Heavy metal and opera are very similar artistic forms. You probably already know this, but they are, fundamentally, the same. There are differences, yes, I agree, that’s obvious, but the similarities are so basic and true they far outweigh the differences.
What I’m trying to do is bring metal heads and opera (heads?) fans to harmony, and possibly inspire peaceful listening parties where the recipients sit around somebody’s living room and listen to metal and opera interchangeably.
Here is why opera and metal are fundamentally the same breed:
A great English professor from the University of North Dakota once (or twice) said, “I used to hate opera, I said, ‘There’s no melody!'” and then he looked at the ceiling, snorted, and shouted, “but then I realized the whole thing is a melody.”
That is my point about both metal and opera. The melodies are rather indistinct to the unseasoned listener, who hears both types of music as a lot of abject noise with no relation between sounds and decibels. The melodies are there, I assure you, in any great metal album or opera performance, but have to be paid attention to, and be gotten used to.
Once the melodies become clear, they open up, grow, and are suddenly fascinating, elaborate swatches of musical delight.
The Singing Cannot Be Understood
Yes, this is true. The words in a good metal song are usually unrecognizable, and so are the words during an opera (even if you know Italian). This may annoy some listeners, but for those of us that enjoy feelings through glass-shattering wails, or growling screams, opera and metal are equally satisfying.
Metal Shows and Opera Performances Happen to Be Very Theatrical
If there is any musical genre to compare to the theatrical nature of opera, it is metal. I’m thinking Gwar, Bloodbath, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Morbid Angel. You get the point. I don’t want this article to be about lists. Just as the Opera is about theater, and ‘going to a show’, while its players use big arm gestures, jaunty steps, and heavy stage presence, metal is much the same.
Both Genres Are Very Bombastic
Bombastic means, we shall say, inflated and pretentious. Pretentious means ‘making an exaggerated show, characterized by the assumption of dignity; ostentatious’. Ostentatious means, ‘characterized by conspicuous show to impress others, intended to attract. Is this not heavy metal music, with its painted faces, tattoos, black clothing, speed guitar? Is this not the opera, with its swaggering tenor, elaborate scenes, and its pretty, swooning peach singing the arias?
If anything, metal music has an operatic effect. I posit that both genres are not related like first cousins, but are entangled like the sweaty, desperate embraces of two drunken lovers.
What would this article be without examples? First is a live video of the gore metal band, GWAR. Second is a video of Wagner’s Ring Production, from 1974.