I will rise up from the chaos, I will rise up from the grave.
A brother to the darkness, a master to the slave.
I am the sole descendent of the fire and the rage.
I was brought upon this earth to rule and battle wage,
By the total domination of the world at my command,
By the air and the water and the fire and the land.
I give no explanation. I was branded by the will.
Bringer of death and destruction to all that I now kill!
On this first day of March, in the year 2009, I can say with complete certainty that Heavy Metal is the highest form of music to have ever graced human ears. Contemporary Heavy Metal covers a wide spectrum of musical themes and ideas; From the intricate compositions of today’s neo-classical maestros to the violent growls of the most underground black metal monsters. There are virtues to be found throughout all of the Metal sub-genres. Although I often enjoy bands that play from the extremities of the scene, nothing motivates me more than the Metal that rises straight up the middle: TRUE METAL!
Being of the middle is not synonymous with mediocrity. Actually, in being fiercely devoted to the fundamentals of the music, True Metal is definitively extreme. The middle ground of other styles of music is polluted with bastards who misrepresent their forefathers. Simply examine the undignified popularity of watered-down punk, rap, techno, and jazz for evidence. Although choosing to remain in the middle may lead to increased record sales for most musicians, the True Metalhead is the eternal underdog.
Extreme forms of metal usually garnish more attention than the bands that have remained true. Often times, True Metal is deemed to be "old school", "cheesy", or "lame". With such insults abound, one wonders why anybody would want to make music that most people didn’t hear when it was new, don’t hear now, and is sometimes disrespected by it’s peers? The answer to this question lies at the heart of what separates True Metal from all other forms of music.
Using the lyrics of the world’s first True Metal band as a guide, I will expound upon the virtues of True Metal; not simply to offer it defense, for its strength is its own defense; but as an exercise in personal satisfaction. Metal has always made my heart, body, and soul feel good but I’ve struggled to wrap my mind around the reasons why. This essay is a short jaunt towards that reason why.
Be your own disciple.
Fan the sparks of will!
I will start at the beginning, at the birth of True Metal: Manowar.
The distinction between Rock and Metal was fortified with Manowar’s debut album "Battle Hymns". I will not deny that Heavy Metal is related to Rock and Roll. However, I prefer to disagree that Metal was born of the Hard Rock movement of the late 60’s. A more accurate description is that of a midwife, meaning that the soul of True Metal was seeded elsewhere, but carried and perhaps nurtured by Hard Rock.
The quintessential difference between Rock and Metal is evident when we compare True Metal’s insatiable hunger for unyielding dominance over its surroundings to Rock’s succumbing to the whims of an ambiguous mind.
Power and dominion are taken by the will!
By divine right, hail and kill!
This difference can be defined Literally and Aurally.
By "literally" I mean by the definition of the name of the genre itself. Rock: "Mineral matter of variable composition, assembled in masses in nature, as by the action of heat and water." Rock is purely a product of nature. It may be sculpted by man, but it is not OF man. For all intents and purposes, rock has existed forever, even before primitive man walked the earth. There have always been depressed people.
By "aurally" I mean the actual sounds of the music itself and their effect on the human psyche.
Rock music is the aural expression of the philosophical school of Naturalism. It is based in American Blues music; a form of music that wallows in a complete lack of volition. Just as a rock will always be a rock, Rock music professes that a man is non-volitional. That he is born of original sin and doomed to exist at the mercy of nature. It is no wonder that Blues is often intertwined with Gospel and with Jazz and various other forms of musical vacillation. By remaining attached to its Blues roots, rock music has condemned itself to an eternity of inferiority.
This is why most rock music often deals with pubescent subject matter like dating, dancing, drugs, or political activism.
Darkness all around us
We don’t close our eyes
No one’s gonna ground us
We were born to fly!
Coming at us, no stopping
Born to amplify!
