Yes, this is a departure. A number of odd snowballing things have been in my head lately, and so I present the following:
First, let me say that my biography goes like this, where "metal" is concerned:
1985 or 86: suburban teenager discovers Led Zeppelin and is converted. INSTANTLY. You would have been too, if "Thriller" had been your early teen anthem (1984).
1988: college, rooming with "real" metalheads. You name it, we had it: Metallica, Poison, Venom, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Bloodfeast, Cinderella, Def Leppard, all of it. We didn't draw lines between pop metal and death metal or any of the micro-categories.
1989: burn out on metal, and turn to the Stones, the Beatles, later the Dead and Pink Floyd, but...
1991: still college. Nirvana happens. Jane's Addiction appears on the radar. The Smashing Pumpkins creep into the light. First Lollapalooza festival: Henry Rollins, Butthole Surfers, NIN, Living Colour, Jane's.
What really set this post off was the moment of "high living" or what you might call "loud living" or "awareness," some sort of blip on the Graphic Equalizer of Life, which is represented by the years from 1991-1993.
So now, We Proudly Present, THAT IS SO METAL!!
There are many varieties of head-banging, some more metal than others. Some are downright suburban and reserved solely for "metal posers" and "metal wannabe's." Please witness the following categories:
1) The Suburban Commuter. This is headbanging which can safely be done while negotiating highway traffic. You've seen it. It's that polite little bop along with the beat. This is "non-metal" because it doesn't cause lingering neck-aches the next day as well as because it is strictly "on-beat" and thus lacks a certain aesthetic decoration.
2) The Mike Myers. This is headbanging done without music, or even if it's done with music, it has no real relationship to the music, and so therefore is immediately "poser" unless done by Mike Myers in his guise as "Wayne," in which case it is a clever parody of poser-metal, and thus can be said to be "so metal"!
Wayne is, like, SO metal.
3) The Metallica I. Also known as The Maiden. A lot of heavy metal music relies on distortion, but with palm-muting and rapid strumming, which creates a rapid-fire, relatively clean "machine gun" line of notes, often doubled by a bass line. At the start of a song, this cues the metalheads to start banging. Later in a song, it often serves as the backdrop for a solo or (ye gods!) a double-bass drum break (Neal Peart's work with Rush, while largely debatable as "metal" in most cases, is TOTALLY metal when it comes to drum solos).
To do the Metallica I, stand. Bend the knees slightly. Hang the hands low, as if holding a heavy guitar on a long strap slung around the shoulders. Inhale and lengthen the spine, and then exhale and commence banging the head, with the spine otherwise erect. This is quick, short, fast headbanging. It is "Metal 101." If you can't pass this class, you can't go on to graduate work in metal.
4) The Metallica II. If you've got a sufficient morning neck-ache from doing the Metallica I, you're ready for the slightly riskier Metallica II. Here the spine is more engaged in the headbang. One option is to assume the position of the Metallica I, round the spine over about halfway, and then bang not just the head but the whole thoracic spine. These can be long, slower, curvier headbangs, and are especially metal when done by those with long, tossable hair. Another option is to round the spine as above, and with spine rounded, simply toss the head up and back, to its full range of forward and backward motion. This will result in greater neck aches the following day for all but the HARDEST metalheads, but anyone who sees you ripping off the Metallica II will say, "Dude, that guy/chick is SO METAL!!"
5) Aesthetic options: here we must discuss rhythm. It is easiest to bang one's head along with the beat, and most heavy metal is luckily inconsistent in its rhythmic structure, giving ample opportunities for metalheads to develop multiple head-banging talents. HOWEVER, it is not TRULY metal to stick strictly to the beat. True metalheads change up and elaborate around, between and sometimes regardless of the beat. Some of the things you will see (and do! be METAL!) are:
a) the head-roll: you can swing your head in circles rather than the classical forward-back. This, again, is more metal with long hair.
b) the head-pop: again, instead of classical forward-back, the head pop is a half-headbang, as if you've just been punched under the chin. It is often accompanied by an open-mouthed expression, again duplicating the "I've just been socked" gesture, and indicates a metalhead entering the head-banging "metal trance."
c) throwing the goat: this is a hand gesture, popularized at Ozzy concerts. Classically, the index and little fingers point, with the thumb wrapped around the middle two fingers. The hand then "bangs" like a head. This is throwing the goat.
For a demonstration of many of the above techinques, see this tune.
6) Metal goes 1990s. Metal's heyday, as we all know, was the 1980s. But the news is good, my friends! Metal lives on! Sure, Nirvana isn't REALLY metal, but if you've ever been in a Nirvana or a Nine Inch Nails or a Jane's Addiction mosh pit, you know the spirit (and the bruising) lives! And this is to say nothing of gigs like Ministry. Now there is both good and bad news for Old School Metalheads here: first, stuff like Ministry is totally suited to the Metallica I. Hurrah! However, tolerance for various non-metal types like goth kids and punks has to be developed by metalheads at these shows, and certain Old School Metalheads are going to be challenged there (come on boys, you can mellow out without becoming hippies, I know you can...).
The other good news is that "psychedelic metal" actually inherits certain elements from Dead-trance-dances. Yes, it's true, even hippies can be metal! Shocker! Will marvels never cease? It's a postmodern world, metalheads, and you've gotta become material girls if you want to live in it. So put on your tie-dye and throw the goat! At the new mix of gothish-punkish-industrial-metal-psychedelia shows, you'll see some headbanging variants such as:
a) Viparita Headbang. This is like the Metallica II, but done by very flexible people. With feet planted, they "tic-toc" back and forth, head banging virtually from the ground behind them to the ground in front. Sometimes you'll also see:
b) Viparita with a Twist: This is the Metallica II (or the Viparita) done with a spinal twist, so that the headbanger rotates not just up and back but also outward side to side (ex.: down left front, up right back, swing to up left back, bang forward to down right, repeat). This is very challenging stuff and can result in aching from the lower back to the top of the head. These people can and will also bang their heads INTO YOU, so look out!
c) The Psychedelic. This is a hippie-ish headbang, but my sources tell me that in New School Metal, it counts! Slower than the Metallicas, this is basically slow-motion headbanging, again, ideally done with long hair. For the psychedelic set, the slow drifting of hair strands helps to create interesting visuals. For the ahimsa set, this is very unlikely to cause morning neck aches. You will also see the headroll added here, and you may see goat-throwing or even some quick moments of the Metallica I or II. That's one of the best benefits of hippie metallists: they generally embrace everyone!
Now go and bang your head! You know you wanna!