Editorial: Not Everything Should Be Metal All The Time
Halloween is my favorite day of the year, and to a certain extent my calendar revolves around it. But I’ve never liked it when my metalhead/goth/weirdo friends talk about how “every day is Halloween” for them. If every day were Halloween, then Halloween wouldn’t be special. In fact, it would suck. You’d have Halloweens where you’d have to pay the mortgage or take that meeting with your boss you’ve been dreading, and some days you’d come home, crack a beer, and hate Halloween. That’s awful. No matter how great something is, you get tired if it’s a constant. I also don’t want steak for every meal. Even porn stars hate their job sometimes, I’m sure.
Metal appealed to me because it was special—darker than most, louder than all, ready to go the distance of true overkill. It wasn’t the real world; in fact, it often did its best to avoid the pathetic constraints and problems of everyday existence. So the idea of metal always being the only way—of a life where metal is the only thing around—sounds unappealing to me. If the world were all metal, all the time, it would ruin the thing I love.
Sure, we’d all like spiked leather gauntlets and Satan-themed beer to be sold at every corner store. It would save us significant money on shipping and handling if we could find Enforcer merch at a shop in the mall. But then you’re someone shopping at the mall all the time. Then you’re Everyone Else. And hey, that’s fine if you’re aspiring to normality, I guess. That’s your prerogative. But come on, why’d you get into metal if being typical was your goal? If something’s the norm, it can’t really be extreme, no matter how many skulls it has on it. Metal is different because it necessarily takes things to a point of excess. It starts with too much and goes from there.
Imagine, for a horrifying instant, a world without metal. Imagine tomorrow, the metal scene collapsed in on itself and imploded. The music world would be thrown out of balance—pop would lose a reflection, hip-hop and punk would lose a fellow point of view, and culture in general would have lost one of the darkest shadows that makes its light noticeable. But imagine this applied to your life. How much of your worldview, your property, your wardrobe, would be left? What of your remaining existence would be interesting? Because if you’re no one without metal, that’s kind of sad. Obviously, all aspects of my life would be different and, I’d say, worse off without heavy metal in them–I’d be culturally hobbled, honestly–but they’d be present. If my whole life relies on a specific subculture, it means I’ve become out of touch with the world at large, and therefore that subculture doesn’t mean as much because it’s too normal.
This can be hard to imagine because so many of us were completed by metal. It was the music that made us feel our worldview had merit. Of course we want it to influence everything, because then the universe would become a safer place for people like you and I who consider corpsepaint a legitimate expression of one’s inner self. So to create our utopia, we entrench ourselves in that lifestyle. We eat, drink, and breathe it on an hourly basis. Many of us can’t imagine an existence where metal isn’t a daily influence; most of us see life through blood-tinted glasses.
But in that way, we are not everyone. It took work and faith (and money) to make ourselves the people we wanted to be; if all the lazy fair-weather motherfuckers had instant access to that, what we do and who are wouldn’t mean anything. And hey, maybe none of this does in the grand scheme of things. After all, everyone’s a human and therefore the same in basic ways (we’re born, we’re made of meat, we like some songs, we die). But if you haven’t discovered that the world is overflowing with idiots and assholes at this point, you haven’t been paying attention. I’d like to think I’m not them, though maybe I’m wrong.
This is not to advocate the elitist concept that metal should be insular and unapproachable by people who don’t 100% fit my ideal of a metalhead. My philosophy has always been, We’re over here having an awesome party. You should come. But man, if everyone came to the party every night, that shit would get fucking exhausting, and eventually I’d begin looking for a different and more specialized party. That’s why metal gave way to grunge in the early ‘90s—the party was too big and gaudy, all of the high-profile celebrity guests and their followers showed up, and the thoughtful weirdoes couldn’t get a fucking drink. They saw Axl Rose sit down at a piano in an oversized jersey and decided, Nah, screw this, there’s got to be something else.
It’s one of the reasons I think Metalocalypse had problems in later seasons: it lost its metal edge. When the show started, it was all about a world where metal was taking over society. It showcased how metalheads were inherently different from most people, while at the same time putting them in everyday situations to show how inept they are at being normal. After a while, though, it seemed like Brendon Small lost interest in what made metal special. Once the world in which the show took place was entirely metal, it didn’t seem interesting to discuss what sets the genre apart (I’m sure touring with Mastodon and High On Fire, and being surrounded by metalheads every night, didn’t help). That’s why later on, instead of a new Dethklok song per episode, you have each character’s personal showtuney rock opera track. One can imagine Small thinking, ANOTHER death metal song?
The idea for this piece came to me while I was reading some comments on one of my posts. I covered a relatively extreme band and immediately received a bunch of ire about how they weren’t really extreme, or really metal. It made me think of Sergeant D’s post where he discusses how splitting hairs within the genre—for instance, telling a Black Veil Brides fan that you only listen to real metal—is pedantic horseshit that makes you sound like king of the suckers. It’s all metal, just at different levels of extremity or technicality or whatnot. You need it all. Five Finger Death Punch need the creepy underground basement shit to be acceptable and world-spanning by comparison, just as Luciferian Rites need the jockish arena shit to be truly entrenched and esoteric. We need the non-metal world by comparison to make us as metal as we are.
The idea of all metal all the time is fun and comforting; I’ve written a couple of pieces for Revolver’s site about the concept of Metal Heaven, where everything comes up axes. But if metal were the standard, it would no longer rule. No matter how trve you are, the real world creeps in—the insurance payment, the PTA meeting, the holiday surrounded by your family. I don’t want those things to be metal; quite the opposite, I want metal to stand against those things. I want metal to be the place where I can unleash my unusual self, the out-of-the-way dive where everyone knows my name.