Society wants to scare you into quitting headbanging

by Cory Van der Pol
July 7, 2014 –

headbanging

The relationship between heavy metal and mainstream society, with the burst of popularity of metal among those who seem to accept society at face value and like, has come to resemble a bad relationship. It reminds me of the girl who dates a rocker and starts making suggestions: wash those jeans, cut your hair, stop raging like a maniac, read The New Republic and listen to some Sarah McLachlan with me on Saturday nights instead of drinking blood in cemeteries. Soon he complies, and after that, she ditches him because now he is just like all the other guys.

In the same way, they humbled metal by making it repeat happy statements about how everything will be just fine if we are just nice to each other, then worked in their favor hackneyed and dead genres like lite jazz and indie rock. Now they are attempting to remove its sacred rituals by instilling fear in us that we will damage our brains by headbanging. As Jordan Lite (get it?) at Scientific American writes:

Head-banging can be hazardous to your health…McIntosh and Patton got down to business. Based on the popularity of the up-down style of head-banging at the concerts, and the average tempo of 11 songs deemed the best for head-banging by a minion of local musicians, the scientists developed a mathematical model of how violently you’d have to shake your noodle to hurt yourself. Their conclusion? Head-banging to a song with a tempo of 146 beats per minute can make you dazed and confused (read: give you a headache and make you dizzy) if you’re rotating your head by more than 75 degrees.

…A 15-year-old drummer in his neighborhood band suffered an aneurysm in his cervical vertebral artery, according to a 1991 case report in the journal Pediatric Neurosurgery, and Evanescence guitarist Terry Balsamo had a stroke three years ago that his docs blamed on his head-banging tendencies.

Summary for Realists: One guy suffered an aneurysm, and based on looking at the data, two guys — who have interest in writing an eye-catching paper so they can get known in their fields — theorize that headbanging may cause neck injury if done too quickly.

These masters of the obvious miss the point that we all know this. Headbanging is rarely done constantly and not always to the exact beat of the song. They tell us that “popular heavy metal often has a tempo of 180 beats per minute” neglecting to mention that banging your head three times a second is a physical impossibility. Further, metalheads rarely bang their heads exactly to the tempo, which is why this activity is often described as “chaotic.”

Rest your fears. This study is the usual fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that people have used to control each other since the dawn of time. We do not know what physical conditions the one guy who had a brain aneurysm after headbanging had before headbanging. But what they want us to believe is that heavy metal will be the best boyfriend ever if we just turn it into nice, respectable lite jazz and indie, and start behaving like all the other guys, even if it removes what makes us unique and makes us boring as concrete in the process.

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22 comments

  • tiny midget

    I like the headbanging but only when its in synch with the rhythm in a way u can look sexy and powerful.
    headbanging is a sensual thing. some should do it and some don’t. just like dancing, some suck at it. to train yourself to headbang beautifully u need to do it barefoot in a watery surface. once u master the windmill bangin without falling down u can try it with music on. start with speed metal like metallicas disposable heroes then move on to stuff like deicides track 4 of the debut.

  • Nito

    Question for Brett Stevens/writers:

    I like Morbid Angel’s Desolate Ways and the intro/interlude material from Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism. Are there any acoustic/folk artists or recordings you can recommend?

    (Not that Ulver shit though)

    Thanks.

    1. Brett Stevens

      Are there any acoustic/folk artists or recordings you can recommend?

      Probably not actually answering the question you asked but: get into classical guitar. I have not yet found folk music which has the same sense of epic, spacious, vast and mythology/history-spanning perspective as metal does. But some of the stuff from Segovia, Bream, Williams and others does.

      I also recommend the neoambient: Glenn Danzig, Lord Wind, Runes Order, Burzum.

      You might also look at Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty guitarists, or his solo ambient stuff.

      None of that is on the nose for acoustic folk guitar music of profundity. Generally, that style is taken over by vocals and thus standard song form. I’m rather fond of Hank Williams Sr. who is what the Beatles should have been.

        1. EDS

          Nice job posting the Purtenance vid! A highly overlooked album there! I guess these would be medieval inspired cellar tunes?

    2. trystero

      This has been extensively discussed before; beyond what has already been said by Brett and wEEman here are some assorted acoustic stuff/interludes/intros related to metal.

      * Cathedral – Picture of Beauty and Innocence
      * Metallica – First songs of first four albums + Sanitarium
      * Slayer – Spill the Blood
      * Infernum – Farewell (stuff)
      * Veles – Night on Bare Mountain (stuff)

      wEEman already mentioned Segovia, who is awesome, but here are a few others:

      - John Williams: Very technically proficient, try his Bach on youtube. I prefer Segovia as music but then I dont really like acoustic guitar that much. When I do listen I find myself watching John Williams and his magical fingers.

      - David Russell: Tends to play (relatively) poorer music and is nowhere near Segovia or Williams but you will find some great stuff I hope.

      - Julian Bream: Like Segovia he is more musical than technical which is what I suppose you want (?).

      While I hope this helps it sure as hell doesnt beat a bunch of simple power chords (Iron Man baby) in my opinion; heavy fucking metal baby.

        1. EDS

          Also try these acoustic/folkish pieces from metals history. Closer in form to Desolate Ways and what not…. Theres more but off the top of my head this is what I came up with

          Excretion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av9a0bOS2ws

          Excretion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kvp04cV1dEs ** the intor and outro are acoustic pieces here so check them both out**

          Gontyna Kry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOoYfs-v0J8

          Gontyna Kry : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFU17ElSofo

          Ceremonium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL0sj2QGN1I

      1. wEEman33

        Williams is a very skilled guitarist, but I find some of his performances to be a bit too dry and mechanical at times. Segovia was Williams’ teacher, but you probably wouldn’t hear any direct influence, just listening to their two very different playing styles.

        1. trystero

          Agree but the trick here is to pick music that is evocative anyway. Since he is so skilled he will at least get it right clinically and that is enough for some of the best classical pieces.

  • amber the hammer

    Metal is perfect music for relationships. Guy bangs head, girl bounces tits.

  • trystero

    Love the girlfriend analogy, so true. Some metalheads are a bit insecure and fall for this kind of stuff. Luckily Lost Horizon is around to tell them what is up:

    I just can not believe it
    It’s too weak to be true
    Have you really forgotten your worth?!
    Can’t you see victory!?
    You are now free again!
    Look at me!
    Yeah! I live my own life
    If you once tasted treason from a female – leave that!
    Every warrior has a gash on his sword
    Don’t forget you are metal, not some ass-kissing whore
    Take some under your wings, but she must kiss the ring!

  • erehsawder

    For the curious, the photo is from an Asphyx performance. Makes a fuckin’ good poster!