I am obsessed with music. I listen to it, play it, research it, grow from it. I can hear any genre and instantly delve into and learn all its secrets and history. Without a doubt music has become a defining pillar of my self identity. I thoroughly believe all music is wonderful, more important than that though is that all music is meaningful. It is one of the most universal ways that we, as people, feel and express emotions, emotions we might otherwise not know how to voice.However, ever since I started down this musical rabbit hole there has always been one genre that I continue to come back to. No matter how much I explore and discover it continues to reign superior, the best kind of music out there. It speaks to my emotions, that inner part of myself, more than anything else can.This music is of course metal.
Music at its core is art, the fundamental purpose of art is to express emotion. Music therefore expresses our emotions and it is this musical form of expression that I identify so much with and love. Even cookie-cutter pop music has its own emotion to it. It expresses that glitz and glam high life, that too rich, too perfect world that most of us are just too jaded to believe. The blues will walk you down an old dirt road as it tells of a melancholy journey that fills the soul with sadness. Country and western sparks that sense of adventure. You're thrown into the grit of the old west as your posse of cowboys ride off into the setting sun. Rock puts you on top of the world. You're an invincible star and nothing can smudge your shine. Metal does all this for me and so much more.
Metal has never fully acclimated itself into our culture the way genres such as pop or even rock have been able to. While its more accepted today it's still not quite normal, nor will it ever be. Images of the Devil and unholy power come to mind. Flashes of the occult and scenes of the unexplainable. The idea of a complete dominant power and the insignificance of humans. These are all themes that come to mind when most people think of metal. To these people metal likely expresses the emotion of anger. To their credit they're not completely wrong either. Albums like Rein in Blood exude the idea of a completely evil and totalitarian force taking over. Similarly, albums like Dopethrone by Electric Wizard use their sludgy riffs, dirty screams and unforgiving lyrics to lift the veil out of our eyes and show us the horror of complete depravity. We see just how far humanity can fall if given the chance. But there are also albums like Pallbearer's Sorrow and Extinction that give to us pure grief. Without hope or heroes this music is a great catharsis of sadness and will bring tears to your eyes if you let it.
Not everything is doom and gloom though, more upbeat and even funny bands exist within the dark realms of metal. Bands like Cannabis Corpse (a parody of the death metal legends Cannibal Corpse) hold the mirror up to themselves. They poke fun at both the tropes of metal and our own imperfect world, exploiting both and creating something that is at the same time both funny and brutal. Mac Sabbath (combining McDonalds and Black Sabbath) and Okilly Dokilly (a Ned Flanders themed heavy metal band) take this idea of parody to the extreme. When you juxtapose the lightheartedness of happy meals and everyone's favorite yellow neighbor with the heaviness of metal you get something ridiculous every time. If you give it a listen you can't help but smile, maybe even laugh.
Like all other music, metal is able to be incredibly serious when it wants to,taking on important modern issues and age old problems. Rage Against the Machine is the political band of the ninety's. By combining ideas from rap and metal they were able to make music that people fell in love with and create messages that voiced the anger and uncertainty of their generation.System of a Down is a fantastic modern contemporary. While there have been politically minded bands in the past no one has been able to get into the heads of the masses quite like SoaD. Much like Rage with their fast guitar and rap influenced vocals (though SoaD is technically Nu metal while Rage is full on rap metal)they are able to help bring metal to the modern platform and allow it to speak the worries we have all been feeling. Through them we are able to see the problems we face today and work towards fixing them.
This article only scratches the surface. Metal is truly an unending sea filled with different music, messages and experimentation. That is why I am proud to be a metal-head. Because to me it is the only genre that really has something for everyone. The only genre that touches on all the delicate aspects of what it means to be human. I love all music and I never want to judge someone for theirs.I'm not trying to start a debate or say what certain music means about its listeners. All I know is that for me, while the image and community of metal-heads are amazing,they always pale in comparison to the music. It has always been about the music. Metal is beautiful and real and more than anything else, in all its vastness it expresses what it really means to be human.