The long musical road into Hell

Saturday, January 13, 2018

One of the interests that has long defined me is my deep appreciation for heavy metal and its subgenres, especially black metal. It might, therefore, surprise you to know that as a kid, I had absolutely no interest in music at all, and I didn’t even know metal existed. Before you tell me to be ashamed of myself, though, I should explain that I was simply not exposed to this music, due to a conscious effort made by my very strict Byzantine Catholic family to restrict my freedom to explore the genre.

Unlike a lot of metalheads I know, I did not have the advantage of being raised in a household where classic rock was beloved. There were no vinyl records, no stories from either of my parents of epic rock concerts they attended as teenagers, and no means by which to hear any sort of rock or metal even by chance. Instead of the Rolling Stones and the Doors, my mother listened to the Beatles (admittedly, not bad music by any means) and really lame stuff like Rod Stewart and Bon Jovi. As for my stepdad, he opted mostly for country music; after all, his family came from a rural Pennsylvania background.

I think on one occasion, I may have turned the radio on as a kid and heard a song that was mildly interesting to me at the time. I think it was a Kiss song (worry not, I don’t like Kiss), and I remember my mother almost coaching me to “not like it.” I’ve got to hand it to her – that was pretty crafty on her part. Rather than freak out and yell at me to “turn off that loud rock music!” like so many parents did to their kids in the 70’s and 80’s, she sort of used psychology to convince me that what little of it I heard was just “loud and silly.” Remember, I was like four or five at this time, still a very impressionable kid, so how could I have known better? Anyway, if, as a sometimes bratty kid, I wanted anything to “rebel” over, it was, at that time, so-called “violent” kids cartoons and TV shows. At least, that was the big thing that parents in suburban New Jersey were worried over. Ah, the 90’s, right? Such first-world problems.

Anyway, my genuine interest in music did begin to manifest slowly over time, though I wouldn’t recognize it for what it was until years later. When I was eleven or twelve and living in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania, I remember that I would sometimes jump in the car with my stepdad to do grocery trips. In addition to country music, he would kind of listen to whatever was on the radio, and occasionally, something good came on. I would know because I would feel myself responding to the music in a way that I never had before. Call me a poser or whatever you wish, but at this time, a song that really jumped out and grabbed me was “Fine Again” by Seether. I had no idea what the song was called at the time or who sang it, I just knew that I liked it, and I would actually get excited four years later, when I rediscovered that song. Other songs I enjoyed were “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. And don’t fault me for liking the singles – that’s what was on the radio at the time!

Eventually, I returned to my hometown – Garfield, New Jersey – and by this point, I was fourteen years old. This was the point at which I really pursued an interest in music by choice, and just as with those few songs I enjoyed on the radio in P.A., it came about as pure happenstance. A friend’s older brother was really into the goth and nu metal stuff (I know, I know), and started talking about all these crazy-sounding bands I had never heard of. Slipknot, Mudvayne, Linkin Park. What was all that stuff? I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Perhaps conveniently for me, the peaking of my fascination with rock and metal coincided with the sudden popularity of a little website called MySpace, but I should mention that even one year prior to that, I had a friend – whose screen name was Stupidguy – on a forum called Proboards that also mentioned bands like Linkin Park, as well as System of a Down and a few others.

So I made my first MySpace page, and I started checking out some of these bands. One thing led to another, and soon I found myself listening to the heaviest, screamiest song I had ever heard in my life. It’s almost adorably mainstream compared to a lot of what I listen to now, but I remember it was the song “Fixation on the Darkness” by Killswitch Engage, and I listened to it with headphones on a computer in the Garfield Public Library (since I had neither Internet nor a computer at home). Ironic, that a place known for being quiet was where I was first exposed to loud music. Also, I don’t know if it’s incredibly lame or incredibly awesome that I can trace my personal metal origins to a library. Anyway, by this time, two of my friends were also into this music, and I started exploring further and further. Again, as I did not have that classic rock kind of upbringing, I didn’t really know where to start or what to look for, and as a result I ended up hearing a mishmash of everything.

