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Masked Country and Metal Stars: More Similar Than Different



A Surprising Similarity in Mindset and Approach

As diametrically different as these two men appear, in terms of stage outfits, music genre (Swedish Satanic Heavy Metal vs. South African Kinda Country), and off-stage personalities (married father of two vs. flamboyant gay cowboy) on the outside, they are remarkably similar in mindset, approach and work ethic.

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The Meaning of the Mask in Music

Comparing and contrasting their latest offerings, Peck with Bronco and Forge with Impera, forces one to examine the music to discover the meaning of the mask. Each artist earns immense commercial and critical success. They peddle drama and theatrics in their music, their shows and their videos. Yet they traffic in love and loneliness, desire and denial. They tease you with temptation and beckon you with regret.

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“Ask yourself, ooh/Are you righteous?/Yes/You wanna play with the sire?/Yes/You want a view from the spire?/Yes/You want a seat by the pyre?”

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“Sick of waiting for the hole to mend/Play it out like it’s all pretend/Passing up a fight, you’re gonna lose in the end/And ooh see the cowboy sing, yeah/And ooh it’s just another scene/And ooh you’ve gotta live with what you said/Circling the drain/Wondering if the pain is the same.”

The Role of Masked Characters in Our Lives

Think of all the masked characters that exist in the world. All cultures have masqueraded myths and masked martyrs. Most people wear a mask, especially for work. Doctors aren’t in scrubs and talking about symptoms at home. Business men aren’t crunching numbers 24/7 and talking investments with their babies. Bartenders aren’t shaking and stirring drinks for tips in their dining room.

Scanning the pop culture landscape these days, masked performers and masked TV competition shows proliferate like mushrooms. It is known that the ancient peoples of the Americas used masks in war, religion and entertainment, although the only surviving artifacts are the ones worn in death.

Anonymity vs. Masquerade

In Psychology Today Forge said, “But I also need to be clear in saying that the concept of anonymity as opposed to masked, that was something that I gave up very early. That’s why I always said in interviews there’s a clear distinction about being anonymous and about being masked versus unmasked. And some people picked up on that, [and] some people did not.”

Orville Peck told Distractify, “I think another misconception is that I can be really candid and open because I’m somehow remaining anonymous, but it’s not really like that,” he went on to add. “If anything, I think that my mask helps eliminate pretense, and this idea of having to go onstage and perform as someone or something I’m not.”

The Expressive Powers of Country Music and Heavy Metal

Exploring every sub-set of country music, and country opera and drama too, Peck bends notes around corners to where you’d never expect to be dragged. His take on Fancy is over the top.  His double entendre expresses heartbreak unlike any other, like in “Outta Time” from a prior effort.

“Don’t be a drag, just be a queen.”

“You go down just like Holy Mary, Mary on a, Mary on a cross/Not just another bloody Mary, Mary on a, Mary on a cross/If you choose to run away with me, I will tickle you internally/And I see nothing wrong with that.”

In a 2018 interview with Revolver Magazine, Forge explains, “As a young teen, Satan, and the idea of some sort of world that you could be in touch with that could empower you was very much the symbol for freedom.”

Perhaps the mask Peck wears symbolizes his origin story, mysterious and susceptible to many and varied interpretations. His myriad masqueraded escapades, mostly about men and failure, comport nicely with fantasy and fetish. Now out, the once safely hidden feels familiar for all.

“You keep a casket buried deep within/You try to mask it, but fall back in sin/You want to shake it off, but you’re stuck inside/When stripped of rags of skin and spine/Human decay, Corpus Dei, terminally dispelled/And it’s such a ride.”

“And I hate to say I spent it all on masquerades/Oh and I, I’d forgotten how it goes/Flash a smile while the traffic slows/Take a seat while I trample out the days/And I hate to say I spent it all on masquerades/Oh and I, watch me waving as I go/Bury my heart at the rodeo/Take a seat while I trample out the days.”

The Power of the Faustian Temptation

One could be easily forgiven for thinking that those lyrics all lived in the same song. Or the same album. Even their album cover art is fantastically freaky. Two Rhinestone Cowboys killing themselves to live. Like we haven’t seen this before. We have. And yet, we have no idea.

Perhaps chasing the Faustian temptation leads to the exposing of each other. Wearing a mask then hides one’s face and side-steps the ultimate sacrifice – selling one’s soul. A person could essentially gain the power without selling their own soul.

“Remember always/That love is all you need/Tell me who you wanna be/And I will set you free/There’s a darkness at the heart of my love.”

“Softly you whisper, you hope it ain’t gone/Sit in bars, sit on sidewalks, sit down and just cry where you’re standing/I sit alone anyway, every night in your arms/And now I know that this time tomorrow I gotta go/And I, I know that love don’t live here anymore.”



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