The onstage murder of DAMAGEPLAN
guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott
on Dec. 8 turned a spotlight on the metal community. The former PANTERA
guitarist was shot shortly after his new band hit the stage Dec. 8 at the Alrosa Villa club in Columbus, Ohio. He and four others (including crew and audience members) were killed. The shooter was a 25-year old ex-Marine, Nathan Gale
, an apparently obsessed PANTERA
fan, and a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic whose mother had legally provided him with the gun.
Overall, the media treatment was respectful, but it also soon became clear that metal remains a black sheep. And maybe we like it that way, but sometimes the insults go too far. I'm a metalhead, so I take it personally. But in light of recent events (Abbott
's touring guitarists accused of rape; two stabbed at a CRADLE OF FILTH
concert) I've had to ask: Is metal really dangerous?
After the shooting, a lot of writers suggested that the shooting and the style of music bore some connection. In his "Deconstructing the past of an isolated man," Newsday.com
's John Riley
— after explaining that Gale
was a weirdly obsessed fan — went on to describe Gale
as typical of metal fans.
Meanwhile, on the most offensive end of the spectrum, conservative satirist William Grim
resurrected the myth of heavy metal's "culture of hatred and death." He further suggested that heavy metal makes you dumber.
This isn't the first time critics have tried to forge a link between metal and violence. In 1984 a 19-year old Ozzy Osbourne
fan shot and killed himself while listening to Osbourne
's music. His parents filed suit against the artist and the label. The suit was initially dismissed; on appeal it was determined that the music was constitutionally protected speech.
In 1985 the Parental Music Resource Center
was formed in Washington, led by then-Senator Al Gore
's wife Tipper
. In hearings held by the PMRC
that fall, psychologists testified about the specific supposed threats of heavy metal — subliminal messages, glorification of violence, a link to substance abuse, and Satanism. Though the PMRC
called for self-censorship, printed lyrics and a labeling system, all they got the music industry to agree to was voluntary "parental guidance" labels.
When the case against metal actually makes it to court, the findings are generally in favor of the music and freedom of expression. But that hasn't cleared metal's dangerous and destructive reputation.
Concerts which have resulted in violence are not metal concerts exclusively. In 1999 DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
concertgoers made riot headlines in Hartford and fans of that decidedly metal-free band have made it an annual tradition. Two fans were stabbed, one fatally, after a NELLY
concert near San Diego.
The science is on our side when it comes to the effects of "violent" music on daily life as well. Douglas Gentile
, in his 2003 book, "Media Violence and Children"
, concludes that listening to music has less of an effect on aggression than watching television and playing video games. He points out what should be obvious: that in cases where a metalhead commits an act of violence or suicide, real factors (depression, substance abuse, etc.), rather than musical taste, are to "blame." He notes that the majority of fans are not troublesome or troubled. Read more