(Andy Synn rides to the rescue of a site without much content ready for today with an opinion piece. Limber up your fingers for some comments, please.)
Just a short, stream-of-consciousness piece here for today, since Islander’s been inundated with responsibilities to his life outside of the site (and honestly, who really needs a life outside of this site I ask you?), putting down some of my thoughts, in brief, on the ever contentious topic of metal and its place (or lack thereof) in the mainstream. This certainly isn’t a new topic, though hopefully I’ll be able to offer some interesting observations from my own point of view.
[Note here that whenever I use the word “we” in this article I am purposefully generalising – maybe certain points don’t apply specifically to everyone, but if you get a large group of people together they always come to be more strongly generalised than they would individually]
To start with, let me say something controversial: A huge proportion of the metal scene craves recognition/acknowledgement from the mainstream. And I’m not talking your Linkin Park’s or your Limp Bizkit’s, no, I’m talking about bands, fans, and journalists who are truly interested in the more legitimate forms of metal, yet are exceedingly sensitive to any instances of mainstream exposure. Even they have an underlying craving for acceptance. We claim not to care about such things, but the second a “real” metal act gains some chart success we’re out there trumpeting to the world in a strange mix of superiority and attention-craving. It’s why every third-rate deathcore or metalcore act does a generic Katy Perry or Lady Gaga cover. It’s why djent failed to achieve its initial promise, falling prey to the same pitfalls of hype and ill-advised pop covers as nu-metal, albeit with more bedroom technicality. The mainstream is insidious in its influence, and permeates even the most underground of metal genres.
We tell each other we don’t need the mainstream (and indeed, with the growth of more and more viable DIY methods, we’ve seen bands forging ever more successful careers without ever achieving any sort of acknowledgement by the wider public consciousness), but we’ll take any opportunity to grab their attention. And I’ll tell you now, I’m not innocent of this. I’ve taken many opportunities to try and expose others to non-mainstream metal bands, based on the idea that they are somehow “better” – and yet, why do I do this? What’s behind this odd need for celebration or recognition?
Well for one thing, we’re largely the ‘misfits’ of society. Sometimes we choose to be so, to be different (deciding you like metal can still serve to ostracise you from certain parts of the community, even in these days), and sometimes we’re misfits for other reasons, who are drawn to metal as a music designed and welcoming for the ‘outsiders’. Yet still, there’s undeniably a part of us that’s always looking to “show” the world how good we are, how we aren’t really misfits/weirdos/whatever. And that’s fine. But we have to acknowledge that this is still looking for recognition from mainstream society. It’s the central dichotomy of metal as a cultural movement, the rejection of mainstream conformity coupled with a subtle sense of “look, we’re just as good as YOU are”. No matter how much we deny it, there will always be a part of us that would like to be ‘cool’, even if only to see what it’s like for a while.
It manifests in so many ways. There’s the pernicious, “we’re all freaks and losers together” vibe that groups like My Chemical Romance, Marilyn Manson, et al, have used to such commercial success, uniting all the “freaks” into a force which, while remarkably feeble in many respects, still has at least some commercial viability and recognition. And yet that’s not so far removed from the “brothers-in-unity” vibe espoused at your local hardcore show – the reactionary, ‘fuck the world, we are one’ idea that similarly demands attention and recognition by defining itself in opposition to the mainstream. It’s hard to kick against the pricks if they’re just ignoring you.
Perhaps the most common form of it though is in those metal acts whose careers do, to some extent, depend on riding this line between mainstream exposure and (often limited) underground appeal. Take media darlings Five Finger Death Punch (whose ‘soldiers of metal’ schtick might be the most over-compensating gimmick since Manowar). Recently they announced their Trespass America tour/fest, with a statement to the effect of “we’re going to force the mainstream to accept metal” (it may possibly have ended with a “hoo-rah”, but I can’t be certain).
Now, it may just be me, but it seems there’s something just a little bit desperate about that sort of statement. Though it may well be motivated partially by financial concerns (which I refuse to judge them on, one way or another – bands need to make a living to be able to exist), and the idea of creating a festival to take metal acts, many of whom, noticeably, either already have a reasonable mainstream presence or are, at least, somewhat mainstream friendly, into the mainstream consciousness just seems odd to me. I’m not decrying the festival itself, but the way it’s been phrased and presented. What’s more it just seems like a very real exercise in futility. It probably wouldn’t appeal to FFDP, or their fans, to know that they come across more like children looking for praise from their parents, rather than as ‘metal warrior, taking the fight to the enemy’.
