How Heavy Metal Is Keeping Us Sane

The Atlantic delves into how heavy metal, through its (a) honesty and (b) desire for epic meaning to life, keeps us from going overboard:

Black Sabbath, from Birmingham, England, was heavy metal. No joy here, nor any wisp of psychedelic whimsy. From the first note, this band sounded ancient, oppressed, as if shambling forward under supernatural burdens. With his use of horror-movie atmospherics—the tension-building tritone or flatted fifth—and the leering majesty of his riffs, guitarist Tony Iommi redirected the spiritual drag of the blues into an uncharted world of bummers and black holes. Bassist Geezer Butler, a mystical vegetarian, wrote the lyrics. Raised Catholic, Butler as a youngster had entertained thoughts of the priesthood, and for all the band’s occult trappings, his view of things was essentially orthodox, if a little on the medieval side: God over here, Satan over there, man flailing and biting his nails in the middle.


Culturally, metal has lost its boogeyman privileges, having been superseded in infamy first by gangsta rap and then by Britney with her shaved head and her dangerous umbrella.


Nu metal, the big metal noise of the ’90s and early ’00s, has come and gone. Metalheads never really went for it—too much rapping in there, and not enough warlocks. Where was the dread? The moral-astronomical scale?

The great scholar of heavy metal Robert Walser, doing research for his 1993 book, Running With the Devil, interviewed a Twisted Sister fan who told him that the easy-listening music favored by her mother had made her paranoid. In Walser’s words: “It so obviously seems to lie to her about the world.” – The Atlantic

It’s good to see the mainstream give this some thought.