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The Monkey at the Metal Show

Disclaimer: I’m not pretending to be an expert in primate behavior (no matter how many times I watched the Harambe video), but it doesn’t take a fucking scientist to make these connections. 

“We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realize that we are apes.”
-Richard Dawkins

Intro:

Whether they’re fans of heavy metal or not, people writing about the music and it’s adherents like to mention that the music taps into something primal.

I think that’s an accurate description, but I don’t think it goes far enough. My question is this – what are these primal things that metal taps into?

Primal like how our ancestors developed a love for fire (based on it’s importance in our survival) – and this translates into our love of a good light show/pyrotechnic display at a live show?

Or maybe primal like our admiration of musicianship, which boils down to admiration of mastery over tools?

These are certainly interesting subjects, and by pretty much any definition of the word they’re primal in nature.

In a sense, we (sort of) selectively bred these sorts of qualities into the human race – a love of fire and an appreciation for the mastery of tools are things that have allowed our species to advance to the pinnacle of the food chain. But they’re things that we don’t necessarily share with other primates.

What I want to talk about are things that we inherited before that (not that it’s a contest, but the things that are arguably more primal). Which poses the question, “Can the goings-on at a metal show, including the love of metal itself, be explained by comparing human behaviors with those of our primate cousins?”

Personally, I think that using primate behavior as a critical lens puts a lot of behaviors and staples of metal culture in a very interesting light. I’m going to break this down into two main sections – primate behavior among metalheads on an individual level, and on a group level.

(While reading this, you might notice that a lot of these things are not exclusive to metal. You’d be right, however this particular combination of things is pretty unique in my experience.)

Section 1 – Primate Behaviors Among Metalheads on an Individual Level

1a) Displays of Dominance and Aggression

One of the defining characteristics (arguably THE defining characteristic) of any alpha creature in nature is dominance. It can be expressed in different ways, but is inherently recognizable.

The Alpha Male

(it can be argued the desire to get on stage and beat your chest has primal origins)

In any group that’s been populated by male primates (almost to the point of exclusively) since it’s formation, you’re going to encounter a lot of very male-oriented behaviors and norms. Chimpanzees are a good example.

Being a large group of predominantly male primates (as I’ve mentioned in other articles) – heavy metal has developed what’s referred to as a Masculinist Culture. In a nutshell, what that means is that metalheads (by and large) tend to not only practice but celebrate codes of behavior that are (predominantly) attributed to males.

For example – in any given social situation, a group of animals will establish a pecking order. The animal at the top of that pecking order is the alpha. If it’s a group of males, the most dominant in the group will be what we like to refer to as the “alpha male”.

Among primates, there is a very distinctive set of behaviors that typify dominance ( and therefore are associated with the label alpha male). Humans, as primates, fall into this group. As such, an alpha male human (like any other primate) will display many of the characteristics associated with dominant primates – especially in the presence of other males.

Size Matters – Alpha Posturing and Stress

Being visual creatures – the first indication of alpha status among primates is size. Alpha males are big. Big males generally dominate. Among gorillas, for example, it’s rather easy to pick out the alpha male of the group due to their being significantly larger than the rest of the group.

Now, among our closest relatives in the primate world (chimpanzees), the alpha male is NOT always the largest. However, they compensate for this in a number of ways. One, that is common among all primates, is something referred to as the “alpha stance”.

It’s so common among humans that you might not give it much thought, but every time you see someone standing with their feet planted and spread, with their arms raised so the upper portion of their body resembles the letter “V” (sometimes called the victory pose or v-pose) – what you’re seeing is a simian dominance posture.

One of the main purposes of the alpha stance is that it makes you look visibly larger – but it also raises testosterone levels by 20% while lowering cortisol levels by up to 25% in all primates, male and female.

Cortisol is the stress hormone, and testosterone is the male sex hormone (high levels of testosterone are associated with a higher levels of confidence). So, primates instinctively know that in certain situations there’s a hormonal “oh shit” button that calms you down and makes you more confident.

You’ll see this sort of posturing anywhere you go, but I would argue it’s more exaggerated and pronounced at a metal show (largely due to the gender demographics). I’d argue the stress relief (on both a chemical and a mental level) combined with the effects of the music has an almost addictive quality to it.

If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know I make a distinction between metal fans and metal heads. I guess this is as good of an explanation of the difference between the two as any; real metalheads are absolutely addicted to the catharsis provided by the metal experience.

It’s certainly not a unique phenomenon in and of itself, I’m sure lifelong Grateful Dead fans can attribute to that. But the experiences are a tad different – and I think metal has a much more universal appeal.

And I’m not just pulling that out of my ass, metal is literally the beast that refuses to die. And somehow, magically, there are more metalheads now than there were last year.

Gratuitous discussion of how metal is superior to all other genres? Check.

Volume and Pitch

A dominant primate is, quite often, a loud primate (This can be exaggerated in certain primates, where loudness is often a form of evolutionary compensation). And I think you’d be hard pressed to find a style of music that is consistently louder than metal. The bands are loud, the fans are loud.

And not just loud, but loud with low tones. A deep voice is automatically perceived as more authoritative among humans, and there’s a good evolutionary explanation for that. Low voices are associated with large males who produce a lot of testosterone. It’s been argued that the lowed timbre voices of male primates (including humans) equate to a display of dominance. And it makes sense, big dudes usually have deep voices – and a deep voice can be intimidating.

If you want an example of how innate our association of deep voices and sounds with large, intimidating males is – think of the first time you saw the boxer Mike Tyson.

tyson

Now, think of the first time you heard his voice. The reason his appearance and his voice seem so incongruous is our evolutionary association of deep sounds with big, threatening creatures.

So, it’s not really that much of a surprise that Heavy Metal is loosely defined as a musical style that emphasizes instrumentation with deep, low frequency sounds (i.e. bass guitar, drums, rhythm guitar) played very loud.

Appearance as an Aggressive Display

It would be rather remiss of me not to mention stereotypical metalhead appearance as an act of aggressive display.

It’s also worth noting that to someone within metal culture, this style of dress and posturing is not threatening at all, quite the opposite – it’s appealing.

But to someone outside of the metal sphere, generally the consensus is that metalheads look intimidating. And I don’t think that’s by accident, but I don’t think it’s entirely a conscious act. Like, I don’t think a group of guys got together and said, “hey, let’s look as threatening as possible.”

All aggressive displays look threatening (that’s what makes them aggressive). It’s interesting to note that, contrary to common sense, the point of looking threatening in nature is to avoid conflict.

In other words, I think the “metalhead uniform” a manifestation of visually threatening/intimidating displays that can be directly traced to primate behavior.  Camouflage, denim and leather, spikes and studs, boots and blue collar t-shirts all have one thing in common – they’re all worn by predominantly male social groups, that all look (in some way or another) masculine, and can appear threatening.

Chances are, all that clothing was introduced to metal culture by the crossover in membership – and if enough heads thought it looked cool they picked it up as a new norm.

Note: Not all displays within metal are aggressive. Perfect example, watch any metalhead youtube channel and you’ll notice they have their entire music collection situated behind them. This isn’t an accident, this is an intentional display of subcultural capital in the form of a music collection meant to impart a sense of expertise to the viewers.

Controlling Space and Attention

When a gorilla moves to an elevated area and beats his chest, he’s not just doing it to make himself feel good. He wants everyone in the vicinity to watch him. This isn’t a random occurrence – one of the resources that an alpha primate controls is the attention of his peers. In a pack setting, this is a big deal. It’s a form of social control.

Humans aren’t that different – why do you think public speakers will stand on a stage or an elevated platform? Or artists prefer to perform on a stage? We’re hard wired to pay more attention to other primates who control the high ground for a reason.

And it’s not just the high ground that’s important – another resource prized by primates is space. My favorite manifestation of this concept is the lead singer who, once the band is on stage, uses the all of the space available to him for the entire show. The more space he uses and controls, the bigger the display of dominance. Likewise, the easier it is to maintain the attention of a large crowd.

Even the act of throwing objects into the crowd (water bottles, picks, band shirts, etc) is a display of expanding territory – and fans who pick these items up are openly submitting to the display of dominance..

1b) Music Soothes the Savage Beast

“Interestingly, bonobo percussionists prefer a tempo of 280 beats per minute, the syllabic rate at which most humans speak.”
― Dr Susan Block

I would like to  point out an article (originally published in The Daily Telegraph, a British Newspaper internationally renown for it’s quality) I found regarding a little science project.

Long story short, they were testing to see what kind of music (if any) a specific species of monkey preferred over any other. The results showed that the Cottontop Tamarins only responded positively to two things…

  1. Recordings of other Cottontop Tamarins
  2. The Metallica song “Of Wolf and Man”

Awesome. Fucking awesome.

Anyways, I feel like it was worth mentioning that on both an individual and a group level certain types of music have a calming effect that can be traced back to the same types of calls that later evolved into speech.

Strange that metal music could have roughly the same psychological effect as a lullaby, but humans are pretty strange creatures.

Section 2 – Primate Behaviors Among Metalheads on a Group Level

I’d like to start by saying a lot of this stuff will be a tad more obvious to the casual reader than the items in the previous section. Some, however, might surprise you.

2a) Dominance and Aggression

I know, I know, this was covered in the last section. But dominance, while it may be expressed individually, is inherently a group phenomenon. One of the most obvious displays of dominance can be seen in the crowd at pretty much any metal show.

Nowadays most mosh pits are a sad parody of what they used to be. But the idea of a display of aggressive dominance is still there, no matter how pathetic it gets.

“Wow, that hardcore dancing is super-fucking cool.”

