Heavy metal subculture

Heavy metal fans as a "subculture of alienation" with its own standards for achieving authenticity within the group. The musical subcultures of heavy metal and punk. A following of the heavy metal music in the countries beyond the United Kingdom.

26.02.2011
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Heavy metal subculture

heavy metal musical subculture

Fans of heavy metal music have created their own subculture which encompasses more than just appreciation of the style of music. Fans affirm their membership in the subculture or scene by attending metal concerts, buying albums, growing their hair, and most recently, by contributing to metal websites.

Heavy metal fans go by a number of different names, including Metalhead, Headbanger, Hessian and Thrasher These vary with time and regional divisions. There is no universally accepted single phrase to refer to fans or the subculture itself.

Heavy metal fans have created a subculture of alienation with its own standards for achieving authenticity within the group. Deena Weinstein's book Heavy Metal: The Music And Its Culture argues that heavy metal has persisted far longer than most genres of rock music due to the growth of an intense subculture which identified with the music. Metal fans formed an exclusionary youth community which was distinctive and marginalized from the mainstream society. The heavy metal scene developed a strongly masculine community with shared values, norms, and behaviors. A code of authenticity is central to the heavy metal subculture; this code requires bands to have a disinterest in commercial appeal and radio hits and a refusal to sell out. The metal code also includes opposition to established authority, and separateness from the rest of society. Fans expect that the metal vocation [for performers] includes total devotion to the music and deep loyalty to the youth subculture that grew up around it; a metal performer must be an idealized representative of the subculture.

While the audience for metal is mainly white, male, lower/middle class youth, this group is tolerant of those outside its core demographic base who follow its codes of dress, appearance, and behavior. The activities in the metal subculture include the ritual of attending concerts, buying albums, and most recently, contributing to metal websites. Attending concerts affirms the solidarity of the subculture, as it is one of the ritual activities by which fans celebrate their music. Metal magazines help the members of the subculture to connect, find information and evaluations of bands and albums, and express their solidarity. The long hair, leather jackets, and band patches of heavy metal fashion help to encourage a sense of identification within the subculture. However, Weinstein notes that not all metal fans are visible members of the heavy metal subculture.

In the musical subcultures of heavy metal and punk, the word poseur (or poser) is a pejorative term used to describe a person who habitually pretends to be something he is not. In a 1993 profile of heavy metal fans' subculture of alienation, the author noted that the scene classified some members as poseurs, that is, heavy metal performers or fans who pretended to be part of the subculture, but who were deemed to lack authenticity and sincerity. Jeffrey Arnett's 1996 book Metalheads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienationargues that the heavy metal subculture classifies members into two categories by giving acceptance as an authentic metalhead or rejection as a fake, a poseur.

Since decades ago, heavy metal fans began using the terms sell out to refer to bands who turned their heavy metal sound into radio-friendly rock music. In metal, the term is used to refer to someone dishonest who adopted the most rigorous pose, or identity-affirming lifestyle and opinions. The metal bands that earned this epithet are those who adopt the visible aspects of the orthodoxy (sound, images) without contributing to the underlying belief system.

Ron Quintana's article on Metallica['s] Early History argues that when Metallica was trying to find a place in the LA metal scene in the early 1980s, American hard-rock scene was dominated by highly coiffed, smoothly-polished bands such as Styx, Journey and REO Speedwagon. He claims that this made it hard for Metallica to play their [heavy] music and win over a crowd in a land where poseurs ruled and anything fast and heavy was ignored. "In David Rocher's 1999 interview with Damian Montgomery, the frontman of Ritual Carnage, he praised Montgomery as an authentic, no-frills, poseur-bashing, nun-devouring kind of gentleman, an enthusiastic metalhead truly in love with the lifestyle he preaches and unquestionably practises.

In 2002, metal g

uru Josh Wood claimed that the credibility of heavy metal in North America is being destroyed by the genre's demotion to horror movie soundtracks, wrestling events and, worst of all, the so-called 'Mall Core' groups like Limp Bizkit. Wood claims that the true [metal] devotee's path to metaldom is perilous and fraught with poseurs. In an article on metal/hard rock frontman Axl Rose, entitled Ex - `White-Boy Poseur, Rose admitted that he has had time to reflect on heavy-metal posturing of the last few decades. He notes that We thought we were so badass N.W.A. came out rapping about this world where you walk out of your house and you get shot. At this point, Rose argues that It was just so clear what stupid little white-boy poseurs we were.

Christian metal bands are sometimes criticized within metal circles in a similar light; their faith and adherence to the Church an indicator to some extreme metal adherents as membership to an established authority, and therefore rendering Christian bands as posers and a contradiction to heavy metal's purpose. Some proponents argue personal faith in right hand path beliefs should not be drawn into question within metal, but should not be promoted within it. A small number of Norwegian black metal bands have threatened violence (and, in extremely rare instances, exhibited it) towards Christian artists or believers, as demonstrated in the early 1990s through occasional church burnings throughout Scandinavia.

In place of typical dancing, metal fans are more likely to mosh or headbang, a movement in which the head is shaken up and down in time with the music.

Fans from the heavy metal culture often make the Corna hand-signal formed by a fist with the pinkie and index fingers extended, known variously as the devil's horns, the metal fist and other similar descriptors.

Another aspect of heavy metal culture is its fashion. Like the metal music, these fashions have changed over the decades, while keeping some core elements. Typically, the heavy metal fashions of the late 1970s - 1980s comprised tight blue jeans or drill pants, motorcycle boots or hi-top sneakers and black t-shirts, worn with a sleeveless kutte of denim or leather emblazoned with woven patches and button pins from heavy metal bands. Sometimes, a denim vest, emblazoned with album art knits (cloth patches) would be worn over a long-sleeved leather jacket. As with other musical subcultures of the era, such as punks, this jacket and its emblems and logos helped the wearer to announce their interests. Metal fans often wear t-shirts with the emblem of bands.

Around the mid-2000s, a renaissance of younger audiences became interested in 1980s metal, and the rise of newer bands embracing older fashion ideals led to a more 1980s-esque style of dress. Some of the new audience are young, urban hipsters who had previously fetishized metal from a distance.

Heavy metal music has a following in countries beyond the UK, where it first developed. In the 2000s, fans can be found in virtually every country in the world. Even in some of the more orthodox Muslim countries of the Arab World a tiny metal culture exists, though judicial and religious authorities do not always tolerate it. In 2003, more than a dozen members and fans of Moroccanheavy metal bands were imprisoned for undermining the Muslim faith.

References

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metalhead

2. http://www.anus.com/metal/about/metal/orth

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metal_subculture

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