It's time for the metal community to embrace the 'gateway' bands

Metal fans are as guilty of elitist behavior as those of any other genre in the world. Perhaps moreso. We're exclusionary, uptight, and often dismissive of anything that falls outside of our predetermined notion of what constitutes "trve metal." We're guilty of it, too. If you've ever spent ten minutes in the abyss that is metal bulletin boards, comment sections, or websites, you'll no doubt have seen one or more of the following quotes.

"This band sucks."
"This shit is gay as hell."
"This isn't REAL metal."

Seeing those derogatory statements, time and time again, it begs a question. How did we get here? Once upon a time, we were all outsiders. Despite what some may claim, metal wasn't always the genre of choice, nor was Burzum the first sound they heard when they exited the womb. It was a journey that brought us to this point, one with stops along the way of which, upon looking back, we might be more than a little embarrassed. But it isn't where we started that matters, as much as that we're all here together.

We've discussed our paths before. My early days listening to music were consumed by Weird Al and Tom Petty. I was introduced to Van Halen and Metallica by my older brother, who had learned of their very existence from an older cousin. But it wasn't until years later that I felt my taste changing. And it was Korn that did it. Looking back, I'm not sure exactly what it was about the band that clicked for me, but it opened my ears to something heavier. From there it was Deftones, a band I still listen to to this day. Then Sevendust. Then, in what seems like a miracle now, someone introduced me to Katatonia. Things were never the same after that.

New Katatonia gave way to older Katatonia, which pushed me to Opeth and Bloodbath. Now things that sounded like jumbled noise sang to me in ways I never could have expected. Those albums led me to explore all of the doom genre, which turned into death/doom, which evolved into a taste for progressive death metal. And, with the formation of this site, it's all just exploded. Styles that felt foreign have become familiar. Black metal is no longer a 'once in a while' venture, but a regular occurrence. Stoner bands are some of our favorites. Thrash is as eye opening as ever. But it all started with Korn.

Now is the time to start embracing the bands that open doors, the ones that can be a 'gateway' into something more, and celebrating how it is we all got here. We can see it happening with the next generation of metal fans, or the current generation, expanding their horizons. Dragonforce revolutionized the music video game market. When Through The Fire And Flame became a smash hit thanks to a place in the Guitar Hero franchise, you could hear the cries from metal fans the world over; "This is garbage," they screamed, stentorian from the mount. "Sloppy, pop music with guitars! Boo!"  But even have a whiff of the power metal tag placed next to their name recruited a new wave of Blind Guardian fans. It inspired countless kids to pick up a guitar, with a goal to make heavy music.

Metalcore brought heavy riffs to the scene kids. Every teenager buying an Asking Alexandria album is a prospective Gojira fan waiting to happen. It's a bridge from one genre to another, a stop gap before they see a brighter light.

And then Babymetal started selling out venues across the globe. Derided as a pop group posing as metal, these three Japanese teen girls and their insanely talented backing band have invigorated an entire demographic, all while being shunned by a large proportionate chunk of our brethren. But here is where we can see the biggest distinction in this whole discussion. No one is asking you to buy these albums. But there is no reason for you to prevent someone else from doing so.

There is value in discovering music this way. You start with something you can call your own, and follow the path where it takes you. One click through Spotify could turn the page. Babymetal fans are directed to Arch Enemy and Children of Bodom. Dragonforce fans to Sonata Arctica and Hammerfall.

The genre of outsiders is gone. We along belong. Regardless of who we are, where we're from, and how we got here, we're all a part of the same community. "No one says, 'I was into Slayer--one summer.' I've never met that guy," said Rob Zombie in the documentary 'Metal: A Headbanger's Journey.' "I've only met the guy who has 'Slayer' carved across his chest."

No one was born with a Slayer logo on their chest. It took time, an open mind, a lot of twists and turns to get this far.