By the time I was fifteen, my friend and I were going to this Internet cafĂ© (remember those?), where I would take this little .mp3 player and download music from a site I think we all remember – Limewire. I was also borrowing metal CDs from the library, including stuff by System of a Down, Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park, Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, and the Headbangers Ball CDs. Now, I have to stop and underscore the importance of the Headbangers Ball volumes, because that’s where I heard my first black metal (as well as pseudo-black metal). Specifically, it was Satyricon, along with the so-called “black metal” bands Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. Don’t knock it, either. Bands like this were the gateway into the deeper and more underground stuff for a lot of teenagers at the time, and if someone like Dani Filth led someone to eventually discover the classics like Mayhem and Emperor, then I suppose it could be argued he contributed something to music after all!

I’m not going to trajectory this entire thing, because then this would be a very long blog post. I’ll just say that my interests continued to evolve and grow, and it eventually led me into the abyss, the utter cesspool, that is black metal. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. As for classic rock? Well, my love for that is owed largely to a TV series called Supernatural. It was here that I first really sat down and listened to AC/DC, Kansas, The Rolling Stones, Blue Oyster Cult, and Led Zeppelin (even though their songs have never been played during the show; I don’t know why). However, my journey to the joyous, ear-destroying Hell that is black metal did not begin with rock music. Honestly, I’d have to grudgingly thank nu metal, which was the big, vapid music of the 90’s just as hair metal was in the 80’s, for first exposing me to the genre as a whole. Say what you will, but if I had never heard Slipknot or Mudvayne, I would never have heard Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, or Darkthrone. I know how crazy backwards that is, but sometimes it’s just the way things go.

So where am I today, musically speaking? Well, I can tell you that I’m not a black metal elitist. It will always be some of my favorite music, and yes, it has a deeper and more powerful (re: spiritual) meaning to me than other genres, but make no mistake, I listen to a broad range of ear candy. When I’m not blasting some Satanic Warmaster or Void Meditation Cult, I listen to genres including hard rock, classic rock, southern rock, some country, classical music (I have to be in the right mood), folk music, and even some electronic music, depending on what grabs me. And yes, I do listen to some softer or more poppy 80’s and 90’s music on occasion. I also listen to numerous other subgenres of metal, including folk metal, Viking metal, melodic death metal, etc.

So what’s been in my playlist as of late? Well, I really dig Halestorm, and I don’t care if people think they suck, or they’re “everything that’s wrong about rock and metal,” blah blah blah. I think they’re an incredibly talented band, and Lzzy is awesome (those fucking pipes, man, she can really sing and scream!). I’ve also really been digging the song “Judas” by Fozzy. I like this band called Cellar Darling, fronted by Anna Murphy, one of the vocalists originally associated with folk metal band Eluveitie. As for lame 80’s stuff, I’ve been hitting the replay a lot on songs like “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls and “One Thing Leads to Another” by The Fixx. I’ve been listening to European folk music including stuff by Faun, Wardruna (Einar Selvig has actually done a lot of the music heard in Vikings), Solstafir, and Vinsta. As for black metal, I’ve really been enjoying the new Watain album, Trident Wolf Eclipse, and Thantifaxath’s new EP, Void Masquerading as Matter. Plus I’ve been crazy about this Ukrainian groove metal band called Jinjer. And, Lacuna Coil is my absolute favorite band of all time, so I always listen to them on a pretty regular basis.

I hope this post has explained a little bit about the path that led me to discover the music I so enjoy, and anyone who thought they could pigeonhole me as some sort of zealous black metal maniac will likely be thoroughly surprised after reading this. It’s true, black metal is something I’m incredibly passionate about – it’s part of my overall lifestyle and worldview, and to say otherwise would be to drastically understate how it moves me down to my very spiritual core. But I am also someone who enjoys music as a whole, even if I scarcely gave it a second thought during my childhood. Some passions, after all, come later in life. This post was meant to be a small window into how I got into music and some of what I enjoy today. Now, I think I’m going to go listen to some of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment