Heavy Misunderstandings


Maybe on Luna
Mar 30, 2002
This is a cross-post, but since besides the Corroseum I do not think there are other places on the internet where such thoughts might be appreciated on any level, I hope you don't mind.

Here is a stream of thoughts on the True/False dichotomy inherent in the ethos of Heavy Metal

I do suggest reading the whole thread for context and the like. Keep in mind that the people in the Corroseum are on average 30 years or older. As I said, before Burns or someone annihilates me by asking for SOURCES SOURCES SOURCES, these are thoughts more based on hunches. The kinds you get when you are around and inside a cultural phenomenon for 10 years or more. I am not saying everything I suggest in the text above would pan out in a rational academic analysis of the history of HM but perhaps some bits of thinking in there will be useful.

Naturally I welcome feedback - as long as one's bile is contained, I have no time or temper for that shit anymore.
More later, but my first impression is that it seems to me that the more serious metalheads in the US have envied the Europeans (and South Americans) who are so purely (naively?) into the music. The lack of irony in it creates some communication snafus but the idea that you can take this seriously and be in an environment where that is encouraged is heartening.

There was also a discussion on this board where I either stated or agreed with the statement that the NWOBHM is really where metal solidified and became its own thing, which your essay seems to agree with.

But I don't think one is a poser for simply not taking metal literally (and rioting in the streets or whatnot).
I mostly agree with you. But metal is largely fantasy. We don't actually want to go and slay dragons, raise satan, or crush posers. But its nice to imagine. At times metal is political, and indeed we do want to bring down the walls of bureaucracy or whatever.

On a musical level, the best I can gather is that the same type of music that made me love metal much later on, is the type of music that inspired what became 'metal.' Punk and hard rock. A good riff, heavier. Marketing took over and saw directions to push it. It went there. Then metal inspired metal. People started to realize that they could distance themselves even further from their origins, and create something that exists on its own. So metal 'progressed' in that way. In the late 80s/early 90s it seems you started to have these metal bands created who wanted to refashion the 'metal world' in their own image. And this image was largely the fantasy world created by Sabbath (or the marketing thereof), Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, etc. This fantasy world of music then inspired people to concentrate moreso on various strains. For example, focusing on the darkest, distorted, ambient aspects of metal, etc. The fantasy world was impacted by what was going on at the time, such as the end of the cold war.

We are only posers if we claim to be living the fantasy life, and aren't. Some have tried to. I don't know why. I rather like my fantasy world and my real worlds. Though I do think that the metal fantasy world (as all enjoyable fantasy worlds) offer some positive concepts. Just like the punk music, I believe in the DIY ethos. I believe in strength, courage, honor, etc. And why not? Those are all good things, that most people agree with. As a young punk rocker, we were living in our own fantasy. We belived in kicking nazi ass, having fun, and fuck conventional society. We didn't want to live the life we saw on Leave it to Beaver. We saw our ideal selves in the music, free rebellious people. Yet, we still got up everyday and went to school and were good people within society. Sometimes when being cornered we remembered our punk lyrics, and started to lash out, but overall that was fantasy. Reality was that we had to be home by 10.

As for the sexual side, and the relative absense of it in heavy metal in the 90s, who was singing about sex? Almost nobody. Its kind of strange, but after glam metal died, sexual themes in music died, or became less overt. Hip hop and country music still had them I guess, but not so much in rock or metal.
Jim: yeah it seems to me a lot of US listeners are torn over liking HM and at the same time not being able to divorce their (reflexive?) tendency for making fun of anything serious. This creates self-loathing. I never had this problem (to love something dearly and seriously which is also hilarious from some points of view) and I know a lot of Greeks that also never did.

The point I was trying to make about literal interpretations of metal is not that I personally feel the only true people are the ones marching in the streets (like dear old Omen would have us tomorrow's warriors do...) but that a lot of these people that call other people posers, also are, by their own definition. I do want to promote that the true/false dichotomy moves (back?) towards an examination of life values and how they're affected by HM... honor and pride, and not just how much HM one consumes or how many t-shirts of bands they have or that they never had -or will have the opportunity to - sell out. I think most people when they speak of truth or falseness in HM are either being to vague ("It gives me a true feeling, man!") about its focus which really needs to be intellectually more rigorous, or they're contradicting themselves because they're doing the same thing the posers are doing, just to lesser degree or variable appearance (a blind consumer wearing a slayer patch is still a blind consumer). Perhaps I wasn't very clear on this in the text and I need to work on it more. I guess a phrase that needs to be included is that scene activity doesn't make one more true a metalhead. Setting up live shows, trading material, having a shop, putting out records, all these things are not true. They exist in every music scene and they're part of the self-perpetuating system that drives pop culture. One should be judged as true or false by what they have understood from their time as HM listeners, how they have incorporated their own reading of its ethos. Being for real in HM means that you have understood it and love it for being something specific, not just because you like riffs, or going to shows, or wearing cool t-shirts (of obscure or mainstream bands it makes no difference). Truth in HM has nothing to do with external success, it has to do with internal victory.

Cheiron: most of the politics in HM are what punks would call 'idiot politics'. Government is just another thing to lash against because HM is antagonistic. This can be seen very clearly in the thrash era with bands and their customary toxic waste song and whatnot. Mostly bullshit. There were exceptions (parts of the techno-thrash movement were more lucid, along with some grindcore due to its interpolaration with the punk scene) but I wouldn't say HM is political in any serious way in the end. It's all about the internal rebellion.

About the sexual side, I wasn't being facetious when I said HM isn't about fucking. Besides a few exceptions here and there (a lot of which if examined closely really also aren't about fucking, like Carnivore), it really doesn't seem to be.