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From Hell's Heart

"From Hell's Heart..." is an editorial column written by the team. Every other month or so we pick a metal-related topic and share our thoughts, feelings and ideas on it.

Check out past editorials

Image and Metal... Is Image Important? (February 2001)

Image and Metal... Is Image Important?  -  Rick

Is image important to metal? I think it is.. Many metalheads will argue with me on that point but I think that it is almost as important as the music itself. Who can deny that metal is associated with leather, long hair, bullet belts, spandex, dragons, dungeons, swords, corpse paint, motorcycles, skulls etc etc.... All Image. When a metalhead goes to see a metalshow, he or she does not stand in a crowded club and expect to see the band come on stage in 3 piece suits with close cut hair and with the stage full of flowers. Nor does a metalhead expect to hear his favourite band singing songs like "oops I did it again" or "I love to love you baby". No matter how often it is said that metal doesnít live on image, it lives on music, it doesnít make it true. Music is obviously the most important thing but the importance of image cannot be denied.

Black Metal is known for its corpse paint. It is an accepted part of being in a black metal band that you might be inclined to wear corpse paint. Death Metal bands tend not to sing about the love of their lives and are more inclined to write about disembowelling someone. Thrash bands wear leather jackets not polo shirts and bullet belts not loafers. Now if that is not image then I donít know what is?

In my opinion image is a very important part of the metal culture. It is how we differentiate ourselves from other forms of music and fans of those types of music. Would any true metal fans be caught with baggy pants, spikey hair and a wallet with a chain big enough to reign in 2 Rottweilers? I think the answer to that is a big NO. But we routinely accept guys with long hair and bullet belts as normal. Itís a part of the metal image. I donít want to take anything away from the music as that is the main thing that often draws us to the metal sub culture but bands dress in a certain way because even in the wide world of metal there are things that metal IS and things that metal IS NOT! IMetalheads might debate amongst themselves about image and how metal is not dependent on image. Isnít that image too?


Is Image Important For Metal?
By EvilG

Of course image is important, but it's not the only thing that makes or breaks a band! Almost every sub-genre of metal has somewhat of a stereotyped image. Two prime examples are power metallers with their medieval garb and swords and the black metallers with their insane spikes and white faces. There are bands who have no image and basically just wear jeans and t-shirts on and off stage. In the 80's bands took the image thing a bit too seriously. Despite the fact that their music remained metal some bands decided they had to tease their hair or whatever just to fit in (ie. remember the way Priest kinda re-designed their black leather look for Turbo? No, not total glam, but the influence was very apparent to me at the time).. 

Even though I don't care that much about image, there are some images that turn me off. Say you're looking at two album covers that happens to have a band photo on the cover. Band #1 have on black leather pants with vests / t-shirts. They all have long hair and immediately you know this is a metal band. Band #2 have on pants with the crotch somewhere around knee level, 1/2 of them are wearing their "wife-beaters" (the white sleeveless undershirt) so they can show off their "really badass" tatts....none of them have long hair. Most of their hairstyles are short and spiky dyed gay colors like green or yellow. So you look at band #2 and all you think is "this can't be metal."  Even if band #2 played metal I would probably throw-up from just looking at the cover. So in a case like that...image is very important.  If our Band #1 were "true" metal but they couldn't play or write a song with a damn then all the "true metal" image in the enchanted lands is not going to same them!

Image can be nothing, or it can be everything, but the bottom line is THE MUSIC...err...I mean the METAL!!!!!


Is Image Important To Metal? - Joe's RANT

Is image really important in Heavy Metal? I think most Metal fans would like to think that it isnít, but the truth is that all forms of music have an associated image. Of course, image should never be placed ahead of the music. The best looking bands with the greatest stage shows ever will all eventually fade away if the music is of poor quality. For a practically infinite number of such examples, just look at the Pop music scene...

