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Judas Priest: Invincible Shield and Zionism

This piece considers the Zionist potential of the new Judas Priest album, Invincible Shield (2024); i.e., from a postcolonial lens. Being a fan of their music since high school (for over twenty years now), a part of me takes no joy in doing so; but all the same, part of me does. I'll gladly sacrifice the sacred image of my childhood heroes if it means liberating Palestinians (and by extension all oppressed groups). I may not succeed, but I want to try because it's worth trying. Certainly I can enjoy Priest while criticizing their pernicious aspects; and, as Anita Sarkeesian put it, doing so is "both possible and necessary." Otherwise, what are we doing?

Edit: If anyone wants to know my opinion about the music itself—i.e., merely as a product, divorced from geopolitics—I'd say it's fairly "mid," overall. While tracks like "Panic Attack," "Invincible Shield" and "Gates of Hell" absolutely catch fire, the album fizzles out in the second half. The instruments are certainly solid enough (with Ritchie Faulkner being the usual MVP, from Redeemer of Souls [2016] onwards), but a curious lack of memorable guitar riffs or catchy choruses leaves a distinct lack of impression, post-listen. Still, the old bag of tricks includes a cache of dueling guitar soloes and harmonies, driven reliably onward by Scott Travis' double bass kick. They get the job done more or less, but I found myself pining for some actual lyrical depth and memorability over flashing in the pan. Instead, it largely feels like the band phoning it in, sporting a "ghost of Painkiller" (1990) attack that comes across as lyrically basic-upon-basic. They're not just posers, but posers of their former selves, arrogant enough to put a gold Jewish police badge (surrounded by the red-and-blue color scheme of police sirens) on their album cover but singing as lazily as possible about the rudiments of mass hysteria ("Panic Attack"), jingoism ("Invincible Shield") and Bible imagery ("As God Is My Witness" and "The Serpent and the Crown"). Seriously, it sounds almost like Christian rock, Priest's finding of religion all the more forgettable given their Gothic, anti-Christian past having challenged the very things they now embrace. Jesus wept.

The moment I laid eyes on the new album art, I completely hated it. One, it's ugly as hell. Two, the Priest logo, already Jewish-like, is woefully crass ("That is an... incredible album cover," a friend tells me. "Wondrously distasteful. Evokes the smell of freshly licked boot leather. Zionist in the most anti-Semitic ways"). Suspiciously embedded inside another Jewish simulacrum, the Priest insignia serves as an unironic police badge in defense of British imperial shores (which, like any police state, are built to expand outwards while colonizing themselves inwards using tokenized barriers; i.e., us-versus-them; e.g., humans and aliens, cowboys and Indians, Jews and Palestinians). So while Halford croons

Our masses are united 
Forever and a day 
Can never be divided 
And nothing can stand in our way 
Invincible shield (source: Genius).

we're left with the current abuse of Jewish imagery by white British men to serve a settler-colonial project happening in Palestine. 

Bear in mind, abuse needn't be direct and overt, merely complacent inside adjacent illusions that yield the same historical-material effect through some degree of ignorance, neglect or disdain. So not only has claiming "ignorance" become something of a bad joke in the Internet Age; but the abuse of oppressed pedagogies align with the same acts of bad faith performed by poser moderates who should know better and yet choose to play the rebel and the lawman. For us, this means Priest, even though the problem is far older than them.

For instance, as the time-tested tradition of punching Jews became uncool after WW2, Jews became tokenized to punch down; i.e., against themselves and other oppressed groups, thereby serving the same-old profit motive as part of Capitalism out of Antiquity. In turn, Priest seems to have emblazoned their album with such a badge despite the Palestinian genocide happening next door (evoking a party disturbingly similar to Israeli settlers). Despite some bad actors being far more active in ongoing misinformation campaigns, Invincible Shield sadly feels like Priest saying "the show must go on" while using such imagery to line their own pockets. It feels at best, willfully obtuse; i.e., the modern equivalent to selling sugar during British Abolitionism instead of honey despite knowing full well of the Caribbean sugar (thus slave) trade. 

