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The Characters, the Community, and their Impact on the Scene

There has always been a special bond among metalheads. No matter where a person comes from, how old they are or whatever else they may be into, if they are a true and pure metalhead, they are presumptively cool. Metalheads, on the whole, feel a connection with one another on the basis of musical taste alone. That connection is part of the beauty of heavy metal.

Which makes the development of a sense of community within the metal scene so important. Particularly for metalheads living in remote geographic locations, the institution of metal needs to constantly build upon and foster the bond between us all. Nothing has done more to enable the growth of this type of metal "community" than the explosion of the Internet. Yes folks, it's true: the worldwide, centralized metal community has once again manifested itself, resurfacing after years of the post-Nirvana music industry backlash which nearly drove it away. Today, the metal scene is alive and well. Want to see it in action? Want to see where the scene lives on-line? Spend some time on the Internet metal message boards.

For the uninitiated, message boards are Internet web pages that display a list of "threads," or links to various user-submitted discussion topics with titles purporting to describe the content of the discussion inside. Behind the threads, user-listed comments (commonly referred to as "follow-ups") are consecutively displayed in the order of submission, with the most recent comments added to the end of the thread. On the main page of the board, where all these threads are listed, the newest are stacked on top of the older ones. Topics and comments are often referred to as "posts" and are attributed to the particular user who submitted it, for both original threads, as well as for follow-ups. Finally, each time a new comment is added to a topic, that thread is moved to the top of the list of links on the main board page. Confused? You needn't be. Just a quick ten-minute visit to one of the boards linked below should get you right up to speed.

The content of the discussion on the boards is a product of pure democracy: the most popular threads often hang around for days at a time and are presented first when new users visit the site. If a topic fails to catch on and few or no other users add comments, the topic disappears, or "falls off," within a few hours. Popularity reigns supreme, at least when it comes to discussion topics. Unlike presidential elections, on the message boards, there are no recounts.

The appeal of the boards is best stated by those who use them regularly: "I'm totally addicted to metal boards," says "HardBoard" (the moniker of the message board found at poster "Heathermetal." "Metal is part of my soul and its refreshing to hook up with other people who feel the same way that I do -- and who can carry on a intelligent discussion." Beyond mere personal interaction, the boards also have high informational value. "It's a great way to make contacts, hear about new material, and set up shows for out-of-town bands," says "YOB," who regularly posts at the board and occasionally to the board at You can be sure that if something happens in the metal community, you'll read about it first on the Internet metal message boards. Novice board users need to be aware, however, that all information obtained on a board should be checked through a credible source, such as the "news" sections of official band or label sites, and not necessarily taken at face value, as many unsavory types post blatant falsities under the guise of truth. Still, mere rumors and even out-and-out lies can be fun if taken with the appropriate grain of salt.

Interaction on the boards can often result in actual, "physical-world" friendships. The HardBoard helped "Heathermetal" meet fellow metalheads in her home town of Nashville, TN. "Going to the few metal shows that take place in Nashville is now a total blast," she says. The common bond shared with fellow posters can also prove to be a strong foundation for real-world companionship. Says "Heathermetal" of the folks she's met in person: "They share the same passion for metal that I do." The value of such connections should not be understated. Finding people who share that same metal passion is can be difficult for fans living in remote locations, and thus, the ability to do so is one of the boards' main attractions. Says "Dark Reign," another HardBoard poster: "It is difficult to find people with similar tastes because masses follow popularity and are quite fickle, thus making their opinions useless to me. At boards . . . we can meet and discuss things that we might not otherwise have another outlet to discuss."

