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Am I Metal Enough?

Blog Post: Jessica

“You don’t look like you listen to metal.” This was the reaction I got from a professor one day when I was able to name the song and artist (Manic Aeon by Sirenia) he was listening to when I stopped by his office for some help on a paper. He was genuinely surprised that I knew what I was talking about and that I was even recommending similar artists to him. Here he was, a young, tall, fit, long-haired, and bearded man who definitely could pull off the “metal” look, whereas I was dressed in blue jeans and a university sweater with my long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. I think I look more metal now in my 30s than I did in my 20s because I wear more black/band shirts, have tattoos and attend more local metal shows. I even listen to much heavier stuff than I did back then. But I still don’t think I look metal enough even when I try my best to “dress” the part.

2018 vs. 2007

I can’t help but wonder if this is a dilemma for other female metal fans. That is, that they don’t look metal enough so they can’t really be fans of the music or if they look too metal, they are posers trying to impress their boyfriends or members of the band. They couldn’t possibly appreciate the music. So most of the time when I go to a show, I opt to wear a simple band shirt and jeans - but even then at times I still feel self-conscious. All I want to do is just headbang and enjoy discovering a new band or rocking out to a favourite of mine without having to worry about being accused of only being there because of my boyfriend. It makes me think to myself: “Excuse me? He is here with me! I’m the one introducing him to Dark Funeral and Belphegor, so you can go fuck yourself and your sexist elitist attitude!” I’m so passionate about this because metal has become an integral part of my life just as much as being a horror fan and contributor is.

When I was a teenager I spent a lot of time trying to find the musical genre that I related to and inspired me. Growing up I was introduced to a variety of genres influenced by my mother, father, and stepmother. If it wasn’t 90s alternative or 80s pop, it was country or radio easy rock (gag me). I knew I really liked heavy tones and rhythm in my music when I found myself gravitating towards the heavier classic rock or punk type music such as Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Green Day, and The Offspring. I was introduced to my first (sort of) metal band by my girlfriend at the time which was Korn’s “Leaf is Peachy” album and then “Follow the Leader.” I fell in love with the heavy riffs and dark imagery that was produced by lyrics written and performed by Jonathan Davis.

Nu metal in the 2000s is where my journey into the genre began. However, it did not last long because this type of music was not welcomed in my parent’s home and it made it challenging for me to explore any other type of music in the metal genre. The only time I would get to listen to this type of metal was on my 45 minute bus ride to school with my girlfriend’s Discman.

First year university Jess with young Fufu. I was big into Japanese anime and still finding my style.

It wasn’t until I entered university and was living on my own that my metal education truly blossomed and surprise, surprise it all started because of Kelly. I feel like if I ever wrote a biography there would be a whole chapter on “Life with Kelly and how she made it that much cooler.” Ha! Kelly gave me a burnt CD of songs and music videos of some of her favourite artists at the time and ones she thought I would like. This consisted of bands like Theatre of Tragedy, Nightwish, and HIM. From that moment on I was hooked. This was before the age of Youtube and I would look up bands online and arbitrarily download songs on Napster (dear god, I am really ageing myself). I would also go to the local CDPlus in the mall and explore the metal section and pick up any album that was similar to what I was listening to at the time - goth or symphonic metal - and try to procure imported music. I was always so curious about the darker cd covers like Cradle of Filth and Cannibal Corpse, but I would never pick one up because I felt like I wasn’t “metal” enough to listen to such aggressive music.

As a woman, I thought that I had to stay within the softer side of metal, anything that is gothic or symphonic, or only listen to what is termed “female fronted metal” (I personally despise this term - metal is metal whether there if a female singer or not). I expanded into bands like Type O Negative, Beseech, Within Temptation, Leaves Eyes, Epica, Lacuna Coil, Poisonblack and so many others. I was still searching out my own metal identity but at last I was finding a genre that I could relate to. It helped me through some extremely gloomy and troubling times in my life.

