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Metal a religion for some UK fans

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In the last UK census, nearly 400,000 people listed their religion as ‘Jedi’. Now metal fans are hoping to do the same with their favourite music genre.

Like all great ideas in the history of rock, it was hatched in a bar.

“We were just having a few pints and talking about the census that’s coming up in 2011,” said Alexander Milas, editor of the UK music magazine Metal Hammer.

You know. As metalheads tend to do.

The census rings a few cultural bells in England. Nine years ago, during the last census, a grass roots campaign urged the British to list ‘Jedi Knight’ as their religion. Everyone was shocked, and not a few appalled, when 390,000 people signed on. According to census results, there are more Jedis in England than Jews. Jedi-ism is the fourth largest religion in Britain, after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

That got Milas, 33, and his crew thinking. Why not make Metal the new Jedi?

“2010 is a very special year in the annals of Heavy Metal history,” Milas said Wednesday from Metal Hammer’s offices in Bath. “Black Sabbath came out with their debut (the eponymous album Black Sabbath) 40 years ago next month. It did seem like a great time to celebrate how huge this thing has become.”

Metal Hammer first searched out a face for their campaign. Biff Byford, the lead singer of Saxon, agreed to act as “World Metal Peace Ambassador.” Then they set up a Facebook page: ‘Heavy Metal for the 2011 Census’. One week in, they already have 10,000 fans.

Everyone who signs on is being asked to put “Heavy Metal” in the entry under ‘Faith’ in next year’s census.

“This thing is like a powder keg,” Milas said. “It’s kind of out of control.”

Milas expects that Saxon is only the first high-profile supporter. Metal Hammer has put out the call to all the gods in the metal pantheon: Sabbath, Iron Maiden, et al.

Some people are a little too on board, if you know what we mean. (One of the discussion topics on the Facebook group: ‘What would the commandments be?’) Others are trying to figure out exactly how serious this is. The answer? Not very.

“Our primary goal with this is that we thought this would be really funny to do,” Milas said. “We don’t really require any governmental acknowledgement of heavy metal’s existence.”

That said, one British MP has declared himself a “Jedi.” He may have been kidding.

Milas’ toughest job may be convincing all the byzantine camps under the ‘Metal’ umbrella to unite. Rap metal and classic metal have been scrapping for most of a decade. Stoner rock guys and doomer metal guys are both downers, but in totally different ways. Who’s going to talk the Christian metal kids out of the pulpit? Never mind post-metal metal, drone metal, groove metal and symphonic metal.

He’s got time to get them all into the same metaphorical room. The census doesn’t officially launch until March, 2011.

But even if Milas can get everyone together, will all their voices be heard? You know, because of the hearing loss.

“The thing about heavy metal as a culture is that we kind of pride ourselves on being completely miserable bastards … but we’re all united under the same banner. We’re all metal,” Milas said. “I don’t expect any schisms.”

Torstar Syndication Services

© 2010 Torstar Syndication Services. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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