Just as current, there’s a constant thread that ties together bands like Bring Me The Horizon, who made a conscious jump towards a softer, more mainstream sound (coupled with the oh-so arrogant and dismissive statement that they “were never just a metal band anyway”), and individuals like Skrillex, who similarly moved from a failure to succeed in one genre to riding the zeitgeist of another – thereby opening the floodgates for every up and coming metal musician or act to have a dj or dubstep side-project. Is this a sign of widening tastes, or just emblematic of the need to be part of something ‘cool’? If you realise you’re not going to cut it in “the underground”, where tastes and criticisms are arguably much harsher and harder to please, why not try and achieve some success in the mainstream pond, which may be just as crowded, but where standards are (arguably) lower?
You could argue, in fact, that this shows a breaking down of the reactionary walls that divide our sub-genre from the rest of the musical landscape. That you no longer have to be “different”, since you can be just as “cool” as the rest of the mainstream. Conversely you can argue that this very goal neuters much of the integrity behind our chosen musical form – what exactly is going to happen once we ARE accepted by the mainstream? Particularly since, as we have seen, the unit-shifters who gain mainstream success still remain, largely, the ones most divorced from the central tenets of the metal genre. Five Finger Death Punch may have guitar solos, but they wouldn’t have the success they do without their Nickelback-lite choruses and lowest-common denominator imagery. Lacuna Coil do well for themselves these days, now that the songs and riffs are simpler and the female vocals garner 99% of the attention. I’m not decrying either of them, not really, it’s just the way they are – but the very fact that people have to make the argument as to whether they are metal or not is telling.
I remember years ago a quote from Disturbed, around the time of their second album, where they name-checked both Shadows Fall and Avenged Sevenfold as bands who had been “influenced” by Disturbed to start incorporating guitar solos – a statement so massively arrogant and patently inaccurate that it forever cemented them in my mind as hollow, radio-friendly unit-shifters, nothing more, nothing less. And it’s that exact thing that epitomises one of the key problems of this drive towards the mainstream. Although it seems admirable on the surface, taking a musical form of more integrity and honesty and placing it before people so they can see what real effort and emotion can achieve, it belittles the efforts of those who don’t achieve, or don’t want to achieve, this sort of success. For FFDP and their Trespass America jaunt, the only measure of success is going to be the number of cds they sell off the back of it. For Disturbed, they betrayed their own ignorance by being seemingly unaware that a band could exist in the underground, as if bands suddenly leap into existence once they sell a certain number of units or crack the charts.
But ultimately, it’s all part of the same thing. I may tell my friends “you should listen to this band or this band” instead of the pop-rock or indie groups they like, we may all make a big deal about so-and-so cracking the top 50, and bands themselves may take a big game about “conquering the mainstream”, but in reality we are all looking for acceptance. It’s why we form little sub-cliques even within our own genre. The mainstream is just the biggest clique of them all. We deny we want anything to do with them, then salivate over even the tiniest morsels of attention, looking for a paradigm shift I’m not even certain we actually want.
None of this is going to change, nor am I complaining or trying to wish it all were different, but I do think it’s something that we should be able to think about and talk about, as it’s harder to draw a line between who’s mainstream and who isn’t than you think.
I still have no idea what a Skrillex is. I’ve seen a picture, and it just looks like an 80s model mated with something from Alien. Apparently, it makes music? Is that the deal? (I’m not sure if it’s even human. Is it a robot?)
Andy: I guess so? I’m not sure. Are you trying to say that metalheads need to pull the collective elitist sticks out of our asses and admit that we’re not better than anyone else? Because that’s NEVER bad advice. I do think that there is one important thing that differentiates an “underground music fan” from someone who just listens to whatever is on the radio: greater effort. The thing is, we all only get 24 hours in a day, so even if someone doesn’t spend all their time digging through CDs and websites to find “the perfect band,” there’s a good chance their spending their time (and money) on some other thing that is equally worth their time.
Different priorities, I guess?
So, I suppose what I’m saying is, being a metalhead is like being a fly fisher, except we spend less time walking around in rubber pants.
that depends on what kind of metal you like…
Oh, that’s true…..
Hmmm…we spend less time with our rods in our hands? Nope…
we spend less time throwing our rods at wet things…no…
We spent less time making tiny knots and walking around in rivers!
I think you finally got it with the tiny knots and river wading, cuz I definitely wear rubber pants. Underpants, actually.
