The Metal Question
By Brendan Heard.
Let me tell you a very strange story. The story of one of those quirky facts that linger unseen in plain view, where moth-eaten ghosts hide in the trends of pop culture.
The story of the strange link between reactionary rightist values and heavy metal music.
That is, the illiberal spectre of pagan barbarism, paternal initiation ritual, and complexity-magic hidden in occidental male autism-culture. Specifically pop culture, or more specifically a former pop culture now all but vanished, or at least well hidden. Chiefly the hobbyist or lifestyle genres known as: heavy metal, prog rock, science fiction, fantasy, and role playing games.
The average person (the average idiot) thinks of metal-heads as pseudo-anarchists and limitlessly partying savages who listen to grating noise for the sake of rebellion. The partying part at least, might be true. A post-industrial conservative without imagination is immediately taken aback, annoyed, or confused by what he perceives to be strange hippy satanists disobeying rules of polite presentation. Some people think music is something you put on to aid in relaxation, and nothing more. Normies only identify an affinity for something if it has the sheen of mass approval (an inherently unmetal attitude). An atypical conservative type might be forgiven for thinking metalheads are liberals, but that is by and large not the case. You will find, generally, they are not among the politically correct, but intelligent and creative brutes who have been stirred to investigate arcane corners of art where lie the makers of myth, the shaman and the sea lord. Metalheads often have a natural understanding of nature’s Nietzschean underbelly, their music itself being an expression of strength and natural competition, with themes of fighting, death, conquering, and other worlds. And if they have no intellectual pretense, you’ll find a natural, instinctive creature who likes real things (seeks beyond the superficial) and who shuns comfort and relaxed feelings for risk and excitement.
Now, metal is related in a sense to punk (being identifiable cultural modes tied to a style of music which encompass a look and lifestyle) but anyone who is old enough to remember recalls that these two were diametrically opposed, politically and conceptually, from their outset. Punk has none of the ‘burning down the village’ sentiment found in metal, punks roots are social unrest, in leftist anti-hierarchy agitprop, and if born today the Sex pistols would grow up as chavs listening to shitty UK gangster rap. Punks have roots in barely understanding their instruments, and peddling primarily an ‘attitude’. A frankly very contemporary-art-ethos. there is no real drama there, no tension of brute force and delicate skill, no hyper-imaginative vistas of evil warlords and alien worlds found in metal and prog. They do not risk the bombastic, their hearts are not on their sleeves. The punk, for all his rebellious pretense, stays firmly in effete social commentary and egoism, no viking invasions and lusty barbarian slave harems or kingdoms made of crystal for him.
Now they get a pass as cool by normies and above-normie-tier music fans, because their musical inability and leftism is hidden in ‘rebellion attitude’, which remained juvenile and grounded and thus does not cross the Bifröst line to sincere patriarchal power-creativity. But how can you tell when something has crossed that line? When its art contains an easily-mockable element; that is the hallmark of a genuine style in modern times. This superficial defenselessness is the manifestation of the required suspension of belief, which is the launch pad to the vale of giants. When an art form can be so easily labelled as cheesy by the unimaginative, when girls do not understand it, nor jocks, nor accountants, it may be of this ilk. When it appeals to the awkward young man of good breeding, who is alone (or if he’s lucky, with like-minded) then this young man under proper conditions can undergo the metal initiation, and enter an adult and deeply historic understanding of conflict, death, and the machinations of power, leaving behind somewhat outwardly those artifacts of imagination that in youth kept him ostracized from the greater tribe. A true understanding of nature and power, which may come more easily to the unthinking jock who has never questioned an impulse, will dawn on the initiate. He will learn that you can’t talk to women like they are men, or normies like aesthetes.
As a youth my friends and I used to mark the genius level of a cult movie or a metal band by the degree to which our girlfriends would dislike them. We knew a band we had followed was now a ‘sell out’ and in demise when the sportsball teams began to sing along to their tunes in the locker room.
Of the musical genres I speak of, the two that are the most similar, and enjoyed by a similar audience, are metal and progressive rock. Most of what I have to say regarding metal can be applied also to progressive rock, although it contains less so the heathen aggressiveness, and moreso the exploration of complexity, which again is the hallmark occupation of the now-much-maligned occidental man, when they obsess about something and get trapped in a joyful autism-spiral. What music your unimaginative parents and normie friends smirk at derisively and cause you to doubt, you will notice a decade later is remembered as legendary creative achievement. It takes a long time for normal people to grow accustomed to groundbreaking cultural energies.They are 100% social and for them the art maybe does not have meaning, what matters to them is that they have heard multiple times from others that it is ‘good art’.
So what specifically is the link between a conservative traditionalism and heavy metal? I noticed this as anecdotal experience in the attitude of many of my fellow metalheads, and those inclined to such music generally. Let’s start by getting the obvious reasons out of the way. By ‘right wing’ in the modern context we really mean generally illiberal, that is natural skepticism towards equality as a concept, and an unabashed archaically masculine outlook to life. Most of the metal (of the classical period) is innately tribalistic and aggressive, in its presentation and outlook to life. There are many metal songs about pillaging enemy towns, viking warfare, overthrowing kings, ancient gods, horror themes, adventures in space, acquisition of women, and generally burning down the world. It is innately gladiatorial, as it is innately pagan (or at least feudal). In this way, it harkens back to very old tendencies, ancient attitudes to the world which lie buried beneath modern ‘reality’. Pre-enlightenment energies which are alive in their coffin, under heavy dirt-layers of technology and Modernism and generally emasculated, atheistic, egalitarian corporate culture. Somehow, this strange electric music overcame many centuries of conditioning to create an instantaneous emotional response in men (and some women) more akin to steppe horse-raiders than to corporate consumers.