All the same, Priest's commodifying of struggle at the cost of human life is merely the chickens coming home to roost, our metal gods staying silent on what should be blasted from the loudest speakers imaginable. One can turn a buck and still be an activist. Priest's current failure to do so, especially given their history of conscious political awareness inside their older catalogwith fabulous albums like Sin after Sin (1977) and Stained Class (1978) successfully marrying Gothic critical power with metal (thus medieval) theatrics—tragically evokes MLK's rueful adage: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Priest are not Palestinian, and can afford to stay silent while stubbornly using Zionist settler-colonial imagery to emboss their latest album with. Eu tu, Brutae? 

First, I want to direct your attention to the art in question. Consider the menorah-esque symbol Priest have incorporated into the album's shield design alongside what appears to be a rough approximate of a Star of David:

Now, the artist who came up with this combination can say whatever they like, as can Priest or their fans, but conscious intent doesn't matter, material outcomes do. In the case of Shield, we clearly have a likeness of Jewish dogma raised in defiance of perceived enemies; i.e., state crisis as something to endure and overcome through a claim of righteous "invincibility." This perception thereof and its dialectical-material framing is settler-colonial, insofar as it's precisely the kind of mentality fostered by those who—normally designed to benefit from a settler-colonial project—feel threatened by its imminent collapse. In other words, these are ancient religious symbols being used in ways that align with old-to-new means of imperial conquest from Rome to America and its allies: trained to attack enemies of Christendom; i.e., as a neoliberal, capitalist hegemon according to the natural duality and duplicity of human language executed inside the material world.

For our purposes, look to the father of the Israeli Right, Ze'ev Jabotinsky. People seem to forget that Zionism was overtly expressed from its outset as a settler-colonial project endorsed by the British empire (already in decline at this point). Faced with resistance from those they sought to conquer, this led the colonizers to make some rather frank conclusions, Jabotinsky writing for the Ha'aretz Daily in 1923: 

"We cannot promise any reward either to the Arabs of Palestine or to the Arabs outside Palestine. A voluntary agreement is unattainable. And so those who regard an accord with the Arabs as an indispensable condition of Zionism must admit to themselves today that this condition cannot be attained and hence that we must give up Zionism. We must either suspend our settlement efforts or continue them without paying attention to the mood of the natives. Settlement can thus develop under the protection of a force that is not dependent on the local population, behind an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down" (quote location: prologue for The Iron Wall, 1999)

This constitutes the shield aspect of the settler colony argument. Except there's a second half:

".... Settlement can thus develop under the protection of a force that is not dependent on the local population, behind an IRON WALL which they will be powerless to break down. ....a voluntary agreement is just not possible. As long as the Arabs preserve a gleam of hope that they will succeed in getting rid of us, nothing in the world can cause them to relinquish this hope, precisely because they are not rubble but a living people. And a living people will be ready to yield on such fateful issues only when they give up all hope of getting rid of the Alien Settlers. Only then will extremist groups with their slogan 'No, never' lose their influence, and only then their influence be transferred to more moderate groups. And only then will the moderates offer suggestions for compromise. Then only will they begin bargaining with us on practical matters, such as guarantees against PUSHING THEM OUT, and equality of civil, and national rights" (quote location: Palestine Remembered, 1999-2024).

Here, the alien side of the shield is both Jabotinsky talking about himself and those he would seek to dominate, spelled out in clear open language. It reflects the bare reality of the public mindset regarding settler colonialism as an unchallenged operation: a uniform to wear, not question, as Jabotinsky does, below: a bitch of the Crown, a dog of war hounding his own people.

(source: Wikimedia Commons)

Except, the myth of public consensus can be felt in British culture regarding slavery viewed as an unalienable right and as something to reject entirely depending on who you are then and now; e.g., Jane Austin's resistance of Imperialism (thus genocide). Despite Austen not saying the quiet part out loud, I acknowledge how Edward Said (the architect of postcolonialism) is a little too quick to go after Austen in Culture and Imperialism (1993). As I write in my own essay, "Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Empire" in the second volume of my book, Sex Positivity (2023):

Austen certainly wasn't above critiquing the open, if deliberately moderate, bigotries of Ann Radcliffe's own Gothic Orientalism (the further east you go, the darker it gets) when writing Northanger Abbey (written in 1803, published in 1817 after Austen's death). / We shall press these Gothic voicings to our advantage in this essay. My point about Said is that I think he—ever in a hurry to outline the very-real and ever-pressing presence of American Imperialism in the Middle East—thoroughly underestimates/discounts the ubiquity (and degree) of the powerful forces that Austen was writing under as a white woman. It would be a mistake to lump Austen in with so many of her imitators and contemporaries, in part because her Mansfield protagonist, Sutherland* rightly points out, "belongs to the Clapham Sect of evangelical Christianity, which hated plays and light morality only less slightly than it loathed slavery" (ibid.). Said's overall conclusions certainly aren't wrong about Imperialism, but his assertions about Austen are largely words put in her mouth by his pen (kinky), which he then argues with to make his point. The problem is, he assumes her silence to be indicative of a particular kind of guilt, when Austen's shame at writing at all became a matter of legend after her death: "How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much Labour?" (source: Zoe Louca-Richards' "Two Inches of Ivory: A New(ish) Jane Austen Acquisition," 2020). 

