April 29, 2012
The Art of Heavy Metal
I would like to focus on the identity of heavy metal music and how it influences identity and certain spaces for individuals who listen to heavy metal and go to frequent rock shows. I prefer to speak about this topic because I am not only in a heavy metal band, but also a more Alternative-Latin oriented group. Both groups attract a totally and undeniably different crowd and vibe, and it’s intriguing to see why that is. I am a fan of all genres of music ranging from classical to death metal and even electronica; I would also want to try and tackle the idea of what elements of music attract a certain crowd more than another. However, I would like to keep my focus directed towards heavy metal because of one reason.
Being involved with music at an early age has taught me that music has constantly evolved over the decades, each with carrying out certain trends that tend to die out rather quickly. Nevertheless, heavy metal is one massive genre that has obviously evolved, but has not died out. It is still considered to be shocking and still gives individuals of all ages the much needed rush in their lackluster lives. Heavy metal can be such an enormous presence in one’s life and can truly act as a soulful manifestation. Beginning with the true godfathers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath has shaped all that is metal over time. With the influence of Sabbath, metal has become a culture and a way of life to most individuals who are involved with heavy music in general. For example, later front-man of Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio, began popularizing the metal horns which is a worldwide famed hand gesture used at heavy metal concerts (Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame). Metal creates this powerful sense of unity amongst its listeners. One does not simply pull up the metal horns at a Coldplay show. This “culture” has its own rules and regulations that individuals make an effort to learn because they adore the genre. One must be weary if he or she does not know how to act and behave at a metal show. Some situations might even possibly get out of hand if an individual does not have any knowledge of how massive hordes of people behave at these shows. For example, besides the metal horns, there are acts like head-banging and moshing which can potentially become dangerous if one does not know how to act accordingly. I speak from experience when I say that straining your neck is the least of your worries. Head-banging began in 1968 at a Led Zeppelin concert, and it has since evolved into different styles. It is widely known and accepted in the metal community, even though most individuals are unaware of its potential dangers. Although it does not serve has a huge health risk, head-banging often can lead to a stroke. It is a common art for individuals at a metal show as well as in their bedroom (Hendrick). Moshing, however, is a way more extreme type of art in the world of heavy metal. A mosh pit by definition is an area at the front of the stage at a rock concert where individuals dance in a violent and frantic manner. Over time, the controversy regarding moshing has amplified and continues to do so. The violent forms of expression have resulted in a few deaths over a period of several decades, but individuals blatantly state that they are not trying to hurt each other while participating in a pit. Some even follow a certain form of etiquette while in a mosh pit. Examples of this would be that if a pit is flowing in a clock words motion, you must do the same. If an individual goes against the flow of the pit, then he or she is more likely to be severely injured. Also, one should wear the right gear. Heavy clothing is a necessity if one does not want excessive bruising the morning after. The more common rules would obviously be to help an individual if he or she is lying on the floor, and not physically force or throw anyone into the pit. Nevertheless, mosh pits are huge a form of expression along with head-banging in the world of metal. During many instances, artists will emphasize from the stage to start a pit to keep the energy of the show alive. However, they will also stress about the dangers and will caution the audience to help anyone who has fallen down. These attributes can give one the idea of what the environment at a rock show would look like. No matter how extreme these acts might get, fans of the genre will continue participating in these actions because they are energetic and passionate individuals that not only understand the vibe of a metal show, but actually crave this active form of expression (Safeconcerts).
As I stated before, metal unifies its listeners, which is very much emphasized in present times. If one considers America’s top 40 when it comes to radio stations, one might speculate that heavy metal is a dying art. It breaks my heart to say that it is an awkward time for metal & Rock 'n Roll as electronic music along with hip hop has for the most part taken over radio stations (Robinson). I believe it is because of this reason that fans and listeners to heavy metal around the globe unite when they see that another individual shares there taste in music. For example, I have encountered multiple instances of seeing an individual wearing a band t-shirt, and I would approach them and begin a conversation regarding the band. I am also often approached in similar situations. In my mind, heavy metal is so under the radar, that I begin comparing these situations in my personal everyday life. For example, my ethnicity even relates to this type of unity when I describe the bond that heavy metal brings up between two individuals. There are about 9 million Armenians worldwide, and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 caused a lot of torment and horror to our race. Therefore, although Los Angeles has a great number of Armenians, there is that same sense of unity when Armenians come across one another regardless of their whereabouts. At least this is how I roughly interpret the unity amongst metal fans in this day and age. It also does not help that MTV has completely shut off all that is heavy metal and Rock 'n Roll. I might even go as far as to say that it has stopped being involved with music, which is extremely unfortunate, being as it was a huge contender for the genres to strive amongst its listeners and newly formed bands to develop a solid reliable fan base. With television and radio lacking in their support of heavy metal or rock music in general, it is obvious that the genre is in somewhat of a hole. With little exposure to the masses, individuals do not get the full effect of this genre of music. Only the ones passionate about the genre will go and put in the effort to dig up music from their favorite artists. Other forms of music get more attention because of today’s market and trends. Electronic music is heavily marketed and is in its prime, while it draws huge crowds to electronic music/light shows called Raves. Therefore, it is my duty as an avid heavy metal fan and songwriter to use my talents to do everything to bring back the likes of Rock 'n Roll in general and heavy metal in particular, to the masses (Sulahian).
Conclusively, I myself might be a head-banger and an occasional mosher, but nevertheless I am proud of it. I wrote this essay based on both research and life experiences. Listening to metal daily is almost a necessity for my state of being, and because of its impact on my life, I will make an endless effort for the genre to grow and prosper with my music, and perhaps even try to popularize it as well.
Sulahian, Rouben. Interview with Shaunt Sulahian. 29 Apr. 2011.
“Black Sabbath Biography”. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 2010. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.
Safeconcerts. “Crowd Surfing & Moshing”. Safeconcerts. 2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2012
Robinson, Peter. “Is Rock ‘N Roll finally dead?” The Guardian. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2012
Hendrick, Bill. Metal Health: “Headbanging Hurts”. CBS News HealthWatch
2008. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.