Heavy / by Beth Winegarner


But what makes metal "heavy"? Good question. It becomes a particularly difficult issue when you consider that rock fans see a huge difference between the word "heavy" and the word "hard." For example, Led Zeppelin was heavy. To this day, the song "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is as heavy as weapons-grade plutonium. Black Sabbath was the heaviest of the heavy (although I always seem to remember them being heavier than they actually were; early Soundgarden records are actually heavier than Sab ever was). Chuck Klosterman, Fargo Rock City

I first got into heavy metal music by way of Led Zeppelin and Guns N' Roses roughly in 1987, and in those early days, I allied myself with hard and heavy music about equally. It wasn't until I got around to falling hard for Black Sabbath in the early aughts that my affections began to lean decidedly in the heavy direction. It helped that sludge metal was coming up at that time; I discovered bands like Baroness, Kylesa and The Sword. But I also pled allegiance to some decidedly non-metal (but undeniably) heavy artists, including 16 Horsepower, Woven Hand, Patrick Wolf.

My trajectory has only continued heavierward from there: Subrosa, Alcest, Woman is the Earth, Pallbearer, Samothrace, Lycus, Agalloch, Red Sparowes, Marriages, Rope Sect, Ides of Gemini, In Solitude, Tribulation, thisquietarmy, Russian Circles. This music is like a soft, fluffy blanket, enveloping me in warmth. 

What I look for most in this heaviness is sound that you feel more in your guts—or at least your molars— than in your ears. A low-end sound that shakes you to your foundations. I hear it in Apocalyptica's old song, "Kaamos," and in Russian Circles' song "Vorel," particularly at the 2:48 mark:

Whenever I hear it, I see myself as some massive, powerful creature -- the 50-Foot Woman, maybe, but with more clothing—stomping my way through obstacles. 

But it didn't dawn on me until very recently that there's a relationship between the heavy music I adore and this heavy body I live in every day. Sure, it might be slow at times, but it's also massive in all the right ways. It's strong. It's sensitive. It's sleepy and deep. There are excellent hiding places. It's soft and safe, and it has its own raw intelligence, even though it doesn't always feel that way. It's off-putting, too, and there is a certain layer of protection in that.