Metal music is by far one of the most misunderstood genres of music. If you’re not what’s known as a “metal-head”, you’re probably wondering how any sane person could possibly enjoy fast, angry-sounding, and extreme music. Why do people like heavy metal music?
There’s no right or wrong answer to that question and it tends to vary from person to person. Metal music is just like every other genre. Some people prefer pop music, some prefer classical, and some of us like to listen to all kinds of different genres.
Do you like vanilla ice cream or cookies and cream? Maybe you’re a fan of strawberry, cookie dough, or chocolate. Chances are, your ice cream flavor preference isn’t exactly the same as everyone else in your family, school, or the job that you work at.
The same concept applies to your preference in music. Rather than bash someone else’s taste (especially without knowing anything about it), it can be helpful to keep an open mind and learn some of the basics before you jump to conclusions.
Keep reading to see why someone would possibly want to listen to a seemingly chaotic collection of guitar riffs, extreme drumming, and harsh vocals that seem impossible to understand.
Why Do People Like Heavy Metal Music?
Since we’ve already established that not only music (but every other form of art is subjective) – let’s unearth some of the deeper meaning behind a widely misunderstood style of music that tends to get glossed over by the mainstream audience.
From the outside looking in, metal can seem off-putting, scary, satanic, or mindlessly rebellious. (A few other adjectives along those lines probably popped into your head when you read that.)
Contrary to popular belief, not all musicians who play this type of music worship Satan or sacrifice goats on the weekends. Believe it or not, wearing an upside down cross around your neck isn’t a requirement either.
Let’s take a look at some of the common themes that often serve as an undercurrent throughout the various sub-genres.
Popular Topical Content & Sub-Genres
Even though you might not be able to follow along with the lyrics, they are actually saying real words. If you’re interested in trying to explore the genre, it’s a good idea to look up the lyrics then press play and do your best to keep up.
As far as popular topical content goes, there are a few key themes that albums are crafted around (or touch upon). Religion, social justice, aliens/outer space, death, suicide, romance, heartbreak, and fantasy are a few of the most common themes in metal.
Bands will approach these subjects and more from different angles – some in support of the topics, and some against. For example, a Christian band will praise religion and present it in a positive light. An atheist band would most likely take the opposite approach.
Another thing that’s often misunderstood is that if a band chooses to sing (or scream) about suicide – 9 times out of 10, they’re sharing a personal experience or the experience of someone they know. They’re not supporting suicide, they’re singing about it to let other people know that they’re not alone and they have someone they can relate to.
Songs like that usually help people deal with their mental health rather than making it worse. (Mental health is another popular topic in metal, especially now that we’re becoming more aware of the symptoms and potential consequences directly related to leaving it unaddressed.)
Are Metal Bands “Satanic”?
Although “Satanic” bands do exist – they are far from the norm. In certain sub-genres it has become somewhat popular to use certain types of themes and/or imagery that might appear to be “evil” or somehow connected to “Satanism” – at least on the surface level.
Most of the time, these images are used as a form of:
a. General rebellion
b. Scare tactics – “Stay away from us, we’re scary”
c. Shock value – shock for the sake of shocking
d. Gimmick to gain popularity
This might be surprising to some of you, but Christian metal is also a popular style of choice. It’s pretty interesting that both styles exist under the same umbrella.
There is some debate about Christian vs. Traditional metal and which one is more “authentic” or “valid”. A good rule of thumb to follow is this – if you like the sound of the music; listen to it. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.
You can’t put limitations on which arena artistic expression can exist (even though it’s a trend that will never fully die out). A similar phenomenon exists in hip-hop. There are explicitly Christian rappers, as well as the opposite, but that’s a topic for another time.
You might be wondering, “How can two opposites live in the same world?”. They coexist in the same way that opposites exist in society. Your next door neighbor might be munching down on a pepperoni pizza while your Friday night consists of devouring a hearty vegan meal.
We might not have the same exact interests or tastes as other people but that’s part of what makes life interesting.
Another key feature of metal that’s pretty unique to the genre is the confusion of sub-genres. When most people think “heavy metal”, bands like Metallica, Disturbed, Iron Maiden, or Slipknot come to mind.
While those bands do fit under the umbrella of “heavy metal”, there are tons of other styles that could also share a similar classification. Today, when someone tells you that they listen to metal, most of the time they’re referring to bands that would fit into one of the sub-genres (listed below) and sounds quite a bit different than Metallica or Iron Maiden.
Due to the confusion surrounding this issue, bands are starting to accept the umbrella term and over-generalization. The answer to which genre best describes this band or that band also varies depending on who you ask.
For most of us, it’s easier to describe it in a way that most people can grasp. The amount of sub-genres is pretty mind-boggling and it’s gotten to the point of becoming ludicrous. Here’s a shortened list of the ever-growing terms used to describe heavy music:
- Alternative Metal
- Nu Metal
- Rap Metal
- Black Metal
- Symphonic Black Metal
- Christian Metal
- Crust Punk
- Death Metal
- Melodic Death Metal
- Technical Death Metal
- Doom Metal
- Sludge Metal
- Folk Metal
- Gothic Metal
- Industrial Metal
- Power Metal
- Progressive Metal
- Thrash Metal
- …and many more
In any community or group of people, there will always be a certain percentage of them that try to act like they’re the official representative and whatever they think, goes. Most metal-heads aren’t mean-spirited or anti-everything.
