"some music was meant to stay underground..."

OpEd

"That's Not Metal!" Diagnosing A Nasty Strain Of Heavy Metal Elitism

Photo of Slipknot

Band Photo: Slipknot (?)

“THAT’S NOT METAL!”

One of the most oft-hurled accusations among metalheads, to a point where people waste inordinate amounts of time bickering over this crucial distinction on which one’s very identity seems to depend, usually online.

Why? What’s hanging in the balance here? For let’s face it: at the end of the day, this is music we’re talking about – an art form, subjective by definition, and utterly dependent on individual taste. While arguments over politics and religion can get pretty silly, the importance attached to such views is still far more understandable than the absurd fervor with which many fans defend metal’s imagined gates of purity.

For all the fun metal has to offer – heck, I wouldn’t be writing about it were I not an avid fan – its overall fanbase is popular music’s most self-loathing and self-destructive, collectively and metaphorically speaking. In fact, many metalheads may take issue with my inclusion of metal in the “popular music” category, which itself is, I believe, the root of the problem.

Examining the sometimes-bizarre pathology of metal’s less-than-savory fanhood has long been an interest of mine, and while I don’t have the space (and you certainly don’t have the time) to unravel all my thoughts here, I will submit this: “That’s Not Metal,” quite often, is a smokescreen, a self-deluding attempt to marginalize an album, band, or entire subgenre one doesn’t like or doesn’t feel represents him.

It is a cultural form of denial. For when one identifies himself as Metal – and it’s a strong, dominant form of expression – all it takes is a ladle of insecurity to send him scurrying to defend the uniqueness and purity of his very identity.

I will now evaluate a pivotal development in metal history that may help explain the origins of this splintering trend within the genre.

The Black Album: The Fissure Opens

Many of us never forget our first heartbreak, that inevitable initiation ritual into the rough-and-tumble realities of relationships. Our first time on the receiving end of a breakup, or our first time facing infidelity – or both – really hurts. It’s a betrayal. And if we aren’t careful, it can leave us bitter.

Our relationship with music is like that sometimes. Metal, in particular, is a powerful, cathartic experience rarely rivaled in its ability to marry fans to their emotions surrounding the music. So it’s no wonder that Metallica’s release of 1991’s phenomenally successful “Metallica” forged a bitter rift that has widened ever since.

The so-called “Black Album,” to use the relationship model, was the First Betrayal, the first heartbreak. Sure, the terms “poseur” and “sellout” had been thrown around liberally in the ‘80s thrash movement. Of course, diehard fans literally spat upon Metallica members after the 1988 release of the “One” music video. But all this merely highlighted an entrenched antipathy toward anything “mainstream,” anything outside of the surging thrash or fledgling death metal subgenres.

The Black Album, on the other hand, with its slowed, anthemic tempos and catchier vocal lines, merged two universes. What had been undoubtedly metal had now BECOME mainstream. Benedict Arnold himself couldn’t have dreamed up worse.

Is it really any wonder, then, why Metallica is still so despised in “true metal” circles 23 years later, while several bands committing comparable musical transgressions have escaped such broad condemnation?

I certainly understand disliking “Load” [1996] and “Reload.” [1997] It’s a matter of taste with those two, which essentially are solid hard rock records. “St. Anger” [2003] might as well be the psychotic result of a bad coke binge, though that’s not to say there isn’t entertainment value. “Death Magnetic” [2008] suffered from lackluster production and some overcooked song ideas, and with the Lou Reed collaboration “Lulu,” [2011] the less said the better.

But lumping the Black Album in with what followed is akin to viewing every rocky relationship in one’s life through the lens of that First Betrayal, branding it as the fateful turning point after which there came nothing but disappointment. And ignoring the truth, which is that “Metallica” is a very well written, well-performed, well-produced album. It’s also undeniably a very heavy metal album, heavier than “And Justice For All,” without question. There’s just no getting around this.

But it’s “mainstream.” Its release elevated Metallica to arena-band status. Its singles remain in regular rotation on many radio stations to this day. “Enter Sandman” features a signature riff that your grandmother, or even your local church pastor, might whistle. Therefore, given many metalheads’ frantic need to dissociate themselves from the rest of culture, it “sucks” by default. It’s persona non grata.

Granted, not all metalheads literally think this way, and the stubborn war cry of “That’s Not Metal” came along considerably later. But its seeds were planted in that First Betrayal, the melding of True Metal (thrash, in this case) with mainstream rock, that left many thousands disillusioned, exposed, and struggling to protect the castle walls.

2014: The Fissure Widens

Flash forward to today. The Black Album’s legacy lives on, not just in its continued airplay, not just in Metallica’s performances, not just in the bands it inspired, but also in the bitter undercurrents of disdain that informed the conventional wisdom of many a metalhead.

“That’s Not Metal” is often code for “That’s mainstream. Too many people like it.” The more people that love a band a metalhead loves, the less different and special he is for loving that band. And since Metal, as an identity, MUST mark one’s distinction from the rest of culture, that band must be excommunicated.

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Herewith, I’ll address three current common targets of “Metal Excommunication Dissociative Syndrome” (MEDS). To keep things even and fair, I’ll include a band I dislike and a band toward which I’m more or less neutral.

Avenged Sevenfold

Their name is a punchline among many metalheads. They’re the constant butt of scoffing, knowing inside jokes. One barely has to discuss the music to grasp, instinctively, the meaning of an unflattering comparison to Avenged Sevenfold. It’s simply understood. The most common accusation, typically leveled when the band is listed among a group of “approved” names, is… “That’s Not Metal.”

But are they metal? Yes, indeed they are.

