Counterpoint: Horror is the Most Metal Genre
Did you guys catch yesterday’s episode of Whitney Moore’s That’s So Metal? If not, watch it now. It’s super hilarious (“Let’s settle this like we always do on the Internet, by yelling at each other until we feel sad inside!”), and pits fantasy versus sci-fi in an epic battle to determine which genre is more metal. Whitney compares games, movies, and music based on each genre, and does a great job at it…
Except for one thing. Whitney forgot a genre, Sci-Fi and Fantasy’s scab-picking bird-flipping more metal sibling: Horror. Horror is easily the most metal genre. That epic battle doesn’t end with dragon flame or plasma rifle fire, it ends with Jason fucking Voorhees standing over a pile of hacked-to-death bodies.
To be fair, Whitney doesn’t forget horror entirely, she just folds it into the other genres. When she talks about the exploding babies of Dead Space, the supernatural baddies of The Witcher, the demonic beasts of Dark Souls III, the black hole underworld of Event Horizon, and the acid-blooded Alien, Whitney is actually talking about fantasy and sci-fi with healthy doses of horror. Without horror, all of this stuff wouldn’t be as edgy, and therefore entertaining, as it is (Event Horizon just wouldn’t exist).
In that respect, fantasy and sci-fi have always been more interesting with horror involved; sure, they’re fine on their own, but there are only so many typical flying saucers and grumpy dragons one can see before they crave a ghost, demon, or bloodthirsty psychopath thrown in there somewhere. Without horror, Lord of the Rings would just be a lot of prolonged eye contact on the plains of New Zealand.
And, yes, you could split horror tropes up into fantasy or sci-fi categories–magical monsters like vampires, werewolves, and witches fall into the former; while more scientific evils like zombies, mutants, and the Frankenstein’s monster falling into the latter. But we all know horror has its own realm, its own color palette and atmosphere. After all, where do slashers fall on that spectrum? And anyway, when you want a horror movie, you don’t necessarily want swords and sorcery, or people staring into space wondering how creatures as tiny as us could blah blah blah. You want carnage. You want terror. You want old, crumbling houses with bad histories where a bunch of teenagers get the shit murdered out of them.
Metal has always been tied to horror, right down to Black Sabbath’s fucking name. What’s interesting is that while sci-fi and fantasy have bands specifically dedicated to them, horror is sort of par for the course when it comes to metal. Separating one’s self from horror immediately separates one from metal cliches, like wanton murder and taboo occultism. That said, without horror, metal would not exist. Even worse, it would be obnoxiously unlistenable, filled with nonstop hobbit dances or anthems to battleships on fire off the coast of Orion. And there’s only so much of that loftiness one can take in metal before they want to hear about a zombie eating a face.
Something worth noting is that unlike sci-fi and fantasy, horror has never been “legitimate,” which in many ways makes it very much like metal. Like metal, horror rarely gets invited to the big awards shows. Like metal, it has had to create its own insular world to make up for the fact that no one else seems to care. Like metal, it’s given new names when it is loved by the mainstream, to make sure it’s not lumped in with the genre at large–“hard rock” for metal, “psychological thriller” for horror. And like metal, horror has somehow stayed alive, and has made tons of money for people who cannot grasp its appeal.
This certainly isn’t meant to cast shade on either science fiction or fantasy. Both of those genres are awesome, and have their place. But as long as we’re talking metal, we have to include horror, and admit that it’s more metal than any other genre on the planet, no matter how big the alien ship or dragon is. Hail to the king, baby.