I think the key distinguishing factor between fans of underground music and fans of above-ground music is that our bands like to give the finger when they’re photographed. One more way of saying “not mainstream”, even when the bands in question really want mainstream attention.
I instantly thought of Johnny Cash when I read this comment.
The fly-fisher analogy is quite correct. But, is it really possible to not be an elitist when feeling outcast. You sit around fly-fishing without company, you are eventually gonna get cranky and nippy. Throughout one’s years in college one has never met any person who listens to anything more ‘underground’ than Arch Enemy. :/ Even he wouldn’t listen to stuff like Cynic, Cormorant, Thy Catafalque, Fantomas and Melvins. [Seriously though, what kind of metalhead are you if you can’t take Melvins or Cynic?…] One has nobody with whom to share one’s experiences IRL.
Of course, acting like a dick would be too extreme a reaction (as is not the case). But, that kind of superiority complex seems natural as a reaction such feelings, one thinks. Even if one doesn’t act like it, those thoughts must still be there, right?
I’ve been listening to metal for over 20 years. Out of all the Florida death metal bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Athiest, Monstrosity, Cannibal Corpse etc. I always though that Cynic was awful. Reinert is a monster behind the kit though.
The guy in the first photo looks like a twat. Also, it seems that a ton of people worship FFDP up here at college, and I have no idea why you would. They suck. In related topics, wonderful post Andy and I agree 100%.
I’ve intended to write something similar for a real long time — about the paradox of wide-spread recognition vs. underground cred; about mainstream taste shifting to include something, or about something shifting to be included in mainstream taste; and about the arguments between drastically changing one’s style vs. sounding exactly the same and stagnating. But I’ve long since given up on writing anything like that, because I’m lazy and I have plenty else to keep me busy. And because Mr. Synn is a better writer anyway.
I was speaking about this with Mr Doug Moore the other day.
I really think this problem we see is just one symptom of a more widespread problem affecting all commercial music; metalheads just whine about it more. That’s the price you pay for being the awkward child of super-commecial arena rock (black sabbath, led zeppelin, pink floyd) and super-non-commecrial punk (black flag, the sex pistols). How can you be HUGE without being a sell-out? I’m not sure you can.
But for what it’s worth, this is the trick to making big bucks as a metal band and achieving “mainstream” success: Appeal to nonheshers and heshers alike. That’s it, that simple. Metallica did it. Mastodon does it. Meshuggah does it. Opeth does it. Those bands make mad green for that reason alone.
Hmm. I would say that I’m kind of the opposite of this article. Not saying that there is anything wrong with it or with wanting mainstream acceptance, but I’m kind of the opposite. I’m Canadian and recently we got the metal category re-instated in the Juno’s. Even though it’s good (I even have to force myself to admit that), it feels really weird to have metal (our metal) being judged and evaluated by outsiders. Bands that try to become popular are NOT sell outs, I just fucking hate them. I want to like them, but every fiber of my being screams out NOOOOO!!! and rejects them. I’m not an elitist, I just prefer Paysage d’Hiver over Bring Me The Horizon, is all I’m saying. Anyway.. does anyone read these comments?
Yes, I read every one. Beyond that, I can’t say. 🙂
Is that Pasage d’Hiver a band? I don’t think I’ve heard of them.
Paysage d’Hiver is the solo project of the guitarist from DarkSpace. Similar in feel, but more “earthy”.
Thanks you sir.
Old Man Windbreaker reads them as well.
Awww! You guys are so nice!
Thanks for taking the time to write this Andy. I kinda have a whole ocean of thoughts and emotions about this subject and metal elitism, but nobody gives a shit about strong unsolicited negative opinions. Ultimately, I maintain that the only thing that matters about the music you listen to is how much you enjoy the sounds coming out of your speakers, not how critically you can scrutinize and analyze those sounds. Of course meaning and intent is important, but if you’re not enjoying the time it takes out of your day to listen to music, then what the fuck are you even listening to music for?
People clearly seem to be enjoying the sounds DeathPunch puts out; who the fuck am I, who the fuck are we to say they shouldn’t? So many metal fans bemoan the mainstream popularization of metal, but they are so blinded by hatred that they miss the most obvious positive effect: MORE MUSIC GETS TO MORE PEOPLE. Music is meant to be HEARD, not sequestered and compartmentalized into a specific subset of people. This Tresspass tour contains 4 bands who I have either seen before or am interested in seeing. If not for this tour by death punch, that would be one less opportunity for me and thousands of other people to see some tight live performances, and maybe even for some young kids and oldheads alike to discover a new band that they would normally have never given the time of day.