I missed the boat with Avenged Sevenfold back in 2003 when they released sophomore effort “Waking The Fallen,” their first album to garner serious nationwide attention (MTV2’s resurrection of “Headbanger’s Ball” that same year certainly helped). By that time, my excursion into the prime offerings of metalcore had all but ended, though the flagship bands of that movement – Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Unearth – would remain near to my heart. But Avenged I missed. I explored selections from their catalogue years later, found myself rather unmoved by the songwriting, and decided it wasn’t for me.

But heavy metal is the band’s dominant trait. How could it not be? Metal is always the dominant X chromosome (ironic, given the genre’s mostly male population) that overpowers other present influences. We call Eluveitie a “folk metal” band, not a “metallic folk” band. The same is true of Avenged Sevenfold, who have incorporated hardcore, punk, glam rock, and other styles into their sound over the past decade-plus. But the end result is almost always heavy metal, and if recent single “Hail To The King” isn’t metal, then neither was Dio.

Again, to be fair, I find Avenged Sevenfold’s songwriting to be more or less unaffecting, and I’d just as soon toss out “Hail To The King” and listen to Dio. But metal it certainly is.

Disturbed

If Disturbed aren’t metal, then neither are White Zombie, Pantera, or even Ozzy, just to name a few musical influences on this oft-maligned band. Heck, since MEDS invariably targets acts with mainstream singalong appeal, then neither would the Black Album be metal – and we’ve already covered that.

I owned a copy of “The Sickness” [2000] back in the day and played it quite a bit, but by the time “Believe” [2002] arrived, I was already eyeballs-deep in the thrills of melodic death and black metal, and had lost interest in Disturbed. However, I could never summon the energy to dislike them, even all these years and musical discoveries later – much less brand them “Not Metal.”

“But they’re nu-metal. That’s not a legitimate style of metal.” Ah, that old MEDS escape clause.

After Korn’s “Follow The Leader” blew the whole movement into orbit in 1998, nu-metal produced some ridiculous bands, to be sure. And to be fair, plenty of them dwelled in the realms of corny rap-rock and dull alternative radio rock with the occasional heavy riff or tendency to scream, making their designation as “metal” quite dubious indeed.

But the movement also produced plenty of heavier bands with primarily metal influences, some of which survived the trend’s 2003 demise and were absorbed into the greater metal canon, for better or worse. Disturbed cannot be said to reside anywhere but the latter category.

Slipknot

Of course Slipknot are metal. What else would they be?

“No, they’re nu-met – “ Shut up. Just shut up with the nu-metal thing already. Nu-metal was a trend, a movement that had its run and then died. It took influences from previously existing styles, put a stamp on them, and as a parting gift, sent the stronger ones out into the Darwinian metal world to be picked up by later generations. C’est la vie.

Slipknot’s role, which no other band of the era can claim, was to encourage popular American metal to get heavier again. Initially working within the confines of the then-current trend, the band blazed a path into more extreme pastures that left contemporary audiences far more receptive to the “American New Wave” and thrash revival that followed. 20/20 hindsight reveals this development for what it was: a timely and elegant coup.

The band’s wild popularity, as with Disturbed’s and Avenged Sevenfold’s, has naturally earned Slipknot legions of savage critics. That’s understandable. It’s tempting to lambaste a mainstream band noted for costumed theatricality that GWAR perfected in the cult underground for decades. It’s easy to dismiss Slipknot’s signature image and enlarged lineup as cheap gimmicks, and such criticisms are not entirely without merit.

But Slipknot’s music is certainly metal – even “Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses” [2004] and “All Hope Is Gone,” [2008] which expanded the band’s sonic palette to include more traditional and progressive influences. The army of critics often seems split between two factions: the “nu-metal” naysayers, and those disappointed that the later material wasn’t heavy enough.

It’s still metal.

What Now?

One does not have to like any of these bands to acknowledge their places in the metal universe, and that may seem a piece of obvious wisdom, but far too many metalheads routinely fall in line with the old prejudiced MEDS script. “That’s Not Metal” is an ingrained gut reaction.

The problem, as I stated previously, is the long-running desperate struggle to keep one’s clique, one’s cult – one’s very cultural identity – segregated from the broader culture, the mainstream. Without such segregation, being a “true metalhead” carries no meaning. That can’t be allowed.

It’s a form of denial, because the accusation is very often patently false. Whether one enjoys them or not, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, and Slipknot – not to mention the Black Album – are just as metal as any classic or underground metal band with a variety of influences. The major difference is a few hundred thousand, or a few million, record sales.

There, again, lies the rub. Many metalheads are perpetually stuck in an endless, flailing cycle of contradictions, trying to preserve the imagined integrity of their elite levees of purity and superiority. “No Irish Need Apply” to our shop, “No Jews Allowed” at our country club, “No Niggers At Our Schools.”

“No Mainstream Garbage In Our Metal.”

The greatest irony is that like it or not, the overall metal genre NEEDS the “mainstream” as a constant foil for its rebellious posturing. I’d call it a symbiotic relationship, but to be brutally honest, I’m not sure the “mainstream” really much cares. Such is the tragedy of MEDS.

Why am I critiquing metalheads so harshly if I’m one of them? Well, I never claimed to be above these strange pathologies. I’ve gone through my phases of elitism and purism, and to this day I labor painfully to stomach and accept the fact that Motionless In White – a popular band I REALLY dislike – is, for better or worse, metal.

As of late though, I’ve tried most of all to simply enjoy heavy music that I find fun, entertaining, interesting, or challenging – without letting the kneejerk cries of “That’s Not Metal” spoil it for me.

And if I don’t like the band, no sweat off my back if it’s still metal. I’m not 17 anymore and just don’t have the time.

