January 25, 2010

Bang the Head that will not Bang

Tr00 Metal Life


“My neck hurts.”

Ah, the ubiquitious Sunday cry of the metalhead. It’s Tuesday in New Zealand, and my neck’s only just stopped aching from Saturday night’s headbanging session. And, as I sit at my desk rubbing it frantically, I get to thinking about this remarkable part of our metal kvlture: the headbang.

The word “headbanger” originated on Led Zepp’s 1969 US tour, where fans in the front row banged their heads against the stage in time to the music. It appears the word first came into use in heavy metal circles through Motorhead, with their common epithet “motorheadbanger”.

Headbanging is integral to the heavy metal lifestyle. Even if you yourself are not a banger, you’ve been to those local shows where the crowd forms a semi-circle around the stage while the chosen few stand in the middle and shake their wild tresses. You’ve been whipped in the face by an overenthusiastic windmiller. You’ve sat in your room at home and nodded along.

Headbanging feels good. It feels right. It’s a primal display of masculine prowess, a subconscious preening of the metal feathers. It’s a tribal ritual, a dance of our collective unconscious, the will of the barbaric music we submit ourselves to. Headbanging is a heck of a lot of fun. 

Steff’s Tips for Successful Headbanging.

  1. Cultivate a Headbanger’s Hairdo

There be two hairstyles prodominent among metalheads: long, luxurious locks, and bald, shaven hair. One is essential for headbanging. The other looks like a boiled egg bobbing in a sea of frothing black water.

Alexander Krull from Atrocity

Alexander Krull, from Atrocity/Leaves Eyes. In My Opinion, owner of the best headbanging metal tresses on earth.

Some seasoned headbangers postulate that long hair acts as a counterweight, releasing some of the strain of headbanging. I doubt the validity of the statement but nevertheless support the cause of long hair. Long hair ist kreig.

Practise Safe Headbanging techniques

Research unequivocally shows headbanging can cause whiplash, mild to moderate brain damage, and even strokes. But we’re metalheads. We spit in the face of research. We pinch the cheeks of science. We tickle the underskirts of calculated risk.

After all, the two cited cases of headbanging injuries were not, in fact, from metal bands. Craig Jones of Slipknot got whiplash from headbanging. Terry Balsamo – guitarist from Evanscence – gave himself a stroke from his onstage moshing. Many argue this is the wrath of the metal gods, smiting those nu-metal and uninspired goth-rock bands who dare describe themselves as metal. True metalheads obviously have nothing to fear.

Nevertheless, your neck hurts like buggery after a good banging. You can minimize potential harm by moving your body, instead of just your neck. By placing your legs far apart (for stability) and moving your upper torso in a scooping motion, you get your hair flying without actually moving your neck. Since you tense your neck muscles when you do this, your neck will still hurt the next day, but it’s much less dangerous.

You could also try slowing your rate of banging, or only banging during certain parts of the song. I only generally bang during the chorus or main riff, when the banging is greatest. The rest of the time I like to pull my hair out of my mouth and watch the band.

If you headbang by leaning over, be careful when you stand up again – you can lose your balance easily, especially if you’ve been drinking. 

Watch out for loose nails, overhanging beams, and musical equipment. Our friend Johnowar headbanged on stage under a low ceiling and spent most of the next song trying to untangle his hair from an exposed nail. Another friend headbanged into a pillar.

Remember, every time you bang your head, you risk losing brain cells. Precious brain cells. So don’t headbang to just anything. That band needs to earn your brain cells. 

Before you start a good bang, survey your surroundings. Take note of the position of speaker stacks, folkbacks, sharp corners, and spike-clad moshers. These are headbanging dangers. If you headbang into a foldback, you’ll get a lump. If you headbang into someone’s spiked gauntlet, it bloody hurts. If your chosen spot overflows with headbanging obstacles, either move, or tone down your banging to avoid injury.

Cultivate a Headbanging Style

Every headbanger has a unique style. I tend to use my whole body, keeping my neck relatively straight. I stare at the stage through my hair as I throw my torso around, and yell the words along with the band. I then switch to windmilling during the riffs. 

Here are a few headbanging moves to try:

The Nod: move your neck slowly back, then thrust your head quickly forward. The rest of your body remains rigid. The more hair you flick forward, the better. You’re saying “I agree this is pretty metal.” 

headbanger technique

an effective use of "the nod"

The Shake: instead of nodding, pull your hair in front of your face and shake your head from side to side. A sort of “cousin-it” method of headbanging that aims for maximum impact with minimum effort. You say “No, I will never stop listening to tr00 metal, such as this”. 

