Gatekeeping is a hot-button topic in today's metal community. The trope of the snobby metalhead who picks on fans who are new to the genre, or tries to bully "inexperienced" listeners from enjoying a certain subgenre or wearing a shirt for a band they don't know every lyric for, is more controversial than it used to be.
Last year, Metallica famously rejected gatekeeping when swarms of young listeners found their music through Stranger Things, declaring "all are welcome" in their fanbase. However, Suicide Silence guitarist Mark Heylmun has a different view on the matter. He thinks gatekeeping is actually good for the strength of the scene, and encourages fans to have those confrontations over who does and doesn't belong.
"My hot take is that gatekeeping makes the scene stronger," Heylmun told Guitar.com. "I know that that sounds weird but — if you don't have people talking shit and saying, 'This isn't this or that' — you don't have the other side saying, 'Yes it is!' or 'Fuck you for even saying that!'
"It creates the conversation that makes scenes stronger. I've seen that since I was young and I've been a part of that."
Whether you agree with that assessment or not, the fact of the matter is that Heylmun knows more about gatekeeping than most metal musicians. As leaders of deathcore's breakthrough era, Suicide Silence were routinely subjected to savage gatekeeping by extreme-metal fans who didn't think their music was "real" or "heavy" enough to belong on death-metal tours.
You might expect that after all those years of internet abuse, Heylmun would want to tell gatekeepers to fuck off at every turn. But nope! Elswhere in the Guitar.com interview, he talked about Suicide Silence's experiences outside the gates of metalcore and death-metal, and why he and his bandmates ultimately felt that "it doesn't matter" what the haters thought.
"Where we're from, there was the Orange County scene, with Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold and Bleeding Through," Heylmun explained. "They didn't like us and we felt like we had to not like them back. It was adversarial but, when you're in Baton Rouge and playing to 450 people on a Wednesday night, you're like, 'Fuck them! It doesn't matter.'"
"We didn't look 'death metal' enough either, and our breakdowns weren't really things that death metalheads wanted to hear," he continued. "That was the linchpin of all the heckling that happened when we toured with Nile, Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse.
"We did all those tours and that's what you'd hear: people talking shit about your breakdowns."