Metal Music

Chris BeecherArgument, Film and Media, New Voices, Previous Editions

Metal music has had a bad reputation since it began in the late 1960’s. Society believed that metal music is a bad influence because of the way the music sounds, its lyrics, and the fans’ appearance.  Many people believe that metal fans are less intelligent than those who embrace pop culture because of their love of the Metal genre. For example, in high school, I made this friend in band who told me she used to think I was “stupid” before she got to know me. By “stupid,” she meant that she believed that I was not intelligent or that I got low grades in my classes. This was not true because, through all four years in high school, I always kept my grade point average above a 3.0. In the end, she never told me why she believed I was not intelligent. However, I imagine that it was because of my long hair, the metal band shirts I wore every day, or my constant singing of metal songs aloud with my best friends during band practice. Through my experience, the misconceptions associated with metal music are all visible and can be proven incorrect. I believe that metal music is a good influence on people and that metal fans are not at all as society portrays them.

Metal music does not promote violence, even though the music sounds deadly violent. Metal’s powerful sound comes from amplified guitars, thunder rolling drums and bass guitar, and deep eerie lyrics. This music sings mostly about death or violence. However, these songs aren’t meaningless words that are sung by a screeching singer. The lyrics have a deep emotional meaning that talk about the sorrow of loss, the violence of war, or a fictional story. For example, Metallica’s song “Ride the Lightning” says “Guilty as charged but damn it, it ain’t right. / There’s someone else controlling me. /  Death in the air  / Strapped in the electric chair / this can’t be to me. Who made you God to say ‘I’ll take your life from you!”‘ (Metallica).  Also, Metallica’s song “One” says “Now that the war is through with me /  I’m waking up I cannot see / that there’s not much left of me. / Nothing is real but pain now” (Metallica).Ride the Lightning” talks about the injustice of an innocent man being executed via the electric chair. Also, “One” derives its lyrics off of the book Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton). The song talks about how a man is longing for death after he’s come back from the war with a serious injury, incapable of using any of his five senses and can’t tell whether he is dead, alive, asleep or awake. Both songs talk about death and they represent sorrow through the sad story of two different people.  Fans that relate to these songs find happiness because they sympathize with these characters’ misfortunes and feel joyful about their own lives. For example, Jon Wiederhorn quotes Ivan Moody, lead singer in the band Five Finger Death Punch, who said “Then they’ll say they heard one of our songs and it totally spoke to them and convinced them to keep on fighting” (par 3). In this paragraph, Moody describes  how Metal fans get inspired by his music and how, in turn, it causes a positive reaction from the fans, not a negative one.

Metal is seen a catalyst of violence because the music also provokes a lot of energy. The strong and fast sounding beats of Metal make the fans want to move, just like any other music. Jazz, soul, R&B, blues, and hip-hop make their listeners want to get up and jump around, dance, or tap their foot to the rhythm. Replace the jumping with crashing into each other, the dancing with moshing, and the tapping with head banging and you have a metal fan’s reaction to the music. When I was in high school, I attended a small metal concert with my friends that featured several unlabeled bands. The music was loud and the concert was progressing slowly until about midway through the show when everyone was up on their feet close to the stage. People began mosh pits that my friends and I were reluctant to join in at first. However, when a band got up on stage that covered a Metallica song, madness just took over. A burst of energy ran through me so fast that the next moment I found myself running into people then into my friends repeatedly in a huge mosh pit.

Robert Walser, author of the book,”Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music,” agrees that Metal causes powerful reaction from its fans. He says, “The loudness and intensity of heavy metal music visibly empower fans, whose shouting and headbanging testify to the circulation of energy at concerts” (Walser 2). In this section, the author also says that it’s because of this empowering energy that people are fearful of the metal. However, these actions are just a result from the music; it’s a metal fans way of dancing.  

Also, metal music is unique because the concerts are so much more different and open than other musical gatherings. In a symphonic concert, the crowd dresses up formally and the audience is composed mainly of adults and senior citizens. Attend a Jay-Z concert and you’ll find a lot of teens and young adults dancing around to the music. However, “At metal shows, youths barely out of junior high stand beside heshers wearing jackets decorated with Motorhead, Ozzy and Iron Maiden patches. Professionals with receding hairlines, who entered a mainstream career but never gave up on their teenage love of metal, exchange head nods with 20-something girls in short skirts and tight shirts” (Weiderhorn par 6). The author accurately describes a metal concert and how it is so open to all of those who love the music. I personally experience this social class and age mixture when I attended a Metallica concert in April this year. There were a group of kids about my age standing on my left wearing Metallica and Iron Maiden shirts and to my right were two male adults talking about engineering and previous metal concerts they had attended. The crowd was mostly male, but there were young and older ladies in black V-neck shirts with their favorite bands on them. There was even a kid who looked no older than ten in the pit close to the stage on his father’s shoulder. His ears were pierced, and he was enjoying the music like the rest of us.

