Tuesday, July 7, 2020

5 Things That Helped Me Explore Heavy Metal.

June 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) So, having attended a high school where most students rocked more with hip hop, R&B, etc, I assimilated. I started to enjoy hip hop. Before high school, hip hop was the house but since MTV still showed music videos a lot—so was every other kind of popular music. You could see Nine In Nails, Radiohead, Christina Aguilera, Outkast, and Bjork all on the same channel in different blocks. Sometimes, even the same block during the countdowns.

However, hip hop was what I took too. It was the right time as well since Southern hip hop and crunk were starting pop big. A few years after high school, I started to get my ear for rock music back. Here’s five things that helped me get into—and stay with—rock and metal.

Interests and Hobbies

One thing about rock is the diverse lyrical themes. I was always interested in sci-fi, fantasy, military history, and so on. There were a ton of heavy metal bands and some rock bands that delivered on that. I’m a fan of lyrics and vocals because I enjoy writing and storytelling.

Hip hop storytelling and lyricism has a heavy focus towards realism. Even if it’s not something you experienced or that you’ve done recently, make it realistic. Now, you have subgenres of hip hop where artists are extremely free with what they rap about. I gravitated to it before I rediscovered rock.

However, as far as hip hop that moves the industry or charts, the game plan is to keep it realistic, relatable, and accessible. The hits can’t be too far out there. Actually, the album itself shouldn’t be too far out there. The out there stuff that diehards will rock with, those are deep cuts.

I started looked for bands that gelled with my interests. Once I came across some metal, some of it started to come back to me. “I used to enjoy this. I remember this kind of sound.”

Learning the Subgenres

In rock—especially metal—you can find whole subgenre and branches of those subgenres dedicated to certain themes. For example, death metal at its roots is thrash with a focus on death, gore, violence, etc. Basically, topics that exist in thrash. In death metal, these themes are delivered in a horror movie sense but faster with growled vocals.

That’s not all death metal is. There are bands that take a more melodic approach to the vocals and playing. Some bands use the classic approach but don’t sing about gore, carnage, violence and so on. Branches have grown in this subgenre to include subgenres that take things to extreme speed and content-wise or that are more focused on strong musicianship.

Learning the subgenres will give you a great idea of how deep metal and rock goes. All genres split off into subgenres and branches. That means you have options. There’s something in rock and metal for everyone.

There are fans who ask “Why do we have to label all of this. It’s just metal.” Which would be true if all of it was uniform with the exact same themes, tempos, etc. But it’s not just like there’s different kinds of films, documentaries, fiction, and so on. Labels and subgenres can help newcomers discover their flavor and long-time listeners can stay up-to-date.

Hearing Rock and Metal In Other Media

There’s so much media out there that slips music in. Show intros and outros, movie and game trailers, waiting rooms, product ads—you’ll hear an oldie, a classic, or currently charting hit in everything. Often times, this is the best introduction to rock and metal.

The number of times you’ve heard Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” or Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” in a movie trailer, while watching sports, or just ads in your area—especially in the Deep South. That can be a lure or a spark.

I heard rock music in wrestling and video games while in middle school. Going back to interests, since those were my biggest interests at the time, I took to rock music. I heard it so much that I got used to it then I started to enjoy it. Fast-forward to now and it’s hard to avoid all music. It’s licensed in everything and you can stream it from multiple sources.

Playlists and Compilations

Some fans are very meticulous with playlists. My playlists are done by genre and decade. That’s just me. The thing about playlists is that they work in giving you a variety of artists under a particular theme. That is unless the playlist curator just threw songs together or some abstract theme. Trust me, there’s a reason for playlists that don’t seem organized to exist.

They’re basically mixtapes if you think of them that way. Or those “Best of” compilations you might get. Actually, my first metal album was a Judas Priest compilation—Metal Works ‘73-’93. It works with a particular artist or group artists.

The thing is, these are good for getting a sample of artists or their best work. You’ve got a buffet to dig into and you can get a good idea about what this artist is about.


I love documentaries. Heavy metal and rock documentaries were the thing that re-ignited my interest in rock and metal. There was a short period where I wasn’t listening to anything. It was during VH1’s Metal Month in 2006 that I started to get into it. Then I just used my interests to filter out what wouldn’t be for me at the moment and what I was really enjoying.

Documentaries give a neat, historic structure for getting into metal and rock. One thing about music is that when new listeners get in at a certain period, it can be hard to go back and listen to where these artists came from. Often times, listeners are into the current stuff and stuff going forward.

Since I’ve always been big on history, going back and seeing the roots of the genre or specific artists was fun. It also helped me appreciate what goes into a band, how to keep up interest in your music across decades, and bands that get no recognition.

For long-time fans and newcomers to rock and metal, what was your path to get into it? Did you have a relative who enjoyed it? Or did you stumble upon it yourself? Let us know!

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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