http://www.flickr.com/photos/opethpainter/3350397864 Rob Halford (singer).
Rob Halford & Glenn Tipton (guitar).
“Dissident Aggressor” (1978) is a hard rock/heavy metal (HR/HM) song with lyrics that show sympathy for those who flee to free countries. It’s from their third album: Sin After Sin. In this case, our song’s protagonist is attempting to escape Cold War Era East Berlin. Musically, this song features a lengthy and powerful bass solo by Ian Hill, critically acclaimed as one of the best of his career.
Many years later, thrash metal heroes, Slayer, redid this Judas Priest song splendidly. The haunting guitars show lots of distortion in both versions of “Dissident Aggressor,” fitting in with the chilling theme of the song.
The song starts with “Grand canyons of space and time universal, my world is subjected, subjected to all,” a verse that shows the nature of a wide-ranging spirit of empathy felt by songwriters among others.
“Hooks to my brain are well-in,” reminds me of the Greek legend of Sisyphus, the hard-working hero who always pushes a boulder up a hill. In this case, our angry East Berliner’s desire to escape is like having hooks in his brain that pull him toward freedom. Citizens of East European countries were not allowed to leave from 1945—1990.
Brief uprisings were brutally crushed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), a gigantic country dominated by the Russian state. Later, several states like Ukraine, Lithuania, Armenia, and Kazakhstan—to name a few—left the Soviet Union during the fall of Eastern European Communism.
We get a vivid picture in our mind of his determination when we read, “Through cracked, blackened memories of unit dispersal, I face the impregnable wall………Exploding, reloading, this quest never ending, until I give out my last breath.” This “impregnable wall” was the Berlin Wall, built after the end of World War II and not torn down until 1990.
Thus the chorus may seem less disturbing than it would be in isolation, “Stab, Bawl, Punch, Crawl. Hooks to my brain are well-in. Stab, Bawl, Punch, Crawl. I know what I am. I’m Berlin.” As you can see by the analysis of this song, hard rock/heavy metal song lyrics can support traditional American ideals—far from the stereotype of this maligned musical genre.
Footnote: Furthermore, a few years after Priest wrote “Dissident Aggressor,” MTV did a documentary entitled “Iron Maiden behind the Iron Curtain,” a series about fellow British heavy metal band, Iron Maiden and their courageous musical tour in Eastern Europe. In retrospect, Maiden received some credit for supporting the cause of democracy by fighting communism through free speech and the entrepreneurship of the music industry.
Discussion Question: Do you agree with your author-instructor when he claims that his endorsement of the lyrics for “Dissident Aggressor” supports the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan? Previous president, Jimmy Carter, made a remark that we had an “inordinate fear of Communism,” which was dismissed as silly in light of Communist movements in places like Nicaragua.
Is there a strong chance that our hero in “Dissident Aggressor” could have proven to be an armed-and-dangerous man once he escaped East Berlin? Could your author-instructor be trying to make his “headbanger” music interests seem less counter-culture?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pacroon/2802578447 The Berlin Wall
Maps of Germany – Visit us for more German Maps Cold War Era West and East Germany.
Note that Berlin was in the heart of old East Germany, but it was a divided city and the western half belonged to the democracy, West Germany, yet was surrounded by communist East Germany.
“Using favorite songs as prompts,” by Michael Fulton
“How to Write a Rap Song,” by Bob Urbani