Saturday, March 8, 2014

Defender of the Faith

have your non-metal friends told you about Babymetal? don't worry, they will.
A good friend of mine sent me this article about Japanese act "Babymetal" (ugh). My friend is neither particularly interested in nor knowledgeable about this music, but every so often he runs across something that he thinks relates to metal and can't wait to share it with me. He's invariably disappointed in my reaction (or, as he puts it, disappointed in me).

In this case, my reaction was: bemusement, irritation, boredom. I tried pointing out that this kind of thing has been done before (Megadeth's Marty Friedman had a project with the Japanese girl group AKB48 called Death Panda that essentially did the same thing) and was accused of being a hipster for my efforts. So much for diplomacy.

Metal by its very nature is ridiculously OTT, and therefore easy to ridicule. This music for the most part strives to be faster, louder, and more extreme than anything else, and so most people don't understand that it can also be majestic, intellectual, or even meditative. Outsiders just see metal's external trappings and assume that's all there is to it.

The reason why things like Babymetal get the attention they do is that for people who aren't fans of the genre, the terms "death metal" and "black metal" are seen as comedic; they serve as a kind of "Guy walks into a bar..." set up. Just add any seemingly unrelated concept and you're on your way to making a non-metalhead laugh. Death metal with J-Pop? "Awesome!" Black metal chef? "Hilarious!" Metal with cats? "OMG ROFLMAO!" Ugh.

okay, this made me LOL. I'm not made of stone, just metal.

On this blog I regularly rail against bands that wrap themselves in self-imposed (and reductive) ideas of "TRVE-ness" - frankly, my favourite bands were heretics who threw the metal playbook out the window and dared to dress it up with Brazilian percussion; get it drunk enough to make out with garage rock; or duct tape it to the fastest hardcore they could find. But these bands were all fans of metal; they lived for the music, they loved it, and they reshaped it in an attempt to revive it and expand it. The three gyrating teens in Babymetal, by their own admission, had never heard of "metal music" (their term) before this. Metalheads hate shit like this because they see through the gimmicky insincerity.

I'm a metalhead; I have no interest in seeing the thing I love most reduced to a smirking punchline. I dislike Babymetal for the same reason I never watched Metalocalypse or the endless VH1 documentaries about eighties glam bands. I don't need metal in quotes ("metal") or metal with an asterisk (metal*). That's for outsiders, pop culture tourists who arrive to point and laugh and get their pictures taken before going back to wherever they came from.

Heavy Metal is my world. I fucking live here. I don't need coquettish Japanese school girls to make metal "awesome", because metal is already awesome. It always was. Tell these kids to get off my fucking lawn.