Everything I need to know I learned from loving metal

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Most people regard metal music as an anti-intellectual, chest-beating, noisy fit for cavemen. Despite this being 100 percent true, there are a few positive things that result from having an intense dedication toward one of the most juvenile forms of music out there. While listening to metal may still sentence you to a life in your parents' basement, at least you'll have learned a few things on the way to sleeping on a pile of empty potato chip bags. Here are six things you learn from being addicted to metal.

Criminal History

Can't remember who the Vampire of Dusseldorf was or what H. H. Holmes was known for? Luckily, metal has you covered. As the most infamous purveyors of morbid criminal history, Chicago's Macabre has been writing about real-life monsters ever since its debut record in 1987. The band has even written an entire concept album chronicling the life of Jeffrey Dahmer (fittingly titled Dahmer), from his childhood to the eventual decision to burn the deceased Milwaukee murderer's brain.

But the education doesn't stop there. Japan's Church of Misery has also devoted its entire doomy discography to writing about serial killers, while the appropriately named Canadian band Dahmer takes a faster, more grind approach to the same niche.

Cory Doctorow

Foreign Languages

An oddly memorable thing about metal is the amount of useless but impressive foreign language you learn. Any true metalhead can tell you the words for "cold," "darkness," "black," "death" and "grim" in a variety of European languages. Extremely helpful if you find yourself lost in the Swedish city of Örebro and need to find a dungeon or the most supremely evil bathroom.

Medical Terminology

One of the most magical things about pre-Internet metal was the mythology behind new and old bands alike. We had pardoned murderers, born-again Christians turned Satanists, Greek vampires who were banned from their home countries and, of course, the coolest rumor -- that members of gore-grind bands were medical-school students who had gone insane and gotten a record deal. To a fifteen-year-old in 1998, this was the most intriguing thing to ever happen to your music collection as you took your education into your own hands, skimming through lyric sheets.

If it weren't for bands like Carcass, Exhumed and General Surgery, I would never have come up with the idea to call in sick for my McDonald's shift by claiming I had vomited my anal tract. Or learned that the prefix "hepa" means liver.

Tragically, the medical-school rumors were proven false. The lyrics provided a decent layout of terms, but upon asking a real doctor, you'll find out that most of these strings of literary gore don't mean a thing.

Unless, however, you're reading the lyrics of The County Medical Examiners, a band containing three real medical doctors playing gore-grind under pseudonyms. The band's latest record is unique in another way: It's a scratch-n-sniff disc that smells like a corpse.

History and Culture

What do you know about the Battle of Karelia or the book of folk stories and poems called the Kanteletar? If you listened to far too much Finnish death metal such as Amorphis, then you probably know more than anyone in your office whose last name ends with "onen," "anen" or "inen."

Next time you're in your work lunchroom, forced into a political conversation by that guy who always smells like egg salad, ask him his feelings about Yggdrasil coming out of Ginnungagap and what will happen after we feel the scorching flames of Muspell. Unless he studied Norse mythology (or just listened to Einherjer's Odin Owns Ye All album), he'll probably brand you as a freaky new-ager and stop trying to befriend you. Problem solved.

Dimitris Siskopoulos


When I was broke, living in Pittsburgh and working an awful medical-collections job, I put up a collection of metal shirts on eBay. I made $80 off a long-sleeved shirt from a Swedish black-metal band called Dawn. Out of curiosity, I just glanced at eBay now and found a COMPACT DISC of the same band, selling for $84.54. Listening to underground metal taught me the value of collecting obscure crap and selling it years later.

Jeff Hanneman

1. How To Cope With Loss

The greatest thing about heavy metal is that most of its icons remain firmly planted in their beloved genres. Aside from the obvious exceptions, our heroes generally curdle and mold like the fine mutants we all hoped they'd become. Danzig hasn't taken off his mesh shirt, and Lemmy from Motorhead still has gigantic moles on his face. Unfortunately, this integrity is what also brings us to tragedy. You know how the rock world felt when Lou Reed died? Well, the comparatively small world of metal loses a relative equivalent every single year. 2013 was the year thrash metal lost Jeff Hanneman from Slayer, while 2012 claimed Keith Deen from Holy Terror and Mike Scaccia from Ministry/Rigor Mortis. Luckily, we've learned to cope.

• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS • - The fifty best rap lyrics of all time - The ten biggest concert buzzkills - Five more concert buzzkills - From Phish to Floyd, the ten best light shows

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.