One of the reasons I listen to metal, as much as I can get my hands on, fascinated and curious and critical, is that it is new and innovative and evolving and electrified with life in a way that a lot of the Western-classical-tradition music I study isn’t. And the innovation is fascinating: quite literally; it draws me in.
And I know the classical tradition continued to innovate, into serialism and minimalism and so forth - but honestly, those aren’t really my type of thing. I learn about them and analyse them and compose them when I have to, but in their pure form they aren’t what I am passionate about or looking for, and they aren’t things I can connect with. (Some of them are fascinating - like Messiaen - but still not my style.)
That isn’t to say that I don’t listen to and appreciate Western classical music; I do, very much. I listen and learn and study because there is good music, music I enjoy, and there are useful techniques to learn about, and basically the more I know about music and how it works and how to put it together and take it apart and make particular sounds, the better off I will be as a composer whatever genre I end up in.
Another thing you find in metal, though, which I personally haven’t found often in Western classical music, is a transmission of raw emotion. Anger, sadness, loud grief, wonder. All of these very strong emotions. And maybe you don’t get them so much in Western classical music because it wasn’t so much designed for expressing these, and they weren’t really socially acceptable to scream about. And maybe you do but they just don’t resonate with me. I don’t know; it could be either.
But this type of transmission of strong emotion through music filled in a missing link for me; a gap I had always felt in how I related to music. I had never previously been able to feel like I was living it, like I could feel it in me and relate to it fully. And I knew you were supposed to be able to do that, and I thought I was doing something wrong in that I couldn’t. And then at age 17 or so I discovered metal, slowly, bit by bit, and I found a world in which I could relate to the music, in which I could live it and feel enthralled with it and where all things were right about it.
And it helped me, as well. Helped me with mental health stuff, and does to this day. Helps me get up and keep going and not stop. Reminds me that anger is okay and righteous anger is good. Reminds me of my gods. (Both with regards to pagan metal and just in general.)
But this is why I have so much more confidence now that I am a musician, or a lot of why. Because I found the genre of music about which I am passionate. Where I am sitting at three am talking about the differences between death metal and trad metal and the influences of various bands. Where I will listen for pleasure, always, and where I compose for pleasure as best I can. The type of music that my whole body and mind are involved with. It is amazing and fascinating and wonderful.