Although the 1970’s provided us with a meager glimpse of deviation from Rock’s naturalism, it was not until the 1980’s that a clear philosophical severance was made by Manowar. There are several earlier bands that are credited for starting Heavy Metal (from Sabbath to Zeppelin and from Priest to Maiden), however all of these bands have far more in common with Naturalism than the philosophical school of True Metal: Romanticism. Contemporary True Metal borrows from Mozart not Muddy Waters.
I am the master of the world
I have no fear of man or beast!
Romanticism is a selective recreation of reality thereupon portraying life as it should and ought to be.
To the battle we ride
We crossed a starlit sky
No space, no time
We’ll catch the wind!
Metal does not exist naturally. It is man made; forged initially by man’s mind. Metal was invented, not born. By identifying with this revolutionary substance, True Metal expresses pure volition by taking his surroundings (nature) and sculpting it into something that it can use as a means to seek more from life than what the gods may have provided.
And what does one do with metal? Build things like swords, axes, tools, bullets, transportation, robots, etc...
With Metal, nature is forged into a weapon that can be used to battle all that simply "is". Metal is a chopping force to clear the dense forests of suffocating sameness...to discover more than what is immediately before our eyes. Metal bands identify (and write songs about) the substance itself. It would be impossible to count how many bands have the word "steel", "iron", or "metal" in their song titles. Today, Metal does more than just identify with the science of metallurgy...it represents it in the form of music.
I spare not the hammer, I spare not the sword
This day will ring with my name
None have to chase me, Let he who will face me
Kill me or die by the sword!
Metal is battle music and True Metal portrays the glory of war, not the agony.
The ecstasy of battle takes me where the falcons fly.
Immortal youth was granted me,
I will never die!
True metal vocals are the war cry of one warrior against an army of death. The balance between clean vocals and outright screaming represents the controlled use of savage instincts. Synchronized kick drum and cymbal crashes become the focused slashes of well-honed cutlery. Fast and accurate guitar picking becomes the serrated edges of a battle dagger. Heavy power chords become the smashing power of a war hammer. Galloping rhythms become mounted horses charging to the battlefield.
The medieval themes so commonly expressed in Metal represent a time when conflicts were addressed directly, justice was swift, bureaucracy was minimal, and battles were fought hand to hand. Life’s rules and expectations of survival were obvious. Man’s success or failure was largely left to his own cunning, strength, and diligence.
This brings me to another essential characteristic: Metal is tangible.
We are fighting with power and steel
Fighting for metal, metal that’s real!
Metal can be forged, sharpened, and polished. It can be extremely hot or cold to the touch. It is music that can be appreciated on a rational intellectual level as well as felt emotionally.
Just like reality, Metal can be deadly if grasped recklessly. But it is life on the edge of a knife that makes life worth living. The disciplined wielding of what could be potentially self destructive is the kick that Metalheads crave. The rewards of a Metal lifestyle are earned here on earth not in any sort of afterlife.
I will fight for all that is real
Those who stand in my way will die by steel!
Because metal is a product of reality, and exists purely for the pleasure of those who wish to exploit the virtues of reality, it is often a music of righteous conquest and selfishness. Metal exists for the sake of Metal. Most musicians don’t write music dedicated to their genre of choice, however such songs are popular in True Metal.
I’ve spent time in a variety of musical subcultures and no fans are as devoted to their music as Metalheads. Likewise, no other form of music is as dependable as True Metal.
People keep asking if we’re gonna change
I look 'em in the eye, tell 'em no way!
Stripes on a tiger don’t wash away
Manowar’s made of steel not clay!
Metal holds its form. It may become tarnished or rusty with age, but the essential characteristics of its form are eternal. Fans of True Metal are devoted to their favorite bands with a fervor unparalleled in any art form ever. The more a band stays true to the ideals that they were founded upon, the more they are respected and adored. Bands that change their sound, sell out to major record labels, and waiver on their principles are scorned with violent hatred by the Metal community.
We don’t attract wimps
‘Cause we’re too loud
Just true metal people
That’s Manowar’s crowd!
