Aug 252011

We all live in two worlds: the face-to-face world, the world of flesh and blood, populated by the people with whom we interact in person on a daily basis, and the electronically enabled world, in which we interact with people we’ve never met. In my face-to-face world, most of the people I know aren’t metalheads. The people I work with and most of my friends aren’t into metal, and don’t have any idea that I have this blog. They’d be terribly confused if they knew.

I do know people in the flesh-and-blood world who are into metal — people I see at Seattle clubs pretty regularly, a handful of musicians, and a few people I’m very close to, but in my circle of friends, they’re outnumbered by people who don’t get the attraction of metal at all. The truth is that I “know” far more people who are metalheads in the electronic world than I do in the face-to-face world, and I’ve “met” most of them through NCS.

The headbangers from those two worlds, as a group, aren’t a statistically valid sample, and I’m certainly not a trained sociologist, but when I think about all the metalheads I know and I throw in the ones I read about, I draw some conclusions about why I’m drawn to them. In most ways, I think they’re like most people. They’re not any smarter or dumber than anyone else — it’s basically the same Bell curve. They’re not any more or less fair, any more or less conscientious, any more or less moral or “deviant”, any more or less hard-working, no more immune or susceptible to pain or joy, no less needing of love and friendship, no more or less heedless of the feelings of others.

Despite the vaunted extremes of the metal scene, I don’t even think most metalheads are any more individualistic or independent than the average person either. Because, let’s face it, human beings are social creatures. We’re herd animals. We need standards and we conform to conventions, and most of us tend to be followers instead of leaders. It just happens that our herd is smaller than the big herds that swarm around us, and our conventions seem alien to the members of those larger herds. Having said all this, however, I do think metalheads are different in certain ways, and those differences are what draw me to them. Yes, part of it is that they use the words “fuck” and “fucking” more often than most people, but there’s more. (after the jump . . .)

The word that’s coming to my mind, to capture that “something” that draws me to other metalheads, is “eccentricity”. I’d probably latch on to a different word tomorrow, but that’s the one I’m going with today. A standard dictionary definition of “eccentric” is this: “deviating from the recognized or customary character or practice; irregular; erratic; peculiar; odd.”

The word I nearly used was “geeky”. I don’t refer to that word in a demeaning way, because I know I’m one of the biggest geeks you could ever meet. The dictionary defines “geek” as either “an unfashionable or socially inept person” or “a person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest.” That fits pretty well. Really, be honest about this. If you engage another metalhead in a conversation about music, or the latest album by this band or that one, it rapidly turns into an uber-geekfest. But “geeky” still isn’t quite the right word.

When I was a much younger lad, pursuing a degree in “higher education”, I lived in an apartment on top of a liquor store next to a strip club called “The Yellow Rose” and just a few miles down the road from the local chapter of a notorious biker gang called The Bandidos. I didn’t live there because it was my idea of style. It just happened that my step-father knew the guys who owned the liquor store, the apartment was empty, and he cut a deal that allowed me to live there for free.

It was a gross place in most ways, including the fact that everything in the apartment was covered in a fine white coating of pigeon dander, because a colony of pigeons lived on the liquor store roof along with me, and all that white stuff somehow migrated through the fine cracks of the windows. I’ve probably got a coating of the shit in my lungs to this day.

Not a great place to sleep either, because most nights I could hear yelling and beer bottles smashing and fights breaking out in the alleyway between me and the strip club. And, of course, the sound of Harley’s. That was my first exposure to metalheads, or at least metalheads of a certain breed, because that club played a lot of heavy metal on the PA system, and on certain nights of the week, a big chunk of the patrons were fuckin’ bikers.

I went in the Yellow Rose a time or two, for the obvious reasons. But I felt like a fawn in a den of wolves, so I didn’t make a habit of it. I didn’t think of the dudes in that place, the ones whose Harley’s were stacked in a row outside, as geeks. But I do think they were eccentric.

And in different ways, most of the metalheads I’m friends with today, both in the flesh and over the ether, are eccentric, too. They may be like most people in most ways, but the wiring in the brain is just a little bit off-center. A little irregular. A little erratic. A tad outrageous. To varying degrees, an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. I guess if I had to sum it up, I’d just stick a big label on their foreheads that says: “NOT BORING”. And that’s the main draw for me.

