SUBWAYEtal likes to think of himself as a family, a safe haven built on inclusion. Everyone is welcome in the hole. However, historically, metal has also been a hostile space for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ + community. Look down the line for articles posted on any large metal website and you will find reviews riddled with homophobia and transphobia. In 2019, an article published by Metal Hammer, titled “The Most Interesting Voices In Metal Are All Female, And It’s About Time,” drew thousands of misogynistic comments. Meanwhile, white supremacy has been an inescapable presence in black metal since the scene was born in the 1980s. And few in the industry will forget Down and former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo yelling “white power” and Victory Heiling on stage in 2016.
Recently, however, things have started to change. Bands from all corners of metal are creating fierce music that offers new perspectives on discrimination, race, gender, and sexuality.
“I feel like this is the most exciting time I’ve had in rock and metal in a long time,” says Kerrang Radio host Sophie K, who founded the podcast. Wednesdays we wear black (OWWWB) in order to “create a space that feels safe for people who are not normally represented” in the alternative culture. Together with co-hosts, Metal Hammer journalist and TikTok personality Yasmine Summan and music and radio host Alyx Holcombe, she delivers the kind of frank and hilarious conversations that happen between female and non-binary metal fans behind closed doors.
“This idea has always been an alternative [music] what [it] it’s a white thing, ”says Summan. “In beauty, in music, in culture. It has always been like that and no one has questioned it until now ”.
The first episode of OWWWB entered Apple’s Music Podcasts chart at No. 2, with thousands of downloads in 11 countries. Sophie says the trio receives daily messages, “some confessional, some really deep, that tell us how people are feeling. I keep thinking of people who said that Yasmine’s honesty has helped them feel more comfortable being non-binary. “
Alongside OWWWB, platforms like Hell Bent for Metal, a podcast for LGBTQ + metal fans co-hosted by metal journalist Tom Dare, online communities like Alt togetherand fanzines like Blkgrlswurld Y Break into pieces they are raising unheard voices. “If mainstream magazines don’t cover these issues or put diverse people on the covers, then I should be the person to do it,” says Simone Barton, who founded Tear It Down to showcase artists of color. “I should do the representation myself.”
Within metal, fans are now actively looking for bands that push the boundaries and have something to say. Who Are the Girls ?, Nova Twins’ frenzied 2020 debut, does both. With a jaw-dropping mix of twisted bass, hip-hop, and glamor-infused punk and buzzsaw riffs, her lyrics, like Bullet’s, address everything from misogyny to racial microaggressions (“I’m that girl you couldn’t get and now you hate me for it / I’m not asking you / Never touch my hair unless they pay you to cut it ”).
“We don’t shy away from talking about things that are difficult to talk about, that’s our role,” says guitarist and vocalist Amy Love, who says the band has a responsibility “to make sure the people who follow us know what we stand for. what we defend and that we support them ”.
The duo are driven to open metal to new audiences. In November 2020, they wrote an open letter to the Mobo Awards, asking them to add a rock / alternative category to their 2021 show: “This is more than a category, it’s a message to all young black people so they know they can do and be whatever they choose. “(Mobo responded to them on Twitter and wrote,” The Mobo Awards judging panel has really debated this and we will continue to review possible category expansions for future awards ceremonies. “)
“As black women, society will tell you that you belong to R&B and hip-hop,” says Love. “We are open to music, the two of us are mixed. I have an Iranian mother, my father is Nigerian and I was born in Britain, so I have been exposed to so many different cultures and music that there is no box we can be in. “
Another musician using his growing platform to introduce metal to a new generation of aspiring musicians is Diamond Rowe. Rowe, lead guitarist for the burgeoning nu-metal band Tetrarch, is the first African-American metal guitarist to receive massive press coverage in the US She sees herself as an entry-level artist, persuading those who normally They wouldn’t consider gender to give it a go. “You don’t see any African American girl trashing on stage,” he says. “But I have to ask myself: is it because they are not comfortable or are they just not interested?”
However, you are now watching the tide turn. These days, she gets hundreds of messages from people saying things like, “‘I didn’t know there was someone in the mainstream who looked like me.’ They see me go on stage with the band and say, ‘I have to see this.’
Likewise, heavy LGBTQ + artists are more visible than ever. Last year, we saw some great releases from the non-binary duo doom Vile creature, and Zambian-born trans rapper with industrial laces Backxwash. Louisiana sludge band Thou, which has talked about #MeToo, sexuality and gender in their music, released May our chambers be full, a collaboration with Emma Ruth Rundle. Already this year, they have given us Mirrors, the insanely wild 2021 debut of grindcore band Pupil Slicer, which addresses transgender people’s health rights, among other things. And last month, hardcore metal veterans Life of Agony released the excellent documentary The Sound of Scars, chronicling the band’s early days on the New York macho scene and seeing vocalist Mina Caputo talk about her experiences as a woman. trans.
If some of the most exciting music of the moment is being created by queer artists, there is no escaping the fact that there is a long way to go. “I would like to think that there is more diversity in music, more diversity in the minds of the people who make music,” Caputo reasons, although he points out that even years after declaring himself transgender in 2011, he still receives transphobic abuse on social media.
“I’ve turned down a lot of interviewers who wanted to talk about how the metal community is so pro-trans and pro-gay. It’s like: Shut your mouth! “she says.” I can name about 20 radio DJs who used to love Life of Agony and they play us all the time on their metal shows that we no longer play. “Is heavy music moving in the right direction? Caputo is skeptical.” I think the answer to your question is a big maybe. ” He responds. “A big ass maybe in capital letters. That question could be asked 20 years from now and we still won’t know.”
Last year’s Black Lives Matter protests were an exhilarating time for heavy music. A group of hardcore bands, including Beaten loose Y Year of the knife, we came together to launch merchandising raising money for BLM, while other metal artists joined in for a compilation to raise money for BLM affiliated organizations, and many more spoke on social media. However, at this stage, it is difficult to say whether the protests have led to transformative change in the music industry.
“What has changed is that people like me can walk into a company and say: ‘Where is the representation? I don’t think this is good enough, ‘”says Sophie K.” And we can question things. ” For Summan, change must be more than a symbolic gesture. “I am concerned about what will happen in the next five years. Are these bands [still] is it going to be elevated? Will these record labels keep their promises? “
They both agree, however, that we can at least be on the right track – they have started important conversations, which is the only way to create a metal scene that is homogeneous. “For me, growing up and being a fan of heavy music, there is a change in the times,” says Summan. “It feels different; it feels like there’s a new gust of wind and a new gust of life in heavy music and it’s here to stay. “