Community Think Tank with W.: Why Do You Listen to Metal?
Today in Washington Think Tank, I’m calling on the rest of the ToH Writers Union to help me answer a very pressing question. Why do we listen to metal? We come from different walks of life. Some of us are religious. Some of us are not. Some of us are old. Some of us are young. Some of us work in industry, some in academia, and others in government jobs. Some of us are married. Some even have kids. Some of us have been listening to metal for a very long time, and some of us are relative neophytes. The one thing that binds all of us together and brings us to this weird toilet-themed corner of the internet is heavy metal.
My own connection to the genre has morphed and assumed different shapes during different seasons. As a teen, I was drawn to metal as an outlet for the anger and frustration I was feeling as what would become a cycle of depression settled on me. In college, I turned to metal as a place to belong. Now, as a grown man content in his adult life, I listen to metal as a counterpoint to my normal day-to-day routine. I’ve always been drawn to darker and esoteric themes, and the weird, alien landscapes I find in the dissonant metal I love provide the sort of challenging contrast that spurs me forward. As the systems around me evolve and change, so also must the musical landscape I seek. I listen to metal to tap into something greater, to become another part of a complex system spanning eon to eon.
I like to bang my head too.
But I am just one of many, so I wanted to know what brought the other writers to this music for freaks and geeks. Here’s what they had to say:
Joe Thrashnkill: It’s mostly been an outlet for anger and aggression. Although since the whole toilet thing, I’ve found a number of projects that are enjoyable simply on the merit of musicality.
Ed: Apart from the aesthetics, inventiveness, and impressive musicianship, I listen to metal to connect with my negative emotions (The Dark Half) in a positive way. It’s catharsis through volume, and it’s freeing.
Jack Bauer: Honestly, I just love it. I started heavy music with things like Disturbed, and Rammstein and then moved on to Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium. Then Lamb of God and Devildriver and onto Sylosis which then led me to death metal. I think the music I listen to now is just a natural progression of things. I’ve always liked the heavier side of things, and when I listen to music I pay more attention to the instruments than anything. Metal has the best of that. That’s also probably why I love tech death. Ironically a few years ago Cattle Decapitation used to scare me, and if you told me then that I would absolutely adore them I would probably have yelled at you.
Stockhausen: Additionally, I too was also attracted to the aggression. I never felt like it was an actual outlet of personal anger/aggression, I just enjoyed the dark, nasty sound of it in almost a primal sense. As I got older and my general aesthetic palate expanded, it led to an enjoyment in more defined terms: appreciating melodicism, following rhythmic ideas, dissecting form, thinking about timbre, etc. There is and will always be that appeal of primal anger, but it’s (sometimes) more than mindless aggression.
Beargod: I don’t think there’s any reason why metal in particular. The things I enjoy in music the most, the certain atmosphere and darkness and the heavier and aggressive-er side of things are most often represented in metal. I do enjoy music that is not metal but that conveys these emotions as much, though. Also,I’m fascinated by death – to almost sickly or morbid measures – (not dying, death) and apart from dark folk music, metal seems to be the only musical medium to really deal with it.
Sarah Lafayette: It makes me feel. Other music doesn’t make me feel like metal does. It gets me amped, pumped, inspired. I hear metal, and I want to DO something.
MoshOff: I think it was just a natural progression from the moment I started playing guitar. When I heard the guitar playing on some of the songs on the original Guitar Hero I was just perplexed as to how anyone could make a guitar sound like that. I started researching a lot of the bands who had songs in the game, and then the bands that influenced those bands… One thing led to another, and here I am in my Cattle Decap shirt, ruined for life. When people ask me why I listen to metal it’s really hard to explain; metal guitar has something that really resonates with me, be it in terms of emotion, “heaviness”, or sheer applied technicality. Listen to the solo in Coroner‘s “Serpent Moves” (3:15); that’s as close as I can get to a reason. TL;DR: I just really like guitar.
Guacamole Jim: About the time I started having concrete memories of my life is about the time I remember being drawn towards heavier music. I don’t necessarily know if I can tell you why – possibly it was the energy. My parents had some CD’s that I remember gravitating towards more than any others, and these were always rock. When I was younger and first branching out on my own into music, I would get chills when I would hear a really “heavy” riff, and no other kind of music did that for me. I still feel that way when I hear something like “Grit” by 7.5 Tonnes of Beard, or anything by NAILS. There is something almost otherworldly about heavy music that draws me to it, not with a morbid fascination, but with an irresistible pull. Heavy music (pardon me for getting weird) is almost a spiritual experience, like being lost in the ocean and pulled around in the waves. I think there’s a reason so much metal is fascinated with the ocean, in that the power of the music is reminiscent of the vastness of the seas. It’s an overwhelming type of music. I can’t not listen to it.