*John Sutherland, "Where Does Sir Thomas' Wealth Come From?" Is Heathcliff A Murderer? (1996).

Simply put, the embracing of settler-colonial genocide and Imperialism through the nation-state has never been a universal position. Instead, genocide is a thoroughly ugly business, making the greatest weapon of the colonized their counterterror ability to present themselves as human and their conquerors as inhumane. Regardless, both sides use the same monstrous rhetoric to achieve goals that are diametrically opposed: profit vs liberation. In short, there isn't a monopoly on "shields" or "aliens" on either side of a settler-colonial exchange. Moreover, the cryptonymy* of state abuse is felt through these contested popular symbols regardless of who's using them or why. Unlike the colonized, though, the settler colonist uses the shield or the alien to defend a colonial position in bad faith; i.e, to keep enacting colonialism while pressing inland as the Roman legion would: presenting themselves as human, righteous, and "self-defending" for the glory of Rome and, more importantly, its emperors revived in the present day in some shape or form. This includes heavy metal, but also videogames and other popular forms of media, where the aegis—per Barbara Creed—is a source of protection from the "outside" required by Cartesian thought; i.e., what I describe in my book as 

"Cartesian abuses that treat nature not simply as female, but monstrous-feminine food that harms Indigenous peoples, racial minorities and GNC people (so-called 'incorrect' or 'non-men' of the white, cis-het European sort) to varying degrees of settler-colonial genocide: by cheapening their lives, their bodies, their labor to serve the profit motive" (source).

In short, it's a harvest and a grim one that needs shields and aliens as part of a settler-colonial scheme relayed in Gothic, thus metal, language: Medusa must die, even if—as Creed points out in The Monstrous-Feminine (1993)—achieving this is impossible:

"When Perseus slew the Medusa he did not—as commonly thought—put an end to her reign or destroy her terrifying powers. Afterwards, Athena embossed her shield with the Medusa's head. The writhing snakes, with their fanged gaping mouths, and the Medusa's own enormous teeth and lolling tongue were on full view. Athena's aim was simply to strike terror into the hearts of men as well as reminding them of their symbolic debt to the imaginary castrating mother. And no doubt she knew what she was doing. After all, Athena was the great Mother-Goddess of the ancient world and according to ancient legend—the daughter of Metis, the goddess of wisdom, also known as the Medusa" (source).

*Words that simultaneously hide and evoke trauma.

(artist: Gabriel Dias)

At the same time, the Internet's subsequent raising of settler-colonial awareness poses a substantial problem for capital: acknowledging the human struggle of those brutalized by our perceived "defenders." Canon, then, demands an obscuring of the imperial factors at play lest capital recede: "a monstrous enemy is out there and we are defending ourselves (and our cultural purity) from them while pushing the alleged foe back." Military expansion is concealed behind a false flag that trumpets imperial action dressed up as self-defense from Medusa, Communists, Nazis, or some such menace in a Capitalist-Realist sphere. More vital still, this is often displaced to an imaginary Antiquity that revives through dead symbols that, when dug up, become cloaks for the colonizer to hide his bloody work with in plain sight. The Nazis did it with the crooked cross, but the same basic idea works for Priest's own symbol. It's in their name and their logo, the two synonymous within a position of settler colonialism as post-Roman; i.e., borrowed from Caesar insofar as the ruler is lionized through his position as indicative of himself. "Caesar," then, is a label demonstrative of the first person who held it that others are trying to imitate well into the future, including Priest.

