If you're reading this blog, you probably read metal forums- for what reason, I can't possibly explain (and I'm included), but you likely do. And if you do, you've probably run across at least one (and more like a dozen) threads that detail various posters' attempts at 'converting' their friends or acquaintances over to metal. It's unique that this is always expressed as 'converting' someone to metal, as though metal was some sort of mindset, religion, or political system rather than a genre of music. These threads usually come from kids in high school, which makes it a little more understandable, but once you hit about 16 this should probably stop.
Predictably, I don't think I've seen a single story where this actually worked out. On and on posters drone about how desperately they tried to get their friends into metal, constantly showing them CDs, giving history lessons, and otherwise discussing the sheer IMPORTANCE of a genre of music, as though metal is some sort of key that unlocks the mysteries of the universe in one glorious flash of light. The disappointment, confusion, and dismay that comes off these people is palpable; they really can't understand why it is that anyone WOULDN'T be swayed by their passion and endless, nauseating promotion of their own particular cultural trinket.
Now, if you read this blog, you're probably laughing at this idea, which is an appropriate response, but threads like these always seem to draw a disturbing number of posts where people think this is not only logical, but perfectly acceptable and appropriate. I can get it to some degree- when you're some outsider kid in high school, metal can seem like just about the most important thing in the world to you. But that's just that: it's high school, and attempting 'conversions' of this sort will generally just lead to profoundly embarrassing memories down the road.
But let's collect this idea a little bit: why do people do this? There's a few plausible reasons. Metal is indeed a genre that in the more extreme reaches presents itself as a lifestyle rather than a simple genre of music, which does encourage its adherents to promote it a bit more vociferously than usual. The merits of this are mildly debatable, given the cultural parcel that metal presents through its imagery, ideologies, and sonic presence. Then there's the possibility that particularly alienated youth think that getting someone else into metal (when finding another dedicated metalhead is difficult or impossible) will somehow bridge the gap between themselves and the others around him- the shared bond of the music will somehow result in meaningful relationships down the road. Then, of course, there's the more sinister (and stupid) option: that there are people out there so firmly convinced of the philosophical and musical superiority of metal that they, in some sort of Manifest Destiny situation, feel it's their duty to cast metallic pearls among the mainstream swine.
There's a few things that these conversions indicate about those who attempt them. The most obvious and important is a massive sense of self-loathing and shame which somehow attaches itself to metal itself. Considering metal's (supposedly) individualistic, powerful ideologies, this is pretty perplexing, but if you consider a great deal of metal to be an adolescent power fantasy, it makes a little more sense. Impressionable little outcasts are given a world in which one can slay dragons, rape women, and exercise self-expression to a degree wholly impossible in reality. Of course, when the CD comes out of the player and the lights come back on, it just draws into clearer focus the powerlessness and fears of that individual (at least if you're 15 and haven't figured out who you are yet).
Perhaps more profound, though, is that it expresses an equally massive lack of empathy for others. Empathy isn't a word that implies some sort of emotional connection or sympathy, but simply being able to perceive something from another's viewpoint. The simple existence of self-centered people isn't really news, but the way it seems to attach to the metal genre is something I find sort of fascinating. I've never had anyone on the street say they were going to 'convert me to hip-hop', or some hipster in a coffee shop tell me 'you're going to fall in love with post-rock'. However, I've had multiple people from the metal scene, even with full awareness of all the writing I've done on metal, tell me that they wanted to 'teach me some new things' about metal.
The reason why this is so ridiculous should be readily apparent: musical taste is not some apprenticeship. No one in the world has ever fallen in love with a genre of music over the tutelage of another, and especially not in the overly-structured and obsessive manner that metalheads tend to do it in. Instead, like nearly all taste, they develop it naturally, by exploring their own interests and developing their identity as they grow older. Even metalheads themselves go through this process, but it feels like a huge number of them forget it just as quickly as they go through it in a desperate bid to position themselves as 'serious metalheads'.
Do you want your friends to get into metal? Well, here's how you do it: hang out with them. Be normal. Play your own music around them whenever it's appropriate for you to play your music. Answer any questions that they have about it (preferably in a normal, unfaggy manner, without you going into how 'The Red In the Sky is Ours' is a magnificent recreation of classical music or whatever bullshit you've convinced yourself of lately). If they like it, they'll explore it on their own. If they don't, you'll live. Somehow