OverkillExposure's avatar

Mike Smith is a Southern-born, New England-based writer and a diehard metal and hard rock fan. As a music journalist, he is a staffer with Metalunderground.com and Outburn Magazine. As a screenwriter/producer, he is currently working on his first film with director Jason Matzner ("Dreamland").

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47 Comments on "'That's Not Metal!'"

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CROMCarl's avatar

Writer / Reviewer

1. CROMCarl writes:

This is great. Though I am not a fan of Slipknot and Disturbed, what the hell does it matter to a fan who likes them. They have their place in the metal world, I just don't have to listen. I am a "reformed MEDS sufferer," who can attest to much of this. I will point out, however, that Metallica was called out by metal fans well before the Black Album. It actually started with "Fade to Black" - as ballads in the sacred "metal" world was shunned. However, the point about the Black Album is well taken - as it really was polarizing for some elitists. Growing up in a whole lot of metal history, I can confidently say that the term "mainstream metal" was tagged by elitists to any and all bands that breached the popularity level of 10 metalheads. I know because I engaged in this activity until I reached the point where I looked at the music itself rather than whether any of my non-metalhead friends heard of a band. Once I had the epiphany, the line "good music is just good music" became my new motto.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 6:17 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
2. slammin_rushdie writes:

I was hoping this would be about the blog. I was disappointed.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 6:32 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

3. Diamond Oz writes:

^That's the best name I've ever seen used on this site.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 6:37 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
CorpusUpir's avatar

Member

4. CorpusUpir writes:

I was always happy to find out that mainstream people knew of or listen to a metal band I liked, because to me it meant that the band was getting the recognition they deserved and someone got to hear real music for a change not contrived bullsh**

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 7:15 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. AlanF. writes:

I always regarded Metallica as being barely metal not because of the Black Album, but because of what came after.

Also, this kind of reasoning can also be used to extend anything into metal. Lets add Bon Jovi, Nirvana, and maybe Britney Spears, because apparently no one has the authority to say stop. We can just add a new adjective (e.g. pop-metal, punk-metal).

In the end we all have a concept of what is metal and what is not. The difference is you do not like where we say stop. But I bet you have your limits too. Then we can find some other guy to write a similar article claiming that you are being elitist for not including Michael Bolton in metal, when he clearly has (or had) long hair.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 8:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
6. nayenezgani writes:

when did hippies become metalheads? this is complete garbage! you sound like a burnt-out elementary school teacher - "just accept everything i say is true so we can all get along and make my job easier." i guess all of these terrible bands and their record labels are desperate to up their sales; how much do people like you get paid to rep crap like this? it's only january and i've already read the funniest thing i'll read all year.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 9:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrianMN's avatar

Member

7. BrianMN writes:

The black album was, and will ALWAYS be the ultimate b****h slap to the original fans.
Six months before that sonic abortion came out all the jocks were calling us devil worshippers because of Met. and Slayer.
Six months later the jocks loved them.
It was worse than having your grandparents tell you they suddenly like your music.
Metallica embraced everything they said they stood against.
They became a slightly heavier version of Motley Crue.
I stopped wearing their shirts after the black album. Being a fan of theirs after that was shameful....and I wouldn't admit it to anyone. I was strictly in the death metal camp after that. If Moneytallica couldn't scare people than a Cannibal Corpse Tomb of the Mutilated shirt certaily could . Granted my semi old age has mellowed me a lot. My 20 year old self would have shrieked in terror at the thought of my 40 year old self listening to Tesseract. My hatred of Metallica has subsided to a, I no longer care. James and Lars are worth almost 200 mill. each.
They have the money but no credibility or integrity. I'm sure they couldn't care less....so why should we?

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 9:21 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
8. zoot seven writes:

Great article. Growing up in the 70s with music as a prime interest I was obv aware of metal and liked a few songs back in the day (sabbath, maiden) but didn't seriously get into the genre until I was pushing 50. So, maybe not your typical metalhead but a dedicated and passionate one.
I am very aware of MEDS and find it amusing, especially the spittle-laden tirades on YouTube (I ponder how many DIY aneurysms develop out there). Occasionally my son shows mild MEDS symptoms , I laughed at A7X cropping up so early - that's one he rolls his eyes at if he hears me listening. I so agree with your observations re "nu metal", given with Slipknot is my #1 band.
Metal gives us an endless number of sub-genres with a wondrous variety of tunes. The music can be incredibly good, laughably bad and everything in between but it is all Metal, and I for one am too busy loving it and living with it to argue otherwise.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 9:28 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
9. ThatAintMetalYahDink writes:

TL;DR Mike is old.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 9:41 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
deathbringer's avatar

Founder, owner & programmer

10. deathbringer writes:

I think the examples given in the article are perfect! (and I don't even like any of the 3, but I loved Metallica's Black album). These days I've written off Metallica and don't care, but I've finally let myself listen to their old stuff again after the disgust (of the "loads" and subsequent failures) wore off.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 9:55 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
11. Blastpheraeon writes:

THANKS YOU!!! This whole "Death to False Metal" thing has worn on my nerves so long it makes me wanna vomit. To claim that something isn't metal or "false metal" is purely based on opinion nearly 100% of the time. I meant, if someone said Britney Spears was metal, well clearly it isn't, but a lot of the elitists think that their opinions should be taken as fact. I know people that claim bands like Cattle Decapitation aren't metal! What's the point in being so close minded and not expanding your horizons? I listen to plenty of things that aren't metal, and certainly don't claim to be, but I also listen to every form of metal that exists. The phrase should be "death to those who b**** and moan about what is or isn't metal based on what they like and dislike".

