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The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

COLUMN: ‘Dead Heart in a Dead World’ is the metal album for 2024

Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

I graduated high school in 2000, which was just about the time I began embracing metal and extreme music as the foundation of my musical taste.

Fresh out of high school, I was new to the metal scene and learning about the many genres of underground metal. One American band that caught my ear was Nevermore. The band was led by singer and lyricist Warrel Dane, who tragically passed away in 2017.

He was known for a distinct singing style and incredible range with a voice that was deep, brooding and emotional.

Nevermore is a band that is difficult to categorize, they have progressive metal components that incorporate sounds of modern hard rock and classic heavy metal in their ballads, but their faster more aggressive offerings are guitar-driven and thrashy.

In October of 2000, Nevermore released a particularly listenable album: “Dead Heart in a Dead World.” The album is angry and political. I was pleasantly surprised recently when I discovered that it holds up well and sounds great more than two decades later.

While I know heavy music is not most people’s preference, I like to believe there is something for everyone in this album. There are sing-along ballads, such as the track “Believe in Nothing,” and even a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” I guarantee you have never heard anything quite like it.

From the first track “Narcosynthesis” to the last, which is the title track, every song is explosively realized, demonstrating surprising clarity and uncanny band cohesion.

One standout track that I wish to discuss in this column is the song “Inside Four Walls,” which is overtly political. It oozes with disdain for the government and is intensely critical of mass incarceration.

The opening four lines strike me as particularly lucid in our polarized political times:

“Inside four walls I live my life, doesn’t matter what I’ve done. The government’s always right they tell us what to be they tell us what to believe. They’re wrong my friend is gone.”

These lyrics could be sung by anyone feeling disaffected by government. Heck, the Make America Great Again (MAGA) right could easily lay claim to this song as their Jan. 6, 2021 anthem, and no one would be the wiser.

Of course, the song was written two decades prior to the insurrection on the US capitol, so obviously the two are not related. However, good art enables us to make such connections.

While the song does not predict the insurrection, it highlights the power behind good metal: that righteous anger towards government is healthy when channeled appropriately.

“Inside Four Walls” is a protest song, and protests, nonviolent ones, of course, are good for democracy.

Another notable aspect about the year 2000, besides it being an election year, is that it was the year I came of voting age. I remember reading the works of Ralph Nader in those days.

I agreed with his criticisms of the two-party political system in the U.S. I believe he was right then, and he is still right today.

It is a crazy thing, getting old, because now I can say with certainty that we needed a third political party exactly one generation ago, and the “more voices and more choices” that Nader was calling for is still not a reality. This is certainly a topic worthy of outrage, but it is not a rationale for apathy and inaction.

Admittedly, now that I am in my 40s, I see that the system I once raged about in my youth has worked out quite well for me. I am employed, a parent, homeowner and am pursuing a second master’s degree.

However, “Dead Heart in a Dead World” reminds me that outrage is not owned by any political party. The MAGA movement does not have a monopoly on political anger, even though right-wing media outlets are effective at stoking it.

If he were alive today, Dane would certainly have much to say about the political polarization our country is in, and the inevitable turmoil that will be our elections this November.

Indeed, progressives and liberals have myriad issues to be angry about this year. There are many politically fraught topics for us to write courageously about, and more people should write about them! Heavy metal need not be the only genre that treads the terrain of justified outrage.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade, deadlocked wars, civilian casualties, the politicization of immigrants seeking a better life, inaction on gun control, book banning, brainwashed conspiracy theorists, climate change denial, sycophants bending the knee to their bullies and the dominance of a wealthy, aging political class: there are many reasons to be politically engaged.

Ultimately, Nevermore’s “Dead Heart in a Dead World” reminds me that this U.S. election cycle will be dripping with emotions, turmoil and dysfunction from all sides of the political spectrum.

Metal music has taught me that we are all entitled to the safe and healthy expression of our emotions.

Progressives, liberals and young people should be outraged about our current politics and, like fans of the band Nevermore, we should not be an underground minority. We need to give voice to our frustrations, and indeed, head to the polls this November.


Dan Hahn can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn, Columnist
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 581-2812.

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