How does one define heavy metal music? There’s no one way to define it, but very prosaically put, it is one of the most popular sub-genres of rock music. One can trace its origins as far back as the 1960s with bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and later Iron Maiden who established the stylistic features of heavy metal music: use of electric guitar, and general loudness and aggressiveness both in the sounds produced and the lyrical content. Since then the genre has come a long way, and has branched into several other sub-genres especially black metal, death metal, progressive metal and several others. Recently this music has acquired dark overtones, with controversial lyrical content, often expressive of raw, repressed emotions combined with dense syncopated rhythms. This of course is not universally true, but is largely characteristic of most metal music out there right now.
There is lots of debate on the effects of heavy metal music on the psyche of people who listen to it. Generally people tend to assume that youngsters who listen to such music are angry, depressed, and anxious or have lots of repressed emotions, which is in fact a gross exaggeration of what every single human being feels regardless of what sort of music they listen to. Various studies carried out in this area are never really conclusive, and unfortunately just serve the purpose of making the idea of listening to heavy metal an issue, something abnormal that needs to be put under the lens and studied, like a disease. Heavy metal is just music that some people happen to like, others not so much.
Heavy metal is scarcely popular, at least here in India. However this music receives lots of support and promotion in the underground, and will soon hopefully receive the admiration it deserves on a much larger scale. With Iron Maiden performing here in 2007, and later Metallica in 2011, the metal scene is gradually growing. With these and several other bands coming to perform in India, there is palpable impetus to further metal culture within India itself. It’s encouraging to see new metal bands propping up in every corner of the country, organizing tours and deathfests, which shows that times are a changing. What isn’t very encouraging however is the attitude of the masses towards this sort of music, calling it satanic, immoral, objectionable, and disharmonious. A lot of this can be attributed to the conservativeness here, diametrically opposite to the inherently non-conformist nature of themes in heavy metal music.
Common grievances of said masses are encapsulated in the following questions they ask way too often:
‘Why are they always screaming?’
‘What are they all so worked up about?’
‘Where is the music, the rhythm?’
‘Why do they all look like they just walked out of a grave?’
‘What’s with the horrifyingly grotesque album art?’
‘Why is that woman showing her tits to Slayer?’
If you don’t like the music, don’t listen to it. People who deride metal are like people who jump into molten lava and then complain about how hot it is. We’re sorry if this music is unsuited to your tastes, but we’re not sorry about the music. We want more of it, we’ll have more of it. Rob Zombie has eloquently called it ‘outside music for outsiders’, and we’re okay with that too, because as long as you let a headbanger do what he does best, nothing else matters.