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 10:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
12. Darcy writes:

"But heavy metal is the band’s dominant trait. How could it not be? Metal is always the dominant X chromosome (ironic, given the genre’s mostly male population) that overpowers other present influences. We call Eluveitie a “folk metal” band, not a “metallic folk” band."
This is what I take issue with- that's absolutely not the case! Plenty of bands adopt a metal influence but culturally and musically remain rooted elsewhere. Eluveitie is a "folk metal" band because they sound like Dark Tranquillity with bagpipes, but a lot of musicians rooted in punk rock (especially "metalpunk" bands), hardcore, industrial and other electronic music, incorporate metal elements into their style of playing and their sound. It doesn't just become metal because you add double-kick and mesa boogie amps. Metal, beyond the typical arrangement and sonic elements, has a subcultural heritage that a lot of these outlier or fusion-type bands at best pay lip service to. It's most recently come up in a lot of "post metal" and djent, where the musicians use metal instrumentation and techniques to play music that has very little to do with what metal is about culturally. And that's admittedly pretty vague, but it's certainly about more than just loud guitars and solos that go "widdly widdly"

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 10:08 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
13. Matias R writes:

First thing first: I really liked your article and share your opinion. I hate metal fans that rage about a metal band they don’t like, or stopped liking.

I remembered an article I read some days ago, about a psychological study, measuring metal fans personality traits (in relation to the "Big Five" personality traits).
And one of the discovered traits was "an opposition to authority and mainstream society" and another was "higher need for uniqueness".
Given this two traits (which of course, not all metal fans share, but are quite common), it’s understandable that if your beloved underground metal band goes mainstream, it crashes with you at a psychological level. And it makes you shun these bands. Many times in a very passionate way.

On my side, I don´t see a problem when a metal band I like goes mainstream and gets a well-deserved fame. A different thing is when a band changes its style for the worst. But that happens to mainstream and underground bands as well.

Living in Chile, we don’t get as many metal concerts as I wished. But “mainstream” bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer and Megadeth love playing here (the come almost every one or two years). I love to go to their shows, and seeing more than 50.000 fans (last Iron Maiden concert), enjoying fine heavy metal music. With ages ranging from 50-something to small kids.

Mainstream metal bands are a way-in for many people to start listening to metal music. So I see them as doing us a favor. If you don’t like the “mainstream” direction your favorite band has taken, just listen to something else. There are lots of bands that can better fit your taste.
I prefer my kid listening to “St Anger” than “No Direction”.

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:07 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

14. hellrat writes:

Indeed Darcy @ 12, well said...also, I think much of the modern interpretation of what is "metal" has to do with many primary metal bands 'rockifying' their music and sound over time. This opened the gate to pop culture identifying metal cliché and incorporating it into this tinfoil stuff people term as 'metal' today...a lot of questionably 'metal' bands use the metal market to promote their material, they simply call themselves metal, and people generally just go along with it. Which is cool, you've just got to look at it for what it is. Everything is super diluted and so oversaturated these days, things are rarely ever really challenging/shocking/unique anymore. Hell, I remember way back in the olden times when people really thought ozzy was some kind of incarnate demon of the underworld; don't laugh, it was really that primitive :)

Brian, I couldn't agree more...the black sh!te was the beginning of the Great Downfall for the majority of Metal Kind as we once knew it. 'Crue did it back in the 80's and spawned the horrid race of Glam, after two killer records, but that transgression holds small candle to the Atrocity that is the Black

but whatever anyone likes ya know ;)

NP---Old King EP---Skan \m/

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:27 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

15. hellrat writes:

also, comparing Hail to the King to Dio is pure silliness in too many respects to go into...

what is worse that the Black? the Black regurgitated by a bubblegum popcorn band

Ronnie predicted in the early times that MTV and its ilk would be the death of heavy metal

ah hell...nevermind

# Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:53 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
16. Pop Metal is Poop Metal writes:

Metal is Metal, but the worst part is when mainstream fans only know the metal bands that currently get radio play, such as Avenged Sevenfold, yet they have no idea who Fear Factory or Fleshgod Apocalypse are. Slipknot is a perfect example of this, their fans think they're the heaviest band around, maybe on the radio they were, but I'm sure they've never heard Behemoth.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 12:41 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
17. MrScary writes:

my only input i guess will be this: "true metal" has an approach, a... tenacity.. to express that 'rebellious', counter cultural urge that they have, and to say "f*** you, i dont care what you think, this is ME." and a number of bands, metallica i guess being a fair example, almost seemed to have gone "ok, we're done putting out music thats all me, we know what the fans want, so we'll give them that." which is cool, and i dont blame the musicians, id like to put out numerous albums, become a metal giant, and see what my direction is. but in the end, as a listener, i cant help but feel theres a lacking in the music; they stopped writing for themselves, and began writing for everyone else. which, metal is selfish; "f*** you, this is MEEEE!" BUT, i feel that leads to an "additionally." i really think its valid to have a "mainstream" metal discrepancy, because in the ways that metal has provided a "heavier than anything" sound, it influenced popular bands, and generally evolved modern music into something heavier than before. So, it almost makes it TOO easy to call something metal now-a-days. which brings elitism, and purism.. i think its undeniable to say that certain bands have the "metal sound," but when you get down to what really drives them, what they're saying, and what their music is about, you start finding the disconnects from the bands have brought metal to be what it is. im not afraid to say "thats not metal," but at the same time, different strokes for different folks, im not trying to be like you, so why should i criticize you? its really just completely superfluous.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 1:47 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
18. Anonymous writes:

