Ego and Loner- ism In The Metal Scene

"Why do you listen to that stuff?"

The common metal head-no matter what genre of metal you listen to-has constantly been berated with similar inquiries from various people in their lives asking this question.
In a sense, metal music goes against our basic human instincts of what 'classically' is considered music. Granted, now that metal has branched off into multiple genres that statement could lose some of its accountability, what with Symphonic and Operatic metal, etc.
But I'm sure when metal first began to develop around the late 1960s, the general consensus was that it was just 'noisy'.
Its a type of music that from the very beginning was never fully accepted.

As a result of this, I've noticed that generally speaking, those that do listen to metal have certain loner tendencies.
I'm definitely not saying the culture as a whole is isolated since when metal heads do come together-they can most surely be just as social as other groups. And also as susceptible to peer pressure and conformity.
But to really accept this sort of music, I've learned that a person has to cultivate and learn their 'darker' side, a side that not many people willingly accept.
I know that sounds lame but hear me out.
I believe there is something innately savage and vicious about this type of music that scares people because of its honesty. It's raw-its not manufactured or wrapped into a pretty package (well, perhaps lets forget about hair metal). In essence-its real. That's what attracted me to it all those years ago and what continues to.

Personally, metal helped me get through a lot of strife in my life. I had always turned to music before when I was distraught but when I started listening to metal I got out a much needed amount of aggression from my system. Every time there was a scream or growl in the song, I felt like the artist was venting everything out for me that I was too scared or embarrassed to do myself. I still feel that way-its a great outlet.

NOW, that being said, within the metal scene certain genres add to this theory and take away from it.
I mean, your average Metalcore/Deathcore/Screamo/Symphonic female fronted bands are extremely targeted to younger mainstream types of people. These genre's are considered to cater to the more casual and social metalhead.

As for Thrash, Death, Black/Grindcore bands are usually listened to by far older, extreme metalheads who are less prone to be into the social aspect of metal.
There. I said it.

If you take a look at Black Metal, for example, being a loner is not only accepted but encouraged to an extent. It's considered a more introspective type of genre. And it is PURPOSELY not intended to be meant for a mainstream type of mind.
Fans of extreme metal also tend to have ample sized egos as well as arrogance to match. The reason of this I'm not so sure but I believe it stems from the fact that metalheads generally think of themselves as reaching a higher state of consciousness somehow because of the fact that they do listen to the genre-and thus-have evolved more-so than the average music fan. (Especially true for fans who are also musicians)
Mind you all, I'm generalizing but this is what I've found to be the case.

The bottom line is metal is very attractive to individuals who consider themselves or were pariahs in their early youth, people who like to deviate from the norm, and anyone who is in tune their more animalistic and essentially human side.

What's interesting about this is that with most shootings of any kind, the culprit is always found by the media to listen to metal and be some type of loner. Such is the case with Columbine, Jared Loughner, and the more recent Norwegian gunman. Mainstream media will use any excuse to condemn metal music. Blame it on the mental state of the individuals and not what they listen to.

But that's just what I think, what about you?

*BTW you guys, pick between Finding (Good) Christian Metal and The Future of Heavy Metal: Teenagers in the comment section. These two were tied so I want you to pick the next post.
Thanks for continuing to read and I hope to hear from you all soon.


I think you've touched on a lot of issues that could each have their own fully-dedicated post, but I'm not sure what to take away from this.
Oh yeah, I'd like to see your thoughts on the next generation of metalheads. I think there's always the sentiment that the younger generation is missing the point, or what they're doing with music is garbage--and there's always a lot to that sentiment--but there's another side to it.
Anonymous said…
I agree with Full Metal Attorney, I would have liked to see you go more in-depth into the issues, it seems like you simplified a lot of things. But it was a nice read.

