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IS IT METAL?

11 February 2010 No Comment

For more than a few years, fans and some critics have drawn their own lines about what is metal and what is not.  From the early years of Black Sabbath through the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Motorhead it was a general consensus, “Oh that is metal!”  In the decade following (1980’s) opinions started to stray.

The genre of metal splintered, especially with the emergence of glam/hair metal.  People that were loyal to the heart pounding adrenaline and testosterone driven brand of metal of Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and the like were offended by this feminization of the metal sausagefest with hairspray and make-up.  There were cries of how Poison and Bon Jovi and Warrant and the countless others were killing metal.  I know I rallied that cry!!

So here we are over 2 decades later and all across the Internet; blogs, Myspace, Facebook, YouTube there are arguments.  Everyone is THE authority on heavy metal.  Slipknot isn’t metal.  Korn isn’t metal.  Nu-metal isn’t metal.  Or any sort of dilution or fusion of the music doesn’t qualify it is suggested.

Although there is obviously a tempo, rhythm and musical structure that is associated with the metal sound.  Metal isn’t so much defined by those terms as much as it is in the attitude of the music; whether it be the vocals/lyrics, the emphatic sound of the rhythm section, the distortion of the guitars or the power of the pace.  It is defined by musical fans worldwide.  It is a style combined with attitude and sound.

Some say that the deep, guttural growling vocals of Doom Metal or Black metal bands isn’t even music, much less metal.  Yet, by the same token fans of those sub-genres and bands will say that Rob Halford is gay and that is why his operatic voice isn’t really metal.

To say that Slipknot isn’t metal may be ludicrous to some but the music masses have come to make up their own definitions of what is metal.  How can a 9 member band be metal?  And there is scratching in the music?  WTF?  There are dozens of sub-genres these days.  If there are 2 bands that have the same sound that isn’t like the bands in other subgenres, then a new category is born, it seems.

By musical definition Tool isn’t metal; yet, if you are seen at a metal show sporting Tool merch nobody will question you or make snide remarks like you don’t fit in.  When The Cult released Electric it was a great rock album’ but not metal yet you would be hard pressed to find a metalhead that wasn’t on The Cult bandwagon.  There are many such examples over the years.

Bands draw their influences from many different sources, many of which aren’t your prototypical metal bands. There are influences from music that are of a totally different vein…jazz, pop, blues, hip-hop even.  Suicide Silence is a major player in the scene today and hard to imagine how anyone could say they aren’t metal, but for the most part the members of the band don’t even listen to metal as much as you think and I can personally attest to that, since I am friends with them and have been on their tour bus listening to what is on their IPods!

Many people say that metal is dying and in part they are right, but why?  Is it just the hip-hop culture of the new generation?  Possibly.  Or could it be that the metal fans themselves are aiding in the murder of the music they love by turning against each other.  It is similar to the genocide that was occurring in the 80’s and 90’s by the Afro-American community.  It is hard to build up your faction, when you are killing each other.  While that analogy may be extreme, it gives a sense of what the metal community is doing to itself.  Putting down your brother because his musical tastes and opinion about what is metal differs from your own, doesn’t serve to revive the musical movement…quite the opposite. Metal is what it is and with more musical history to draw from as far as influence than say 30 years ago of course it is going to evolve and there are fusions and collaboration across genres.  Music is for public consumption and of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, but as metal fans; do we continue down this path of self-destruction of do we embrace the music, even if it is a variance of what each defines as “metal,” for the greater good of the movement?  Slipknot, Korn, Marliyn Manson…etc. whether you think it is metal or not, it gives greater exposure to the whole genre.

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