Heavy metal is the most denounced genre of music criticized by a wide range of people from professional music critics to the average person. Basically, mad people hate it. This is especially true now that the most popular songs are “pop” songs by artists, such as One Direction, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Eminem, Drake, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, and many other well-known artists. When heavy metal comes to mind, people think of spikes, fire, long hair, head-banging, hell, and generally loud, obnoxious music. They think of heavy metal as music of horrible-taste, or they don’t even consider it as music at all. They see this unique genre of music as uncivilized and a disgrace to society. In addition, the musicians and fans of heavy metal are identified as “weird”, for people generally don’t know that much about the heavy metal culture and find the whole culture strange. I’m sort of on the same boat.
When I think of the style of this genre, I imagine aggressive drum playing, lots of screaming and indecipherable lyrics, and fast guitar riffs. It’s the type of music that one would get pumped up to and feel infuriated. You’d probably listen to it while you’re working out or doing something that requires a lot of intensity. For example, let’s look at “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed. This is one of the more recent and popular heavy metal songs with over 21 million views on YouTube. The introduction starts with angry guitar playing and some screaming. The song sounds pretty depressing saying “drowning deep in my sea of loathing; broke your servant I kneel”. Throughout the whole song, he talks about his problems and reflects on it. It’s sort of like the thoughts of a really depressed teenager haha. However, instead of trying to get help and fix his problems, he releases his fury through his lyrics screeching in the end of the song “Why don’t you just f*ck off and die?” and also screaming “F*CK YOU”. Pretty disturbing, right? I thought this song was annoying and exemplified my perception of heavy metal as it is violent and chaotic in the way the musician expresses his emotions. It was too “loud” and violent in my opinion with the heavy playing of drums and guitars. Also, I found his voice dissonant and annoying. In the music video, most of the band members had long hair and did a lot of headbanging. You can see that this is definitely against what is “normal”. In one scene, one band member stuck out his middle finger and another scene showed two couples making out. The rest of the video is pretty much the band performing live with a lot of violent emotion. This is definitely not what we usually see in most music videos we see nowadays in pop culture.
The genre of heavy metal actually covers a broad range of music. Some more aggressive than others and others more “lighter” than others. For instance, “Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath. Instead of being aggressive for the whole duration of the song like “Down with the Sickness”, it builds up to a climax from a slow, laid-back tempo, and then the song becomes more driving and moves quickly with the drum beats and guitar playing. I would consider this as heavy metal because the song includes low guitar riffs and later fast riffs and heavy drumming. In addition, it becomes more aggressive and the singing style becomes more powerful and slightly screechy. This song exemplifies a lighter version of heavy metal, for the singing is less dissonant and the guitar and drums seem more relaxed compared to the previous song. “Heaven and Hell” was more enjoyable, for no extremely “loud” screeching and instrumentals were involved. This is my kind of heavy metal. It sounds pretty epic and has a really cool, catchy bass line. The singing is also more enjoyable with more decipherable and mildly aggressive vocals.
I’m not sure why, but I imagine heavy metal fans as adults in their mid-20s or mid-50s with beards and leather jackets and always wearing jeans. They basically look like they are in a biker gang. In addition, they may have piercings and lots of tattoos and a necklace with a cross. Also, they seem to throw their hands in the air in the formation of “horns”, and they also like to head-bang a lot. They tend to be rude people. For example, if you accidentally walked up to one of these tough-looking guys, they would initiate a fight by saying, “What’d you do that for, punk?” And you’d be scared out of your mind. They’re pretty intimidating people. The musicians are also intimidating since I picture them like devils with their ghoulish black hair and make-up, but this may be just because of the band Metallica. Yea, my mind relates heavy metal with a bad reputation…
These are all just stereotypes and my perception of the heavy metal culture. I may not believe that heavy metal is “good” music, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t “good” music for others. In addition, the way the people act may or may not be affected by the music they listen to. I’m just saying that these perceptions are only what comes to my mind when I think of heavy metal. Heavy metal just tends to have a negative aura in society because people are not interested and do not enjoy this type of music. They also don’t know much about and understand the culture. Also, people believe that heavy metal revolves around going against society, which creates a negative connotation for many people. However, there is a much deeper meaning than that. This genre definitely has a unique culture that many people including me have trouble understanding and accepting. I still think heavy metal culture is weird in some ways, but I have to say they do have some pretty good songs.