Metalheads Get a Bad Rap. It’s Time to Set the Record Straight.

Type the words “I hate metalheads” into a Google Search engine and you’ll end up with a menagerie of results.  Entire chat forums have been dedicated to this subject.  Disgruntled outsiders spewing vitriol about how metalheads are elitist assholes, satanic, homophobic, racist, and misogynist can be found all over the web in various formats.  Popular music journalists have dedicated entire articles to incriminating the metal scene for numerous transgressions.

The hate metalheads get (particularly online) has always been baffling to me.  I hang out with mostly metalheads and they are some of the kindest, most hardworking, trustworthy, and intelligent individuals I have come into contact with.  So where’s all the hate coming from?  In this article I’ve decided to tackle the biggest negative stereotypes pinned to metalheads and set the record straight on them.  There are eight that immediately come to mind.  If I’ve unintentionally omitted any, feel free to mention them in the comments.

Metalheads are Elitist

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This is probably the most common negative stereotype of which metalheads are accused. We’re put down for intentionally excluding people from being a part of our community for minor offenses, such as liking the wrong bands.  We’re also accused of abandoning an artist or band for receiving mainstream success.  The thing is, metalheads can be elitist, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Here’s why.

First of all, metalheads are passionate about the music they love.  We’re total nerds about it.  So why would we be accepting of fair-weather fans?  Why do we have to be? The fair-weather fan listens to metal to get amped up and angry instead of the relax and unwind the way many true metalheads do.  The fair-weather fan doesn’t have the kind of dedication to the scene that the true metal fan does.

These are the people who “outgrow” metal once they get a corporate job.  By the time they turn 25, listening to extreme music becomes “immature”.  It really doesn’t make sense to me that people view an entire genre of music as juvenile and I take offense to that.  These people are transparent.  They’re usually the 21-year-old kids who end up at Slayer and Cannibal Corpse shows and get into the pit looking for a fight instead of just a rowdy good time.  You literally only see them at larger venue shows with death/metalcore opening acts.  Their lack of dedication is obvious and it makes the hardcore fans a bit uncomfortable.  It’s almost as though they’re devaluing the thing we love most.  I’m certain no one is doing this intentionally, but it can come across this way.  This sentiment is rampant amongst any nerd subculture; anime, comic books, Star Wars etc.  It’s also rampant in the punk, indie, and electronica scene but metalheads take a lot more shit for it.

As far as the accusation that metalheads stop liking bands once they become successful, that’s easily explainable too.  Generally speaking, in order for a band to gain mainstream success, they have to water down their sound quite a bit.  Think about Rust in Peace versus Cryptic Writings or Kill Em’ All versus St. Anger.  The sound is notably different, more palatable, and less intricate.  St. Anger panders to the fair-weather fan.  That said, I wouldn’t say I hate Metallica.  As the catchphrase goes, I only like their old shit.  But there are disadvantages to any band gaining mainstream success, even if their music doesn’t lack in quality as they become more popular.

I don’t think any true metalhead would call Iron Maiden, for example, sell outs.  Even if you haven’t bought a new Maiden album since, say, Fear of the Dark, you can’t deny there’s nothing quite like the sound of Bruce Dickenson’s chops and Steve Harris’ bass lines.  But even though Maiden hasn’t changed their sound much as a result of their success, going to their live shows has drastically changed.  In order to see Maiden live, you now have to pay close to $125 to get piss poor seats in the back and watch the band from a big screen.  Beers at these big venues are $8 a pop if you’re lucky.  Many times, there are actually chairs in these venues.  That’s just what I want to do when one of my favorite bands is killing onstage, sit.  Everything about the show, aside from the music, is commercialized and lame and the band members are untouchable celebrities.  This is a far cry from the quaint atmosphere of the small club.  At underground shows you’re right at the forefront, the pit is rowdy, the beer and merch is cheap, and the bands are approachable.  It’s a much better time. Because Iron Maiden rules so hard, however,  metalheads endure the lamer atmosphere of the venues they perform at.