-No one, ever

2b) Group-Think and Belonging

Almost all primates are pack animals, and being a pack animal is a package deal. Part of that package is group-think, or the ability to function with other members of the same species as a cohesive unit.

The intrinsic motivation behind group behavior is a need for a sense of belongingness  (apparently that’s an actual word). Human beings, by nature, have an internal need to feel like a part of something bigger then themselves. It might manifest itself in different ways (family unit, church group, football team, metalhead), but at the end of the day it all boils down to this inner drive to belong to a group.

This is the same motivation behind all pack behavior. Gorillas have it, chimps have it, dogs have it, cows have it. You get the idea.

One of the ways group think manifests itself (in humans) is the establishment of social norms (I’ll expand on this in the next section). When confronted with an unfamiliar situation, humans look to and follow unspoken social ques of their peers to continue to feel like they fit in.

An obvious example of this would be “the metalhead uniform” – besides being a passive display of aggression to those outside the group, it functions as a badge of solidarity within the group.

And it works – being surrounded by other metalheads, all in black band shirts (at a concert or otherwise) feels good. You’re surrounded by other members of the group, and you’re all visibly displaying membership. It’s no longer a matter of, “I’m doing this and you’re doing this” – it’s become a matter of, “we’re doing this.”

This is why, when a person is attending their first metal concert and asks you what they should wear – you should never tell them, “Whatever you want, metal has no rules.”

That friend isn’t asking you what they’re required to wear. Obviously, they can wear whatever the fuck they want. They’re asking if there are any social norms they can/should follow to feel like part of the group (and not stand out). You know, so they can experience that sense of belonging and – in turn – have a better overall experience.

2c) Transmission of Culture

When most people hear the word culture, they think of fancy learned human behaviors transmitted socially, both generationally and through multiple generations. But that’s the thing – all culture really boils down to is learned behaviors passed on to others. There’s actually a saying that covers this phenomenon – monkey see, monkey do. And while it’s always used to describe primate behavior, it’s rarely used to describe apes in the wild.

human see human do

Since the 1950’s the concept of culture in the animal kingdom has been a topic of research, and it’s been found that culture is not limited to humans. Quite the opposite – patterns of learned behavior transmitted between individuals within social groups is actually common in the animal kingdom, especially among primates.

“Being abroad makes you conscious of the whole imitative side of human behavior. The ape in man.”
-Mary McCarthy

So, what sorts of cultural behaviors do metalheads transmit?

Headbanging

One of the most universally recognized behaviors associated with metalheads is headbanging.dimebag

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes zero sense. Zero. There is literally nothing beneficial that can happen to you if you headbang.

Quite the opposite, neck and back pain and injury are common (there’s even a colloquial term for the neck pain that follows a day of headbanging – a “bangover”). Over the long term – spinal degeneration is almost a certainty. I know plenty of old dogs who have neck and back problems due to this – some that required surgery. And in extreme cases, brain damage can occur. But for some reason, the practice continues.

Not that I’m complaining – I’m just pointing out that this particular behavior seems to defy nature AND common sense.

Conformity through Non-Conformity

Oooh, the 500 pound gorilla in the room. This one goes out to all the people who say that metal has no rules (it does). When you’ve got a large group of people who practice and encourage non-conformity, guess what happens.

You, by definition, have conformed to non-conformity.

People who say metal has no rules seem to be missing the point – one of the rules of metal is that you don’t have to pay attention to all the rules. That’s why you can do whatever you want and still feel like part of the group. So even if you only follow that one stipulation – you’re still following the rules.

Just because metal celebrates a lack of conformity with mainstream ideals/etc doesn’t mean there are no rules. That’s fucking retarded – all social animals have rules.

Metalheads are humans, humans are social animals, therefore metalheads have rules. That’s what makes them social – when you’re in a group it restricts the number of acceptable individual behaviors.

mind blown

Metalhead Uniform as Social Norm

personal rant: I can’t tell you exactly who will say metal has no rules, but I can tell you what they look like.

Specifically, they’re a Caucasian male between the ages of 16 and 50, wearing a black band t-shirt (of a band they listen to, obviously). They’re wearing khaki shorts/ camouflage pants/jeans and probably boots.

metalheads for real

There’s a really good chance they’ve got multiple tattoos and/or piercings, and I’d be willing to wager they have either long hair or a beard (if not both). There’s also about a 25% chance they’re wearing (or own) a patch covered vest.

metalheads for real a

Bonus points if they’re rocking a mjolnir necklace, razor blade pendant, chains, dog tags, satanic jewelry, or some less than subtle combination of these things.

You know how I know this? Because the people who scream “metal has no rules” the loudest are the people who follow the social conventions of the culture the most strictly.

I don’t think they do it to be purposefully misleading, they honestly believe what they’re saying. The cognitive dissonance is real (bowing to social pressure and following group norms is something that’s been observed in chimpanzees, and humans are certainly not above it). Simply put, humans are wired to make and follow rules of behavior. What rules you choose to follow, however, is certainly up to you.

Exclusive Handshakes and Gestures

Believe it or not, individual groups of chimpanzees have their own versions of secret handshakes. Not all of them have it, but the ones that do have a very interesting shared characteristic – it differs between different groups (therefore a learned behavior) and seems to hold significance in the group.

What kind of significance, you ask?

Good fucking question. These secret handshakes actually signify and affirm membership in the corresponding group.

And while it’s not exactly a handshake, a learned hand gesture that signifies membership/participation in a group is nothing new to metalheads.

Throwing the horns is a logical progression of the original behavior – directly observable in primates in the wild.

Crazy, right? There’s a little conjecture there, but I really don’t think it’s a big leap.

“Hating on” the Younger Generation

I read somewhere that chimpanzees withdraw and stop making social connections with the younger generation after a certain point. This includes not learning new “social norms”, etc.

Yeah, male apes turn into grumpy old men. Kind of like how older metalheads (myself included) complain about modern metal and metalheads.

It’s perfectly natural social behavior when you put it into context. In fact, I’d be more worried if old metalheads didn’t complain.

Conclusion

We’re all just fucking apes. I’m an ape, you’re an ape, your mom’s a fucking ape. So technically all human behavior is primate behavior – and that includes the entire metal scene.

Afterward

I thought it’d be cool to look at some of our behaviors that have been around since before shit like fire, microwaves, and pizza delivery existed.

There’s no way on earth I covered everything, but I like to think I offered up a good chunk of thinking material for you guys.

I haven’t posted anything in a while, so I figured an article with a little more substance to it was in order.

Thanks for reading, keep it brutal.

-Grulog

 

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Is all Heavy Metal Based on a Single Act of Plagiarism?

Stupid click-bait title?

download

Check
(you won’t believe what happens next)

I can’t believe people still fall for that shit.

Intro:

Seriously though, for all the try-hards who fall back on the “I like metal because the artists are so original” defense, here’s a bit of a history lesson.

First, we need to establish a few things.

  1. Black Sabbath was the first metal band. This is a given (people who say Coven was the first metal band are like people who say Possessed is the first death metal band – they’re wrong and just trying to make themselves look credible because they can do a fucking google search. We get it, they had a song called Black Sabbath and a bassist named Greg “Oz” Osbourne – and released an album before Sabbath’s self-titled debut).
  2. The first heavy metal song was also called “Black Sabbath”. I have no idea what order they were written in, this was the first track on the album. It was also one of the first songs they performed live. They released a cover of “Evil Woman” as their first single, but that’s certainly not the first heavy metal song. For the purpose of defining the first metal song, my money is on Black Sabbath.
  3. Black Sabbath didn’t “write” the main riff for the first metal song. I’ll expand on this in a minute.
  4. I’m going to use bullshit American Millennial logic. You know, the kind of faux wax-philosophical logic in articles like this one, which asserts that you’re cheating on your girlfriend by checking your fucking facebook in the morning. To be fair, my argument is a bit more sound.

Having established the first metal band and the first metal song, we can safely say these two things in conjunction were the fucking genesis of heavy metal.

Like, in the beginning there was Black Sabbath – and I saw that it was good.

Sooooo, what was the creative process behind writing the infamous first song off the self titled debut? Legend has it Geezer Butler (their bassist) was playing a theme from “Mars, Bringer of War” from (The Planets by Gustav Holst) – specifically, the part with the tri-tone. No big surprise there, they were pretty musically diverse in their interests and influences. Iommi hears it, and then comes in the next day with the riff for “Black Sabbath”. They’re not identical, but they’re pretty fucking close.

Like, almost exact. Check it out.

(for the impatient, skip to 4:30 into the song to hear the theme I’m referencing)

(the song starts at about 27 seconds in, listen for it…)

Not quite as exact as Nile

But you get the idea.

So, if you’re going by the “college paper” rules of plagiarism, every fucking word on the planet is an act of plagiarism (including, but not limited to, Black Sabbath – and by association all of metal). Every fucking musical note in history is blatantly copying the first ape to bang two rocks together.

Plagiarism, Influence, and an Homage are NOT the same thing!

There is no such thing as an original thought. Every goddamn thing that has ever gone through your brain or come out of your mouth (the two are not always connected) has been done before. Everything.

That’s why we have a thing called influence – a concept to explain the natural progression of human expression based on the sum total of all the information they’ve processed in their miserable existence.

You do have to kind of draw a line in the sand here – there’s a clear distinction between a strong influence and completely robbing someone’s art and calling it your own.

Influence:

In the example of Sabbath and Holst, we’re looking at influence. The guys in Sabbath took the idea of a tri-tone, and worked their own into a song that (eventually) helped define the band’s signature sound. And by correlation, helped to define metal as a whole. That can easily be confused as plagiarism, but it’s different.