I'd like to read your ideas on the next generations of metalheads as well. I think it's interesting that metalheads seem to dread the fact that the teenagers of today are the future of metal but forget that all great bands - metallica, slayer, etc - all began as teen-aged bands.
Antarus said…
First things first: Teens should be the next topic. My mind has been wandering towards the subject more and more lately, usually whenever my ipod is on shuffle and it goes from a band like Six Feet Under to Job For a Cowboy. Growls are being replaced by screeches. I love most of the new bands, but the change of the scene and the shift of focus in the genre in a whole kind of bothers me. Maybe its a touch of xenophobia or just the thought of what I am familiar with being threatened... or it's just my inflated ego getting the better of my reason. Now, to the current state of things. I see where you are coming from on an elitist standpoint. I agree that most people get into metal for most of the same reasons. Being an outcast, having anger issues, or having problems that make it useful to have an outlet for their unnamed frustration. Or in my case specifically, all of the above. However, belonging to the tribe has only helped me develop social skills that would have never been able to hone in a universe where I didn't listen to metal. I would be a loner if not for the tribe. But also, if metal were the only thing in my life I'd be pretty lonely also. I know very few metalheads, fewer that I can actually see face to face on more than an annual basis. Anyway my point is that your point is valid, yet a bit flat. Because we can "cultivate" our darker sides, doesn't mean that our darkness is what defines us. It means that we are more capable than others would be of creating more vivid and complex facets of our personalities. Groups that like to demonize us for being dark only do so because they are incapable of seeing beyond the surface of they see as noise and we consider art. What would seem to a simple minded person, cut and dry, but an enlightened eye can see how convoluted it truly is. By the way, I really enjoy your blog, keep it up
I think that a lot of times metal has a way of attracting people who are often deemed "outsiders".

(By the way, I am also a black female and I love metal)

When these people discover the art, they can emit personal power through a strong form of music due to its lyrical content and/or general extreme sound.

I've always been a quiet person with few friends. When I discovered metal, I progressively uncovered more about my true personality and that it was okay to accept gloomier aspects of life. It was okay to be myself.

However, I discovered the genre at a later age than most fans and haven't been on the scene for a long time. As a result, I don't have much experience in the social aspect of this art form.

Even though the following things may not validate my point, I think they'll support my beliefs.
I've watched plenty of documentaries, read the pages of metal mags and books, and skimmed enough YouTube comments to understand the content of your post. For example, the comments on a Leprosy era Death video would greatly contrast with one from, say Killswitch Engage. A reader may instantly realize the difference between the morals and temperaments of fans. Some of them appear to take the "elitist position" and some appear open minded about life in general. Additionally, I believe fans exist who weave varying outlooks together.

I really liked reading the post, this is a complex topic; it deserved attention.
As far as your next one, I would like to read about Finding (Good) Christian Metal. I don't have much knowledge about this form of metal.
Seance said…
I see a miserable herd mentality where many hard rockers no longer listening to the actual music. But only listening to the music of bands that others say are true e.t.c. Who decides whats true or not?
Anonymous said…
Luke sez:

I seriously worry that kids just don't get it, they love breakdowns and techno and swishy hair in their metal, when they grow up and start making music themselves they're going to fucking ruin everything.

Having said that bands like Born of Osiris, Vildhjarta and Mutiny Within give me some hope for the future.
Mary Spiro said…
i love your blog. That's it, that's all I wanted to say.
Hansi said…
Hi I landed on your blog by accident. (Well Google brought me here) I know this will sund off-topic but I just wanted to tell you that I find your ideas really interesting- a unique breath of fresh air. I am so happy that a YOUNG BLACK WOMAN is coming out not only to tell the world that she listens to metal, but also that you write abut it analytically (for the lack of a better word), proving yet again that this is a music genre that you live, learn and embrace, not another fad! And that it is not a pit for angst-filled white boys :P I don't need to tell you that you are breaking so many stereotypes at the same time!! I am a Sri Lankan woman (for those of you who do not know, it's a small island in the Indian Ocean) and I'm only a year older than you are. Whenever I say I listen to metal I raise a few eyebrows :P Keep up the good work! Proud of you!!
Robin said…
What actually drew me to metal was the technical aspect of it. The first impression IS that it doesn't sound like any traditional music, but as someone who's practiced classically on the piano for a whole decade, there are definitely some classical music influences technically, especially once the instrumental solos kick in. However, I was and am still a loner with few close friends, and that's how I came across the genre in the first place: I had some time to really explore the genre.

Popular Posts