| Time to put on some|
|—Ray Comfort sounding, in spite of himself, extremely fucking metal|
Heavy metal is
any metal or metalloid of environmental concern a form of rock music that is pretty heavy and also pretty metal. It scares most conservatives and fundamentalists[note 1] due to generally being fairly anti-authoritarian, as well as having many bands that use Satanic imagery, though most only for shock value — indeed, some bands and genres, such as black metal and death metal, go out of their way to be as dark and gory as possible[note 2]. Feminists have also been known to criticize it for sexist content (including lyrics and objectification), heavily male-dominated demographics, and male-dominated bands (where females usually play lead singer and look attractive, but rarely anything else), which they've also done with rock and country music. Environmentalists also sometimes criticize it for "causing noise pollution".
The original heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, didn't make many anti-Christian songs, though some could be held as criticisms of Christians that acted superior to others. ‘Samadderafact, famous rock critic Lester Bangs wrote that Black Sabbath was in fact a Catholic(!) band whose worldview borrowed heavily from Christian doctrines of "the Fall and Redemption." This could possibly be because of songs like "After Forever" about redemption and a strongly worded attack on atheists. Or maybe it was their title song where they beg God to intervene and save them from Satan. It might also be the way the members adorn themselves with crosses. They did use Satan in their lyrics fairly often, but this was usually because they based many of their songs off the whole concept of horror movies — the anecdote goes that Tony Iommi said "You know how people pay to watch movies and get scared? What if they paid to hear music and get scared?" and thus the Music Your Parents Hate was born. In their self-titled song Satan is mentioned often, but only in terms of a story rather than glorification. What they did have, however, were many pro-drug songs such as "Sweet Leaf" and "Snowblind" (about cannabis and cocaine, respectively). This is because they, like most musicans of the day, liked drugs — although they also noted the downside of addiction in "Hand of Doom" and "Paranoid."
The band got their name from the title of a low-budget Boris Karloff horror movie. Interestingly, the day before Easter is known alternately as the Great Sabbath or Black Saturday.
The "horns", where the hand is formed into a fist and the pinky and index finger are raised, is a generally universal sign of metal and usually written as \m/, which imitates the shape. It has been claimed to be Satanic (it's sometimes referred to as "the sign of the devil, dude"). However, the person responsible for its popularity, Ronnie James Dio (not his real name), said that it was actually a sign used by his grandmother to ward off the "evil eye", or to give it, and this sense of mysticism felt appropriate for Black Sabbath, which he joined after their original vocalist, Ozzy Osbourne, had left. By placing two fists side by side and extending only the index fingers to form a "\mnnm/" kind of shape, you get "two much metal for one hand."
The hand sign appears elsewhere, such as for The University of Texas' Longhorn athletic teams (unrelated), and as a sign indicating cuckoldry. The gang MS-13 was initially formed around an affinity to metal music and they adopted the hand sign into their gang.
It is also possible, for those who know the secret, to form the heavy metal horns with both hands and then combine them to form an inverted pentagram.
Be careful not to stick your thumb out while throwing the horns, though. 'Cause if you do, you're making the American Sign Language symbol for "I love you" rather than the non-sign language gesture for "I love metal". When combined with the other hand making a flapping motion the horn sign means "bullshit".
The more serious use of Satanism is usually confined to the black metal genre (infamous for church burnings in Norway), which is quite possibly because black metal is a largely atmospheric genre. Thus bands that create "evil" atmospheres tend to use Satanic imagery to fit it - they also use corpse paint quite often, so, go figure. It also tends to work well as a "shock value" and it's relatively rare for anyone to use Satanism seriously in metal. Those who do take it seriously (such as Infernus of Gorgoroth) take it very seriously and are probably more notable for being full-on Kool-Aid drinkers rather than specifically Satanic about it (although it's possible they're faking to give their music a more serious image).
