Nowadays, we can often hear the terms of “Straight Edge” and “veganism” in the world of metal. But what do these things mean and where do they come from? Are the women of metal involved? And how? Let me answer these questions.
What is Straight Edge?
Straight Edge (sXe, XXX or X) is a subculture of hardcore punk whose adherents refrain from using alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs, in reaction to the excesses of the punk subculture. For some, this extends to refraining from engaging in promiscuous sex, following a vegetarian or vegan diet or not using caffeine or prescription drugs. The term straight edge was adopted from the 1981 song “Straight Edge” by the hardcore punk band Minor Threat.
This subculture originally had nothing to do with metal music. It was created and developed by the hardcore punk youth that believed Straight Edge was more than the decline of the use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. It was a so-called collection of their principles that determined their lives.
“Straight Edge” by Minor Threat
Metal and Straight Edge?
In the late 80s, early 90s some hardcore punk bands started blending their music with the aggression of heavy metal, especially extreme metal subgenres such as death metal and thrash metal (which also contains many hardcore punk elements) and created a fusion genre that is now known as metalcore. After a few successful years, the genre started to decline until 2002, when a Massachusetts based band Killswitch Engage released their second album “Alive, Or Just Breathing” and made metalcore popular again. In the next few years, some newly formed and reformed metalcore and hardcore bands started releasing music about the ideology of Straight Edge lifestyle, veganism and animal rights such as The Agonist, Earth Crisis, Liferuiner and many more.
Another notable, Straight Edge related band of the era was Parkway Drive, although lead vocalist Winston McCall has never promoted his lifestyle in their songs.
“My Last Serenade” by Killswitch Engage from the album, “Alive Or Just Breathing”.
In 2007, Canadian metalcore outfit The Agonist became popular by releasing their debut album called “Once Only Imagined”. The record was followed by the music video for “Business Suits and Combat Boots”. The short film contains imagery of drug and alcohol use, animal testing and non-veganism.
The official music video for “Business Suits and Combat Boots” by The Agonist.
In 2014, after 3 albums and countless tours with The Agonist, lead singer Alissa White-Gluz parted ways with the band and joined the Swedish extreme metal supergroup Arch Enemy, as the replacement of the band’s former lead vocalist Angela Gossow, who is also known for rejecting alcohol, tobacco and drug use. In the same year, Arch Enemy released their extremely popular ninth studio album “War Eternal” with their new frontwoman, making Straight Edge and veganism popular with metalheads.
What is Veganism?
Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan. Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet but extend the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals for any purpose. Another term is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
Animal rights is the idea in which some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives and that their most basic interests—such as the need to avoid suffering—should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings.
In 1843, members of Alcott House created the British and Foreign Society for the Promotion of Humanity and Abstinence from Animal Food, led by Sophia Chichester, a wealthy benefactor of Alcott House. Alcott House also helped to establish the UK Vegetarian Society, which held its first meeting in 1847 in Ramsgate, Kent.
In August 1944, several members of the Vegetarian Society asked that a section of its newsletter be devoted to non-dairy vegetarianism. When the request was turned down, Donald Watson, secretary of the Leicester branch, set up a new quarterly newsletter in November 1944. He called it “The Vegan News”. He chose the word vegan himself, based on “the first three and last two letters of ‘vegetarian'” because it marked, in Mr Watson’s words, “the beginning and end of vegetarian”, but asked his readers if they could think of anything better than vegan to stand for “non-dairy vegetarian”.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a vegetarian food movement emerged as part of the counterculture in the United States that focused on concerns about diet, the environment, and a distrust of food producers, leading to increasing interest in organic gardening.
The following decades saw research by a group of scientists and doctors in the US, who argued that diets based on animal fat and animal protein, were detrimental to health. They produced a series of books that recommend vegan or vegetarian diets.
In the 1980s, veganism became associated with hardcore punk subculture and ideologies, particularly straight edge hardcore punk in the United States; and anarcho-punk in the United Kingdom. This association continues on into the 21st century, as evinced by the prominence of vegan punk events such as Fluff Fest in Europe.
The vegan diet became increasingly mainstream in the 2010s, especially in the latter half. The European Parliament defined the meaning of vegan for food labels in 2010, in force as of 2015. Chain restaurants began marking vegan items on their menus and supermarkets improved their selection of vegan processed food.
Metal music and veganism
Nowadays several metal musicians are associated with veganism such as Mille Petrozza of Kreator, James Hetfield of Metallica and Clémentine Delauney of Visions of Atlantis and the majority of metalcore artists is also vegan (see Straight Edge). The founding members of the American deathgrind band Cattle Decapitation are also known for being vegetarians and vegans. Some of their songs protest the mistreatment and consumption of animals and much of their music is based on putting humans in the situations that animals are subjected to.
Our photographer Valerie Schuster is also vegan.
List of notable vegan and vegetarian female metal musicians
Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy) – vegan Straight Edge
Charlotte Wessels (Delain) – vegetarian
Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis)
Fabienne Erni (Eluveitie)
Floor Jansen (Nightwish) – vegetarian
Lena Scissorhands (Infected Rain)
Lindsay Schoolcraft (Cradle of Filth)
Madeleine Liljestam (Eleine)
Maja Shining (Forever Still)
Simone Simons (Epica) – vegetarian