Normally when I see toxicity and metal in the same sentence I think of System of a Down. Sorry to disappoint you, but we’re not having any type of ’01 fun today because we’re hopelessly stuck in the land mine that is 2018.
As the story often goes, this was not the piece I had originally written for this week. I was about three-quarters through that one when I found out some troubling facts about the matter at hand. After last weekend proved to be so full of death that it almost makes you wonder if there’s some divine hijinks rumbling somewhere in the stratosphere, I couldn’t help but take some time to reflect on one loss in particular. Of course, whether you’re John McCain or Joejoe the Capybara, death is the great equalizer. Unless the cause is institutionalized injustice, any kind of hierarchy of importance in its wake is unwarranted and inappropriate. But, that reason was precisely why I chose to dedicate my weekly free space to We Came as Romans vocalist, Kyle Pavone.
It didn’t take long for news to travel that Pavone had passed away at 28 following a week-long hospitalization. Being that We Came as Romans had gained commercial success in the past few years, major sites like Metal Injection began offering their parting words. Some fans offered their grief, but many more foes poured in criticism towards the mere existence of the metalcore musician’s commemoration (ex. “who cares this pussy is dead?”). Disappointed but not surprised, I was hoping to combat the metaphorical locker-shoving by discussing the importance of evolving as a -core artist while retaining the nostalgia, earnestness, and integrity of the prior decade in which the subgenre exploded – a feat Pavone achieved in his short life. Obviously, that’s not quite what’s going on here.
Allegedly, Pavone physically assaulted a young woman after a sexual encounter between the two fell through. With this alleged incident being put on the backburner to news of Pavone’s death, I only learned about it after doing some deep-dive fact checking. Selfishly, I was near-breakdown because I had to wrap my head around an entirely different approach to this topic. I also felt the pangs of disillusionment made familiar by the murder of rapper XXXTENTACION in June. Of course, XXX’s assault charges were, indeed, charges and not allegations. Yet the taking of legal action isn’t necessarily the best litmus test for validity when so much assault and abuse goes unreported to police out of fear and self-blame. Nevertheless, I felt a semblance of clarity when it came to the posthumous disrespect spearheaded by comment section cowardice, but not necessarily in the way you might expect.
Let’s start from the top.
Birthed in Michigan in mainstream emo’s pivotal year of ’05, We Came as Romans is generally described as metalcore or post-hardcore. While clean singing in -core subgenres is one of its most contested points alongside an excess of breakdowns, Pavone’s voice had an equally as powerful voice as his colleagues, but his tone was a bit more matured and refined. You could close your eyes and imagine him contributing to a variety of post-’90’s musical fronts without landing exactly on the ’08 Skullcandy stage. This relative timelessness earned WCAR a designated spot in the collections of metalcore fans. Pavone’s contributions helped WCAR endure while many Warped Tour mainstays—and even Warped Tour itself—folded.
Why am I handing out accolades? In order to set the scene, it’s important to bear in mind that one truth doesn’t necessarily negate another. When I imagine the men who have hurt me, what I see is true, but so is, in part, what the rest of the world sees—gifted writers, talented lacrosse players, compelling lawyers. At the risk of sounding pathetically afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome, I can’t take those skills away from them.
While We Came as Romans have successfully trucked on into 2018, their association with the screamo of yesteryear hasn’t exactly gone away. Some of the troop’s most well-known tracks are from the Punk Goes Pop album series, which became a pinnacle of scene kid existence as well as odd foreshadowing to the current state of Soundcloud. Integrating hip-hop elements into metal has historically triggered racism, and pop elements, sexism and homophobia. Metalcore has been known to adopt poppier synth elements as well as a more androgynous aesthetic than we’ve seen in the metal of, say, 1995. Of course, symphonics and long hair are long standing components of metal’s story, but -core has taken an especially softer approach to its finer details. While on paper this all might seem well and good in terms of eradicating the stigma of being gay and breaking traditional gender roles, it’s led to some less than favorable effects pushback.
Due to the reality that metalcore/post-hardcore seems to have such a disproportionately high amount of abuse allegations, I’ve been wondering if the music was intentionally marketed towards younger woman (relatively to other kinds of heavy music) in order to create a ready and waiting victim pool. However, Pavone’s death has made me question this conspiracy. Perhaps
-core artists are simply creating the music they wish to make, but because they’re bullied by the venn diagram of elitists and edgelords for performing a more “feminized” version of metal, they feel the need to overcompensate in their masculinity by committing acts of violence. For some, commercial validation might not be enough when hate is still pouring in from the greater metal community, and so, they must reassert themselves. Coupled with the imbalance of power between an older musician and a younger fan, the situation is nothing but toxic.
Perhaps the most important question in the context of a memorial is one I unfortunately cannot answer. Is it necessarily any one individual’s fault when these values are continually projected like a Wi-Fi signal?
What I do know is this: I am so very sorry that Pavone’s life has been cut short. I’m even sorrier that hegemonic forces violate a place that’s supposed to be an arena of acceptance for the rebelled.
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Tune in next week to Thirsty Thursday for more from Jenna.