As true as this article is, it didn't tackle some of the most annoying "metal" bands. Although I never was a fan of Metallica, I enjoy hearing albums by Korn, A7X and slipknot since I always liked the albums they produced (even Path of Totality which is mostly dubstep with some metal influences) However, what about bands that don't have a specific genre or are too vague? I like Dead by April but if I had to categorise them into a specific genre I'd get a migraine. And although a Black Veil Brides song appeared on a playlist on YouTube and I didn't mind it, when the playlist switched to their album I had to stop it since I couldn't enjoy any of the songs. It's easy to defend bands that started before this generation since back then there was no metalcore and nu Metal was just a phase, but what about the bands these days? There has to be at least a single new band that can compete with these bands, but with the current mentality everything new will be rejected since the bands that get pushed by labels such as Samarian Records are mostly generic and as such, any new band that appears on Youtube is instantly labelled as metalcore.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 5:50 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
19. Anonymous writes:

About the subjects of Purists and Elitists, why exactly are there people who hate bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork, Eluveitie, PAIN, Dream Theatre, Periphery, Conducting From the Grave, Demon Hunter, Born of Osiris, Suicide Silence, Black Dahlia Murder, etc. etc?
Yes, they are mostly different bands with their own distinctive sounds, but some of them like Dream Theatre, In Flames, Soilwork and Black Dahlia Murder definitely shouldn't get bashed considering they've been in the music industry for quite a while and never produced a bad (in my opinion) album. It gets extremely annoying when the "elitists" bash anything that isn't Slayer or some other form of Thrash Metal. All the bands mentioned are Metal, and too many "elitists" and "purists" consider anything which isn't either Trash or extremely heavy like Cannibal Corpse to be either sellouts or bad bands. God forbid anyone labels one of those four bands as metalcore, considering they are great bands in and outside of their sub-genre.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 6:09 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrianMN's avatar

Member

20. BrianMN writes:

@hellrat...I'd never heard that bit of info about Dio.
Thanks, that's interesting to say the least.

I guess in hindsight it wasn't the black album, it was the success of One that set the sellout wheels in motion for Met.
Where Met screwed themselves wasn't just the music it was the fact that they were US.
They hated the same stuff we did, dressed as we did and then in the blink of an eye they had fancy hair and guy liner.
It was really the bands response to the fans criticism that repulsed me. The "screw you" if you don't like it didn't sit well with many of us.
I think it was the realization that the band that was "us" had just been taking us for a ride the whole time.
A lot of us just felt duped.
But, that was 20 years ago.
Let's not forget Morbid Angel's Illud, which turned out to be more of a comical train wreck than an actual sellout.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 7:07 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
21. Siggi writes:

Let's not forget that the more commercial side of metal is often a "gateway drug" which leads kids to the harder stuff. Without the commercial stuff, there would definitely be fewer people buying Cannibal Corpse albums.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 9:01 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
brandedcfh420's avatar

Member

22. brandedcfh420 writes:

""About the subjects of Purists and Elitists, why exactly are there people who hate bands like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork, Eluveitie, PAIN, Dream Theatre, Periphery, Conducting From the Grave, Demon Hunter, Born of Osiris, Suicide Silence, Black Dahlia Murder, etc. etc?""

Maybe because they dont like the bands sound, songs, members, etc. We all like bands others hate and vice versa. It boils down to personal preference and whenever someone says something negative about a band someone else may like, it can lead to heated and sometimes immature debates that gets nowhere real fast.

For example, you listed Suicide Silence, I have seen them live and listened to their music and I persoanlly find it to be pure garbage, but that's just my "OPINION" of them. You also mentioned Cannibal Corpse, another band I find to be not worth my time. Yea it was kinda funny cool back in the early days, but, like Slayer, they never really changed anything that made want to put any effort into liking them (not saying I dislike Slayer).

Bands today seem to be trying to make their music so mainstream that they abandon pride, respect and a true love and passion for the music so they make sub-par (IMO) metal so the trendy bandwagon people will gobble it up and make them "superstars".

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 9:49 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
23. Deus Ex Machina writes:

Firstly, I really liked your article and I agree with you.

Secondly, this is for all the 'Purists, Elitists etc.' When you guys don't like something why do you instantly b**** about it. Why don't you let others who like it enjoy their music? There are 6 billions of people on this planet which means every person has his own taste. I don't see any valid point in spreading hatred between metalheads. If you don't like what I like well it's your problem but please do not offend my bands. And if you like what I like then we have many things to talk about. Thanks
'Listen to anything you like, admit other people's taste.'

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 10:10 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BrianMN's avatar

Member

24. BrianMN writes:

I agree with Branded.
I don’t consider myself an elitist by any stretch.
It really is personal taste at this point.
The whole “kill the posers” thing was funny…when I was 12.
Now when someone online calls me a poser I just sort of roll my eyes and just leave it alone.
But yeah, at this stage in my life my taste is all over the place, metal, classical, pop.
I still cannot tolerate rap and most country but that’s just me.
If the music has distorted guitars it’s pretty much metal to me.
What matters most is the integrity of the artist and the music they put forth.
Blatant cash grabs are pretty obvious by certain artists and I usually don’t go for those.
I was just thinking of personal taste and on the Slipknot thread someone was making a big deal about Decapitated.
Decap is a great example of personal taste. For me they seem to alternate between great albums and bad albums.
I loved the second and fourth album “Organic” but albums 1,3 and 5 do nothing for me.
You’re always going to have people fight over what is metal and what isn’t. Some people just like to argue.
The moral is, if the music is good I don’t care what genre it is. Life’s too short to box yourself in like that.
We have a worldwide musical buffet at our fingertips with youtube and the rest of the net…enjoy it…just don’t steal it slackers.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 10:19 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
25. TheBissonator writes:

This was a good article. The only thing i strongly disagree with is the fact that you mentioned the "Black Album" as being clearly heavier than "...And Justice For All." I can headband and work out to that album so much easier than the "Black Album." Whenever I get new headphones or a new speaker, I always test it out by cranking "Blackened." As much as I love the "Black Album," I feel it falls more in the "mainstream" category.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 11:49 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
RememberMetal?'s avatar

Writer/Reviewer

26. RememberMetal? writes:

After reading the article, the very act of picking it apart feels elitist. On the whole I agree with most of the article but the elitist in me is going to show in my responses.