Even the boards dedicated to a single band can spawn a loyal following, says "6Serial6Killer6," who posts at "Sure there's a lot of talk about Machine Head, but even if there's nothing going on in the Machine Head world, there's ALWAYS things going on at the board. Different bands, trading, weird stories, personal stories and I'd have to say a lot of the people actually hook up with one another, so it's a weird family really." "Family" is a word you hear often when discussing the relationships the boards engender, and getting together in the cyber-world often translates into getting together in person. For example, / Lapland poster "Ganley" describes the fun he and a large group of fellow posters had when they got together in person at last year's March Metal Meltdown, where Deceased sent a song out to regular poster "Blizzard Beast" and the rest of the board community. "Fatalcharm" explains why she feels such a bond with fellow HardBoard posters, "It just seems people versed with the knowledge of classic metal just happen to be witty creative ones."

One of the best parts of the message boards are the characters and personalities that emerge. The most organized and structured message board communities even develop rules of etiquette, social norms, clear leaders and villains who can be "banned" or exiled from the board. The identities of participants on the boards are determined by their "screen names." Screen names can be extraordinarily creative, and in the metal world they range from the random ("HomerJ742," "nitro4040") to the silly ("untrendy geek," "neg 1," "Vertical Invader") to the sinister-sounding ("Metal Demon," "foul fiend," "pentaclekills," "Raider") to the band-related ("Nevermore26," "Up the Irons," "Twenty2AcaciaAve," "Dimebag3000," "RATTQUEEN") to the shocking/repulsive ("Vomit Rot," "Another Dead Fetus"). But the names become larger than mere titles, they identify otherwise anonymous individuals, and, over time, certain names become revered and certain others reviled.

"Lockfist" tells earnest stories of the glory days of the HardBoard which involve names like "Metalfilm1," "SpritOnParole," "Night-Breed," "DeathtofalseMetal," "Nitro4040," and "HeatherMetal." These funny names have actual people behind them. And after the funny names type enough messages to each other, over time, they get to know each other. They become friends. They get in fights. Some take their ball and go home. But the community that develops can be fascinating. Anyone who stops by these virtual metal town squares for more than a day or so can easily get caught up in the humor, the drama, and the metal of it all. In the end, the boards' users almost unanimously agree: whatever they are, the boards are simply a whole lot of fun.

But they're even more than just fun. The boards empower posters as well, giving them a global voice not otherwise available on such a scale. "Necropolis Rising" tells of actually using his board postings to land his band a favorable review in the Metal Maniacs print magazine, and to get a photo he took of Megadeth published in the magazine as well. On the message boards, everyone is on equal footing. And on the message boards, you never know who's gonna read what you wrote. Word on the street is that Phil Anselmo and Danny Lilker have posted on the Relapse board, that members of Manowar, and Katyklysm have shown up at Metal Maniacs, and that Deceased, October 31, and Satyricon members stop by Lapland with varying frequency. This means that today's metalheads get something the previous generations did not have: the opportunity to interact on a regular basis with the bands they listen to. Says Mike Smith, guitarist for Deceased, "I'm sure that I would have been star struck if I could have talked to Steve Harris on-line when I was younger. In fact, I'd be star struck if I talked to him now!"

With all of this in mind, I decided to spend some time "lurking" (hanging out reading messages without posting or making my presence known) at four sites, to get a sense of who was posting, what they were talking about, and what this had to do with the metal scene in general. After a while, I got in touch with a number of the board regulars to get a sense of the history and identity of their respective on-line homes. Here's what I learned:

I felt that this was my logical launching-off point. The print version of Metal Manaics is in many ways the default, central authority for the U.S. scene. Whatever other characteristics underground metalheads may have, they all seem to read Metal Maniacs. So I checked out the site, and they have a very active bulletin board.

Here, you will find general metal discussions on par with the scope of coverage found in the print magazine. The board's "Moderator"[1] explains that all types of metalheads show up on the Maniacs board, ranging from "At the Gates and Vader fans to Running Wild and Omen fans to Beherit and Gorgoroth fans." Unfortunately, the magazine's status as a virtual definer of the metal culture in the twenty-first century United States means that the board also attracts a fair number of metal-haters looking to stir up some trouble and or/pick an on-line fight through the anonymity of their computers. Within the bulletin board culture, these people are generally known as "Trolls."[2] "The variety sets up a lot of conflict sometimes," says the Moderator. "There's never a day when everyone agrees with everyone, or when a flame war[3] doesn't break out in some fashion."

This long-standing dynamic has led to some interesting drama over the last year to year-and-a-half. Respected regular poster "Ganley" is as much of a default historian of the board as anyone, having come to the Maniacs board for the first time "some time in March or April of last year." "Ganley" describes the period from then until December 1999 as the board's heyday. And while even back then "Ganley" visited other locations, the community which developed at made him want to stick around and make that board his home. "I did lurk on some other boards without posting and noticed that our little 'community' was a lot more closely knit than others. There was just something there that other boards didn't seem to have." Part of it might have been the "insider" status of many of the posters the Maniacs board attracted. "We had a group full of people who were just as Metal as you could get, band members, some Metal Maniacs writers, etc.," says "Ganley", who reminisces fondly about several "legendary" topics from this era including "the Mike G thread," "the thread about The Dillinger Escape Plan and what made music 'art'," and "the many religion topics."

According to "Ganley", the informational value of the site was top-notch as well. "There was always a sense of reliability from the members on recommending what CD's to buy. I've discovered tons of bands due to people from the board and the same goes for many others." "Lockfist," who in addition to Metal Maniacs also posts at the Megadeth bulletin board as well as the HardBoard, agrees. "Internet Bulletin Boards are currently my sole source of music recommendations. The process goes something like this - Find people with similar tastes / compare and contrast / download from Napster / buy. Many times I skip Napster in favor of straight purchase on the basis of respected board member opinion." "Lockfist" credits the metal boards as having turned him on to In Flames, Opeth, Soilwork, Emperor, Arch Enemy and Shadows Fall, among others.

Turning back to, the site unfortunately suffered from what appeared to be one of the few actual manifestations of a Y2K bug, shutting down for a period at the beginning of 2000. "Y2K happened and the rest of the world was unharmed by it, but the MMBB wasn't," says "Ganley". The "Moderator" isn't sure exactly why the board went down. "I don't think anyone figured out why." "Ganley" describes the experience: "The next morning I tried to get on and it stayed down for almost the whole month!" It was then that a number of former posters decided to migrate to their own private spin-off site, and Lapland was born. But that's another story, discussed below.

As for, the apparent Y2K problem was eventually rectified and business as usual resumed. Today the site remains of top-level import as a destination for those looking for metal related community and banter. Spin-off boards and sites continuously emerge, including wholly separate entities such as Lapland, as well as "support" sites such as those dedicated to posting pictures and profiles of frequent Metal Maniacs posters. In short, the board's greatest weakness is its greatest strength. Regardless, it is still a common place to begin a search for like-minded American metalheads. Problem is, even the metal haters know to come here, so be prepared for the need to convert and be ready to engage in frequent nu-metal v. underground metal debates.


Anyone spending any real time at the Metal Maniacs board is bound to hear talk of a place known only as "Lapland." Lapland is a quasi-private board which exists as a haven of sorts for, primarily, posters who originally met at the board but who now desire an independent forum of their own, a place where they could discuss metal away from the non-believers and packs of internet-wandering Trolls. However, as much as Lapland is viewed by its regulars as the equivalent of a true metal cyber-Utopia, "Lap," the proprietor of Lapland, tells us the Lapland phenomena was originally the product of the Metal Maniacs board's Y2K troubles. More surprisingly, "Lap" did not start out intending LAPLAND USA, as it morphed into LAPLAND METAL, to be private. "I wanted LAPLAND as a website to be a huge success," says "Lap". "It was 100% public. January 1st came and the Metal Maniacs Bulletin Board shut down. I figured I'd just email a bunch of people from that board (because I posted there sometimes) and invite them to LAPLAND so they could post at my board in the meantime." However, Lapland's community developed strongly enough that many continued posting there after went back on-line. This is when the decision was made to keep the board private. Says "Lap": "When the Metal Maniacs board eventually came back up, it was filled with spammers (people who post trash and advertising), so everyone who was now posting at LAPLAND wanted to keep the board private so the kiddies with nothing better to do . . . wouldn't come to LAPLAND. The only downside in making it private was it made my site private also. Eventually I just split the two apart so the site could be public and the board stay private." And thus, the Lapland of today took shape.

