Even though I play in a rock 'n' roll band, my leisure time is spent listening to things much heavier. I grew up a metal kid and it wasn't until I was exposed to all sides of punk rock did I lower my defences and start listening to more kinds of musics. Since that time my life has come full circle and, well, it's back to metal again.
Nothing has changed today from when I was a youngster listening to Satanic music. No matter how much more accepted it is, heavy metal is still ridiculed and dismissed as a type of music mainly for idiots. The irony is that for all the laughter and potshots, it endures.
That's because it's musical. One must be very adept and schooled on their respective instrument in order to play metal. Perhaps all this razzing stems from everyone else's insecurity knowing that deep down inside their rudimentary knowledge of five guitar chords combined with some indie blog critical praise is all a gigantic ruse. Most people aren't "players." Metal people are players.
And despite all this repudiation, pop culture continues to quietly appropriate from metal when it pleases, treating it like some shameful concubine. Metal's dissemination into popular culture is a quiet constant, perpetually being siphoned and dispersed into the consciousness of popular taste to the unawareness of the zombie masses.
Don't believe me? Here are four examples of heavy metal's direct influence on things you never thought were metal:
Devil Horns -- How fucking tired is this hand sign? Everyone from Nikki Minaj to George W. Bush do it. In fact, most people knee-jerk to this pose when quickly snapping an iPhone pic with friends. Hell, even I do it in photos, mainly because I don't know what else to do with my bloody hands. That, and, well, Ronnie James Dio did it too (RIP).
What most people don't realize is that the devil horn hand sign is purely Satanic. The correct way to do it is having only the forefinger and pinky finger pointed up replicating a pair of horns while the other three digits remain down symbolizing the denial of the holy trinity. Three sixes are eerily formed on one's hand while doing properly.
A lot of people think the devil horn hand includes the thumb. Sorry but no dice. I know Gene Simmons has laid claim to this version of the sign and he can very well have it. With a thumb sticking out it's merely a benign gesture of little consequence.
Just remember that the next time your hipster sister, who loves Fleet Foxes, raises a devil horn half in jest for a photo op. She's actually praising Lord Hell Satan.
Skrillex Hair -- By now, if you're even half-informed with today's celebutards then you should be familiar with this trendy hairstyle supposedly started by electronic dubstep (and former screamo) musician, Skrillex, whereby one shaves half his head of long hair. Avril Lavigne did it, so did Rhianna and Willow Smith. Even porn stars like Skin Diamond and Kagney Linn Karter have done it (don't ask me how I know that). I'm assuming they all did it to show the world their individuality.
But just in case you were wondering, Skrillex -- apparent fashion template to the stars -- copped it off Blacky, bassist from Voivod. When Voivod released their monumental prog-metal album, Killing Technology in 1987, Blacky was seen sporting this exact hairstyle on the back cover and his groundbreaking hairstyle mirrored the band's progressive sound. Jason Newsted of Metallica later followed suit, altering it slightly by shaving off both sides of his head only to be followed by James Hetfield and igniting a parade of imitators. Skrillex seems to have been one of these Blacky acolytes, too.
So yeah, sorry ladies, it seems like your cool hip 'do is nothing more than a copycat coif from the 1980's French Canadian metal scene.
Battle Jackets/Vests -- Everyone has seen the keen metalhead sporting one of these battle vests festooned with patches, front and back, on their denim jackets. What has always fascinated me is most battle vests make no distinction between what style of metal band it is just as long as it's metal. Black Metal patches are sewn seamlessly next to '80s power metal bands in an impressive show of metallic solidarity.
But when mainstream pop culture gets its slimy hands on this much beloved fan-reared item things get ugly fast. Take Chris Brown, the R&B singer/Douchebag #1, who, after physically abusing pop singer Rhianna still got to play Saturday Night Live and the B.E.T. awards afterwards. He was recently photographed wearing a leather jacket sporting patches from credible metal and punk crossover bands like D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies, Municipal Waste and Corrosion Of Conformity. Obviously, Brown had no idea who or what he was wearing, but the photos became incredibly embarrassing for all bands involved.
Brown's jacket was actually a DNA Fashion item designed by Noel Austin. These are jackets made for people too rich to shop at Hot Topic, too lazy to make their own battle vests and too out of touch to even know what patches to choose. Austin says that it helps promote the bands whose patches he uses to adorn the jackets, but at up to $7,200 a pop I wonder if any of that money filters its way back to said bands since Austin is in essence selling their credibility, history and design for his own gain.
Let's hope Chris Brown's association ends this trend.
Iron Maiden T-Shirts -- Not nearly as bad as Chris Brown wearing a C.O.C. patch on his jacket, but equally bizarre is the new trend of Hollywood celebrity types wearing Iron Maiden T-shirts. I'll give anyone a fair shake, but there's no way Miley Cyrus, Lindsey Lohan, Drew Barrymore and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia own a Maiden record, and if they do now it's only because one of their handlers read this piece and tried haphazardly to play catch-up. Also, $20 says most of these so-called "headbangers" think Iron Maiden is a brand and not a band.
To use an antiquated form of teen expression, what a bunch of posers.
The music biz can sometimes be nothing more than a lingering version of high school where people (i.e. adults) still judge others solely based on what music they like. OK, maybe I'm slightly guilty of this too, but after popular culture's non-stop potshots and pecking at the hem of metal's garment, it's high time someone took up the gauntlet and fired back.
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