I love metal. But do I fit the status of ‘metalhead’? I don’t honestly know. If you dig into my record collection, you’ll find bands like Dimmu Borgir, Sunn O))), Korn, Frankenbok, Weedeater, Ne Obliviscaris, Quiet Riot. There are hundreds of metal albums and EPs littered throughout the crates of CDs in my flat, amongst the eclectic range of music that I have grown to adore over my life. The thing about my interest in metal, though, is that – while I do love it – I don’t entirely understand it. I can’t clearly differentiate between sub-genres. I can’t comprehend or interpret the often indecipherable lyrics. I don’t own a battle jacket or wear anything studded, although I did for a time. After being told several times, I still don’t quite know what djent is. But none of that is really important to me. What is important is the sound, the live experience. The raw, unflinching energy that emanates from the stage and reflects earnestly in the crowd’s response. The shredding guitars. The flailing hair. The sea of horns raised over the tide of black t-shirts. The unification of hundreds of people in a room brought together for the love of metal.
I have been attending and working at metal gigs for a long time, as well as just about every other genre imaginable, and one thing has become abundantly clear to me in doing so: the metal scene is, first and foremost, a community. Everyone that goes to a metal show generally knows someone, and someone at each show knows pretty much everyone. Even if, though, you have never been to a metal show before, once you step into a room with even a small crowd of fellow metalheads, you become a part of the family. If you fall down in the pit, there are five hands offering to help you back up. If you’re lacking in height, someone will often sacrifice their position for you to have a better view. I mean, sure, there are the dickheads who get too drunk and throw themselves around like they’re pinball karate masters with little to no respect for their surroundings, but they’re a minority and are largely frowned upon by the horde. Metal audiences are, by and large, the best behaved and self-managed groups of any genre’s fans that I have witnessed, and the community aspect is the key to that.
I’ve run laps in Lamb of God circle pits. I’ve headbanged to Sabbath ‘til my neck couldn’t handle another beat, and then gave it three more songs anyway. I’ve sweated in moshpits five hundred strong without a second thought. I’ve attended some of the biggest – and smallest – metal gigs to come to Melbourne, from the Bendigo Hotel to Rod Laver Arena. I may never completely ‘get’ the nuances of metal and its seemingly unending list of subgenres, but I will always lend a part of myself to loving it. And I will continue to support the metal scene however I can, because I have a great respect for the kinship that exists within this entirely underrated and often misunderstood collective.
I love metal. I just don’t understand it.