The Hold-On: Grab a speaker stack or foldback and clutch it for dead life while you shake your head like a mad-thing. This keeps your position firmly at the front of the pit and keeps you steady.

Side-to-Side: slam your body to the left and nod your head, then slam your body to the right and nod your head. Some metallers like the bouncing movement of this. The Side-to-Side works best if you have a wide space between.

The Folk Bang: a headbang reserved only for folk metal. Folk bangers move their arms in a jaunty motion, as if they’re swinging tankards of ale at an Irish folk-dancing night. They jump from side to side as they whip their heads, sometimes linking arms with fellow folk bangers. In a tr00 folk metal pit, beer flies from tankards and drinking horns and coats the folkbangers in a sticky, delicious goo.

The We’re-All-Friends-Here: Link arms over the shoulders of fellow metallers, bend at the waist and shake your heads.

The Swing: another favorite of mine. Swing your whole body from side to side like you’re part of a broadway dance troupe. Swing your head too – either the same or opposite way. This makes girls look great while giving a good flying hair effect.

Windmill: One of the most dangerous and trickiest headbanging moves to pull off. As the name suggests, the Windmill involves spinning your head in a full circle so your hair fans out like a windmill and whips your surrounding headbangers, who will fall down and worship your awesome. Windmills are only effective for extremely long or incredibly thick hair.

Warm up

Before attempting to headbang, warm up your neck muscles by moving your head slowly from side to side, front to back. Roll your neck on your shoulders. Warming up before a good ole’ bang can reduce the pain in the morning.

Consider Fellow Headbangers

Watch where you bang, step, and throw your body. Be aware that even if you enjoy slam-moshing and circle pits, others might not. Especially when they’re in the middle of a good headbang and are caught unawares.

Windmilling too near others can result in cat-o-nine-tails-style wounds. While spilling blood for metal might be your idea of a good time, others may disagree. Windmill at your peril. 

Watch out for us fragile girls! We’re generally not built like brick shithouses, and if you knock us we can go flying over foldbacks and can knee guitarists in the groin (true story). Be courteous, gents – we want to share the floor with you \m/

Liquid in your drinking horn will splash around while headbanging. Empty it first, either into your mouth or over someone else’s head.

If a headbanger falls down, help him (or her) up again.

At the end of a show, give your fellow bangers a pat on the back or a couple of goats \m/ for their good work.

I open the floor to you, my readers. Do you have any stories from the concert front lines? What’s your favorite head-banging technique? Is there any I’ve missed out? What’s the worst injury you are a friend sustained from headbanging?

Bang the head that will not bang \m/

20 Comments on “Bang the Head that will not Bang

January 14, 2015 at 2:05 pm

I’ve been to a lot of local shows, and for the most part my bangovers have been less than mentionable…. but I got to see Sonata Arctica late last year, WITH my favorite local band opening (I was like YEEEAAAHHH)! I got home thinking I was gonna be alright and ended up waking up the next morning having to do shoulder rolls before I could stand. It was epic.

Another thing…. I need to find a more metal nickname……

January 19, 2015 at 11:57 am

@Amanda – yay, Sonata Arctica – I have never seen them. I am jealous! It sounds like all that pain was totally worth it … \m/

Thrash Master
December 31, 2013 at 10:54 am

This is pretty legit. It’s true, windmilling can cause pain not just to people near you but if you whip yourself in the face with your own hair. (I have done that before)
@Dainz I’ve had teachers say the same sort of thing to me at school before and I’ve even had teachers say that death metal is just ‘a bunch of screaming’ and one time a teacher even called my mom to tell her that I was listening to ‘satanic music’ in the middle of class!
\m/ forever

January 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm

@Thrash Master – ah, hair whiplash – I have SO been there, my friend :).
Sorry to hear about your teachers. The general consensus is that school sucks for metalheads. Keep on rocking that satanic music, you’ll be better off for it in the end. \m/

May 28, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I must say my favourite is some kinda of windmill (which I use in folk, Symphonic and Power metal) and my neck has never hurt… Not even after 1h headbang… I must add that here in Argentina, in concerts you don’t have much space to headbang… You mostly mosh (which is called “to do pogo”), but I’ve headbanged for a looong time at home.
My 2nd favourite style (which I use in heavier styles) is some kind of dot, but accompanied with my whole back, so my neck, tough still moving, doesn’t make any abrupt movement.

