By NICHOLAS BRAMANTE
Metal: the word itself implies a material that is hard, cold, and sharp. It would only be fitting that the genre of music named after the material has the same qualities. In many cases, this is true. With bands ranging from the infamous Metallica, to the hardcore Slayer and newcomers Avenged Sevenfold, there are countless metal bands all with their own style and reputation. There are certain vibes that follow each music genre; and metal has quite powerful vibes following it. To the inexperienced listener, a lot of metal can be described as “angry," “loud," "scary," or even downright “satanic.”
Now, in a lot of cases of course this is true, bands like Kalmah or Disturbed did not push the envelope in writing polite, politically correct poems. However, when you really pull apart even the most hardcore metal bands out there, you find their core a lot softer and meaningful than you would probably ever imagine.
Growing up I always loved rock (and a bit of metal, although I did not know it at the time) and was always exploring new content and revenues in the music business. However, even I was pretty unfamiliar with “heavy” or “hardcore” for most of my life. My absolute favorite band was (and still is) the very popular Green Day, a band that is pop rock at its roughest. Many people unfamiliar with metal have seen it almost as a cult; something you are born into rather than something you explore. While this can be true in a few cases, someone who loves the Beatles can just as easily integrate into metal (with those genres being polar opposites.) The point that I am making here, is that metal is its own genre with its own bands that give both positive and negative reputations for the music as a whole. There is no special reason metal-heads love what they do, they just find enjoyment in their music like everyone else does (without being in cults or worshiping demons either.)
Now that we’ve cut the stereotypes down to size a bit, lets take a look at the genre itself as a whole. It is NOT a bad stereotype that metal can sometimes be a very furious, deafening loud, and sporadic type of music. This is true in many if not most cases, but this is the essence and beauty of metal itself. While other genres may focus on love, having fun, or break-up drama, metal’s purpose is to really highlight the deepest, darkest, and scariest places in your mind. It uses all the pent up energy and feelings we as humans suppress every day and creates empowering songs in their place. A big turn off to metal for many people is the singing that is found within the songs. To make one thing very clear; not all metal follows the scream-singing style, although that is in art all in itself if you can learn to appreciate it. An extremely important point to hold on to however, is not the screaming itself; but why those bands are screaming in the first place. There are a lot of answers for this question, but in my experience there seems to be one answer that towers over the others: pain.
The experience of pain both physical and emotional is a big part behind many of metal’s most famous lyrics. Pain is something everyone experiences and has to deal with, some more than others. A really big theme in metal is not only the raw feelings and emotions that come with very intense pain, but how the author of the song deals with this pain and how they come about rising above it. Looking at the lyrics of many metal bands, it is easier in some than others to figure out and interpret the meanings behind the music. While there are countless resources I could delve into I am going to dip into a metal band that is fairly easier to understand than others. In short, i'm going to talk about what I really know and what you can get to know. The band I will be picking apart is a personal favorite of mine; Avenged Sevenfold.
A fairly new group of guys in the metal scene, Avenged Sevenfold has produced various albums, each with its own tone and twists. When I first began to experiment with metal these were the guys I was listening to. At first I just enjoyed the hardcore ballads and relentless deep tones of the music, but as I became more in tune with the band I started to really see who they were. Going past Avenged Sevenfold’s rough exterior (and at first intimidating appearance) we as listeners get a glimpse at both the band’s innermost thoughts and feelings on everything ranging from topics like war to suicide. These are of course tough topics to even mention, nevermind write entire emotion-fueled songs about. But this is where the true beauty of metal comes to play; when we get past the uncomfortable shell we explore an emotion filled pool that is not found in a lot of today’s mainstream music.
Past all the anger, sick guitar riffs, and loud music we discover individuals who have seen quite a bit of pain and suffering. Have you ever had such a bad day you just wanted to look into the sky and scream? Thats the idea behind metal; it’s taking those feelings that we all lock away and exposing them in their true forms. Once we are able to talk about these experiences, we can learn from them and better ourselves in turn. Many of Avenged Sevenfold’s songs talk about not only the anger that comes with the turn of a negative event, but the pain with it. To me the song lyrics for songs like “Demons” or “Betrayed” seem almost like poetry. These songs tell a story of sorrow and anguish buried beneath all the metal, and are almost calls out for help as the songwriters battle their own despair.So what’s the moral of this short story? That metal is a music genre just like pop and rap are. It has its own style, its positive notes, and its bad reputation just like every other genre. Where an outsider may see just some explosive people screaming about their problems, an insider may see a beautiful story worth telling. Metalheads aren’t always the most talkative people, nor are they the most positive bunch either. Our music may be unfamiliar or intimidating, but looking past the book’s cover you can explore an entire novel unlike anything else. This is not just an advertisement to go listen to metal, or even an attempt to explain metal itself. The point here, is that metalheads are still just people. We laugh, cry, and get angry just like everyone else (even if it’s more on the inside than outside.) In some cases you may find that Metalheads are even bigger softies than the normal person. So the next time you see one of us headbanging away to our favorite song, remember that a Metalhead may seem like a rough lump of coal on the outside; but in the inside you may just find a priceless diamond.