5 Misconceptions About Metal

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We’ve all heard them before, misconceptions galore related to metal music and the metal community. Everything from we all worship Satan to how we’re all so angry and depressed. We can’t escape the judgement! If only people knew who the real ‘us’ was. Maybe they’d be more open to listening to our preferred genre, and then we could all create one giant world mosh pit as we bang our heads to some Slipknot or Trivium. A man can dream. 

Let’s take some of these misconceptions revolving around the metal/heavy music community and, as Lamb of God once said, lay this to rest.

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1. We are all satanists

Search metal music in Google and it won’t be long before you discover some type of demonic or satanic imagery related to the scene. Images like these have quite frankly plagued heavy music as a whole, because now so many people automatically associate us with these images. The stigma could be attributed to a movement back in the 80s when bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden were writing songs about questioning the church and even God himself. Naturally, the authorities of these institutions would have none of it. How dare anybody question their beliefs, right?

Or perhaps this myth is rooted in the mere idea of rebellion. After all, Satan is the ultimate rebellious rule-breaker, right? So, since we’re out of the norm with our musical tastes, we must be rebelling as our one true Lord once did, right? A bit of a stretch if you ask me. 

There are subgenres in the metal community filled with bands who are completely devoted to God and religion. Do some research on Christian Metalcore, read some of the lyrics from the bands that you find, and come back here and tell me that we all worship Satan.

I don’t even know if I believe in God, let alone the mirror image of him, so from my own experience (and that of my circle of fellow metalheads), this myth about metal music gets debunked quite quickly when you start to dig into it.

2. Metal = Metallica

Metallica were ahead of the curve in terms of SEO when they created their band. They own the keyword ‘metal’ in terms of band names, which also makes their band name a buzzword, leading to this second myth: because I like metal, I MUST like Metallica. Don’t get me wrong. Metallica paved the way for a lot of modern day bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine, and they do have a HUGE fan base, and they do have some amazing classics, but I don’t consider myself a FAN of Metallica per se. 

If somebody asks me if I’m a fan of Metallica I usually respond with, “I like some of their songs.” Not bashing on the band or anything, but most of the time they just don't do much for me. Even one of my favorite bands couldn’t make me enjoy the Metallica sound. Avenged Sevenfold released Hail To The King in 2013, and it’s at the bottom of their catalog when I rank their albums.

You can respect the classics that paved the way, but I’m a bigger fan of some of the bands that took that core and transformed it into some of the heavier sounds that we have today.

3. It’s all screamo

I can’t help but cringe when somebody labels my music tastes as ‘screamo’. Automatically if it has screaming in it, it becomes screamo. This is the bane of my existence. Screamo is a genre that is severely misunderstood and gets thrown around and mixed into plenty of other genres, namely metal subgenres like metalcore. 

Some of the ‘true’ screamo fans will probably take offense to this as none of the ACTUAL original screamo bands really ever get accredited for their work and for sparking the true screamo genre, bands like Pg. 99 or Circle Takes the Square. Yes, screamo does have screaming in it, and a lot of modern day bands have been inspired by the genre, but instrumentally and tonally the vibes are more on the punk side of things.

The sweeping generalization placed upon any song with screamed lyrics is annoying to say the least. Now, I totally understand the frustration of trying to keep up with the hundreds of subgenres of metal, but please, for the love of metal, don't just call everything screamo. 

I’m sure electronic music fans can relate when people call everything on their side of the music world EDM or Techno. It’s the same concept. If you’re unsure about what to call something, find people who enjoy that type of music and ask them. In my mind, that’s the best way to learn about and connect with these fans, especially if you’re new to the genre. If you’re dipping your toes into metal specifically, just know that generally speaking, screamo is a no-no term. 

4. You can’t understand what they’re saying

I have a couple of gripes with this myth, and here they are. First of all, are you telling me that every single rap song you listen to you can tell what the artist is saying on the first listen? I think not. It doesn’t even have to be fast rap. Rappers have some well-written lyrics that need to be read while listening so that you really understand the message and craftsmanship behind the words. 

Granted, I’m using my experience with screaming as a backdrop for these statements. I’m sure it translates between genres.

If you listen to enough metal music, it becomes easier and easier to hear what the vocalists are saying. Hell, I can even pick out certain screamers within a song because screaming does in fact have a lot of tonality and character behind it. Despite popular belief, a frontman’s scream can definitely become a signature of theirs that lands them guest spots on other artists’ songs. 

Nowadays, screamers even take professional lessons to learn how to scream without damaging their vocal cords, and I think this has also translated into a more articulate and distinguishable sound. As long as the mixing and production is on point, I can make out most metal vocals. Maybe it’s just some magical wizard ability I have, but I doubt it.

To drive this point even further, metal isn’t always screaming. Look at the heavy metal bands of the 70s and 80s, they don’t scream. The heavy metal genre gets blended in with classic rock all the time because of how accessible and mainstream it is. Stop discounting all of metal just because some bands scream. One last misconception about metal for today’s discussion.

5. Listening to metal will make me angry or depressed

I’ve never really said it out loud, but metal is kind of my anti-drug. When somebody is having a bad day or just needs to relax, they might smoke a cigarette or pop open a beer. They might go picking a fight to feel better about themselves. 

Not me.

When I need to unwind or take my mind off of things, I put on a pair of headphones or turn on my KRK Rokit 6 monitors and just rock out. The loudness of the music, the pounding of the bass, something about it just pumps me up and puts me in a BETTER mood.

Throw a rock at the gym and you’ll hit someone who is listening to metal to get them pumped up for their lift. (Please don’t throw rocks at people.) I doubt anybody is in there listening to Taylor Swift while getting their bench press or deadlift on. If that person exists, please send them my way. I’d love to have a conversation with them. Whether a placebo effect or not, people feel stronger, more empowered, and ‘beastly’ when they’re listening to metal music. 

There is one major thing might lend itself to this notion of anger and violence when thinking about metal: mosh pits. Yes, there are some wackos out there that treat the pit as some stomping ground to assert their dominance and try to bully people around, but let me tell you, that is rare and gets shut down pretty quickly when spotted, either by fans around them or by the band itself in some cases. 

Mosh pits are a fun way to let off some steam as everybody pushes each other around in sweat-filled ecstasy as they devour the soundwaves produced by their favorite band, but if you’re not into that sort of thing, it’s not difficult to take five steps to the side and avoid the mosh pit. And if you see somebody just standing in the middle of the pit swinging elbows and doing roundhouse kicks, please know that we’re not all like that. Fuck those guys.

If you’re thinking about giving metal a try or just wanting to understand the fan base a little bit more, I hope that you have a better sense of the genre and have released some of those biases that you came in with. It’s a very misunderstood culture, which is unfortunate considering all of the amazing, compassionate people it’s put me in touch with over the years.

If you’re a metalhead, share this with someone who just doesn’t seem to ‘get it’, and let’s hope this clears up some of the misconceptions about metal music and its fanbase. If you’re out there and you feel alone because no one else listens to the same kind of music or judges you for it, know that you’re not alone. I’ve faced these judgements for years now, but you can’t let it phase what you know you like.

And finally, before you head out to your next show, read up on why you should be wearing ear plugs to protect those ears of yours.

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