Different metal scenes exist around the world but the global metal community shares a set of key values. These values have historically included the opposition to authority, a focus on independence and freedom, and an emphasis on being an individual while also being part of a unified group. While these elements are significant, the most central aspect of heavy metal culture involves being sincere and true. Why is authenticity so important to heavy metal?
This question is especially interesting given that the application of authenticity is subjective. There is disagreement about the definition of heavy metal and who is considered a “poser.” This attitude fuels elitism, which dictates that certain styles of metal music have greater artistic value and are a more accurate reflection of the genre’s principles. Every metal fan knows that one guy who will dismiss any artists outside the most extreme and oddly specific subgenres, such as depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM).
Authenticity often manifests as distain for commercial success and an intolerance for popular genres of music. This is in direct conflict with the potential for profitability and music industry accomplishment. In a previous post on vocal styles, I argued that the exclusivity of metal fosters the preservation of the culture and props up niche markets so bands can more easily appropriate returns to their investments. However, this does not fully explain the importance of authenticity as a fundamental value of the culture.
Many metal musicians and listeners face societal alienation, which forces them to look inward to try to understand the reasons for rejection. This self-reflection leaves people with a greater understanding of themselves and their own personal truths. Metal culture is a consequence of this process and this is likely why authenticity remains at the heart of the genre. Recent academic research in organizational behavior confirms that feelings of authenticity help reduce the emotional impacts of social exclusion.
In other words, authenticity is a major part of metal culture because metal music helps marginalized people construct and perceive their own identities. Connecting with something real lessens the burden of existing outside of mainstream society and helps propel the genre forward, even if it remains underground.
Check out how ICE-T applies authenticity with his band Body Count.
Stay metal, learn economics