I feel like a lot of people don’t really understand the genre(s) of music. As a reader of this blog, perhaps you do to some extent, or maybe you’re just here for the RPG stuff. Either way is fine, but this post is to talk about my experience with music and why I like what I like. You know, for the sake of understanding.
So first off, I have to lead with saying that metal music is probably the only music genre I can think of with a community. Pop just has people who like background noise (in my opinion) or just a catchy tune without much substance. Hip-hop and rap has a community, but from the outside looking in it seems hostile to the people within and its very polarizing. Classical (which I actually am also very fond of) tends to bring people together, but very much so in the sense of high-class snootiness. If someone thinks your take on a piece is stupid, they just smile and nod instead of perhaps starting a nice little debate or discussion. Mistake #1: even if you don’t like someone’s taste in music, never belittle it. Music is for enjoyment and if someone disagrees, let’em. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m guilty of this. I’ll be flat out, too, I really dislike pop and rap/hip-hop. It just doesn’t have enough meat to it and the lyrical content is uninteresting, pretty much the same across the board and too simplistic for me. That said, there are some artists, within rap anyway, that are really amazing on a lyrical level. Mainly on the stance of vocabulary or stanza structure. I can tip my hat to that, easily, but for the most part, to me it’s just a way to make a buck for some people.
Long story short, that’s how I found metal. I was bored with everything else and got back into rock music, spiraled downward from there and found myself in the depths of the sub-genre war. Well, except for classical. Classical rules and is actually very close to metal, a brother to it, if you will. That’s a whole other topic for discussion that I won’t address here but do some homework, you’ll see the resemblance eventually.
Those of you that are sharp will look at the paragraph addressing other genres of music too and ask yourself, metal doesn’t have all that? If I said that was true, I’d be lying. The perfect genre/community/group or whatever else you want to call it doesn’t exist. There’s always crap music/philosophy, fame mongers, elitist jerks and all that nonsense everywhere you go. In good conscience, I can’t lie to you and say that metal is the perfect music community, it’s far from it. What I do find, however, is that amidst all the junk in the drawer, it’s easy to navigate and find all the good bits. If you have a group of friends who are truly good people and into the genre for the genre, not to be “edgy” or “cool,” then you’ll find that metal can be one of the most welcoming communities anywhere. That may come as a shock to someone reading this who isn’t within, and I can’t say I’m surprised. There’s a really large reason for that. Statements such as: “That’s not music, they’re just screaming,” “It just sounds like a bunch of noise to me,” and “You’re going to hell for listening to that trash” are just a couple of the disgustingly closed minded idiocy we face every day. Honestly, it’s probably the reason why we look like such jerks from the outside.
We’ve been conditioned to think that this is the opinion of the popular majority. So instead of proving it’s not the case, we simply embraced it and make everybody truly think that’s the case. Was it the best approach? No, not really, but it is super funny to flash the horns at some religious nut that doesn’t get it and see the expression of horror. Just to be clear; that’s not to say that everybody who is religious is a closed-minded metal hater. It does seem to be the overwhelming majority though. So to sum up: If you’re an outsider, chances are we’re not going to be so quick to welcome you. If you’re an insider, chances are that you’re treated like family.
Now that seems all mixed up, doesn’t it? Well, yes, but look at it from the perspective. Many metalheads are jaded and annoyed with being ostracized their whole lives due to a taste in music. That bitterness sometimes doesn’t go away. That’s why there’s people like me who try to be ambassadors to the genre rather than just a grumpy outsider. I try to challenge everybody who asks about why I listen to what I do to attempt to understand the music. I don’t mean lyrically, because that comes with some practice (screaming vocals aren’t always the clearest) but just from a structural level. How a song flows, how the two guitars mingle, how the drums take a supporting role. It’s not just senseless bashing, just take a second to really pay attention.
With all that depression crap out of the way, why do I like the music simply for the music? The first and foremost reason I can think of is passion. By that, I don’t mean passion as in the enthusiasm of someone who likes the music. The sound of the music itself sounds like passion. Most seem to be confused by that and mistake it as anger or hatred, but passion has many faces both positive and negative. For example: the band August Burns Red has exclusively screaming vocals. I’ve had people ask me why they’re so angry at the world and have to make that terrible sounding music. I always laugh at that one, it’s good. Anybody who doesn’t know why that’s funny: ABR is actually a religious band. Almost all of their music is about finding God or having a relationship with Him. It’s actually happy music, cloaked in what sounds like anger to someone who can’t discern between types of passion. Personally, I’m more anti-religious in nature and it is a little ironic I like these guys. I don’t like them for their lyrics, although they are fantastic, and I don’t like them for their philosophy, although it is very well mannered and good hearted. I like ABR because they make me feel something. I can pull whatever I want simply out of the sound, it’s not about the words. Music shouldn’t be about the words, that’s why it’s called the universal language.
Furthermore, the intricacy of metal as a genre is appealing for this reason. If you remove the vocals from most any metal song, it’ll still stand strong on its own two feet. Layer upon layer of technical guitar riffs, insane drum patterns and bass lines that would shock most other players help solidify metal as probably the most interesting music on the planet. This is where part of the parallel to classical comes from. Classical is renowned for its synergy among all of the instruments, and metal is very much the same.
So, in conclusion, do everybody a favor: before you sneer in disgust at the guy wearing an Immortal t-shirt that you’ll probably assume worships Satan, think of this post. There’s more to it than the imagery put forth.
Oh and also, that guy probably thinks Satan is at least an alright dude. ‘Cause… y’know… he’s a little demonized if you catch my meaning.