You can’t always tell how seriously a metal head takes himself. The height of his platform knee-high boots, the length of his jacket studs, and the thickness of the corpse paint on his face either correspond to how earnestly devoted he is to this darkest of musical genres—or measure just how ironically he’s striking the pose.
Metal Chris may be serious about metal, but he belongs in the self-aware camp. One sunny day in July 2007, the six-foot-three radio-station technician caked his face in black-and-white makeup, threw on an Emperor T-shirt, grabbed an oversized sword (he had one lying around), and went for a walk. He called his satanic persona Count Dooku of Mordor.
You can see pictures on Flickr. Count Dooku of Mordor shooting hoops! Count Dooku of Mordor creeping up on a playground! Count Dooku of Mordor sipping a Slurpee!
Two years later, Chris had all sorts of pseudonyms to untangle as he prepared to launch dcheavymetal.com. “I have many names,” he wrote in his first post on Sept. 11, 2009. “Chewie, RapeJesus, Butt-Rash, Badass, McAwesome, Shutup Asshole etc…but the most popular seems to be Metal Chris so that’s what I’m going to go by on here.”
Metal Chris, 33, won’t give his real name: Although his site has made him a rare public figure in D.C.’s small, yet atomized, metal scene, he says he has lingering issues with an ex and wants to keep some parts of his life private. No wonder he needs all those aliases.
Over the last two years, Chris’ site has been a godsend for local metalheads: When Jaxx —the grimy Springfield, Va., venue that’s a haven for local metal fans—switched ownership last year, Metal Chris kept a close eye on the sale and its implications. (The venue is now called Empire.) When the Baltimore club Sonar briefly shut down last spring, Chris quickly sorted out how it would affect the venue’s Maryland Deathfest. Planning your pitch-black weekend? Metal Chris curates the region’s best listings of metal events.
He’s become a mainstay at local shows, where he takes pictures and video he later posts on DC Heavy Metal. Last March, he documented a “Metal Marathon” for which he attended 11 shows in nine days. “Any time he’s at a show you can see him from a mile away. He’s always got a camera and a smile,” says Garrett Underwood, who plays guitar in Ilsa, a local crust-metal group. “He can often be heard talking about how terrible the new Morbid Angel album is or something like that.”
Chris, who spent his childhood in Northern Virginia, had the same conversion moment as a lot of kids who grew up in the ’80s: Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. By middle school he’d found gorier bands to admire. “I was probably in eighth grade and I heard a Deicide tape, and I was like, ‘This is the craziest shit I’ve ever fucking heard,’” he says. Chris first gravitated toward metal’s more extreme sounds, like black metal and death metal, but now listens to other subgenres. He says he’s open to anything but glam rock.
The inspiration for Chris’ site was a trip to Los Angeles in 2009. “I was like, ‘I’m going to be out there for a week, I should see what bands are playing out there, maybe someone’s going to be out there that I can’t see on the East Coast very often,’” he says. He discovered moshking.com, which had listings for Southern California. The D.C. area “didn’t really have anything like that, so I just kind of made one,” he says. A month later, the site went live. His friend R.J. Mahoney helped with the logo—Abraham Lincoln’s head encrusted in corpse paint.
Chris may be an omnivorous metal listener, but most metal heads aren’t quite so adventurous. In D.C., they might listen to black metal, a raw, brittle subgenre requiring heavy distortion (and heavy corpse paint) and propelled by blast beats. Or doom metal, a sound D.C. bands helped pioneer, which has lumbering riffs and a druggy haze. There’s grindcore, a particularly abrasive style that’s fast-paced and short-tempered. You can find fans of death metal, thrash metal, sludge metal, and progressive metal in the area.
Metal heads tend to cluster around venues—who you see at Empire is not who you saw at the now-defunct DIY space Corpse Fortress. “They all like the same kind of music,” Chris says. “One of the things I’ve kind of wanted to do is just make some of that interbreed.” Not that he uses DC Heavy Metal to do too much pulpit-beating. “I try to make it more like I’m just some dude you’re talking to at the bar about this metal show I saw last night,” he says.