- One of the few people who seem sincere about their Satanism (outside the black metal genre) is Glen Benton of Deicide (the dude who branded an inverted cross on his forehead), and he also claims to have seen Bigfoot, so again, go figure — it has been pondered that heavy metal could be responsible for the corruption of our youth with the idea of Bigfoot.
- Tying into the issue of super serious Satanism is the story of London band Akercocke, who got in trouble in Northern Ireland for supposedly corrupting the youth. Akercocke later referred to their take on Satanism being no more than "Atheism with a sense of humour".
- One of the most infamous metalheads for "Satanism" is Varg Vikernes, who also happens to be a pagan, rather than a Satanist. He is accused of Satanism due to burning down a few wooden churches (including a rare 12th-century one), but he claims he "just" wants to get rid of Christianity from his Scandinavian homelands. He was convicted of the murder of Øystein Aarseth (Euronymous of Mayhem fame) in 1993, and finally released from prison in 2009. Varg is also a fanatical neo-nazi.
- The bass player and lead 'singer' of Slayer, a famous "Satanic" thrash metal band, Tom Araya, is actually a Catholic; however, lead guitarist Kerry King is at the very least extremely critical of the Christian church, probably to the point of being out and out anti-Christian.
- The song "The Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden is often claimed to be Satanic. Rather than debunking this, we shall let you find and read the lyrics, and thus realize why saying that it is a Satanic song is idiotic, or watch the campy ballroom dancing music video which came out at the same time as the single to realize the tongue is firmly planted in cheek.
- AC/DC had numerous songs that made Hell and Satan seem awesome, like "Highway to Hell" and "Hell Ain't A Bad Place to Be". AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" album, featuring lead guitarist Angus Young in devil horns and a tail, did not help matters, nor did Christian fundamentalist claims that AC/DC actually stood for "Anti-Christ/Devil's Child". Young has denied this claim, stating the name of the band came from a voltage label on his sister's sewing machine. Serial killer Richard Ramirez (a.k.a., the Night Stalker) further muddied the waters by leaving behind AC/DC baseball-style caps at the scene of each of his murders.
- Christian fundamentalists have also claimed that rock band Kiss stands for "Knights In Satan's Service". Lead singer Paul Stanley has denied this, claiming the name of the band has its origins in their glam rock roots. There were similar claims about the band name "Slayer" being an acronym for "Satan Laughs As You Eternally Rot". The band members probably wish they'd thought of that themselves.
- In the 1990s, Christian fundamentalists latched onto Marilyn Manson as the latest evil Satanic band. For once, they did get one thing correct: the eponymous lead singer can officially be called Reverend Marilyn Manson, as he was made a reverend in the Church of Satan by Anton LaVey himself, and Reverend Manson did write the foreword to one of LaVey's books, Satan Speaks. However, the Reverend Marilyn Manson has not used that title since the end of the Antichrist Superstar era (1996/1997), and has never actually been a member of The Church of Satan (the title was honorary). For those wondering, Antichrist Superstar is a concept album that many tens of thousands of words have been spent dissecting. From the many years of analysis done (seriously, The Nachtkabarett is an entire website full of essays dissecting everything the band has produced), one can say that Manson himself either did not sleep while planning this, or has a Time Turner.
- The band Bathory (black metal and progenitor of Viking metal) made extensive use of Satanic and anti-Christian themes early on before shifting their focus to Nordic themes and pioneering the Viking metal genre. Band leader Quorthon stated that the reason for this shift was a desire to get away from religion and explore the much more exciting native cultural themes of their country. In his own words: "I felt I wanted to replace the whole demonic & Satanic bag with something that was pure from Christian and Satanic bullshit."
