The secrets behind Heavy Metal subculture

Since it’s beginning Heavy Metal is a hot topic. Between pro and anti, this musical genre had to face incisive media treatment.
 From the start our favorite musical genre has to fight  against cliche erecting it as the music of Satan.
But first of all is Heavy Metal only music or is it more than that ?
What're the codes and the values of Heavy Metal ? Can we say Heavy Metal is a subculture ?
Well, you will have a clearer mind after reading this article. Here we go !

 

The founding fathers of Heavy Metal did music to escape their social condition

Black Sabbath are known to be the first official Heavy Metal band. All the band members came from a disadventaged social background. The music was a way for them to emancipate from their social condition.

Without Heavy metal, they were destined to go to work in a factory like their fathers did. 

In a way we can say that metal music is part of a different approach than other musical genres like Punk and rap.

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These genres wants to be transgressive by their lyrics, their claim or by their origin who register in a social movement fighting against the lack of opprtunity and the locks manufactured by the system.

Folks that belongs to these musical gendres seek to be subversive by being part of a counter culture mouvment.

Although rap is mainstream these days and that punk has diseapeared from the musical scene.

Heavy Metal is by essence and in a more general way artistically and musically subversive.

 

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The fundamentals of this music do not allow it to take place in popular culture (even if it was the case during the 70’s / 80’s and a part of the 90’s)

Metal has always been sidelined from the popular scene.

This music genre has always had to take attack from multiple fronts. Whether it be from the media or religious sphere.

These are other musical genres like Rock or RNB that were at the head of the gondola. Metal was ostracized from the beginning.

If there is one musical genre that stirs up controversy it is Heavy Metal. In the collective imagination Heavy Metal is all about bloodthirsty violence, satanic allusion.

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While in fact Heavy Metal is a deep and complex music far from the caricatural image that we tend to give it.

What metal detractors tend to forget is that heavy metal isn’t only music, it also a culture.

A culture born out of a desire for emancipation and subversion. Like every other culture, the Heavy Metal culture has it’s own code, values, paradigm and philosophie.

Heavy Metal music put it’s finger on taboo subject that no mainstream music would dare to adress. If we analyze all the éléments that compose the Heavy Metal culture we will strat to glimpse it’s philosophie.

 

« Metal lives in a world of his own creation, it’s his own universe » Metal has is own paradigme, value and aesthetic code.

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Metal is known for being heavy, agressive, brutal, fast, hard. Metal can easily hurt the sensitivity of the uninitiated. The lyrics are often linked with negative emotion and the themes tackled also do not transpire the joy of living.

 Metal is complex and deep. To be able to immerse yourself in this universe you have to be interested in the dark and uncomfurtable aspect of life to fully apreciate it.

 It is not an affordable music, you can’t share it with your friends (of course I am talking about your non metalhead friend)  and family, you can’t dance on it and you will never see an advertising on tv using metal music.

 It is really rare that someone appreciate metal by the first listening to it.

Of course being born in a metalhead family greatly increase the chances of being a metal head.

Being bathed in the metal universe since your childhood will make you an exceptional metalhead.

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Like all qualitative consumption, metal music takes some time to get use to it. The music is generally appreciated instantly, but not metal.

We come back to it after being intrigued. The seed was then planted 🌱

 The metal music is so rich and complex. Powerfull song pushed by the bassist 🎸and the strong vocals 🎤

Whether by it’s strong visual or musical identity, the metal music and the folklore around it grabs us and seduce us.

 There is consistency between the visuals and the metal music.

The staging is focused on visual elements such as blood or other visual aspect based and the dark and the dismal.

Religion ✝️  is of course one of the main topic of the metal music, more recurrent in some sub genre than other.

Black metal is particulary focused on religion. This sub genre particularly plays on satanic and obscure visuals.

The diffrents Heavy metal subgenres

The Metal music is very rich, varied and has many subgenres.

 Each sub-genre has is own esthetic and visual aspect. Metal is the only musical genre that has created so many sub-genre.

 

Thrash Metal

The Thrash Metal music is another important sub-genre. Thrash metal has been influenced by the NWOBHM.

The music has a lot of what we called distorsion and is really dark.

Thrash metal is greatly represented during the 80’s with band like Slayer, and of course the other Big four of Thrash with Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth.

 The most known sub-genre is the heavy metal itself.

 The heavy metal term is often used to talk about the metal in the general sense, which can be confusing.

 

 

Although it generaly used to talk about the traditionel heavy metal, which is the main sub-genre of this musical gender.

Heavy Metal is a genre derived from rock which has been developped in the Anglo Saxon country in the 60’s before spreading on the rest of world in the 70’s.

The heavy metal term is often used to talk about the metal in the general sense, which can be confusing. Although it generaly used to talk about the traditionel heavy metal, which is the main sub-genre of this musical gender.

The heavy metal itself ( which is a sub-genre ) gave birth to many other sub-genre such as the glam metal, the doom metal, the black metal and many other.

 

The NWOBHM

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal is another gender of metal. This one has really develloped itself by the end of the 70s in the United Kingdom. This gender became really popular by the 80’s with bands like Iron Maiden for exemple.

