As any casual listener can infer, Metal bands often take themselves very seriously. Even as an avid Metal listener and musician for the last 15 years, I’ve often felt the same way. One of the first images that comes to mind when thinking of overly serious Metal musicians is the now infamous clip from Gaahl’s (of Gorgoroth) interview in the documentary “A Headbanger’s Journey”. When asked what the “primary ideologies or ideas that fuel Gorgoroth’s music” are, Gaahl succinctly replies (after an unusually long silence), “Satan” without any indication that he is being anything other than dead.fucking.serious.
But it goes well beyond that: stages splattered with blood and adorned with pigs’ heads, identities forever shrouded under cloaks, interviews that never stray from Satanic and/or Anti-Cosmos ideologies, and never ever smiling for any reason ever.
Sure, you can make the argument that there are artists across all spectra of music genres who take themselves very seriously, and even those who take themselves too seriously. The difference, in my humble opinion, is that metal is an inherently over-the-top and absurd genre of music. As much as I love metal, I am usually the first to say that just about everything concerning the Metal genre is ridiculous: the lyrics, subject matter, vocals, images, blastbeats, guitar shredding, etc. Basically just one extreme after another! From an insider’s perspective, these elements are simply commonplace and are what we love about the genre. To my non-metalhead friends (i.e. outsider’s perspective), these elements are laughable at best.
But I digress.
I really wonder how many Metal bands there are that take their image and music very seriously because that’s simply what Metal bands are expected to do. I think there is a certain amount of inauthenticity attributed to Metal bands (especially of the Black and Death ilk) who don’t take themselves seriously (or seriously enough). There are obviously some exceptions. Barring Anal Cunt style buffoonery, there are bands like Exhumed, Immortal, Darkthrone, Impaled, Cephalic Carnage, Cemetary Rapist, and a few others who are all self-deprecating and/or playful with their own images in different ways. I think the aforementioned bands are all bands who are at least conscious enough to realize that, while they love what they do, they understand how ridiculous it is. But of course, this is the exception and not the rule.
From a more cynical point of view, one might even say that it is good marketing to take yourself too seriously. Look no further than the early 90s Second Wave Black Metal in Norway. You had your church burnings, your homicides, your Satanism, your paganism…they seemed pretty fucking serious about everything. And look what happened? That scene blew up in a huge way making most of them international Metal superstars.
I’m not trying to put down anyone who does take their own band seriously (or even too seriously). Obviously, for most musicians music is art, art is self-expression, and self-expression, if done right, is a reflection of your soul. To me, that certainly something you’re allowed to take seriously. However, what I’m saying is that I think it’s valuable to have a bit of objective perspective once in a while, and to laugh at yourself. Who knows? Maybe these bands laugh at themselves all the time when they aren’t in front of interviewers or fans.