Three More Things That (Visual) Artists Can Learn From Heavy Metal Music

Well, as something of a continuation of an article about the heavy metal genre and artistic inspiration that I posted a few days ago, I thought that I’d look at a few more things that (visual) artists can learn from the heavy metal genre.

1) Humour, silliness and theatricality: One of the brilliant things about heavy metal music is that, despite the melodramatic imagery that is often associated with it, it doesn’t always take itself entirely seriously.

There are too many examples of humourous metal songs to list here, but they include songs like “Born To Be Epic” by Equilibrium, “Metal Inquisition” By Piledriver, pretty much anything by Alestorm, “Mr. Torture” by Helloween etc…

Even more “serious” metal often tends to have a slightly tongue-in-cheek element to it that is absolute joy to listen to. These songs are deliberately melodramatic in a way that makes them much less “serious” than they might initially appear to be. Some examples of this kind of song include “Kill For Metal” By Iron Fire, “Iron Maiden” by Iron Maiden, “For Your Vulgar Delectation” by Cradle Of Filth, “Metal Machine” by Sabaton etc..

So, what does any of this have to do with art? Well, including the visual equivalent of this kind of thing in your art can be a great way to give your paintings or drawings a distinctive look.

Including overly melodramatic (but knowingly humourous) horror imagery and/or dark humour in your art can really make it stand out from the crowd.

Although this is something that I should probably do a lot more in my own art, I’ve experimented with it a bit, like in this digitally-edited painting called “Skeleton Service” (which was originally inspired by old horror novel covers):

"Skeleton Service" By C. A. Brown

“Skeleton Service” By C. A. Brown

2) Minimalist storytelling: One of the great things about heavy metal songs is that they sometimes contain a certain amount of storytelling. Whilst this is hardly exclusive to the metal genre, it seems to be a much larger feature of the metal genre compared to many other genres. Within the space of just 100-500 words, a metal song can tell a dramatic story in a similar manner to the epic narrative poems of old.

For example, Judas Priest’s “The Sentinel” tells a story about gladiatorial combat in a post-apocalyptic world using just 189 words. Iron Maiden’s “Number Of The Beast” tells the story of someone witnessing an evil ritual using just 301 words. Turisas’ “To Holmgard And Beyond” tells the story of an epic Viking sea voyage (with multiple fictional characters) in just 279 words etc…

So, again, what does all this writing-based stuff have to do with art?

Well, it’s all to do with the power of minimalist storytelling. When you make art, you often have to tell part of a story within the space of a single image and often without using words.

So, learning the value of compact, minimalist (visual) storytelling can be incredibly useful. And learning how to focus on important details, important events etc.. is something that listening to narrative-based metal songs can help you with.

3) Metal Covers: One of the awesome things about the metal genre, especially within the past couple of decades, is that metal bands will occasionally cover non-metal songs in a metal style. Sometimes, this is just done for laughs, but it can often give these songs more intensity and depth than they originally had.

Examples include Cradle Of Filth’s dramatic covers of both Shakespeares Sister’s “Stay” and The Sisters Of Mercy’s “No Time To Cry”, The Birthday Massacre’s cover of James And The Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now”, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter’s Cover of “Ghost Riders In The Sky”, Nightwish’s epic cover of Gary Moore’s “Over The Hills And Far Away”, Alestorm’s hilarious cover of Taio Cruz’s “Hangover”, Inkubus Sukkubus’ creative cover of Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves” etc…

So, yet again, what does any of this have to do with art?

First of all, it isn’t a suggestion that you should directly copy other people’s art. With a very small number of exceptions (eg: private practice, parodies, making studies of out-of-copyright paintings etc..) this is usually considered to be plagiarism. So, stick to just taking inspiration from art that you consider to be cool.

Anyway, the reason why I mentioned metal covers is because they’re often examples of a band showing off their own distinctive “style”. It’s also an example of why it’s so important to develop your own unique art style since, like with metal covers of non-metal songs, whatever you paint or draw will be distinctly “yours”.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Now, listen to some metal \m/

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