What is Metal: A Scientific Inquiry
Recently, a much beloved author stirred the music world with their clever tongue-in-chic admonishment of
popular Metal fashion items extreme equipment in the form of bullet belts. In the heat of the ensuing debate, a searing rebuttal was tendered that the trendy dangerous accessory in question was itself more ‘Metal’ than the article advocating its retirement.
And alas! That single accusation not only laid waste to the entire discourse as a whole, but also immediately reduced both the topic and its author to skeletal cinders, never to be heard from again. If only our beloved writer and esteemed community member had exercised the better part of caution, then he would still be with us today!
As a small token of remembrance I urge our faithful readers to adorn themselves with their nearest Attila shirt, Opeth dad shorts and watch this video one final time in order to commemorate all of the joy he brought into our lives.
But how could we prevent such a senseless tragedy from occurring again? How can we be better prepared to engage safely with such powerful and dangerous topics as ‘Metal’?
I believe we must steel our courage and reach down to our grimiest of nether regions, grasp our be-girdled loins and lunge at the heart of the matter itself! We must ask ourselves the hardest and heaviest question: What Is ‘Metal’?
Naturally the only way to coax such a topic into the (un)light is through the extremely thorough and highly objective scientific blogging method, wherein we will tender hypotheses that we believe to contain the truly defining characteristics of ‘Metal’, and then we will select and analyze appropriate experimental and control specimens of sufficient ‘normalcy’ or ‘metalness’ as the case may require.
Hypothesis #1: Metal is extreme
Analysis: Upon first observation, the Metal specimen does appear more extreme. However, after a longer observation period the actual behaviors, habitat and life cycle of Metal citizens become apparent and appear to be virtually identical to that of the control population. The primary differences are in their markings, which much like the harmless Hoverfly who has markings similar to that of bees and wasps, appear to be some kind of attempt to adopt warning patterns in order to ward off natural predators.
Conclusion: Since metal only occurs on the 3rd planet in a single star system, generally in moderate climactic conditions, it gets 1 out of 5 novelty bullet belts on the scale of extremity.
Hypothesis #2: Metal is transgressive and uncomfortable
Analysis: Here we see one of the hallmarks of Metal: yelling about mortality. This does appear to be fairly unique to the species and may warrant further attention, as most species experience significant discomfort when facing their own weaknesses, though it should be noted that this is also done without any kind of recommendation or resolution for resisting the inevitable.
Conclusion: On the scale of transgressive/uncomfortable, metal gets 3 out of 5 untreated diaper rashes.
Hypothesis #3: Metal is evil and violent
Analysis: Throughout the history of Metal, stick-in-the-mud authorities have projected a mantle of horror onto the genre which many of its members were eager to accept, first in a sardonic and mocking way and later in some oddly misguided attempts at seriousness. Regardless, in all instances of being actually observed the Metal community appears to be one of a very low statistical incidence of criminal activity and violence.
Conclusion: 1 out of 5 drone strike collateral damages.
Hypothesis #4: Metal is cool
Analysis: This is a difficult hypothesis to ascertain, as ‘coolness’ itself is a rather slippery topic. In its foundational years, metal was a kind of archetypal ‘anti-cool’, in that it was not the ‘in’ thing to be, but it had that untouchable coolness granted only to those who eagerly accept and embrace their status as ‘uncool’. Recently there has been inklings of a resurgence of the public coolness of Metal, with accompanying shrill backlash by those most concerned about being cool (which is uncool) while shrugged off by the consistently uncool (who are the actual cool ones).
Conclusion: I am not entirely certain I understand that last sentence I wrote, so we can not in good conscience award anything other than 5 out of 5 Paul Blarts on a Segway.
Hypothesis #5: Metal is no trend, no fun, no mosh, no core
Analysis: This is a hypothesis that was originally proposed by Metal adherents themselves during some of its crucial formative years. While they have attempted to make a solid case for their position by undertaking all manner of droll poses in photographs, it is plain to see to even the most casual of observers that Metal involves a significant amount of trends, moshes and fun. In this instance, ‘core’ is an outdated term that historically attempted to isolate ‘true’ from ‘false’ music, but it has since been largely discarded as the Age of Information has progressed.
Conclusion: 0 out of 5 May Ham sandwiches.
Hypothesis #6: Metal is fast and loud
Analysis: While metal itself does not exactly have a speed any different from that of its normal parent species, its members do exert considerable energy into performing at high volumes and unusual tempos, relative to the rest of the bipedal apes. Still, they do not register on the scale in such a way as to be competitive with the truly fast or loud creatures of the planet, but their persistence is rather endearing.
Conclusion: 2 out of 5 rocket cheetahs.
