More than any other group of fans, most Metalheads share thoughts of unity. Those who enjoy heavy music appear to feel as part of a larger community, united with their fellows not only by their taste but by the outside reception of that same taste as well. They might swap records, wear their metallic uniforms, meet at concerts and bang their heads in unison. Even if you are not into the community that much (as me, living in a place mostly filled with the elderly and having nothing you could call a Metal scene, plus me being a rather unobstrusive metalhead), you are part of the crowd. At least this is how I feel.
Apart from contacts via the web, concerts and festivals are the events that bring us all together. There is a hum of excitement all around the site where a Metal concert will take place. Hours before the event goes off, masses of grinning long-haired youths dressed in black, hordes of bald men in bandshirts, children with Metallica written across their chests and gothic-styled beauties roam the streets.
I have only been to three Metal concerts yet and I loved the atmosphere. My first concert ever, starring Machine Head, Slipknot and Children of Bodom on their Black Crusade tour, took place in Berlin.The Velodrom was packed and we had already screamed ourselves hoarse when the first headliner left the stage. I will never forget the ache in my shoulders the following morning.
Two years later, I saw Machine Head again, this time in Dresden’s location Alter Schlachthof. I wholeheartedly recommend this place: it is small, which creates a special acoustic and a really great atmosphere. The headliner was supported by DevilDriver, who really got the crowd burning.
The last concert I had the pleasure to witness was Skindred’s 2014 show in Leipzig’s Conne Island. A cosy and tiny club, the Island was quickly filled and allowed a brutal sound. Maplerun, Soil and Skindred kept us jumping and screaming and waving our fists and shirts over our heads until we were completely exhausted and devoid of our voices.
I have been wondering about how Metal concerts create such a special atmosphere, and why everyone suddenly becomes part of a whole, united in sweaty, growling bundles of hair and shirts and devil horns. Apart from the community thought I have already adressed, I suspect some psycho-social cause. Heavy Metal musicians seem to seduce the masses easily: it is a typical gesture, an invitation to sing along or a front man’s cheering for the moshpit that builds the spirit of a Metal event. Just take Slipknot’s famous Jump the fuck up-performance: in the middle of their song “Spit it out”, vocalist Corey Taylor instructs his maggots (which is how Slipknot affectionately call their fans) to crouch down on the floor. Usually, a member of the band walks through the crowd to make sure everyone is squatted down. When the song goes on, Taylor inserts into his lyrics the line “Jump the fuck up!”, at which the crowd jumps up in one movement and the moshpit rushes on. I have never experienced anything that bound me more to those metalheads next to me. We were one, strangely enough.
Slipknot do it over and over again. Watch “Spit it out” (from “Slipknot”, 1999) , this time at Rock in Rio in 2011:
Benji Webbe of Skindred calls this unity and atmosphere “the power of Heavy Metal” and his concert performance strongly resembles Queen’s legendary “Radio Gaga”. Freddy Mercury used to encourage their fans to clap along as the band did with numerous supernumeraries in their music video. Want to compare?
Skindred’s “Nobody” (from the 2002 album “Babylon”):
Get gripped by Queen’s “Radio Gaga” (from “The Works”, 1984) live at Wembley in 1985:
Festivals might do the same with fans, but actually I have never visited one. Frankly speaking, festivals ask for traits and preferences quite opposing to me: I don’t drink, I can’t stand to be filthy and I am convinced that sleeping in a tent is the most uncomfortable way of resting, outbalanced perhaps only by sleeping on bare ground without shelter in a thunderstorm.
In spite of the many unpleasant side-effects of live Metal – ringing ears, aching backs, broken noses, wet clothes, damaged glasses, tired faces – it seems to draw us right towards it. The seduction of the masses is a phenomenon as old as mankind. There are quite a lot historical situations that may serve as proof for that human beings tend to be manipulated easily. If ever you have read Patrick Süskind’s novel “Das Parfum” (“Perfume”, 1985), you can perhaps understand why Grenouille’s might always reminds me of heaving crowds in front of stages: shortly before his execution, he waves a tissue with some drops of the scent of humans, collected and brewed from the essences of many beautiful women. Thus, he enchants the crowd and escapes death. A certain enchantment and the reactions of several hundred people to the action of a single man on a stage is what live Heavy Metal is for me.
The murderer Grenouille’s success is a strange thing to see:
A great result of this particular unity permeating Metal concerts is that fans act with much more respect, care and thoughtfulness than people do in many other realms of social life. You will never see someone trampled on in a moshpit, rather the strict rule is to help up those who have fallen as quickly as you can. My experience has shown that this rule is tightly obeyed, that metalheads generally give a hand if necessary, protect those who are rather delicate, and usually make room for the tiny (like me).
If you want to try out this kind of seduction, just take a dose of live Heavy Metal – but take care: you might become addicted.