Rockin’ Friday – The Happy Metalhead
Robert Flynn of Machine Head
Hello readers! This week I will respond to an article on heavy metal that I stumbled earlier on in the week. The article in question can be found here, and comments that heavy metal, jokingly referred to as ‘angry white boy music’, is an outlet for people’s frustration. While I will agree that is a valid assumption, I wish to disagree slightly and put my own thoughts on it, myself being a metalhead. Bear in mind I’m doing this for the sake of discussion, not out of anger towards that article or anything of the sort.
First, it is a gross misconception and stereotype to say that all heavy metal is angry music. When saying ‘heavy metal’, you have to remember you are referring to everything from Led Zeppelin to Slayer, and beyond. As a result, the genre ‘heavy metal’ covers an immense variety of different music, and therefore different emotions. Not just anger! Here’s an example of a song that isn’t angry (Remember Tomorrow by Iron Maiden)
While not necessarily happy, it certainly isn’t an angry song. So that should show that the ‘angry’ stereotype doesn’t hold true for all of heavy metal.
The next thing I wish to discuss is the idea that heavy metal is used to vent out frustration and anger. The important thing to bear in mind here is that everyone takes something different away from music. That metal is for anger may very well be true for some people, although it holds for very few people I know or have met at concerts. Because attitudes are different from person to person, I can’t give you one thing that people take from metal, as the other article tried to do. I will say that I listen to heavy metal for a number of reasons, some of which I will try to explain.
- The first is simply that some of it gets me excited, or perhaps more fittingly, it gets me ‘pumped’. The vibe and energy that the songs can carry is enough to get me carried away. The best example I can give to a non-metalhead is a song such as Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘By The Way’. A metal equivalent would be ‘Davidian’ by Machine Head. The energy, which is not a necessarily angry one, but simply an excited, energetic one, is one kick I get out of heavy metal.
- Another is the content of the lyrics. Not all, and probably the minority, of heavy metal carry meaningful lyrics. For example, System of a Down often employ the use of seemingly pointless and random lyrics while achieving the above affect. But other bands do have songs whose subject matter can get to me. I will use two examples here: the narrative ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Iron Maiden and the angry (yes, and angry metal song 🙂 ) and political ‘Clenching the Fists of Dissent’ by Machine Head. The former, based off the poem of the same name by the 18th century poet Samuel L. Coleridge, is about a Mariner who disregards the nature around him and faces the consequences. Clocking in at 13 minutes in length, this is a monster of a song that, for me, carries a very compelling story and message. The latter is a song in which the protagonist displays anger at the state of the world, mostly the political side, and again this strikes a chord with me. It gets me thinking, more than making me angry or anything.
- The final aspect that I can think of for me is the community, although this is not conveyed in each individual song. This refers to what happens outside of the studio albums, at concerts, between band members and on message boards. Particularly at a rock or metal (I would argue more for the latter) concert, as well as being blasted with noise, there is a true sense of unity between you, the crowd, and the band. All of you singing at once, jumping up and down, and experiencing an awesome event all together is a truly amazing feeling. I can only imagine what it’s like for the band up there. I would argue that, while this is true for all types of music, it is particularly the case for heavy metal due to its underground nature.
Finally, I would like to emphasise that while metal does not exist simply to vent out anger, it is surely one reason and I have barely scratched the surface with what I take from it. This is also no doubt true for all kinds of music, although that’s a discussion for another day.
My apologies for the length of this post 😀 If you’ve made it this far, I salute you as I do the rest of my fellow metal brethren 😉 Thanks for sticking with me.
Rock on! \m/