- Up and coming doom-metal band Ghost (formerly known in the US as Ghost BC) is probably among the most easy-listening of 'satanic' metal bands, since its style is much closer to classic doom rock and metal than black or death metal. This is in stark contrast to the group's hilariously over-the-top evil appearance, with all the band dressed in black cassocks and horned devil masks (and all going by the same pseudonym of 'Nameless Ghoul'), except for lead singer Papa Emeritus (currently Cardinal Copia, since they 'replace' him with every album. Or rather they replace his outfit and change his mask) who basically dresses like a satanic Pope, complete with red and black chaucible, inverted-cross mitre and crosier, and skull facepaint over a latex old-man mask. However, despite how overtly satanic their appearance and lyrics are, they have stated that it is all very tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken seriously. Their gimmick and characters may be satanic, but the out-of-character band members are not. They're just catchy as hell. However, they are highly notable as one of the only heavy metal bands who include an official band-licensed dildo among their merchandise!
Like Satanism, violence is also a common theme in metal. It is widespread through the genres, though it is most common in thrash and death metal. However, it is, again, generally for the impact and is meant to be purely cathartic, and not many heavy metal bands seem to actually endorse it. In fact, Chuck Schuldiner from Death who is widely regarded as "The Father of Death Metal" actively condemned stereotypes of metal artists and being harmful to any sort of living thing or life. To consider another example, the band Ballistic wrote a whole album containing songs about killing people, with titles such as "Silent Killer" and "Corpse Stacked High," but their members are not known for killing people silently and feeding off the power of you. If there is violence associated with heavy metal gigs, it is usually associated with the thrash metal genre due to the speed and aggression of the music, though it is hardly "expected" and is probably more common at punk shows. However, excessive violence going further than just some fairly rough moshing is actually quite rare, and has probably happened to hard rock band Guns'N'Roses more than most heavy metal bands. Especially doom metal bands.[note 3] In fact, it is probably impossible to freely go around bashing people up and rioting at a funeral doom concert. At a drone doom concert, the crowd is probably unable to move.
As violence, war is also often present and it's also something more of thrash and death metal. The way it's treated varies from band to band with some presenting in their songs its nasty results ("One" by Metallica or "Rust in Peace... Polaris" from Megadeth just to cite two examples), others like Sabaton singing about famous events in the history of warfare or like Sodom in their album "Agent Orange" conflicts as the Vietnam War, and finally miscellaneous songs from bands that do not delve primarily with that subject (for example "Run Silent, Run Deep" of Iron Maiden, about WWII submarine warfare).
That said, there are a few bands who actually have delved into the real thing. The early Norwegian black metal scene especially became infamous for this because a few bands, especially Mayhem, tossed animal parts around during shows and had members who mutilated themselves. Although this has largely subsided, there are still a few stories of that nature which pop up every so often. And because metal is a human enterprise, just as with any walk of life there are at least a few genuinely violent lunatics there at any given time.
Besides the already mentioned pagan and mythological themes, others touched by heavy metal -but not being considered a genre by themselves- include songs about nature in different ways, up to the end effects of human excesses ("Wasteland" by Atargatis), Lovecraft's works ("The Thing That Should Not Be" from Metallica, just to cite one), social criticism ("Master Of Puppets" of Metallica about drug addiction, "Leper Messiah" from the same band and about Televangelists), religiosity and faith (Epica's "The Divine Conspiracy" album), and pretty much anything one can imagine.
Among genres, epic metal deserves mention for its emphasis on fantasy tropes as magic, dragons, elves, dwarfs, unicorns, etc. and as in the cases of Rhapsody of Fire or Dragonland among others epic sagas about the fight between good and evil that may span several albums taking place on their own settings. In some cases songs may contain references to famous ones as the one of The Lord of the Rings ("The Bard's Song - The Hobbit" of Blind Guardian or the album "Nightfall on Middle Earth" from the same band), or those from Dungeons and Dragons including characters from them -which from a Fundy perspective probably make them twice as Satanic-, as "Wishmaster" by Nightwish. In other cases, however, fantasy is replaced with science fiction and the tropes surrounding it (Star One, for example).
