Metal Genres vs. Their Fanbases
In our more sentimental moments, we metalheads like to believe in the idea of the Brotherhood of Metal, that at the end of the day we could be friends with anyone rocking a The Somberlain back patch. But that’s bullshit — people who have been involved in metal long enough know that metalheads are just people, and therefore plenty of them are insufferable assholes.
Every subgenre of metal has a fanbase housing a bunch of total douchebags who seem to miss the point and make you suffer for it, or are just not nice to talk to. However, certain subgenres of metal seem to attract more assholes, or worse assholes, than others. And while I’m against dismissing any form of metal entirely, I can understand it when someone does just that due to their experience with that aspect of metal’s fanbase.
So it’s time for a pass-fail test: which genres of metal are better than their fanbases? If Anubis put a form of metal music one one side of the scale, and the awfulness of that genre’s fanbase on the other, which would be heavier, thus ensuring that genre’s place alongside the gods in eternity? Let’s take a look.
- MUSIC: At its best, thrash is maybe the most awesome genre in metal. It’s all about dancing, boozing, and friendly violent fun. At its worst, though, the genre plods along gracelessly, overly concerned about being topically irrelevant and trying hard to express the legitimacy of its players. Any thrash band’s fourth album, with some mystical shit on the cover, is annoying beyond measure.
- FANBASE: For most, the average thrasher is the stereotypical metalhead everyone thinks of—a beer drinkers and hellraiser in a denim vest, out to have a good time so long as pizza is involved. But thrashers are quick to dismiss nontraditional metal, their love of 80s nostalgia can be kind of stifling, and they sometimes obsess with appearances–make sure your patches are obscure and your high-tops white–over musical strength. Plus, man, the smell of them.
- VERDICT: Pass. Though sometimes eye roll-worthy, thrashers aren’t so bad as to negate how much damn fun thrash metal is.
- MUSIC: Brutal and visceral, death metal is the grinding bones and leering grin of the metal world, and defines what extreme is within the genre. When your non-metal friends describe metal as a “bunch of noise and screaming”, they’re thinking of death metal. But often the love of horror and gore at the music’s core results in one-note lyrical themes, repetitive blastbeats, and overemphasized violence against women.
- FANBASE: Ho boy. Death metal fans are loyal, fervent, musically talented, and far more intelligent than many would think. That said, how a genre born of open-mindedness and pushing societal norms became so inundated with impolite wilfully-ignorant sexists with chips on their shoulders is beyond me. No one will dismiss you because you haven’t heard ______ quicker than a death metal fan.
- VERDICT: Pass, but BARELY. It is only through death metal’s versatility that it stays afloat with all the cretinous assholes clinging to it.
- MUSIC: No genre of metal better conveys the majesty of evil than black metal. Full of true anguish, classical grandiosity, and arch Satanism, the genre boils heavy metal’s mindset down to its filthy malevolent base. Of course, in that respect it can often be humorless, self-absorbed, image-conscious, and kind of mopey, but hey, in Hell there are no apologies.
- FANBASE: Yikes. Black metal fans often fall into the category of either humorless psycho, elitist snob, antisocial nerd, or some combination thereof. There’s a great middle ground within the fanbase, full of funny self-aware pessimists who love unrepentantly dark music along with some classic metal (the makers of black metal often fall into this category), but they’re the exception, not the rule. Plus, man does this genre attract Nazis!
- VERDICT: Fail. As cool as black metal is — and this comes from a diehard fan — the shittiness of much of its fanbase easily overwhelms the genre’s good qualities.
- MUSIC: Stoner and doom metal is our modern-day classic metal, full of big heavy riffs and Frazettan imagery that harkens back to metal’s glory days of Sabbath spreading weed smoke across the land. That said, that very basic sound can get boring after a while, and too few bands shake up their tempo or atmosphere very much. Prepare to hear a ton of recycled Paranoid riffs.