Settler-colonial echopraxis yields a variety of likenesses that, in the imperialist tradition, are ripped from the imaginary past. Simply put, the language yields a historical usage that has become replaced in the present to fulfill an imperial aim that has become settler-colonial. The overtly racial character of settler colonialism did not exist during the time of the Romans; it was pioneered by Columbus and then developed more fully by the British* against their own populations in the mid-1600s, then spread around the world through Cartesian dualism to fuel the Enlightenment engines of Capitalism, modern war and nation-states as they presently exist. There's clearly a relationship between the past and the present, but it's a complicated, ongoing one that repeatedly swaps out images to hide Capitalism functioning as normal. The cosmetic features might shift and transform over the years, but the basic function (and its socio-material outcome) remain fundamentally unchanged.

*Livia Gershon's "Britain's Blueprint for Colonialism: Made in Ireland" (2022).

Bringing things back to Priest, we have a paradox common to the Gothic mode, insofar as the operative tendencies of the Gothic survive in heavy metal as both a product of then-current material conditions and a past imaginary tradition that contended with its own set thereof. It became a desire to escape for those trapped within the Imperial Core, sitting ignominously next to its war engines (insofar as capital forces money through nature to serve the elite by harming native populations; an ordinary steel mill needn't be converted to a bomb factory if its own industrial potential is absorbed into the same national body to conduct Imperialism with):

"With Judas Priest, the Midlands and metal reinforce one another with a wonderful literal-mindedness. Halford's dad was employed at a Walsall metalworking company, making components for nuclear reactors. Guitarist Glenn Tipton not only shares his surname with a Midlands town but was also an apprentice at British Steel. Judas Priest are the sound of the blast furnaces that once studded the Midlands. 
'When we were kids walking to school,' says Halford, 'we'd walk past these metal foundries and see the molten metal coming out of the big vats. We were literally breathing in the fumes from these metal works, breathing in metal before heavy metal had even been invented. I'd be in school trying to do English literature and the classroom would be shaking because of the machinery.'
'We really did grow up in a labyrinth of heavy metal,' says Tipton. 'Huge foundries, big steam hammers. It also gave you a determination to get out.' Music was the way chosen by the members of Judas Priest" (source: Roy Wilkinson's "How Judas Priest Invented Heavy Metal," 2010).

The invention, here, isn't a fact but a claim, one to stake by those who ultimately profited from it. The complexities expand, insofar as the class character of the band was poor and white—with Halford also being gay in a notoriously homophobic Great Britain. Such pioneering mentalities and repressed topics (re: being gay) echo in British culture within Capitalism as evolving across a series of generations and their creations; e.g., Tolkien's "black country*" and own repressed queerness a byproduct of British culture evolving with the times to play second fiddle to the United States as the supreme hegemon, post-WWII (and already the rising economic superpower the world over by 1895, three years after Tolkien's birth). The point with Tolkien and Priest is that both were born in the shadow of British greatness as something to potentially return to through an evocation of imaginary pastness. Tolkien did it with his own pro-Beowulf leanings surviving into the present through a cartographic refrain; and Priest's '70s Gothic rose during the NWOBHM scene, to then carve out a territory for themselves in the nascent metal community (and its expanding cultural imagination) worldwide. Their ceaseless myth-making centralizes themselves inside a kingdom under attack by its own exploitation of others.

*Stuart Jefferies' "Mordor, He Wrote" (2014).

(artist: Just Some Noob)

The problem is, the bigotries and socio-material factors on either side of a settler-colonial project remain at play insofar as they fetishize and alienize nature within a Cartesian harvest (of which, "orcs" suffer but also are sexualized, above). For Tolkien, I write in Sex Positivity that

"Dogma is the tool of empire, and Tolkien wasn't shy about using it, his stories not just full of cops, castles and victims but acting as a steady excuse to turn off one's brain as being over half a century old at this point; i.e., Neil Isaacs' introductory essay to Tolkien and the Critics (1968): 'since The Lord of the Rings and the domain of Middle-earth are eminently suitable for faddism and fannism, cultism and clubbism… [its special appeal] acts as a deterrent to critical activity' (source: Anderson Rearick's "Why Is the Only Good Orc a Dead Orc," 2004). Clearly it's a sore spot in academia as accustomed to looking the other way (not a surprise, given how accommodated intellectuals behave), a sign of institutional guilt tied to the castle and those who live there as coming out to commit colonial horrors. The worst castles are the pearly ones; or as I said in my thesis, ACAB: All (canonical) Castles Are Bad. Indeed, the only difference between people like Tolkien and the Nazis is a matter of degree. Regarding the operations of their mythic structures, both worked in service of the status quo; e.g., Gondor is worse than Barad-dur because it will last and continue committing genocide. Again, Tolkien believed in the state, even with reduced powers, and the state is the ultimate foe.