Personality of metal fans
A 2008 survey found that metal fans are typically "gentle, creative types who are at ease with themselves". This is of course a huge blow to the credibility of the stereotypical legions of 15-year-olds who want to annoy their parents with their 'rebellious' branded T-shirts that they bought from Hot Topic. The surveys and studies mentioned that the personality types of people who like heavy metal are most like those who listen to Classical music; make of this what you will. However, it's not all well-educated and well spoken ladies and gentlemen trying to hide behind a mask of evil and rock persona, taking it with a pinch of salt and enjoyment; some take it incredibly seriously. In early 2010, the metal magazine Metal Hammer decided "hey, wouldn't it be a nice idea if metal was a religion". Aiming to repeat the feat achieved by the Jedi, the magazine prompted its readers to declare "metal" as their religion on the 2011 UK census.
Heavy metal on Wikipedia
On Wikipedia most articles about heavy metal bands are plagued by ridiculous, nit-picking edit wars about which indistinguishable micro-sub-genre their fans (or more likely, the people who hate the band and want to associate the band with something supposedly "uncool") think it belongs in. Some talk pages even have entire sub-pages devoted to these arcane, pointless debates which, really, nobody else gives a shit about. Really, there are almost thousands of apparent genres of metal, and for every band in the cob metal genre there'll be someone out there who will say that it isn't cob metal, because this is fucking cob metal.
Hey, it's just music, man!
Also known as Encyclopedia Metallum, it is a community of metalheads where users can create profiles for bands and write reviews. They also have a very strict set of rules for which bands are allowed a profile and which ones aren't, which are often quite arbitrary and elitist — a band must be "real" metal — meaning no nu-metal, no metalcore (at least no metalcore that's more "core" than "metal"), no alternative metal, etc. (there are, however, exceptions, such as if a band has at least one "true" metal album, is a side project of someone in a metal band, or is something completely different that is considered part of the metal scene for some reason (mainly neoclassical and ambient artists)). The reviews are perhaps the most interesting and useful part of the site as almost every album has at least one negative review. There is also a correlation between a band's fame and how many negative reviews they get. If a band is particularly well-known, there will be many more negative reviews. The reviews themselves are a mixed bag: some of them have reasoned criticisms of the music, while others are basically the user's opportunity to bash the band or the genre (leading one to wonder why someone would listen to and review an album of a genre they already hate). This is actually in violation of the site's rules, but such are still frequently approved. The forums are also a mixed-bag (like most public forums). The "Metal Discussion" forum, being the most popular, is generally considered to be the worst part of the site, even by site regulars, mainly because it's the section that attracts the most newbies. The off-topic sections and certain threads in the recommendations area are generally better. Many of the veteran posters are quite rational, and the site administrators themselves are left-leaning skeptics. However, it is one of the few non-racist websites where blatant racists and other bigots aren't banned on sight as long as they don't break site rules. Certain sections of the userbase are generally hostile towards people who they perceive to have "inferior" tastes as well — mention bands that play any of the aforementioned "false" metal genres in a remotely positive light and you are putting yourself at risk for some flaming, although, depending on the user, it's very rarely any more than gentle ribbing and there are several regulars there who are openly fans of those genres. Most of the hostility is reserved for new users who complain about how "closed-minded" some of the users are and about the site rejecting/deleting one of their favorite bands.
There is also Christian-themed metal, a sub-genre of the Christian rock movement. All too often, it is unoriginal music that is sold as a "Christian alternative" to Satanic or "secular" metal — some are listed on the OBJECTIVE:Ministries sister site "Zounds!". However, it does have some good eggs, such as the band Trouble, whose album Psalm 9 is a classic doom metal album, while other famous doom metal bands, such as Candlemass, used Christian theology as a basis for their songs, though more in terms of storytelling than actually endorsing Christianity. Stryper is widely believed to have started the Christian metal genre — the only problem is, Stryper was not in any meaningful sense "heavy metal" since their music (mostly hair metal) was indistinguishable from that of Poison, Mötley Crüe, or Ratt. Stryper also dressed in yellow and black spandex bumble-bee suits and had hairdos apparently inspired by the 1970s band Angel.
