Think Tank: Does Nile support ISIS?!
No, no they do not.
Before we begin, apologies are due for the semi-clickbait title, but it just goes to show how just a headline, or in Nile’s case a song title, could provoke outrage, misunderstandings, and a whole lot of shit. Apologies, gentle readers.
The topic for today’s think tank is the never-ending debate between intention and interpretation. Case in point, we have Nile’s lyric video for their song “Call to Destruction” off 2015’s What Should not be Unearthed. The controversy stemming from this video has simmered down considerably over the two years since its release, but the issue of intention versus interpretation at the center of it is still very much relevant to discussion in our greater extreme metal community today. I might be getting ahead of myself here, so let’s first break down the incident and then talk about it. Cool? Let’s do it.
Nile is well-known in our community for not only being consummate tech death legends but for singing about ancient Egypt history, Middle Eastern religions and cultures, and some Lovecraftian horror to boot. So, it is only natural that having exhausted some of their usual subject matter that they would explore some new lyrical territory. Enter: “Call to Destruction.” The song features lyrics drawn from ISIS (ISIL, IS, Daesh, LA-based post-metal) propaganda and proclamations. The particular theme borrowed from the IS propaganda in question in is the advocacy for the destruction of historic pagan or pre-Islamic architecture, art, and idols in those areas that come in IS control (hence the call to destruction). The lyric video features the lyrics scrawling over newsreel images of IS fighters tearing down monuments and destroying historic artifacts in places of occupation, like the historic site at Palmyra in Syria. And, as those of you familiar with Nile’s lyrical style, those lyrics read not as typical lyrics but as fully formed proclamations that are intoned along with the song’s riffing. In other words, the song presents up front the particularly heinous ideology of IS occupiers for listeners and viewers.
Disclaimer – front and center
Now, let’s talk about intent for a minute. Nile’s intent with the song, lyrics, and accompanying video is not to support IS’s destruction of historical artifacts; it is intended to draw attention to the destruction of the artifacts and condemn them. In fact, the disclaimer front-loaded in the video says exactly this and more, leaving no room for alternative perspectives as to the nature of the exact message that Nile are attempting to communicate (or so you’d think). Now, I have to say that this is a unique song for the band as they have never featured a political angle in any of their lyrics up to this point, but it is easy to see why they – having an appreciation for all things ancient and Middle Eastern – are responding to IS’s destructive acts.
I mean, the dudes are condemning ISIS with a rad song about the destruction of artifacts – so far, so good, right? WRONG.
Dipshits are everywhere, people. They walk among us. The initial reaction to “Call to Destruction” is, let’s just say, not good. Judging by the comments section of Nile’s video, about half of the viewers are to this day confused and outraged by the band perceived support for ISIS in the song. The interpretation is that Nile’s lyrics are not so much drawing from ISIS but communicating to ISIS supporters. In other words, for many dumb commenters, the song is a very literal call to action. And not only does outrage against the band occur en masse, but some virulent Islamophobia and intolerance shows up to the hate party too. I’ve taken the liberty of saving a number of these comments that give a better portrait for the dumbassery on display than I could ever just describe in my own words. I’d also like to note that I will not be blurring Youtube avatars or user names – these comments are still public for all the world to see on the video.. Enjoy (if some screenshots are too small to read, just click the image to embiggen):
You’d think a big-ass, front-end disclaimer would be enough, but you’d be wrong then, wouldn’t you?
So, not only does Louis fully understand and comprehend the disclaimer, he is still not convinced by it and will not support Nile any longer. I guess your interpretation is the final word, dude.
Sucks to suck, Jared. Now go do your fucking homework.
Thank you, Mr. Nobody! “Call to Destruction” is not even Nile’s first foray into Islamic subject matter in their lyrics. “Kafir!” off 2009’s Those Whom the Gods Detest, features lyrics drawn from the Muslim call-to-prayer; the following is an example: “There is no god but God / There is no god but the one, true God. / Allahu Akbar.” There has been no standing accusation that the band is Muslim for including these lyrics in their previous song, so why is there is problem with interpretation of lyrical content now?
Even after the final statement, this comment is still misguided and idiotic, proving once again just how very powerful and wrong the interpretive abilities of people can be.
Did you actually read the disclaimer, bruh? Damn.
I decided to leave out some of the more ignorant and hateful comments, but you can feel free to peruse the comments section on your own and maybe even engage with some of these dumbasses if you’re so inclined. So, the general theme here seems to be that despite there being a very prominent disclaimer in the video that explains Nile’s intent, there are still a good majority of individuals who have taken to the comments in outrage over what they perceive as Nile’s proclamation of allegiance to the Islamic State – Nile, an almost 30 year old American band from South Carolina.
This is where intent and interpretation clash. Nile’s intent is to critique IS’s ideology by using it as the foundation for a metal song; the listeners’ interpretations range from confusion about Nile’s support for the destruction of artifacts to accusing Nile of being radical Islamists in league with IS. Intention versus perception – condemnation versus endorsement. It is a strange place for the band to find themselves. What they thought was supposed to be pretty damn clear-cut turned out to be clear as mud for certain listeners. I’m sure the band knows that they can’t win over everyone, but I’m also sure they didn’t expect to be labeled supporters of Islamic radicalism as a result.
What I take take away from this incident is that it is just another clash of intention with the interpretive abilities of dull minds. It’s a conflict that has been at the center of the debate on subject matter in metal lyrics since the inception of the genre. I’ll personally never forget when I learned early on that the lyrics to Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” aren’t actually praising the devil or hell – they’re issuing a warning, a cautionary tale about just what an awful place hell is and what a dick the devil can be. Slayer has often found itself at the center of the same controversy, substituting Satan for Nazi imagery. Death Metal bands obsessed with cruel medical procedures, bodily harm, mutilation, and necrophilia do not actually advocate for those things, do they? I mean, Chris barnes seems chill in real life. As of writing this article, Marduk’s February 18th show at the Oakland Metro Opera House has been cancelled by Oakland PD because of threats against the band because of their “Nazi imagery” and perceived fascist ideology. I have no personal knowledge about Marduk’s true ideology, but I hear overwhelmingly that they are not fascists but instead that they use third reich imagery to evoke the sickest non-fictional evil out there. Again, perhaps this is a more recent example of intention and interpretation clashing in unproductive ways.
What do you think? How can our community deal with the intention and interpretation divide? Weigh in below.