I was inspired to make my own guide for my favorite music genre: heavy metal after seeing one of my fellow bloggers do something alike, but with K-Pop.
Metal can be a daunting genre to explore, especially if you’re not used to listening to it, and it also consists of several subgenres so you may not know where to start. I got into metal due to my desire to just find something new to listen to, I was tired of what was on the radio all the time so I wanted to add more music to my life. It started with the help of a faraway friend who I admired, and then overtime, it became something for myself.
Before I give you my tips on how to get into metal, I’m going to clear up some common misconceptions that the genre gets. Firstly, metal isn’t just loud and ear-shattering with screaming vocals and whatever other loud elements you can think of. Many metal bands have clear vocals that are easier to sing along to if that’s your thing. If you do want screaming, then maybe you’re best to get into some more modern metal or death metal.
Secondly, metal music isn’t always about violence and negativity. While there are many metal songs I have listened to that do cover that, there are plenty of bands that don’t. Some bands write songs about fantasy or sci-fi stories, mental health, love, sex/drugs/rock n’ roll, and even history!
Finally, metal fans are not aggressive or depressed people. I’ve met many fellow Metalheads and a few musicians who are very friendly no matter what subgenre they prefer. Yes, there is the odd elitist here and there who believes one subgenre is better than the rest, and will give you shit if you don’t do what they do. You just have to learn to ignore the jerks. Just because we look intimidating with our shirts, hair, tattoos, and occasionally spiky accessories, doesn’t mean we’re mean people. Metalheads and metal musicians could be the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
So, that’s enough with the mythbusting, let’s get onto my top tips to get into heavy metal!
Figure out what subgenre to explore based on your interests
Just getting started? One of the best ways to decide what part of heavy metal you want to explore, is to do it based on what your current tastes are. For example, if you enjoy all things fantasy in video games and TV shows, then you might like power metal, which has been known for its anthem-like choruses, which are perfect for belting out, and melodic guitar solos.
The vocals are mostly clear and you can imagine yourself as a knight fighting a dragon if you like, so bands like DragonForce, Orden Ogan, or Sabaton might be for you.
Or say if you love Disney, then you might enjoy symphonic metal for its combination of electric guitars, piano and sometimes even strings and choirs. Nightwish is a great band to start with, some of their songs are even based off of Disney films. Whatever you like is up to you and it could help you determine where to begin.
Don’t start off with something too brutal, especially if you’re not used the sound
No you’re not going to bleed through your ears, that’s an exaggeration, I promise.
If your ears are not used to the loud noise of rock and metal, it might not be a good idea to start off with something like within death or black metal. In order to help yourself adjust, start with something more melodic.
One good band to get into that has vocals you can understand and offers great catchy songs is Ghost. They have captured mainstream attention when they won a Grammy a few years back. Unfortunately, there is a lot of backlash they get from elitists who consider them “not metal” because they have the image similar to some black metal bands, but their sound and vocals lean towards rock (their earlier work is more like doom metal and I personally prefer that stuff from them). And if you find that sound like Ghost is your favorite, don’t let anyone tell you that you have to listen to the aggressive stuff they like.
Pick a band that has an interesting name to you, and then start with a song that serves as a strong intro
When choosing bands to listen to, one thing that can pull you in, is the name of that band. For example, the name Sabaton might sound cool to you, even if there’s no reason. You don’t have to be a history nut to enjoy their music, but you might discover their music sounds epic and then you can’t stop listening, it may even inspire you to learn more about the historical events they make their music about. Songs from them that give you the best introduction, at least in my opinion are ones like Carolus Rex and Uprising.
If you’re really into dragons like me, then I can see why the name DragonForce would appeal to you, and a mental note to myself to listen to them more often. A great DragonForce song I can recommend is Through The Fire And the Flames, and if that’s too long for you, then Cry Thunder. Remember, there is NOTHING wrong with starting off with a band’s most popular song after their name catches your eye.
