Warning-What is it, Emo, Or Doom?

I was thinking about this the other day. Just how does Warning remain within the genre of doom metal and is not considered emo, especially when one considers the band’s lyrical content. I, of course, am a lover of the doom metal, and an absolute despiser of emo(tional) music. When I think of emotional music I think of Dashboard Confessional, Alkaline Trio, bands that compose most of their music with a tear in their eye, a razor blade to their wrist, with their pretentiously urbanite trappings of down-dressed fashion (I hate including the band member’s aesthetic tastes, but one must notice this too when considering what the lyrics are ruminating over).

So, I want to try to separate these two bands with the idea in mind that their lyrical content might be quite similar, but still markedly different. I think it’s in their propositions, their desire–or lack of–to raise questions about making a change to the depression each song’s speaker describes. For Warning’s “Faces,” we see a dialogue between multiple consciousness, which cause the listener to wonder about what might be done. Dashboard confessional wishes to merely ruminate on the pain an pity.

Here’s a few lines from Dashboard Confessional’s song “Screaming Infidelities” that I randomly found:

I’m cuddling close to blankets and sheets
But you’re not alone, and you’re not discreet
Make sure I know who’s taking you home
I’m reading your note over again
There’s not a word I comprehend,
Except when you signed it
“I will love you always and forever”

Okay, good stuff. Completely ignoring the actual sounds coming out of the speakers, let’s try to unravel what’s going on here just on the prose level. We are given a speaker who is not afraid to let his audience know that he’s sad and we can see this in his desire to remember his lover, and the direct corollary the listener gets is the reference to the bed they shared, and presumably fucked in. All the pathetic guy can do is cuddle up with the sheets.

He contrasts his own wallowing in self-pity by hypothesizing, or maybe he has an eyewitness telling him, that his girlfriend, or ex-girlfriend, wants him to know she’s fooling around with other guys. However, I think that the line “Make sure I know who’s taking you home” is really the speaker’s own anxiety for what may or may not be happening. Hmmm. So is he insecure, emotionally immature, or maybe even a little subservient to this fatal attraction of his? I think he’s a little of all these things, but most importantly he’s purporting one monologue, one of pain and anguish for his girlfriend’s “infidelity.”

In the final stanza I have excerpted we see a digression of sorts. The speaker is reminiscing about her statements of the past, and using these to project toward what may come in the future. What’s wrong with this, or overly emotional? I think it’s his single-mindedness. He says, “There’s not a word I comprehend,” except the ones he wants to hear, which cause him to go deeper into despair. This guy is moving backwards, he’s wallowing in his pain, and this is his only course of action. He’s romanticizing his pain, which equals super emo!

So let’s take a look at Warning’s song “Faces.” I choose this song because it is the most emotional song that they have (I feel). Have a look here for the full song lyrics. Here’s a few lines from the song:

I want to be master of my own emotions with the fire that fills me,
but I don’t understand myself and I don’t know,
I don’t know what my heart is anymore.
I don’t want to be standing in this water through pity and responsibility.
So come in to my life with your violence and pain, cause I feel the depths of a love I never know.
Take a hold of my life, make it into one that I want it to be.
Make a whole of my life, make my faces one that I want you to see.

Okay, so this seems pretty emotional too, but I am convinced there’s a difference–and a big one. So without touching on the actual acoustics of the song, which are pretty Doom Metalish in all its glory, I want to show that Warning’s brand of talking about relationship woes is more poetic, more constructive, and, possibly the most important aspect, provide a proactive speaker aware of the pain he feels, but with a difference from your regular emo; he wants to do something about it. So the very first line talks about “my own emotions,” which would seem to be a dead giveaway that the song is leaning more towards the sugar saccharine of self-pitying emotional music. But there’s a difference from the Dashboard Confessional excerpt from above. The speaker here offers a dialogic progression (yes, that’s Bakhtin talking), on one hand making a conscious statement about his state of mind and pain (“I want to be master of my…emotions “), and on the other he relates a separate consciousness towards wanting to make a change (“make my faces one that I want you to see”). He admits that a separate consciousness, a potentially separate influence on him, may provide him to “make [his life] into one that [he] want[s] it to be.” I see no wallowing in self-pity here, and the positive thing is that the speaker sees a solution to his pain.

But I’m conflicted on whether the speaker’s fixation on a solution to his problem as coming from another human being’s verifying his condition. This realization is what’s causing me to have doubts about the “emo-ness” of this song. In the end of the song the speaker repeats the following line four times: “Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m living out of time.” I think the statement, and the repetition of the statement, causes me to doubt that anyone can help him see “the faces,” but I do come to the dialogic aspect of the song, something that the monological Dashboard Confessional song retains. The speaker in “Faces” proposes multiple solutions and mitigating factors to the depression that he is suffering, and though his dialog between these factors, possible solutions, and regressions back into depression, providing the listener with a complicated and tiered set of emotions and problems. All the Dashboard Confessional song’s speaker does is lament and torture himself without offering possible solutions or regressions. He just wants to feel bad.

So where do I want to end this? I think the Warning takes a multi-voiced pursuit at understanding and describing an experience that most of us have experienced and suffered through, and possibly proposes following the Devil to absolve his pain (“…come in to my life with your violence and pain”). Dashboard Confessional just languishes in self pity and pain without pursuing anything else. I might have to think about this more.

Warning - Watching From a Distance

This entry was posted in Commentary, Critical Theory, Doom Metal, Essay.

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