There are many different genres of music that the public likes to jam out to on any given day. Some prefer to bop along to the latest pop hit, while others prefer the soothing canting of jazz. Others are more interested in the introspective musings of blues, with some canting away to a trusty country tune. Though their sounds and compositions all vary greatly, it is safe to say that the public trusts and adores these fixture flavors of sound. But not one category…not the category that inspires confusion, fear and utter terror. Accusations of unruliness, of slovenliness, of PURE EVIL abound! The maligned musical culprit? Heavy metal music.
Indeed, metal music does not have a particularly enviable reputation among many. Throughout the genre’s history, it has drawn accusations of promoting bad behavior among the youth, along with being nothing more than formless noise that has no appeal outside of the United State. As an avowed heavy metal fan and self-proclaimed protector of the genre, I take it upon myself to dispel some unfounded myths regarding music’s most misunderstood genre.
- Metal music is the music of ill-behaved slackers with no future: If you grew up in the 80s or have an affinity for its culture like me, you’re probably familiar with one of its most pervasive, but untrue claims, that metal music is listened to only by the kid in the back of the class who needs to wake up and bring his 2.0 GPA up 3 percentage points. Films like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure did nothing but perpetuate these, as the protagonists would say, bogus notions, leading to metal’s continued animosity with the public. But according to the experts, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to Shaunacy Ferro of Popular Science: “Heavy metal fans were more likely to be male, to dislike authority, and to feel a need to be unique. Enjoying heavy metal was also correlated with openness, possibly because people with more open personalities would be drawn to music that is “intense, engaging, and challenging,” as metal can be, the researchers write. Rather than stereotyping fans as deviant, antisocial, or violent, it may be more fruitful to understand the psychological needs that contemporary heavy metal fill for some individuals” (Ferro, The Psychology of Loving Heavy Metal). While Ferro does admit that metal fans do tend to have the opposition to the “man” that many metal loving protagonists of 1980s films do, they aren’t simple deviants, slackers or apathetic. They just are looking for a creative outlet.
- Metal music is simplistic, junky noise that anyone could perform: Another unfortunate misconception regarding metal music seems to be regarding the alleged notion that it’s just a compilation of random noises. While metal is indeed noisy, the idea that it’s formless and completely easy to compose is nonsense. According to Robert Walser: “Heavy metal guitarists, like all other innovative musicians, create new sounds by…fusing together their semiotic resources with compelling new combinations. Heavy metal musicians recognize affinities between their work and the tonal sequences of Vivaldi, the melodic imagination of Bach, the virtuosity of Liszt and Paganini” (Walser, Eruptions: Heavy Metal Appropriations of Classical Virtuosity). The average person probably never would expect metal to take cues from classical music of all genres, but once again, metal proves to have a lot more depth to its sound than one would initially expect. So if you see your son or daughter jamming out to Metallica one minute, only to switch to Beethoven the next, there’s an explanation for it.
3. Metal is a uniquely American phenomenon with no outside appeal: One need not even research to prove this assumption wrong. While it cannot be denied that metal, with its ingrained disdain for authority and penchant for individual creativity couldn’t fit better in the intensely individualistic America, metal not only endures popularity outside of the states, but even originates from it in many cases. Bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin, all of which are considered to be metal bands, all originated in the United Kingdom. And some American metal bands even have foreign born members, such as Metallica’s own Lars Ulrich, who hails from Denmark. Just remember that metal fans aren’t just rockin’ in the USA and that from Tennessee to Timbuktu, you’ll find those who appreciate everything from Slayer to Sabbath.
It’s understandable that many have misconceptions about metal music. With its nebulous reputation in the media, the propaganda against it can seem all too enticing. But not only are some of the most prominent untrue, they’re patently unfounded. Metal is a versatile, internationally popular musical genre that appeals to all sorts, ESPECIALLY the creative.