Spotlight: Torture

Metallica - Kill 'Em All

Megaforce; 1983

The headlines across the globe yesterday were lit up with news of Pope Benedict XVI’s impending resignation, but on U.S. networks, another interesting story appeared, which concerned the man from SEAL Team 6 who fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden. The online publication of Esquire‘s sprawling 15,000-word feature is the first time the “Shooter” has told his side of the story, and its details make for an interesting read to say the least.

One of the more minor details of the article jumped out at me. About halfway through, the Shooter mentions interrogation tactics, which, although he insists they were non-violent, did involve Metallica possibly at their thrashiest:

When we first started the war in Iraq, we were using Metallica music to soften people up before we interrogated them … Metallica got wind of this and they said, ‘Hey, please don’t use our music because we don’t want to promote violence.’ I thought, Dude, you have an album called Kill ‘Em All.

He goes on to mention that Christian metal band Demon Hunter heard about this and sent over CDs and other swag to help the military effort. Ostensibly, it was a kind and honorable gesture of support for the military, but it still doesn’t change the fact that their music kind of really sucks.

Using music as a psychological tool has a famous history in both real and fictional accounts. It makes sense in light of a few studies as of late that have linked music and dopamine release, which only opens the door for the opposite reaction — otherwise known as “listening to too much Joy Division.”

As for me, I’ve made a little playlist of songs that are potentially torture-worthy, so … enjoy?

“Mercy Seat” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Between the nearly incomprehensible verses and the intensity of the chorus, this is definitely the darkest song on this short list. The track plays like the seven-minute last gasp of a death row inmate waiting for his own execution, and the last half, which endlessly repeats said chorus against grating strings, festers like a speech stuck in the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic. If we’re talking about fear-mongering, few things do it as well as taking a first-person view of your own impending death.

“Funtime” by Iggy Pop

This cut from The Idiot has got some layers to it. The whole thing seems off by a beat, what with Pop’s monotone vocals, the off-kilter backing chorus and the blown-out and warped guitar blasts. It’s enough to make the lyrics feel like a druggy delusion, and listening to this one full blast is bound to throw off your sense of reality.

“We Like to Party! (The Vengabus)” by Vengaboys

The next natural step after Iggy Pop is Vengaboys. No, really. “Funtime” might have made you question what was going on, but “We Like to Party” is full-blown denial of the real world. On top of that, the track is catchy enough to get lodged in your head and stay there for PTSD-like spans of time. (I, for one, still know all of those damned lyrics.) Plus, you know, every song could use a cruise horn blaring randomly during the bridge.

“Pokémon Rap” from the animated series Pokémon

If you’re not familiar with the Pokémon franchise, don’t worry. The important part to remember is that this song, with its laughably dated sound and overly enthusiastic performers, is nothing more than a rhythmic reading of 150 imaginary monsters that exist in a universe where children are legally emancipated at age fourteen to participate in a nomadic dueling league whose hubs are spread out across an entire continent. Press repeat and see where it goes.

Theme from Bananas in Pajamas

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but bananas in pajamas.
—T. S. Eliot*


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