Santa seems to be messing with me. I got some S-S-Stuff this Christmas. No, that’s not a stutter. It just so happens that some elf was looking through the music dictionary and decided to send me a stack of s-starting bands. He also attached a note with the words, “Santa Says Sorry”…And for good reason. Since we’re on the subject of studying the structure of the band names, we might as well also focus on the titles of their songs – all of them scream angst and non-conformity: Scar Symmetry’s Noumenon and Phenomnon off of their album Dark Matter Dimensions (2009), Samael’s Black Hole off of Above (2009), Suffocation’s Cataclysmic Purification off of their album Blood Oath (2009), Sonic Syndicate’s Burn This City from their forthcoming album in 2010, and finally, Sonata Arctica with Flag in the Ground off of Days of Grays. (2009).
But, to better understand the great weight of all of this metal, I’ve decided to make a guide to help myself and you in the meantime.
How to be (Heavy Metal) Hardcore
They’re more scared of you than you are of them. They loathe society. They are commonly known as punks, outcasts, rebels… but don’t be so quick to judge what is commonly known as HEAVY METAL.
Step 1: Appearance.
Hello! Dreads, much? A valley girl accent sounds worse to them then their grating voices may ever sound to us. Nevertheless, to be truly metal, your hair has to be either too long, too short (in all the wrong places, not there at all, or too dirty (example: Suffocation). The main singer in the follow A bit more difficult to bear and transform than the mass of whatever growing on your head is the coloring of your skin. Yep, tattoos. Prepare to get tatted up usually with an anarchist symbol or dragons. Maybe you will see some designs you like in the following videos, especially on the guitarists’ forearms. Last, but sometimes least, is the clothing. Keep it dark, dreary, and different. Surprisingly, tight black shirts are not as metro-sexual as one might believe (see Scar Symmetry’s lead singer as an example).
Step Two: Video Magic
We’ve covered the general basics, so let’s move on to the videos – appearance in action. Thankfully, unlike pop videos, the bands do not attempt to recreate the scene they are singing about. This occurs because of two reasons: 1. if this were in fact the case, most Heavy Metal music videos wouldn’t look that different (more on that later) and, 2. the video usually tries to capture the band in action, playing, since this is their most pure environment.
Black and white
although really cheap, this effect worked well to show contrast in Scar Symmetry’s Noumenon and Phenomenon
A better documentation of this effect is evident in Samael’s Black Hole
In this video, they attempt to provoke nostalgia in a very 70s concert setting. They also used an old-video border (lame!) to enhance this effect. A for effort, but C for artistic creativity.
I know, right? You’re probably thinking that cartoons are such a childish idea. But, of all these heavy metal concepts, this is the best integrated one. Cartoons aid in depicting the utter havoc expressed through the song lyrics. Also, like in Black Hole, these cartoons/drawing repeatedly strike the same concept to ingrain an idea into your memory.
Quick Camera Angles
Although this may have the consequence of making your audience nauseous, this effect is apparently hardcore. All of the videos included this to a greater or lesser degree.
If it’s not in someone’s garage or an abandoned dirty factory, then some might say that you’re taking this “Heavy Metal thing too far, man.”
Nevertheless, an example of a more progressive Heavy Metal Video is Sonic Syndicate’s Burn This City which features some classy FX, like a helicopter scene along with a artistic background (of wrecked city rummage)
See Samael’s Black Hole,
and Sonic Syndicate’s Burn This City
Rammstein, Anvil, and Kiss all mastered the use of fire in live concerts. However, fire in live videos (albeit ‘hardcore’) doesn’t have the same desire effect. Scar Symmetry featured the most pathetic recreation of fire using a green screen which made them look more penniless than ruthless.
Along with fire comes burning and blood.
a symbol for anger, hate, pain, and suffering. Widely used to emphasize a certain point and goes well in contrast to the widely used and abused black and white effect.
See Suffocation’s Cataclysmic Purification
Obvious, but true. You cannot achieve any level of hardcore-d-ness if you are incapable of producing an intense headbang. Just like machine guns, the guitarists (most often) attack the camera with their head banging flair/hair.
The more you move your head, the better you are at being hardcore.
In Suffocation’s video, the band members move so much that one would assume that they are absolutely faceless.
Step Three: Music
ahh, yes, we finally arrive to the musical aspect of this sub-culture. Heavy metal music has 3 distinct melodic components: Percussion, Guitar, and voice. Also, it has the ever recurring theme of isolation, death, depression which they use to attract a distinct audience.
Continuous percussion results in a hardcore headache. Sonic Syndicate, for instance, alternated the drum pounding with vocals and light to moderate guitar.
Nonetheless, the drums need to be banged extremely hard. The more action the better. If you can actually break your drums (or your arms) during a show, mad props to you.
Guitar riffs can be frequently over-used, such as in Scar Symmetry’s song. Again, in moderation, this effect will work well especially a bit after the halfway point of the song. Led Zeppelin was famous for their guitar solos. Sonic Syndicate and Sonata Arctica managed to skillfully demonstrate enough guitar to sound hardcore, but not too much to end up sounding like some punks.
No, really. Gimme a throaty scream, growl, anything. It’s not just to create noise (although I would disagree), but it’s purpose is to reflect emotion.
In moderation, this effect can equate to a nice balance of actual singing and strong growls.
The growls also create an interesting rythmn by balancing out the percussion (as in Suffocation’s song).
Light vocals can create too much of a similarity to love ballads (which is soft/pillow/plushy metal). Sonata Arctica almost crossed the line with their (over)incorporation of soft vocals and extended ballads along with the desperate, “”Hope to hear from you soon,” lyrics. They also featured a Rush-like voice along with a keyboard-guitar (Key-tar!). This resulted in an eerie Hair-Metal mix of Pirates of The Carribean.
Need more help on being Hardcore? Just go to a show! For that, you’re going to need some protection (helmet, mouthguard, kneepads, life insurance). I’ll be sure to give you a How-to Article on that later. Don’t forget to keep listening and observing. Some good guides are Vh1’s heavy Metal Documentaries, the Anvil Docudrama, and my personal favorite THIS IS SPINAL TAP.