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Metalhead
Metalhead


Metalhead is a popular term for a devoted fan of heavy metal music. Heavy metal fans exist in many countries beyond the
United Kingdom and the United States, with many regions such as Scandinavia, Brazil, Israel and Japan. Heavy metal fans have created a strongly masculine “exclusionary youth community” whose core audience in the U.S. and the UK is “white, male, lower class youth” In continental Europe metal culture appeals to a more diverse audience, often spanning into the 30s and 40s and more frequently with a middle-class background and a higher cultural profile. However, the metal culture expands across the globe and is not limited to this. Metalheads affirm their membership in the subculture or scene by attending metal concerts, buying albums, and most recently, by contributing to metal websites and by growing their hair.

The long hair, leather jackets, and band patches of heavy metal fashion help to encourage a sense of identification within the subculture. Like the music at its cultural core, these fashions have changed over the decades, from tight blue jeans, motorcycle boots and black t-shirts in the late 1970s and early 1980s to black jeans and army fatigue pants, military-style coats, and shaven or short-clipped hairstyles in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the majority of fans are concious more towards the music, rather than the way they look, which is often just a visual that "comes with" being a fan of metal music. (For example, band merchandise such as t-shirts are often seen being worn by fans perhaps because they feel they want to support and contribute to their favourite bands)

Heavy metal fans have created a "subculture of alienation" with its own standards for achieving authenticity within the group. Deena Weinstein’s book Heavy Metal: The Music And Its Culture argues that heavy metal “…has persisted far longer than most genres of rock music” due to the growth of an intense “subculture which identified with the music”. Metal fans formed an “exclusionary youth community” which was distinctive and marginalized from the mainstream” society. The heavy metal scene developed a strongly masculine “community with shared values, norms, and behaviors”. A “code of authenticity” is central to the heavy metal subculture ; this code requires bands to have a “disinterest in commercial appeal” and radio hits and a refusal to “sell out”. The metal code also includes “opposition to established authority, and separateness from the rest of society”. Fans expect that the metal “…vocation [for performers] includes total devotion to the music and deep loyalty to the youth subculture that grew up around it…” ; a metal performer must be an “idealized representative of the subculture”.

While the audience for metal is mainly “white, male, lower/middle class youth” , this group is “…tolerant of those outside its core demographic base who follow its codes of dress, appearance, and behavior”. The activities in the metal subculture include the ritual of attending concerts, buying albums, and most recently, contributing to metal websites. Attending concerts affirms the solidarity of the subculture, as it is one of the ritual activities by which metalheads celebrate their music. Metal magazines help the members of the subculture to connect, find information and evaluations of bands and albums, and “express their solidarity”. The long hair, leather jackets, and band patches of heavy metal fashion help to encourage a sense of identification within the subculture. However, Weinstein notes that not all metal fans are “visible members” of the heavy metal subculture.

In the musical subcultures of heavy metal and punk, the word "poseur" (or "poser") is a pejorative term used to describe "a person who habitually pretends to be something he is not." The term is used to refer to a person who adopts the dress, speech, and/or mannerisms of a group or subculture, generally for attaining acceptability within the group, yet who is deemed to not share or understand the values or philosophy of the subculture. In a 1993 profile of heavy metal fans' "subculture of alienation", the author noted that the scene classified some members as "poseurs," that is, heavy metal performers or fans who pretended to be part of the subculture, but who were deemed to lack authenticity and sincerity. Jeffrey Arnett's 1996 book Metalheads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation argues that the heavy metal subculture classifies members into two categories by giving "...acceptance as an authentic metalhead or rejection as a fake, a poseur."

Since decades, heavy metal fans began using the terms "sell out" and "poseur" to refer to bands who turned their heavy metal sound into radio-friendly rock music (like Def Leppard, once a genuine NWOBHM band which later shifted to arena rock and then romantic ballads). In metal, the term is used to refer to "...someone dishonest who adopted the most rigorous pose, or identity-affirming lifestyle and opinions". The metal bands that earned this epithet are those "... who adopt the visible aspects of the orthodoxy (sound, images) without contributing to the underlying belief system." In the heavy metal subculture, some critics use the term to describe bands that are seen as excessively commercial, such as MTV-friendly glam metal, nu metal, or metalcore groups.

