What is Metal?

May 12, 2008 at 8:49 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I love Metal. I love listening to my favorite bands like Judas Priest, Tool, Deftones, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, the list goes on and on. I love to rockout!

In fact this is what I have been doing since I was 13, usually through my headphones, on a walkman, discman, minidisc player and finally an Ipod. Metal music has inspired me to be who I am, to do what I do, which is to write music and start a band, and it makes me feel better about life. I’m usually the only I see on the tram in the morning nodding his head to the likes of Iron Maiden or Cog. Everyone else looks like they wish they were somewhere else, or dead. But not me.

But I have a question that I’ve asked myself time and time again. What is Metal? What makes a band a metal band? Is it because they wear black clothes, bogan Tshirts, jeans and white sneakers? Is it because their music is loud? Is it because they play a lot of the Jin Jins (you know what I mean) on their guitar, or because their drummer uses a double kick pedal alot?

You know what, I think that none of these things constitute a metal band. I think Metal is an identity, a sub-culture of society, one that has become more and more prominet. I also think Metal music assimilates all other forms of music, even more so than rock, and that the boundaries of Metal music are so widespread that they’ve become extremely vague. Take for example a local band I know and like: Cog.

Now when they released their first album, it was hailed as a triumph by the Australian metal community . This was because it was successful, had commercial potential and would put Australian metal on the map. I just bought the second album and I can safely say that it is as far removed from ‘Metal’ as it is possible to be. It’s soft, nice, progressive and it doesn’t have any jin jins. It ‘s not metal. Are they still a progressive metal band?

Another band I know and love, Shihad (local boys from my hometown of Wellington). They started off as a metal band, went industrial on their first release, heavy and angry on their second, and have managed to sound almost completely different on each successive album. Their last album ‘Love is the new hate’, was very angry and heavy. Their new album ‘Beautiful Machine’, like Cog, is far removed from ‘Love is the new hate’. It’s very melodic, mellow and has no jin jins, no anger, nothing. It’s not metal. Are they still a metal band? Or are they a rock band with metal influences?

Iron Maiden are the first band I ever listened to and loved. I remember when I first heard them, it was ‘Live after Death’ and it was awesome. Now these guys have been at it for yonks and have never changed their sound. With every album you know what you’re in for. Same with Motorhead, and especially Slayer. These are the metal purists bands; bands who don’t change their style and who always sound the same. Albeit Iron Maiden’s newer stuff does sound a lot more mature, but it’s still metal though right?

According to a film I watched recently, ‘Metal: a Headbangers Journey’, bands like Cream, AC/DC, Poison, Def Leopard and Van Halen are metal bands. I’ve listened to a fair bit of Van Halen and I’ve never thought of them as Metal, did I miss something…? This just makes it more confusing, blurring the lines between “glam rock” and “glam metal”. There weren’t many jin jins or blast beats in Jump’ by Van Halen, just a f**kin’ awesome keyboard solo ! Black Sabbath, the apparent originators of metal, by todays standards would they still be called a metal band in comparison with say, Cannibal Corpse or Cradle of Filth?

It’s true to say that Metal absorbs all other forms of music. Look at bands like Nightwish and Symphony X, mixing elements of metal with the symphony to create ‘Symphonic Metal’. Limp Bizkit , RATM and Korn, ‘fusing elements of hip hop/rap and metal to create ‘Nu metal’. Rammstein incorporated elements of Dance and techno into a hybrid called ‘Tanz metal’ or ‘dance metal’, and Trent Reznor does the same, with the effect being that at times, NIN sound quite metal and fit neatly into the genre ‘Industrial Metal’. I’m waiting for Jazz metal, though progressive metal bands like Dream Theartre incorperate elements of this. What about country Metal? Imagine Garth Brooks crossed with James Hetfield!

This all confuses me though, I mean Creed were a ‘hard rock’ band, yet they had a hell of a lot of jin jins, especially on album number two. Even my band Azumuth has a lot of Jin jins, (especially on our new album, out later this year!) but I still write nice melodic, middle of the road stuff that I incorporate into the music sometimes. Does that mean we’re hard rock band or metal?

And that leads to the next and most important question: where does hard rock end and Metal begin?

I think the best way to answer this, is by explaining what I think Metal is.

Firstly Metal is a state of mind. You can’t profess to being a metaller unless you worship and adore metal. Not all forms of metal though, I don’t particularly care for Death or black metal, does that mean I don’t still love metal? Hell know muthaf**ka!! I love it!
Secondly Metal is a subculture. Go to any metal concert and all you’ll see will be mostly guys, some girls, all in metal t-shirts. It’s like an identity bracelet. I went to both a Machinehead, and Iron Maiden shows recently and this is exactly what I saw. Hell F**ken yeah!! It’s like being in an exclusive club that your parent aren’t in, and it’s really cool cause they hate it! HAHA DAD! It always easy to start a conversation at a metal concert too, just say to someone how much you love whatever the band is and they’ll probably tell you the same thing!

Thirdly Metal is an attitude. Metal is a finger high in the air at ‘the man’ and a ‘F**K YOU’ to anyone who tries to tell you what to do and what to like. You don’t have to be an overally aggressive alpha male to get into it either. In fact I think you’ll find that most of the metallers you see at gigs are exactly the opposite (except in certain instances). Is it true that Metal listeners tend to come from the misunderstood sections of society? It certainly was in my case. I certainly wasn’t a jock that’s for f**cken sure!!

Fourthly Metal is an ideal. In an idealised world, everyone would listen to metal and people wouldn’t care what you listened too. Then again, if that happened then my freakin’ parents would be listening to Slayer, and that would just be weird man! But still, metal is an ideal because it brings together people from all walks of life with the ideal that ‘This rocks and we love it!’.

Now isn’t that cool, and so much better than world peace!

Finally, Metal is a universal form of music, one which incorporates many elements taken from many other forms of music, one which seemingly has no boundaries and no limits, only that of the imagination, and one which I think is the purest form of music because it displays raw, energy infused emotion, and unites the masses. If the prime minister were a metaller I’d probably pay more attention to him!
This is what I think metal is. Hard rock is rock that is slightly harder than normal rock, yet has none of the elements above. It has no jin jins, no twin guitar attacks or harmonising lead parts, no metal screams or death growls. And above all, hard rock has no sub culture that I am aware of, no, or not as much attitude, and no state of mind.

I mean, who wants to be ‘a hard rocker’, I’d much rather be a ‘metaller’ with my goats in the air like I just don’t care. Also, with hard rock, there’s a serious risk that your mom might like it. How would you feel if you saw your mom standing next to you at a Machinehead show, with her goats in the air, screaming the lyrics to ‘Ten Ton Hammer’?

Would that be f**ken strange or what?





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