while, in regards to the survival of Tolkien's bigotries in modern-day forms, I likewise cite Dr. Stephen Shapiro. Shapiro wrote to in 2003 regarding Tolkien's racism in Peter Jackson's adaptations:

"Put simply, Tolkien's good guys are white and the bad guys are black, slant-eyed, unattractive, inarticulate and a psychologically undeveloped horde. In the trilogy, a small group, the fellowship, is pitted against a foreign horde and this reflects long-standing Anglo-European anxieties about being overwhelmed by non-Europeans. This is consistent with Tolkien's Nordicist convictions. He thinks the Northern races had a culture and it was carried in the blood. While Tolkien describes the Hobbits and Elves as amazingly white, ethnically pure clans, their antagonists, the Orcs, are a motley dark-skinned mass, akin to tribal Africans or aborigines. The recent films amplify a 'fear of a black planet' and exaggerate this difference by insisting on stark white-black colour codes" (source).

The same problem of inheritance and legacy is likewise faced by Priest, who have the potential to say a great deal inside Gothic theatre to challenge settler-colonial convictions, but as moderates reveal they don't have any convictions they actually stick to. Indeed, their 1978 album, Stained Class, is thoroughly postcolonial: "Who's the savage, modern man!" sings Halford on "Savage," but also evoking the image of the shield and the alien during "Invader" off the same album:

We warn you now you things out there
Whatever you may send
We won't give in without a fight, a fight until the end
With vigilance by day and night our scanners trace the sky
A shield is sealed upon this earth, a shield you won't get by (source: Genius).

And yet, as time went on, Priest sold out. Their critical lyrics became deliberately dumb—starting with British Steel (1980) into Painkiller (1990), the latter being something to emulate with Invincible Shield as pastiche of something that, far from becoming a joke, has become canon to espouse whatever dogma the band wants to enrich themselves with. It's an empty ghost of a reinvention that remains holy. Like the titular Painkiller—curiously summoned out of the imaginary past during a time of civilized collapse (thus medieval apocalypse and rapture amid the decaying cities' surrounding wasteland and tombstone-esque skyscrapers) and laden in mythical symbols ejected from their historical context to fulfill a new goal—Priest have become something to "call for" and preach a new wisdom to the masses. And yet, out of the ruins they're ripping themselves off and other musicians to boot (with their musical mascot clearly inspired by Meatloaf's phantom biker from Bat Out of Hell, 1978).

This brings us to the famous (and mysterious) Priest insignia. It dates back to their second album, Sad Wings of Destiny (1976), but which the band have deliberately injected into their logo since 2008's Angel of Retribution. Not much is known or said about it as far as I could find (the band staying quiet on it when remembering Sad Wings 35 years later with Malcom Dome) but it remains highly ubiquitous and arcane; i.e., serving both as cryptic heraldry for the Painkiller's knightly armor (stamped on the shoulder like a military badge) while he defeats alien forces in times of state crisis, thus decay and collapse. All serve as part of a pointedly medieval regression, one whose proposed damnation and salvation operate through the unironic worship of force. In short, it's fascist obscurantism made to elevate the band both in terms of wealth and status: as heavy metal gods who look after their own as a kind of "flock" to part from its wool; e.g., Halford explaining in 2020

"We love our fans. We would never put anything in our music with the intent of harming them," (source: "Judas Priest's Rob Halford Reflects on 30th Anniversary of Subliminal Message Lawsuit"). 

except also having another revelation that hints at the parasocial (and parasitic) relationship between bands and those who support them: 

"I had to sing 'Better by You, Better than Me' in court, acappella. I think that was when the judge thought, 'What am I doing here? No band goes out of its way to kill its fans'" (source: Rock 'N Roll True Stories' "Judas Priest: The Lawsuit Over 'Better by You, Better than Me' that Shook the Metal World," 2023).

Priest, specifically Halford, also recognized the judge as a staged, imposing presence the singer likened to himself when viewed by his own fans onstage

"When you're in court, you always see this guy in the back with a gown and he's very imposing and very dramatic; and it's amusing—I think of the judge like the fans think of us when they see us onstage: 'What's he really like, closeup? Has he got feet and all that business?'" (source: Metal Matt, "Dream Deceivers Documentary - The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest 1992," 2021; timestamp: 42:29).

