In the mid nineties, when I was just into high school, I was introduced to metal music by my friend Billy. We were messing around in the computer lab and he played some Metallica that sounded neat. Since I have always been one to take the plunge on new music, I asked Billy what was the heaviest, fastest Metallica record. That night I went to the record store and picked up "Master of Puppets" and played it in my bedroom. It scared the shit out of me.
"Puppets" has never been my favorite metal record, but it was my first, and the parts I liked were enough to kickstart my addiction to metal. Over the next few years I managed to get some of my friends into it, but they couldn't understand why I continued to listen to all of the other music that I liked. Japanese pop, Alternative, new wave... that wasn't very "metal" at all, was it? Actually, yeah. I think it was.
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No matter what, metal bands tend to swing for the fences. Death and thrash metal bands try to be the fastest and most aggressive. Power metal bands try to thrill and inspire. Black metal bands try to sound incredibly evil and confrontational. Symphonic metal bands try to be the next Wagner.
The common factor of all metal is that whatever floats your boat, you do. You do it hard, and you do it for keeps. Some metal bands write about real world issues, or transcendence, or God. Others write songs about elves and dragons. But if you're going to sing about Elven warriors, you'd better sing it like you mean it.
A lot of metal bands know that what they do is ridiculous. They laugh about it between beers after the show. But when they're up on stage, they're the warriors of metal, and those dragons need slaying. Metal fans have senses of humor, no question. But we love what we love for real. If this was all a joke, we'd be hipsters.
Metal is my philosophy. And that means that I enjoy what I want to enjoy in life, regardless of what other people think about it. But I don't try to "freak the normals" with my music or art or ideology. As long as people are tolerant of me, why should I mess with their day? Live life the way you want, and let others do the same. That's metal to me.