Cynic's Big Admission Threatens Metal's Homophobia
By now Cynic are legends in the metal scene. In 1993, they released their magnum opus Focus before quietly disbanding, but the album's impact was fully felt in the realms of technical and progressive metal, influencing younger bands for years to come.
They repeated the feat with 2008's reunion record Traced in Air, and have been chugging along ever since as one of the most celebrated and beloved prog-metal acts around. Oh, and principal members/songwriters Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert, without whom the band would not exist, are gay.
It's been an open secret for years, but the pair have come forward in their first major interview to discuss life as gay metal musicians, operating within a scene which has traditionally been less than open-minded or accepting of alternative lifestyles. This is a huge step for everyone in the metal community, and here's why.
Metal is a bunch of macho bullshit. We can all agree on this, yes? From Day 1, metal has been a scene with a predominant bias toward manliness and "badassness." Whether it's traipsing around dressed like a biker or a corpse, chugging beer or sacrificing babies, naming yourself after a serial killer or writing about genocide, metal's stock and trade has always been "don't fuck with us."
Unfortunately, that has also included an attitude against anything that could be perceived as less than manly, especially anything that could be construed, rightly or wrongly, as gay. Billy Squier was a notable star among rockers and metalheads in the '80s, but the moment he put on a torn-up pink shirt and danced around in his room in a music video, he was lambasted and cast out from the scene for acting in what some fans might see as a "homosexual manner."
This attitude continues today. In metal, like rap, it's all about being tough, or at least tougher than your opponent. You can open up about all sorts of feelings so long as everyone knows you're still enough of a badass to kill them if they talk shit. And for years now, it's been totally acceptable within the metal scene to ridicule anything you don't like for being "gay."
"Faggot" even pops up frequently in lyrics, and as recently as this year in the latest Emmure album. Front man Frankie Palmeri uses the word openly and flagrantly to deride his "haters" and cites his excuse as the precedent set by those who have come before him to use the term as an insult, more specifically citing the Korn song "Faget."
Photo by Joshua Justice Frankie Palmeri of Emmure
Although that song was calling out the people who called front man Jonathan Davis the word in high school for dressing like a New Wave kid, it can easily be misconstrued, as Palmeri clearly shows by using it as a defense for his use of the word.
So a scene dominated by a lot of macho posturing, where the use of a hateful term for homosexuals is a common way to refer to anybody you don't like, is probably a tough damn place for a gay person. That's what makes Masvidal and Reinert's openness and willingness to discuss their sexuality so refreshing and important.