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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Flesh and the Power it Holds - Chuck Schuldiner

I told you once but I will say it again,
When you live the flesh, it's the beginning of the end.

It will take you in, it will spit you out.
Behold the flesh and the power it holds.

Passion is a poison laced with pleasure bittersweet
One of many faces that hides deep beneath.

It will take you in, it will spit you out.
Behold the flesh and the power it holds.

Touch, taste, breathe, consumed

Déjà vu, already knew from the first encounter
But now I know to let go
Of words to speak no more.

Like a wind upon your face
You can't see it but you know it's there.
When beauty shows its ugly face,
Just be prepared.

Passion burns like fire carried by the wind.
The end of a time, a time to begin.

It will take you in, it will spit you out.
Behold the flesh and the power it holds.

It's build you up one way and tears you right back down.
A time to begin, the end of a time.

It will take you in, it will spit you out.
Behold the flesh and the power it holds.

Touch, taste, breathe, consumed.

Déjà vu, already knew from the first encounter
But now I know to let go
Of words to speak no more.

Like a wind upon your face
You can't see it but you know it's there.
When beauty shows its ugly face,
Just be prepared.


Today's poem is not strictly a poem, but rather, lyrics from a source that may surprise you.  This is one of my favorite songs by the band Death, the American metal band that arguably are the progenitor of death metal.  The band was driven by late front man Chuck Schuldiner, who apart from providing guitar and vocals, was the band's main song writer and lyricist.  Before we go on, reader, I urge you to approach this music with an open mind; I am challenging you to find value and beauty from a source about which most (especially poetry lovers, I assume) know very little, and find off-putting, if not downright repellent.

One challenge inherent in presenting lyrics as poetry deals with line breaks and punctuation.  Since I do not have liner notes or other official materials with me, I had to use a bit of artistic license in presenting the lyrics here for you.  It is my hope that I've represented Schuldiner's lyrics accurately.

The poem, as I will henceforth refer to it, deals with the power that "Flesh" holds over us emotionally, and the dangers of a hedonistic lifestyle.  Humans being held in thrall to the allure of the body is one of the oldest themes we know of.  Sensuality has often been depicted with an air of danger about it.  Beauty can be destructive, and that is the main thrust of the poem.  The beginning is aggressive, with the narrator asserting that he has already warned us about this danger.  Clearly he states, "When you live the flesh, it's the beginning of the end."  Essentially, if your life is lived purely for the sake of bodily pleasure, of fleshly fulfillment, it's over.  It is the beginning of the end.

The chorus, "It will take you in, it will spit you out.  Behold the flesh and the power it holds" indicates the power that Schuldiner knows the flesh has.  We become consumed by it, discarded by it.  Lust is a force greater than we can hope to contain by ourselves, and humans are chewed up by this machine.  "Behold" that power!  Appreciate it.  Understand it.  Avoid it.

"Beauty" is depicted as having an "ugly face."  Obviously, this refers to the devastating effects that a life lived purely for pleasure can have.  The side effects of living for transient flesh beauty are destruction, and the repeated chorus would have us believe.  That beauty is always there, that temptation is always lurking, "like a wind upon your face."  It's something felt, if not seen.  While it may feel gratifying "("it builds you up", "it will take you in") it is ultimately like Fortune's wheel, in that what it gives, it takes away ("it will tear you down", "it will spit you out.")  It is a fire that spreads on the wind, burning things in its path.  While this does lead to chances for new creation, I hardly think that optimism is the main takeaway of the poem.

I feel that the poem is clear and easy to understand, not straying too far into the realm of the abstract.  The premise of the poem itself may be slightly more unfamiliar, with "flesh" acting as a stand in for physical pleasures of lust and hunger, and beauty being personified as an ugly destructive force.  While Schuldiner is warning the listener to the dangers of the flesh, he's also deeply reverent of its great power.  It's a little like standing in awe of some great and terrible machine.  It's dangerous and you know you must strive to avoid it, but you cannot help but feel like magnetic pull towards it.

I think this is why the musical style, which is dark and aggressive, fits the poetic content so well.  The opening guitar riff is dark and looming, covering wide distances in dissonant intervals.  By the time the vocals come in, the tempo has quickened, creating a somewhat frenzied atmosphere.  This is completed by Schuldiner's vocals; his voice is a high, raspy scream.  Despite the strained, screamed aesthetic, his vocal delivery is also clear and controlled, making the lyrics easy to understand.  I hope that with the lyrics I've provided, you can make it through.

This is the part you have likely been dreading, my reader friend.  I have attached the song for you to listen to, and I know the phrase "death metal" can scare many away, However, I know that you, the good reader of poetry, approach all things with an open mind.  You, being a cultured person, can appreciate value and artistry even in things that you do not subjectively like or enjoy on a surface level.  I think there is a real power and catharsis in this type of music that is not accessible by other means.  Listen, brave reader!


2 comments:

  1. excellent description ...if you have the time i would love for you to do moment of clarity this is one that i am having trouble with understanding esp the ending ..thank ...Jordan J Rilett jrilett21@gmail.com

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