Like any other Metal Nerd, I have watched countless documentaries, read tons of articles and interviews, and looked at tons of photography concerning Metal’s history, fanbase, and of course, the music and bands.
What I still find interesting after all of these years of Metal Nerdom is how much more unconsciously critical I am of work (articles, documentaries, photography, etc.) that is done by “outsiders” rather than by “insiders”. Other the hand, I’m sometimes consciously critical. Like when a writer for a non-Metal publication referred to Dire Straits as being a Metal band (I mean…really?! C’mon!)
By “insider”, I mean an actual Metalhead, a brother/sister of the Brother/Sisterhood of Metal, a “Don’t break the oath, ya’ll” person. By “outsider” I mean a non-Metalhead sociologist, a non-Metalhead photography student, an “I was interested in Metal as a youth subculture, ya’ll” person.
Take this as an example of an “insider” piece:
Take this as an example of an “outsider” piece:
See what I mean? While an “insider” like Sam Dunn is within the community looking inside and outside (from within), an “outsider” like Jörg Brüggemann is outside of the community ONLY looking inside from the outside.
I think this is where criticisms and claims of inauthenticity (not “tr00”) concerning works like documentaries and studies are most profound from the perspective of many Metalheads. One might think, “Since this person is not a Metalhead, than they have no authority on the topic.”
Certainly, there are times where this sentiment can ring true. However, I think those that do have an “outsider” perspective can often give valuable insight, which allows us to step outside of what ultimately can be a fishbowl perspective.
An example I regularly think of concerning this topic is the collection of essays known as ‘Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium’. For those of you who don’t know, the essays therein consider Black Metal from different philosophical perspectives. One such essay, which caused a particularly shitty shitstorm in the Metal world, is written by the infamous Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. Honestly, I don’t know if every essayist was necessarily a Metalhead (I’m guessing not EVERY one of them, but I’m just too lazy to know for sure). What I do know is that at least some of the authors were Metalheads, Metal journalists, or Metal musicians – “insiders”. However, they were taking an “outsiders” perspective to Metal. And what happened, you ask?
The book was lauded in some circles, but it also got ripped apart by many IMNs. It was ridiculed for what seems like its over intellectualization and decontextualization of Black Metal. Sure, you can argue that some of the essays were self-important and pretentious, but as someone who personally read it, I will honestly say that it made me think about Black Metal (and Metal in general) in ways that I had never before considered.
I think we (as Metalheads) have such an emotional attachment to the music that we feel violated, or at least intruded upon, when someone from the “outside” decides to use our music for their own perceivable gain. Considering what a bunch of cynical bastards we are, this is not too surprising. But instead of outright dismissing the “outsider” perspective, consider its value sometimes.