The Death of Rebellion: Metal as a Fashion Statement

A few months ago I received a promo from a Norwegian band with more money than talent. Since in my review I tore their single to pieces, I never heard back from them. What I wrote back then about their forgettable song “Cool is Everything”, and which is relevant to today’s rant, was:

Sporting studded leather jackets, skulls, an inverted cross top, tattoos, long hair and a Flying V guitar, Ravage Rose are the kind of band that was made to play the “party” scene in a coming-of-age movie. Exuding socially accepted rebellion, they produce a non-threatening sound that is just hard enough to allow moronic teenagers to feel like they’re sticking it up to authority, while still reassuring their parents that their child is a complying idiot.

[…] My problem is seeing that they are a symptom of a society in which we have come to accept rebellion as a fashion statement: Let mommy take you to the mall to get your ears pierced, your hair dyed, and your inverted crosses. Be unique by being like everyone else, oppose the system by being one of its cogs. Live your life knowing that your passage through it amounted to being no more than a sheep on the way to the slaughter.

Since Avril Lavigne came into the scene in the late 90s and added some more nails to the already welded shut coffin of punk rock, fashion has taken a strange turn into the “heavy metal” territory, borrowing some of the elements that we used to consider “ours”. Whenever I go out I see at least 1 person with a Ramones shirt and countless others with “vintage” shirts of Black Sabbath or Judas Priest, not to mention inverted crosses, skulls and studded leather jackets.

I think we can agree that if a mouthbreathing fuck like Kanye West wears a pentagram there's something deeply wrong.
I think we can agree that if a mouthbreathing fuck like Kanye West wears a pentagram there’s something deeply wrong.

Of course, it’s not that I care about more and more people discovering heavy metal; on the contrary, one of the nicest things for me is to see lots of fans enjoying the same music than me. I don’t see the point in trying to keep my favorite bands “a secret”, as if somehow being known would make them “less metal”. This also isn’t about what’s “trve” or “kvlt” (granted, I neither know nor care what either of those moronic expressions mean); it’s about seeing that the “punch” that was packed in heavy metal, the middle finger to society seems to be lost.

If metal loses the rebellion that made it what it is today (from the struggles of the working class in “Breaking the Law” or the cries against warmongering in “War Pigs”), and I believe that there is a real possibility that this will be the case, the genre as we know it will cease to exist. Metal simply cannot survive if there isn’t an “edge” to it.

The risk of this phenomenon isn’t that other people will dress in black and look like they’re not very fond of showering, but rather that there will a manufactured rebellion. As metal became mainstream (as it undoubtedly happened) people no longer took it seriously as a societal phenomenon; no longer were metal fans associated with a disgruntled population, but rather just with angsty teenagers who want to offend their moms with an Anal Cunt shirt and who get drunk whenever possible. This is a problem, because while there is still an image of rebellion, there is no actual rebellion to speak of. Sadly, that is exactly the kind of brainless, mindless and, most of all, soulless rebellion that those in a position of power appreciate.

When not turning his wife's face into minced meat, Chris Brown can be found be trve kvlt.
When not turning his wife’s face into minced meat, Chris Brown can be found being trve kvlt.

As metal fans we owe it to ourselves to appreciate heavy metal for what it is. True, it is music, fucking amazing music, but it’s also about opposing the status quo. It’s about standing up for something, be it again religious fundamentalism, against state oppression, for animal rights or whatever cause moves you. Metal can be background noise to get shitfaced and have fun with your friends, but it also has the power to be the soundtrack to the rebellion of those who stand up for something; the call to battle for those who fight.

It is not a fashion statement.

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Considered by his mother as the brightest and prettiest boy, J's interest in metal started in his early teens, listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica (coupled with an embarrassing period in which Marilyn Manson "totally represents me, man") eventually moving into the realm of power, black, and death metal. He holds a PhD in law, trains martial arts, practices law, and enjoys coming up with excuses as to why he has to miss work after going to a concert. He also dabbles as a concert photographer, you can see his sub-par work on his instagram.
  • marious

    I agree that it is silly to wear a battle-vest if you aren’t into the tunes, but to say that metal is not a fashion seems odd to me. What would you call the way metal heads dress? Is that not our fashion?

    • J_MetalBlast

      Hi! Thank you very much for your comment.
      The way I see it, it deals with the motivation behind what you do. Of course, there is a certain “fashion” element in the way metal fans dress, in the sense that it follows a determined pattern, but I don’t think that it is a “fashion statement” per se.
      In the end it has to do with whether you are wearing that battle jacket or a Watain shirt because you want others to notice you, or because you simply felt like it. Metal should not be about image (even if it’s a very visual medium), and I think it’s a bad signal if we allow it to be reduced to just that.

  • Sarif

    This article lol. Metal: serious business. So trve, so kvlt. And people wonder why metalheads are such douchebros. Can you be anymore of a whiny manchild, writer?

    • J_MetalBlast

      Hi, thank you for visiting.
      I don’t know where you get from this article that I’m trying to be “kvlt”.
      Thanks for trying though!