Why did I go off on this subject tonight? I really don’t have a fuckin’ clue. Chalk it up to eccentricity.

Well, enough of this. Time for some music. I tried to think of a band whose music appeals to all metalheads alike, a band that everyone loves, regardless of their genre preferences within metal. I struck out. I’m not sure there is such a band, because metalheads are contrarian and devoted to their own thing, and their thing ain’t necessarily the next person’s thing. So, I just picked this band. Pretty damned influential, and one of my favorites, but I’m sure not gonna claim that all metalheads love them (though I do).

[audio:|titles=Dissection – The Somberlain]

P.S. The artwork at the top of this post is the cover to the forthcoming album by Absu. It is fucking metal, IMO, and it’s pretty, too. So there. The second piece of art is from the new album by The Horde. It’s fuckin’ metal, too. And eccentric.

  55 Responses to “ECCENTRICITY”

  1. Jah. I know most of my metalhead friends and acquaintances over the internet. I don’t really consider my friends that listen to Attack! Attack! and Bring Me the Horizon real metalheads because well… Attack! Attack! is Attack! Attack! and so on. They don’t know how obscure things can get in metal, and as far as I can tell, they don’t really actively look for more metal bands to listen to.

    Metal is definitely eccentric, for one, you have all the beardos… the only other time you see that many beards is if you’re at a Grateful Dead concert or you’ve made a wrong turn and either ended up at a bar mitsvah or an Amish farmstead. For two… the culture. No other music has a culture like metal has, sure there are jazz clubs and blues clubs, country music festivals, but there’s something that metal has that those don’t have. For tree, yes tree…. the music itself… it combines a bunch of stuff from around the world including folk instruments and chord progressions (do I know what a chord progression is? No… but I do know that Dark Castle has some… Turkish(?) chord progressions) to stock recordings from movies and actual occurences to electronic noises created on a computer… not only does it combine this stuff, but it combines it with the standard metal fare, guitars, bass, drums, generally harsh or operatic vocals… and it usually ends up being pretty heavy… even Orphaned Land’s “Sapari” has some heaviness to it, AND a beat that someone can probably dance to.

    I’d probably add more if I weren’t tired. Sorry Islander, but it’s nearly 1 AM here on the east coast. I’ll have to check out that album by The Horde, the artwork is killer.

  2. I think this is my favorite article that I’ve read in a long time.

  3. I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with this. I think that you have to have at least *some* off-center wiring, as you put it, to appreciate extreme music (my own personality has been compared to a Christopher Lloyd character, although I don’t think I’m quite that out there). I also like that you specified “varying degrees” of not giving a fuck. Everyone’s a rebel in their own way, whether it’s proudly wearing your metal merch to your Lit class, or being a biker, or proudly riding your Harley into your Lit class.

    Fun fact: One of my metal friends is friends with the guys in The Horde, and I’ve met them a couple times. They were actually my first ever show, at this little club in Galesburg, Illinois. I talked with the guitarist beforehand, and then ran into him and the drummer a couple weeks later at a Watain show. I felt all super-special and important because the guitarist remembered me. /end fanboy moment.

    • Now that is a small fuckin world! I know nothing about The Horde other than seeing that album cover and reading the words “Viking Thrash.” I am definitely fated to hear this music.

      And in another amazing example of coincidence, riding a Harley into a Lit class happens to be on my bucket list, except on my list there’s a stripper riding behind me.

      • “From Empire to Ashes”, their first offering, is pretty good. I would definitely recommend that.

        I just had a wonderful image of riding into one of my old Lit classes, leaving a trail of fire behind me, and giving the finger to all the English majors I went to college with. This has now been added to my own bucket list.

        I was not a fan of Lit classes.