So I’ve never got injured from headbanging, not even a pain in the neck next day. Instead, after concerts my calfs do hurt because of the two or three hour non-stopping jumps.

Excuse me if you don’t get the point. It’s not something easy to explain in a language different from your own.

Raven Spirit
May 25, 2013 at 9:21 am

Partied at K17 Der Club last night. Fucking neck AND Back hurts like nothing. Best show ever!! \m/

January 10, 2013 at 1:36 am

Thanks for the info. I usually get scolded by my teachers about the music I listen to and one told me an interesting fact about headbanging. She said that whenever you bang you head, you lose 10 of your brain cells.

August 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I was at a local Death Metal show with some buddys, and we have boots with steel plating on the bottom of them, so we like to stomp on the ground while we headbang. We actually caused a few cracks in the floor. But unfortanetly in the morning your feet hurt along with your neck.

July 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I went to a small battle of the bands, and NO ONE but me banged their head to the last two bands; which happened to be epically metal. Lots of people left, and people just sat there. I ended up getting mad, standing up on my chair, and banging my head around like a psycho. It was awesome. Let’s just say the last band earned my vote. ;)

April 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Great picture. I love Martin Mendez’ style of headbanging.

ALSO: “Remember, every time you bang your head, you risk losing brain cells. Precious brain cells. So don’t headbang to just anything. That band needs to earn your brain cells. ”

The best quote I’ve read from this site so far.

April 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

@J – thank you! Occasionally, I do manage to say something mildly humorous.

February 3, 2011 at 1:33 am

With Randy Blythe, who is my idol, by the way.

February 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Xander – you comment cracked me up \m/

February 3, 2011 at 1:30 am

The shaved head thing is completely useless for headbanging. Unfortunately, I tried it when Lamb of God came to Beijing. Worst feeling ever. It looks pretty metal, especially on brutal death metal guys like Dying Fetus. But trying to headbang with it is seriously uncomfortable. You use way more energy than you should, and do your neck in much faster. Fortunately for me, I was also screaming my lungs out, so i got to get on stage and belt out my all-time favourite song “Blacken the Cursed Sun”. I loved every second of it.

September 9, 2010 at 5:40 am

went to see soulfly lastnight, and the first attempt of crowd surfing ended with me just slammed straight into the ground… shit. got helped up and left with a sore neck. was pretty shit considering a guy atleast twice my size went crowd surfing pretty easily.. bad timing i guess but it was a fucking awesome gig. and i headbanged the shit out of my neck and it hurts like hell now but it was well worth the pain. pain in metal. \m/

September 10, 2010 at 3:51 am

@gothick – that sucks – I am always afraid to crowdsurf becuase I’m terrified of having that happen. It’s such an awesome feeling when it actually goes right, though.

Glad you had such a wicked time – I’ve had the neck pain for a week after a particularly brutal gig. In metal, love is pain :)

June 11, 2010 at 2:44 am

Went to see Slayer last wednesday in London. Was quite possibly the most neck pain I had all year after grabbing the railing and windmilling without a pause through South of Heaven and Angel of Death. I couldn’t cross the road after the show, as the bangover and alcohol made me stagger witlessly. Best night ever.

June 11, 2010 at 3:00 am

@biggsthrasher – Slayer had more than earned our neck pain \m/

January 25, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Excellent guide. After a few too many sore necks, I picked this up too.

Something else a headbanger should avoid are long necklaces. Firstly for their own sake (nothing smarts like a metal pendant smacking you in the tooth), and secondly for others. A long necklace can go wild when your head is bouncing up and down. Not to mention the possibility of entanglement between hair and necklace.

Something to avoid in a pit is the dreadlocked headbanger (or the even more dangerous dreadlocked headbanger with metal tips). Those guys can cause serious damage to anyone around them.

Finally, be sure you’re in harmony with other headbangers. Else you’re liable to get a chipped tooth/cut head.

January 25, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Losing brain cells? That explains sooo much. :C

I’ve found that rounding up a row or circle of people and getting them to windmill is increeeeeeedible and will split a hole in a crowd like nothing else. (Perfect for opening up a pit.)

My hair is only mid-back at the moment due to my intolerance of split ends, but there’s a trick to getting a good windmill out of medium length hair – picture a dot on the very top of your head, drop your chin, and rotate your head in a way that would drag that dot in ovals/circles. (Until that shit gets longer, that is. Heehee.) It’ll fan out pretty well, but it HURTS after a while.

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