Metalcore: Not What It Seems

The subgenre isn’t as violent as you think

A mosh pit. Photo Credit: dr_zoidberg on Flickr.

Metalcore is not as vulgar as it sounds or looks. This subgenre, along with others that fall under rock or metal, invoke negative connotations. Metalcore is a subgenre that fuses elements of metal and hardcore punk, a fusion that allows for experimentation in sound. The heavier the sound, the less it lures people in. Violence, suicide and sex should not be what define this genre.

Does violence go hand in hand with metalcore because it is kindred with metal?

The problem starts when metalcore is seen as a genre that desensitizes people to violence. Metalcore’s relation to metal leads those unfamiliar with it to conjure all the bad press metal has received.

Over the years, metal has built a reputation. In an article published by Science Focus, it states, “Studies have suggested a link between listening to heavy metal and increased suicide risk or desensitization to violence, but these have often failed to take account of outside factors…” Factors the article points to are “poor family relationships, drug abuse and feelings of alienation.”

In 1985, two men in Nevada shot themselves after listening to albums from metal band Judas Priest. One of the victims died. The other survived, but had destroyed most of his face. The victims’ families blamed the band. Blame was also put on subliminal messages lawyers claimed were hidden in the songs.

In an article published by the New York Times, it states, “Both young men were high school dropouts with criminal records and both had problems holding jobs.” It also mentions the victims had received counseling; both came from families where domestic violence and child abuse was present.

Also, the article mentions the blame put on Ozzy Ozbourne for three incidents where fans killed themselves after listening to his album “Suicide Solution.” Lyrics produce all sorts of emotions, but they should not be blamed for actions a listener may take. What an artist writes are just a way of expressing what and how they feel.

Metalcore can be a genre composed of songs with some strong language, but its lyrics have meaning. They may paint a picture of personal hardships or depict issues the artist may feel strongly about.

One example is the song “Understanding Love as Loss” by the band Silent Planet, which talks about depression and suicide. Lyrics like “Most nights we merge into one dream. You mouth that four word sundering soundless, but somehow deafening, ‘I can’t go on.’ I’ll strain my voice to make you relent…” describes how a person wants to commit suicide. Frontman Garrett Russell sees that there is hope for people if they are able to talk about what they are going through.

Lyrics do not always please everyone. In 1985, Mary Elizabeth Aitcheson “Tipper” Gore, former wife of US Vice President Al Gore, became a founder of the committee Parents Music Resource Center PMRC. Susan Baker, Pam Howar, and Sally Nevius, who were all wives of influential men in Washington D.C. were also a part of it.

After forming, the PMRC was seeking for record labels to voluntarily put “Parental Advisory” labels on the cover of albums, a warning label informing consumers they were buying explicit content. The Recording Industry Association of America RIAA was to develop a rating system. The PMRC was seeking to regulate music similar to the way films get rated by the Motion Picture Association of America MPAA.

The PMRC made their point through a list of songs regarded as the “Filthy Fifteen,” songs deemed as inappropriate. The list included not just metal, but also mainstream pop artists like Madonna. Prince did not escape the list.

Gore wanted censorship. In an article published by Rolling Stone, it states, “Her interest in labeling record covers had arisen when her 11-year-old daughter bought Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ and played ‘Darling Nikki,’ a song that references masturbation, on the home stereo.”

Frank Zappa, John Denver and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider expressed their opposition in a United States Senate hearing were “porn rock” was in discussion.

Moreover, when looking for articles about metalcore, they seem nonexistent. If you do not get articles from Alternative Press Magazine or Loudwire Magazine counting down or listing the top best or influential metalcore bands, then you get it being compared to other genres. Results for metal seem endless but the same cannot be said for metalcore.

Violence depicted on metal album covers is enough to deter from giving the album a listen. In a 2016 article, Loudwire compiled a list of the 50 most controversial hard rock and metal album covers. The album covers were violent, gory, sexual and wrong, but in the end, they are just art work. The only covers that did not seem as bad were Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Puddle of Mudd’s “Come Clean.” Metalcore album covers have a different feel. Looking at them listed in another article published by Loudwire made them seem tame in comparison to the metal list.

With metalcore being difficult to understand at first, it can leave the wrong impression. There is more to this subgenre than what is heard at a superficial level. The screaming vocals and heavy instrumentation that bother those not acquainted is just the surface. Looking past that allows people to truly discover something new.