Homage:

In the example of Nile and Holst, Nile was paying an homage to Holst. It’s a public tribute – they adapted it to their own work, but instead of writing another into to a song about a god of war, they opted to use their own version of his into (paying tribute in the title of the song). This is a form of flattery.

Plagiarism:

If you want plagiarism, look to Papa Roach or some shitty tier 2-3 band that stopped being relevant the second they entered the music scene.

Example 1) The entire career of Papa Roach

Last Resort? Try Genghis Khan

Dead Cell? Try Sanctuary

Between Angels and Insects? Try Prowler.

How about that time the band ripped off Keane?

I seriously hate this fucking band. I think they have more accusations of plagiarism than they have singles.

Example 2) Annihilator’s “Snap” riff sounds suspiciously like Rammstein’s “Ich Tu Dir Weh”

And by “suspiciously like”, I mean note for fucking note.

How do you tell the difference?

How can a person say one band isn’t ripping another off, but another band is?

Influence is using a similar pattern to the person who influenced you. Homage is admitting you’re playing the same thing as another artist in a sort of tribute to them. Plagiarism is just stealing another artist’s work and calling it your own.

Papa Roach didn’t play something similar to Maiden – they played exactly the same riff as Maiden. At least 3 times. In 3 different fucking songs, 2 of them from the same album. And once you’ve hit 2 songs from the same Iron Maiden album, you’re already crossing from homage territory into copyright infringement. Especially when you give no mention or credit to maiden until you’re caught red handed in an interview, and try to pass it off as an homage.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand:

You could make a broad argument that Black Sabbath launched their career (and all of metal) through plagiarism – and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

Well, no, you’d be entirely wrong.

But seriously, metal is full of people borrowing other people’s riffs/lyrics. Just ask Iron maiden.

Global Metal Culture: The Rise of the Digital Metal Scene

The strangest thought hit me today – there are actually people alive and active in the metal scene that don’t know what it was like before the internet.

Stop and let that sink in for a minute.

(cliché reflective opening statement to blog post, check. god I’m getting good at this.)

Is the Internet the Last Major Metal Scene?

When speaking of a metal “scene”, generally people are speaking about a shared sub-cultural space where members are able to participate in the culture. For metalheads, this generally means bar and live shows. Or, at least, it used to.

With the advent of the internet, a person can completely immerse themselves in metal culture without ever physically meeting another metalhead. This isn’t without precedent – I have written previously about how metalheads had social networking before the internet. So really, the digital metal scene can be viewed as a natural evolution of the tape trading scene.

But this is a bit different. More all-encompassing. Scenes arise from the collective need for a sub-cultural space. The internet meets the needs of every metalhead, or at least allows for those needs to be met.

I’m not saying there won’t be local scenes in the future. Of course there will be, that’s the heart-blood of metal.

I AM saying there will never be another band (metal or otherwise) who gets big without the internet. Ever. So, what I AM saying is that the internet has become the largest possible metal scene – with pretty much every single metalhead on earth participating in some way, shape, or form.

The Internet Changed Everything

Metal’s Place in Society at Large

There’s a trade-off here. The best and worst thing about the digital metal scene is how easy it is to access and participate. Metal is no longer the pariah of the music world – it’s become (comparatively) safe in a cultural context.

There is always going to be metal that’s on the outside of what is considered “good taste” by the majority of Western Society – metalheads will make sure of that.

But Jesus Christ, when the President of the United States visits Finland and cracks a good-natured joke about the number of metal bands (per capita) – it’s safe to say the outsider status is gone.

So, lets take a brief look at how the digital age is affecting the unholy (hehe) trifecta of metal culture: Metal fans, metal bands, and the metal media.

How the Next Generation Experiences Metal (The Rise of Digital Metal Fans)

thumbnail_8390172479143014877

There is a generation of metalheads who, feasibly

  • never listened to heavy metal in an analog format.
  • never knew what purchasing music was like before Napster and other file sharing sites. (or torrents)
  • never had to stay up on a Sunday night to hear the ONE metal program on a radio station.
  • never had to play “album roulette”, going to a music store and finding the minuscule (if existent) metal section – and buying an album purely because it looked cool as fuck. Chances are, they won’t understand that every genre of metal has its own logo style for exactly this reason.
  • will never know what it was like to depend on ‘zines (specifically the classified section) to know what’s happening in metal.
  • have no idea what it’s like to be stereotyped by the police simply because they favor a style of music (well, maybe not as much).
  • have no fucking clue what the significance of MTV was to music in general, or why Headbanger’s Ball was such a big fucking deal.
  • have never paid 30 bucks for a CD
  • don’t have to rely on the metalhead “uniform” to find other metalheads.

This is literally a group whose experience with metal, and the metal community is so vastly different from previous generations of bangers as to seem almost alien. I think it’s funny – people have been so focused on how the internet and computers changed metal in the past few decades, that they’ve completely neglected to examine how it changed the fans (or even ask if/how it would).

Might it be logical to assume that, as their experience of metal culture is so vastly different – maybe it will change the fan base?

digital-metal

Metal Bands in the Digital Age (And the Digital Metal Bands)

Even the way new bands create and share music. Remember Job for a Cowboy? The first (and only, to my knowledge) metal band to successfully launch a major career in metal using Myspace? Fucking Myspace?!? I still remember getting messages and a friend request from the band when they were a bunch of unknown dudes from Texas.

Which brings me to deathcore. Sure, I shit on it all the time – 99% of deathcore bands are generic and boring. But if we’re being really, brutally honest here – 99% of thrash, death, and black metal bands are just as generic and boring. I write for an online magazine, and believe me – if the only good thing you can say about a band is that they have an old-school death metal/thrash/black metal sound or aesthetic – it’s a roundabout way of saying there isn’t much good you can say about the band.

Deathcore does have the distinction of being the first metal sub-genre to come to prominence through the internet. Metalcore stands kind of in between – half internet/half old-world. Djent gets a participation trophy.

metalcore

Nowadays, bands don’t need to physically amass a following to be heard – they just need access to a computer and pro-tools. Self-releases are more common than ever. In fact, record labels seem like they’re becoming almost vestigial. Bands can crowd-fund an album and write exactly what they want.

Speaking of music production – I guess the “American Metal Sound” is totally a thing now. Essentially it just means you have crystal clear production values and a “full” sound, but I’ve heard people from outside the US use this term to describe a lot of the Thrash albums that came out this year (i.e. Testament and Megadeth’s 2016 releases). Not that this is purely a deathcore related phenomenon – the New Wave of American Metal certainly influenced this as well – but I think it’s a nice change.

Sure, there’s a certain aesthetic associated with the production values of classic metal albums. But you can’t tell me you want every goddamn metal album for all eternity to sound like it was recorded inside a garbage can.

But I digress.

The Digital Metal Media

So yeah, this is the first generation who got their metal related news purely in a digital format. I mean, sure, for novelty’s sake a few people might go out and buy a physical magazine or two. But the medium is simply outdated. The only reason to get them is to act like a hipster or for genuine nostalgia.

dinosaur-metal
Dramatic Re-enactment of a “Dinosaur Metal” band

As such, a lot of the “dinosaur” metal publications were unable to get past their own bureaucracy (and mounds of paperwork) to get with the whole “information age” thing. Which isn’t really a bad thing, considering most of them got so far out of touch with the metal community. I’m really not sure how they kept going (Well, yes I am. They sold their souls and started catering to the tastes of 16-year-old girls. But that’s another topic altogether).

Interestingly enough, all the major metal news websites have conglomerated in exactly the same manner as the magazines did. Just like the old guard – they publish the exact same stories, they share writers, they cooperate on contests together. It’s a massive circle-jerk.

Lambgoat, Metalsucks, Metal Injection, Decible, theprp.com – they’re all in on it (example, they all use the blast beat network for their advertising). I guess life really does come full circle – reading these guys commentaries on metal culture is about as much fun as chewing on tinfoil (sorry, that’s an old person joke from way back in the day when they used mercury in fillings).

Capitalist bureaucracy at it’s finest, I tell you.

Metal’s Transition from Counterculture to Culture

Pretty much every metalhead who was alive and active in the scene before the internet remembers how things were. “How the internet changed metal” is a pretty popular topic to discuss in metal circles.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen or read anything discussing the logical progression of the though/sentiment. If the internet changed metal bands, metal music, and metal media – isn’t it safe to say it significantly changed the fan base?

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that metal is no longer a counterculture.

Other sites have touched on the subject, but I don’t think anyone has really gone the extra few feet to discuss the logical implications (positive, negative, and neutral) for metalheads, and metal culture in general.

It isn’t hard to find other metalheads anymore. Besides going to concerts, hanging out at bars, randomly bumping into people in the metal section of your local music store, or (if you were lucky enough) having a metalhead crowd to hang out with when you were in high school – there was a point in time when it was actually a bit difficult to find other metalheads. We used to have to rely on “the uniform” (or people with a particular look) to find each other.

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A positive aspect of this is that heads can now use visual cues other than band shirts to find one another. Facebook metal groups abound, metalheads create their own digital sub-cultural space in popular forums. I think we can all collectively agree that talking shit about Metal Sucks in the comments section of every single one of their articles is one of the purest expressions of sheer collective joy metal culture has to offer it’s adherents.

A negative aspect of this is that although it’s not hard to find metalheads, metalhead interaction on the internet will never be as satisfying as interaction in person. This doesn’t just affect metalheads, in general people fall into the trap of substituting online social interactions for face to face interactions – and this can be very unhealthy. It makes confrontation and altercation infinitely easier, and therefore more inviting. In person, confrontations are a lot less likely, and the results of a confrontation are generally a lot more amicable to both parties. So yeah, there’s that.

OK, enough of this touchy feely shit. Back to the metal.

With online participation, metalheads are better able to come to a consensus as to what constitutes a sub-genre, and what bands fall where on the heavy metal family tree. And nobody, I mean nobody, has done a better job of this than Banger Films.

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Sam Dunn and the crew up in Canada are (in my opinion, and many others judging by their popularity) revolutionizing metal –  by bringing all the little mini-cultures that constitute metal culture into one shared sub-cultural space for the express purpose of documenting and furthering metal culture as a whole.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend subscribing to their YouTube channel. Their revues are top-notch, the sub-genre episodes allow people to democratically discuss a particular section of metal in-depth and decide, democratically, on which bands fit within the categorization being discussed.

A Quick Recap

Let’s do a “Five W’s” test real quick.

What changed? Metal culture

Who changed? The three major aspects of metal culture – fans, bands, and metal media

Where did the change take place? The internet, of course.

Why did the change happen? The internet provided unprecedented access to metal culture, allowing for a universal allocation of sub-cultural space regardless of geographic location.

When did the change take place? It’s still happening, arguably it came to a head in 2000 with the Metallica/Napster dispute.

Conclusion(s)

I would argue that the internet is not just a logical progression of metal culture – it’s the logical conclusion of metal culture. 

When I say logical conclusion – I don’t mean that metal culture will be ending because of the internet. I mean that in terms of progress, it’s impossible for metal culture to move PAST the internet.

Tape Trading? You don’t have to peruse metal magazines and write letters, waiting on the postal service. New metal is literally at your fingertips 24/7.

Meeting new metal fans? Until there is a cultural space for social connections more efficient and all-encompassing than Facebook – there will never be a faster, easier way to meet and interact with other metalheads.

Metal news? Instead of waiting for magazines, we find out what’s happening in the metal universe almost in real-time. It’s just not possible to find things out any faster.

Metal bands don’t need to jockey for positions to be heard by major labels anymore – in fact, it’s (theoretically) possible for a band to gain mass popularity almost exclusively through social media (i.e. Job for a Cowboy, Vulvodynia, etc.).

Integration into greater culture? As much as is humanly possible – I don’t see people getting arrested for wearing metal shirts or being sent to camps for “de-metalizing” (a la the PMRC days of the 1980’s).

heavy metalistsMaybe the police will stop using pictures like this in training manuals? 

School shootings might still be blamed on metalheads now and then, but since the culture has become more visible (due to the internet) I think that’s a lot less likely. Occasional hate crimes against metalheads? Yeah, probably still a thing – anyone who looks “different” is going to be a target by small-minded clusters of mouth-breathers. With the “metal look” as big as it is right now in popular culture, I would even predict that sort of thing is on the decline.

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In other words, because of how convenient and efficient a tool the internet has turned out to be – I believe the final frontier of heavy metal (the music and it’s culture) has been reached.

It’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing.

It’s just a fucking thing.

Phil Anselmo Speaks With Eddie Trunk on Racism, Social Justice Warriors, Robb Flynn, and PC “gotcha” Culture

Phil Anselmo has taken a lot of shit in the past year over the alleged “white power” incident at Dimebash. Internet Social Justice Warriors jumped all over it, condemning him and riding the wave of publicity to further their own agenda and public appearance.

On one hand, I kind of get where people are coming from. Once someone throws the racist label at you, it has a tendency to stick (as Mr. Anselmo has discovered through the years). On the other hand, if metal culture is really a brotherhood – where the fuck is the benefit of the doubt? Where are all the people standing up for a brother getting unfairly slandered?

Thank god Eddie Trunk (and a few other internet media sources) have given Phil the chance to air his side of the story. You can watch the interview on Trunk’s radio show.

Every fucking word this man put out is something I’ve expressed at some point on this blog. Everything I said on my initial article about the “Dimebash Incident”, my sentiments on Virtue Signaling and Social Justice Warriors in Metal, Robb Flynn and his ulterior motives throwing Phil under the bus, fucking all of it.

It makes me wonder if he’s a fan of Metal Stuff. That would be the fucking coolest.

(Phil, if by some fucking long shot you’re reading this, you’re the fucking man!).

Metal Stuff’s 2016 Review: The Year in Metal

2015-2016 has been an unprecidentedly good time for metal. We’re in the middle of a “metal bubble”, the market is saturated with excellent material. Not sure how long it’ll last, but (seeing as there isn’t anything really incredible slated to release in December) I thought it would be a good time to sum up Metal Stuff’s best releases and biggest dissapointments in metal: 2016 Edition.

Metal Stuff’s “Top  15” Best Releases of 2016

15) Vivaldi Metal Project – The Four Seasons

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This one hit me out of nowhere. I saw something about the release of the album on facebook, checked it out, and BAM. Blown away. Probably one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve experienced this year.

It’s an all-star lineup of metal musicians in a modern (and metallic) interpretation of Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpiece “The Four Seasons”. And by All-Star I mean they have members of Symphony X, Testament, Unleash the Archers, The Scorpions, Helloween, Within Temptation, Stratovarious, Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Soilwork, and a whole fuckload more.

I really can’t say enough good things about these guys, this is a piece I would reccomend to metalheads, fans of classical music, and just about evreyone inbetween.

14) Scorched – Echoes of Dismemberment

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I first heard this album through my side gig doing reviews for Hard Attack Magazine.  No bells, no whistles, no frills. Just excellent (old school style) death metal with horror b-movie samples. If you’re into old school death metal – be sure to pick up a copy.

13) Rob Zombie – The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser

zombie-electric-warlock

Have to admit, I was pretty eagerly anticipating this album. I participated in the crowdfunding effot they put forth to make the album happen, I went and saw them live twice in the year leading up to it’s release. And I wasn’t dissapointed one bit.

This is easily his best work since “Hellbilly Delux”, and while he hasn’t completly strayed from the hard rock sound, the band certainly went in a more metallic direction. This is the first album the band’s put out in years that I can listen to from start to finish without skipping a single track. If you’re a Zombie fan, you won’t be dissapointed.

12) Blasphemer – Ritual Theophagy

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Kick ass album, read my full review here. Brutal Italian tech death that doesn’t sacrifice on the low end (or become riff-salad). Very highly recommended, this album melts faces.

 

11) Insomnium – Winter’s Gate

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Sooooooo fucking good. Adding layers of atmosphere to melodic death metal seems like a pretty big risk, but these guys took it and the result was (in this author’s humble opinion) a huge fucking success. I would go so far as to say this is the Melo-Death version of the album Opeth should have released. I’ve always liked the band, but they were never really at the forefront of my musical collection. This album changed that a bit, I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys now for sure.

Proggy and ambient, while still managing to retain the soul of melodic death metal – I highly recommend this album to anyone who will listen. And a few people who won’t.

10) The Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence

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I’ve been a fan of Devin Townsend’s work for over a decade now, but I had never given this side-project of his a listen before this year. And I’m glad I finally did, the man’s a fucking genius. His mix of electronic/ambient music and metal is flawless. Transcendence is a fucking masterpiece from start to finish.

9) Anciients – Voice of the Void

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This album was another pleasant surprise for me in 2016. They ran an (apparently) successful Facebook advertising campaign for months before the album released – so when it dropped that whole “name brand recognition” thing they talk about in advertising took effect. I checked them out just to see, and boy am I glad I did.

Excellent prog metal that ranges from melancholy to borderline brutal, with cleans and screams for days. I’ll be adding this album to my vinyl collection shortly after the holiday season ends (when I actually have money again).

These guys fucking rule.

8) Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason

meshuggah-the-violent-sleep-of-reason

This one was no surprise, I’ve been listening to these guys for about 2 decades now (since Destroy, Erase, Improve was released in 1995).

I have to admit, I was nervous about this one. I’m not a huge fan of Koloss or Catch 33, and I thought there was a good chance they’d continue in the “artsy” direction of concept albums and slow songs. Boy was I wrong, this is a return to Chaosphere-level heaviness.

I think some of their marketing strategies were a little campy (a delux edition of the album that includes a vinyl mask?), but as far as I’m concerned this album was pure fucking gold.

7) Saor – Guardians

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Admittedly, I have some very strong (and sometimes conflicting) opinions when it comes to the style of black metal known as “post black metal”. I’m hesitant to embrace “post” anything, and (at least in the US) the post-black metal scene is nothing but a bunch of whiny hipsters aping black metal music to seem edgy, when in reality all they’re doing is playing shitty alt-rock with a few black metal elements thrown in.

Saor, to me, embodies the exact opposite of this. It’s a solo project hailing from Scotland, and let me tell you this guy is a fucking artist. He’s the real deal, and a wicked cool guy to boot. He nails the black metal aesthetic and combines it with traditional celtic instruments to create soundscapes that are melancholy and ambient, without sacrificing some of the pure fucking rage at the heart of real black metal.

This guy is pretty much single-handedly responsible for making me redefine what I consider “heavy music”. Nothing but good things to say about this band, and this album simply cements him as a consistently solid and groundbreaking artist.

6) Wormed – Krighsu

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This album will rip you a new asshole. Then it will rip your new asshole a new asshole. I think you can see where I’m going with this. By the end of the album you’ll be shitting yourself out of your asshole’s asshole’s asshole.

This album doesn’t let up for a goddamn second. Full on brutal tech-death. Who the fuck knew Spain could produce (basically) the perfect death metal band? Holy fuckshit. I want to buy two copies of this album – one to listen to and the other to leave unopened for posterity. I’ll be telling my fucking grandchildren about how brutal these guys are.

