Informal Reader Poll: What’s The Smell of Metal?


The other day, a good friend of mine mentioned that he loved the smell of books, but he fucking hates all the people who go on and on about the smell of books. The conversation even prompted another acquaintance to jump in with this sign from her local bookstore:


Which I of course immediately turned into a Dimmu Borgir joke:


AAANYWAY, this ridiculous conversation got me thinking (not very hard, but…). Smell is deeply tied to our sense of memory and emotion due to a specific scientific connection. Even smells which are seemingly unpleasant can evoke intense feelings in the human brain. Cigarette smoke can be acrid and gasoline can be biting, but there are plenty of people, this reporter included, who find these smells pleasant because they’re a reminder of a specific moment in their lives.

So: what’s the smell of heavy metal? Records themselves don’t have that much of a smell–usually they just smell like old books due to the paper sleeves–but musical cultures certainly do. Bluegrass smells more like incense and weed than, say, crust punk. So where does metal fall?

Metal bands use smells all the time to get pumped for their shows. Slipknot’s Clown thinks burning camel shit does the trick, and both he and Per “Dead” Ohlin of Mayhem were known to huff dead crows as a performance aid. Watain is known for dousing crowds in rotten pigs’ blood, and has inspired bands like Young And In The Way to follow suit. And while most of these smells sound fucking wretched, they certainly evoke an emotional response, even if that response is only a sneer and a gag.

For me, the smell of metal is that scent that hits you when you first enter the venue, that mix of stale beer, sweat, intertwined tobacco and weed smoke, and a little bit of ozone from the gear. Sounds gross, but it’s actually deeply comforting. Aaah, metal.

But I’m a New Yorker, who saw most of his shows growing up in cramped clubs and venues. For someone in Europe who mostly went to big outdoor festivals, the smell of hay and barbecue charcoal might remind them of metal.

So you tell us: what’s the smell of metal to you? Where do you think that connection comes from? Leave us your answer in the Comments section.

Show Comments
Metal Sucks Greatest Hits