During the 1980s when the term "black metal" started being used more often, Metal Blade Records began using the term "white metal" to market Christian heavy metal bands signed to their label. As a result, many Christian and Christian-themed bands today have sometimes been labelled as "white metal".
There are also a lot of bands that write heavily Christian/Bible-themed songs and lyrics, like the fairly popular power metal band Angra, but are not actually considered to be 'Christian metal', because
they're quite good genre labels are silly like that. Another example could be seen in another power metal band, Powerwolf, who sing bombastic gothic songs chock full of Latin chanting and church organs about, along with werewolves, vampires and general European folklore, the history of the Christian church, though usually from a sarcastic or critical point of view (such as singing about the power and might of the church as they destroy all nonbelievers, but in a way that nobody but the most hardcore of fundamentalists would see as an endorsement).
Racism and nationalism in metal
A certain subgenre of heavy metal (black metal, ironically enough) has picked up a good number of racist musicians and fans. The field of "National Socialist black metal", or NSBM for short, includes such bands as Burzum and Aryan Werewolf (inspired name, that). Much of NSBM does not include the Satanic imagery and lyrical themes typical of black metal, but instead employs a lot of pagan and mythological themes that they find a way to relate with their racism. However, it should be noted that not all bands that use pagan imagery are racists or Nazis, and that most of them just have a healthy interest in paganism. Also relevant is the subgenre of Viking metal; this type of metal is not necessarily racist but racial pride does play a role, with many of its practitioners banging on about being descended from Vikings. Viking metal has influenced quite a few localised offshoots outside of Scandinavia: for example, England has an Anglo-Saxon metal band named Forefather.
The members of Forefather are upfront about their political views, with co-founder Wulfstan claiming that "English nationalism would be a great threat to [the British government's] power and the advancement of globalist principles that are against ethnic English interests… you will very rarely hear any pro-English sentiments expressed in the British mainstream." Here's what he has to say about the band's music and its support base, or lack thereof:
There is a lot of ignorance about metal. Most of it is probably genuine because people don’t know any different. Some of it is probably propagated on purpose. The elites don’t want the masses listening to music that makes them think outside the box.
Of course, what we have here is not racism but something rather more common in rock music: adolescent posturing from someone who takes himself a tad too seriously.
- The Metal Archives are a list of nearly all ("true") metal bands, along with reviews.
- The Metal Observer a less complete, but far less annoyingly 1337 than the above.
- Röw & Fat Ed's Furry Fucking Guide To Metal
- Map of Metal is an oddly comprehensive history of metal genres and includes music samples
- The Heavy Metal Fundamentalists, of course, love it. Providing it's their early album before they went all commercial.
- A tiny minority, not included in this description, eschew heavy metal out of concern for their ears, but they can safely be relegated to a footnote.
- A lot of doom metal is slow, crushing, atmospheric metal
- The Pit of Hell!: Unbelievable Satanic Deception Flooding the Earth! (1983)
- Ozzy Does It
- Five myths about MS-13: It’s not a well-organized, national threat. by José Miguel Cruz (June 29, 2018) The Washington Post.
- See the Wikipedia article on Profanity in American Sign Language.
- See, for example, Deathspell Omega, who explore Satanism from a more high-brow perspective than most, and kick fucking ass while doing it.
- An interview comparable to the infamous Monty Python interview about Life of Brian with irate clergy can be found here. Akercocke defending themselves more coherently (i.e., less drunkenly) on Bruce Dickinson's radio show can be found here, which is, if anything, worth listening to for Brucie.
- The 12th-century Fantoft stave church. About 30 churches of this kind, once common in northern Europe, remain today, mostly in Norway. You can see most of them in these photographs.
- God doesn't hate. It's just a great fucking title!
- Fine, be lazy about it.
- This is funeral doom
- This is drone doom.
- Musical taste "defines personality"
- Which music genres should be recognised as religions?
- See, for example, here and here. This sort of thing makes baby Jesus cry.