Metal, Abrasive in Sound but Not in Concept
Metal. You have definitely heard of it. I am sure mosh pits and emos with countless piercings and bleached skin come to mind. It is no secret that it has a bad reputation among non-metalheads.
If you do not like it, which is perfectly ok, maybe you think it is about yelling bloody murder and banging pots and pans. Or maybe you think it is about demon summoning. Either way, it is wrong. I argue if you haven’t yet heard a proper metal song and tried to appreciate it, then you could have the wrong image of it. Metal is not just heavy metal. Just like how each genre has sub-genres, so too does metal. On top of heavy metal, there is alternative metal, progessive metal, death metal, punk metal, symphonic metal, and many others. No two genres are the same, and metals likely has something for everyone.
Alternative metal is for people who are into rock but are not ready to go straight into full metal. A good example of alternative metal would be songs like “Aerials” and “Crawling” from System of a Down and Linkin Park respectively. If you have heard these songs before and genuinely enjoy them, you could be a metalhead. Also, alternative metal songs do not have to have one particular meaning, nor do any of the subgenres, but these tend to be relatively easy on the mind.
Death metal, a personal favorite genre of mine, has a name that actually makes it sound terrible and evil–who would want to listen to a genre with “death” in it, right? The name is actually very misleading. The only criteria to make a song count as death metal is having an especially harsh vocal. To be precise, you have to “growl,” (with the same part of the throat that Tibetan throat singers use, interestingly enough), so it is much less forced and feels much more natural. That is it. There is nothing more that’s special to death metal.
Also, death metal songs tend to be lengthy compared to most songs nowadays, usually reaching around 6-12 minutes long, but tell a story. Believe it or not, death metal songs would actually be worse if they were any other length. A couple great examples of this genre’s music are “THE ART OF DYING” by Gojira or “The Grand Conjuration” by Opeth. It is important to note that everyone has their own death metal “growl.” Opeth’s growl is different from Gojira’s growl, which would be different from another singer’s growl. So if one growl does not sound good, there are plenty of others to hear.
Punk metal is “thrashy” and unapologetically honest. If you wanted to sing away about how much someone or something annoys you to your very bones, go right ahead. If you wanted to roast someone or something on stage in the form of a metal song, that is perfectly normal too. Sing that anger away, but in less of a heavy tone. It is not comedic in tone, but it is not heavy in tone either. A good example of punk metal would be “Exposed” by A Day To Remember.
And we arrive at progressive metal. This genre does not have nearly as many rules as the other genres, and you can, in essence, do almost anything you wanted to with metal. A lot of progressive metal songs are lengthy–even more so than death metal songs–and do not follow any traditional rules about metal. No two prog metal songs are the same, so those are taken on a case-by-base basis. I do recommend the songs I discussed earlier in the paragraph, but since I did say no two progressive metal songs are the same, it is better for you to explore what may interest you rather than immediately choosing what I recommended and leaving a sour taste for progressive metal in your mouth.
Then there is perhaps the most agreeable type of metal, symphonic metal. This one is just as it sounds–it is metal, but it uses the typically harsh nature of metal and turns it into something the average non-metalhead can actually sit down and listen to. Beautiful examples of these are “Over the Hills and Far Away,” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” both by Nightwish. Each song tells a different story, plus the vocalist’s voice makes every song easy on the ears and on the mind.
As much as I would like to continue praising metal in all its shining glory, I must concede to you the truth. Nothing is ever perfect. Although it certainly can, metal is not always about happy subjects. Oftentimes metal is about deep hatred for something, woes that cut deep into one’s very soul, or just something that is dark.
Some songs are uplifting and have a largely positive message, or are neither dark nor bright, but rather interesting. Per my interpretation, “Shepherd of Fire” by Avenged Sevenfold is about a friend always being there for him. “Imperator Rex Graecorum” is a song written entirely in Ancient Latin by Subway to Sally, and is simply about a Greek Emperor-King having to fight off an Egyptian king. “Wachstum Uber Alles” is a song by Saltatio Mortis that sings of progress through the odds.
A lot of metal songs can mean different things to different people: some people use them as a chance to confront the deepest darkest parts of our personality and come to grips with brooding, evil thoughts that pass through all of our heads at some point or the other in our lifetimes, those we repress for fear of the thoughts themselves. (Think “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers, but 10x worse). Some people simply just want to let off some steam or recover from deep sadness by yelling their anger or sadness away. Others use metal for something in between.