As far as “true” metalheads hating on deathcore, metalcore, and hipster black metal, the answer is easy as well.  Simply put, true underground death, black, and thrash metal is notably more difficult to play (in most cases) and these “poser” genres are clearly watered down to appeal to a larger audience.  Generally the people attracted to these genres are younger than the average true metal fan.  That said, every true metal fan has his or her gateway bands.  For me, it was Marilyn Manson and Danzig.  To this day I listen to those bands.  For others it may be Asking Alexandria.  Most of the older metal fans are willing to expose the younger, core fans to more extreme music if they’re interested.  Nine times out of ten, however, these fans are not interested in hearing something different and just want you to accept their shitty music as true metal even though it’s not.  And most of the time the “elitist’s” only crime is pointing that out.  Tell someone that Born of Osiris is not real metal and they’ll get their panties in a bunch.  Why?  We didn’t attack your character.  All we did was point something out.  Sure, we may rag on each other from time to time for liking, say, Slipknot, but it’s all in good fun.  The only people in the scene that actually do attack people’s character for the music they listen to are mouth breathing, internet trolls generally between the ages of 17 and 22.  Please stop it.  You’re making us look bad.

Metalheads are Racist, Right Wing Assholes

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This one irks me.  Metal is a diverse, worldwide community that is comprised of all different races, and political orientations.  There are entire genres of metal dedicated to left-wing causes like veganism.  Thrash metal is, by and large, left-wing.  Bands like Gojira are dedicated to environmentalism.  It isn’t fair to categorize all of us as right wingers. Still, the stereotype comes from somewhere, and judging from my own Facebook feed, metal does seem to attract several people who lean right on the political spectrum.  I have a few theories as to why.

The vast majority of metal fans are men.  This is changing over time and more and more women are finding themselves attracted to metal, but metal is still 90% men (not an actual statistic).  Generally, the type of men that are drawn to metal are strong, masculine men.  It makes complete sense considering the aggressive nature of metal. Statistics have shown that stronger, more masculine men are more likely to be right-wing.  I’m not sure how much I value these statistics but it does seem to add up when you consider the types of things stronger men value and are interested in.  Gun collecting, hunting, meat-eating etc. come to mind.  Liberals don’t tend to value these things as much, oftentimes attacking them outright.

As far as the accusation of racism is concerned, I blame Scandinavian black metal.  A lot of the second wave black metal bands outwardly expressed racist ideology.  The early second wave movement was virtually steeped in it and black metal has never fully recovered. Metal is a worldwide phenomenon, so it’s bound to have some devotees with less than savory beliefs, just like any cultural movement.  Black metal is also outsider art, and it’s not supposed to cater to societal norms let alone make the average person feel comfortable.

That said, the majority of metaheads don’t share these sorts of dangerous beliefs, even within the black metal scene.  Metal festivals are diverse events that unite people from all over the world in their shared love the extreme genre.  As for politics, ask the average metalhead their opinion on them and they’ll say they could give a fuck about them.

Metalheads Are Dumb

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 First of all, there are both dumb and smart devotees of any subculture.  But evidence has shown that metalheads may actually fair above average in the intelligence department, contrary to popular belief.  A study was conducted on the students in the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth that shows a disproportionate number of the members listed heavy metal as their favorite genre of music.  The National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth represents the top 5% of academic achievement.  You can read more on the study in this article published in The Guardian.

There have also been studies the indicate that metalheads are similar to classical music fans in temperament.  Metalheads tend to be creative and sensitive types, according to these studies.  Many metalheads are also musicians.  It is pretty well documented that learning to play and instrument raises your IQ.  In my personal experience, metalheads tend to be above average in intelligence.  Many metalheads have nerdier hobbies, like reading or watching historical documentaries and enjoy learning.  Of course, there are dumb metalheads, but there are dumb people everywhere.