So fucking good.

5) Infant Annihilator – The Elysian Grandeval Galèriarch

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Yo dawg, I heard you like blastbeats. So we put blastbeats on your blastbeats.

In all seriousness, no human on earth has any business playing as fast as the drummer does. This British teen duo actually makes deathcore tolerable. Scratch that, enjoyable. Not quite as good as their first album, but still one of the best albums this year.

4) Fallujah – Dreamless

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Not going to front like I’m some O.G. who’s been listening to them since “Harvest Wombs” – I came across this band by chance right after their previous album, “The Flesh Prevails”, was released. I was just surfing YouTube and liked the album artwork (Totally a valid way of finding new music, it’s scary how good YouTube has become in recommending things you might like). I didn’t listen to anything else for a week, and turned a few of my coworkers on to the band.

When I heard they were releasing a new album I was super fucking stoked, and I wasn’t dissapointed. Every track is pure fire, and I still listen to this album at least once a week. I love the fact that they retained the ambient/brutal sound while making sure that each album has it’s own unique sound, atmosphere, and identity. Easily one of my favorite bands period.

3) Sabaton – The Last Stand

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I’ve been a fan of this band since I was street teaming for Nuclear Blast pre-2006, and I have to admit I find it pleasantly odd/surprising that a band I’ve listened to for years is becoming as popular as they are. Sabaton is easily the fastest rising band in metal, and they deserve it. These guys are relentless road dogs, with a solid live show. The fact that you learn more about history from a Sabaton show than you do in an entire year of public school in America is just the icing on the cake.

Plus, they wrote a song about the Scottish battle of Bannockburn (that pays tribute to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce) – what’s not to love?

2) Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign

dark-funeral-album

These guys are hands down my favorite black metal band. Every album they release is consistent while remaining stylistically fresh and distinct. “Where Shadows Forever Reign” is, in my opinion, their best material to date – and they’re gaining a lot of well deserved international attention because of it. This includes their fair share of controversy – earlier this year they garnered a lot of attention due to members of a local Romanian government announcing they would allow a church-based political group to vet which bands would be allowed to play in the area (in direct violation of the Romanian constitution). This was a direct response to Dark Funeral’s show at Bucovina Rock Castle.

I don’t think a lot of people realize that bands like Dark Funeral and Behemoth are bastions of free speech in that part of Europe, as many Eastern European countries are firmly in the grip of a very conservative church (the Russian Orthodox Church, especially, seems to be radically motivated against heavy metal music).

Even without all the controversy – this is a solid fucking album that I listen to with some regularity. Lord Ahriman is a fucking musical genius.

1) Testament – Brotherhood of the Snake

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Easily the best album release this year. Probably the one I anticipated the most, my full review of the album can be found here. Heavy metal isn’t a contest, but if it was Testament would be winning. I’ll just sum my thoughts on this album up from the first paragraph of my review;

“The “Thrash Revival” has been in full effect since 2015 – it seems like every major player from the Bay Area Thrash scene is back in the studio pumping out the jams. Testament stands out among these giants – delivering, hands down, the best Thrash release of 2016. In fact, I think ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ deserves a nomination for the best metal album of 2016, period. Considering how good ‘Dark Roots of the Earth’ was, I had high hopes for Testament’s new album. Brotherhood of the Snake not only met my expectations – it exceeded them (and then some)!”

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Abbath – Abbath (huge fan of the guy, not as good as his work in Immortal)
  • Megadeth – Dystopia (This album made me a fan of Megadeth)
  • Fleshgod Apocalypse – King (Criminally underrated band, excellent release)
  • Rotting Christ – Rituals (Not their best work, but really quite good)
  • Killswitch Engage – Incarnate (Second album with Jesse Leach back on vocals, fantastic album!)
  • Otep – Generation Doom (has a few good songs, but has some stiff competition this year for best album)
  • Aborted – Retrogore (these guys never put out a bad album)
  • Hatebreed – Concrete Confessional (If you’ve heard one Hatebreed album you’ve heard all of them – good but not great)
  • Dead by Wednesday – The Darkest of Angels (Love these guys – from the same scene as Shadows Fall)
  • Death Angel – The Evil Divide (excellent and diverse Thrash album)
  • Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us (Quite the pleasant surprise this year)
  • Be’lakor – Vessels (Good melodeath, if a little bit stereotypical of the genre)
  • Brain Drill – Boundless Obscenity (Jesus Christ, so good)
  • Despised Icon – Beast (Triumphant return of a deathcore band that doesn’t suck)
  • Running Wild – Rapid Foray (These guys are legend)
  • Sodom – Decision Day (German Thrash, awesome album)
  • Vader – The Empire (Pure gold)
  • Starkill – Shadow Sleep (I helped crowdfund the album, was not disappointed one bit)
  • In Flames – Battles (Had a few good songs, better than their last album)
  • Metallica – Hardwired to Self Destruct (They set the bar so low for the past 30 years that even a sub-par thrash album is praise worthy)
  • Avantasia – Ghostlights (just good fun!)
  • Anthrax – For all Kings (hooray for thrash revival!)
  • Entombed A.D. – Dead Dawn (death’n’roll done right)
  • Lacuna Coil – Delirium (Surprisingly good)
  • Gojira – Magma (Good, but not my favorite)
  • Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (Awesome album, but not quite good enough to make my top 15)

 

Metal Stuff’s Biggest Disappointments in Metal, 2016 edition

Devildriver – Trust No One

devildriver-trust-no-one

Considering the lineup changes DevilDriver went through in 2015, I tried to give this album a little wiggle room when criticizing it. 2 guitarists, no bassist, half the band is green. They didn’t really have time to get together and synchronize as a band – this album sound to me like a record company rushed them to meet a deadline. It’s not bad, but to call it anything other than a disappointment would be disingenuous. I hold DevilDriver to a pretty high standard – Dez is a goddamn genius as far as metal is concerned. I hope their next album will be a little better.

Robb Flynn

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This fucking guy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Machine Head – and their album from last year (Bloodstone and Diamonds) was fucking excellent. I just can’t take Robb Flynn seriously. He’s a fucking attention whore who tries to stay socially relevant and apes Corey Taylor to do so. He’s an mildly successful social chameleon at best, and an overreacting turncoat bitch at the worst. His treatment of Phil Anselmo in the media was fucking horrid.

Avatar – Feathers and Flesh

avatar_feathersflesh_cover

Maybe I was hoping for “Hail the Apocalypse Part II”, but this album fell flat for me. Which sucks, because they’re a very cool band who’s been underrated for the majority of their career. This album just didn’t clique for me, there wasn’t one song I can honestly say I enjoyed – just a massive disappointment.

Solution .45 – Nightmares in the Waking State II

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I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album just didn’t feel right to me. Like, maybe it was a bit too rushed or under-produced. Which sucks, because Christian Älvestam is my favorite metal vocalist – the guy’s easily the hardest working man in metal and super talented. From Scar Symmetry to Svavelvinter, Torchbearer, Miseration, Quest of Aidence, and all the fucking songs he’s lent vocals to – this guy is the fucking man. He shits excellence, except this album. I feel like he should have spent a little longer perfecting the songs, and not rushing to release a double album.

Whitechapel – Mark of the Blade

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It’s sad to see a halfway decent band on the downswing of their career. They tried to stay relevant by releasing a song bashing “metal elitists”, and ironically that’s what seems to have tanked their career. Maybe the elitist ones were correct.

Chelsea Grin – Self Inflicted

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Bands like this are the reason I despise Deathcore. They have one tolerable album, and if I’m completely honest it’s only 50% tolerable (the first half).

Steel Panther

I’d rather let this speak for itself.

Sumerian Records

From every single band on their roster, to the act of completely selling out the image of the Summer Slaughter tour to sell a movie starring the lead singer of the Blackveil Brides, the continued existence of Sumerian Records bothers me. Apparently, in the metal scene money = credibility in some circles. Puke.

Hipsters and Social Justice Warriors

I don’t make it a secret that I fucking hate hipsters. They seem to have the innate ability to ruin anything. I can’t wait till hipster metal is no longer a thing.

Opeth – Sorceress

opeth_sorceress_promocover_revised

I respect when an artist or band wants to branch out, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Opeth has earned the right to do whatever the fuck they want, but that won’t stop me from getting my hopes up (and consequently having them dashed on a rock to the point of near death) every single time they get ready to release a new album. The band even signed to Nuclear Blast and were allegedly down-tuning for the record. I was so hyped. I heard the first single, “Sorceress” – SO EXCITED! Then the album dropped, and what transpired afterwards can only be referred to as one of my biggest disappointments of 2016. Fucking artsy prog from a band that had (at it’s peak) some of the best fucking death metal vocals ever.

The Dio Hologram

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Christ, stop capitalizing on the metal god. For fucks sake, he’s dead. Let him rest. It sounds cool, but I really dislike the idea.

As opposed to the Lemmy hologram at the Rainbow that randomly offers you cocaine and compliments your appearance when you walk by. That’s probably the most fitting tribute ever.

So, that’s about it for 2016 in metal.

Behemoth’s Poznan Concert a Major Victory for Free Speech in Poland

Metal culture is a global phenomenon that generally transcends nationalistic borders, and as an American Metalhead I like to stay as informed as possible about global attitudes and trends regarding heavy metal.

