By Rebecca Day
Did Alternative Press ‘cancel’ Backwordz, leaving the popular band off a list of black metal artists because of politics? Has art become subject to a political test hostile to those who think in a different way? It looks like it.
I grew up during Metallica’s rise to international stardom after the release of their still-celebrated Black Album. Philosophical themes such as individualism and political statements opposing tyrannical forms of government were brought to the forefront thanks to the lyrical exploration of that album.
Protest songwriters of the 60s and the big-haired womanizing bad boys of the 80s preceded the 90s metal genre championing individual rights and freedom—walking a different path.
The Objective Standard published a wonderful article diving into all the nuances and themes of Metallica’s Black Album here.
Because the metal genre has been known for some time now as one that not only opposes censorship, but promotes music honestly exploring feelings of aggression, alienation, loneliness, and resistance, I was shocked when I read a music magazine did not include Eric July’s metal band Backwordz in their list of black metalcore artists who are making waves in the metal music community.
I have followed Eric July and Backwordz since the release of their album Veracity in 2017.
The crowdfunded album developed a cult-like following for the band after its release. In my opinion, the project was a concept that had never been done before. And if it had been done, it had not reached the same level of success as Veracity. The metal genre laid its roots in counter-culture beliefs and individualist ideals, but Backwordz’ Veracity birthed a mighty oak tree when it was released. The names of their songs and unapologetic poetry paired with layers of metal, R&B, punk, and rap ensured that though critics may hack at limbs and tear at their branches, their mighty oak only grows stronger against opposition.
Though the aforementioned themes have been artistically woven into songs of the genre for some time now, Eric July and his band lit a match and freed a wildfire burning from track one to the last note recorded.
Their Song You, Are You is particularly introspective. The lyrics are conversational, inviting the listener in at times with questions and declarations of freedom from the past throughout the song:
“We can’t take the credit for what we did not endure.
We can’t pay for the mistakes that man has made before.”
Their song Praxeology is an ode to Austrian economics, a school of thought built on economic theory dealing with human action, entrepreneurship, and free markets:
“This ain’t just republican or democrats.
This is about a hand full of bureaucrats
Know the exact cost of a spending act,
How in the world can they dictate that?”
“Production seized, drives us into poverty,
Greed doesn’t end with loss of liberty.”
The album takes you on a seamless, dynamic journey through layers of musical prowess. Though they are billed as metalcore, the effortless way they add conversational tones of rap, R&B grooves, hard-hitting punk attitude, and heavy metal really defines a whole new music experience.
Eric July once dubbed their band ‘the libertarian rage against the machine.’ And his assessment has been spot-on. He’s amassed an impressive, nearly unprecedented following over the years as an independent artist. He’s appeared on countless shows and podcasts. One web search of his name returns millions of results. July has received many pages of media coverage. He also has a very dedicated and active social media following. On Twitter alone he has over 60,000 followers.
The metal genre has long fostered artists who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, and double down when met with opposition trying to silence them. Eric July and his band Backwordz have proven they stand at the top of the totem pole when it comes to today’s metal artists who are truly living out the legacy bands like Metallica created so many years ago. How could a publication leave out such a magnetic, hard-working, successful band like Backwordz?
I think I know the answer. But as Eric July did on Twitter, I’ll let you be the judge for yourself.
On June 13th 2020, they released their latest single in anticipation of their upcoming sophomore album project. You can listen to The Great Equalizer at Insane Blog where the band commented:
“You’re looking at the political and social landscape of America and it is as unpredictable as it has ever been. Many of you are realizing that ultimately YOU are your own first responder. Make no mistake, this is an extremely pro-gun and pro-self-defense song. We unapologetically support people having the right to arm themselves and protect themselves, their families, and their property from aggressors.”
You can also follow July on Facebook at his official page.
Alternative Press hasn’t commented (at the time this was published) about the omission of Backwordz from their black metal list. Maybe raw, unadulterated freedom is more than some publications can handle.
[Featured Photo comes from Twitter: EricDJuly.]
Rebecca Day is a musician, writer, and one-half of swampy-Americana duo, The Crazy Daysies. For more information visit rebeccadaymusic.com.