Don’t be an elitist
You made it this far, that’s great, now the very mistake that I strongly advise you to steer clear of is to not become an elitist on your heavy metal journey. An elitist is a type of Metalhead who is a purist going by adherence to one particular subgenre in metal and likes to put down other bands that don’t fall in that subgenre, and the fans who like those bands. Don’t be that type of person. It’s okay if you tried some other subgenres and you didn’t like them as much as you liked others, but it’s not worth it to diss the ones you weren’t into.
Not only will you make a lot of enemies, but you’re also wasting your time. You won’t change anyone’s opinion on their taste in metal music, so do yourself a favor and don’t do this. I’ve met a few metal purists online and can’t understand why they find it fun to do this, they should seriously get a hobby. You’re far better off being kind to everyone and respecting each other’s opinions.
Don’t listen gatekeepers, hoarders, or other types of dictators, be a fan in your own way
If you want to join Facebook groups or forums about bands if you like, go ahead, but if you want to have a drama-free experience then you’d best limit how many you join in order to avoid dealing with the tyrants, unless you have very thick skin. They are fans who often try to control what makes people “real fans” which is bullshit. Everyone is a fan of the band, no matter their opinions, and no matter when they started listening to the band. So, don’t listen to those people, and I’ve had my fair share of experience with other dictators who think they can tell me how to behave.
For instance, I’ve had them tell me I shouldn’t get all fangirlie and write about my fantasies about the band, or those who say I need to buy every existing piece of merchandise, mosh, or drink beer at a concert.
Some of these things, especially the last two are considered norms in the metal community, but if it’s not for you, don’t feel obliged to participate and if other fans try to push you to do things you don’t want to do, say no, and ignore them if they start to protest. It’s not worth your time to argue. Be a fan in your own way, do your own thing, you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. If collecting merchandise is not your thing then don’t do it. If you prefer to get a little fangirlie, go for it, fuck anyone who tells you how to be a “proper”
fan of a band, whatever that means.
Don’t let your religion stop you
There are plenty of bands such as Powerwolf, who make music with a satanic theme, but that doesn’t mean that the band members are satanists. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, so whether you’re Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, whatever, listening to heavy metal doesn’t mean you’re giving the middle finger to your religion and becoming a satanist.
I’ve actually met a few Metalheads who are proudly Catholic, and enjoy bands like Immortal, Powerwolf, Ghost, and plenty of others. Learn to separate your religion from the music you enjoy, and you can listen to whatever you like and don’t listen to radicals. I’m atheist and I enjoy all sorts of bands with devilish lyrics, not because it’s about satan, but because it’s catchy to me.
Do this with politics as well, you’ll thank me later.
Look past the image, don’t let it intimidate or dissuade you
Some metal bands, and hard rock too have very strong visual images, like Lordi. One of the problems in the music industry, and with fans, as Mr. Lordi has said, is that many fans and record labels often don’t take bands with a prominent image seriously.
It’s easy to look at a band like that and think they look stupid or terrifying or maybe their music isn’t very good, but you have to learn to look past it. Whenever people ask me what my favorite band is, and I say Lordi, they might ask to see a picture and when I show it to them, they mostly look scared of them. I’ve told them that yeah they may look frightening, especially if you’re not into horror, but behind that image they make some fucking great music and they’re all super sweet and down-to-Earth people.
So, don’t let any image dissuade you from checking out the band, whatever band it is.
Above all, just keep an open mind
Heavy metal is a vast genre and the only way to get into it, is to have an open mind. Don’t give into the stereotypes, because remember, it’s not all just screaming and noise.
Metal can be a great genre of music to get into, you may find it improves your mental health, makes you happier, helps you manage your anger better, and so much more. My anxiety has been reduced greatly since I started listening to metal.
Also, you don’t have to sacrifice other genres to enjoy metal, I proudly listen to metal along with rock, pop, soundtrack, and even classical.
I hope these tips helped you make a decision and I’d love to know what you’ve started to listen to.