Metalheads Swear and Say Fag Too Much

This one is semi true.  We do swear a lot, when we’re out partying.  The only place metalheads are usually depicted is at shows, either playing or attending, or in interviews with other metalheads.  Beer is usually involved in those interviews, especially since interviews often take place before bands perform.  Metalheads are rarely depicted in the workplace behaving professionally.

We probably do say fag too much but, in all fairness, the metal scene in mostly made up of guys and that’s just how many guys rib on each other, whether or not they listen to metal.  Still, metal could stand to be a little more sensitive toward homosexuality and LGBT issues in general.  There is no reason a gay man should worry about coming out to fellow metalheads if he shares our passion for the music.  Metalheads have also proven to be accepting of this issue, however.  I don’t know anyone who stopped listening to Judas Priest after Rob Halford came out.  That says something.

Metalheads Drink and Party Too Much

To reiterate my earlier point, metalheads are usually depicted while at shows…. partying.  It isn’t fair to peg us all as drunkard cretins because we get a little rowdy on the weekends…… just like everyone else.  The truth is, metalheads are some of the hardest working people I know.  The punk aesthetic to quit your job and start a band doesn’t resonate with metalheads.  Most adult metalheads have fulltime jobs and start bands on the side. There’s an understanding that the underground nature of extreme metal doesn’t lead to widespread, mainstream success, and having a job is mandatory in order to pay for gear, gas, beer, and What-A-Burger.

Metal is also more difficult to play than other genres of music, requiring hours of practice and mastery of your instrument.  Many metalheads are musicians, so their lives are basically work, practice, work practice.  Can you really blame them for partying it up on the weekend when they work so hard?  As for those of us who aren’t musicians, metalheads are passionate and driven to anything in their power to support the scene.  Some of us write, book and promote shows, distribute merch, draw sick art etc.  We do all this while having fulltime jobs and sometimes even going to school.

Metalheads are Satanic

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I lol at this one because it’s so incredibly inaccurate.  Sure, metal bands may have Satanic imagery on their album covers and write blasphemous lyrics, but it’s all intended for shock value, and doesn’t represent the band’s actual beliefs, most of the time. Slayer is one of the most notorious bands that’s said to promote Satanism.  All of the members of Slayer are confirmed to be atheists except for Tom Araya who believes in a higher power of some sort.

This anti-religion aesthetic is shared by the majority of the metal community.  Atheistic beliefs are the norm amongst metalheads.  In my personal experience, metalheads who profess actual allegiance to Satan are mocked by others in the scene.  It’s seen as childish.  In all honesty, most of us couldn’t give two fucks about religion and are put off by the judgemental and restrictive nature of it.  That said, there is a such thing as Christian metal.  It’s not really my thing, but if you’re a fan, more power to you.  Overall, calling metalheads Satanic is laughable and simply makes you look uninformed.

 Metalheads Only Like Metal and Don’t Respect Other Forms of Music.

This accusation is about as inaccurate as the one about us being Satanists.  I hang out with a lot of metalheads, and exactly zero of them only listen to metal.  I personally listen to everything from surf punk to classic rock to trip hop.  Nick Cave is one of my favorite artists and performers.  Among my friends, there are fans of everything from gangsta rap to Taylor Swift.

The thing is, metalheads listen to all types of music but we’re picky about it.  Our standards are high and with good reason.  Our music is probably better than yours.  Yep, I said it and I’m not sorry.  Aside from classical and jazz, metal is arguably the most difficult form of music to play.  I know, non metalheads think it just sounds like screaming and noise, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  And those “screaming” vocals non metalheads hate so much are way more difficult to belt out than the whiny drivel venerated from mainstream pop stars.  The fickle nature of average pop music fans only strengthens my argument.  Pop stars are mostly forgotten about (except for those with real talent like Prince of Michael Jackson).  Metal fans, on the other hand, don’t stop listening to music just because it’s dated.  Venom’s Black Metal is still widely celebrated in the metal scene and it’s over thirty years old….. because it’s good and it stands the test of time.