Couldn’t agree more.
Then again, some of just love music, metal or not. I don’t care whether or not it is mainstream. If I like it, then I like it.
Oh, and then ther’s this sentence(?)
“Though it may well be motivated partially by financial concerns (which I refuse to judge them on, one way or another – bands need to make a living to be able to exist), and the idea of creating a festival to take metal acts, many of whom, noticeably, either already have a reasonable mainstream presence or are, at least, somewhat mainstream friendly, into the mainstream consciousness just seems odd to me.”
It is so long it is agonizing to read and presents so many related ideas that it becomes confusing. Next time, you may want to break that sucker down into a couple of more polished sentences
I already did that. You should have seen the sentence before I edited it.
Ha, I still have the original, so you can’t go claiming credit on this one.
Besides, if you edited things like you said, then why did you miss that extra “and”?
I know you’re just trying to confuse me. I never miss a superfluous and, and.y
For the first point, you appear to have misunderstood the direction of the piece. It never at any point says whether you should listen to mainstream or underground music, your taste is your own. It says that there’s a logical gap somewhere in that metal as a sub-culture preaches rebellion, etc, on the one hand, while clamouring for attention on the other.
For the second – no, I’m cool with that sentence, although there’s a superfluous “and” in there that was left over when I redrafted that part. Annoying, but hardly life-threatening.
I actively do want my favorite bands to achieve mainstream success, and I evangelize for them constantly. However, I’ve never really felt this was an attempt to achieve acceptance or to prove something to myself about my own taste. I think my take is more practical than that: a successful band is more likely to hang in there. More likely to keep putting out the music I love. More likely to tour my town. And so on. I want them to achieve that level of success, because I want more of them.
It’s like a dream of mine. If I ever win the lotto (which I never play) or actually earn lots of money on my own, I want to sponsor my favorite fledgling bands anonymously. Just check in to their Facebook pages from time to time. Can’t get the money together for a tour? Here’s $10k to help out. Equipment got stolen out of the trailer? Replacements are on their way. Can’t afford the studio time? How much does a couple weeks cost?
(All that said, I kinda agree with ol’ ug up there that there are very few “mainstream” metal bands I find it possible to like. Nothing to do with their stature. I just don’t like their music.)
I wrote an article about a very similar topic quite some time ago (link), from the angle of “True Metal vs. False Metal.” I agree with you that mainstream metal has its place, and there’s no reason why we should actively hate it. It will bring people into the fold, and, after all, nobody started out on metal with Bathory.
My feeling on the main difference between mainstream music and underground metal (I can’t really speak to other underground genres much) is that mainstream stuff is easy and bland. Easy, bland stuff appeals to a wide range of people who don’t really care that much about music, but want something to listen to every now and then. There’s nothing wrong with that. Underground metal, on the other hand, is not easy (it may be easy to play, but not to listen to) and is never bland. It’s for people who really love metal.
So I guess it’s kind of like the difference between a good old hamburger and some really gourmet dish with all kinds of weird flavor combinations. Some people just want the hamburger, and don’t get the gourmet dish. People who really love food will go for the gourmet dish. My wife likes mainstream music, and she likes simple food. I like things with a lot of flavor.
That’s interesting – so in relation to this piece you could also suggest that the unconscious/subconscious desire for mainstream recognition found in much of the underground is more than just a desire for validation but a wish that complex things would/could/should be appreciated or given as much time as simpler, more accessible things. Then of course, that speaks to a bit of bias towards “complex = better, simple = dumb” as well, and “better” is such a loaded term.
(In other news, “validation” is the word I was looking for when I wrote this piece – II suppose that’s what you get when you write and edit something at work in the space of an hour, I couldn’t get my brain around the word, so it went as is.)
..what he said
I don’t think this has to be the case though. While it’s not metal, I’ve basically had the latest Rise Against record on repeat for the past several days. Musically it’s pretty easy listening. It has catchy guitar riffs, fairly simple rock/punk drumming, and there’s maybe 30 seconds of harsh vocals spread across the entire album. The whole thing is absolutely slathered with mainstream appeal.
And yet the lyrical themes are more complex, cutting, and critical than they’ve ever been. Damn near every track resonates with the frustrated liberal/progressive/socialist/whatever in ways that would make even the masters of political frustration in Bad Religion envious. By all means it should appeal to both crowds without really compromising anything.
