The Daily Illini

Don’t judge metal by its cover

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While She Sleeps performing at Rock’n’heim 2015 in Hockenheimring, Germany.

While She Sleeps performing at Rock’n’heim 2015 in Hockenheimring, Germany.

Photo courtesy of Sven Mandel

Photo courtesy of Sven Mandel

While She Sleeps performing at Rock’n’heim 2015 in Hockenheimring, Germany.

By Thomas Kortz, Columnist

I knew writing this column was going to be tough from the start. Rarely I find someone who likes metal, and trying to promote screams as a form of music is comparable to swimming against a strong current.

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have considered listening to metal music. The truth is, I was drawing conclusions based on limited knowledge. I thought metal was a bunch of angry, screaming people with out-of-control guitars — and more screaming. Fortunately, I overcame all the misconceptions preventing me from finding beauty in this extreme genre.

Despite all the negativity associated with metal, one can find an aesthetic nature in the music.  Still skeptical? It’s no joke that metal is full of aggressive vocals, dark imagery and loud instrumentals, but if we want to appreciate this music for its true value, we need to look past the surface.

Encyclopedia Britannica describes heavy metal, the parent genre of numerous sub-categories, as “a genre of rock music that includes a group of related styles that are intense, virtuosic and powerful.” And of the many subgenres, metalcore is a fitting example of this.

Traditionally, metalcore implements electric guitars, bass guitars, drums and vocals in complex and melodic styles. A popular staple in the genre is the breakdown: a slow, rhythmic pattern.

And yes, metalcore also includes screaming. This is a vocally demanding technique that adds intensity where singing cannot; metal bands often find a balance between screaming and singing. In some cases, screaming envelops the verses while the chorus is sung.

Many songs are highly poetic; a mindful reader will find several literary devices embedded in the lyrics. Northlane, an Australian-based metalcore band, released “Rot” in 2014, an expressive song about protecting the Earth from pollution: “So cold my soul’s numb, like an icy breeze on solstice morning. The worst enemy’s one that’s homegrown. This is more than just a faceless warning. Don’t let the world rot.”

Metalcore uses passionate themes to discuss a variety of topics, including controversial political arguments, philosophical and religious subjects, relationships and personal problems. A common message found in metalcore is the need to become better people for the sake of a better world.

“Silence Speaks” is an inspiring song performed by While She Sleeps, a metalcore band from the U.K. It outlines the importance of vocalizing truth instead of letting negativity win.

In addition to positive messages, metal deals with human suffering in ways other genres cannot replicate in the same vein. The negative themes in metal do not represent evil; it’s simply a different approach to addressing deep emotion.

I’m not trying to convince you to enjoy metal. But just acknowledge that music represents diversity of thought — and metal can be appreciated for being a part of it. If anything, metal is more than a bunch of tattooed teenagers screaming about death and destruction.

Thomas is a freshman in LAS.

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