And yes, contrary to what those on the outside may believe, True Metal is principled. Metal is moral.
Perhaps not by conventional religious standards. Most organized religions would find True Metal to be blasphemous on every level. The often inferred allegiance with Satanism does not come from a desire for your average Metalhead to serve Satan, but from a desire to serve his own self-interest (which, according to scripture is synonymous with a desire to oppose God). Yes, Metal is subservient to no one. But by what logic should subservience be equated with morality?
People afraid, walkin’ the streets
Scum’s had their day ‘til they run into me!
True Metal is laced with an impervious strain of morality, most notably with the concept of Justice.
Return to the world from wence you came and seek payment not only for thy own anguish but to vindicate the souls of the unavenged. And they placed in his hand a sword made for him called ‘Vengeance’: Tempered by the woeful tears of the unavenged!
Heavy Metal glorifies the virtue of revenge unlike any other musical or literal form of art. There are countless Metal songs about unsullied bravery, honor, nobility, and righteousness...all in the name of Vengeance. A True Metalhead lives and dies by the sword, and is ready to do so at any moment for what he believes in. It is his duty to right the wrongs he’s been dealt.
There is nothing more moral than one’s own survival.
I am an outcast on the path of no return
Punisher and swordsman, I was born to burn!
Black wind always follows where my black horse rides
Fire’s in my soul, steel is on my side!
The morality of True Metal puts it at odds with the world. Metal is intrinsically defiant. A seemingly contradictory principle of Metal is its drive to forever break tradition. True metal is not about destruction for destruction’s sake. It is about breaking free of what binds you, going your own way, and living on your own terms regardless of the consequences.
Along with these innate maverick tendencies, Metal never fails to pay tribute to those whom it respects. I can’t think of any other type of music that has incorporated the word "hail" into it’s vocabulary with the frequency of Metal.
The defiance of Metal has kept it underground for 30 years. Other music has become bastardized as time passes to conform with new pop cultural trends. But not metal. What you know of it from top 40 radio in the 80’s was merely a shadow of the undercurrent that fueled the undignified posers of the hair band phenomena. That undercurrent has actually grown proportionally stronger over the decades.
Actually, "grown stronger" is an understatement. The deeper Metal has been thrusted into the underground, the more vigilant its congregation has become.
This leads me to the final virtue of True Metal that fills me with positivity: Not only is Metal epic, it is immortal.
Death is life
By the full moon they rise from their graves
Through seas of blood
Fighting with hellbent rage!
The epic nature of Metal makes this music larger than life. By being greater than all that is, this music leaves a feeling in the listener’s heart of undying confidence, stoicism, and intrepidity. True Metal truly is immortal! No other music sets its sights so far beyond this world to claim to be the music OF the gods, and in Manowar’s case BY the gods!
When losers say it's over with
You know that it's a lie
The gods made heavy metal
And it's never gonna die!
So now it is more clear to me. This exercise has helped me identify more precisely why I adore this music. I am motivated by it’s VOLITIONAL perspective on achievement. It’s TANGIBILITY helps me to maintain a RATIONAL and LOGICAL view of the universe. When everyone and everything else fails me, I am reassured by True Metal, for its DEPENDABILITY is unmatched. After facing countless letdowns by the world, I recharge my soul with music that portrays life as it should and ought to be, in the truest sense of ROMANTIC CLASSICISM. It is quite remarkable how True Metal can pay RESPECT to it’s forefathers while maintaining a DEFIANT stance against tradition. And finally, knowing that it is an IMMORTAL form of music that will never die gives me no good reason why I should either.
"He who refuses to take part in modern mediocrity will forever stand alone, an outcast. He is the bringer of changes that instill fear in all who go with fashion's flow. Their power comes from others, not from within. They are false! Woe unto them for the bringers of change have banded together. The time is now! We can not be stopped! We are riding up, riding hard on the will of the people. The battle rages on...Choose your side. DEATH TO FALSE METAL! Forever Fighting the World!"