WRITTEN BY ERIC MAY
Over the years I’ve noticed some very troubling behavior from the metal community that isn’t actually driven by them. Rather, it’s been driven entirely by social media. Now before you start throwing insults in the comment section, let me be very clear. I’m not referring to personal decisions to not listen to bands based on allegations of criminal behavior or offensive remarks that one might not agree with. That’s personal and I respect that. My issue here however, is with many younger metal heads who seem to have formed this bizarre collective of personal taste regarding bands. The tier-list generation is clearly responsible for this and even though those are assumed to have been made in good fun, I feel that maybe some metal heads are taking tier-lists a tad too seriously. It was upon seeing a post in a heavy metal group that I knew something was wrong here and troubled me so much that I had to write an article about it. I’m no stranger to this genre, I’ve covered thousands of records and have interviewed a great deal of bands. That being said, it wasn’t the only genre I covered and there were dozens of non-metal records being submitted to my inbox for personal critique. I’ve always been about expanding one’s musical palette and it’s good to see that others are doing the same. However, I saw a post where a young man stated that his taste in music was “shit” back then, but he also said that he found it nostalgic.
Let us move back just a little bit here. Clearly, this gentleman has nostalgia for this band that may be as others claim, a low-tier act. He also seems to have erroneously self-corrected himself like I once did when I was a younger man, because these acts that he enjoyed denote low quality and therefore may reflect on him as a person. When you’re young, especially in today’s clout-chasing social media generation, simple things like music taste seem to matter a whole lot more than they ever have. People constantly make memes (often in good fun) to spite certain bands that others might enjoy, perhaps even a few covered right here on this website! That being said, it’s a subtle form of peer pressure that ultimately allows one’s own taste in music to be controlled by this sort of heavy metal collective.
In other words, if you say you’re a fan of a more celebrated act like Blut Aus Nord, you would be considered to have great taste in music. I’ve seen several artists comment on just how monumental they felt their latest album was and you’d almost be patted on the back for enjoying it. The same can be said with an act called Agriculture whom some saw almost as the second coming of Christ. There are of course many good taste bands that one could describe, but say what if you wanted to give an old Slipknot record a listen? Sure, times have changed a bit and even some of the downright haters have eased up a little on Corey and company as well as the rest of Nu-Metal in general (I see a lot of praise for Static-X now, for instance) but when I was a teenager, listening to these kinds of bands wasn’t very popular with the metal community. I was called a “poser banger” even though I had been listening to some of the more obscure Nu-Metal acts at the time. Due to this, I simply stopped listening to a lot of the music that I loved. I stopped listening to Limp Bizkit, which was one of the bands who got me into heavier music as a younger man. Once again, the consensus has changed a bit on them since the release of the EP “Still Sucks” last year. Suffice it to say, I started listening to the band again recently after many years and found I still enjoy them and can quote far more of their old cuts nearly word for word than I ever would’ve believed. Hold on a second there, dear reader. That doesn’t mean I’ve thrown the greats in the garbage, as well as all of those black, death, doom, Viking, sludge, etc. bands into the waste bin. I still remember when Amon Amarth were good! That being said, the modern version of the band seems to be a hit and they seem like they’re having a fun time out there playing music for the fans. I’m not here to dunk on anyone, because I’ve been a musician before and I know how difficult it is to make it out there.
Getting back to the point, I’ve listened to just about every kind of act you can think of and will say for all it’s worth, that we shouldn’t allow tier-lists and the opinions of others to derail us from what we really enjoy. There are too many younger fans unironically allowing others to decide what their playlists should consist of and band shaming each other for it. It’s great to see people recommending new and cool acts (not so much the mainstream pop stuff) but not so much when they’re shunning and degrading other acts. I think there’s a certain level of immaturity when one says “Ewe! I can’t believe you listen to Nickelback” for example. Rest assured, some of their hate is definitely warranted, but they’ve had decent songs here and there as well as acts like Creed in the past and so on. I grew up with many of these bands, so they will definitely appear on my playlist along with all of the best that the latter eras of the genre had to offer and then some. Chances are, maybe you did too. Perhaps you grew up with emo and even though it may be shunned now, you still go back to those songs in your later years. I see this a lot with young hip hop fans. At my workplace, the guys are allowed to listen to music on a large portable speaker and they choose playlists that consist of everything from modern hits to old classics. I haven’t really heard anyone complain about it, unlike metal heads when there’s a song they don’t want to hear. Perhaps this is why hip hop became as big as rock in it’s prime and why many of the old rockers are calling the genre dead. Maybe we’ve more or less killed it by complaining about music taste all of the time. If you don’t want to listen to bands that you consider in poor taste, that’s completely fine, but don’t tell others that they have to subvert their tastes just to match what everyone else thinks is cool and trendy. This in my opinion, sets up a level of conformity that this genre just simply isn’t about.
Now I know there will be some people in the comments section who might say, “GATEKEEP EVERYTHING!” and I have no issue with one’s personal philosophy regarding that. We just shouldn’t expect that out of everyone in this entire genre. There are people who won’t listen to albums just because they think the album cover art is bad – not offensive, but just plain bad art. That to me is insane and demonstrates why I think this piece needed to be written. If you’re letting your peers, the online collective or just plain bad album art dictate your music taste, then you’ve utterly missed the point about heavy metal and the spirit of rebellion. Feel free to listen to who you want, when you want, how you want. Anything less is simply just not metal.