The Stigma Associated with Metal and Metalheads

Lamb of God / Courtesy of popwatch.ew.com
Lamb of God / Courtesy of popwatch.ew.com

The typical (some might say stereotypical) image of a metalhead is that of an angry young man who worships Satan, is disillusioned with the world and full of hate. That could not be further from the truth. There is a lot of stigma and a lot of preconceived notions attached with being a metalhead. Being a metalhead, over the years I have gotten used to this wanton misrepresentation of listeners of metal music, but it still hurts to see it happening.

A lot of the stigma is, in part, due to metal itself. It is very easy to assume that if a person likes a band with a singer who screams/growls, then hey, maybe that person is doing that because he is angry himself. This kind of flawed psychoanalysis is rampant and one of the reasons for perpetuating stereotypes about metalheads. When Eminem raps about killing his mother, does that mean he or anybody who likes listening to it would want to commit such an act? Then why is it that when metalheads listen to lyrics about death, they get stigmatized? Of course not, metal is a way for us to get a release, a way for us to relieve our pent up anger. It is way for us to escape the daily doldrums of life, and enjoy ourselves in an alternate reality. Metal bands can be treated as acts. When you go see a band live, nobody likes to see a band just going through the motions without trying to engage the audience. Thus metal bands wear face paint, masks, over-the-top costumes to add an added dimension to their stage presence. It does not mean they like war, hate god or love Satan and death. In fact there are plenty of Christian metal bands like August Burns Red and P.O.D. whose faith plays an important part in their music. Additionally, August Burns Red have also released a holiday album called August Burns Red presents: Sleddin’ Hill, which contains metal versions of popular holiday songs and is a thoroughly enjoyable album.

Rob Flynn of Machine Head and Randy Blythe of Lamb of God are two of the most insightful, articulate and intellectual musicians today. Rob Flynn’s “General Journals,” which he uses as a blog, are always a joy to read. Randy Blythe had been involved in a case in the Czech Republic over the last year where he had been accused of the manslaughter of a fan who had come to attend Lamb of God’s concert. While a normal person would have gotten scared and never returned back to the Czech Republic, even if he was innocent, Randy followed all the laws and agreed to the rules when he was released on bail. Rather than hiring a lawyer, Randy defended himself. In a case that attracted worldwide attention due to its notoriety, Randy Blythe disproved all the notions associated with metalheads and came across as an extremely intelligent, well read and articulate person. He fought the case alone in a foreign country with no knowledge of its laws and was acquitted of the manslaughter charges, the judge instead blaming the organizers and promoters for failing to prevent such an event from happening. His demeanour throughout the trial was subdued and he was clearly unhappy over the death of an innocent fan. It is not my intention to condone anything that he did or did not do. I bring up this example as it is one of the few instances where the mainstream media got to see a metal musician as a normal person and not as the stage persona that he adapts.

A lot of people consider metal to be random noise and screeching. This sentiment completely ignores the technical proficiency and mastery that a lot of metal musicians possess. A lot of them like Alex Skolnick and Danny Carey have played in jazz bands. Metal subgenres like neo classical metal have major elements of western classical music. Metal vocalists are some of the finest lyricists today and regularly write concept albums with a continuous story or theme. And this also ignores the extreme diversity within metal itself, with many subgenres like thrash metal, death metal, black metal, doom metal, melodic metal etc. Saying that metal music is noise is like saying electro music is computer generated wub-wub non sense. Both statements are untrue and ignore the complexities of each genre.

An average metalhead is the same as everybody else; a normal person who likes a certain kind of music. A person’s taste in music cannot be used to judge him or her. Metalheads are some of the most fun, easy going and happy people that I have met. Every concert that I have attended has been a wonderful experience, in part due to the wonderful nature of fellow metalheads. I hope this article dispels some myths about metalheads and helps people understand the genre a bit better. If not, you should know that Johnny Depp is a metalhead. And he certainly is not a hate-filled Satan-worshipper who is disillusioned with the world.

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