Connor Betts, the gunman who killed nine people with an assault rifle in Dayton, Ohio, sang for a “pornogrind” band called Menstrual Munchies, playing a niche type of hardcore/heavy metal with extremely violent and misogynist content. (One album was titled 6 Ways of Female Butchery.) While officials haven’t yet determined a political motive behind Betts’ attack, many found an immediate red flag in his music genre of choice — and just like after Columbine, a conversation about violence in heavy metal lyrics is back in the spotlight.
What Is Pornogrind Metal?
Basically, pornogrind is a subgenre of a subgenre of a subgenre of metal. Read pornogrind lyrics, watch some live videos or see some bloody album-cover art and you’ll immediately see why people were outraged after the Dayton shooting: The pornogrind aesthetic brings an element of rape and sexual violence into the gore, scatology, cannibalism, decay and human viscera that defines gore-grind metal.
But pornogrind isn’t as popular as the public may be led to believe after reading about Connor Betts. What’s more, people in the metal scene are acutely aware of the subgenre’s problems — and they’re looking for more nuance in the conversation around violent music and America’s gun problem.
“It worries me that the media is going to zero in on pornogrind, which is arguably the worst representation of extreme metal in 2019, and report on it as if it’s a huge or in any way respected part of the scene,” another metalhead, speaking anonymously, tells MEL. “Violent misogyny is absolutely an issue in the metal world, as it is in society at large. We have a lot of work to do on that front, but honestly, the vast, vast majority of us are as disgusted with these freaks as you are.”
Where Did Pornogrind Come From, Exactly?
Metal began to splinter back in the late ’80s, when bands like Anal Cunt and Fear of God created the subgenre “noisecore.” According to GetsugaSSJ, a regular contributor to the r/Metal subreddit, “goregrind came around the same time and established itself with a multitude of bands.”
But we can trace pornogrind to one specific band: Gut, a German metal band from the early 1990s.
What made Gut’s music so different that it spawned its own subgenre? Gut “really took the sexual themes to the next level,” explains GetsugaSSJ, and “started this micro-movement” with another band, Ulcerous Phlegm. Also, “They used a pitch shifter to sound like a toilet.”
What Do Actual Metalheads Think of Pornogrind?
GetsugaSSJ doesn’t recognize pornogrind as an actual genre. “[It doesn’t] do enough musically to distinguish [itself] from grindcore, but it’s helpful to document the lyrical phenomenon as such,” he explains.
Blair, a 23-year-old lifelong metalhead in California, echoes GetsugaSSJ’s sentiment. ““Grindcore is a legit subgenre of metal,” he says. “Not the most popular, but still a serious art form. Pornogrind, on the other hand, resembles it musically but with less focus on being good songwriters or players, and more interest in tongue-in-cheek shock value, sex and violence … totally over-the-top imagery.”
The genre is “devoid of real artistic value,” Blair says. These musicians had some “ability to attract attention but no such ability to keep it.”
It’s not just the fans. Many grindcore musicians despise the pornogrind subgenre too. For example, animal-rights gore-grind band Haggus wrote “No More Porn Gore,” a song about why pornogrind is terrible, accompanied by a blog post:
… we also feel very strongly against misogyny, specifically the blatant acceptance of misogyny and chauvinism in the grind core community. Porno grind is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by so-called anarchists and punk rockers. Replacing talent with undermining imagery and un-clever misogynistic song titles is just pathetic. Take that shit back to your mom’s basement and fuck off wit yo bad self! Porno-gore is for virgins … !
‘Uncreative Musicians Trying to Compensate’
“Very few, if any, consider pornogrind seriously,” Blair explains. “At best it’s a funny, interesting novelty with huge points for being brazenly, intentionally offensive. At worst — and this is closer to my opinion — it’s an afterthought of a genre created by uncreative musicians trying to compensate for their lack of ability with shock value.”
Shawn Malloy, who has a one-man grindcore band called Spamicidal, describes pornogrind as “a whisper on the fringes of extreme metal.”
“Just like certain kinds of weird fetish porn things, if you’re looking for it, you’ll find it,” he says. “If you are not looking for it, it will most likely pass you by.”
Inside the metal community, pornogrind is often met with derision “because people’s only interaction with it tends to be the hyper-digital Bandcamp/YouTube/Myspace projects people shit out constantly,” GetsugaSSJ explains.
In other words, pornogrind is a bit like Soundcloud rap — it’s cheap, it’s bad and there’s a lot of it.
What About the Pornogrind ‘Festivals’?
Pornogrind bands are sometimes added to regular metal concert lineups, so there is some integration into the broader scene, says one source. “It’s grudgingly accepted in extreme metal’s grand, flawed tradition of tolerating offensive shit in the name of being shocking, or dangerous, or otherwise subversive.”
But what about the all-pornogrind festivals, like the one Betts’ band played in 2018? “I’m Purell-ing my hands just thinking about it,” GetsugaSSJ laughs.
“It’s definitely not popular enough for its own festival,” Blair says. “Maybe a couple bands here and there might be able to cultivate a tiny following, but I highly doubt you could find more than 20 to 30 people in the same zip code who would want to attend one of these shows.”
One such event, dug up by Vice, was 2o18’s Pornfields of Illinois Grindfest 5. But “festival” is a pretty generous term for this show. According to images posted on Facebook by Ryan Ward, who plays in the Ohio pornogrind band Cunt Torch, the show’s venue — “Fatshaun’s Garage in Rockford, Illinois” — was literally just a garage in Rockford, Illinois. (Notably, Pornfields scrubbed its existence from Facebook after the Dayton shooting.)
“No sane person legitimately listens to any pornogrind band for enjoyment,” redditor SolidChuck2 wrote in response to this pornogrind explainer video. “It’s a niche genre specifically for shock value.”
‘Immature and Disgusting — The Reason Why It’s So Great’
In an attempt to give a “hate-free” explainer of pornogrind on the online forum Amino Apps, user Now Their Love Is a Ghost points out that a key aspect to the subgenre is that no one takes themselves seriously. For example, Now Their Love Is a Ghost points to an entire pornogrind album “centered around fart samples — which may be immature and disgusting, [but] is the reason why it’s so great.”
“I saw it as a joke — like, ‘Let’s play this and we’ll shock some people,’ and then the people that we know laugh,” Betts’ former bandmate Jesse Creekbaum, who’s taking down all the Menstrual Munchies recordings, tells Vice. “He didn’t see it as a joke. He was like, ‘Fuck, yeah. We’re gonna do this.’ Jesus Christ, how much of this was like real life for him?”
Malloy, who’s been in the grind scene for over 20 years, says pornogrind isn’t going anywhere — partly because it doesn’t require any talent. “The problem with most of these subgenres is that they are mostly gravitated toward by young hobbyists and not serious musicians,” he says.
Malloy also adds that genres like pornocore will most likely remain “lo-fi, DIY and mostly perpetuated by lonely teenagers with access to some recording software.”
“For my money,” Blair concludes, “I expect it to be irrelevant forever.”