How Heavy Metal Can Teach us Devotion

I spent a few hours in the library today reading a required text on synoptic gospels. It’s an interesting subject and I don’t mind the technical terms. It’s part of learning and I have to love them though they make my brain spin sometimes.

Moving away from the subject of theology I remember a DVD I watched during the semester break last year. Something I bought ages ago but I only managed to sit down and watch it last year. It was a documentary on heavy metal music. It’s called Metal: A HeadBanger’s Journey . You could read more about it here as well.

It depicts the journey of Sam Dunn a metal head himself and also an anthropologist doing an anthropological study on heavy metal culture as a whole. He seeks to unravel the wanton arguments that people have somehow stereotypically associated with heavy metal music. In general many would attest to the demonic bent direction of heavy metal music.

Anyways for me I enjoyed the DVD and how Dunn (not the theologian Dunn) traces the roots of metal. In his opinion though it was Black Sabbath who he terms as the fathers of heavy metal. And this genre eventually has many other sub-genres. Other metal acts which are familiar to us would be Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer, Lamb of God, Cradle of Filth and others.

What amazes me was  that Heavy Metal in itself had a sense of stance that projected a strong resemblance to religion and a sense of commitment someone makes towards what he or she believes.

1. Those who were heaped in the metal crowds were considered outcasts in society of youths. These were people who were different from others and they had a taste of music not of the mainstream kind but those that were underground. Regardless of the fact that they were different they prided themselves in it with a “who care what you think” attitude.

2. There was a sense of belonging to the crowd of people who gathered in metals concerts and this sense of belonging came from the way they dressed or looked and a common passion for metal which unified them.

3. They were devotees to their movement or music and those who were metal heads were somewhat devotees for life. Unlike the pop scenes where people hopped from one band to another based on popularity, metal heads were devoted to their genre and bands they were into.

Well, there may be more but I’m just trying to remember what I could still grasp at the moment. I think what I have now may be enough. Another thing that I was aware of was that the American scene of metal, those which the mainstream crowd may be familiar with are actually mild forms of metal. Mild in a sense that most carry messages without really following the inherent meaning embedded in them. Not that I am wanting them to do so that is.

The brand of metal that was deathly serious in their music and message they carried were those based in Europe, and particularly the one they showed in the documentary in Norway. There were actual incident where metal acts actually went and burned churches. In an interview made by Dunn with one of the metal acts there, the singer was unrepentant of the acts of those bands that went ahead and burned churches. It was the  right thing to do. And that Lucifer was the one they served. Watching that part was eerie to say the least.

But overall the documentary was good and there were many positives to be taken from it. Although I would not say that I would argue in depth about the good of metal music and the good things about the messages that they portrayed, I find little help in the image they try to convey. But I’m not so much a non supporter of metal as well. I guess you could say I’m someone in the middle.

It’s funny how people heap blame on metal because the messages are demonic when pop singers make sexual suggestive lyrics on mainstream radio. Isn’t sexual liberation a form of demonic stance as well? So people have got to know how they carry their arguments. Not just going around and thinking people are dumb cows.

Anyway, as for metal and their community, there is a valuable lesson which can be gleaned from them. They revel in their outcast nature of being different and believe their form of devotion regardless of what others hurl at them. Their belief is their badge. Well, maybe we could learn something from that and be proud of being different for a change since we believe in something worth more than just Metal.

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5 thoughts on “How Heavy Metal Can Teach us Devotion

  1. Elisha says:

    What a brilliant insight. Metal heads are hardcore devotees because they are purpose driven. Certain Metal groups has their own rules and belief which are bound to be followed and practiced by their members.

  2. j says:

    Hey Elisha. The documentary is pretty good and i fully recommend it. Great insights and not just the same old stereotype insights we often hear. I think in terms of music genres, metalheads (devotees of heavy music) are the ultimate devotees compared to other genres. Just to note that the break up of Pantera got some people really disappointed that former guitarist Dimebag Darrel was gunned down during a concert playing for another band. Those to me are considered die hard devotees to the core. They absolutely hate those selling out.

  3. Kurt W says:

    Good thoughts. I agree with your assessment of Metal music. I remember growing up hearing things like Metallica is demonic… I listen now and think… thats silly.

    I also like the correlation you make between metal and outcast culture. in many ways, sounds like first century peasants finding a cause and sticking to it… Jesus.

    1. j says:

      I think much of the criticism directed to metal is shallow and un-researched. I liked this sociological approach (although biased to the metal community but it was very well presented i must say). But the correlation was the thing that got to me, pretty much like what you said on the first century peasants thing.

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