Me, You, and Metalcore

Dee Richards
5 min readApr 24, 2024

In January 1995, I had insisted upon a Friday the 13th party just before my 13th birthday. I don’t remember who, if anyone, attended this party at this point in life. I do remember watching Children of the Corn and Candyman while eating popcorn and those little boxes of movie theater candy (at their appropriately thematic times). I saw absolutely no issue whatsoever in wanting a Friday the 13th party at the time, of course, but I’ve since learned that it made me “creepy.” The nineties was the time where the cliche of the high-school goth came into being. Suddenly, being “creepy” was a quirk and there were “tons” of people like me. So I got my first black lipstick and eyeliner, and it launched into a personal definition that I held onto for the next 15 years of life. It was a self-definition which saved me for a time, and one that ended up being completely toxic.

I didn’t really intend on being such a stereotypical goth, I started reading The Sandman at a very young age (check out my blog post on this here) and was a horror-movie fanatic after seeing Candyman — strangely, Children of the Corn didn’t hook me the way it should have hooked a rebellious tween. When the school library first got “the web,” I discovered this whole subculture of horror-obsessed, darkness-loving weirdos. So much of my childhood had been spent being told that I wasn’t good enough at anything and being a constant disappointment to my mother. Discovering something that was just for me, being goth, was my savior. As I struggled with severe, untreated depression, I thought at the ways I would never be what anyone wanted me to be. And that’s when goth saved my life. I could define myself, revel in my weirdness, and be accepted somewhere in the world. I wasn’t a weirdo to people who also had Friday the 13th parties and read Neil Gaiman.

Is there an easy way to tell when a relationship becomes toxic? It was the gatekeepers that killed this beautiful thing. There were the Victorian Goths who were trying to live like vampires (some even truly believed they were); Corporate Goths, who I found to be largely dedicated to being goth only on the weekends; Cyber Goths, which I will go into a bit more; and Deathrockers — where I ended up. Let me backtrack a bit and say that, due to my love of goth-seeming things, I imagined that I had truly found my family in goths. Before attending my first 21+ club, I thought we were seriously going to sit around at the club and talk about writing and progressive politics and being outcasts. I was mistaken, of course. When I realized what it was, I became obsessed with fitting into this group, which I saw as my family. That’s where the gatekeepers began: if you dressed up on the weekends only, you were a poser. If you didn’t listen to the music, you were a poser. If you didn’t know certain bands, you were a poser. The rules became further and further constricting. So much so that I ended up being the exact gatekeeper that I had hated when just starting out (more on that in this post).

The further you venture into legitimacy, the more you become a gatekeeper, the more you become a hate-seeker. At the very bottom of that pool for me was Deathrock. Mind you, it was the early 2000’s. The Deathrock scene might be very different now than it was then, but I sought legitimacy at the cost of my own morals. I (admittedly unknowingly) listened to neo-Nazi bands that were preached to be important to the Deathrock scene. I threw out the word “poser” like it was the ultimate insult. I became a trash person that I am seriously embarrassed now to admit that I was. In the Deathrock scene, post-early-90’s Industrial music was seen as garbage. The many variations of goth identity were all pretense. But the worst of all were the cybergoths, then called “gravers” due to their mix of the two popular cultural movements, ravers and goths. They were considered a bastardization of both cultures; I know because I ended up marrying a raver. The “gravers” were the seeds for the Emo movement in the 2010’s. So, with blind rage based entirely on ridiculous gatekeeping, I HATED Emo.

I seriously have carried this distaste for Emo well beyond its usefulness. We’re all Millenials, so why even bother? Well, I was so entrenched in the thought that the only way to prove one’s own legitimacy was to revoke that of others. I’ve, largely, let go of that thinking, and tried to encourage goth outreach in my community in 2007 to 2010 as a sort of penance for being a fucking moron. But I could never really let go of this useless anger about Emos. It only happened this year, in fact. Last year, I had been playing my favorite hits from high school on repeat for months: Orgy, Korn, Rob Zombie, etc. I was pretty tired of it, but didn’t know where else to go. Then, I found Ice Nine Kills and my jaw dropped. A killer metal band that did music about horror movies?! What the actual fuck? I wondered: where had they been the whole time? Then I found out: they were originally part of the Emo scene (yeah, the vocals gave it away a little). Suddenly, I had to contend with my prejudice. It was tell the old me to fuck off completely and listen to awesome music, or hang on to something that no longer served any part of me. It was an easy decision.

As I’ve dug deeper into metal music, I am not at all surprised that some people still hang on to the BS gatekeeping that limited me and led me down a very bad path toward being a serious asshole. I’m so thankful to have departed from that. But, the old demon of self-doubt whispers: “You’re a poser.” In comes the dudes from Opal in Sky, who regularly tell me that I’m not. Once I’ve released myself of the yoke of worrying about my legitimacy, I was able to really open up into metalcore music: Spiritbox, Stained with Silver, Motionless in White, Imminence, and The Plot in You are current favorites. And no, I don’t care who thinks these bands are metalcore or not; I’m not worried about those labels now. So, now I’m what is called a “MetalHead” I guess, despite having ZERO tattoos or piercings, not liking moshpits, and not really worrying who thinks INK isn’t metal. All because I got the fuck over my pointless, amorphous hate of anything remotely “Emo” or not a “legitimate” band. Considerations of legitimacy are steeped in white imperialism, and that doesn’t vibe with me at all. I like this music A LOT and I’m way too old to waste my time trying to learn to love a band because it’s considered “authentic.” And you know what? You can let go of those ties too, metalheads. Free yourself from that thinking which keeps you immersed in gatekeeping mentality. You are a metalhead if you like metal — that is the only qualifying rule. Let’s just let everyone in and fuckin’ rock out together!

Afterthought: Screamo was actually super-fucking legit. From Wikipedia, “Screamo is strongly influenced by hardcore punk and characterized by the use of screamed vocals.[3] Lyrical themes usually include emotional pain, death, romance, and human rights.” That’s cool as hell. Metalcore is a more advanced version of Screamo. So take that me from 15 years ago!



Dee Richards

Dee is a neurodiverse writer from San Diego, with 3 awards in CNF & 9 short-form pubs. Subjects: feminism, identity theory, surrealism, horror, media analysis.