It's a common scene: the topic of music comes up, and everyone mentions the kinds they like most. And then it's my turn.
And they say: "Heavy metal? You like heavy metal?"
In some ways, I understand. The unshakeable stereotype of the heavy metal fan is a white guy in his teens or 20s with long hair, ratty jeans and a bad attitude. You know, like Billy Hargrove, Max's sociopathic older brother in Stranger Things. (By the way, you should totally read my friend's takedown of Billy over on Metalsucks.)
I resemble this stereotype in almost no way. I'm quiet, female, and prefer stretch knits, florals and cute animals. I'm also professional, in my 40s, and a mom. I sometimes wear band shirts, but not often enough to call it my personal style. But other people's reactions sometimes leave me feeling like I have to assure them I'm not sullying myself with something gross and unseemly.
The surprise most often comes from people who do not listen to heavy metal, and who may not be aware just how broad a category of music it is. Or they may not know that metal fans tend to be smarter and geekier than average, and that the music tends to have a calming effect on fans. Maybe when I say I love heavy metal, they're imagining this:
When the bands I most listen to look more like this:
(No disrespect to King Diamond, whose influence is both massive and undeniable.) Metal is beloved for its intensity and majesty. It makes everything sound more epic. It transcends the mundane. Guitars and vocals soar, or they descend into the depths, meeting you where you are. Some of it's challenging and complex. Some of it's subtle and melodic. There's a lot to explore. And, yes, I love it.