Musings of a Christian Geek about the Word, Geek Culture, Science, Music, Movies, and anything that is deemed noteworthy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The End Times in Song: A Tale of Two Worldviews

The nineties produced many great bands and one will be hard pressed to find two bands as prolific in their respective genres as Tool and Project 86. On the surface, there does not appear to be many similarities between these two bands. Tool is progressive rock/alternative metal and far from Christian while Project 86 is Christian Post-hardcore/nu-metal. Though, looking a little deeper, we can see a good amount of similarities. Both bands hail from Southern California and both bands have been fairly controversial throughout their respective tenures. Another similarity I would like to point out, as a bassist, is that both bands have great bass players: Tool with Justin Chancellor and Project 86 with Stephan Dail.  One similarity which has probably never been addressed is that Tool and Project 86 have each written songs describing the end times through the futility of man from two differing points of view.

In Tool’s case, I would like to bring up the song Ænema off the album Ænima. Same sound different spellings. Before I get ahead of myself, Ænema, the song, is based off of Bill Hicks’ posthumously released comedy album, Arizona Bay. Tool had been a big fan of Hicks’ work from its inception and even had Hicks open up for them on occasion. The term Arizona Bay is in reference to the fact that some believe California will fall into the ocean and that Arizona will become beach front property. There is no denying that deep down this song is a sarcastic indictment of California superficial life. However, the lyrics of the song do invoke apocalyptical tones as referenced in the first couple lines: “Some say the end is near/Some say we’ll see Armageddon soon.” This is where I will turn my attention.

Now, in light of what this site is about, I don’t know if I should recommend a listen to this song because of all of the cussing and “F bombs” used; so, listen at your own risk. Ænema displays what I would call a secular view of the end times as seen through a person destined to be left behind after Christ comes again. It speaks to the futility of those who are destined for damnation with the lyrics: “I’ve a suggestion to keep you all occupied…learn to swim,” The line “Learn to swim” is in reference to the sinking of California creating Arizona Bay. You can almost sense the meaninglessness of it all when Maynard James Keenan chastises people for fretting about material things earlier in the song. What really pops out in this song is that all of this is sung from the point of view from a man who will also suffer the same fate. A man left behind to suffer the wrath to come.

Project 86 brings the song Doomsday Stomp to the discussion as this song has a similar aesthetic to Ænema except for one little difference: the point of view of the singer. Andrew Schwab sings as though he is an observer of things. He likens the people experiencing the Tribulation as ants being stomped on by a human foot. Observe, “Swollen anthill sore/Insects’ desperate cries/Infected for/Doomsday stomp from the skies.” Unlike Tool, Project 86 does not imply that they will experience this stomping along with insects; however, they do imply the futility of the efforts of the insects being crushed by the foot. Where Ænema, is from a first person point of view, Doomsday Stomp is spoken as from an omniscient narrator.

In addition, Doomsday Stomp shows the narrator at a position of power as demonstrated in the lyric, “The lips of eyeless woman/Asking me for needles and a thread.” This is something Ænema never shows as the narrator just accepts his fate. In Doomsday Stomp, the eyeless woman, who can be assumed to be the Whore of Babylon from Revelation, has to ask the narrator to assist her. This, in my opinion, is a perfect example of the Christian version of the End Times. The Christian will be the viewer and the unbeliever will be the participator. I believe looking at these two songs together demonstrate this dichotomy perfectly.