Image is sort of a double-edged sword... Itís a necessary thing that helps a band establish an identity outside of their music and sets them apart from other acts in the same genre, but if they rely too much on the image or the image precedes the music due to inept marketing, the band will ultimately suffer for it and fade into obscurity. Take, for example, the L.A. Glam scene of the mid-eighties... Several of the bands involved in the sceneís genesis were comprised of talented musicians who wrote and performed some quality music. The whole wild hair and make up thing was just used to attract attention from music fans and record companies. Of course, once it became apparent that these bands were becoming successful, other bands adopted similar (oftentimes more outrageous) looks and experienced some success as well, despite the fact that their music was second-rate material (Pretty Boy Floyd, anyone???). However, success for these bands was rather fleeting and most of them have gone back to flipping burgers and starring in low-budget porno movies while other artists like Motley Crue, Dokken, Ratt, etc... are still capable of making a living at their craft.

Image in Metal is a little different from the Pop world, though... Where Pop stars have to reinvent their images with practically every album in order to maintain any level of success (ie: Madonna), Metal bands are sort of forced to keep theirs. The image can evolve somewhat over time, but the bandís basic image has to remain intact. The reason for this obviously, is the fans. Where Pop fans basically have the attention spans of houseflies, Pop stars have to constantly find ways to keep themselves from being forgotten by them. Metal fans on the other hand, once a band gets our attention, the only thing they have worry about is continuing to write good music. Metal fans in general are very loyal to the bands they like and little things like Ralf Scheepers shaving his head wonít deter us from buying the new Primal Fear CD. Imagine if the guys from NíSync shaved their heads... It would be the end of them! All the little teeny-boppers would be crying "I canít believe they did this to themselves! Iíll never be able to look at them again!!!" (If only someone would replace their shampoo with hair removal lotion...)

So whether youíre willing to admit it or not, image does play a certain role in Heavy Metal. At least most Metal fans/bands are smart enough not to let image overshadow the music... Although I donít think Iíd ever be able to handle seeing Glenn Tipton sporting dreadlocks and wearing baggy pants and a FUBU shirt! My reaction would probably be something like



ďIs Image Important in Metal?Ē - Nathan Robinson

Simply put: no. Who cares what a band looks like? Sure black metalers can look pretty lame, but who cares as long as the music rocks? What about Ratt back in the day? Or even Slayer with their black eye shadow back in í83? Or the strangly-dressed-straight-from-1973 Ludwig Witt of Spiritual Beggars? Or the short-haired spiked-collar-wearing elf in Enslaved? Or the Simpsons character in Emperor? Or the sunken-cheeked I-havenít-eaten-in-two-weeks guitarists in Sacred Reich and Biohazard? Or the black-sunglasses-wearing drummer Gene Hoglan? Or the I-ran-out-of-room-for-any-more-tattoos drummer Mick Harris? Ok, I got carried away. Some of these comments have nothing to do with image, I realize. But really, who cares what a band looks like? You just canít judge a band by their looks (well, unless theyíre dressed from head to toe in Adidas, in which case they can just suck it).

What about image as far as CD packaging? Well, it really shouldnít be important, because itís the music that really counts, but it is important. Nothingís better than being able to sit down, listen to an album, and look over a nicely-designed CD booklet or album sleeve and analyze a great piece of artwork donning the cover. In fact, for the most part, I agree with those statements appearing in the Think Tank section on album cover artwork in the April 2001 issue of Metal Maniacs regarding album cover artwork (although they left out some very notable and worthy artists) and I donít feel the need to reiterate whatís already been said! Come on, we all appreciate great album cover artwork, donít we!?!


Image is Nothing - Unless You're Manowar
By Ice Maiden

Image in Metal. I break this topic into two components: (i) band image and (ii) fan image.

If I like a band's music, its image is generally irrelevant to me. If I truly like the sound of the music, I don't care what image a band is trying to project, whether that image is creepy cemetery lurker or fantasy warrior. If the image is not one I like, I simply ignore it. That said, I do believe that the image of certain bands enhances my enjoyment of their music. A good example is Manowar. I love their music. But thinking of those guys in their furry leg-warmers wielding their swords just enhances my enjoyment. They've created an image that complements their music, and the whole package results in something I find entertaining.

In terms of metalhead fan image, I guess the relevant question is whether one should listen (or not listen) to certain music because of trying to maintain a certain image. To not listen to music you enjoy simply because you are worried about your "image" is completely contrary to being a metalhead. In my mind, being a metalhead means being true to your personal tastes and opinions, and not following trends simply because they are trends. Inherent in that concept is the notion that a person also shouldn't dislike a band just because that band is trendy or has gained popularity. A prime example of this, for me, is my enjoyment of Pantera. I don't like their "image" as drunken, abusive louts, and they have gained much popularity. I don't care-I like their music. It's my opinion-don't share it, I don't care.