I’ll admit, I mostly listen to metal, but that’s because I’m passionate about it.  Does anyone accuse sci-fi fans of only watching sci-fi movies and reading sci-fi books/comics?  Nope.  So why do we get crap for listening to tons of metal?

Metalheads are also accused of only listening to one genre of metal and dismissing the rest.  This isn’t true either.  Sure, we have our favorites.  I’m partial, to black metal, thrash, melodic black/death, and old school heavy death metal.  A lot of my friends are really into brutal death metal and grindcore.  Even though that’s not really my preference, I would never doubt their commitment to the scene or judge them for it.  People who do that are mouth breathing idiots who don’t represent the scene.  But having a preference doesn’t make you a judgmental prick, it makes you a human being.

Metal is Misogynist

This one’s a bit harder to tackle.  There are definitely some bands that write misogynist lyrics.  Pornogrind is a genre that often spouts blatantly sexist lyrics on their albums.  But I can’t reiterate enough, that metal lyrics are written for shock value much of the time.  Do you think Chris Barns actually wants to kill people and feast on their stinking, bloody guts?  Well, these brutal death and pornogrind bands don’t actually want to abuse women either.  They just want to ruffle a few feathers.

I actually know a few bands who’ve written some seemingly misogynist lyrics and they have turned out to be some of the sweetest most well-mannered men I have ever met.  The best relationships I have ever had have been with metal guys.  It isn’t fair to judge these men based on their lyric sheets.  Metal focuses on the darker aspects of society and many metal lyrics are simply based on true stories about serial killers and war.  Outside of the mosh pit, though, most of us are well-mannered and kind.

That was a long post, but it was necessary in order to ensure I didn’t leave out anything.  Again, if you think I left something out, please mention it in the comments.  To further clear up any misconceptions about metalheads, check out the documentary below.  A couple of my friends are in it and it’s pretty cool.  If that isn’t enough to change your mind, check out this link http://www.boredpanda.com/metal-cats-alexandra-crockett/.  It’s literally just hardcore metal dudes pictured with their cats.  I hope I cleared things up.  Thank you for reading.

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Shed the Skin- Harrowing Faith

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Since Shed the Skin released their first EP, entitled Rebirth Through Brimstone back in 2014, I have been anticipating a new release from this group.  Being an Ohio native, I love listening to, supporting, and writing about Cleveland metal, and when a band from my hometown writes an album as bone crushing as Rebirth Through Brimstone, well, that’s something to be excited about.  Shed the Skin is somewhat of a super group, comprised of members from respected underground bands like Ringworm, Blood of Christ, and Incantation.  Veteran chops like that are bound to produce face ripping, blood curdling old school death metal.

In comparison to Shed the Skin’s prior release, Harrowing Faith is notably less crushing. The production is distinctly polished, taking away from the bestial and pounding ambiance that marked the band’s sound in the past.  That said, the differences in the production quality didn’t ruin this album for me.  If I were to have listened to Harrowing Faith with no expectations, I would have loved it.  The sound is an intense, high energy throwback to Soulless and Exhumed, especially on earlier tracks like Daimonic Adytum and Putrid and Pious.  The guitars are pronounced and in the forefront and the riffs are interesting; even techy at times.  The is no lack of infectious, circle pit driving riffage on this album.

The album really started to pick up for me around track eight, Alpha and Omega, when they introduced some slower and mind-blowing heavy breaks.  Ash Thomas’ throaty growls were the real stand out feature on this album.  His vocals were gripping enough to crack the sky.    Of course Kyle Severn drumming was peircing and on point.  I definitely preferred the slower tracks on the album, Cambion and Innermost Sanctuary being among my favorites.  This is the band’s true strength: slow, crushing breaks.  Overall, Harrowing Faith was a hit for me.  I would recommend it.