"Ganley" remembers: "Lap, a MMBB member, had sent out a bunch of emails to most of us telling us we could use his board for the time being. I got on and there was no one there at that point, so I just left a playlist topic up and I came back later in the day, and sure enough just about everyone got in touch with others and we all migrated to Lapland! I'd like to think that that was the true testament to the strength of our little community." To this day, "Ganley" maintains a posting presence at both sites.

So does "Necropolis Rising", another of the "original three." "One day the Metal Maniacs Board Crashed, Lap discoved EZ Board (free remotely hosted message boards) before any of us. I emailed everyone at the Metal Maniacs board whose email address I had, and told them to come to Lap's while the Maniacs board was down. Most of them never left. Voila, Lapland metal. The longest running EZBoard Metal Board in existence. Myself, Lap, and Ganley, were the first three posters there. From there it grew into international renown, with Creeper (October 31), Mike and Chainsaw (Deceased), and Tyr (Satyricon) posting regularly."

Lapland is now known throughout the underground as a place for true metalheads to discuss metal in relative peace. There is not a lot of conversion of fifteen-year-old nu-metallers going on here. Instead, it is a generally familiar discussion between a core group of educated and passionate metalheads. Lapland can now claim several prominent members of the metal community among its regulars, including several band members and top-level metal journalists.

Deceased members hold court at Lapland on an almost daily basis. But it's not some kind of "rock star" trip by any means. Guitarist Mike Smith explains: "I've been on-line for a few years, and I still love it. I'm still a huge fan of Metal, so I like to spend my free time listening and reading about Metal. The message boards provide me with a way to talk to other fans about news and Metal in general. I don't get into the whole 'I'm in Deceased, pay attention to me' trip. The people at Lapland treat me like they treat anyone else on the board, just one of them!"

So why Lapland? "Honestly, most boards are full of smart-asses looking to stir up flames," says Smith. "The only BB I'm a full time poster at is Lapland. We get called elitist, but we're just a close knit group of people who are sick of the usual crap that exist on most BB's. I'll occasionally spend time on the Metal Maniacs board, but that too has too many fools taking up bandwidth."

Most metal record labels have their own web sites, but few are as advanced as Relapse's. And the activity level at the Relapse board is a lot higher than at the sites of many of the other labels they compete with off-line. board members have their own decidedly hardcore/grindcore/gore/perversions/black-sense-of-humor slant. In sum, it is a group of sometimes warped but generally fun-loving individuals which really doesn't come together in just the same way anywhere else. Relapse employee Tom Hailey talks about the board's charm. "The Relapse UBB has a very 'community' feel to it. People talk about seeing each other and meeting up, people post pictures of themselves (one person has a site with all of the UBB pix up), there's talk of people doing a comp CD of all the bands of people on the UBB, there are in-jokes and all that. Plus people talk about all kinds of stuff, not just metal and not just music. . . . [A] lot of Relapse staff and band members spend a fair amount of time on the UBB. . . . I like it." Adds fellow Relapse employee Carl Schultz, "I think the Relapse UBB members show a glowing enthusiasm for both Relapse artists, and Metal in general. The users, for the most part, seem to be well-versed on metal in its various forms." Schultz feels this allows the Relapse board to cater to fans of more underground artists. "Once people are into Maniacs, etc. for a while, they choose to utilize our UBB for more in-depth discussions on bands / topics that are 'under the surface' with others who feel / think the same." The continued presence on the board of many high-profile metal musicians and Relapse staff members adds to the mystique.

