Robert Bejil, Flickr
6. Criminal History
Can't remember who the Vampire of Dusseldorf was or what H. H. Holmes was known for? Luckily, metal has you covered. As the most infamous purveyors of morbid criminal history, Chicago's Macabre have been writing about real-life monsters ever since their debut record in 1987. The band has even written an entire concept album chronicling the life of Jeffrey Dahmer (fittingly entitled Dahmer), from his childhood to the eventual decision to burn the deceased Milwaukee murderer's brain.
But the education doesn't stop there. Japan's Church of Misery has also devoted its entire doomy discography to writing about serial killers, while the appropriately named Canadian band Dahmer takes a faster, more grind approach to the same niche.
5. Foreign Languages
An oddly memorable thing about metal is the amount of useless but impressive foreign language you learn. Any true metalhead can tell you the words for "cold," "darkness," "black," "death" and "grim" in a variety of European languages. Extremely helpful if you find yourself lost in the Swedish city of Örebro and need to find a dungeon or the most supremely evil bathroom.
4. Medical Terminology
One of the most magical things about pre-internet metal was the mythology behind new and old bands alike. We had pardoned murderers, born-again Christians turned Satanists, Greek vampires who were banned from their home countries and, of course, the coolest rumor -- that members of gore-grind bands were medical school students who had gone insane and gotten a record deal. To a fifteen year old in 1998, this was the most intriguing thing to ever happen to your music collection as you take your education in your own hands, skimming through lyric sheets.
If it weren't for bands like Carcass, Exhumed and General Surgery, I would never have come up with the idea to call in sick for my McDonald's shift by claiming I had vomited my anal tract. Or learned that the prefix "hepa" means liver.
Tragically, the medical school rumors were proven false. The lyrics provided a decent layout of terms, but upon asking a real doctor you'll find out most of these strings of literary gore don't mean a thing.
Unless, however, you're reading the lyrics of The County Medical Examiners, a band containing three real medical doctors playing gore-grind under pseudonyms. The band's latest record is unique in another way -- it's a scratch-n-sniff disc that smells like a corpse.
3. History and Culture
What do you know about the Battle of Karelia or the book of folk stories and poems called the Kanteletar? If you listened to far too much Finnish death metal such as Amorphis, then you probably know more than anyone in your office whose last name ends with "onen," "anen" or "inen".
Next time you're in your work lunchroom, forced into a political conversation by that guy who always smells like egg salad, ask him his feelings about Yggdrasil coming out of Ginnungagap and what will happen after we feel the scorching flames of Muspell. Unless he studied Norse mythology (or just listened to Einherjer's Odin Owns Ye All album) he'll probably brand you as a freaky new-ager and stop trying to befriend you. Problem solved.
When I was broke, living in Pittsburgh and working an awful medical collections job, I put up a collection of metal shirts on eBay. I made $80 off a long sleeve shirt from a Swedish black metal band called Dawn. Out of curiosity, I just glanced at eBay now and found a COMPACT DISC of the same band, selling for $84.54. Listening to underground metal taught me the value of collecting obscure crap and selling it years later.
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1. How To Cope With Loss
The greatest thing about heavy metal is that most of its' icons remain firmly planted in their beloved genres. Aside from the obvious exceptions, our heroes generally curdle and mold like the fine mutants we all hoped they'd become -- Danzig hasn't taken off his mesh shirt and Lemmy from Motorhead still has gigantic moles on his face. Unfortunately, this integrity is what also brings us to tragedy. You know how the rock world felt when Lou Reed died? Well, the comparatively small world of metal loses a relative equivalent every single year. 2013 was the year thrash metal lost Jeff Hanneman from Slayer, while 2012 claimed Keith Deen from Holy Terror and Mike Scaccia from Ministry/Rigor Mortis. Luckily, we've learned to cope.