  4. This pretty much mirrors my thoughts dude.

    It’s been an honor though working on your site like this and developing something of an actual friendship with you =p

  5. Thanks for a great article Islander 🙂 I find myself in a very similar scenario of balancing two very separate worlds (the metal and the non-metal), so there is certainly much I can relate to in your article. No Clean Singing is a great blog and I certainly appreciate the valiant effort you go to, to maintain it as you do… just saying 🙂

  6. A thoroughly great and thoughtful read. Well done sir! Easily relateable and now i feel extra-grateful for having somewhat likeminded metalheads as close friends.

  7. I’m totally ok with being labeled eccentric. Because regular-centric is just so boring. I don’t know if there is an actual word that means the opposite of eccentric.

    Sometimes I share things that I’ve read or heard online, with my wife. (Her listening tastes venture just a little into the realm of metal, but even when she doesn’t like something she still has respect for it – and even more so, she appreciates my enthusiam). Anyway my point is, from time to time she’ll make some broad statement about “people who listen to the kind of music you do” – and it always amuses me because the music I listen to varies so widely, and therefore the type of people who share all those interests also are quite varied. But I think what she’s really talking about is similar to the points made in this article. I guess whether it’s old school thrash, brutal death, psychedelic sludge, or whatever… there is still some kind of unifying, common thread that does link us all.

    • That’s really what I was thinking about when the idea for this post germinated. People who love metal have their own genre preferences and are also very different from each other in other ways, so what is the unifying thread?

      • Maybe we’re unified by our seriousness/passion for our music that is all seen, regardless of metal genre, as just noise by those who aren’t into metal.

        • That is definitely true in my experience and a point I should have included. Vinter makes a similar point further down in the comments. Certainly, all metalheads I know really are serious, knowledgeable, and passionate about the music. I think that’s true of other genres, too, besides metal (eg, jazz, classical), but not true of all genres (eg, whatever is topping the iTunes singles chart at the moment).

          • I wonder how metalheads can be so serious about the music, but when a comic makes fun of us, we can still laugh at ourselves… weird… I used to get angry when people made fun of metal. Now I have a philosophy: if you don’t laugh at yourself, everyone else will do the laughing for you.

            • I *almost* 100% agree with you.

              Except when people make fun of metal for no reason other than that they just don’t fucking get it and are too lazy to try.

              That’s the difference between joking about racism by making absurd jokes pointing out the underlying idiocy of racism and just being a racist douche.

              But even then, it’s just music, and I’d rather roll my eyes and walk away.

  8. i thought i was in for new absu music, i have been deceived!!!!!!!
    joking aside, although i am still very young i can relate, although most of my friends are metalheads or enjoy metal, when im away back at my university i feel a bit like a fish out of water for some reason, perhaps because i have a very big connection to music overall and not just metal, and the people i know over there are not, “geeky” about music, they just listen to it and thats it pretty much it, but when im in a bar or party and find someone who shares my musical passion there is immediately some kind of connection.
    but yeah i dont give a fuck, i love being able to understand heavy music and connecting with it, even if im labeled a satanic church-burning ritual-performing cyber-necrophiliac.

    • As for the Absu head-fake, be patient. There’s a review in the works, and I’m sure it’s just a matter of time (if it hasn’t already happened) before the band or the label teases out some music for fans to feast on.

    • I too was lured by new Absu. Regardless of the fact that there was Absulutely no Absu (see what I did thar?), this article was a great read and an excellent topic to cover. Hails to Islander!

  9. Twenty years ago nearly all my friends were metalheads or at least music geeks, now several of those have passed away, some have moved away and others have lost interest in metal or music in general except for something to play in the background. The few that are left have slowly merged with the internet friend group due to work schedules and family/household obligations depriving us of the time to get together anymore.

    Metal has been a constant love for me since childhood. I fell in love with Kiss at seven years old, I know they’re not metal but to a seven year-old in ’82…., and by twelve was versed in Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and of course as a young metal fan lookin’ to score with the chicks had to know the glam scene to an extent before continuing on into the more extreme metals. I have always felt like a bit of an outsider because of my love for metal and do feel a kinship with other metalheads, even those who don’t like the same metal as me. So, if that makes me an eccentric geek….I don’t give a fuck! 🙂

    • I got into metal later in life than you did, but that feeling of being an outsider is definitely part of the bargain (though I felt the same way about the music I was into [punk] before I got into metal). Except feeling like an outsider is part of the attraction, isn’t it? At least it is for me. It’s part of the NOT BORING aspect of the music and the scene that I like.

