Tag Archives: Metal Stereotypes

Six Weird Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Extreme Metal

I’ll never forget what it was like to discover extreme metal for the first time.  Thumbing through the glossy pages of Metal Maniacs and Kerrange magazine and seeing the images of larger than life, bullet belt and spike clad beasts that consumed me, gave me a completely skewed view of underground metal. As I grew older and immersed myself more deeply into the underground world, I became more acutely aware of the misconceptions I had about extreme metal.  I realize that many die hards are most likely already privy to much of this information, but it’s important to note that there are several inequities surrounding extreme metal that prevent the culture from achieving the sort of recognition it deserves.  Also, there’s just some genuinely funny, little known, realities about extreme metal that are simply worth sharing.  For one thing….

1. There’s No Such Thing as Groupies

Any sixteen year old, hormone filled, teenage boy looking to score brownie points with the girls in his life by becoming a musician, shouldn’t touch death metal with 75 and half-foot pole.   Extreme metal has never been very girl friendly.  The aggression and nefariousness of the sound, combined with the fact that for some reason, the ugliest of our species seem to create the most hateful music act as a girl repellent.

Can’t see why girls aren’t falling all over themsleves trying to get to metal musicians

Even well-known bands, like Metallica and Anthrax, can’t realistically harken back to the glory days of girls, girls, girls.  Of course, there are women into metal.  Many, in fact.  But women into metal are generally less superficial than women into other genres.  Metal itself requires more from the listener than casual pop music because of its complexity and depth.  It is also less readily accessible than other forms of music because of limited radio play and publicity, meaning that people seek it out because it adds meaning to their lives.  So the people who are attracted to it tend to be less superficial than say, the people who were attracted to glam bands with regular appearances on MTV.

Usually, women into metal are there for the music and not for the opportunity to meet a celebrity.  They also tend to be more cerebral, meaning that a for attraction to occur, there needs to be more than just a one-dimensional connection between two counterparts.  It takes more than good looks and money to impress a metal chick.  You need a brain. If you’re looking for money, you’re looking in the wrong place anyway because……

 

2. No One Is Really Making Big Bucks

Because of the things I mentioned earlier, lack of publicity and radio play, it’s difficult for a band playing extreme metal to generate any sort of substantial income.  Even the bands that have reached legendary status are living somewhat modest lifestyles.  For example, Fenriz of Darkthrone fame, one of the originators of the second wave of black metal, has held a steady day job at the post office for over a decade.

There are other factors that come into play as well.  Extreme metal maintains a certain anti- commercial aesthetic and runs on an underground ethic that prevents bands from making money the way many pop artists do, ie perfume and clothing lines.  And it’s becoming increasingly difficult for bands to make money selling records today because of popularity of internet downloading and free streaming.  Even back in the tape trading days, however, bands outside the mainstream weren’t generating most of their income from record sales, instead relying on constant touring for income, which often led to burn out and disillusionment for the bands.  It hasn’t changed much since those days.  Basically, unless you’re Slayer, you’re not making that much money.

Took ’em three decades but they’re making the big bucks now

When I was younger, I had no concept of how bad it really was.  A lot of good bands are literally paying out-of-pocket to get to out-of-town gigs, for which they won’t see dime for playing.  Next time you go to a fest, remember a good majority of the bands playing aren’t getting paid at all to be there.  They work day jobs and, because of an extreme work ethic, and a die-hard dedication to the music, they show up and rip the faces off crowds of moshing fans.  Even when these bands get signed, it takes quite a bit of time before the income they generate goes to anything other than gear and travel.  I’ve always found this fact about extreme metal upsetting because, for one…..

3. It’s Extremely Difficult to Play

Remember what I said about extreme work ethic?  Well, extreme metal musicians, death and thrash metal in particular, need it because metal is among the most difficult of all genres to play.  In fact, the only musical genres that even parallel the complexity of extreme metal are classical and jazz.

Metal emphasizes soloing, shredding, and blasts, all musical styles that require a great deal of practice to perfect.  The rise in popularity of tech death has only served to raise the bar for metal as well.  Younger extreme metal audiences are looking for more and more musical prowess and technicality in music every year.

And the guttural vocals that everyone outside metal seems to complain about, well those are extremely difficult to execute as well.  It’s not just screaming like many people seem to think.  If you want to hear screaming, listen to screamo.  Death metal vocals encompass a wide variety of vocal techniques, like tongue placement, and breathing exercises to produce those low, demonic growls.  The masses seem to only care about the fact that you can’t understand the lyrics, however.  I always found that funny because….

4. A Lot of Bands Don’t Even Have Lyrics

Yep, you read that right.  I found this out in an interview with Sodomized vocalist, Eric Newton, after to asking him a question about the lyrical content on the band’s latest release.  He admitted he didn’t really see the point in writing lyrics since people couldn’t understand him anyway..  This is more than just an isolated case, however.  In the mini documentary “Florida: Thrash ‘Til Death”, John Tardy of Obituary admits to not singing lyrics while onstage.