For example, I’ve written on the illegal promise of a local government to allow the Roman Orthodox Church in Romania to “approve” what bands are allowed to play in the country. This promise was in direct violation of Romania’s constitution – and the government’s silence is the equivalent of supporting this sort of discrimination. Not OK. And small decisions like this have greater cultural implications – if you allow a non-governmental entity to determine governmental policy (including disbursement of public funds), you’re allowing that non-governmental group to make governmental decisions

This is where a recent political decision from Poland comes into play. Since roughly 2007, religion-based political groups have been petitioning the Polish government to ban a list of musical groups they deem satanic from playing in the country. This list included Polish natives Behemoth.

Around the same time, Behemoth front-man Nergal controversially destroyed a bible onstage during a show, and criminal charges were filed against him (I think it’s safe to say there’s no love lost between Polish religious groups and Behemoth). The ensuing court cases stretched over a number of years (until around 2012 I believe), and the last I checked he was acquitted. No surprise – after all, he’s kind of a big deal in Poland.

Then in 2014, a scheduled show in Poznan, Poland was cancelled due to vague “safety concerns”. Nergal rightfully called out the actions of those in power for what they were – political maneuvering to placate religious fundamentalists while avoiding controversy. Article 73 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland guarantees freedom of artistic creation and scientific research, as well as free access to cultural goods. The real violation of civil rights was not perpetrated by Behemoth, but by the church against the band and their fans.

protestors

Enter 2016 -Bogdan Freytag, chairman of the religious protest group “Faithful Poland”, petitioned Poznan’s Mayor (Jack Jaśkowiak) in the hopes of preventing Behemoth from playing yet again. Considering the incredible amount of legal power these religious groups have wielded against the band, I feel it was a bold move in the right direction for the president of the country to allow the concert to happen. Behemoth seems to think so too.

freedom-in-art

At this point you might be asking yourself, “Why is this important?” Well, simply put, it sets an example for other countries in Eastern Europe in favor of free speech, even if that speech offends the church. Which (from what I gather) is a concept that hasn’t fully taken hold in the area.

Essentially, Poland has done exactly what Romania should have done. Because if you look closely, there’s a pattern here – religious groups exercising their constitutional rights in a country for the express purpose of denying those same rights to a large segment of the population. It happened in Poland in 2007, and it took almost a decade to undo the damage. That’s why it’s important to put a spotlight on small local governments making seemingly innocuous concessions to religious groups (or any protest groups) – because those decisions set a legal precedent with far reaching legal implications.

So, in the greater scheme of things – Behemoth’s ability to finally play in Poland is a victory for free speech (and metal).

Heavy Metal and Christianity

All human social groups share certain characteristics – on a micro level (individual interactions) and on a macro level (large-scale group dynamics). For the purposes of this article, I could choose any large social group in the world – religious or otherwise. I chose to use Christianity for two reasons.

First, the rather tenuous relationship between Metal Culture and Christianity since February 13th, 1970, when Black Sabbath released their first album.

Second – heavy metal collectively has the largest and most loyal global fanbase of any style of music (at least according to statistics released by music streaming service Spotify). Considering Christianity has the largest following of any religion on earth, they’re probably the best point of comparison (i.e. the largest faith based and entertainment based communities in the world). And you might be shocked at the number of similarities between the two.

Please keep in mind this is an observational piece, and is by no means all-encompassing. On to the discussion.

Similarities:

Both are large-scale global “bricolage” cultures

Metal and Christianity are global phenomenons, with legions of dedicated fans/followers on every populated continent. Christianity and Heavy Metal transcend language and culture, as well as economic barriers.

Christianity broke off/fractured from it’s parent culture (Judaism) when the population base reached a critical mass. It later fractured into distinct branches (Orthodox, Catholic, then Protestant with Martin Luther), which have continued to splinter into smaller sub-groups. The sheer number of different denominations is staggering, but all of them fall under the larger umbrella term of Christianity.

Metal broke off/fractured from it’s parent culture (Rock and Roll) when the fan base reached a similar critical mass. It later fractured into two distinct branches (Mainstream and Underground/Extreme), which have continued to splinter into smaller sub-genres. The sheer number of different sub-genres is staggering, but all of them fall under the larger umbrella term of Heavy Metal.

Both Share Similar Spectrums of Adherence

In both Christian and Metal cultural groups there are spectrums of adherence that range from exclusive to inclusive (and everything inbetween). This is a natural occurrence – because as the population of a group increases, so does the number of different opinions within that group.

A good example would be the “real” or “true” member debates. Within Christianity, there is an ongoing discussion in terms of what constitutes a “real” or “true” Christian. A parallel can be seen in the whole “real” or “true” metalheads v.s. posers discussion. in other words, both cultures have their fair share of “infighting” over multiple definitions of adherence.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Why do we need all these subgenres? Why can’t we just call it all metal like we used to?” or something similar? Spend enough time on metal forums, Facebook groups, or with metalheads in general and you might notice it’s a rather common topic of discussion.

Interestingly enough, when discussing the relative diversity of Christianity with Christians I’ve heard similar sentiments (We don’t need all these different denominations/I don’t know why we can’t just call it all Christianity).

There is some merit to these arguments, because all sub-genres and scenes fall under the greater spectrum of Heavy Metal just like all protestant and catholic denominations fall under the greater spectrum of Christianity. So, they’re accurate – just not very specific.

Both are Historically Male-Dominated Cultures

Considering both Christian and Heavy Metal culture are derivatives of Western Culture (which is mostly male dominated) this shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

There is a major difference here though – Christianity was systematically set up to exclude women from positions of power pretty much since it’s inception. A good example of that would be the taboo against female priests/pastors. Metal, however, is masculinist (as opposed to patriarchal).

So, while both social systems formed with predominantly male influence – in this instance the difference is a huge one. Within the church’s social structure – rules have to be changed to allow women to serve the culture in major roles such as a priest or pastor.

Heavy metal has no such restrictions. A women entering the metal scene simply has to navigate social norms that are traditionally considered to be masculine (I’m talking about the scene here, not the industry. All Western industry is patriarchal). The proof is in the pudding here, while the two systems may seem comparable, the end result(s) of the respective social structures for different genders can clearly be seen and differentiated.

Both Christianity and Heavy Metal Have Radical “Fringe Groups”

Both Christianity and Metal Culture have a few skeletons in the closet. Heavy Metal has such gems as National Socialist Black Metal and Hatecore (technically punk, like all of the “-core” derivations, but included here because of hardcore’s association with metal), while Christianity boasts the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and other Christian Identity groups.

“Fringe” hate groups in Metal

“Fringe” hate groups in Christianity

These fringe groups aren’t just about racism, anti-abortion violence in the United States and abroad generally has Christian undertones. And Heavy Metal has it’s own share of isolated, hate-filled violence. From the infamous church burnings and murders to instances of torture, it’s safe to say there are a few very seriously disturbed individuals on the fringes of the scene.

In both instances, the major block of the respective cultures renounce the violence of the fringe groups – but these events are so violent and atrocious it’s hard to separate them completely.

Both Have a “Ritual” Component

Sociologically speaking, a metal concert could be considered a ritual experience. Rituals aren’t limited to religious expression – for instance, shaking a person’s hand as a greeting is a common social ritual.

The metal concert is a ritual of heavy metal culture worldwide. Individual customs may vary based on location, for instance in the United States it’s generally considered taboo to wear the shirt of the band you’re going to see at a show (unless it’s a tour shirt purchased at the concert). However, in other areas of the globe this isn’t necessarily the case. Also, someone not familiar with the incredible variance of metal culture might not recognize that a Black Sabbath show and a Cannibal Corpse show are both considered to fall in the general realm of metal shows.

Likewise, a church sermon is a ritual of Christian culture worldwide. Traditions in American churches might seem foreign to those in Europe or elsewhere. Snake-handling is a tradition of some churches in the southern United States, while the custom wouldn’t be recognized anywhere else in the world. Someone not familiar with the relative diversity of Christianity might not recognize that a Russian Orthodox service and a Southern Baptist service both fall in the general realm of Christian ritual.

And in both cases, the end result of a successful “ritual” is the same – they solidify social bonds between participants.

Both Utilize an Atmosphere of Persecution to Solidify Their Respective Bases

This one’s kind of interesting – as both Heavy Metal and Christianity have a history of persecution. In fact, considering the universal symbol of Christianity is an instrument of torture used against the founder (the cross), one could argue that Christianity is based on a mindset of persecution. Likewise, the founder of heavy metal (Ozzy, through Black Sabbath) was publicly persecuted (granted, he wasn’t tortured and killed – once of the nice things about 2,000 years of cultural advancements, as an accusation of blasphemy has certainly led to public execution historically), most notably in his Suicide Solution trial in the 80’s.

Funny thing about a culture of persecution – it tends to solidify social bonds of the persecuted group and lend a universal sense of purpose through opposition of the invisible “other”. Metal bands and Priests/Pastors alike take advantage of this social mechanism rather liberally. I’m not saying it isn’t for good reason, in certain parts of the world Christians and Metalheads certainly are persecuted – and generally for the same reason. Because they both represent the spread of Western Culture in an area. Bearing this in mind, the tension between metal and christian cultures can be viewed in a different light.

Now, by definition these two groups aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be a christian (or a member of any other faith) and still be a metalhead. So, why is it that so many christian groups are against heavy metal? And why are so many metal artists and fans so vehemently against the christian church?

Short answer – on a macro level they’re after the same thing… membership. They might phrase it differently – Christianity generally says it’s around to “save people’s eternal souls”, while metal is generally there to “free people’s minds” and “promote individual thought”. But at the end of the day, the results are the same. A church saving a person’s soul generally implies participation in christian culture, and by inference the spread of that culture. Likewise, heavy metal grabbing a person’s attention and getting them to think for themselves usually includes participation and perpetuation of metal culture.