- FANBASE: Generally the stoner/doom contingent is a lot of laid-back open-minded potheads who are really into getting fucked up, so they’re a lot of fun. However, they also often reside on either end of the intellectual pole–either they over-intellectualize everything to the point of being annoying, or they’re so fucked up that they’re barely present. The worst are those doom fans that do the former when in fact they actually just want the latter.
- VERDICT: Eh, pass. A generally innocuous if at times insufferable crew of metalhead hippies.
- MUSIC: WheedlywheedlyWHIIIRRRRR! Power metal is a whole lot of fun the same way that D&D or high fantasy novels are fun. It’s over the top, full of medieval chivalry, and takes metal’s early traditions to new and zany heights. Which, of course, also makes it definitively uncool–geeky, showy, and out of touch with reality. It’s hard to find a power metal song with that real punch in the gut.
- FANBASE: There’s no metalhead fanbase I consider more harmless than power metal fans. Sure, they’re super-annoying, oftentimes judgmental, and, again, pretty nerdy; I certainly wouldn’t let a power metal fan DJ a metal night at a bar. But hey, whatever–synths, dragons, unnecessary solos, these things may be irritating but they’re not terrible overall.
- VERDICT: Pass. Who cares? Let them have their fun. Nothing wrong with a little Tolkien.
- MUSIC: Okay, hear me out. Nu metal taught the world what metal could be, and introduced us to a legion of headbangers we never knew existed, who liked metal alongside other music. It also returned the gut-punch to metal, delivering that big hard simple riffs. That said, blugh. The simplistic hard rock, the terrible semi-literate rapping, the love of rock star theatrics and addictions…just the worst.
- FANBASE: Though plenty of nu metal fans are the open-minded genre-challengers they aspired to be, the majority of them are angsty, materialistic, and rebellious for no reason. They embody the bloated ideologies of the genre’s heyday, idolizing decay, misery, and shallowness because hey, they’re products of society. Also, their fashion sense is just terrible, erring either on the side of prep school gangster or goth clown.
- VERDICT: Fail, but look, nu metal never had a chance anyway. This genre and fanbase were made for each other.
- MUSIC: The old stuff! The good stuff! Classic metal reminds us of heavy metal’s roots, and isn’t bogged down by Internet politics (because there were none at the time). And who doesn’t love Iron Maiden? But man, those lyrics are often dumb as Hell (if I have to hear ‘self’ and ‘shelf’ rhymed one more fucking time…), and the guitars sound super weak compared to all the stuff that’s been made since then.
- FANBASE: Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Classic metalheads usually have their hearts in the right place, and are always happy to buy you a beer and talk about music. That said, if you love a band who made music after, say, ’93, then you’re in for some resistance, and if you’re a woman you’ll probably get hit on in the grossest way imaginable. In that sense, these guys are the original hipsters.
- VERDICT: Pass. The subgenre’s so much fun, and the assholes who love it are so easily brushed aside, that it’s not worth kicking off the cliff.
- MUSIC: Soaring and inspiring, full of slamming riffs and big sing-along choruses, metalcore can be really heavy and beautiful, and reignited the mainstream’s interest in bands like Dio and Judas Priest back in the eatly 2000s. But fuck, it’s also whiny as Hell, super repetitive, and sooo tied up in its scene and the politics therein. It’s hard to keep the music entirely separate, given how earnest and obsessed with the scene it is.
- FANBASE: Infuriating. Sure, a lot of metalcore kids are intelligent, good-natured, down to earth, and don’t get sucked into the aforementioned Brotherhood Of Metal crap. But so many of them are instead focused on these lofty personal morals, on angst and virtue and staying strong in what I believe! Also, the hair. I hate that fucking hair.
- VERDICT: Fail. Metalcore’s decent, but its fanbase definitely pulls it under. What, you expected something different from me?
Did I leave anything out? Think I’m full of shit for insulting your favorite genre? Let me know in the comments.