I tend to scoff at those unfortunate philistines who utter things like ďrap isnít real music,Ē or ďR&B is pure crap.Ē I tend to scoff at a lot of things, but those guys get deep scoffs, from the diaphragm. Genres are far too broad and diverse to be encompassed by such generalizations, right? I want to believe that no genre is inherently bad; most of them are quickly ruined by musicians, but the genres themselves contain some spark of an ideal that canít be corrupted. I try to make myself believe that, but one thing always gets in my way: heavy metal.
Iíve never found the metal counterexample. If thereís one metal track out there that disproves the notion that all metal is complete fucking crap, Iíd absolutely love to hear it. I would rest easy for the remainder of my days, comforted by the knowledge that my jolly, populist theories about music were confirmed. Iíve been searching for a non-horrible metal song like the Holy Grail, but whenever I find a cup to drink from, my face melts off like the Nazi in The Last Crusade.
And no, metalheads, Iím not referring to the awesome power of Dragonforceís face-melting riffs. Youíre an idiot.
(Let me define my terms here: bluesy hard-rock protometal like Zeppelin or Aerosmith is not what Iím talking about; that sucks for overlapping but nonidentical reasons. Nu-metal and rap metal are arguably even worse than vanilla metal, but theyíre not the subjects of this article. Particularly, Iím referring to anything from Iron Maiden onward: 80s British shit, thrash, death metal, black metal, power metal, et cetera ad nauseum. Maybe not hair metal; in retrospect, it had its moments.)
But in my futile longing to grasp that modest chalice, Iíve suffered quite a bit of metal. I used to think it was my fault that I found it so unfathomable. I wondered if some mental defect kept be from enjoying this vast cornucopia of music, from the troll-worshipingest death metal to the sword-swingingest glory metal, and everything between. I couldnít understand Pantera, I didnít get Iron Maiden, and I couldnít fucking stand Metallica. As I grew older and more confident in the fact that most people other than me are idiots, it became clear that the defect wasnít mine.
In all these years, I havenít seen a single satisfactory shred of evidence that heavy metal doesnít suck completely and utterly. I havenít heard any metal band isnít composed of stunted adolescence, half-assed rebellion, tongue-in-cheek stupidity, masturbatory pap, tuneless dirge, juvenile morbidity, retarded sexuality, or some nauseating combination of those elements. I havenít heard a single defense of its artistry that made a shred of sense. I havenít heard a ďseriousĒ metal song that didnít sound comical. I havenít heard a fantasy metal song with anything fucking interesting to say about dragons. I havenít heard anything, seen anything, read anything or met anyone who could convince me that metal, as a whole, is not artistically bankrupt, direly uncool, and irredeemably fucking dumb. Not most of it. All of it.
Itís based on a kind of stupidity that I find impossible to comprehend. It looks and sounds so fundamentally opposite to art that my brain reels when I even try to consider the idea of enjoying it. Itís so incomprehensible to me that I sometimes get the feeling that itís all a huge joke that everyone else is in on but me.
Yes, Iím talking about an extremely vast, overarching genre encompassing countless subgenres and thousands of bands that Iíve never even heard or heard of. Yes, Iím talking about something I donít understand. Yes, Iím painting the dumbest fantasy metal and the most intricate symphonic metal in the same broad stroke.
Maybe you listen to British metal from the early 80s, or you only listen to thrash, or you only listen to glory metal ďironically.Ē I donít care. Iím saying itís all stupid as hell. Iím saying youíre stupid as hell if you like it. Iím saying youíre stupid as hell even if, maybe especially if, you like it even though you know itís stupid as hell.
It may seem like Iím shooting fish in a barrel here. Metal is, with a few exceptions, critically ignored and popularly derided. Aside from holdover metal stars like Metallica, the above-ground music press couldnít give a single shit about metal; itís music for misfit nerds, sociopaths, big-haired whores and mulleted heshers. Cool wouldnít touch metal with a ten foot pole, and metalheads are so hopelessly uncool that theyíve developed their own laughable little chic around leather and headbanging. Despite all this, people continue to defend metal as an art and a lifestyle. Even people who ďdonít take metal seriouslyĒ often take it really fucking seriously.