You state that Black album is “heavier” than … And Justice For All. A risky assessment but I can accept it. Black is a robust, plodding, and dense slab of music, but more menacing than furious. … And Justice for All remains a more “metal” album by virtue of being a nearly-pure thrash record. Black was less thrash oriented by any metric. However, I won’t dispute the quality of either record: they’re both essential “metal” classics.

I have a harder time agreeing with the notion that A7X are metal. They definitely have metal roots and prior to City of Evil were more metal(-core) than not. Returning to Metallica to make my point: you state that Load and Reload were “solid hard rock records”… Is not the bulk of the Avenged Sevenfold catalog also “solid hard rock” at this point?

I call Metallica “metal” and A7X “hard rock” because these designations are weighted by their most current work as well as the historical bulk of their output.

My previous point bleeds into the next one, and I agree with hellrat (posts 14-15) on this:

The “heaviness” of metal is on a time-based sliding scale: Dio and Ozzy were metal by virtue of being “heavy for their time”. A7X… not so much.

Your case for Slipknot being metal is ironclad, even if some stamp their feet about it. I’m less qualified to comment on Disturbed because I have gone out of my way to not listen to them.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 2:18 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
27. bhoodlum writes:

Great article. Regarding the Black album, let's not forget that Lars said "we don't consider ourselves a metal band". After hearing that I kind of dropped Metallica. It was a definite slap in the face from a band that wanted to call it's first album Metal Up Your Ass. It may be that they felt stifled creatively by the "metal" tag, but Celtic Frost released Into The Pandemonium while waving the metal banner.
In regards to metal elitism among fans, what do you expect when bands themselves engage in this activity. Black metal, my preferred sub-genre, is rife with bands claiming such and such aren't evil enough, or that they're not true black metal. I've watched too many BM documentaries full of that kind of rubbish. Metal should be an inclusive genre, not exclusive. I may not like all BM bands but I sure think it's great so many musicians chose this form of expression. Whether traditional (Gorgoroth), progressive (Enslaved), or barely qualifies as black metal (Agalloch) it's awesome that so many people are passionate about metal.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 3:12 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
spiral_architect's avatar

Member

28. spiral_architect writes:

I FIRST GOT INTO METALLICA WHEN RIDE THE LIGHTNING CAME OUT, AND IT'S STILL MY FAVORITE ALBUM BY THEM. WHEN THE BLACK ALBUM CAME OUT YEARS LATER, I DEFINITELY FELT SUPERIOR TO THOSE WHO WERE JUST LEARNING ABOUT THE BAND. IS THE BLACK ALBUM HEAVY METAL? YES...........BUT NOT AS METAL AS RIDE THE LIGHTNING.

\m/

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 4:45 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

29. Cynic writes:

I cannot deny, I am the elitist, my blood runs thick with the tears of many posers :) But it doesn't bother me at all if people like Slipknot, and I personally love The Black album because it was actually the 2nd album I bought with my own money. But we're always going to be there providing resistance to any band that tries to degenerate the gates of metal.

A well written article Mike, I liked the depth of the Metallica bit because they really did get called sell outs from Day 1 all through the 80s for almost everything they did that made them super famous. There were fans that hated that there was a ballad on RTL. I mean, Metallica were a band that defined themselves in revolt against the hair metal of the time.

>The problem, as I stated previously, is the long-running desperate struggle to keep one’s clique, one’s cult – one’s very cultural identity – segregated from the broader culture, the mainstream.

This to me though, is not a problem. In fact, I would say it's the very greatest strength that metal relies on to generate high quality music. I will happily cut off my nose to spite my face, I will let people disparage metal bands I like for no other reason than keeping metal true is more important to me than how I feel about those bands.

It's odd you know with that last point because I agree, I am a liberal person. But through metal, I can relate to extreme conservatives about the conservation of culture. Because through music I have the luck that no-one is going to get killed when I say "Death to false metal". Worse case I hurt someone's feelings.

# Jan 9, 2014 @ 10:35 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
30. shaneomatic writes:

no one ever said Lamb of God isn't metal :P

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 12:09 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
31. Wanderer in the Outer Darkness writes:

I normally don't join in on trivial genre debates anymore, but i'll throw my hat in the ring just this once. I must admit, I had an elitist phase when I was younger. In fact, I'm sure some of my past elitism is documented in the archives of this very site. Of course, I have matured since I was 14. That said, I do believe that an authentic metal band has a certain spirit that these bands lack. I understand it's subjective and vague but I still cannot accept a band like Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold or Slipknot as real metal. In my opinion, it's bubblegum metal at best. Bands of this ilk are either watered down or so homogenized that the metal aspects are lessened. In my eyes, Avenged Sevenfold are to metal what Green Day are to punk. I do think "The Black Album" is decent enough but I can understand how many old school metalheads must have felt back in the day, as highlighted in BrianMN's original post. Personally, I don't care if my favorite underground bands suddenly entered the mainstream, so long as they keep their integrity. After all, I am not a hipster.

