Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Of Wolves and Dogs

I probably spend more time than I should obsessing about whether a band is "true;" ever since I first got into this music, there was always some kind of "heavy" corporate rock that I wouldn't abide being considered metal. Glam rock, grunge, nu-metal, metalcore, and now so-called hipster metal bands have all been chastised by snobs like me for not being heavy enough. But the line between "true" and "false" metal keeps getting thinner, as the mainstream becomes more accepting of heavier and heavier bands; there's no doubt that bands like Saviours or As I Lay Dying would have passed 15 years ago, but that's not good enough now. So where do you draw the line? What's to determine who's true and who's posing?

For me it's always been a gut feeling that I couldn't put into words, until today. The difference between "true" and "false' metal is the difference between wolves and dogs. Wolves have to hunt for their food, dogs simply eat what's placed in front of them. It's the difference between liking whatever's on MTV, or tracking down on your own through esoteric zines, blogs, and podcasts. And like wolves, "true" metalheads will tear apart anything that's different, that doesn't smell like one of the pack. Trendy. Poseur. Hipster.

So the next time someone asks me why I'm not into the Sword or Baroness, I'll tell them it's because while they may sound metal, and they may look metal, they sure don't smell metal.


  1. Nice.

    The wolf vs. dog idea can still fall victim to the question of historical context. It sounds like it's saying whatever is derivative is a dog. Isn't metal a big enough genre that it has produces plenty of it's own "dogs" that are still true to the style? Are In Thy Dreams, Death Angel, and Eden a.d. not "true" metal because they didn't push existing boundaries? I think the lines are still blurry, and always will be, but you're definitely onto something with the analogy.

    Just be careful...the question of "true" is so often abused as a self-righteousness device, fundamentally no different from religious or racial bigotry (though perhaps not as serious)

    buttress and beehive

  2. @Eric - I was thinking more of the fans of the music. There are people who will just follow along blindly with whatever is popular - "eating up" whatever MTV or commercial radio puts in front of them. I feel like so much of what makes "us" ("true metallers" or whatever) different is a mix of intellectual curiosity and a dissatisfaction in just taking what we're given.

    The genesis for this rant came from one of the end of the year episodes of Requiem - Mark and Jason just went off on this MTV Headbanger's Ball host who's supposedly "metal". It was one of the funniest things I've ever heard, because they're usually such laidback, congenial guys, so that MTV VJ really must have hit a nerve with them. It got me thinking about what made this dude who probably considers himself a metalhead (without even knowing that much about metal) different from the Requiem guys, who are probably the two most metal people who aren't dressing up in corpsepaint and chainmail.

    Anyways, if you haven't checked that episode out, it's here: