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?
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
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
"AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!! REPENT!!! FOR THE END IS
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,
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
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
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.
"IS IMAGE IMPORTANT IN METAL"
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
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
Anyone who thinks image is not important in metal at all - well then,
here comes the stunning news: YOU ARE DEAD-WRONG!! It really