Slambulance: I know that the aggression was at least a portion of why I dug metal initially. I still do in a way, but not because it fuels my anger. I actually don’t listen to a lot of bands unless I’m in the right mood because they’ll just make me angry. But I’m not totally sure why I listen to metal overall. Different genres come from different places (mathcore for how seemingly unorganized yet impossibly complex it is, etc.), but I don’t think I could find one solitary reason. The vibe and energy with metal is incredible and unique; it places me with a group of people, which is something I long for. It’s fun as all hell; it’s edgy and difficult to understand from the outside. These are just a couple reasons that go into what I’m sure is a much bigger whole.
Ron Deuce: When I first saw Metallica‘s video for “One” I was hooked. It was a natural progression for me and it became like an addiction. You were always thirsting for more and always wanted to see a new band take it to another level. The progression was logical – metal to thrash metal, thrash metal to death metal, death metal to grindcore. I continue you to look for bands that push the envelope and continue to find them. Heavy music fuels my addiction.
Celtic Frost: Forbidden fruit. My dad is a Pentecostal preacher (shouting, speaking in tongues, no fun allowed, etc.), so I wasn’t allowed to do/listen to/watch a whole lot of things. At the top of that list was anything that could be considered “spiritually harmful.” Anything to do with Satan, demons, witchcraft, atheism, etc. I played the good son until I was in my early 20’s, to be honest. Then I started questioning my religious upbringing with the help of some open-minded friends and a lot of reading and journaling. Once I came to the conclusion that my life was better off without religion, I started to dabble in things I was afraid of before. Drugs (nothing crazy), alcohol, sex, blah blah. All the stuff I didn’t allow myself to do when everybody else was doing them. Listening to metal was among those things. Here I am, several years later, basically a metal head. I smoke weed occasionally and I drink every now and then. I’m married so sex is over (wakka wakka). The only thing that really stuck is heavy and extreme music.
Link Leonhart: Merol music was huge important in my youth because it helped me to be more aware of my sensibilities with my surrounds, and right now I can really have different mindset in the genre whenever I need certain mood. With each new band, album and song I discovered or was recommended by a friend, I learn to dissect the music, pay more attention to the details and “feel” all the different sensations that the composers and the entire production gives. To me, merol is not only aggresion and loudness; to me, it’s different languages in which you can express different emotions, ideas and sentiments through various styles of compositions. I can get energic and pumped, but I also can get motivated, instrocpetive or even relax with different tunes. So music, and precisely merol, helps me in my life to enjoy it even more.
JAG: Heavy metal was a fantastic escape for me. Growing up in the early-to-mid-eighies was complete fucking hell with a shitty overgrown child of a step-father who wanted me dead and was always trying to get me to suicide. Music took me away from it at times. I loved the larger-than-life theatrics and stage shows of bands like Quiet Riot, Judas Priest, WASP, Motley Crue, and Iron Maiden. I loved the diversity and the showmanship as much as I did scorching guitar leads, amplification and screaming. (When I say “screaming” I mean the way Dokken and Judas Priest did it.) Metallica was my first exposure to a band with a stripped-down approach, and they meant a fuck of a lot to me in the eighties as well. Though I didn’t personally like them as much as my older brother, even Venom had that act that made them larger-than-life to the young and young at heart. I miss those times dearly. Aggression and morbidity were and are just a small component of what metal is to me. I love horror movies but I’m not going to watch ONLY horror movies and call everyone posers for watching other types of movies. I don’t understand people who can only relate to aggression and brutality in entertainment… which is ok. We are who we are.
Simon Phoenix: My answer is cliché as hell, but I started out listening to metal as a means to vent my anger. I continue to listen to it because of the, I suppose, emotion of the music and the skill involved. Even something as simple as war metal requires a certain amount of talent with your instruments to pull off well. Funny thing is, I wouldn’t be as much into classic rock and the blues as I am if it weren’t for metal. I started with nu metal and worked my way backwards, going from influence to influence.
Although there are definite themes here, I’m certain you’ve noticed that each of these tales is unique. As is yours, I’m sure. Now it’s your turn. You tell me why you listen to metal. Perhaps together we can gain a slightly bigger understanding of what exactly it is that compels us all.