What I learned from listening to metal

Music is an incredible thing. It can unite us, inspire us, or even frustrate us. One of the more demonizing forms of music in existence today is metal. This brutal type of music is divided further into numerous sub-genres, including: death metal, melodic death metal, and the infamous black metal. While not all metal is scary sounding (DragonForce is technically considered a metal band), the genre has been largely shunned from the public eye due to the perceived “dangers” of exposing children to its enraged overtones, resulting in violent, difficult, or depressed children. I mean, look at this excerpt from the song “Fermented Offal Discharge” by the technical death metal band Necrophagist (which literally translates to: “eater of the dead”)

The casket is exhumed, turfs piled beside the grave
A stagnant mass awaits me, deep in the gloom
The boxes lids I open, distraught desecrating
The fumes are penetrating, I am eructating… I vomit…
I initiate eager exhuming despite bad scents…
I dig up cold earth, exhumed turfs I disperse…
I initiate eager exhuming despite bad scents…
The open casket reveals the rot
Into weak stomach I slide my hands
Intensifying fumes I like to snort

My goodness, what an appalling lyrical arrangement! How could anyone possibly enjoy this?
Well, Fermented Offal Discharge happens to be my favourite song. The complex drum arrangements, the incredible bass work, and of course, the trademark guitar virtuosity of lead guitarist Muhammed Suicmez really bring the music to life. I’ll include this incredible video of someone playing the entire lead part of the song on a clarinet. Skip to 3:00 to hear the solo.

Sounded almost…classical didn’t it? For those that have not been exposed to the world of metal, it may shock you to learn that most metal musicians have extensive classical music training. The gruff, aggressive lyrics of a typical metal song may give the genre a very rough look on the surface, but if you delve deeper into the actual music in each song, you’ll find that the compositions are rather intricate and incredibly hard to play. That being said, metal is an acquired taste, and it’s definitely not for everyone.

So what have I learned from listening to metal? It produces a lot of really shitty people.

No, really – despite the praises I’ve just sung for the music, the people can really ruin it for you, and they’re really a bummer to discuss music with for the most part. A study out of Warwick University determined that the most intelligent students in their study generally listened to metal. The reason? To cope with the burdens of being talented; essentially, listening to metal was an outlet for their frustrations. Many metal musicians are also highly educated. The aforementioned Muhammed Suicmez? A mechanical engineer. The lead guitarist of Behemoth, Nergal? A master’s degree in history, and a museum curator designation in his home country of Poland. Yannick Bercier, lead drummer of Canadian metal band Quo Vadis? A Ph.D. in physics from McGill. However, do not confuse intelligence with happiness or overall pleasantry.

When I got really into metal in the summer of grade 11, I started to close off all other genres of music, because I adopted the classic “metalhead” mindset that all commercial forms of music are bad, the musicians aren’t talented, and that they’re all fake. I didn’t really have much to talk about with regards to music aside from metal, but finding other people who liked it were few and far between. And even when one metalhead finds another, they often butt heads because they might not agree on band choices! It became a very dire situation, and realizing that there was more to music than simple musical talent was quite the revelation.

So what did listening to metal teach me? Being elitist is a recipe for disaster, especially with something as subjective as music. It sows the seeds of misery all around you, and the further you delve into the metallic underground, the harder it is to find your way out. Being elitist with anything is a bad idea, plain and simple. It conveys a low level of self esteem, and you project unhealthy, negative emotions on people. That’s not to say negative emotions are bad, but when you can’t even go out to a party or a bar because you “think Top 40 sucks”, or “all the people are fake”, you really start to become a shitty person to be around. While many metal heads prefer a life more prone to solitude, I feel as if they are hiding. Hiding because they are scared, hiding underneath an armoured veil of this…music. Today, I’m glad I don’t exclusively listen to metal, or EDM, or any other type of music where elitism runs rampant. Think of the time when you had a conversation with someone who was a musical elitist, where their only goal seemed to name drop more bands than you could, or maybe turn the number of concerts they’ve been to into an impromptu dick-measuring contest. It probably wasn’t a very enjoyable conversation, and you were praying that it would just end.

What musical elitists seem to forget is that 99% of all people don’t care about how intense or underground the music you listen to is. What they care about is being exposed to new ideas or new thoughts on the subject of music. When your musical tastes become secular, so does your life. Open your mind to new sounds and new experiences. You don’t have to like everything, but at least gain an appreciation for the craft. Hate rap? Fine, but at least try to gain some respect for the talented lyricists of the past, or the producers of the present.

Listening to metal taught me the value of having a good pair of headphones, and knowing which kinds of music that I should keep confined to them. No one wants to hear a death metal song, unless they also happen to be a metal fan. Popular music is popular for a reason: it’s actually pretty good if you just learn to relax and get into it. Try it sometime, you’ll be amazed at how much happier you feel.

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