Is Heaviness Subjective ?

Posted: December 11, 2010 by kingcrimsonprog in Life, Music Reviews

Is heaviness subjective ?
In heavy music and the advertising, literature and discussion surrounding it one of the most frequently used words is ‘heavy’ and one of the most commonly discussed or implied things is that one thing is heavier than another. What I wonder is whether heaviness is a fact or a matter of opinion that is different for every individual listener ?
Can it be measured and thus proven which of two things is heavier and then what constitutes heaviness in the first place ?

For example, I’d like to take it as written that Cannibal Corpse are heavier than, say Paramore as I’d like to think it is obvious that Slayer are heavier than Elvis. Cannibal Corpse are a Death Metal band with blast-beats, low tuned instruments, screaming and growling vocals and very distorted guitar tones, whereas Paramore are a Pop-Punk/Emo/Alternative-Rock band with much softer, more melodic and less ferocious music.
I would also like to think it is obvious that Cannibal Corpse are much heavier than Slayer, but frequently you will read claims that Slayer are the heaviest band of all time in a way that I assume is just wrong but sometimes wonder if I myself have misunderstood the concept of what ‘heavy’ even is, or whether ‘heavy’ has changed meaning over time and not everyone is working under the same definition.

Frequently you will get people who turn around and say that Black Sabbath are the heaviest band ever, or that Motorhead are heavier than someone blatantly extreme like The Berzerker.

Extremity and heaviness often go hand in hand, the only exception being the example of Napalm Death’s “Scum” on which the riffs aren’t as heavy and the guitar tone is tiny leaving it one of the most extreme things ever written; but sounding less heavy than someone generally thought of as more pleasant, like Devil Driver.

So with all that in mind, is heaviness quantifiable and could we develop a scale ?
Are Led Zeppelin a “2” on the scale compared to a band like Zyklon who are at an “8.5” ?

I can get the subjectivity between similar artists, such as the question “are Cannibal Corpse heavier than Deicide?” but when you are comparing something like Deep Purple to something like Decapitated I fail to see how that could possibly be subjective, unless again I have misunderstood the very menacing of the word heavy. I once heard it suggested that heavy, extreme and brutal are all three different concepts and that could well be the case, but the public has unarguably amalgamated the three into one thing also called ‘heavy’ over the past thirty/fourty years so that argument is kind of beside the point, in the same way that the correct use of lastin phrases such as ‘et al’ ‘i.e.’ and ‘eg.’ are all completely wrong (look it up for more info) but that it doesn’t truly matter since the wrong versions have become so utterly ubiquitous now that the correct usage would be said to be wrong by 99% of living humans.

So, ignoring which very heavy extreme metal band is heaviest; Is it a FACT that stuff like Death Metal is heavier than Black Sabbath ? Or is it an opinion because heaviness is defined differently than just… you know, how massively heavy it sounds ?

People do honestly say that ‘Sweat Leaf’ is heavier than ‘Hammer Smashed Face’ and I either can’t understand that or, as has been discussed, don’t understand what heaviness is in the first place. I’d hate to be someone who doesn’t accept something as subjective when it totally and undeniably is subjective. Such as the subject of how good a band is or isn’t.
I hate it myself when I hear or read things by people who fail to see that things are subjective and blindly insist their opinions are facts because they fail to differentiate between what they personally think, the subjectivity of art and the objective reality of the universe

This subject however, my brain just wont accept that it isn’t a factually based situation, surely there is a measurable and unarguable gauge of whether something is heavy or not and how much heavier one thing is than another, there just has to be. It scares me a little that I could end up a troll idiot who thinks opinions are facts… but I just have to believe this particular subject is indeed a factual issue.

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