Forty-two years. This war has waged on for forty-two long years, with no signs of either side brandishing a white flag to surrender. Ever since Black Sabbath was released in 1970, the public has been in an uproar about the “devil’s music,” and quite frankly, I’m fed up. I’m tired of getting strange looks in the mall when I wear a Death shirt; tired of getting flak for having songs like ‘Stripped, Raped, And Strangled’ and ‘Suicide Machine’ on my iPod. I’m tired of everyone asking me why such a happy kid can listen to such angry music. Enough is enough. I’m going exploring; to find the answer to my biggest question: Why is metal viewed the way it is?
The preconceptions that metal is an angry form of music appear correct when staring at it from one dimension. Any half-brained person who looks at the cover for Cannibal Corpse’s 2006 album Kill is going to think that it isn’t the most wholesome album to buy for their 13 year old son. I can definitely see where they are coming from. In order to understand why metal is thought of the way it is, we need to go back 40 years to the debut from a band called Black Sabbath. Their eponymous debut was definitely nothing that had been heard before; diminished 5ths abound, doom and gloom lyrics, singing of Satan, witches, black magic, etc. It wasn’t something the majority of people liked. Even when the Beatles started experimenting people got leery, and they are arguably the most popular band ever. Many people were frightened.
Though we should never act as elites, either. Our music is not the only music out there, and to some, it may not be for them. I know for a fact country is not for me. I’ve tried and tried, but it’s just not for me. That doesn’t mean that I will ever chastise someone for listening to it, however. Sure, I have opinions about metal acts, and yes, I occasionally poke fun at friends who listen to them — but am I to say what they should and shouldn’t listen to? Maybe they just want to listen to breakdowns and slam. Maybe they just want something heavy, and it satisfies their craving. And that’s totally fine. Let them listen. I just won’t.
I think that is a large reason as to why people frown upon those who listen to metal; it’s because of our past. I can’t speak for the generations who listened before me, because I’m fairly young, but I do know that back then, they were looked at as street kids, and we looked at them as urban corporate slaves. That’s why we chose metal. It was a way for us to escape the monotony of real life and delve into fantasy, whether it be about slaying dragons or drug addiction. We also used to be “purists” as they are called, and if it didn’t look and sound and feel metal, it wasn’t. We get too fixed on the idea that metal is all about long hair, leather, spikes and the devil, but it goes far beyond that, into the realm of the subconscious, where dreams overtake reality, and where things are ever changing. Watch the documentary Until The Light Takes Us and you’ll learn a hell of a lot more about metal than you will by just reading the news.
Metal has impacted my life in a way I could have only dreamed of as a child. I love it. I don’t buy clothes from leather surplus stores, and I have rather short hair. I wear V-Necks and shorts, and don’t own any black makeup. But I do have a music library stuffed end to end with amazing metal music. I grew up in a rather healthy household, but as a child I was bullied. I was never a fighter and I tended to keep to my safeties when things got really bad. But, when I discovered metal music, I had something to finally take the aggression out of me. Short of shooting up my school, I don’t think I would have ever felt better if it were not for metal. To this day when I get really angry, I pull out some of the most heavy, angry music I have and just jam it until I need a break and put on Pink Floyd or Genesis. The bullies have come and gone, but the metal is still here. It helped make me a stronger person, willing to do more, be more forward, and also able to control the hate that builds up inside of me. And yes, moshing does help. Instead of anger management, go to a hardcore show. Guaranteed results, I promise. Catharsis is powerful.
Metal is what you make of it. You can enter with a preconceived notion that what you are about to hear is something that Satan himself inserts into our minds, brainwashing us to accept his evil doings as true and morally correct, and you might just find it through some confirmation bias. Or you could go into it with an open mind and be willing to try something new. I know that’s how it all started for me, as a naïve little 4th grader who wondered why his friend listened to metal because “it’s just screaming and noise”. Well, my friends, let me tell you, after my epiphany in middle school, countless shows, and even beginning to write for this blog, I can tell you right now: that’s just damn wrong.