Why I’m a Hessian and not a metalhead


There are many books, movies and CDs that float through our lives.

When we really like many of a certain type, we may identify with them. “I like Romance novels! I like disco!”

If you like the music, you’re a metalhead. You like to buy certain things and listen to them.

If you like the ideas behind the music — the lifestyle, the worldview, the imagery and most importantly, the spirit — you need to use a word that means you are more than a consumer of metal music.

You’re a Hessian. Derived from California slang from the time when Slayer were starting out, this term refers to the mercenaries who fought for both sides during the Revolutionary War — from Hesse, in Germany, they had long hair and fought like demons.

Obviously, this term belongs with the person who loves the abstract ideals of metal!

Anyone can be a metalhead. For under $100 you can get a starter collection, and if you hit the thrift stores, you can pick up some classic ironic metal tshirts for under ten bucks.

If you really want to appear extreme, you can go the ‘kvlt’ route and buy up classic releases on ebay, then refuse to like anything that has more than two chords.

Or you can be an Opeth fan and talk about how profound and progressive your music is.

Either way, you’ve bought yourself an identity with your cash and time.

But is that really a commitment? Nope, because you can whip that identity off in 30 seconds. Put the CDs back on ebay (where they seem to recycle; wonder why). Give the tshirts to Goodwill (same situation). Take the posters off your walls, buy a Miles Davis CD and a beret and you’ve got a new lifestyle.

But to be a Hessian means you identify with the ideas and have made them your own, just like when you find a philosopher who answers part of the question of life for you. You become a Schopenhauerian, or Nietzscheian, or Kantian — perhaps all at the same time.

Being a metalhead is just too easy. Being a Hessian takes commitment. I don’t begrudge those who want to pass through metal on their way somewhere else, and in fact cheer them on if they recognize this fact. But it’s the Hessians who always impress me.

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7 thoughts on “Why I’m a Hessian and not a metalhead”

  1. Ivàn says:

    Hello there!
    Good article! I completely agree with you. If you are a Hessian it means you have taken metal seriously, and it is a big part of your life, your life itself. It means you don’t like the modern way of life; this consumerist society with empty selfish values based on appearances, material things. I don’t think there is a book to follow for being a Hessian, but I do think there are some basics values that you do follow and respect, otherwise metal would be only music for you, as the the same way pop is only music for a pop listener.
    Besides, unfortunately, there are more metalheads than Hessians nowadays, don’t you think it? I think the resistance against a bigger homogeneous world is harder the more the time passes by. In post-modernity people actually agree with this system, they want to everyone like them. Human search for other to like him, he doesn’t want changes…his life is only his own mediating interests, he wants to fulfil his desires without think about it, like animals really. So, if you are not like everyone, they won’t like you…it is gonna be difficult to find friends or a girlfriend, for example…you don’t get a good social acceptance, I mean. So, how to resist? It is very difficult, it is easier to be alike everyone than to found your life with your own rules and values.
    Regards from Argentina.

  2. Eduardo says:

    Well I can say I am in metal thing for more than 20 years already, and I have passed through many changes in metal scene. I can say that nowadays metal is extremely popular, probably because of world crises that makes people to tend toward obscure and pessimistic side of life.
    But for the metal to grow and survive, and finally achieve respected art status, we shouldn’t alienate ourselves from society, the opposite would be the best, we should spread the metal, bring it into universities and exhibitions, and maybe even into the media. This way metal would gather the resources it needs in order succeed in the entire world.
    So in my view, it is not heathy to create separation between metalheads and hessians, better to face that the metalhead phase is just part of the path to enlightened hessian status. So finally those who consider themselves as hessians, must show metalheads how to do better for the music and lifestyle they are currently living in.

  3. Paulie says:

    Again another little childish swipe at Opeth on this website. Out of the blue. Yeah let’s follow the latest popular trend of so called die-hard metal fans. Let’s take a poke at a band for having a wider musical background than your average narrow metal elitist. Or just for having any sort of melodic element in their metal music. Or just cuz we think that they’re kinda “mainstream metal”, as if that’s something they control, or something bad. Or heresy of heresies, straying away from death metal instead of remaining as stagnant, coward artists eternally and safely making music that their most arrogant critics and fans expect them to, and not music that they want to. Yeah let’s do that just because it’s what’s cool to do these days and to show what underground, hardcore listeners we are. Yeah that’s not vulgar at all. Just like calling ourselves “Hessian” and then acting like common metalheads is not pretentious at all.

    1. crow says:

      “Or you can be an Opeth fan and talk about how profound and progressive your music is.”

      Hard to see how you imagine a ‘childish swipe’ in that statement.
      It suggests Opeth is profound and progressive. Whatever that means. It doesn’t say it isn’t that, or in fact, anything negative.

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