On the surface, many think that heavy metal and fantasy have very little in common. After all, the stereotypical images of both groups couldn’t be more different from each other.
- A metalhead is someone headbanging with excessively long hair, trying to slam into a bunch of other people with reckless abandon while loud music is blasted through a set of speakers.
- A fantasy fan is someone sitting at a table playing a game with odd shaped dice while drinking mountain dew and eating chips.
I admit there are some major differences between heavy metal and fantasy. However the similarities between the fantasy genre in literature and the heavy metal genre in music are pretty amazing. In fact, fantasy literature like A Song of Ice and Fire, Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, and The Dark Tower series have been the inspiration for songs by many bands such as Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, The Sword, Rush, and Led Zepplin.
For decades, heavy metal bands have borrowed from the fantasy genre when crafting their lyrics or band image. Yet, how often do you see pictures of someone at Comic-Con wearing a Megadeth T-shirt? Probably about as often as you’ve seen someone at a Judas Priest show carrying around their copy of Game of Thrones.
Personally, I don’t think there is enough of a crossover between the groups. So, as a huge fan of both heavy metal music and fantasy literature, I’m here to give you several reasons why if you’re into one of these areas of interest, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice by not getting into the other.
- Both are outcasts – Fantasy/sci-fi fans are often looked down upon by the mystery/thriller/romance fans, even worse by sports and non-fiction readers.
Heavy Metal is no different. It isn’t as mass-appealing as country or as catchy as pop, nor is it as formulaic as most of the rock on radio today.
Oddly enough, both groups have a tendency to pride themselves at being outcasts of society, defiant in being who they are, regardless of what others think about them.
- Both are misunderstood – People who read fantasy are often accused of having their head in the clouds or being escapists who can’t deal with the real world.
With heavy metal, most assume you’re a drug addict or some other dreg of society.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “YOU listen to heavy metal?” It’s only slightly more often than “You read fantasy?”
- Both have rabid fan bases – Fantasy fans will read the same book over and over until the spine breaks, memorizing every detail. Some even write fan fiction about their favorite characters or worlds. I don’t hear that from any other genre.
Heavy Metal is no different. Live bootlegs are floated around all the time and fans will travel all over the world to see their favorite bands. Rob Zombie has a great line about the loyalty of metal fans. “I’ve never heard someone say they were into Slayer for one summer.” Metal isn’t something you grow out of.
You’re a metalhead for life and generally it seems that way for fantasy/sci-fi fans as well.
- Both are nerds – Many metal fans won’t admit this, but most would put fantasy fans to shame in their geekiness. Not only do they know everything about the content of the music, the band, and the band’s personal life, but many will even analyze the time signature changes, the settings of the amps, and so on (Dream Theater fans, cough).
- Both fans dress differently than the rest of society – A fantasy fan will dress up as their favorite character at a convention.
A heavy metal fan will wear all black on the hottest day of summer just to pay homage to their favorite band.
- Both have their own forms of greeting – A fantasy/sci-fi fan might flash you the Vulcan salute made famous by Spock.
A heavy metal fan might flash you the “Metal Horns” hand gesture made famous by Ronnie James Dio.
I have a feeling that in both cases you’ll be pleasantly surprised.