The title of this post is too obvious and cliche (and a bit outdated) I know. But I've been playing with the idea of signifier vs. signified in the names of metal bands (of all genres) and in getting to their deconstructed remnants, I am reminded that Metal - in it's essence, it's history, and in it's divisions, is a perfect example of what is post-modern and even more so, post-post-modern. Metal (in its very practice) has the element of the undefinable; it is more than just an expression of disenchantment; it is more than just a way of life. The elements of Metal overlap and conflict at the same time. It can be interpreted and described, but it cannot be explained.
For example, can you tell me what is (or is not) a metal band? Certainly it would be easier to assign what is NOT Metal than what is. But that doesn't tell me what is Metal. It is in the layers of genres, sub-genres and sub-sub-genres that this is evidenced so clearly - all of them social constructs on the context of what we think we know about Metal. In the end, the only common narrative we have of Metal is the assigning of the word "Metal." What that word means depends on the user.
And should we define Metal by what it is not, knowing that that will only fail in making it a set explanatory system? And do we want that kind of absolute truth anyway? Well, I don't. I want Metal to be the product of individual expression. I want it to constantly challenge me. I want it to remain contextually and subjectively incomplete.