Related to this is the issue of whether metalheads should "look metal" in their everyday lives. Again, I feel that a metalhead should be true to himself or herself. If a metalhead likes sparkly pink, she (or he) should wear sparkly pink. If a metalhead likes short hair, he should sport short hair. If a metalhead wants to wear an old Venom shirt, faded black jeans and long locks, he should do that. I'll even go so far as to say that if a real metalhead likes the feel and look of baggy jeans and a backwards baseball cap, that is what he should wear. In the end, image truly is nothing and personal expression should be everything.

I've heard some folks who dress metal 24/7 say that they are the only ones who are "true"-that by dressing metal they are showing the world that they are metal and are proud of it. They are not conforming to society. Again, I would say that if a person feels best when dressed in metal garb, then they should wear it all the time. I don't believe that metalhead men should cut their hair to fit into society if they would prefer to wear it long. Bottom line, though, is that clothes are simply clothes, and metal is in the heart, not the hair length. Them's my two bits.


Is Image Important In Metal?
Michael De Los Muertos

Yes. It's very clear that image is important, and always has been. Metal is permeated with culturally, musically, or philosophically significant images. A black metal band wearing corpse paint and bullet belts, the dragons, swords and warriors on the cover of a power metal album, or photos of butchered bodies on the flyer for a band whose name sounds like a clinical autopsy term will all communicate particular messages to us about what those bands are like. In fact, metalheads are actually hyper-conscious of image. If we go to a mall (perish the thought!) and see a group of teenage boys walking around with short, spiky hair, bicycle-chain necklaces and Slipknot T-shirts, we form certain opinions almost instantly. Image is one of the primary communicators of meaning in the metal subculture.

Herein lies one of the great philosophical controversies of metal: we claim to reject images and conventions held up to us by popular culture, yet we often judge bands, fans or each other based on how well they measure up to the images we've been programmed to accept. The fact that image IS important in metal is something of a "skeleton in the closet" we don't like to talk about, but it shouldn't be. I posit a possible solution to our dilemma which seems to make sense: yes, image is important, and metalheads do judge people based on it. However, the difference between image in the metal scene and image in the popular mainstream is that the images of popular culture are artificially created and those who accept them often do so unquestioningly and even unconsciously. The metal culture has at least created its OWN image from its own cultural background, and acceptance or rejection of it must necessarily be a conscious decision.

What the metal culture has that popular culture lacks is a policing function. If someone suddenly decides that black metal is cool, and starts dressing up like Dani Filth and passing him or herself off as a black metal fan without knowing or caring anything substantively about the music itself, other metalheads will recognize that person as a poser almost immediately, and he or she will be denied entry into the "club." Why? That person has complied with all the image factors that are necessary to communicate to other metalheads, and the world at large, "I like black metal." But it's false, phony, and insulting, and true black metal fans will know that. Yet, in the mainstream world, merely complying with the image conventions would result in unquestioning acceptance, because there is no substance behind most of those images. It's the policing factor which makes all the difference, and is what makes it valid for us, philosophically, to accept metal's conventions and act according to its images while rejecting and denouncing those manufactured by popular culture at large.

Bands are conscious of image not just for cynical reasons of attracting or retaining fan demographics, but because they themselves believe certain images should be concurrent with certain ways of thinking. For example, you would never see Manowar perform on-stage in anything other than leather biker gear. Their lyrics mock "crackerjack clothes" and reinforce the viewpoint that being true to the music means maintaining a certain image. Conversely, part of the reason Norwegian black metallers in the early 90s went to elaborate lengths with corpse paint and other theatrics was to protest the laid-back, beer-drinking, jogging suit and T-shirt look of the death metal bands popular in that era. Image certainly made a great deal of difference to these bands, and continues to do so. When certain image conventions crystallize into "traditions" that are self-sustaining is, of course, impossible to tell, but an argument can be made that black metal, death metal and power metal have all reached this stage with their respective paraphernalia.

I think there is room in the broad philosophical spectrum of metal for image consciousness, and I don't think it makes us hypocrites to admit it. Whether I'm right about that or not, the simple fact is that image consciousness is not going to go away, and will likely continue to significantly impact metal for the foreseeable future.


