Become A Heavy Metal Intellectual In Five Easy Steps

[from MadeLoud / January 8, 2010]

So you’re a music snob now. Nice job, and congratulations on tracking down that Frank Black fan club exclusive EP. But what happens when all-encompassing snobbery isn’t enough? What happens when the well-informed and highly opinionated fan needs to refine their approach? And how can they have some sinister fun while they’re at it? In a word: metal. The dark side always likes new recruits, but truly loves those willing to elevate discussion of the form into the realm of serious academic debate and intellectual inquisition. And now, fledgling doom scholar, you too can go forth to spread the unholy gospel. It’s easy.

Ride/Master/Justice: Pick One
Widely acknowledged as one of the great three-album runs in metal, Metallica’s mid-80s reign produced consecutive classics in 1984’s Ride the Lightning, 1986’s Master of Puppets, and 1988’s …And Justice for All. Each earned its acclaim in slightly different fashion, yet all represent not just different facets of Metallica fandom but different facets of metal fandom: do you consider the expert-level thrash of Ride to be the reason metal is legitimate? Is Master its own step forward, or just the sequel to Ride? Is Justice progressive or just pretentious? Your answer in and of itself doesn’t matter, but how you arrive at that conclusion will make all the difference in the world.

Sample phrase: “If you really look at it, “Trapped Under Ice” represents the perfect balance between their earlier, more literal work and their later, more adventurous but only variably successful output.”

Know Your Genres (Or At Least Act Like You Do)
With the possible exception of jazz, no branch of music relies more on genre classifications than metal and, even better, metal is also the only type of music for which genres can be invented as needed. Black metal, speed metal, death metal, doom metal, Goth metal, Viking metal, Pagan metal, True Scottish Pirate metal, prog metal, power metal, gnome metal, beer metal, D&D metal, glam metal, symphonic metal (not to be confused with symphonic power metal), stoner metal, grindcore metal, alt-metal, post-metal, post-prog metal (which is not the same thing as post-metal prog); such tiny differences separate so many classifications, and yet mislabeling, say, a post-metal band as avant-garde metal will reveal the limits of your metalocity in a heartbeat unless you can defend your point, no matter how ridiculous, as this discussion will end in the other person just shaking their head and calling you an idiot.

Sample phrase: “Yes, you can easily call Slayer a prog-metal band. Their song structures are hardly linear, and Tom Araya was writing songs steeped in history long before anyone had even heard of John Petrucci.”

Renounce An Entire Swath Of Music
Pick a subgenre. Any of them will do. Now read up and listen, as your next task will be to tear down said subgenre at any and all opportunities. Metal is ultimately battle music, which in turn makes talking about metal an extension of its combative nature. Perhaps you consider thrash to be excessively juvenile; perhaps the pseudo-intellectual posturing of power and prog metal are more than you care for; perhaps you actually like all types of metal and would rather not argue about it. This doesn’t matter; in time, the argument will seek you out all the same.

Sample phrase: “I find doom and drone both highly pretentious and incredibly boring, and why any person would willingly subject themselves to such uneventful garbage is beyond me.”

Choose Your Gods Wisely, Then Prepare To Fight For Them
Every true metal academic needs an icon to latch onto and revere, be it the wickedly cartoonish Ozzy Osbourne, the doom and gloom of Black Sabbath, the mischievous wizardry of Dio, or the time travel attack of Iron Maiden. Or, better yet, forge ahead and choose an idol less chosen; perhaps the back-alley operatics of Faith No More are more to your liking, or the exploratory rocking of Anthrax. But once you’ve adopted an idol, get ready: as pointed out earlier, followers down a different path will waste no time cutting down your decision, and it will be up to you to defend your chosen one to the death.

Sample phrase: “Argue all you want that Led Zeppelin isn’t truly a metal band, but your denial of their creation of the genre says more about you than it does about them.”

Learn to Love the Cookie Monster Vocals
They are, sadly, unavoidable.

Sample phrase: “Mikael Akerfeldt’s quasi-operatic clean vocals form an outstanding counterpoint to the savage death roar driving the other half of Blackwater Park.”