The NWOBHM has been strongly influenced by the arrival of heavy metal in the 70s. This has also incorpored some inspiration from the punk music.

 

Doom Metal

The doom metal is a sub-genre of metal who has for precursor Black Sabbath. This band is the founding father of many of the metal music aspect. It is more precisely from the music Black Sabbath that the doom metal has it roots.

Doom Metal seek for power and heavyness. It is a great mix between  heavy metal and punk hardcore music.

Finally the last sub-genre I will talk about in this article ( The will be no end If I start talking about all the sub-genre).  This sub-genre is the darkest form of metal)

It became really popular by the 90’s. Yeah you guessed it, I am talking about Death Metal.

Death Metal

The most famous band of Death Metal are Ravage, Mantas and Death Strike ( of course they aren’t the only one).

There is even sub-sub-genre or genre that are the result of the fusion of different genre. This wealth allow meatlheads to have many things to discuss about.

The classification of all the sub-genre is confused by its complexity and weath. A novice can get a headache just by hearing the different names of all these sub genre and it’s  perfectly understandable .

That’s the reason why we say that metal isn’t a temporary stage. The music and it’s universe is so rich, we can never get tired of it.

 

The lyrics in Heavy Metal musics

 Metal has some flagship themes that are recurrent in its music. Death is one of them ☠️

In the metal music , death is approached from all angles.

Death is a part of our life One of the aspect of the philosophie of heavy metal is to be confronted with death 💀 it will allow you to better accept it.

 The first topic of this kind we’re going to talk about is the death topic. It is one the most common subject / topic in the metal music.

Almost every band talked about it in one way or another. And there is a reason why, metal isn’t afraid of death, it face it and fight it.

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 Some band take some core principle of the Greek philosopher Epicure which had as facet of it’s doctrine  the hunt against the fear of death. Heavy metal illustrate perfectly this spirit.

Like Epicure said « It is sometimes the fear of death that lead mens to death ». The metal applies and understand perfectly well this quote.

For some Band like Ramstein have staged their own funeral. It's typically something that belongs to heavy metal imagery. Metal love to desmistify this aspect that is part of life.

By breaking and destroying this timeless fear of man, we unleach the bravery and courage to accept our brittle lifes of human being.


After triumphing over fear of death, metal attacks Satan and it’s dark world. Satan the eternal ennemy of God, the personnification of evil . Metal adresse this topic in a anti-christian logic.

 Lemmy Kilmister : "Fuck God and Fuck the Devil and Fuck the Church too. I'm responsible for my actions. I don't need to hide behind nothing. I did it... Whatever I did."

 Metal presente this subject has says that Satan is the main reason of the sucess of the Church, and without him there wouldn’t be Christianity.

Heavy Metal perfectly understood it, it’s the fear that lead man, to have monstruous illusion . The essence of fear is based of something that we interpretate by our imagination. 

« By being not fully focused in the present we let fear take birth when our spirit imagined something that could happen in the future.

Being affraid of something that doesn’t exist is called madness ».  It is with fear that the rulling class is able to manipulate and reign by fear.

This is where our fearless Knight comes after slaying the fear of death with his bass.

Heavy Metal is this eternal rebellious spirit that doesn’t believe in anything apart from the truth, drawing it’s inspiration from the Cartesian doubt.

 The Metal music isn’t only a psychological release, it is much more than that. Metal allow to accept the darkness that are part of life and that surrounds us.

The heavy metal lyrics and visuals put the darkness and the light in front of us, putting the man in front of the shadow allows him to saw the light. Being able to understand the different facets of life, allows you to find your happy medium.

 

The philosophy behind the Metal music

First of all, the philosophy of going beyond our own limit. Continually surpassing oneself and surpassing the other, that’s how metal is evolving.

Each sub-genre has something to put on the table and brings its stone to the building, to the monument that is metal.

The birth of a sub-genre isn’t a simple copy of what was done before. the sub genre which born brings something new, whether in technique or musicality.

The history of metal is here to remind us that apect intrinsic to the evolution of metal.

And an other thing about the metal is this aversion to the general public and the mainstream.

There is this incomprehension between the metalhead and the rest of the world. They despise each other.

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The metalheads are a true tribe, we're like a family because we share the same passion and the same love for metal music.

Paradoxaly to this aversion for conformisme, a lot of metalheads adopt themselves a conformist attitude by their looks or the way they behave.

The notion of power in the Heavy Metal

A other point about the metal phylosophie is the notion of power in it. It is enough to have attended a performance of a metal band on stage to understand the power and energy that emanates from such a performance.

 Whether through instruments, vocals, staging or presence. Power is a key concept in metal culture.

Heavy metal culture is here to initiate and teach the way of surpassing to a lost youth without reference.

Bring values ​​back to life and awaken the superman who lies dormant in them.

The metalhead community finds itself the time for an annual pilgrimage at  big events such as fest ( Hellfest, Wacken Open Air is also known to be the bigest fest).