I still consider myself a very big metalhead though and yet, I'm sure many elitists would love to flog me for liking later day Dimmu Borgir or even worse... Nirvana. I do consider myself fairly open minded as my tastes aren't limited to just metal or even hard rock. I also have friends that listen to bands that I don't care for, including Avenged Sevenfold, and I don't even give them sh** for it, even in jest. I don't judge people by their musical tastes. Music is a very sacred thing to me, so I respect anyone's taste so long as they respect mine. The reason why I'm saying all of this is because I don't think you have to be a d***head elitist to see that a band like Disturbed are inauthentic. Even if there are metal influences in their music, it's still so watered down that it may as well sit beside the likes of Godsmack. Of course, it all comes down to opinion though. While I understand where the author is coming from, I have to respectfully disagree.

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 2:06 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
32. HMRok writes:

True metal is not an imaginary subjective elitist phantom, its a real thing. False metal is too. It's true. You know it.

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 9:39 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
33. anonymous writes:

I wholeheartedly agree with this article, this immaturity and drama over who is better, who is "not metal" needs to stop. It's really gotten old and I'm tired of it.

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 10:06 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
deathbringer's avatar

Founder, owner & programmer

34. deathbringer writes:

I love that this thread has stayed civil despite the differences of opinions! Thank you all :-)

I do agree that there are thresholds for everything, which is why there will always be those who disagree. The issue of what to call a band with inconsistent output is always interesting. Who would not call Metallica a metal band despite their non-metal offerings? And the example of Eluveitie in the comments above stands out to me with my two favorite albums being Slania (metal) and Evocation I - The Arcane Dominion (completely folk and not metal).

It's a touchier subject when the band is actually in the middle of a transformation to say it is not metal. I tend to be more inclusive based on their roots. If Metallica, A7x and Slipknot started out playing metal, then I will refer to them as metal bands even if they've "sold out," gone softer, or lost their way entirely. To me, that overrides the "bulk of the catalog" assessment. In either case, someone new to a band will not know the band's roots or their entire catalog, so it makes finding common ground on the topic that much more difficult.

In the end, it's always good to realize there are grey areas for everything and not everything is black and white; metal or not metal; true metal or false metal, etc.

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:28 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
spiral_architect's avatar

Member

35. spiral_architect writes:

YES, BUT IS LAMB OF GOD METALCORE?

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:34 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Drum_Junkie's avatar

Member

36. Drum_Junkie writes:

I’m kinda surprised this article has yet to be invaded by the uneducated hobgoblins who reside under bridges. Some great thoughts in the comments here!
One thing that has been danced around but not explicitly stated is the whole issue of definitions. If we’re going to say something is or is not metal, then we need to qualify it. We should define in some unambiguous terms what Metal is – it must be qualified, if not quantified. Sadly, many people simply define it as follows:
Metal = what I like
Not Metal = What I dislike

However, those same people also enter into the elitist realm by also exclaiming:
This is where they contract MEDS as the ‘equations’ can be reduced by:
If Metal = What I like and Metal ≠Mainstream/Popular, then the logical reasoning becomes:
What I like≠ Mainstream/Popular. Insert hipsters here.
(Oddly enough, this sites tagline “Some music was meant to stay underground...” Treads somewhat close to this fallacy.)

The whole thing of this is that Metal cannot be defined that way, and any attempt makes a subjective issue into a black/white issue. (as absurd as saying it’s either Metallica’s Black album or The Beatle’s White album) Metal is a concept that exists in infinite shades of gray. The fact that so many outside influences from other genres creep in has made the term Metal about as defining a term as Food. I mean who goes around saying that shrimp isn’t food because it’s not steak? I know what some of you are thinking. “But Smucker’s Jelly is food, so what about KY Jelly?” While few would object to their lover licking strawberry preserves from their nuts, I doubt any have intentions of using anal lube for its nutritional value. (How did I get sidetracked by food analogies? It seems like déjà vu. Oh yeah, mu(dot) /news/details.cfm?newsid=70440 )

Anyways, I think many of the MEDS sufferers need to accept that what they don’t like is still metal. Would it help to add qualifying terms to better focus our angst? “That’s not progressive metal!”, “That’s not black metal!”, “That’s not sludge metal!”, That’s not cartoon metal!”, “That’s not Symphonic-electronica-folk-shoegaze-speed metal!”, etc., etc, etc….

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 11:55 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Drum_Junkie's avatar

Member

37. Drum_Junkie writes:

Oops. correction to part of my post.

"However, those same people also enter into the elitist realm by also exclaiming:

**Metal ≠Mainstream/Popular **

This is where they contract MEDS ... "

copy/paste fail!

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 12:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
38. HMRok writes:

One thing that's true about this article--the title. That's Not Metal is right. Stay true, stay elitist, stay metal.

# Jan 10, 2014 @ 7:54 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
zMETALlica's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

39. zMETALlica writes:

great article man! I never liked being around elitest or closed minded metal heads. it's all music either like it or don't, but there's no sense wasting energy over arguments if something is in a certain genre or not.

Lately, I've listened to some bands that always stood out to me more than many other metal bands... more often than not they have firm roots in rock music. Just saying.

I also don't get why when something goes mainstream there's hate for it? I just dislike when a horrible band gets all the label support and marketing to get big, when so many awesome stay underground and unknown. you hit the nail on the head here: "desperate struggle to keep one’s clique, one’s cult – one’s very cultural identity – segregated from the broader culture" - we gotta remove this mentality from metal. Recreate a mentality of brotherhood that used to exist. Just my 2 cents.

# Jan 11, 2014 @ 4:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
40. coaster writes:

I think people really need to just relax when it comes to music they like. Everyone has different tastes when it comes to music, food, cars etc etc. If everyone listened to the same music, we'd be a boring bunch of frockers.

