You know ’em. You love to hate ’em. Or Hell, maybe you’re one of ’em. Metal elitists and gatekeepers are everywhere online and sadly, the battalion of keyboard warriors that need to touch some fucking grass is growing by the day.
Whether we’re talking about some neckbeard breathing laboriously as they pound out a toxic comment online or the balding, leather jacket clad Cronos lookalike giving you the stink eye for daring to wear a Slipknot shirt to an Immolation show, it’s all the same. These people think they’re out there carrying the torch for metal when in reality they’re just barely letting anyone else enjoy something for once.
Oh yeah baby, we’re talking about gatekeepers. Again. We’ve all had interactions with them at some point, they’re not always as blatantly obvious as the aforementioned stereotypes. Here are some ways to tell if you’re being THAT guy.
You Can’t Shut the Fuck Up
Now I realize this might sound a little ironic coming from a guy writing an article for a news site trying to reach as many readers as possible, but there really is significant value in knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
Gatekeepers, however, cannot comprehend this, and will actively seek out any opportunity to speak at length as a knee-jerk response to the mention of something tangential. It’s one thing to be passionate about something and to enjoy talking about it, but always trying to be the one to set and maintain the tone of a conversation is a subtle yet effective tactic in a gatekeeper’s arsenal. Keep an eye out for it.
You Can’t Take a Joke
Two bands who I have an unabashed love for are Party Cannon and Neckbeard Deathcamp. Both bands sprung up as a parody of the stereotypically rigid and grim facade of brutal death metal and black metal while simultaneously refusing to sacrifice any of the genres’ musicality (as it were). As a result, they’ve set themselves well above a majority of their peers in my eyes. All of their fans know whenever they listen to their music or go to see them at a show that they are in for an extremely enjoyable experience, but a gatekeeper can only scoff and roll their eyes at this perceived flippant disrespect.
If song titles like “Keg Stand By Me” and “The Fetishization ov Asian Women Despite a Demand for a Pure White Race” don’t make you laugh, or if you got mad at the recent video of kids playing Magic: The Gathering in the pit for Frozen Soul, then I got nothing for ya, boss.
You’re a Bad Sport
We’ve all heard it before. “How the fuck did X get on tour with Y and Z? They don’t even fit the bill, it makes no sense.” Or, “Oh God, not these guys again, I’m so sick of hearing about them.” A gatekeeper will invariably try to make it seem like certain kinds of bands are always stealing the spotlight from lesser known, more talented and deserving artists. And while there is some truth to that, it’s rarely intentional and that’s still no reason to bemoan their success.
Work ethic and accessibility are paramount to continued success within the music industry, and if a band that you don’t like beats out another band that you do, then that probably happened for a reason. I personally don’t get Sleep Token at all, but I can’t deny that they have a unique sound and an engaging live show, so my hat is tipped all the same.
Metal’s not going anywhere just because some bands are doing better than others, so calm down my guy.
You Take Joy in the Shortcomings of Others
Schadenfreude is a very real thing. We’re all guilty of it at some point or another, because let’s face it, it’s hard not to crack a smile when a dickhead gets his comeuppance. I mean, we even dunk on Vince Neil from time to time — though come on now. And how many times in your life have you looked at someone else’s bad fortune and thought, “man I’m glad I’m not in that poor bastard’s shoes.” This mentality is opium for a gatekeeper, the sweet addictive ambrosia of validation.
If you’re glad to see someone get blacklisted from the industry for being predatory, mean-spirited, or outright breaking the law, then that’s perfectly reasonable. But celebrating someone’s lack of success just because you don’t vibe with them just makes you look like a dick. Don’t be a dick.
You Lack Perspective
Many metalheads are either stuck in the past or look down on it. The old heads mourn bygone days of excess when metal was fresh and exciting and genuinely frightening to some. Meanwhile, the younger generations refuse to acknowledge the giants whose shoulders they stand upon and see themselves as an improvement rather than a logical continuation.
This is not the case for most, of course, but for the worst ones this lack of perspective creates an unbridgeable schism between themselves and the rest of the community — a gate which only they can keep.
You Probably Don’t Have a Diverse Musical Taste
Metal has always been and will always be a niche underground genre with localized pockets of truly measurable commercial success, but since so many of us are so firmly cocooned within the genre and make it such an integral part of our personality, it can be very easy to lose sight of this.
I myself was guilty of this for a very long time. Thankfully, I got older, loosened up a bit and gained an appreciation for music of all sorts. I came to the realization that there is no “bad” music, only subpar musicians and/or people who get involved for the wrong reasons.
Just like the outside world looks down on metal for being obnoxious and unrefined, so too will a gatekeeper look down on any other style of music that doesn’t fit their own criteria.
Snarky, dismissive comments or giving someone the cold shoulder are nothing new. We’ve all had to contend with it at some point or another, and these things become especially prevalent when a gatekeeper goes to a concert.
Forget the whole “name three songs” shtick, you can find it just as easily in the sideways looks at the bar or smoking areas, or in the incessant ball-busting and waving aside if you do manage to strike up a conversation. It’s more subtle than what one might expect, but it still carries the same weight, and can arguably have an even longer lasting impact by turning off newcomers or the inherently meek.
Gatekeepers either cannot or will not accept the concept of someone disagreeing with them. To their credit, they certainly are a passionate bunch, but if someone has the audacity to dig in their heels and push back, or god forbid stand up for a band or artist who’s getting dragged, they’ve just poured gasoline onto a bonfire.
Suddenly you’re in for a flood of whataboutism, comparisons to a dozen other bands that all sound the same. Sometimes you’ll get hit with my personal favorite gem — “You see, this is part of the problem.” By all means, please keep overplaying your hand and telling on yourselves. You make it too easy.
Perhaps your love affair with metal started with power metal, thrash metal, nu-metal, early 2000’s metalcore, whatever, pick your subgenre. Then over time or through circumstance you lost your taste for it and found yourself migrating to greener pastures. Whatever it is, you’re over it, and you want others to see your point of view so you don’t feel left out in a genre already tailor-made for the outcasts.
This is commonplace and understandable, but a jaded gatekeeper wrongly assumes that everyone else will have the same experience and get that same level of enjoyment out of the alternatives they’re offering. It’s projection combined with elitism, pure and simple.
You Participate in Comment Section Flame Wars
This last one’s for the home team. I see you. To say that this sort of thing is engraved in our culture at this point would be an understatement, but all the same, every time a comment section devolves into a shitstorm it makes us all look bad to the outside world. Naturally, that then actively discourages outsiders or newcomers from giving the rest of the community the chance it deserves.
It might be unintentional, but at the end of the day it’s still gatekeeping. A rose by any other name. Feel free to argue amongst yourselves about how we can all do better in the comments.