When invovled in the genre it becomes paramount to express truth, in the form of playing and listening to ‘true metal’ and not being a ‘poser’. A poser being essentially a liar or a cuckold, someone who holds back in their metal sentiment to make easy or weaselly (dishonest) appeals to a mainstream. The first sell-out posers evolved into the entirely fake boy bands, who dance their sickeningly urban pop-and-click-sideways-hat shuffle upon the corpse mountain of artists who believed and struggled to achieve excellence within a genuine peered framework. A non-fake person (non-poser) can only witness this debacle with chagrin, and then grim determination, as he points his hatchet to the wind.
This strange timeless combative phenomenon regarding heavy metal is the same we see at work in aforementioned role paying games like dungeons and dragons and other similar hobbyist obsessions which are notably particular to the ‘sons of Prometheus’. Boys risk get teased for playing them, and to the unimaginative (sportsball enthusiasts, accountants) they seem lost in fairy worlds, reducing their sexual market value by being a step too far removed from reality. But in the role playing game or in the fantasy novel we also see the expression or communion with this dormant pagan-masculine-creative-complexity impulse. Tales of high adventure with creatures of ancestral myth. Recreating personal high adventure Tolkienesque epics with elves and wizards. It is the rumbling, primordial resonance of an ancient religious impulse, recalling days when going to the local temple was to hear your fix of cyclopses and dragons, to hear the adventures of Theseus or Thor, fighting monsters and evil kings. Very similar it is to the experience of heavy metal, though the games are less emotional and more taxing to your cool.
How does one describe the feeling metal induces in the listener? How does one define that appeal? Superficially it might be said to express/incite anger. But anger is not what the initiate feels – it is more like energy. It’s not negative, despite often violent or threatening lyrics, it is paradoxically jubilant and invokes a feeling of power. Like magic. The music invokes truth telling and Darwinistic conquest and demands of the listener discriminatory polarization against other modern musical genres with their less energizing (weak) evocations. It is about not showing compromise, and shames those that defer to hesitant or effete opinion.
The invigoration metal awakens is an energy which defies commodification (unless by album/ticket sales), which requires a genuine appraoch. This is why I think the media overlords soon abandoned it, after an early flirtation with cloaking it in ‘satanism’ and using it as a tool in their arsenal to whittle away at nuclear family ideals. When they realized it was channelling an ancient and dangerous vigour, it was dropped, and the glam metallers eventually faded into Maddona-esque choreographed dance routines and total hopeless despair of the fake and superficial. But the cult of prog rock and metal remained with us, and you can see initiates in the streets, here and there, looking more or less the same now as they did in the 70’s and 80’s. A hidden cult. The same might be said for fans of true science fiction and fantasy, though they are more readily indulged and now coddled into corporate perma-infancy with Marvel remakes and comic-con plastic-tits culture which would force Tolkien to commit ritual suicide.
The metalhead can occasionally feel lonely in his musical obsessions, but over time he will realise the fault lies with others, not with some peculiarity of bad taste on his part. The initiates knows that the uninitiated have simply not tried hard enough to get into it, for the reason that virtually everyone has the same initial reaction to it: (horrible noise, stress-inducing etc.) which fades with repeated listening. So the initiate, having started from the same position, knows he now inhabits a higher a plane the uninitiated do not. The metalhead sits atop this lofty precipice, strong in his mountain, and watches these lesser creatures flit to and fro on meaningless passions of trend.
I could go on, but this is too long already. The summary must be this: the obsessive hobbies of imaginative men will always return to their root. The root is archaic, metal is a bombastic bottom-line iron fist in a modern world full of diapered adult babies.
2 thoughts on “The Metal Question”
I have to agree with almost everything you said here. I’ve been a metalhead since I was very young, and by the time I was 12, I listened exclusively to metal. My political views are full dissident right. I’ve only ever really consumed fantasy, science fiction, and horror, which remains true to this day now that I’m an adult. However, I’m a fully straight woman. Honestly, I’ve never felt safer than at a metal concert. It’s a community and I think our guys are better human beings than the general population. I have never had a doubt that if I had a problem with a guy, there are many that would help me out. More women should listen to metal, though I know I’m not alone. Excellent article, I’m about to share it everywhere!
Thoroughly enjoyed this article. I feel obliged to say something in defence of punk, however. Certainly you’re correct in that punk is located firmly in the modern and there have been a plethora of left-wing punk bands. However, I’d argue that social commentary nor liberalism encapsulate the soul of punk. At its core, it’s essentially a Dionysian artform. An anti-rational affirmation of the anarchic and rebellious soul of man boiled down to its raw, aesthetic form. The political in punk is only ever effective when it is critical as it functions towards these purely affective purposes. There’s a lot to like in punk and I doubt we’ve seen the last of it. When the left-wing boomer punk gatekeepers hang up their boots, I wouldn’t be surprised to see youths disaffected with the liberal hegemony.