Metal multiculturalism and 5 kinds of metalheads

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This now-old study finds that metal listeners exhibit symptoms of low self-esteem. While any such observation is vulnerable to accusations of convenient stereotyping, it is even more so prone considering the intensely polarizing, internecine nature of heavy metal as a style and genre of music. What constitutes metal as a sound and a way of thinking is fertile ground for argument, and one ever-more riven with dissent as new bands continue experimenting and incorporating influences from other forms, retaining only the flimsiest of foundations in metal’s traditions.

A vast majority of modern metal fans brought up with a secular mindset focus solely on the description provided by the linked article: “contemporary metal music characterised by heavy guitar riffs, double-bass drumming, complex rhythms and extreme tempos”. Overtly simplistic as it may be, chances are that this is the definition of what qualifies as metal. and not just one of its multiple aspects, with many of those surveyed for this study. And if this is the case, then this glib summary, reducing metal to just so many surface attributes and not one more, opens up a gateway for other similarly empty values to creep in.

There is a subtle casuistry inherent in people saying “metal is doing what you feel!“. On the surface, this sentiment presents a rebellious, individualistic logic hard to refute for a mind oriented under modern ideals of multiculturalism. But look a little closer and the oxymoron becomes apparent: masquerading under the guise of this multiculturalism is a blatant attempt at homogenizing that which makes us, and by association this music, a vibrant and variegated species.

When everybody does everything, there is no such thing left as the original thing. Evolution is often referenced in such cases as a natural progression but it is worth remembering that evolution serves fitness factors over a large time span, and in keeping with the surrounding environment. Desultory modifications that uproot existing bedrock, within living memory, aren’t evolution, they are an aberration that nature imminently dismisses as a flaw in its “design”.

Any serious “study” then of metal as music and subculture has to be done from the inside-out. Academia can offer valuable insight from the perspective of established sciences but this input needs to be tempered with a point of view truly steeped in the music if it is not to be held ransom by shoddy generalizations. Because, like any other walk of life, metal attracts a whole host of personalities with their individual agendas and interpretations of the music. Threshing out a consensus necessarily implies taking into account the different sources from whom such opinions may be emanating.

To that end, here are five types of metalheads. There may be more, and any one person can be a combination of one or more, too. But these five do exist and are lurking among you.

Lifestyle metalheads: For these, the music is mere happenstance on the way to social acceptance. Metal can be a big part in creating one’s identity, and it has been so for many of us. With age, hopefully, one realizes that it is but one part, albeit a significant one, to your total personality. To the lifestyle metalhead, however, this identity rarely has a solid foundation, and is something to be flaunted the way a whore displays her wares at the window. The lifestyle metalhead will take extra pains to look and act a certain way but beneath this veneer lies a hollow shell of a human being, lost and unsure of his footing.

Cultists: Cultists are people who originally have a fetish for a certain subject and then migrate to metal on finding a particular sub-genre in alignment with their interests. Examples would be occultists, BDSM freaks, SJWs, tree-huggers, etc. The recent rash of war metal guidos would also belong to this category. Cultists refuse to acknowledge that metal in its various forms has a running common thread, and stick vehemently to their side of the fence. Cultist opinions can never be considered at face value because like the lifestyle metalheads, they are incapable of looking past the surface and feeling the twitching nerve underneath.

Collectors and completists: These contribute to the music industry’s coffers by virtue of their obsessive-compulsive need to own every single album in existence. Admittedly, they begin with good intentions, eager to support the bands they admire, but somewhere along the way, their good will transforms into smugness, and they come to believe that owning a piece of plastic is far more important than enjoying the music contained within on its own terms. Modern technology allows this type to broadcast their material possessions to humanity at large (or at least the portion with internet privileges).

Good-time metalheads: Good-time metalheads are fun to be with. They have a genuine love of the music, and are otherwise on-the-level as people, but they don’t attempt fleshing out this appreciation into a wider world-view. To them, metal is music and music alone, the assorted baggage it carries simply so much child’s play to knowingly smirk at.

Tragics: Insufferable and self-righteous, tragics consider metal to be its own insular universe, independent of almost every other style of music. To them, metal provides a direct channel, at least in the mind, to another time and space that may or may not have existed. To them, this is the fundamental nature of metal, a last rampart in an increasingly incomprehensible world and any attempt at weakening its integrity unacceptable.

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3 Responses to Metal multiculturalism and 5 kinds of metalheads

  1. Anonymous says:

    Which one are you then? :p

  2. Closest to being a tragic 😀

  3. Timothy D White says:

    I’m pretty much a good-time metal guy. I love the music, I know my shit; but also see the absurdity of a lot of the trappings of it. I think the majority of metal musicians, especially as they get older, fit into this category as well. I think it’s just a fact of growing up and having to deal with adult shit. It gives you perspective over the cultist, lifestyle,and tragic. And with kids and a morgage, I sure as fuck can’t afford to be a collector.

    I think as a younger man, I could most relate to your description of the tragic.

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