Ron Quintana's article on "Metallica's Early History" argues that when Metallica was trying to find a place in the LA metal scene in the early 1980s, "American hard-rock scene was dominated by highly coiffed, smoothly-polished bands such as Styx, Journey and REO Speedwagon." He claims that this made it hard for Metallica to "...play their [heavy] music and win over a crowd in a land where poseurs ruled and anything fast and heavy was ignored." In David Rocher's 1999 interview with Damian Montgomery, the frontman of Ritual Carnage, he praised Montgomery as "...an authentic, no-frills, poseur-bashing, nun-devouring kind of gentleman, an enthusiastic metalhead truly in love with the lifestyle he preaches... and unquestionably practises.

In 2002, "metal guru Josh Wood" claimed that the "credibility of heavy metal" in North America is being destroyed by the genre's demotion to "...horror movie soundtracks, wrestling events and, worst of all, the so-called 'Mall Core' groups like Limp Bizkit." Wood claims that the "...true [metal] devotee’s path to metaldom is perilous and fraught with poseurs." In an article on metal/hard rock frontman Axl Rose, entitled "Ex–‘White-Boy Poseur", Rose admitted that he has had "...time to reflect on heavy-metal posturing" of the last few decades. He notes that “We thought we were so badass...[until] N.W.A. came out rapping about this world where you walk out of your house and you get shot." At this point, Rose argues that "It was just so clear what stupid little white-boy poseurs we were."

Christian heavy metal bands are often criticized within metal circles in a similar light; their faith an indicator to some extreme metal adherents as membership to an established authority, and therefore rendering Christian bands as "posers" and a contradiction to heavy metal's purpose. Some proponents argue personal faith in right hand path beliefs should not be drawn into question within metal, but concomitantly should not be promoted within it. In spite of this, several Norwegian black metal bands have even threatened violence (and in rare instances, exhibited it) towards Christian artists or believers, as demonstrated significantly in the early 1990s through a rash of church burnings throughout Scandinavia.

In place of typical dancing, metalheads are more likely to mosh or headbang, a movement in which the head is shaken up and down in time with the music (or “windmilled” in a circular motion, most often excecuted by fans with longer hair) while the lower body remains somewhat still (or using the arms to play the air guitar). The fast pace, tempo and time changes, and complex rhythm of most metal music makes traditional forms of dance difficult or at least very physically tiring to perform. As well, the male-oriented culture of heavy metal makes typical dancing out of place.

During the early 1980s, with the rise of thrash metal, elements of the hardcore punk culture began to be incorporated into metalhead lifestyle, some of the more prominent aspects of which included slamdancing and moshing, where fans would form rings in the crowd within which they would run into each other and/or push and shove one another and stage-diving, where fans climb onto the stage with the band and launch themselves into the crowd. Later, crowd-surfing, where individuals are lifted and carried forward over the heads of others in the audience, also became popular. While this behavior was generally restricted to the punk and metalhead cultures during the 1980s, by the early 1990s moshing, stage-diving and crowd-surfing had spilled over to all spheres of alternative rock music.

Fans from the metalhead culture often make the "Corna" hand-signal formed by a fist with the "pinkie" and index fingers extended, known variously as the “devil’s horns”, the “metal fist” and other similar descriptors. The "Corna" was originally an occult sign used to ward off the evil spirits in Southern and Eastern Europe. An example of this can be found in the early chapters of Bram Stoker's "Dracula". This gesture was first popularized by Ronnie James Dio in the 1980s and was quickly adopted into the metalhead sub-culture.

Another aspect of metalhead culture is its fashion. Like the metal music, these fashions have changed over the decades, while keeping some core elements. Typically, the heavy metal fashions of the late 1970s – 1980s comprised tight blue jeans or drill pants, motorcycle boots or hi-top sneakers and black t-shirts, worn with a sleeveless kutte of denim or leather emblazoned with woven patches and button pins from heavy metal bands. Sometimes, a denim vest, emblazoned with album art "knits" (cloth patches) would be worn over a long-sleeved leather jacket. As with other musical subcultures of the era, such as punks, this jacket and its emblems and logos helped the wearer to announce their interests. During this period, metalheads often wore t-shirts with the emblem of bands.

