Breaking the Metal Stereotypes
A not-so heavy look at heavy metal
By Lexi Wright
Sex, drugs, and heavy metal, or at least that’s the stereotype.
But according to Skyler Mills, lead vocalist for Calgary based thrash metal band When Minds Develop, (otherwise known as WMD) metal music is not all that it appears to be.
“You think of heavy metal and you think of a bunch of dudes with long hair rocking out. But it comes back to freedom. It’s a way of expressing yourself and doing what you wanna do. It’s not like we’re a different type of people”.
The most common metal stereotypes are that the concerts are too aggressive, the music lacks talent, and the lifestyle revolves around drugs and alcohol. Mills however, says that those stereotypes are exaggerated when it comes to metal.
“There’s a lot of drinking, but there’s a lot of drinking everywhere. It’s just what people like to do. No one wants to hurt you; it’s more about just being free. Metal is a really healthy gate for aggression and anger”.
The term “metal” has begun to take on a new meaning. Not only are metal musicians truly passionate about the art, but for Mills, the impact has been life changing.
“When I left [home] when I was 14, I didn’t know what I wanted to be at that point and I’m sure a lot of kids were like that too. It was just unhealthy, both mentally and physically. I couldn’t handle it. Metal really saved me, as I was in a dark state of mind. I could really relate to a lot of the lyrics and power of the music. It gave me a purpose as well. It saved my life”.
Zach Mansfield and Eric Paulin, ex-bass guitar player and current lead vocalist for Lucid Scream,
provided input regarding metal stereotypes. The band originated in Calgary and released their E.P album on September 6th, 2014.
“It’s a little eclectic at times, it’s kind of a mix between traditional 80’s metal and 70’s hard rock. You get a lot of those guitar harmonies and backup vocals that you would find in a lot of traditional 80’s metal”, Paulin describes as the type of music you would hear while listening to Lucid Scream.
For Mansfield and Paulin, there exists a strong connection between the audience and the band members that isn’t about head-banging and mosh pits.
“Standing on stage, looking down at the audience, all you see is hair all over the place, everyone’s head banging. It’s just as much fun to watch the audience, as it is for them to watch the band” Paulin says.
“The better the crowd is, the better I am on stage. I feed off the energy,” Mansfield added.
Despite living through the metal stereotypes, Lucid Scream has learned to embrace the labels and work around critics of the genre.
“Now when people ask, ‘What kind of band do you play in?’ I always say hard-rock because as soon as you say heavy metal, people think death metal, but we actually sing. We don’t do the whole cookie monster vocals,” says Paulin.
For metal bands like WMD and Lucid Scream, getting their name out is vital in breaking the stereotypical attitudes surrounding metal and with the help of music promoters like Kasey Nolan. Nolan, who promotes metal music and is responsible for organizing Metal Monday performances in Banff, advocates the important roles of representing metal in society in order to break the
“On one hand, I personally have changed people’s minds about the genre based on my attitude and how open-minded they are about making an effort to understand. And on the other hand, there are some people that are so stubborn that will never make an attempt to get it.”
Nolan first started listening to metal as a teen and as he grew up started playing the guitar. He
eventually grew to appreciate the metal genre even more and says that there is no difference symbolically between metal music and the music you would hear on the radio today.
“It is a stereotype that is absolutely enforced in many bands, but definitely not in others. It’s not even strictly a metal thing either. Take a look at mainstream pop, a lot of it is about sex, drugs, and misogyny, but it seems people are fine to look the other way with that. You can’t single out one genre because of the themes of few bands. I think there’s a lot of unfair judgement going on”.
Metal will continue to grow in terms of breaking the stereotypes that surround it, and for many who share similar experiences to Mills, provide an alternative escape from the hardships of reality.