What is a True Metal Fan?
Posted by Reggie
You’re not a true metal fan! This is the allegation I have read in several metal forums over the years. It always boggled my mind when I saw someone say that to someone else. I mean, who gets to define what a true fan is? What constitutes being a fan of something at all, let alone being a “true” fan? What the hell does that even mean? In the context of heavy metal I have heard this phrase expressed for at least a couple of reasons.
First, I’ve heard someone once say that a metal fan cannot possibly be a metal fan unless they are a fan of Black Sabbath. I suppose since Black Sabbath is credited as birthing metal as we know it today, I can see the rationale, but do I seriously have to like them? I am a fan of metal. Anyone who knows me knows I bleed metal, but I am not a fan Black Sabbath even though I own two of their albums and saw them live. Second, I have also heard the “true fan” line of bullshit used as one cannot be a true fan of (insert band name here) unless one loves every single album and all of the associated songs on those albums to include B-sides and bonus songs from Japanese imports. I love Overkill and consider myself a whole-hearted fan. I have all of their albums and believe me they have quite a bit. But, let’s face it, they have entire albums I may never listen to again because they simply aren’t that good. Yet, I am a fan of Overkill. Lighting has not struck me down yet for saying so.
So, why in the metal community do we sometimes accuse another metal fan of not being a true fan? Is it because they do not share the same level of passion? Is it because they do not like 100% of the material a band records? Is it because they do not go to every possible concert or own the merchandise?
What is a fan anyway? Has anyone taken the time to look up the word? Merriam-Webster (2007) defines fan (not the one that blows) as “an enthusiastic devotee usually as a spectator” and “an ardent admirer or enthusiast.” It seems pretty straightforward whereas I feel I fit the definition of a fan pretty well. I am enthusiastic about metal in general and enthusiastic about most of the music I listen to. But, there is a lot of shit metal out there that I have tossed away or deleted as quickly as I could. The word that makes things a bit more interesting is the word devotee in the first part of Merriam-Webster’s definition. I looked that up on Merriam-Webster (2015) as well and saw that devotee is defined as “a person who enjoys or is interested in something very much” and a “person who has a very strong loyalty to a religion or religious person. Hmmm, things are getting a little more interesting.
As I mentioned, I feel I fit the bill of a fan pretty well by definition, but to be a devotee…not so much. A devotee is loyal to a religion or religious person which is based on faith, not analysis or fact. One just accepts certain truths without thinking about them, but if you want to be an informed, intelligent fan you have to be thinking about what you are consuming. Don’t you?
For me, it means that sometimes some metal won’t measure up even if I want it to (See Megadeth’s Super Collider). I hated giving one of my favorite bands a low rating on an album, but it is what it is: Which is…not that good. I guess if I accept all of these definitions of what a fan is then I cannot be a fan of anything.
Maybe this obsession with defining fandom has to do with the marginalized nature of metal music and the metal lifestyle. If our subculture exists on the edges of mainstream, then we have to cling tighter to keep the subculture cohesive. One way to do that is by defining boundaries. What makes us, us? But, defining by exclusion only further marginalizes our culture. Do we really want to be telling metal dabblers that they don’t belong because they don’t like certain albums or bands? Should we laugh at them when they have never heard of Black Sabbath? Or, do we want to invite more people into the metal world by ceasing to define what a fan should be?
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say they are a fan of metal, but then turn around and blast a house mix or even a dreaded country CD? Such people do exist. I have heard so many times that someone loves metal, but only when they are at the gym? Does this make them lesser metal fan? We certainly shouldn’t treat them as such.
The individual has the right to define themselves. Though, I prefer that no one should have to define themselves for the sake of fitting in. It should not be left up to a few metal elitists to decide who gets to be a fan of metal. If someone tells me they like metal, then that’s great. I don’t judge them on which bands they choose to like or what other music genres they may be interested in. I might roll my eyes a little if their favorite band is Emmure, but at the end of the day I am just happy they like the genre. Welcome to the group!
Merriam-Webster. (2015). Fan (Definition). Retrieved 6 May 2015 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fan.
Merriam-Webster. (2015). Devotee (Definition). Retrieved 6 May 2015 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/devotee
Special thanks to my editorial assistant, A. M. Plante