Food For Thought To Consider
You might be surprised by this but we all have the same basic needs and wants. Just because someone’s wearing a t shirt that has a “scary” screen printed graphic on the front, doesn’t mean that they’re “Satanic”, “evil”, or “dangerous”.
Most of the time if you ask a question like, “Hey I like your shirt, is that a band tee?” or “Hey, is that alien on your shirt from a movie?” – they’ll be happy to answer. On the flip side, if you automatically jump to conclusions and treat them like a leper because you don’t understand the indiscernible font – you’ll probably get the expected reaction.
We Fear What We Don’t Understand
There’s a quote along the lines of “we fear what we don’t understand” and that message definitely applies here. The plethora of sub-genres can sometimes separate listeners creating what’s referred to as sub-genre snobbery.
If person A only listens to grindcore and person B loves post hardcore and thinks that anyone who listens to grindcore is this or that – they probably won’t get along very well.
The distinction has less to do with their personal taste and more to do with how they’re approaching it. Person A and person B can get along just fine. (Maybe they could trade off every other song or find a middle ground that they both agree upon.)
This is what it all boils down to: a true fan of music can appreciate multiple styles and genres of music. The more exploration you do, the broader your tastes become and the more you’ll start to appreciate other styles. It’s one of the main reasons that music and empathy are inseparably connected.
It will save you a lot of time and energy in life to do your best to approach other things with the same mindset. Once you start to realize that this concept applies pretty much everywhere you look, you can place your energy on the things that really matter.
Do You Have To Wear All Black To Enjoy It?
This might seem like a joke but it’s a question that’s asked more than you might think. Plenty of people enjoy wearing black clothing and not all of them listen to metal. Everyone that listens to metal doesn’t wear all black all the time.
The way that someone chooses to dress is completely up to them. If you like pink, wear that. If you like blue, wear all the blue clothing you can get your hands on. There is no governing body in music that oversees and enforces a uniform policy.
Sometimes like minded people dress in a similar way because they share some the same interests. That being said, there are plenty of anomalies in every aspect of life where that concept doesn’t apply. To answer that question directly, no, you don’t have to wear all black or cover your body in tattoos to enjoy the music. Once again, if you enjoy it, you enjoy it.
5 Introductory Bands To Peak Your Interest – (That Won’t Scare You Away)
If this information has peaked your interest but you don’t know where to start, here are a few recommendations to get you started.
- Bring Me The Horizon
- I See Stars
- Bullet For My Valentine
- The Devil Wears Prada
- Avenged Sevenfold
That’s The Spirit is a great Bring Me The Horizon album that’s less heavy and more melodic. If you end up liking it, go back and listen to some of their earlier albums. (Working your way backwards would be the best approach.)
Watch the video for “Drown” to see BMTH perform one of their softer songs:
I See Stars mixes electronic, pop, metal, and even R&B elements on their albums. Digital Renegade or The End Of The World Party are both great introductory albums that most people who aren’t fans already can enjoy.
Here’s the video for the acoustic version of “Running With Scissors”:
Bullet For My Valentine is another band that’s easy to digest and won’t scare you away in the first few seconds. Their debut album The Poison is a certified classic and features a strong mix of heavier songs as well as melodic tracks. (They also play a mean live show which you can read about here if you’re interested).
Listen to “Tears Don’t Fall” to see if you want to hear more from The Poison:
The Devil Wears Prada is another band that not only plays heavier tunes but also more melodic, slow, soft jams. If you want to take the jump and give their heavier stuff a listen, With Roots Above and Branches Below is the best place to start. For a mix of both worlds, listen to Transit Blues.
“Louder Than Thunder” is one the best songs from these guys (and it doesn’t have any screaming at all):
Avenged Sevenfold is pretty popular in the mainstream but especially for fans of hard rock, metal, and good music in general. The Stage is a 73 minute journey and expert display of musicianship that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions.
The official video for “The Stage” is a good album sampler for you to watch:
If you want some more recommendations, take a look at our Best Metal Albums of 2017 list. There is a wide range of styles to listen to and you’ll probably like at least one of the albums there.
Do You Have An Open Mind? – Will You Give It A Try?
What do you think? Did any of this surprise you? Are you willing to give it a try and see if there’s something you might like? Did we do a good job of answering why do people like heavy metal music?, or do you still have more questions?
If you do, feel free to ask below. If you’d like to add your personal opinion on the subject, leave a comment and we’ll respond as quickly as we can. If you know anyone else who’s asked the same question – share this page with them on your Twitter, Facebook, or email.
Thanks for stopping by to become more informed on one of the most commonly misunderstood genres of music! We hope to see you here again!
Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves.