Earlier today, a kid by the name of Tyler Fox messaged me on Facebook. He said he was writing an article for his English Class at Mosinee High about Heavy Metal culture. He needed to interview someone on the topic and asked if I could help him out.
Of course, I said "yes".
Tyler asked me the following question: "How would you describe Heavy Metal as a culture and as a genre?"
Here's what I sent to him. I thought you might enjoy reading it too:
Culturally, I see metal as a place for the disaffected.
The genre got its start in Birmingham, England in the early 70's with Black Sabbath. At the time, Birmingham was an industrial town in economic disarray. You had tons of young people with no jobs, no hope, no future. That angst was a key ingredient of early metal. Bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest soon followed, tapping into that angry energy.
In a recent interview I did with Martin Van Drunen of Asphyx, he mentioned that the current recession has sparked a new passion for metal in Europe. Link to interview.
If you come from a broken home; if you've ever wondered why people would worship a god who would let a continent of Africans starve; if you're mad that your government has been bought and paid for a thousand times over and that the voice of the many means nothing against the dollars of a few; Metal speaks to you.
When you feel the darkness, angst and rage in your heart, Metal lets you know that others feel the same way.
Demographically speaking, while white males make up a large part of the metal audience, women and minorities are found sprinkled throughout the crowd at shows. The artists are increasingly diverse as well. It's no longer a novelty to see a band with a female vocalist or an African American guitarist. Are there some bigoted ass hats in the scene? Yes. But as a culture, Metal welcomes everyone to the party.
As a genre, I feel that Metal has a surprising amount of sonic variety. You have the extreme grindcore of a band like Aborted, the metallic big-band sound of the Diablo Swing Orchestra, the groove of Pantera, the prog-metal opuses of Opeth, the hip hop influenced Hed PE and a thousand other flavors in between. The Map of Metal does a really good job of laying out all of Metal's sub-genres. Link to Map of Metal.
There's more to metal than cookie-monster vocals and million miles a minute guitars.
The subject matter tends to be darker than pop songs, but it isn't all doom and gloom. There are a few bands that know how to write a good party song like Municipal Waste or HELLYEAH. Some, like Coheed and Cambria, even get into epic story-telling.
All in all, it's a diverse genre enjoyed by a community of misfits. I'm just glad that I can be a part of it, as a fan and as a professional, with Scary Terry's Saturday Nightmare.
Here's hoping that Tyler gets an A+ out of my ramblings.