Serving Teen Metalheads in the Library

March 22, 2013

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Photo Credit: “052” by Robert Bejil used under a Creative Commons license

As I’ve finished my Masters and truly entered librarianship, I’ve wondered about a couple of things: A) What can I bring to the library table? B) How can this blog help other librarians?

And it struck me: what am I doing to serve certain niche groups? Sure it’s easy to serve teens into dystopian fiction or who like food programming; but who am I not serving well? Who can I serve better?

To answer those questions I began thinking about my interests and my teen interests. A couple of my library’s frequent patrons are card-carrying teen metalheads. They wear Iron Maiden shirts. They play in bands with three lead guitarists. They rock out hard to Metallica (only putting in headphones when I remind them of our headphone rule). Metal sometimes gets a bad rep. Long hair. Dirty t-shirts. Devil worship. Worse. Not to mention, the music itself can be loud, angry, and sometimes incomprehensible. While I agree One Direction is easier listening (fantastic pop, BTW), challenging our tastes to better serve our patrons is just as important. But you don’t have to do it alone. There are people out there who can help you out. To get the conversation started, I’ve written this post as a bare bones “collection development” guide for librarians serving teen metalheads (and I’ve brought in a few experts to help the cause).

BTW – I’m using metalhead as a blanket term. It’s an easy cultural reference. It may not be the greatest term, but this is a broad-ish post.

My first expert is actually one of my teen metalheads. I asked him to tell me his five favorite albums (These aren’t in order, but they are his top 5), and I tried to keep this in mind when developing the rest of this post.

  1. Megadeth-Rust in Peace
  2. Iron Maiden-The Number of the Beast
  3. Metallica-Master of Puppets
  4. Anthrax-Among the Living
  5. Slayer-Seasons in the Abyss

The top 5 albums for this teen includes mostly thrash (all thrash? I don’t really understand the subgenres. If it rocks, I’ll listen to it.) His list also includes no new albums, which seems to jibe with what I’ve seen from my teens. They are perhaps developing their tastes from their parents, and so they start with the classics. This may not be true for every community, but our metalheads don’t necessarily want new or progressive albums (or they don’t go out of their way to find them). This is probably true for many teens, who are just starting to develop their identities. Listening to Metallica may be as rebellious as some teens ever get.

It’s important to develop a core collection for teens starting to develop and interest in metal/hard rock/loud music. There is no reason to go too crazy here. Look for what is popular in your community and develop your collection based on that. I think most teen collections should have (or their librarians should be aware of) the following albums (I should point out that I am using a loose interpretation of metal, I ask that any metal purists help add to these titles.):

  1. Metallica-Metallica (The Black Album): The common thinking is older Metallica is better. That is true. Although, “Enter Sandman” is a heck of a song, and this is an extremely popular album.
  2. Pantera-Cowboys From Hell: My teens love the fact that Pantera started as a glam rock band. Pantera was the cool thing to listen to when I was in high school, that seems to still be the case.
  3. Iron Maiden: Somewhere Back in Time Best of 1980-1989: This was a roll of the dice. Iron Maiden is prolific. Grab a best of and see what hits. Also, their mascot is named “Eddie.”
  4. Motorhead-Ace of Spades: “Ace of Spades” was on a Guitar Hero game. It’s an easy introduction. Who would win in a fight Lemmy or God?
  5. Guns N’ Roses-Appetite for Destruction: It’s iconic. It rocks. My teens still dig it.
  6. Falling in Reverse-The Drug in Me is You: Learn the name Ronnie Radke.
  7. My Chemical Romance-The Black Parade: It’s hard to classify this as a metal album, but it fits that mold better than others. Plus, with a lyric like, “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me,” it is perfect for this post. Plus, Gerard Way (lead singer) wrote the awesome Umbrella Academy comics.
  8. Slipknot-Antennas to Hell: Sometimes you have to include stuff you don’t like. Slipknot has fans. The album Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) checks out more than Antennas. However, Antennas is a greatest hits album and includes “Wait and Bleed,” which is a solid Slipknot track.
  9. Anything by AC/DC: We have the entire AC/DC discography in our teen area, and they check out just as much (if not more) as a Taylor Swift album (which your library should also have.)