In the same documentary cited above, Halford also curiously describes himself as an intellectual who writes about dark lyrics that aren't "American love songs." But the fact remains that capital accommodates him according to his relationship with fans loving him in ways that cater to their fragile (white) worldviews; i.e., as things to defend using heavy metal as comfort food, not activism. This reflects in Priest's metal pastoralism, which in modern times assists in Capitalist Realism by a bunch of posers who suck precisely because they're making hay while Palestinians are being killed on a Military-Industrial scale. So much for being an intellectual as Edward Said would call himself, in Representations of an Intellectual (1993); though Priest ain't got the guts to challenge their own position despite fans around the world loving them, they've proven for decades they will exploit '70s-era BDSM fetish gear (the Nazi echo) and biker/"leather daddy" culture:

(source: Revolver)

That, I think, speaks to the complicity Priest bear in things and the utterly fragility of Capitalist Realism as a transactional process. Better to keep mum regarding the quiet part and posture as a hero than kill the hero by speaking truth to power in consequential ways—all very ironic considering Priest's immortal line in "Heroes End" (1978): "Why do you have to die if you're a hero / When there's still so many things to say unsaid?" (source: Genius). "The idea has become the institution," except, per Frederic Jameson's Postmodernism (1991), this means blank parody, a statue with blind eyeballs remediated through endless pastiche. Posing as liberators and rebels, Priest with Invincible Shield have become deaf, dumb and blind; but as men behind the curtain, I think they're either well-aware of it or they don't care enough to challenge their own brand as part of a Zionist-capitalist enterprise.

The idea of "heavy metal warriors" certainly isn't unique to Britain (with American band KISS' Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons both being Jewish*). However, the problems I've outlined above clearly survive and continue to thrive there as integral to Priest's own evolution; i.e., as a band that has grown to worldwide fame and recognition through the language of settler-colonial violence. Aliens show up and make people scared; a champion and his shield-like body are summoned, returning the state and the people to greatness through a medieval hauntology and aesthetic. The logo becomes synonymous with the name and the actions of a person whose mantle is taken up by future "protectors" hiding their own brutality behind a call-and-response; e.g., the Bat Signal. The Judas Priest symbol is really no different, effectively taking ancient, non-Christian symbols like the menorah (or rather, a weird, convergent likeness of it) and imbuing them with a fresh sense of settler-colonial purpose; i.e., during Imperialism's ongoing evolution inside Capitalist Realism, expanding the imperial potential of revivals of Caesar through an endless series of counterfeits. In turn, these forgeries drive profit through infinite military conquest as "dressed up" in symbols of recuperated oppression: a rock 'n roll army.

(artist: Ken Kelly)

*As Jon Stratton writes in "KISS: Jewishness, Hard Rock and the Holocaust" (2020):

"KISS was a hard rock group, one of the most successful during the second half of the 1970s and early 1980s. The group's two founding members, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, were both Jewish. Indeed, both were the sons of Holocaust survivors. This article examines the impact of Simmons's and Stanley's Jewishness on KISS as a rock group and on its success. One of the most obvious impacts was the drive to succeed which Simmons and Stanley shared. Simmons writes about wanting power, Stanley that he wanted respect. As children of survivors they wanted safety. During much of the 1970s, the Holocaust was not yet publicly acknowledged. However, its trauma is evident in, for example, the stage characters that Simmons and Stanley adopted" (source).

To this, Capitalism and Judas Priest have recruited Jewishness to serve settler colonialism through a metal voice that has lost much of its irony but none of its dogmatic potential. As Mark Fischer (the author of Capitalist Realism, 2009) would put it, the future envisioned by Priest is "canceled" by imaginary forms of the historical past that revive ceaselessly in the present to maintain Capitalism everywhere. For the band, this serves the profit motive, first and foremost. Never mind that a settler-colonial project carries on in Palestine, reminding the world that time is defined by space (chiefly distance) and material conditions—a historical "relic" of the past for those who arrogantly call Imperialism "of the past," demonstrating that they have, more than anyone, fallen under the spell of Capitalism; i.e., when summoning up modern-day Beowulfs and similar such patriarchal demons, ghosts, and so on. As Jerrold Hogle writes (vis-à-vis David Punter) in "Leroux' Fantôme and the Cultural Work of the Gothic" in The Undergrounds of The Phantom of the Opera (2002):

"In the Gothic from the later eighteenth century on, as David Punter has shown, 'the middle class' often does what we have just seen Leroux do in Le Fantôme: it 'displaces the hidden violence of present social structures, conjures them up again as past, and falls promptly under their spell' with feelings of both fear and attraction towards the phantasms of what is displaced (source).