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Regardless of the ethnecity of it’s follower, the philosophie of metal is a way of communing. Meeting people who understand us, who shares our values ​​and our love of metal (without agreeing on everything) is a breath of fresh air.

Far from all the cliches and misconception, the metal philosophy is made to unite and pull us up. Metal is a demanding music, it invites us to be also demanding towards ourselves.

 

Bruce Dickinson : « If metal bands rules the world, we’d be a lot better off ».

 

A exemple we can take to illustrate the incomprehension between metal and the rest of the world is the controversy around Slayer.

Many non metalheads think that Slayer are cool with Nazism. Of course that’s not the case. What they didn’t think about before being choked, is the artistic aproach of the band.

Slayer stand from the point of view of the criminal, the one who does harm, the one who goes to far. They explore the point of view of the bad guy.

In a more general way Heavy Metal is about exploring the ends of human existence. Particulary the negative aspect of it.

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The one we tend to repress, to repel. This approach is very suitable musically for the heavy genre.

Extreme music like heavy metal shows more sensitivity and intelligence than more traditional forms of expression.

The famous russian writer Dostoîvski once said : « the artist is an accomplice of evil, the creation of the work of art requires and implies, a certain dose of pride, and they therefore imply a certain sometimes unconscious of complicity with the Devil. An artist who does not have some familiarity with the devil cannot be a true artist”

Heavy metal reverses established thinking to see what comes out of it. This musical genre challenges established thinking, distorts beliefs

 

Like I said earlier the essence of metal is the aversion of the conformisme, of the mainstream. Another exemple to illustrate that is the birth of the Norvegian Black Metal underground scene.

 

The Norvegian Black Metal  was born in reaction and opposition to death metal.

Why ?

Because Death Metal was strating to go too mainstream ( bands like Napalm Death were everywhere in mainstream media, radio and they even went on television).

The fact that Death metal music became acceptable and was listened by everyday people and the general public, was unbeareable for the future black metal scene. It was opposed to the spirit of metal.

They started to compose a music inaccessible to the general public (high bass, high vocals, even more powerful and heavier music and atmosphere).

Their looks and aesthetic was just as inaccessible ( leather and spikes, an visual aspect unacepetable for the mainstream audience).

One of the driving forces of extreme art is creation which comes in opposition. By creating something in reaction and in opposition to what we don't like, we feed the subversive philosophy of metal.

The Heavy Metal passion

A beautiful quote that sum up the perception he has of life from the famous vocalist from Iron Maiden Bruce Dickinson : « I think that the way the majority of folks considere their life, is an illusion.

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That is to say, they have the illusion, that the life they live is their destiny. In fact, they don’t look far enough and their original project is pervert by the illusion of their own life.

Their is so much things that happen on this Earth and next to which too many people pass, abused by artifices."

After talking about its aspect and it's ontological dimension, we will see that Heavy Metal has also integrated within it a moral dimension.

 Our favorite musical genre also deals with and addresses moral principles. We then find themes like justice which are dealt with by groups like Metallica.

In the music Justice for All, the famous thrash metal band Metallica denounces a disgusting and deeply unfair corrupt judicial system.

 

Other aspects that are an integral part of our daily lifes are also noted and addressed. All facets of social relationships that govern men are addressed, from revenge to hypocrisy through forgiveness and love

The evolution Heavy Metal music through the decades

At the end of the 80's (1989 to be more precise), the German trash group Sodom, part of the Big 4 of German trash, released an album whose main theme was barbarity and American criminal madness during the Vietnam War.

It is true that at the time of the album's release, the Vietnam War was no longer relevant. It does not prevent to appreciate this CD musically working and filled with commitment and political denunciation.

Here is another example of the committed dimension that metal music can have. It's not just the vintage metal bands who are making their claims.

This engaged aspect is an integral part of the metal spirit to last through the generations.

Contemporary metal also has musical pearls charged with claims. Here is I am Broken too from the Kiliwatch group.

This music is taken from their eighth album Atonement released on August 16, 2019.

This magnificent music tackles dark themes of human psychology such as depression or mental distress.

The group chose to use their musical genre to talk about a difficult but touching subject.

Far from all the prejudices that we can hear from those for whom metal is not familiar, this group of metalcore subtly tackles and deals with a subject ubiquitous in our post-modern society (the rate of depression , consumption of anti depressants and suicide reached worrying stages).

The aggressive effect of Jesse Leach's voice renders superbly well throughout the entire song.

Metal music can be used as therapy for people who listen to and understand it. Listening to metal can help a certain number of us to release this part of aggression which is in us.

An article released last summer (summer 2019) to justly demonstrate, based on serious studies, the benefits that the metal could have on the mental health of certain metalheads.

Indeed metal can be a wonderful outlet, the healthiest way to get rid of anger and hatred by increasing our positive emotions.

Perfect for those of us who have too much fire in the guts and need to let it out. A beautiful outlet.

The group Killswich Engage and its music are a beautiful demonstration of the positive aspects (see therapeutic for some) that metal can have.

This very popular American metalcore band is known for their positive messages and funny performances during their performance.

The Heavy Metal music still has a bright future ahead of it.