8/10

Baphomet’s Blood- In Satan We Trust

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It’s taken me an abominable amount of time to get around to covering this album but, with all due respect, this release just sort of snuck up on me.  I honestly can’t thank Youtube enough for recommending this to me, as In Satan We Trust could easily be one of my picks for album of the year.  Italian born thrash/speed metal outfit, Baphomet’s Blood began perfecting their signature brand of Motorhead inspired, satanic speed metal back in 2003, and I must say that they have come a long way since their humble beginnings.

Everything the band has released thus far has been epic, but In Satan We Trust takes epic to another level.  The very first thing I noticed about this album was the production.  Despite being a new release, this album sounds like it came out 1985.  It possesses all the elements of a great, classic speed metal album from the 80’s: grittiness, raw energy, and power.  Put this album along side Hell Awaits or Onslaught’s Power From Hell and you wouldn’t doubt that it came out the same year.  In addition to having that old school gritty quality to their sound, Baphomet’s Blood’s production remains polished throughout, with every instrument audible and clear.

In Satan We Trust kicks off with a gitchy, horror movie like intro and pulverizes listeners without warning with a Slayer-esque opening riff.  The very first riff will have you digging around for your bullet belt and pounding your fist.  Yes, this is fist pounding, headbanger shit to the core.  Necrovomiterror’s vocals are an endearing throwback to Lemmy Kilmister’s gravelly stylings.  Dual guitar solos, charmingly satanic lyrical themes, catchy riffs, and anthemic choruses will have you giving yourself whiplash within the privacy of your home.  It’s kind of crazy how much this album rules.

Tracks like Hellbreaker, Triple Six, and Whiskey Rocker are sing along classics in the making.  Infernal Overdrive and Triple Six in particular have almost awe inducing beautiful solos that harken back to the old school days of NWOBHM.  It’s as though Lemmy Kilmister fucked Cronos from Venom and made a baby, then fed it nothing but Slayer and Razor riffs after injecting it with a solid dose of rock and roll.  It’s that good.  I seriously can’t say enough good things about this album.  I know, I’m gushing, but fuck……..10/10

 

 

 

Destruction- Under Attack

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German thrash metal institution Destruction’s fourteenth studio album “Under Attack,” released by Nuclear Blast in May, further solidifies the band’s position as a reigning force in European metal that keeps reigning regardless of whatever internet publications try to sell you the next trend is. Period. The follow up to their thirtieth anniversary album “Spiritual Genocide” that featured a shmorgasbord (no pun intended) of guest musicians including Tom “Angelripper” of Sodom fame on guest vocals and plenty of speed metal slaughter, “Under Attack” goes right for the jugular and doesn’t let go until your corpse is hollow and a distant memory. One of the few bands that seems to benefit from modern production techniques, the chemistry between longtime leaders Schmier and Mike Stifringer is showcased throughout and the solid and powerful drum production really brings out the power of Wawrzyniec “Vaaver” Dramowicz.

While most classic metal bands (and plenty of newer bands trying to capture the “retro” vibe) adhere to the “rawer the better” formula, Destruction relies solely on having cooler riffs than your band, something that hasn’t let them down since their inception. “Dethroned” will have your neck snapping with headbanging power and a slick combination of groove and punch while “Elegant Pigs” will have you opening up circle pits in public places in no time. Groundbreaking? Hardly, but it doesn’t need to be and no one ever said they expect thrash bands to be progressive minded virtuosos. This is a fun thrash album full of speed, heaviness, and plenty of attitude. Perhaps its strongest quality, “Under Attack” is free of pretentions and exhibits a youthful passion and energy, something so many veteran bands in all genres of music seem to lose as their namesake becomes an institution. Destruction continue to demonstrate that the spirit of thrash metal is not only alive and well, it’s arguably gets stronger with age.

8/10

by: Joe Reed