I listen to alot of different types of music from rock, metal, alternative - some of its heavy, some is quite soft and I couldnt care less if its commercial, popular, metal or if someone doesn't like it. I have my tastes, you have yours.

Bands change their sound (with exception of a few - ACDC and Motorhead are 2 that spring to mind) and sometime their music changes in a direction fans like, sometimes not. Does that make them sellouts?? No - every band would love to have a record as sucessful as the black album. Its no different to me changing jobs to get a pay rise. Ive done it many times!

Listen to something you like - rather than spend your time complaining what others are listening too Theres thousands of bands so surely there's something that you like. Plus - there's too many people that wouldn't listen to a band cause of the "type"of music they play. For example - Korn. I love them - you may not as they are classified as "nu metal". Who cares - just do what pleases you.

# Jan 13, 2014 @ 12:43 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
41. coaster writes:

since when does being a metal head mean you cannot listen to other types of music? Or why does it make you feel the need to bash others that listen to something different. Plenty of keyboard warriers just here to slag off others, rather than what you should be doing - enjoying the awesome music that is being made around the world.

# Jan 13, 2014 @ 12:46 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
42. anon writes:

Eff comment 38.

# Jan 13, 2014 @ 7:50 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
43. HMRok writes:

You want us on that wall, you need us on that wall!

We--the stubborn, the ridiculous, the extinct--kept it breathing through the 90s when everyone wanted this thing dead, you won't shame us with makeshift psychology and Clint Eastwood-speech tantrums now, we don't care: metalheads have heard it all before, how we're stupid, uncultured, elitist, and anti-social, and how our music was crap--the important thing, this music's legacy had survived, thanks to the intense pig-headed dedication of its die-hard core fans. Ten hails to them. We have nothing to apologize for to no one.

# Jan 13, 2014 @ 4:15 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ZMA's avatar

Member

44. ZMA writes:

I still need to read this all the way through, but I'm glad I was born after metal was already semi-established. So I saw it from all angles and nothing was ever really "pure" for me. I was exposed to it all at once. I think what a person perceives as "true metal" is just what they were exposed to upon first listen into the genre. I get that there are actual "metal firsts" like Black Sabbath, or Venom, etc. But even then someone would argue "nah dude Led Zeppelin first" or yadda yadda. Obviously there are bands/artists that changed things around but we need the expansion and change in the genres and sub-genre. Can't just stay stagnate, otherwise metal would've died long ago.
You can't do that with cars. We'd still be driving fvckin' horseless carrages if that were the case, because those are the "pure" cars. Not these c***afany contraptions we got lumberin' down the road now lol.
So just because the metal someone else likes isn't YOUR metal don't worry about it. I have dislikes in music but not because they deviated from a form. I hate Justin Bieber, not because it's not "pure pop" lol, but because he's a sh!tty person who makes sub-par music. The purity of the genre should have nothing to do with a persons like/dislike in music and that's my opinion after not reading this whole thing or any comments lol. =D

# Jan 15, 2014 @ 5:53 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
AtG's avatar

Member

45. AtG writes:

As a proud Elitist I'm happy that others have come forth and spoken up, I'll now offer my 2 cents for the internet world to ignore.

Whoever wrote this article just accepts things at face value and I'll use Avenged Sevenfold as a prime example of the new breed of poseur. Just because a band has heavy riffs doesn't automatically make them metal, their riffs are generic as f*** (if you've heard ANY 80s metal you know they are completely unoriginal) but this isn't what makes them not metal. They are clearly an emo band underneath all that whiny garbage idiots think are music and if you can't recognize them as emo then you are deaf and dumb.

Get offended that's the truth. Cut yourself like A7X and all their douchy fans.

True metal is not a sub-genre it's a feeling. True metal is either in your blood or not and it takes more than just playing heavy to actually be a legit metal band.

Also, cause I noticed somebody made a comment on this, whether something is metal or not has nothing to do with what you like and don't like. I don't much care for Pantera or Lamb of God but I'll fully acknowledge that they are actual metal bands.

And it should be legal to murder people that make statements like this: 'But the end result is almost always heavy metal, and if recent single “Hail To The King” isn’t metal, then neither was Dio.'

f*** me, what a pathetic society we live in. And that these people are allowed to write articles on the net and have like-minded retards legitimize it all.

@HMRok and others, hails!!! Stay elitist forever, life and everything in it is a competition and elitism, the drive to be better than others is a good thing. Where would we be without elitism? Still eating raw meat and raping our sisters? Or even further back, maybe we'd still be fish? Either way elitism equals progress, it creates evolution. Stop f***ing watering down genres of music by including every bastard child with a classic band to rip off while whining about some girl that doesn't love them.

# Jan 16, 2014 @ 3:22 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
gripper's avatar

Member

46. gripper writes:

hate that i missed this article when it was first posted
but got to comment
one of my first comments on this site was that
one of the most interesting subjects for our music is what is and is not Metal
the Black Album is not Metal.
Ax7 are not Metal
Disturbed are not Metal
Slipnot are not Metal
Alice in Chains are not Metal
you cannot be Metal by accident or on purpose
i am a Metallica fan, i listen to Ax7, Disturbed is on my ipod and have paid to see AiC live
there's nothing wrong with being hard rock many great albums are hard rock
in some cases it might be more difficult to make a great hard rock album (Metallica has struggled with this)
but we can't all get along on this
and mommy can't make us play nice
I am more Metal than you.

# Jan 24, 2014 @ 10:29 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
47. Tin Foil Gum Wrapper writes:

What the hell is this, poetry? Or the absence of punctuation is just a geographical trait?
Please, a tin foil gum wrapper is more metal.

# Feb 7, 2014 @ 9:57 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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