To jump back into the metal sphere, I sort of see pre-Resolution Lamb of God the same way. Musically they may be somewhat compromised from the trve-est, kvltest ideal of metal as an unlistenable assault by anyone who hasn’t spent the past five years working their way up from the dregs of gateway bands like Disturbed or Five Finger Death Punch but lyrically there’s been no compromise here. When not engaging in tough guy dick swinging or wallowing in angst and self pity their more political songs have been downright eviscerating.
Although in the end I guess the problem here is I’m judging both bands on their lyrical message first, the tr00ness of their music second. And as a perpetually pissed off socialist, I’m okay with that.
I guess Im the exception to this rule then. While Id love to see metal bands become legitimately successful, if only to make access to merchandise and music easier. I couldnt care less if any of the bands I listen to go mainstream.
Now dont get me wrong..if say, Incantation could still be Incantation and somehow achieve world wide acceptance…Hey that would be great. Whats far more likely to happen though, would be a need to clean up the production, add more melody, maybe include a catchy chorus (got to have clean vocals for people to sing along to), and basically a loss of everything I enjoy about the music. I’d rather not see the music I enjoy so much become compromised by the need to make it more appealing to the average music listener. Its better to just leave it in the underground where it belongs. The people who want to find it will find it
Again, the point isn’t necessarily about “going mainstream” (and certainly not “selling out”) but is really about EXACTLY what you’ve put here. That we’d love for our bands to get worldwide acceptance (removing the term “mainstream” seems to make things a lot less loaded overall), while still maintaining their underground credibility.
I did make exactly the same connection as you though, that it would most likely involve a softening/changing of their sound. But that’s essentially another part of the paradox being addressed here, we WANT them to get bigger, as that would partially validate our belief that they’re simply BETTER, but we don’t want them to do so by changing, and they usually CAN’T do it without changing. It’s a conundrum.
Yeah..but its not because Im looking for them to be accepted…thats neither here nor their for me because as long as Im enjoying them who cares. I just agree with some of the other posters…bands that can make a living at this generally stay together longer..are more accessible as far as merchandise..more likely to tour a wider area. Thats all stuff thats advantageous to me (yes Im a selfish prick).
No, they cant do it without changing..because most people are programmed/trained/brought up to enjoy the type of music thats exactly the opposite of most extreme metal. Ive always believed that people who end up listening to metal did it because they wanted to. Like FMA said above..no one starts out listening to Bathory. For whatever reason metal fans were drawn to this kind of music and made a conscious effort to retrain how they think about music (i.e. melody, clean vocals, good production arent necessary). Most people dont have the passion to make that effort
I don’t want metal to become mainstream. I think it’s nice we have our own group of people, basically a culture where the members are tightly knit; and while a lot of us are jerks to each other, we’re still birds of a feather. Besides, if metal went mainstream then the point of metal would be nil, since many metalheads are misfits in some way or another.
Another thing, I like my bands to be obscure, I suppose it makes me feel more unique, the fewer the people have heard of a band, the more eclectic my tastes are (not always, but you get the point I think). So while I’m sort of happy that bands I like grow a lot in ‘Likes’ on Facebook in a short amount of time, there’s a big part of me that wants them to have a small fan-base, I suppose that I feel like they are MY bands, and while I know this not to be true, I still feel this way. And SurgicalBrute thought he was selfish :D.
Other posters brought up that we have to work to get into metal, but do any of us still, to this day, work to get into bands with weird or harsh sounds? Because I know I certainly do; I’m sure this ties in with my want of being unique as far as music goes.
Nice article Andy, a little difficult to read at times, but for an hour of edit-time, it’s still good (I probably would’ve taken a LOT longer to edit an article).
I just wanted to say . . . I didn’t find it hard to read. Then again, I read lawyerese.
I forgot to mention it before, but that picture reminds me of Leonardo Di Caprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Already a million comments? Why not add mine.
I was differentiating between USBM and NSBM to a non-metalhead at a party the other day, and I stumbled across my feelings about this issue. I’m just not hardwired to like most mainstream music. When I hear just about any song played over a PA system in a public space (grocery stores in particular) it makes me want to jam icepicks into my ears. This, I gather, is the exact same reaction many people have to extreme metal in its many, intricately subdivided genre styles. So, if it just takes a different aural-perceptory (I MADE UP A WORD) wiring to get it, and that’s something that doesn’t really come with explanation or even exposure (sorry, long term girlfriend case study), then I don’t really mind my favorite bands not going mainstream or not being widely appreciated.