So that’s the core, but if you are feeling adventurous, I recommend the following five recent albums:

  1. Baptists-Bushcraft: One of my favorites of 2013 (already). Loud. Heavy. Fast. Canadian.
  2. Overkill-The Electric Age: I recommended this to the above teen and he is in love with it.
  3. The Unclean-The Eagle: Played this at the library and everyone loved it. It has a classic rock feel.
  4. Converge-All We Love We Leave Behind: YEAH!
  5. Author & Punisher-Ursus Americanus: One of the most fantastic albums I heard last year (albeit very late). Check out some video to see the crazy instruments this guy makes/plays.

I also promised some experts, and I’ve been yammering quite a bit. I approached Brandon Duncan, Overlord (Co-Overlord?) of Backlit Zine and friend, for a little assitance when I was writing this post. I can talk on and on about metal my community enjoys, but what albums to other metalheads think are important for teens to listen to. So Duncan and a couple other writers from Backlit gave me some input. My question was a little wonky: What five albums (new or old) do you think teen metal fans need to get their hands/ears on? I clarified by adding: I’d like to have some things they may not have heard of and albums that were important to your youth. Here are their choices:

Brandon Duncan:

  1. Emperor – In The Nightside Eclipse
  2. Incantation – Diabolical Conquest
  3. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner
  4. Danzig – 1-4 (I know that’s a copout but they are all crucial listening)
  5. Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer
  6. Another addition from Brandon: CanNOT believe I didn’t think of this before – but Napalm Death-SCUM HAAASSS to be included. Essential for all metal heads!

Dan Obstkrieg:

  1. Nile – Black Seeds of Vengeance
  2. Cradle of Filth – Cruelty and the Beast
  3. Opeth – Blackwater Park
  4. Dream Theater – Scenes from a Memory
  5. Neurosis – Through Silver in Blood

Jordan Campbell:

  1. Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales
  2. Sepultura – Chaos A.D.
  3. Type O Negative – World Coming Down
  4. Strapping Young Lad – City
  5. Akercocke – Words that Go Unspoken, Deeds that Go Undone

Finally, when librarians are attempting to serve teens, especially teens who have interests outside of our comfort zone, it is important to remember, we don’t have to know everything. We also don’t have to be the coolest people in the room. If you want to reach out to teen metalheads, try listening to them. Ask them what they are interested in, then do a little research. Part of our responsibilities as librarians is to communicate to teens that their interests matter to us. It’s fairly simple to find stuff they may be interested in. Here are a few resources to get you started:

  1. Decibel Magazine – “America’s only monthly metal magazine”
  2. AP Magazine – This magazine covers varying ranges of loud music, from punk to metalcore. I personally like the monthly Essentials feature.
  3. About.com: Heavy Metal – Great Coverage, including album releases.
  4. Backlit Zine – Cool, well-designed ‘Zine with some awesome writers who were cool enough to help me with this post.
  5. Billboard Hard Rock Charts – You don’t have to break your back to find popular metal/hard rock. iTunes also have charts of the most purchased metal, etc.
  6. AV Club’s Loud – I’m a huge fan of the AV Club. Great writing. Decent coverage.
  7. Noisecreep’s Top 10 Heavy Metal Books – Since this is a post for librarians. 😉

Special shoutout to my coworker Holly for helping me develop the core collection and listened to me talk about this post for several days. She also made a great Goth and Industrial playlist that you might want to take a look at. I’ve included a playlist of stuff discussed in this post. For the most part I included the first song on an album, unless I wanted to include something else. Give it a listen.

2 Responses to “Serving Teen Metalheads in the Library”

  1. Grace Budde Says:

    Music started playing when I opened up this website, so annoying!

    • Scott Says:

      Sorry Grace. I don’t see anything about the music autoplaying. And you’d have to have Spotify installed and open for it to start. It is a post about music. Thanks for visiting.


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