Blast from the past: Making Love to Metal

26 01 2008

(Originally written March 15, 2006 on my old blog).

I just got back from seeing “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” . This film was created by an anthropologist from B.C. who is a total metalhead. How could someone who can combine two of my great passions go wrong? He could have, but he didn’t, or barely did. 

The film is an exploration of metal culture: what is it that unites metalheads? What characterises this counter-culture? What is the history of metal? What are the links between metal and other genres? What are the sub-divisions of metal? Included are interviews with some of metal’s greats, including Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson (aka The Ultimate Deity of Love, Lust and Light) – drool drool drool – as well as interviews with fans and other interested parties (sociologists, scholars of music, etc).

While the Bruce interview really lit my fire, as always (what a BEAUTIFUL man he is!!) and the soundtrack kicked ass, the themes brought forth in the film deeply resonated with me. I’ve been thinking about my relationship with metal quite a bit lately. How important is metal to me?

A little background: I’ve been listening to metal since I was 13 (it’s been 20 years!!! YIKES!). Since then, I’ve broadened my horizons to an incredible extent and, like in polyamory where loving another person often works to accentuate one’s love for a primary partner, my love of other musical forms has deepened my relationship with metal.

Heavy metal is like my primary partner: I’ll “go out” with other musical forms such as prog rock, 60s-70s-80s pop, World music and even New Age but at the end of the day, it is metal that greets me, protects me and loves me. It is metal that nourishes my body and soul and that gives me my life’s breath.

On another level, metal helps me let go of stress, gives me energy and motivation to take on the world, gets me excited about life and gives me grounding in my working-class background. As is pointed out in the film, many of metal’s greats are from working class or deprived backgrounds as are many fans. Metal provides folks like us with a way of saying “fuck you” to the prim and proper powers that be.

This aspect is increasingly important to me as I gradually pay off my $40K student loan and establish myself in the halls of academia, joining the ranks of a perceived “middle class”. By maintaining my love life with metal, one of the things I am doing is making sure that I NEVER forget who I am, who I was, where I’m from, the oppression I had to fight against to get to where I am and, most of all, the events that have shaped my worldview and attitudes. Metal helped me get through the things I had to get through including early drug and alcohol abuse, watching my father destroy himself, an abusive relationship, the loss of a child, getting through university while a lot of this stuff was going on . . .

It is a safe haven that unites me with myself on an existential level. It is a warm blanket that covers me whenever I want it, even when it’s only playing in my head. It gives me the strength to keep fighting when all the odds are against me.

And yet some of the people that are close to me feel free to mock it. As though it were not a legitimate form of musical expression. As though it were reserved for teenage boys. As though there were no intelligence behind this music. As much as I try to explain that this is as insulting to me as it would be to a Christian to have their religion mocked, I get nowhere.

But this is nothing new . . . I’ve dealt with this ever since metal has become a part of my life – statements that I would outgrow it, statements that an intelligent and educated woman such as myself must have better things to do that go to rock concerts, etc. And it’s this very antagonism toward my metal that gives it strength for me!! The more people around me mock it and misunderstand it, the more I will stand by it and the more it will stand by me.

Up the Irons!

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