An Ode To Metal Music

Have you ever listened to a song and, at a certain point in it, had goosebumps breakout across your arm? That’s how I feel when I listen to metal.
An AI generated, highly detailed, monochromatic collage of metal music themed imagery featuring objects like skulls, zombies, guitars, bats, and obscured faces. The image is rendered in the style of an intricate drawing or illustration.
Created with Midjourney
By Greg Gunn
January 28, 2024
4 min read

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Have you ever listened to a song and, at a certain point in it, had goosebumps breakout across your arm?

Or better yet: feel overwhelmed to the point of joyful tears? It’s like what you’re hearing is perfection. Each note and beat is in the right place. And how they’re arranged at that exact moment sends a pleasant chill through your body.

That’s how I feel when I listen to metal.

I just finished reading Louder Than Hell, a 736-page oral history of metal. It’s a fascinating compendium of interviews with the pioneers and purveyors of metal music. From the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, to 80s thrash, and all the way through contemporary Metalcore (and yes, even Nu-Metal), author Jon Wiederhorn threads together a compelling history of the weird and wonderful world of metal.

Enter Metallica

The first heavy metal song I remember hearing was Metallica’s 1990 single, Enter Sandman. It was loud and powerful. And like nothing I’d ever heard before. It made sense to my ten-year-old brain. And I was immediately hooked.

But, like many young metal fans, I quickly needed something more. As much as I enjoyed Metallica’s catchy riffs, I wondered: what else is out there?

Eventually, I found myself deep in the world of 1990s extreme metal. Exploring then new sub-genres like death metal and grindcore. It’s brutal music. Filled with heavy guitar tones, insanely fast drumming, and these deep, growling vocals that sound like an ogre with a head-cold bellowing into a microphone.

Metal started as an emotional tether for me. It was something heavy, loud, and angry. Exactly what my adolescent heart was looking for. A way to feel and express those things without being loud or violent.

I had also just started to play the guitar and connected to the artistry and stunning musicianship these talented weirdos possessed. I think I learned every Metallica song from their first four albums.

As I aged into metal fandom, the teenage angst dissolved. In its place grew a deep appreciation for metal music and the fascinating culture surrounding it. Which includes the silliness and theatrics of it all. If you haven’t, go to a proper metal show sometime. It’s not unlike musical theater.

All that is to say, what started as an obscure teenage interest with something arguably strange blossomed into an obscure (and now more socially accepted) grown-up appreciation. An appreciation filled with wild stories, otherworldly fantasy, and a thriving community of fellow weirdos that share a common love.

Whenever metal crosses over into pop culture (e.g. Eddie Munson of Stranger Things) every metalhead is like:

In a way, my affinity for metal helped shape my imagination, my creativity, and mysense of humor. It certainly boosted my confidence as a perpetual introvert.

Here’s an excerpt from that book I mentioned earlier:

“Metal speaks to young people like nothing else can, and it convinces them that, with their favorite bands and albums as an anchor, they can survive pain, depression, and almost any type of adversity and then revel in their rebellion…” — Jon Wiederhorn

We all have a childhood appreciation that, whether we know it or not, helped shape who we are. What’s your metal?