When someone listens to metal music, they usually respond with either a resounding "Yeah!" with corresponding headbanging or a cringing "No!" with consequent plugging of the ears. Those who love the genre, "metalheads" as they are sometimes called, recognize at least three things that draw them to the genre. Ironically, it may be precisely what deters others from it.
1) The Environment
The appearance of metal performers screams rebellion (pun intended)! Everyone can appreciate and relate to that emotion. The performers are usually covered in tattoos and piercings, sport long hair, wear dark and informal attire, have rippling muscles, and generally look wild, intense, and like they want to murder someone! When they perform, they don’t stand or sit still; they are flailing everywhere, dripping sweat all over the stage. Sometimes they throw water onto the first few rows of audience members!
In concert, the genre radiates a powerful aura. The music is loud, the strobe lighting is bright and sporadic, sweat and water are flying everywhere, the artists are diving from the stage and the audience is mobbing like someone just announced that a shooter was in the building! The remarkable thing about all these displays is that people want to be there! They pay money to be there, buy memorabilia, and go to great lengths to get close to their musical idols. Clearly, the environment draws people in even before a sound is produced.
2) The Music
Obviously, metalheads like metal music. But what exactly do they like within the soundscape? Many elements in metal are similar to rock: guitar solos, fast-moving drum beats, and passionate singing. In addition to these elements, metal brings a few other ** that single the genre out as spectacular.
First, rhythm guitars set up a choppy but driving beat. The job is doubled in the bass and drums occasionally. A metal song without this element would be rhythmically lost or boring.
Second, the drum set has double bass pedals to allow for a faster "heartbeat." The set also has a plethora of cymbals to allow for a greater palette of sounds to drive the song, fill in between phrases, or solo during vocal breaks.
Third, the bass moves much faster than any other genre. The bass player strums rhythms with right hand and melodies with the left. The traditional I-IV-V-I chord progression is thrown out the window.
Fourth and probably most notably, the genre uses clean (not screaming) and screaming vocals. If everything is sung, it becomes a different genre. If everything is screamed, many listeners will lose interest. Metal blends the two to create a dynamic sound. Some screamers focus more on the listener being able to understand lyrics; others just blast whatever comes out.
3) The Message
Music conveys messages. Why else would music contain lyrics? In metal, prevailing messages include fighting (sometimes replaced by a different word that starts with "f"), surviving, raging, and enduring hardship. Few metal songs are about love (unless it's lamenting a broken heart), fame, trucks, dancing, sleeping under the stars, or anything else popular in other genres. The theme is an active rebellion against something set up against you. This is what metalheads desire: freedom to fight for what they believe in!
The bottom line seems to be war. Think about it! The environment of metal is dark and violent. The music contains envigorating elements mixed with screaming. The messages are mostly liberating and provocative. Put those three elements together and you can see why metalheads like the genre.
In our everyday lives, we face opposition at every turn and need occasional motivation to press on and fight! As Jack from Newsies said, "Look, you win a fight when you got the other fella down, eaten pavement." Metal is not about self-defense; it is about winning a fight. Next time you face opposition, try listening to a metal song and see if my above statements are true. Thanks for reading!