They Both Utilize Horror Themes

At first glance, this might seem ridiculous. But if you really break down the components of “Hellfire Preaching” and compare them to death metal lyrics, you’re likely to find a common denominator in horror themes.

In both instances, this is a manifestation of a culture catering to the morbid interests of their bases. Because at the end of the day, there isn’t that much difference between talking about people being tortured eternally in hell and singing about torture in any other medium. In this light heavy metal and hellfire sermons can both be viewed as extensions of horror themed entertainment. Because let’s face it, people like to be scared.

Also, there’s this.

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Women, Violence, Sexism, and Metal

 

Introduction

I’d like to start this by saying  that I do not believe that there is an inherent bias towards or against female listeners or performers in metal culture. I think that there is a gender gap/dynamic, but this is only a problem in as much as the gender demographics relate to music in general.

I’ve never heard anyone complain about the fact that pop artists discriminate against males by catering to a predominantly female audience.When’s the last time you read about misandry in a music scene? Or are songs about killing men and hiding their bodies, or committing felonious acts against personal property of men? Because country music has both of those – “Goodbye Earl” and “Before He Cheats”, respectively. Or how about just google searching “songs that bash men“?

I’m not saying “oh, poor men. we’re so oppressed” or anything of the sort. I’m saying that the people who cry misogyny  are just looking for an excuse to bash metal in the never-ending quest for political correctness. Or, at best, they’re looking at a small fraction of metal and spinning it to paint it in a negative context without taking time to understand the half century of culture surrounding the music (which, like with anything, provides the necessary context to bring clarity to the subject). Either way, it’s a ridiculous double standard – coming from people who say they’re trying to end double standards, I consider it hypocrisy at it’s best/worst.

Violence/Disturbing Material in Metal Lyrics

First and foremost – of fucking course there’s violence in metal lyrics. It’s aggressive music. If they were singing about love/flowers/hippie shit it wouldn’t work. Nobody ever accused Johnny Cash of inciting people to violence when he wrote “Folsom Prison Blues” – and he sings about shooting a man just to watch him die.

The Beatles wrote “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” about a fictional character who kills people with a fucking hammer – granted they were a tad less graphic than, say, Cannibal Corpse’s song “Hammer Smashed Face”. But at the end of the day, they were singing about the same thing – fictional characters murdering people with fucking hammers. Oddly enough, you don’t really hear anyone saying “oh, shame on the Beatles”.

The Rolling Stones can sing a song about having sex with a dead man and people flock to see them – but when Slayer writes a song called “Necrophiliac” people get all up in arms about it.

These examples are being used to illustrate a greater point – in metal music, there are going to be songs about violence against women (and disturbing subject matter in general). Taken at face value, this seems like something to rally against. But it’s not advocating violence against specific women (or women in general), and (I would argue) there are more metal songs with lyrical content dealing with violence against men. As a matter of fact, there’s probably a metal song about violence against everything on earth it’s possible to commit an act of violence against. So, women aren’t being exclusively singled out here – metal is an equal opportunity genre when it comes to violent lyrics.

So, I can certainly see why a girl might feel a bit odd singing along with a Cannibal Corpse song like “Fucked with a Knife” – I totally fucking get it. But, like anyone who’s familiar with the music, I think it’s safe to say she should know these songs aren’t about her. I’ll take it one further – there has never been a Cannibal Corpse fan (in the history of ever) who has committed acts of violence against women as laid out in a Cannibal Corpse song. Quite the opposite, the reason the lyrics work in context of the music is because the audience members (male and female) find them disturbing.

Are there people who are fucked in the head and claim inspiration from music to commit atrocities? Sure. The best example I can think of is the Helter Skelter murders. And Helter Skelter is a song about a fucking slide in England. However, almost 50 years after the Tate/LaBianca murders, I don’t think a single person in their right mind would say that the Beatles should have been silenced (or the White Album banned).

Discrimination Against Women in Metal Culture

Now, this is a topic I think warrants a bit more discussion. People who participate in the metal subculture don’t exist in a vacuum – the very name “subculture” means it’s a piece of a larger culture. As such, it’s good to keep this in mind when you’re discussing a topic like the treatment of women. I’m not making excuses for the prevalence of misogynist material in metal (extreme metal in particular), I’m saying that if you cherry-pick an argument it doesn’t deserve serious consideration.

Now, in metal academia it was first observed/stated by Deena Weinstein ( a female sociologist from outside the metal scene)in her book, “Heavy Metal: The Music and it’s Culture” that heavy metal culture formed around groups of men shortly after the fracturing of “hippie” culture. The fanbase already existed, and it was predominantly working class white males in Western industrial countries (the US and UK). And as it was a culture that formed and “normed” around this particular group, it’s natural that certain subjects, behaviors, etc that appeal exclusively to this group would be incorporated into the culture.

This includes (but isn’t limited to) styles of clothing and behavior within the cultural setting. Considering the fact that metal culture started increasing at the same time as the feminist movement was gaining social momentum in the United States (also observed by Weinstein in her book) – it can be viewed as a reactionary movement in the sense that it is a space where masculine qualities are socially acceptable.

In the words of Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour)

“heavy metal is the last bastion of real rebellion, real masculinity, real men basically getting together and beating their chests”

 

Now, I don’t think that anyone would argue that Heavy Metal is anything but masculinist (at least in terms of gender dynamics). But is Masculinist the same thing as misogynistic? Quite simply, the answer is no. Celebrating and encouraging patterns of behavior and social norms that have been denoted as masculine does not in any way, shape, or form promote a dislike of the feminine. Quite the opposite, I would argue that an appreciation of the feminine is an inherent part of traditional masculinity. And any attempt to correlate or confuse the two terms is quite simply yellow journalism – sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism.

On Discrimination Against Female Metal Artists and Fans

At face value, this seems like one of the stronger arguments that there is a good deal of discrimination in metal culture. There is certainly a notable gender gap when it comes to the proportion of male v.s. female metal artists. Just like the fanbase, the pool of metal artists is predominantly male. And as you traverse the spectrum of music from mainstream into extreme metal – the gap gets considerably larger.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to this – I would argue that the main factor is that metal music appeals to men as a demographic significantly more than it does to women. This isn’t groundbreaking or cause for alarm – as I mentioned before, there are plenty of musical markets and cultures that appeal almost exclusively to a female demographic. I have yet to see an article accusing Adele of hating men because her fanbase is predominantly female. In fact, it makes perfect sense that a woman who makes music that deals with feminine attitudes and issues and presents a very effeminate sonic format would appeal to women. Almost as much sense as music that deals with predominantly male attitudes, made by predominantly male artists, in a masculine sonic format will appeal to a predominantly male audience. Hmmmm….

And the biggest (or most visible) critics of masculine metal culture have no fucking clue about the music. For example, this article in the Houston Press was written by a girl who obviously isn’t very familiar with metal culture beyond dipping her toes in the mainstream. Articles like this couldn’t be further from the truth, and are reflective of a general trend among hipster “Social Justice Warriors” to see a problem where there isn’t one. For every woman who fails to gain popularity in the metal scene – there are probably 50-100 guys who fail as well. And it’s not because of what’s between their legs – it’s because their music probably sucks.

If she really wants to get mad about a legitimate problem – how about talking about living in a culture that denotes a possession/love of power with masculinity. Because that, more than anything, is the argument behind why there is so little female participation in metal. Heavy Metal is a music and culture that celebrate power in various forms.

Now – I’ve heard the argument that female metal artists have to (essentially) dress like sluts/groupies to get any attention in the metal community. I can think of a few women who break that mold…

As a matter of fact – the girls in Arch Enemy, Eluveitie, Unleash the Archers, Huntress, Kittie, Otep, The Agonist, Kittie (the list could go on all day) prove exactly the opposite is true. In fact, I would argue that women in metal have a LOT more credibility if they dress like fucking metalheads.

Now, let’s take a look at a few bands who perpetuate the “sex kitten” stereotype in metal.

Bands like “The Butcher Babies” and “In This Moment” certainly make it look like women have to use sex to make it big in the metal world. But, I would argue that they lack a certain degree of respect specifically because they do this. Sex obviously sells across genders, it’s kind of a mainstream “I win” button when it comes to selling albums. It’s what pop stars (and stars from every other mainstream genre) do, and quite frankly I consider the practice utter filth. So, this isn’t a problem with JUST metal – this is a problem in the record industry in general that translates to metal (as it relates to the music industry). So don’t blame fucking metal and it’s fanbase for a broader cultural problem.

I can’t think of a single metalhead male I’ve ever met who thinks that these acts (Butcher Babies, In This Moment, etc) are anything even close to credible – and they most likely wouldn’t buy their music. Not because they’re women in metal, because they’re women who are degrading themselves in metal to make a few bucks. If they had the musical talent necessary to make it in metal, skimpy clothing wouldn’t even be on the table. There’s a reason Doro is a fucking legend in metal – because she didn’t compromise herself.

So, we can kind of see a pattern here – the only female metalheads who use sex appeal over talent are the more mainstream bands. And I have a big problem with this. Not because I dislike the thought of women using any tools at their disposal to make it big – that’s fucking awesome. Not because I don’t like scantily clad women – because I fucking love that shit. I have a problem with it because mainstream metal is the gateway for people to get into some of the harder, underground stuff. And if the first thing girls see is a bunch of scantily clad female metal artists, they’re going think this is the way they need to dress when they go to a metal show.