I consider myself a public servant, so it always fills my heart with pride when I turn someone away from their shitty taste. Unfortunately, this article canít do that. Metal fans are simply too entrenched in their own art-killing quagmire to be swayed by any rational argument. Their synapses are too brutalized by bluntness to recognize subtlety ever again; real music may be forever useless to them. Iím not asking them to stop listening to metal. Iím asking them to shut the fuck up about it forever.
Stop tainting our discussions. When the grown-ups are talking about real music, stay the fuck out of it. If weíre talking about our favorite singers, we donít care about how low your Christ-slaughtering Norwegian boyfriend can croak. If weíre talking about our favorite guitarists, zip up your stupid fucking mouth, because nobody gives a shit how fast your favorite metal guitar-secretary can type gibberish on a fretboard. ďPretendĒ that metal isnít music. ďPretendĒ that metal is something else altogether, and that you have nothing to add to a discussion about music, because weíre talking about something entirely fucking different.
I only say ďpretendĒ because ďrealizeĒ might be too strong a word for these hopeless dorks.
Anyway: just leave us alone, weirdoes. Donít even e-mail me to complain about this article. In fact, let me deflect some points youíll try to make:
Millions of people in around the world love metal.
Billions of people think those millions of people are either insane or stupid. Shall we take a vote?
You just donít understand the appeal of metal.
No, I donít, and Iíve become content with that. I donít understand the appeal of dressing up like a baby and pooping on oneself, either, but tons of people love it, and I donít give a Texas shit why they love it, and their explanations will fall on deaf ears. Like metalheads, adult baby dudes are just plain broken in the head, and I donít need them spreading their creepy pathology.
The metal genre is home to some technically talented musical virtuosos.
I have to laugh when I hear metalheads complain that some of the best pure musicians of our time are being ignored and neglected by the ivory-tower establishment just because they play in the metal genre. Here, itís simple: imagine if William Butler Yeats only wrote poems about dogs eating peanut butter, and if he used only the same fifteen or twenty words in every single poem. People who espouse the shredding merits of metal guitarists and the double-bass technique of metal drummers crack me the fuck up. Maybe they also think books are better when they have lots of pages.
Symphonic metal is extremely sophisticated and carries on the tradition of classical music.
You canít tell Frank Frazetta from William Blake. Congratulations, youíre stupid.
I enjoy metal because of its dark, creepy, intense aesthetic.
You have a mental age of thirteen. If your brain doesnít process metal aesthetics as purely comical, then youíre truly beyond intervention. If you have even the smallest scrap of respect for any aspect of metal music, lyrics, fashion, or album cover art, you are so aesthetically stunted that you might as well be a spotty junior high kid drawing barbarian dudes with battle axes and huge tits on your trapper keeper. If you love metal for its capacity to shock old people and oversensitive Christians, youíre an immature halfwit who thinks that offending people is the same as making a point.
I just like the way it sounds. You canít say your taste is better than mine, because itís subjective.
Metal is so awful that it goes far beyond questions of taste. Liking metal is a mental illness, although I'm sure you'll wear that accusation with pride (don't). It makes me wonder what the fuck your parents did to you. Youíre sick and I canít cure you, so donít waste my time.
I donít take metal seriously, I just think itís fun.
Search deep within your soul. Is there any part of you that takes metal seriously, even a little bit? Have you ever purchased a metal album with real money for any reason other than to laugh at it? Is more than 20% of the music you listen to metal? Is there any metal band in this world that you care enough about that youíd be sad if they broke up or died in a fiery car crash? If you answered ďyesĒ to any of these questions, please reevaluate your taste before itís too late.
As a frustrated and troubled youth, the metal community gave me a place to fit in.
Most of the worst subcultures in the world (gangs, cults, internet forums) thrive on accepting the lowest members of the social food chain. The fact that you were insufferable to anyone but metalheads doesnít mean that thereís anything good about metal, it just means that dweebs tolerate other dweebs out of necessity.
I like metal, but Iím not a nerd or an idiot.
In fact, you are the worst kind of nerd or idiot: the kind that doesnít know he or she is a nerd or idiot.
But here, listen to THIS metal song. Itíll change your mind.
No, dickhead, it wonít, and I resent the very fact that you think I might enjoy it.
What about Ronnie James fuckin Dio? You canít deny the ROCK.
No. Stop. Youíre embarrassing yourself.
I hope Iíve made myself perfectly clear. Questions or comments regarding metal can be sent straight up your ass. Anything else can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.