Image In Metal - Kieth McDonald

Image is not important in metal these days but it can help. Obviously, the most important part to a successful band is great songs. In the 80's with the dawning of MTV, image was everything. Videos, spectacular live shows and home videos were the norm. A different time with a different marketing tool that still, though not as big, is used by certain artist to some degree of success. There were bands that prospered making wild videos to highlight their songs and help sell records. You can't blame someone for trying what happens to be hip at the moment and striking gold with it.

Now as we have passed that time period the focus has returned to the material. If a metal band writes and continues to write great songs there is a very good chance that that band will have a long lifespan. But, you must admit that if a metal band, let's say Metallica, who is popular at the time elects to use image to increase their popularity, then more power to them. 

They had a large underground legion of fans that exploded into the mainstream when they released a video for "One". Some may call this "selling out" but I look at it as using image (video) as a marketing tool to reach more fans. 

They have used their new fanbase to catapult themselves into superstars status. So, even though image isn't important, it can help.


by Luxi Lahtinen

Is image important in metal?  Does metal need images?  To put it simply:  Yes and no.  I personally - as a long-scale consumer of metal music, judge bands by two different categories; the ones that can be called as "good bands" and bands that can be labeled as "bad bands".  No matter if it's metal or something else. I don't judge bands by their image; it's just as simple as that.

There's no doubt that bands definitely do have a certain kind of images; the way how they look like or the way how they stand some things for - or how they treat their fans, etc. - all these tiny pieces together are important for creating certain images for metal bands, it's no denying that. However, these so-called "images" are unfortunately quite often tailor-made by record companies as they - for pretty damn obvious reasons, would like to get their products sold like hundreds of thousands of millions copies which is very understandable, right folks?!  A good image sells better than an average music, that's an unwritten rule which obviously is subscribed by each and everyone of us.

Let's take an example from all of our metalheads' early teens.  Remember anyone when you went to your favorite local record store at the age of 13-something, and then checked a huge pile of metal albums out there - and finally after a hard search, you made your decision and may have got thrilled by some song titles of this band called "x" or that band called "x" just because their song titles such as "Mother Ghost's Headless Torso" or "Eat Like a Beast" or "Attack of the Ice Titan" or "Hell Bloody Hell" or "A High-Kill Vengeance Black Raising" simply kicked ass (I still get excited by such "smartly(!)" titled songs from time to time, a bit different way, tho - at the age of 32, HA! HA!!)!!  Or you were impressed how nasty and evil some guys looked like on the lay-outs of that particular album with all those leather costumes, spikes, chains and other armors on - or it was just all these startling yet offensive album covers that gripped your undivided attention right away (the more blood - and horror - and gore, the better, of course!!).  I can openly admit that I was moved by such images at that time and bet kids even nowadays get moved by the very same things.  An importance of certain images is very evident regarding the very matter here.

On the other hand, you cannot sell your "product(!)" by wrapping it up in a totally different package if music itself doesn't support it by no means.  Like, you cannot sell Black Metal completely without its true colors of black and white.  Black Metal isn't about songs about your beloved mother-in-law or Black Metal lyrics don't tell how football sucks 'coz Black Metal isn't supposed to be about things like that.  Or you certainly cannot get people's deepest sympathies by introducing them to a Gothic act without its essential black elements. Gothic Metal ain't about sunny beaches, Bermuda shorts or skate boards either.  Again, image IS an important factor here.   Or think of Glen Benton from the always gloriously satanic DEICIDE entering a stage with Bermuda shorts and a Hawaii -shirt on, yelling to his crowd that Jesus "Cunt" Christ should be re-crucified again!  Not too convincing; no one would buy it really.

Thinking this whole matter otherwise, it might probably be an excellent commercial trick to try selling your favorite metal act by a totally ground-breaking image which one one could have dared to touch upon before; bringing forth something unique and totally different for once.  Breaking the rules between genres a little bit, y'know?!  But I'm afraid as much as it would be very unique and all that, I guess it would be extremely absurd and hilarious, too. People might not be ready for that drastic or sudden change at all; at least I know I wouldn't!

Anyone who thinks image is not important in metal at all - well then, here comes the stunning news:  YOU ARE DEAD-WRONG!!  It really is...

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