Why it’s Good to Pay Attention to What You’re Wearing at a Metal Show

Now, there’s nothing wrong with women wearing scant clothing at a show. But, it’s good to keep in mind that there’s already a culture of women who go to shows in sexy clothing. They’re called groupies. And within groupie culture, dressing in a certain way signals that these girls are there specifically to try and have sex with the band. Not in a “they’re being taken advantage of” or a “this is the only way women can participate in the culture” sort of way. In an empowering, these girls are exactly where they want to be doing exactly what they want to do sort of way.

However, this does present a cultural problem. Girls that emulate a mainstream metal female (and decide to dress in a promiscuous fashion) are probably going to be mistaken as a groupie. Not because all men are pigs, but because their fellow females have participated in creating a groupie culture within metal and hard rock. A culture that’s so ingrained that there are typically three types of backstage passes – one for people who have paid, one for women who have performed sexual favors for the road crew, and one for women who have been selected to come backstage and have a chance at performing sexual favors for the band(s).

This isn’t based on any science – just simple observation. A very liberal estimate puts the ratio of guys to girls at a metal show at roughly 9/1. Meaning at least 90% of the crowd in at any given metal show is male. And out of the 10% that’s female, you’ve got enough groupies and tag-along girlfriends who don’t even really listen to metal where a certain amount of stereotyping is just going to happen.

Now, these numbers are changing (thank god, a few women certainly bring a breath of fresh air into the sausage party that is a metal show) – but the only real way to get rid of these negative stereotypes is for girls to go to metal shows. Not just as a tag-along girlfriend (there’s nothing wrong with this, but there’s a reason that stereotype exists), and not just to dress promiscuously with the hopes of hooking up with either the band or someone in the audience. The more genuine female metalheads there are at shows, the more that stereotype will disappear.

im-with-the-band-pamela-des-barrescover of “I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie”

And when I say “genuine female metalheads”, I mean girls who are fans of the music, participate in the culture, and are not there for the express purpose of finding a sexual partner. And unless you’re willing to dis-empower groupies, this is probably going to always be the case. Can groupies be genuine metal fans? Sure. Will they ever be viewed as anything other than a sex object by the majority of metal fans? Probably not – seeing as sex is part of the base on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, you’re never going to be able to compete with several millions years of instinct. So, for the same reason the guys in Magic Mike will never be viewed for their acting talent – groupies and those who dress like groupies will always be initially viewed as sex objects. I’m not trying to say men are blameless victims of evolution or something – but that’s pretty much the way humans (male and female) are wired.

groupies

Visual cues aren’t limited to groupie dress codes – when I talk about something like “unwritten rules of metal“, I’m referring to cultural norms, many of which are based on visual cues. Metal Culture relies heavily on visual cues 1) because humans are predominantly visual creatures and 2) because in many areas of the world metal is shunned. The easiest and fastest way to communicate your love of a particular band, or participation in metal culture generally, is through (what is commonly referred to as) ‘the uniform’.

types

Side note – this is why I make a big deal out of mainstream culture co-opting the metal uniform over the past few years. It’s sending false signals – there’s nothing quite as annoying as walking up to someone in a metal shirt and finding out they don’t listen to the band/album displayed on the shirt.

Dealing with Metal “Gatekeepers”

Women have a legitimate gripe in this area, and I’m 100% against someone coming up to another person at a show and quizzing them as a way of forcing them to display their “metal credibility”. And girls do get this a lot more than guys. But it’s not exclusively a female problem – in fact it’s such a widespread phenomenon that Brien Posehn made a music video/song about it…

So, even if we get to a point where this doesn’t happen to women more frequently than men, it’s still going to happen. Because assholes are everywhere.

Also, don’t call them elitists. Metal elitists are cool as fuck. People who do stuff like this are just plain assholes.

 

Why Metalheads honor the memory of Sophie Lancaster

Introduction

9 years ago this month (August 24th, 2007), a terrible tragedy in England resonated throughout the sub-cultural (and mainstream) communities around the world.

Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend (Robert Maltby) were targeted by a group of thugs and brutally attacked. There was no provocation – they were chosen because of the way they dressed (as I understand it they were part of the English Goth community).

Although Goths and Metalheads are separate and distinct cultures, there is a good deal of crossover between them (as there is with a lot of sub-cultures). Enough crossover, in fact, that both the young men committing the criminal act and the witness who called the paramedics referred to them (among other things) as “moshers” (a pejorative term to refer to goths, metalheads, and other similar looking subscribers to sub-cultures in England, as I understand it).

And this wasn’t an isolated incident. I’m not saying anything sensationalist here – heavy metal and other subcultures aren’t under constant attack. But when you participate in any subculture/counter culture, it’s good to remember that there’s going to be a broad spectrum of reaction from the mainstream cultures (and other subcultures, for that matter) that’s going to include (but isn’t limited to) physical retaliation and violence.

Given the Dionysian, Hedonistic, Anti-Social (not Asocial, as most people tend to define it) cultural tendencies metalheads, goths, punks, emo kids, scene kids, etc tend to share – it’s not surprising that there is often a negative reaction from a predominantly Apollonian mainstream culture.

So, while I have absolutely no idea whether or not Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend actually listened to heavy metal or were part of the subculture – it’s a moot point. To someone who comes from a place outside of these cultures – they’re all one and the same. Ben Moores (a teenage metalhead) was attacked in a similar manner to Sophie 5 years later.

An American Perspective to Illustrate a Greater Point

And I have to admit, as an American Metalhead my knowledge is inherently biased towards my own experience and those of my peers. For example – I’m much more familiar with the cultural persecution of metalheads in America from the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s and early 1990’s and the subsequent cultural fallout.

Judas Preist and Ozzy Osbourne were both put on trial after young men who were fans of their music committed suicide. Christian youth behavioral modification camps capitalized on the satanic panic to “de-metalize” or “de-punk” rebellious youth. American police were trained to recognize and discriminate against metalheads. Censorship as a part of a multi-faceted attack on heavy metal that includes religious moral and political concerns from the dominant culture is nothing new. (Sound of the Beast, by Ian Christe, chapter 17)

When the Columbine tragedy occurred, mainstream culture and the media were quick to associate the young men’s association to heavy metal as the culprit.

Three teenage boys (dubbed the West Memphis Three) were scapegoated in a brutal murder case of three young boys on circumstantial evidence and held for 18 years. Even after they were freed (they were obviously innocent – this was the subject of several documentaries) – they had to agree to a plea deal where the state admitted no wrongdoing.

After the brutal rape and murder of Elyse Pahler, her parents (unsuccessfully) sued Slayer twice as the cause of the horrid attack.

In Arizona, when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot – the media was quick to point out Jared Loughner’s association with heavy metal music through his love of a single Drowning Pool song.

And, although marginalized, the demonization of heavy metal and it’s followers by the church continues in the United States to this day.

What Does this all Mean?

When a mainstream/dominant culture demonizes or vilifies a smaller sub-group on a large-scale/macro level, there tend to be individual manifestations of this within the interactions between members of those cultures on a micro/individual level.

If the church and the government in the United States had not brought mainstream culture to a state of panic concerning heavy metal in the United States (elected representatives publicly speaking against the music, media demonizing fans and musicians alike, congressional hearings spurred by the PMRC resulting in the censorship and subsequent economic sanctions that occurred as a result, etc), there most likely wouldn’t have been such a tendency towards blaming heavy metal for societal ills on an individual/micro level.

Applying this to the situation in England, I’m guessing that greater cultural norms had a significant impact on the social landscape of the country. Considering that the pejorative term “mosher” even exists to describe anyone who is a member of the subcultures being discussed in this article – I’d say that’s a pretty safe bet. The negative mainstream cultural connotations attributed to metalheads and goths (and others) can be seen as both an indirect and a direct cause of these brutal hate crimes. This sort of hatred didn’t come out of thin air – it’s a logical conclusion that a similar societal pattern existed in England to the one in the United States that led to where we are today.

So, the legacy of Sophie Lancaster is best exemplified through the Sophie Lancaster Foundation – which is focused on creating respect for and understanding of subcultures within communities.

Moving Forward

I would argue that there is a responsibility on behalf of the global community of such subcultures (metalheads included) to not only remember such horrible events, but to recognize societal patterns that have proven historically to lead to this sort of violence and intolerance.

Because it’s not limited to England and the United States (or Christianity) – I recently wrote a piece dealing with a situation in Romania where the church has caused a stir in the local community.

darkfuneralconvo

After receiving the blessing (sic) of Lord Ahriman of Dark Funeral to use some of what he was saying/reporting on in the area, I wrote a piece detailing how the a Russian Orthodox Priest had petitioned the local government in protest of Dark Funeral’s recent concert in the area. the government, in turn, issued a vocal statement that they would allow the priest to decide who did or did not play at public venues in the area.

The problem with this is that in similar instances across the globe where a particularly fundamentalist religious population enlists and is granted government aide to strip a group of citizens of their rights leads to a societal marginalization that can (and has) led to individual incidents of violence against people of that particular group. And metal culture has been proven to be particularly susceptible to this around the world.

Whether it’s in Africa, South America, Latin America, the US, Europe, Russia, China, Malaysia, India, or anywhere else on the globe – it’s good for people to be aware that this sort of thing can and does happen.

Metalhead response to what happened to Sophie Lancaster has been a global phenomenon – it got a dialogue going where it was urgently needed, there have been metal festivals dedicated to her, Bloodstock Open Air has a stage dedicated to her, charity shows for the Sophie Lancaster foundation, a charity album, and most importantly – social change via legislation that classifies subculture abuse as a hate crime. And it’s something that, almost a decade later, still resonates with people on a very human level.

I think it’s safe to say this is, globally, something worth supporting.

 

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