  10. I don’t think I really know anyone in the flesh and blood that I would consider a metalhead. Before I really got into metal (about six years ago, hahah!) I had friends who listened to some heavier music. But now when I think about their musical tastes, they seem very pedestrian and limited. Not that I’m some elitist tr00 metalhead now (I am, without a single doubt, definitely not THAT). That’s my long way of saying, I don’t know any metalheads in the flesh (even though I said it at the beginning).

    Which brings me now to the interwebs. I don’t think being into metal is necessarily anything special. It’s not really that much more eclectic than, say, nerdcore rap or noise or rave music or what have you. It’s not really that much more in your face or serious to fans than punk or hardcore. And I don’t think it’s really that rare or exotic either.

    But it DOES have a sense of family. I don’t think that’s specific to metal (though I’m sure it seems like it is to us because we’re not familiar with any other musical “families”). But I do think it’s very strong in metal. Like underground hip-hop, or scratch DJs or any of those weird dance genres, you have to dig and search to find a good vein of gold. It’s gotten both easier and harder with the increasing presence of bands on the Internet. Easier, since a few clicks can bring you to a band’s webpage, but harder because for every awesome band you find, there are 10 shitty bands trying to rape you with little piggy fingers.

    But one thing I do like about metalheads is their sense of humor. Just looking at the response to my shitty reviews littered with dick and poop jokes tells me that all you motherfuckers should be locked up and beaten with hoses. And THAT makes you wonderful.

    I’m sure there are other musical families that are equally hardcore or dedicated to their scene. And I’m sure many of them are truly demented. (Especially ravers.) But metal’s family values are just the ones I love the most.

    And seriously, all y’all are fucking sickos.

  11. Islander, articles like this are why I write here. this is fantastic stuff.

    People have been calling me eccentric since i was 10–which struck me as odd because I associate the adjective with the elderly, but I embrace it. ANYWAY, you really hit the nail on the head.

    AND great song choice. My underground metal understanding begins (and ends in some ways) with Dissection. I think they deserve an article.

    • Thanks brother. And yeah, we need to do some kind of retrospective or at least a Revisiting the Classics on Dissection. I go back to those early albums pretty regularly, for a reason.

  12. Family is definitely the word. There ARE elitist metalheads out there, just as there are in any other musical ‘scene’, but there’s definitely a sense of family in metal that I haven’t seen among the fans of my OTHER love, psychobilly (for example). It’s just not there. Thing is, metal being as broad and all-encompassing as it is, there’s bound to be at LEAST one band with which you share a love with that elitist fucker. I’ve been to thrash shows, doom shows, death shows, folk shows, you name it… inevitably you’re going to see people at one of those shows that you saw at the other. Also, given the broad and all-encompassing thingy I mentioned before, I think metalheads are a lot more open minded (at least about music) than fans of other genres. Metal also tends to “dig deeper” than many other genres, looking for source material beyond “my girl left me and I’m very sad”. Again, not saying other genres don’t do this, but metal does it a lot more. Whether this is responsible for the eccentricity or a result of it or both, I do not know… all I know is that you guys are all my brothers and sisters in metal and I probably just got myself voted out of the club for saying that. Fuck.

    • Well then, I’m voted out, too, because I agree with everything you’ve said. I especially liked two of your points. It’s really true that if you put any two metalheads together (elitist or not), there’s going to be at least one band they both like, no matter how divergent their principle tastes may be.

      And I think it’s also true that, more than many other genres of music, metal draws from a wide array of source material, both lyrically and musically. It’s part of what keeps the music so vibrant. Whether it’s incorporating folk and ethnic traditions, punk, orchestral music, jazz, or simply recombining in different ways the various subgenres of metal itself, the music perpetuates its fascination and its hold on fans.

      Speaking of folk, check tomorrow’s Miscellany installment for a band you’ll recognize. 🙂

    • I can’t wait for the heavy metal Hallmark movie…

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