This outfit could also be supplemented by jewellery and accessories that included studded leather wrist- and arm-bands, bullet belts (made of empty shell casings from belt-fed machine guns), chains and rings depicting skulls and other horror film-inspired designs. The hair was usually quite long, either at or beyond the shoulder or in a mullet (short top with long back). Some female metalheads adopted dress similar to that of goths or punks, such as streaks of brightly-dyed hair, safety-pinned clothes, and torn pantyhose.

By the early 1990s, metalhead fashion changed direction, as more diverse and even more extreme forms of heavy metal become more widespread. As Death metal and Black metal began to dominate the culture, metalhead fashion reflected this shift. As heavy metal music itself diversified and branched out, so did the fashions associated with it. A growing influence from goth and industrial music and hardcore punk became increasingly evident. Black jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and army fatigue pants began to replace the more traditional blue jeans and the patch-clad “battle jackets”. Some of the jewelry and accessories of the previous era also became less prominent.

While long hair had been a defining aspect of metal culture in the 1970s and 1980s, by the 1990s shorter hairstyles and even completely shaven heads had begun to grow in acceptance. A Neo-Nazist influence among some pockets of the heavy metal subculture was only partly responsible for this trend; many bands and artists of no clear political or philosophical persuasion that were choosing to either wear shorter hair or none at all. Beards and facial hair, especially goatees rose in popularity among metalheads in the 1990s.

The wave of "Hair Cutting" that has taken place throughout the more mainstream of American scenes has not seemed to effect the heavier, more underground genres. Band members and fans alike of genres such as Death Metal, and Black Metal still held true to the long hair, and tend to sport straight hair falling well below the shoulders.

In the late 1990s, outside influences began infusing with metalhead culture once again. The rise of nu metal saw facets of hip-hop culture being introduced, including the adoption of sportswear, dreadlocks and African-American slang. The rising popularity of hardcore-infused metalcore since the 2000s brought with it shorter haircuts, usually dyed black, and a tendency toward favouring “label” clothing and footwear.

Most recently around the mid-2000s, a renaissance of younger audiences have become interested in 1980's metal, and the rise of newer bands embracing older fashion ideals has led to a decidedly more 1980s-esque style of dress for metalheads. Some commentators have noted that some of the new audience are young, urban hipsters who had "previously fetishized metal from a distance". Many young metalheads today grow hair below their shoulders (though short hair and moderate lengthed hair is still prominent) and wear black t-shirts and leather jackets as 1980s metalheads did. Tight jeans have in fact come back into fashion in various rock genres as well as in heavy metal genres, just like in the 1980's, although jeans are not always blue, they range from black to grey to even brighter colours.

Heavy metal music has a following in countries beyond the UK, where it first developed. In the 2000s, fans can be found in virtually every country in the world including South Africa, Asia (especially Japan and Bangladesh), Australia and South America (especially Brazil, Chile and Argentina). Metal has a following and bands in some major cities in Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. Even in some of the more conservative Muslim countries of the Middle East a tiny metal culture exists, though judicial and religious authorities do not always tolerate it. In 2003, more than a dozen members and fans of Moroccan heavy metal bands were imprisoned for "undermining the Muslim faith" through their "satanic" music.Israel, for such a small country, has a strong metal scene, particularly in the subgenres of stoner/doom and Black metal.

In Western Europe, metal has a more mainstream appeal, whereas in the US and Canada it is more of a subculture. Heavy metal artists will spend much more time touring in Europe than in the Americas. Metal has a large Japanese fanbase. England is noted as the birthplace of metal and within the major cities, such as London and Birmingham, the metal scene is especially strong.

Scandinavia, a breeding grounds for many death metal and black metal bands, also houses many fans of the genre.

Info from wikipedia, image from Deviantart, edited by yours truly.

 


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