Hypothesis #7: Metal is heavy
Analysis: Like the previous question, this is primarily a question of relative scale. Metal certainly rates a 0 when compared to the weight of extinction-causing iron meteorites or the moral heaviness that accompanies the injustice of false imprisonments, but metal does have a significant knack for containing an undeniably heavy sense of existential depression.
Conclusion: As an aggregate score pending further analysis, metal gets 2.5 dudes carrying sulfur rocks from a volcano.
Hypothesis #8: Metal is brutal
Analysis: While the music can certainly evoke some sensations that seem to imply a sense of power and ruthlessness and some bands will even attempt to play into that role by holding crude tools at awkward angles, ultimately both the animal kingdom and the mindless cruelty of nation-states easily eclipse any aspect of brutality in metal.
Conclusion: 0 out of 5 krokodil amputations.
Hypothesis #9: Metal is rebellious (aka, doing what you want)
Analysis: While metal does spend in inordinate amount of energy in lyrics, interviews, articles, concerts and other forums proselytizing the benefits of rebelliousness, it appears only to be some sort of symbolic vocalization, probably used for some kind of social hierarchy and possible mating competition. It should be noted, however, that the proportional lack of reproductive age females would seem to disprove that last possibility.
Conclusion: 1 out of 5 YPG Lionesses.
Hypothesis #10: Metal isn’t about fashion
Analysis: Despite vehement vocalizations to the contrary (see section on rebelliousness), the clothing patterns appear to adhere to a fairly strict rule set over time. Some variation is encouraged (such as type of novelty weapon, length of spikes, patch and button placement, etc) but even that must occur within said rules. However, within those boundaries there is some fierce competition on display in order to establish and draw attention to one’s style, usually attempting to declare some form of relative social dominance and credibility, with severe cultural repercussions for members who fail to remain ‘cutting edge’.
Conclusion: 4 out of 5 inverted Lady Gaga’s.
Hypothesis #11: Metal is a positive celebration
Analysis: Despite the morose subject matter and frequent ruminations on the darker elements of existence, metal appears to be at its core, a celebration of said existence, as expressed through high customer engagement, above-average concert attendance and scene maintenance, even singing along in cars and dancing with your head. All of the above would seem to indicate a tribal ritual celebration element.
Conclusion: 5 out of 7 death metal cowboys from Botswana.
Hypothesis #12: Metal is alpha
Analysis: This is a particularly difficult hypothesis, primarily due to its poor formulation. Within metal circles and online social clubs in general where people feel the need to overtly state relative status as either dominant or subservient (magic online, steam forums, call of duty channels, youtube comments, etc) the term ‘alpha’ is simply used as a synonym for ‘superior’. However, the true use of the term ‘alpha’ in the animal kingdom refers to a leadership position within some kind of tribal or pack hierarchy. And with that position comes a significant amount of responsibility, which often includes conflict mediation, resource distribution, welfare and safety, and even guidance responsibilities. It’s true that there are some mating and food benefits conferred to this alpha pack member, and there may be a periodic need for some kind of ritual fight that serves as kind of election for the position, but contrary to the popular and overly simplistic belief, the alpha male or female is not some kind of bourgeois dictator simply basking in gratuitous amounts of fighting, mating and luxury because they unseated the previous leader.
Conclusion: Throughout my Metal safari I have observed quite a lot of posturing, but none of it indicated any true adherence to either the simplistic nor the complex definition of ‘alpha’.
1 out of 5 comic book store guy.
Hypothesis #13: Metal is cult
Analysis: While certain segments of the metal community gleefully refer to themselves as being ‘cult’ and periodically will use alternate or intentional misspellings in attempts to cultivate a sense of mystery and seriousness, and there is indeed something to be said for their apparent strict approach to membership acceptance and oddly conservative sense of traditionalism, the lack of clearly documented aims and ritual pathway to advancement make their claims seem a tad dubious in comparison to the cults of history.
Conclusion: 2 out of 5 Jim Jones kool-aid mans.
Aggregate Metal meta-analysis:
According to the total score of 27.5 out of 65 with standard deviation of 1.71, the genre of Metal itself is only 42.31% ‘Metal’ by it’s own standards. Using the same scale, by contrast, anyone of the female gender anywhere is at least 50.77% metal by default, inner city school teachers rate a 55.38%, and LGBTQ muslim island punks score a 67.69% on the Scale of Metalness.
With the presumption that members of the Metal community value their ‘Metal credibility’ proportionally (ie, more Metal is better than less Metal) it would be a fascinating follow up study to investigate the hypothesis that Metal People should be flocking to any of the above-mentioned occupations in order to increase their own socio-cultural capital and become more Metal.
Until then, I suppose we shall simply have to content ourselves with being…