Being that Metal is an international phenomenon that transcends race, class, gender, culture and everything else*, one might think it difficult to really pinpoint common characteristics amongst its brethren. However, there is one element that I have found to be not quite universal, but surprisingly common, is how fucking NICE everyone is.
I couldn’t recover the exact quote, but I remember reading somewhere that Devin Townsend (the Mad Scientist of Metal, badass extraordinaire, etc.) said something like, “Metalheads are some of the sweetest people ever” (seriously, he said SOMETHING like that). I can’t agree more!
Sure, you have your meathead Death Metal dudes (“I only listen to metal that makes me feel dead, and now I’m going to crush your skull”) and ninja-dancing Metalcore dudes (“I only listen to metal that is 100% breakdowns and now I’m going to karate-kick your face in.”), but for the most part, most fellow metalheads I meet end up being incredibly amiable, if not also warm, soft-spoken, and shy.
How can this possibly be? How can the fans of some of the most angry, brutal, scathing, grim music on this planet be some of the sweetest people?
Well, I have a few theories.
My first theory is primarily based on my own experiences, but I can’t help but think there are many metalheads who feel the same. For me, the very act of listening to and/or playing metal is a sort of a ritualized purification of my negative energy. This aspect of the metal experience served me well through my angsty and hormonal teenage years. All my frustration as a result of a devastating shyness around the opposite sex was filtered through the likes of the chaotic quantum physics of The Dillinger Escape Plan, the post-modern madness of “City”-era Strapping Young Lad, and the Romanticism of Opeth. All three (and, of course, many more) served as a healthy way to channel all this frustration.
Of course, now that I’m older and am more self-aware, my taste in metal has become more specific and I listen to it for different reasons. There is still the element of the “purification of negative energy”, but instead of venting adolescent frustration, it’s more of an escape from the drab day-to-day experiences and existential weight on one’s shoulders. A term I refer to as “the weight”. Listening to metal is like a primal scream at “the weight”. Even though it’s still “there”, I feel a little better letting it know that I’m still “here”.
SO, to summarize: using metal as a way to get rid of negative emotions allows us to be nicer to everyone else!
My second theory is similarly related to the first one. Metal is an escape. Just like a good book or movie, metal creates a different world and world view for us to magically pass through. Having possession and knowledge of this escape allows us deal with “the weight” on a regular basis by…uh, completely ignoring it. This doesn’t ring any more true than it does in traditional and power metal that covers fantasy topics about elves, ancient mysteries, rainbows and all that shit. By having these worlds created for us to delve into at our leisure, we can better ready ourselves for the mundane day-to-day experiences and treat everyone that much more pleasantly as a result! It may sound like a cheap high, but it’s the little things that count, people!
My third theory also has to deal with the general content of metal. A great majority of metal is decidedly “dark”. For 15 years I have been listening to songs about murder, suicide, war, Satan, etc.; but am I a sicker individual for the fact? No. In fact, I think that very aspect has had the opposite affect on me. While most metal isn’t necessarily “life-affirming” (sometimes just the opposite), exposing one’s self to the darker side of the human experience allows one to appreciate the greater, happier things in life like friends, family, nature, travel, good food, etc. Yay!
Let me be clear that I don’t think these theories necessarily apply to everyone in the metal community. Furthermore, I would be an idiot for claiming that everyone in the metal community are nice, warm individuals. These are just what I have experienced and observed from years of being a metalhead.
In any case, everyone should remember: ’tis better to kill with kindness than with an axe to the head.
*OK, I’m exaggerating a little. In my hometown, the audience of an average show consists of 90% young, white, low to middle class dudes. However, I suppose that probably says more about the general demographic of NE Kansas.
– Judge Dredd