Many adjectives have been used to describe heavy metal over the years, but “fashionable” has rarely been one of them. Metal has always been its own world, the province of long-haired dudes whose lack of engagement with what is or isn’t considered cool by everyone else probably forms a large part of the reason why they’re metalheads in the first place. It’s no doubt a little galling for such veteran metalheads that all of a sudden, it’s fashionable to like metal – everyone from Lady Gaga and Megan Fox to Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus is turning up in metal T-shirts and proclaiming a love of all things heavy. There’ve also been a slew of non-metal songs about metal over the last few years, some good, some less so – we’ve rounded up a few below. We can’t help but wonder what Varg Vikernes thinks of it all.
My Morning Jacket – “Holdin’ On to Black Metal”
“It’s a darkness you can’t deny,” sings Jim James, “but at a certain point you got to let it go.” If that’s not a confession of a metalhead past, we don’t know what is. We can’t imagine true metalheads will be particularly amused with the song’s depiction of metal as an invariably adolescent obsession, mind. (This song’s nowhere near as good as “Mahgeetah,” either.)
Lady Gaga – “Heavy Metal Lover”
La Gaga is apparently still holding onto black metal, although you’d never know it from the paint-by-numbers Auto-Tuned robo-pop of this song. The idea of celebrating a steamy night with a metalhead (“I want your whiskey mouth all over my blonde south,” indeed) with a song that’d probably make said metalhead tear his ears off is either a huge conceptual exercise in postmodern irony, or just an epic load of horseshit. Hmmm. Now which could it be?
The Mountain Goats – “The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton”
“Jeff and Cyrus believed in their hearts they were headed for stage lights and leer jets, and fortune and fame/So in script that made prominent use of a pentagram, they stenciled their drumheads and guitars with their names.” Seriously, when is John Darnielle going to turn this one into a novel?
Califone – “Black Metal Valentine”
The lyrics to this are pretty much the opposite of Darnielle’s sharply observed character sketch, but no less evocative for their obscurity. They’re really just a series of images, but for us they always evoke the experience of thinking you’re the sole metalhead (or any other sort of misfit, really) in a small town, and then suddenly finding that there’s someone else like you. And that someone’s a bit weird and a bit awkward and maybe even a bit intimidating, but you want to talk to them nonetheless. And then they’re gone again.
Tenacious D – “The Metal”
Let it be said here and now that we loathe Tenacious D and their look-at-us-aren’t-we-such-hilarious-geeks schtick. But nevertheless, their appropriation of metal as subject matter reflects the overlap between geek rock and decidedly geeky metal. See also: Weezer (they called their 2010 unreleased tracks compilation Death to False Metal, for Chrissakes), Sugar Ray (who used to be in a thrash band), etc.
Eagles of Death Metal, generally
They’re called Eagles of Death Metal! But they’re not death metal! Geddit?!