This Friday, Murder Death Kill, Leaders and Reformers, three metal/hardcore bands on a self-described “Heavy Hitters” tour will be playing Gabe’s along with locals Balto and Doppelganger.
Now, this normally wouldn’t be a particularly notable show. Hardcore and metal packages come to Gabe’s and Blue Moose almost every single week, bills with five to 10 bands, starting early enough for high schoolers to show up, sometimes with their parents in the back.
This show is different, however, because Reformers have received quite a bit of criticism for some perceived homophobic lyrics in the song “Abomination,” the lead single off their new album Abolish. Some particularly contentious lines include:
And if you speak your mind.
Truth for humankind
It’s called judgement
They’ll say it loud
‘You’re such a bigot’
We’ve been concerned with pleasing everyone
But I’m done with running from
Confronting sin in love
You don’t get to pick and choose what’s right for you
Truth is truth
Has become our reality
Outrage was swift. The song was released on Friday, April 11, and by April 14, a whole slew of metal blogs had responded.
“You think being gay is an abomination — that’s fine, don’t be gay then. Leave everybody else alone!” metalinjection.net’s Robert Pasbani said.
“They’re so thin-skinned they can’t stand any opposition whatsoever,” said Axl Rosenberg of metalsucks.net, referring to the song’s ‘bigot’ lamentation.
On Reformers’ Facebook page, the backlash was a bit less sophisticated. As a response to a post advertising pre-orders, the comment “god isn’t real and you guys are cunts” has gained a bunch of likes and started a bit of a flame war.
Reformers’ label, Mediaskare, released a statement concerning the controversy:
Mediaskare Records is a platform for music as an art form. Neither pro or anti anything. Just art.
Art is there to invoke feeling, thought and debate. It’s not supposed to be liked by everyone, nor just sit in the background. It’s supposed to make you feel, one way or another.
One persons or groups opinion is merely that, the opinion of that person or group and in no way reflects on our own personal opinions or views. We might not personally agree, but we believe in the right for you, them or anyone else to have the right to say it.
When you start censoring art you become the problem and part of an ideology. All views, whether political, religious or otherwise are represented on this Mediaskare Records. We have Christian bands preaching the love of god, we have atheist bands preaching otherwise, we have political bands from all spectrums. Not once do we steer, interfere or advise artists in what their content should be.
If your canvas is silence and you paint with sound, if we like it, we put it out. If there is meaning, hidden meaning or has no agenda at all just doesn’t come into the equation because art is relative to each person and is extremely subjective.
And just like our artist, we respect our friends and family’s views. You don’t like a band or their message, we understand. That’s your opinion and you have every right to air it.
I hope you understand that we feel art is the one place politics, religion and social ideologies should be aired and expressed freely and without censorship, no matter what end of the spectrum it comes from.
So, the Mediaskare label is taking an anti-censorship stance, but nobody is attempting to censor Reformers in the slightest. What critics are saying is that gay lifestyles are to be accepted. That using one’s religious views as an excuse to rage on those who don’t share them amounts to bigotry (the same bigotry which they seem to advocate against on the Abolish album cover), and bigotry ought to be denounced by all community members.
Mediaskare distances themselves from this responsibility further by saying in an email to Little Village, “… for the record, Reformers do not have homophobic lyrics! That is some internet BS that started getting attention with no factual basis.” But, with lyrics referring to “twisted sexuality,” the notion that this is all just “internet BS” with “no factual basis,” as Bodnar states, is a little dubious.
Last month, Reformers frontman Andrew Backlin released a statement in response to the controversy. In it, he takes a judgmental stance regarding gay lifestyles as “sinful,” but clarifies that the song “Abomination” addresses all sin, not just homosexuality or infidelity as others have claimed. So, put another way, being gay is still wrong as far as the Reformers are concerned. They just wanted to clarify that the song is railing against far more than just homosexuality (so stop saying they’re picking on the gays, you guys!).
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“I don’t agree with them, but they are allowed to say what they want and people are allowed to go to the show or not,” Gabe’s owner Scott Kading wrote in an email to Little Village. “I didn’t book it, but that’s partly the beauty of Gabe’s in that it can host any kind of show anytime.”
This whole situation shares some obvious parallels with the controversy that surrounded the Iowa Christian metalcore group For Today in early 2013 (Interestingly enough, Reformers list For Today as one of their “influences”). Mike Reynolds, the lead guitarist of For Today, tweeted an anti-gay rant, part of which included, “No such thing as a gay Christian, the same as there is no such thing as a Christian who loves his sin.” Reynolds subsequently left the band.
As of right now, the label, the booking agents and the venue are all taking a back seat, claiming to hold no opinion on the art they are facilitating. I guess this leaves it up to the fans (and the internet) to let Reformers know what should come next for the band.