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120 decibels of anger- generation X's love of metal

Updated on November 8, 2012

“Why do these kids like this crappy loud music?”

Its an oft repeated question of our parents,… but in our defense,… I’m sure their parents of the Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey generation said the same thing of the Beatles and Jim Morrison too

Lets break it down to three sections just to make it easier to digest,…. A) its loud enough to hear over the roar of an increasingly loud world. B) it contains musical elements that appeal to our base nature. C) it embraces and expresses the emotion unique to generation X,… Anger.

Can you hear me now?

The popular TV commercial for cell phones says a lot about an ever more loud world. With the advent of radio, and amplification, the bullet had left the gun,… and the gun would get bigger and bigger from that moment on. Today we find ourselves in a deafening world of TV commercials, radio, surround sound, etc,.. and never NEVER underestimate the loudness of the graphics. Billboards, print adds, flashy colors, the glitz, the bling,… everything shiny, sparkly, sexy,…

The human brain can only process so much at once, and in a blaringly loud world, everything competes for our attention. The brain begins to filter the information the same way you might listen to a crowded bar. Your going to pick up and follow the loudest voices and conversation. You may not even care what they say, in fact it may annoy you greatly that they wont shut up,…. But I promises you, you WILL remember what the loud obnoxious drunk 4 chairs down was talking about the next day,.. Possibly even when you walk back in the bar 7 days later. It stuck in your head because it won out in the filter process.

Music follows the same path into our heads. No mater what genre of music you prefer, you will notice that the volume and intensity have increased over the years. Even the sedate country song of days past has been replaced by a harder driving more up-tempo version. The Nashville sound has evolved from the likes of Roy Acuff and Hank Sr., through Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings,… then Hank Jr. cranked up the volume a bit,… other traditionalists hung in,… George Jones and George Straight,…. But Mickey Gilly was driving as fast as Jerry Lee Lewis would have in the industry,… and today’s country music exemplifies the amperage and intensity of that evolution. Artists like Jamie Johnson, Shooter Jennings and Gary Allan are just a few of the new breed, as well as the cross over/breeding of rock to country through artists like Kid Rock and Aaron Lewis, lead singer for the group “staind”

This evolution is apparent in nearly all genre of music, but demonstrating it in the subgroup of country really drives it home,… if Nashville has evolved,.. We all have.

one more unique thing about the music filter process.... not only has music gotten louder and harder over the years in order to make it through the brains filter,...... for many, the music itself has BECOME the filter. to drown out an oppressive world, many have turned to music to filter out distractions and stress.

many use there favorite soundtrack while they write, or drive in heavy traffic. more than one as cranked the stereo up in order to not hear the phone, or the children, or the spouse.

weather our music of choice strains its way through the filter in our heads, or becomes the external filter to shelter our psyche,..... its gotten louder to do it.

What tribe do you belong to?

The rhythms that began to be included in our popular music as early as the 70’s had a base appeal. Moore than just the base guitar, it appealed to our baser nature, our tribal roots. As music evolved through glam rock, punk, alternative and the ever present metal, the tribal tones and rhythms were embraced more and more, especially in the mid 90’s alternative rock phase. alternative rock became a category for music that no one could find an appropriate label for, quickly becoming an inspiration for a lot of 21st century groups, metal included.

A good example,… play the Godsmack number voodoo,… you’ll understand immediately.

Rob Zombie in concert KC mo
Rob Zombie in concert KC mo | Source

the sound of belonging

These rhythms and tones allowed the listener to get lost in the sounds, and the extreme amplification made feeling the music possible, sensing the vibrations physically. Not since the ages of Beethoven or the German master Wagner had an audience the chance to get physically involved in the music.

The mash pit of concert fame is nothing more than a new version of a tribal dance, a sense of community among participants,… and a euphoric release for those involved,… not unlike the endorphin rush experienced at an evangelical tent revival,… although it often tends to be chemically assisted where the church meeting normally is not.

the only thing left,.... anger

Metal is the only genre that fully expresses anger. The power chords and tri-tones of metal allow for the expression of the one emotion that generation X seems to have left,… anger.

From its infancy, metal questioned the establishment in ways other musical movements hadn’t. the names of the groups stated their aim. With early names like Judas Priest, Lucifer’s Friend, Black Sabbath, Machinehead, Motorhead, Metallica and Megadeath its really not hard to figure out what the underlying message is.

Why anger? ..... whythe F**K not!?

All emotions seem to have an opposite, a balancing emotion on the other end of the gamut. Love has hate, fear has courage, pride has shame, and so on.

It is said by many that the 20th century has robbed itself of nearly all emotions by trying to remove the negative leaving behind only the positive.

We have worked diligently over the course of 100 years to remove hatred from our society,… but in removing hatred,… we have also removed love. They are symbiotic creatures, love and hate,… one cannot exist without the other. So also we have removed pride from our senses because we have sought to remove shame.

We have tried very hard to remove fear from our collective thoughts,… and in doing so, have stripped ourselves of courage.

Going to great lengths both socially and chemically to remove sorrow and pain from our lives,… we are also at a loss to find joy or happiness.

At this stage in our cultural growth,… we are out of balance.

The only emotion left that we haven’t destroyed for ourselves is anger, and its opposite,… contentment.

Were angry as hell and why shouldn’t we be. Our generation is lost in the world, trying to find direction, knowing full well that our parents and grand parents broke the compass because they didn’t like the direction it pointed. We are adrift without a reference point,… and the only thing we have at the present is the anger that we are entitled to.

Heavy metal allows us to revel in it,…. Like a religious ecstasy,…. Religion being removed from our lives as well,…. it’s the only religion we have left.

We’ve also distance ourselves so far from the concept of death in our society that we are far too out of balance to fully appreciate life. see my hub on why we love zombies and vampires….

In finding a way to fully express our anger,…. We find contentment.

Heavy metal music, with its dark images of death, understanding of being lost, disaffected,… heavy metal is our emotional release,… the only one that we may have left.


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