Metal music has a great influential power on people. The music causes fans to want to express themselves in a way that accurately captures the metal image. This causes fans to have a distinguishable appearance wherever they may be. Their long hair, tattoos, spiked bracelets, and piercings cause these fans to be looked down upon by society as social misfits. I remember when my dad was driving back home with me. On the street ahead there was a kid my dad described as a “weirdo” because he was dressed in a long black trench coat with long hair and black leather boots. I never meet this person, so I didn’t know if listened to metal or not. However, this same view of “weirdo” that my dad had of this person is the same view that society has of a many metal fans.  There’s nothing wrong with these metal fans for expressing themselves in a way that is so different from the rest. In his article, Jon Wiederhorn talks about how underneath the rough surface appearance of a metal fan there is actually an intelligent person that listen to this music for catharsis (par 4), Therefore, people should not judge these metal fans until they get to know them because despite their appearance, the fans may turn out to be pleasant and intelligent.

Another reason why metal music is good is that fans who listen to metal tend to relate to one another and create strong bonds. People who listen to metal find themselves disconnected to the rest of society because these fans don’t embrace mainstream pop culture. Metal fans may have some friends but may not really feel connected to them because the fans feel so different. Therefore, when they finally find themselves with someone who also listens to metal, they find that they have a lot in common and establish a great friendship. For example, my best friends from high school come in all ages. I have some that graduated two years before me and a couple that still haven’t graduated. I’ve realized that most of my best friends are big metal fans, and some of those who aren’t still have some connection to metal music.

Some people may say that Metal music can lead to depression or anxiety that ultimately causes suicide. Some incidents, where people who like metal music have committed suicide, have lead society to blame the music for those actions. For example, in 1984 when sixteen-year-old John M. committed suicide while he was listening to “Suicide Solution” by Black Sabbath, people immediately blamed the band. With a name like “Suicide Solution,” it’s no wonder that people believed it to be the cause. Jennifer Strohm, author of the article “The Controversy Behind Suicide Solution,” says that “solution” in the name “Suicide Solution” means a mixture or potion, not an answer to a problem (par 6). Furthermore, she says that a Christian group deliberately changed up the lyrics of the song to fit their argument that this song caused the boy’s death (par 8).

However, Robin Recours’s research, “Metal Music and Mental Health in France,” proves that Metal music causes little to no mental health problems to fans who listen to this music. The author says “Perhaps the constant exposure to symbols of death helps fans of metal music to feel less anxiety and depression and, in some ways, to have better mental health than members of the general population, who do not confront death and mortality so openly” (Recours 486). The author states that unlike horror films or criminal TV shows, metal music talks about common deaths that could and do happen to everyday people. Also, he believes metal music’s constant talk about death causes Metal fans to feel less anxiety and depression than the general public because then they become ok with the idea of death and their own mortality. The research also searched some possible cause for fans level of anxiety and depression like their gender, age, number of concerts per year, preferred musical style and body modification practices of tattooing, piercing, grade level and employment status (Recours 482-483). The only factors that were found to affect anxiety and depression were grade level and employment status (Recours 483). In conclusion, Metal music has no effect on its fans mental state. The cause for some fans’ depression or drastic actions, like in the “Suicide Solution” controversy, is due to other factors, and not metal music.

Metal music is seen as something ugly or a bad influence on people because of society’s stereotypes that are associated with this genre of music. Metal fans with their tattoos, piercings, long hair, torn jeans, and crazy band shirts combined with metal’s loud and violent sound, is the cause of society’s negative judgment. However, with all its talk about death and violence, metal music is actually a positive influence on its fans. Metal music creates a community that openly welcomes all people of all ethnicities, young, old, male, or female. These people are brought together and create strong bonds through their favorite music. If people simply took the time to understand these metal fans, they would see that these people are not violent, law-breaking maniacs. When terrible incidents occurred like the Columbine Massacre or the Suicide Solution controversy, metal was instantly determined to be the cause. However, in both cases it was determined that music was not the cause of their actions. I believe that metal music has had a positive influence on me, and that people should not judge metal fans negatively simply for their love of this music genre.

Work Cited

Metallica. “One.” Master of Puppets. Elektra Records, 1986. CD

Metallica. “Ride the Lightning.” Ride the Lightning. Megaforce, 1984. CD

Recours, Robin, Frangois Aussaguel, Nick Trujillo. “Metal Music and Mental Health in France.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry,33.3 (2009): 473-488.EBSCO HOST. Web. 5 November 2013.

Strohm, Jennifer. “The Controversy Behind Suicide Solution.” n.p, November, 2000. Web. 17 November 2073.

Trumbo, Dalton. Johnny Got His Gun. New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1939. Print.

Walser, Robert. Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1993. EBSCO HOST. Web. 5 November 2013.

Wiederhorn, Jon. “Metal Music Can Be Good For You.” Speak Easy. The Wall Street Journal, 26 Ju12013. Web. 30 October 2013.