"YOB," a Relapse poster, sums it up nicely: "[Only] about half of the Relapse board posts are about music, which is refreshing because boards get pretty dry when all the discussions are about whether or not some band sucks, or a new release, or show reviews. These are all great, but a little diversity keeps things interesting. Furthermore, I think a majority of the posters at the Relapse board are a little more open minded to punk, pop, hardcore, or other underground genres and not merely what Relapse carries or metal in general (although there are notable exceptions). I like Loudnet, because it caters to a more rounded group of metal heads than some of the other boards, but I think Relapse post are a little more diverse."

Activity levels are high at Relapse, but the content definitely has a tendency to stray away from metal and into some . . . alternative areas. The Relapse board is not for the weak, but it consistently provides high-level entertainment for those who are little more open to the "extreme" lifestyle.

Of course, amongst the on-line counterparts to the print magazines, the private fan discussion areas, the band sites and the label on-line homes, are the dedicated commercial metal sites and / or internet radio stations like This prestigious site virtually invented on-line metal and internet radio long before the masses caught on. Today, the site provides a number of professional-caliber features, including the "HardBoard" metal message boards. "Fatalcharm," sounding relatively authoritative on the subject, cites "Film, Crusader, Overmuch, Nitro and Notman" as "original HardBoard elders that still post." "DeathtofalseMetal" has been posting there for over two years, an eternity in the metal message board world.[4] But regardless who the players are, the music takes center stage. Here the scope of the conversations naturally parallel the general scope of the playlist. This means that while metal is the clear focus, it is a shade of the metal spectrum which is decidedly less extreme than Relapse, and significantly more commercial than the bands which are discussed at Lapland or even Metal Maniacs. The distinction is subtle, however, and there is a lot of overlap between the different boards. has endured generation shifts and, like, has suffered from time-to-time from poster migration to spin-off sites. And, like Metal, its iconic presence implicitly shouts to the world that "downtown heavy metal central" just might be at this site, which makes it an obvious choice for those looking to pick a fight with a bunch of metalheads. This is a fundamental truth about the Internet: the higher-profile you are, the more diverse you become, the more that conflict becomes inevitable. But, again like Metal, there seems to be a never-ending supply of posters who flood the front page with topics each day. Posters come and posters go but the board, in an almost organic fashion, lives on.


There are surely dozens of boards with personalities and dramas similar to those described above. But these four at least seem representative of the phenomena. Whether you are searching for a specific piece of information, merely keeping an eye with the daily banter or are ready to jump into the fray and start posting yourself, check out the message boards. This is where opinions are formed. This is where the great metal discussions happen. The boards bring together the warriors of metal worldwide. Where else are you gonna find an in-depth, passionate metal debate at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon? Nowhere. So get out there and post!

[1] The "Moderator" feels it is best that his or her true identity not be revealed, telling us, "My duty is a lot easier if I remain anonymous. I can only say that I have no affiliation with Metal Maniacs." Still, the "Moderator" is not completely devoid of connection to the print magazine. "I was appointed by Jeff Wagner," the "Moderator" tells us.

[2] "Trolls are bored losers who find posting (many) useless and annoying topics amusing," says the "Moderator." So what does the "Moderator" do about them? "I delete their posts. Edit them to piss them off. Occasionally, banning results."

[3] "Flames" are nasty, hate-filled messages. "Flame wars" are threads which devolve into a volley of increasingly personal insults between two users.

[4] However, the metal bulletin board phenomena has, in actuality, been operative for more than a decade. "Twistedneckbrace," for example, talks of the great Prodigy boards in the late eighties and early nineties. "The best and easiest BBs were on Prodigy. Very easy and user/browser friendly."









Interview: Eric German [ ] Laura German []
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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