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Tales from the Jugular

Down the Roads of Madness: Pigeonholing Metal

By: Greg Watson
Published: December 2, 2016

The Devil's Music. Hymns to Hell. Come up with whatever ostentatious name or descriptive title you may have heard over the years. As metalhead's, at some point in our musical lives we've inevitably been told that we are going to hell for listening to that "Devil Music". For too long to remember, heavy metal has been synonymous with Lucifer, the Devil, or whatever colorful epithet has been bestowed to the dark lord. While the label isn't a complete misnomer (Venom or Deicide anyone?) it is rather misleading and somewhat single minded.

Is there love for the Devil in heavy metal music? Of course there is.

"Metal has never conformed to the societal "norm" and therefore it's given the ability to continually evolve."

There are bands that are openly Satanic as well as bands that use the Devil as fodder for their lyrical inspiration. However, what seems more disturbing to me is the fact that many other great topics and focal points of metal seem to be overlooked because they are less sensational.

There are stories of swords, sorcery and monsters. There are interpretations of historical and mythological legends. There are real life, personally heartfelt tales from many of the bands that make up our incredible genre. There are more sides to metal than just the Satanic or occult elements that tend to have the spotlight shined directly on them.

Let me ask you reader a few questions. Do we ever hear about the metal bands that are overtly Christian spreading their message to the masses? That would be an emphatic no. How about the Heavy Metal Truants motorcycle ride [1] or the Ronnie James Dio Foundation [2] that provide many benefits for cancer research? That is a resounding no. And therein lies the problem.

Heavy metal as a music and art is nowhere the marketing juggernaut that Pop or any of the manufactured music that oversaturates the market these days. Metal is not a genre that holds widespread appeal to the masses. However, it has as much global appeal as Pop, Hip Hop or Country. And in that vein I feel that it should receive the same amount of attention of the positive variety as the other genres do. But that sadly just isn't the case. Whether it's due to lack of marketability, differences in tastes, ignorance or any other reasons you can think of, it's a vicious cycle that continues to play out over and over again. What remains a solid and undeniable fact though for multitudes of adoring metalheads worldwide is that they all appreciate metal for the beauty of the music. Metal is a lifestyle all its own. Those who have been bitten by the proverbial bug are filled with a passion and ardor that is a lifelong affair. Heavy metal fans are some of, if not the most, passionate, loyal fans around [3]. We may get stigmatized as blasphemous, heretical or idiots. But trust me, we are far off from those narrow-minded stereotypes.

Metalheads come from all walks of life. Rich, poor, multi-cultural; we are a universal collective. So, go ahead media outlets, religious organizations and all others who cast their dispersions at us rather than try and understand us. Hurl those juvenile insults like poorly thrown spears. We know what metal is about--The Music. That will never change. Metal has never conformed to the societal "norm" and therefore it's given the ability to continually evolve.

So, non-metal lovers, I have a simple request of you. Next time you encounter a metal fan, don't immediately pigeonhole them. Take a minute to strike up a conversation. Maybe then your eyes may open a little wider and you might better understand why we're so avid about our music.

[1] Heavy Metal Truants motorcycle ride [Link]
[2] Ronnie James Dio Foundation [Link]
[3] Which Music Genres Have the Loyalest Fans? [Link]

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