were a few times when I was even forbidden from listening to my music because "the subliminal messages that only my subconscious mind can pick up were going to brainwash me". Eventually, by the time I dived into actual goth music, they had already gotten somewhat used to it, so the shock wasn't THAT bad, but the same conflicts persisted. Why did I keep listening to these obviously sad/angry/negative things?
Now I realize that what my parents and other people like them fail to understand is that I could see positivity and light in this darkness. There is of course a mater of taste and why each of us is attracted to certain genres of music and not others that I can't really explain, but the reason why I am, and why, I assume, many others are, attracted to dark music is most certainly not because of an inherent desire of being negative or some twisted pleasure derived from that, but it's because we can perceive the positivity in that darkness that others cannot, the same way others find positivity and pleasure in other, happier kinds of music.
There are a multitude of songs that appear to be very anchored in darkness and have sad or melancholic undertones that make me genuinely happy, give me confidence, make me happy-dance in my underwear on bad days and so on. At times, when I'm going through rough patches and feeling very down or if I am really angry or frustrated, I tend to listen to songs that match my feelings, from agonizing, screeching black metal, to angry, stompy industrial and anything in-between and I do it because I find it therapeutic, which in turn yields a good outcome. I do live and express myself a lot through the music I listen to so, while other people might choose to write down their thoughts, break some plates, punch a wall or yell at someone to exteriorize their feelings, I tend to play a song, or a few, that match my mood and immerse myself into drawing very tiny details, which will usually force my mind to calm down and get back to normal.
However, the real jewels are represented by those songs that are so good at transmitting the positivity behind them that even the lyrics don't matter anymore. I have recently had one such experience with one song by Blutengel. We are all very familiar by now with their ”vampires + blood + fallen angels + dark romance” formulas they tend to show in most of their music, to the point where we kinda know what to expect when someone mentions the band. A recent visit to my home country and having to deal with narrow-minded people had me feeling a little bummed that the overall mentality of most Romanians was still the same as when I was living there while growing up. Well, leave it to Blutengel to give me that very boost of cheer and determination I needed.
A song of theirs, Anders Sein, happened to pop into a random playlist that I was listening to. Bear in mind that I don't speak German and translating lyrics was the last thin I had time to do while I was there. The feeling that that song gave me was amazing. Somehow, I got reminded that I am who I am and that I've been like this forever and that I am perfectly content with who and what I am and screw the rest. I had the strength to keep being myself in a country that has always made me doubtful of myself, a country that had always taught me that weird and different equals bad and shameful. I was astounded that all those good vibes came from just the song and its interpretation alone. To my (very pleasant) surprise, once I got back home to Finland and had time to actually translate the song, I realized that the lyrics are telling an almost identical story to what I had already perceived from the song, and I strongly believe that it's cases like this that make true artists stand out from the crowd, having the ability to convey a thought or a feeling in a manner beyond words.
I cannot possibly write a text on positivity in dark music without mentioning my all-time favourite feel-good song. That would be Tiamat's Thunder and Lightning. This particular song is very reminiscent of The Sisters of Mercy's Temple of love, in the way it's constructed instrumentally as well as in the vocal style that singer Johan Edlund uses on this track. The lyrics tell the story of the romance between two people who are so similar in their darkness. There are of course plenty of metaphors to make this romance seem otherworldly and almost like it belongs in a fantasy realm, but it somehow still feels realistic. That is because the lyrics, together with the relatively simplistic yet brilliant instrumental arrangement, describe feelings and not something tangible and/or measurable. They are those feelings of intense happiness and passion and confidence and hopefulness when you start a new relationship. I personally tend to not interpret the song too literally and instead focus on the feelings it conveys, which can be found in a variety of other situations, like the feelings you get when you make a change for the better in your life or even just being happy for no reason at all.
Either way, this is one track that will always get me up no matter how down I may be. Now, of course I cannot possibly mention all the dark songs that I see positivity in because that would probably require an entire book. Furthermore, my choices of such songs may very well not match yours. These two I mentioned in this text, together with the stories of why I perceive them the way that I do were only my most recent and most prominent of such cases and I only used them in order to better explain my point. I am really curious what your favourite dark songs that make you feel good and happy are!
Keep it dark! Keep it beautiful.
***Disclaimer: Obviously, not everything I listen to, or read, or watch etc. is sad, dark, depressing or what not. However, to outsiders who don't know me that well, it might seem that way, hence the questions I'm being asked.