Did you know that if you play the Black Sabbath record backward, you can hear that metalheads are some of the nicest people on Earth?
Yet, that’s not how many people see them.
All in black from head to toe, spikes attached to leather jackets and jewelry combined with loud music blaring from their earphones is a recognizable but not quite welcoming look.
Heavy metal clothing reflects the “I don’t care what you think” attitude commonly associated with metalheads; an eagerness to live authentically and free from societal pressures.
Metalheads take pride in standing out and marching to the beat of their own drum, but they’re also individuals with a lot more to offer.
Clothing and attitudes associated with heavy metal bands can lead to judgment, alienation, and discrimination.
But unapproachable as they may seem, this group wants to connect, and there are millions of metal fans worldwide.
In fact: tickets for Wacken Open Air — a four-day festival that holds up to 40,000 people — sell out in less than 48 hours every year.
What exactly gave the music that means so much to the metal community a bad name?
Today, we go over three myths that are persistently linked to the metal community, we explore what kindled them, and whether there is any truth to them.
Myth #1 — It’s Just Noise
If a metalhead got a penny every time they heard “it’s just noise,” they could buy our entire collection of limited edition T-shirts with that money.
True. Metal music is loud, fast, and some genres do feature harsh vocal styles such as growling.
However classifying it all as noise ignores the long history of metal music that has been evolving since the first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, in the 70s.
Even using heavy metal as an umbrella term for all metal music oversimplifies the genre as a whole.
Ever since Black Sabbath developed the signature metal sound, other bands have built on their elements to create new music with additions to style.
Metal evolved in multiple sub-genres, all featuring unique sounds, themes, and logo styles.
Nowadays, there are so many of them that even die-hard fans have a hard time keeping track.
Death metal, thrash metal, black metal, progressive metal, speed metal, doom metal, and power metal are just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are a few sub-genres to compare.
|Sub-genre||Thrash Metal||Progressive Metal||Death Metal||Heavy Metal|
|Common themes||death, war, internal struggles, addiction, corruption, injustice||death, environment, philosophy, disorders||death, gore, religion, society||war, religion, mythology, history|
Some of the sub-genres are hard to listen to, especially if you’re not used to it. But there is a genre for everyone, and most metalheads work their way up to more extreme types.
Myth #2 Metal Is Evil
Metal music and community have been linked to the occult since its beginnings.
Some genres of metal do have a controversial past. For example, the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem was linked to several church burnings, some of them 200 years old.
But they do not represent the entire genre.
We know. Metal bands such as Slayer using Satanist imagery as a shock factor don’t help.
You’d have to look long and hard to find genuine Satanists among metal bands. But there is one reason — besides high volume and harsh vocals — that makes metal sound so evil.
One interesting element of Black Sabbath’s music is the use of tritone (AKA the Devil’s note) which was banned in the Middle ages when it was believed to be the sound of the Devil himself.
Evil can also represent anything we’re afraid of. Metal didn’t stray away from any of the heavy topics, and that’s the reason many fans find it so refreshing.
Parental advisory warning stickers exist because of metal music.
The meaning of an iconic “devil’s horns” hand gesture is also interesting.
Ronnie James Dio, who introduced it to the metal community, appropriated it from his Italian grandma, who used the gesture as a protection from evil.
Myth #3 Metalheads Are Lazy
Okay, maybe sometimes. But who isn’t?
Denied Jobs in Past
This myth is a stubborn part of the stereotype about heavy metal because it can be hard for metalheads to find a job (unless it’s in a metal band).
Long hair, tattoos, piercings, and black T-shirts with all sorts of graphic imagery on them can deter employers from hiring metalheads.
Voice for Ignored Groups
Metal music has also been associated with fans that are unambitious in life, working-class or lower, and who might have alcohol or drug dependency issues.
Working their way up from similar backgrounds, metal bands did speak to these often ignored groups, creating a community for outsiders.
As metal evolved and even became mainstream with widely popular bands such as Iron Maiden and Metallica, the fanbase became more versatile.
One thing never changed: Metal music gave fans from all walks of life a voice and held their hands in some of the darkest times in their lives.
Heavy Metal Music
Another reason metalheads are associated with laziness is the music itself. To the untrained ear, metal music doesn’t seem to require a lot of skill or training.
In the beginning stages of metal music evolution, the bands would race to play faster or make their appearance, lyrics, and themes more shocking.
The music has been complex from the start, with lyrics from bands such as Iron Maiden; even native English speakers would need to consult a dictionary to understand.
It all became very sophisticated with metal bands whose lineups consist entirely of trained musicians such as Dream Theater.
Even groups that do not feature trained musicians demand an abundant amount of sweat, frustration, and tears to get it right.
Rock Style of Your Own
The myths described above are, like most stereotypes, the result of misinformation and lack of education on the matter.
The problem with stereotypes is that there are real-life consequences to them.
Metalheads can shrug off strange looks on the street, but not getting a job due to long hair and music preferences is a whole different ball game.
People who listen beyond the noise realize that there’s a lot more to heavy metal than a few stereotypes that it has been reduced to over the years.
There is a sense of community even among strangers who meet in concerts or recognize the band from someone else’s T-shirt.
And complex music that acknowledges both the beauty and difficulties we all face as human beings.
Clothing highlights an open-minded spirit and love for music all metal fans share.
Still think metal is evil?
Listen to some of it, and you may even find some great tunes for your next workout session.
If you like what you hear, you’ll want to rock some metal T-shirts from our apparel to show the metal community you are one of them.
A Black Sabbath t-shirt, from the heavy metal band who started the whole genre, is a good place to begin.