In my final year at university before I started my Masters, I was starting to become comfortable with myself and showing my appreciation for metal.

Although, apparently I still didn’t look metal enough even after I was dating a musician who also enjoyed heavier music. As much as I loved the music I always felt like a fraud. When he and I would hang out with his friends and they would talk music, I always felt like my recommendations or commentary were not taken seriously because a) I was a woman and b) I didn’t look or dress like I listened to metal. I was shy and hated (and still do) bringing attention to myself. I would dress in such a way that would make me look unremarkable; consequently isolating myself from others who enjoyed the same music. So over time I started to step outside my comfort zone by dyeing my hair black, buying my first metal band shirt at my first concert - HIM’s Dark Light tour (remember that one Kelly?) - and then venturing out to get piercings and tattoos.

Kelly and I at the Leaves Eyes Concert in 2007

This was because to me looking metal consisted of metal tshirts, ripped jeans, jean jackets with patches, long hair with various colours, tattoos and piercings, or anything that distinguished someone as a metalhead and not part of the mainstream. When I started to show my outward appreciation of the metal genre and attend more concerts, I found myself getting involved in the energy of the crowd and headbanging all my anxieties away. I also started to feel like myself and that people began to take my interest in the genre seriously. But, then I got married.

My ex and I when we first met in 2009, I started to dye my hair brown again, wearing pastels and engaging in the New Age lifestyle for my new relationship.

When I met my ex-husband I was still in a very vulnerable state of “finding myself” and this was when I landed amongst the New Age crowd, wearing pastels and talking about light and love. Metal was still a part of my life but it was downplayed significantly when I got married and for many years of that marriage. While my ex said he enjoyed a variety of music, I knew that he only tolerated my love for dark and aggressive music. So for a good eight years I struggled with my identity and began to feel even more alienated from the metal community and found myself engaging less as a fan. I felt like I could only ever do it once or twice a year when I would travel to Toronto and visit Kelly, where I could finally wear my metal shirts, listen to loud metal music, and headbang at a show.At home, I had to listen to my music with either headphones, when he wasn’t home, or turned down really low in volume and at certain times during the day. Cradle of Filth was considered music not to listen too first thing in the morning while getting ready for work. Needless to say, I was an unhappy camper, especially when I started to be accused by his new meditation group of being a negative influence on him and inviting unhealthy, dark energy into our home.

Me in 2017 a month after the separation embracing all things I love about metal and the horror genre.

But things did eventually change. Two years prior to our actual separation, something snapped in me; I was tired of trying to live up to someone else’s expectations and desires of me. I was never going to be that spiritual hippie wife my husband always wanted me to be. So I returned to the journey I started before I got married and embraced the metal and horror-loving fan within. While this decision signaled the beginning of the end of my marriage, it was a decision I will never regret.

Since the divorce, I have continued to embrace being a metal fan and have attended more metal shows in the last year than I had in the 10 years prior. I even went to Heavy MTL this summer and it was an incredible experience. My appreciation of all the sub-genres of metal has expanded tremendously. Some of my current favourite bands are The Machinist, Gojira, Amon Amarth, Alcest, Pallbearer, Insomnium, and Dark Funeral just to name a few. However, despite all of this, I still sometimes feel like a fraud and that I am still not metal enough. As a 34 year old woman, I am still struggling to find my own “metal” style that I feel comfortable in. Due to this, I feel that when I tell someone I listen to black metal, I get the crooked eyebrow and a look up and down like “Really? I would have never guessed it” or I get challenged with “name five death metal bands you like” so I can really prove my metal cred. You know, even if I name the most obscure band that only a select people know about, I feel like that despite my knowledge I will always be challenged about being a metal fan because I am a woman; one who doesn’t fit the mold that has culturally been established for women in the metal genre. A woman in metal is either a groupie or musician, never a fan.

The past year and a half embracing who I am. The year has been spent going to metal shows and looking forward to more to come.

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