John Tardy of Obituary

Many times what happens, with death metal in particular, is someone from the band will write lyrics, and the vocalist won’t learn them right away if at all.  Because of the nature of the death metal vocal, no one really notices.  Death metal lyrics don’t claim to be meaningful even when they are written.  The point is to invoke feelings of fear and disgust from their audiences.  That goal can be achieved through grotesque artwork, repulsive song titles, crunchy riffs, and low-end guttural vocals that sound like the singer is gargling the blood of his victims. Lyrics are of less importance than these other factors in relaying a band’s overall message.

Of course, there are extreme metal bands that put a lot of effort into their lyrical content.  Behemoth comes to mind as Adam Darski (Nergal) often uses music as a medium to spread his occult message.  Even Napalm Death utilizes their influence to espouse their political ideals.  But the main point I’m making here is that song lyrics are not of great importance to extreme metal.  Death metal vocals serve more as an instrument themselves rather than a purveyor of information.  They are there for the atmosphere.  So in short, it doesn’t matter that much what the band is saying all that really matters is how the music makes you feel.  I suppose it’s a good thing death metal lyrics are mostly filler because…..

5. Bands Are a Revolving Door and Many Musicians Play in Several Bands

It’s pretty much always been that way.  Most people know that Dave Mustaine was replaced by Kirk Hammet in Metallica but did you know that Kirk Hammet played for Exodus before he joined with Metallica?  It’s simply the nature of the scene.  Metal fans share a camaraderie and passion that often sparks a yearning in the fans to create it themselves.  Go to any underground metal gig around the world and I’m willing to bet at least forty percent of the audience can play at least one instrument. With so many musicians in the scene it’s easy to see how bands can become a revolving door.

Also, extreme metal exists as an entity outside the musicians, meaning that fans aren’t simply idolizing a great guitar player or vocalist, they are in love with the aggression and energy of the sound.  It’s uncommon for fans to turn their back on a band for switching guitar players or vocalists as long as the new member has chops.

Because of the tight-knit nature of underground metal communities, many musicians will also play for several bands at a time.  Particularly drummers and bassists who are a commodity because of their relative scarcity.  Passion for the music often leads band members to start side projects as well, that sometimes blow up.  Anthrax’s Scott Ian, for example went on to form S.O.D. whilst simultaneously playing in Anthrax because of his love for hard-core.  S.O.D. is respected to this day for their involvement in creating the crossover genre in thrash.

S.O.D. circa 1999

The D.I.Y. nature of underground metal combined with the technicality of the music both attracts and creates musicians hungrier than ever to put their mark on the scene.  Shared passion for a musical style not celebrated by mainstream audiences creates a natural bond between fans of the music so it’s only natural that a lot of integration between bands would occur.  Because of the underground aesthetic of extreme metal, a new member is often already well-known within fan circles, so the number of bands playing with, sometimes as few as, a single original member remaining is not all that surprising, nor is the fact that fans haven’t turned on these bands.  Morbid Angel’s decision to replace David Vincent with Steve Tucker went over much better than Iron Maiden’s decision to replace Bruce Dickenson with Blaze Bailey, for example.  Blaze Bailey is basically a cum stain on the history of metal whereas death metal die hards celebrate Formulas Fatal to the Flesh as a brutal and original work of art.

Steve Tucker

It’s because this music is, and always will be underground, that a shared ethic exists among its fans; and that’s dedication to the extreme, which is why Metallica’s decision to turn their backs on thrash in favor of mainstream rock was far more detrimental to their image among die-hard thrash fans than their decision to replace Cliff Burton after his passing.  This proverbial middle finger extreme metal gives to the mainstream is one of the reasons why the bands who play it will never experience the glitz and glamour mainstream bands receive, which is why, for one thing….

6. There Isn’t a Backstage Per Say

Extreme metal bands generally play in dark, graffiti riddled clubs.  The clubs are small and there are no dressing rooms or any of that shit.  Not that the bands really need it.  Death metal is come as you are, fuck primping. An all access pass will typically grants a person access through all entrances of the club without being searched which makes it really easy to sneak in beer and what not, (a really cool perk especially since free beer for the bands is mostly a thing of the past) but there’s no secret area backstage where a party is happening.  Bigger bands party hard on tour buses and in hotels and every once in a while there’s a basement in the club where the bands can bring in beer and other substances but that’s not extremely common either.

No one drank more beer than Tankard

What’s cool about this is that the bands are generally down to earth and get up close with the fans.  It’s fairly common to see the members of the headlining bands in the audience banging their heads to the opening bands.  You can shake their hands and tell them how much you admire their work and even share a beer or two with them. This casual attitude in extreme metal is part of what makes it so near and dear to the fans who love it.  You feel like you’re a part of it rather than just a spectator.  No one in the underground is treated like a rock star so no one acts like it.  And that is way cooler than fucking VIP nonsense anyway.

These realities about extreme metal are what make the genre unique in comparison to other musical styles.  The fact is, the underground has been the same since its conception in the early eighties and that’s part of what makes it so magical.  Extreme metal was, is, and always will be a fire kept burning by some of the most dedicated fans in the world which is why is has remained pure.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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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

bmetal

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

muni waste

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

ebola

 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

devil

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.