I read a review today of a movie called Until the Light Takes Us. It’s a documentary about black metal. I did some internet searches to find out more about it and so ran across a British documentary called Murder Music: A History of Black Metal. I ended up watching most of it on YouTube and it was interesting. It occurred to me midway through that I’ve watched several documentaries about the history of heavy metal. I’ve enjoyed them in an academic sense but here’s the funny bit: I hate heavy metal.
I mean, sure, I dabbled a bit when I was a teenager. I used to like Iron Maiden and some bands who are sometimes (incorrectly, in my opinion) lumped into metal, like Blue Oyster Cult and Rush. Come on, BOC had a song about Elric, I had to check that out. There is that place where fantasy fiction, gaming, and metal meet and I could have gone there, but no. I would look at albums by bands like Cirith Ungol and Celtic Frost in the record store, but they were not for me.
My dislike of metal has two components: attitude and music. Regarding the former, I hated the machismo, the misogyny, and the idiots these things attracted. Nor did the music itself have any appeal. The endless songs, the wanky guitar solos, the high-pitched shrieking–not my thing. Kind of ironic when you consider I went through a brief progressive rock phase when I was 13 and 14 but that thankfully passed.
Then I found punk rock and it was exactly what I needed. It was angry, rebellious, and high-velocity. It was a music that spoke to my alienation and it was made by misfits like me. And as far as I was concerned, punk and metal were like oil and water. When punk bands starting “crossing over,” I was appalled. I liked the FUs but not the Straw Dogs, dug early DRI but loathed their later material (in fact, I sold my copy of the first DRI album, which is worth a mint now). I laughed when the metal guys discovered thrash. Slayer? Anthrax? Fuck that shit. A pale imitation of the great hardcore bands of the early 80s (but too long and with the aforementioned wanky guitar solos). Hell, even stuff like Corrosion of Conformity and Amebix was too metal for me.
These days I’m not quite as dogmatic. I think that’s why I can watch these documentaries. And I can even appreciate some aspects of sub-genres like black metal. One could argue that it’s just a different form of rebel music, albeit one tied to nonsense like Satanism. But the worst part of these documentaries for me? Yep, still the music. When the interviews stop and the music swells, I check out until someone starts talking again. You bang your head; I’ll flex mine.