(artist: Henry Fuseli)

Yet, per Hogle, the ghost of the counterfeit furthers the process of abjection to enrich the same-old class of persons: the white European male as the Hamlet-grade center of the tale and its Gothic madness. As part of that project, Jewish colonizers are just that—colonizers recruited from the colonized body to police themselves (and other marginalized groups, mainly Arabs) during the same-old Gothic dialog. Regardless of who, tokenization serves the Protestant ethic ever-present under Capitalism through a time-tested DARVO trick: "We're Jewish and defending ourselves." Except, it's still a police badge handed out inside a concentric settler colony—from America and inside its borders to far beyond them in ally nations to beyond those, inside faraway alien territories where the machinery of capital can operate most nakedly as obscured by distance and heavy metal insignias.

Confused? That's really to be expected at this stage. Except the merging of inside-outside—that is to say, a threshold and its assorted conflicts crossing together from moment to living moment—unfold during a liminal state of invasion/agitated confusion. These are not strictly of one dialectical-material flow, but multiple directions engaging back and forth using shared language; it's anisotropic, thus can either be of the colonized feeling alienated inside or outside the settler-colony (at home or on its frontiers or neighboring lands), or can apply to the colonized being made to feel alien (criminal, incorrect, illegal, undocumented, etc) through the same forces and language at play. And yet, further complexities arise when you also have those who are colonized or colonizing others at home, the colonizer operating through the same borrowed language as their victims save the fact they are employing it specifically during a DAVRO scheme: the shield as a defense mechanism to invoke, raised mid-invasion against perceived outsiders during moral panic, fears of state collapse/overreach and foreign plots. Nazis and Communists, humans and demons, heroes and villains—all occupy the same messy sphere during us-versus them.

To this, Priest is no stranger to the kinds of operatic forces I've just described, raising the cathedral as something whose English myth of history feels both sinister and invaded, but nevertheless at home; i.e., "home" as something to defend from alien things making us feel foreign (thus, to some extent, xenophobic). I say "us" insofar as it applies to a prescribed in-group meant to react predictably against an outside force: island fortress mentality. In times past, the British isles were invaded from the water and the air, a fear of invasion that survives during inheritance anxiety of a settler-colonial project that is, for all intents and purposes, in decline. The former "empire on which the sun never sets" is just a bit player in American geopolitics, fantasizing about its own imperiled castles; i.e., the myth of sovereignty challenged inside the chronotope: the liminal hauntology of war.

Likenesses haunt themselves as part of this hauntology. Whatever castles raised by Priest, then, these will be haunted by the very spectral and faceless, metallic things they refuse to sing about now but once did; i.e., using the language they've grown accustomed to abusing having the iconoclastic potential to push back against genocide. Priest, the people up close, don't care about that anymore. They care about their legacy as something to sell to Americanized fans worldwide; i.e., by singing about invincibility as a Zionist privilege they invoke time and time again while Palestine suffers for longer than Halford has been alive (he was born in 1951; Israel was founded in 1948). Invincibility needn't be abandoned. Indeed, to borrow from another musician,

We can't afford to be innocent 
Stand up and face the enemy 
It's a do-or-die situation 
We will be invincible (source: Pat Benatar's "Invincible," 1985).

Except, the enemy, here, is Capitalism and people who enforce it through settler-colonial dogma, including Zionism; our invincibility, then, lies in challenging these persons to become something they can't monopolize, thus control us to enrich themselves with. Per my own arguments, we must "make metal gay" in ways that Halford, if he ever tried, has long since abandoned in exchange for homonormative godhood. Oh, the irony.


Persephone van der Waard is an anarcho-Communist, sex worker, genderqueer activist and Gothic ludologist. She sometimes writes reviews, Gothic analyses, and interviews for fun; or does independent research for her PhD on Metroidvania and speedrunning every now and again. She's also an erotic artist and a writer. If you're interested in her work or curious about illustrated or written commissions, please refer to her website for more information.


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