What I think is interesting, on the flip side, is how broadly some music actually IS liked. There’s an assumption among many many people who listen to mainstream music seems to be that they can put on a record and it will generally not totally offend the sensitivities of their guests. And we, the lovers of metal, just can’t do that. Hell, we can’t even do that around each other (with some exceptions, Slayer, amiright?). For example on the one hand there’s metalcore fans who are more or less not mainstream really, and probably consider themselves metalheads (not judging! ok maybe a little) even though in most cases this very democratic blog would exclude those bands from its posts. On the other hand the divide between lovers of ignorant, pingy-snared, structurelss slam metal and grim, corpsepainted, frosty black metal is probably not easily bridge-able.
So is it a lose-lose-lose-lose situation? I don’t think it is, because the gaps between us help us define who we are at the moment via what we’re interested in. We’re sort of constantly testing our musical boundaries – either by seeing what we can take of mainstream, or by seeking a community of fans of technical, brutal, space-themed metal (suggestions? Wormed, obviously). Also, constantly testing our own musical boundaries in a situation like NCS where the variety of music is pretty broad allows us to find ways to empathize with sonic emotions we might not have known we had is, generally, probably a good thing.
I was just including that TLDR about my own post. I read the article and the comments. I just also have a second personality that likes to make fun of me.
I like you. A Wormed reference AND praising of NCS? Win.
The person’s choice to reject mainstream music (or underground as may be) might be independent of the person’s impression of the music though. One had stopped listening to Mastodon and Opeth for a while when one stopped listening to Slipknot and Five Finger Death Punch – simply because they were all ‘mainstream metal’; even though one likes Mastodon’s and Opeth’s music. One had also been rejecting hip-hop and electronic music until about 2 years ago because they’re ‘not metal’. One has opened up to the possibility of liking some hip-hop or electronica after listening to Peeping Tom‘s Peeping Tom, Ulver‘s albums starting from Perdition City, MC Hawking, Burial, and more recently, Death Grips.
Also: “…aural-perceptory (I MADE UP A WORD) wiring…” – would “auditory” be the word you’re looking for?
I have a group of friends in the local metal scene who think I’m too “mainstream” for listening to bands like Nile and Finntroll. I also have a group of friends who love stuff like FFDP and Devildriver. I guess I’m wondering if there are still people who want metal to “go mainstream” or “gain worldwide acceptance” when there is such a vast variety of music all along that continuum to be sampled and enjoyed. I’m happy when stuff I consider to be “metal” gets some kind of recognition outside of its already existing fanbase as a legitimate art form, but then I grew up during metal’s infancy where it was so often degraded as “just screaming and noise”. Vindication/validation? Sure. I’m not ashamed to admit that. But that doesn’t mean I want to see Månegarm on the Tonight Show. The so-called mainstream has its version of metal, and I have mine. Gods willing, never the twain shall meet. On a semi-related note, since I have such a varied and eclectic group of friends with a varied and eclectic selection of musical tastes, I make it a personal rule never to insult or make fun of a person because of the music they listen to. I’ll trash the music itself, of course; public figures = fair game. In other words, I may think Dimmu Borgir is is a bunch of fancy ladies but I will never make fun of Andy for liking them. Everyone should emulate my near-godlike awesomeness.
After thinking some more about this, I don’t believe it’s the case that I actually want my music to get mainstream acceptance. Do I want to expose people to it? Sure, especially if they’re ready. My neighbor walked into my garage while I was playing music on shuffle, and he asked, “What is this?” because Amorphis caught his fancy, I guess. (He grew up in Florida around the late 80’s, so he was somewhat familiar with early death metal.)
What bothers me is when the mainstream gets the wrong idea about metal. The kinds of things that make the mainstream are what form others’ opinions, and I don’t like what those opinions turn out to be.
That’s an interesting point, and one I failed to touch on.
The sort of vindication of choice and identity that comes with being recognised “correctly” by others. It’s one thing to be judged, etc, but another to be jduged based on false criteria.
That exposes another paradox of the metal “community” as well… that there isn’t one. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit harsh and generalised, but we (as lovers of the music) often refer to ourselves as a homogenous group, when in fact our backgrounds and lifestyles often differ wildly. Personally I hate the image of the uwnashed, low-browed, troglodyte metaller whose only form of dress appears to be made entirely out of patches. That’s not me, and it’s a horrendously dated stereotype that speaks of a dumber, lowest-common-denominator sort of metal fan. So again, while we’re happy to be “different” as a group, we’re just as annoyed at being grouped as one coherent “different group”.