Thursday, July 01, 2010

My Metal History, Part 2: High School

Early in high school, I began to see myself as a metalhead. I started wearing Metallica t-shirts and talking about music. During my freshman year, someone asked if he could borrow the black album from me, and I consented. When I got it back, it was scratched severely, so after playing it to assess the damage I gave it back to him and told him to keep it. I went out and got a new copy.

My metal world was still closely circumscribed, because in my small rural town I didn't know anyone who was into extreme metal. Instead, I mostly focused on getting what I knew, completing my Metallica and White Zombie collections.

I also found music by way of movie soundtracks, first with the Mortal Kombat Soundtrack. Featuring Fear Factory and Napalm Death, this was my first exposure to extreme, non-mainstream metal, though it was in such a small dose that I didn't realize that it promised an entirely new world to me.

I also obtained Spawn: The Album (featuring collaborations between various metal and industrial bands) and the soundtrack to Bride of Chucky. Type O Negative and Slayer were on both of these, and I kept that in mind. But the most striking thing for me on those albums was Static-X on the Bride album.

The chorus for "Bled for Days" blew my mind. Listening to it now, it doesn't seem quite as extreme as it did then, but it's still just as compelling. I kept looking for a Static-X album, but couldn't find it--it wouldn't be released until almost half a year later.

By this time, I had a job at Target, and more money to spend. Music was basically the only thing I could think to spend it on, so I joined one of the music clubs; I think it was Columbia House, but it may have been BMG. I simply went by the catalog and used a combination of my gut and the album art to pick the CD's, not knowing what I was getting into. I remember the following albums were on it: Life Is Peachy, Bloody Kisses, Danzig, Paranoid, Metal Massacre XII, and two Black Sabbath tribute albums (Nativity in Black and Masters of Misery). I think I may have also gotten a Metallica album or two, and possibly Chaos A.D.. There were 12 albums total, so I know I'm forgetting something.

The Masters of Misery album featured A.C., Sleep, and Cathedral, among others, and the Metal Blade compilation also leaned toward the extreme side of things. But at that time, I wasn't ready for true extreme metal, and didn't really care for these albums. But the others I got really connected with me. I dropped the club after this first order, not liking all the pressure.

I also attended my first midnight release party about this time, for Metallica's Garage Inc. I would later attend my second such party for S&M.

I found music basically from my work: from the video which was repeated over and over in Target's electronics department and simply from looking at CD's. Of course this meant I would only find mainstream things. I soon found the debut albums from Static-X, Slipknot, and Staind, as well as the breakout releases from Powerman 5000 and Rammstein (my first non-UK European metal), all of which made significant impressions on me at the time. Embarrassingly, this was also the way I bought Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause, and because of a guest appearance on that album I also bought the even more embarrassing The Slim Shady LP. At least that's the only rap CD I've ever bought, and it would be one of the first albums I would ever sell back to the store.

I discovered the debut for Godsmack when I saw them perform "Whatever" on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and absolutely loved it.

Another way I came to learn about more metal music was through my mom. This sounds shocking, yes, but actually she would buy metal albums for me from the local Christian bookstore. So, it was free, and I honestly care very little what the lyrics are, but if it's Christian then that's even better. I understand Tourniquet is a respected Christian metal band, but I got their worst album that way, and it ruined them for me ever since. I did get a few that I kind of liked at the time, but they were more or less bad imitations of secular groups. These 5 Down sounded like a bad version of Coal Chamber, for example. But I did later find some worthwhile Christian metal this way--just not until college.

Sometimes, my friends and I would make blind buys at the local music store. I picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes and a friend of mine picked up The Sound of Perseverance this way. I really liked the Iced Earth album, but for some reason I was embarrassed by the over-the-top drama of the vocals, so I didn't listen to it much. I really wasn't ready for Death yet--though I really liked the music, the vocals, again, turned me off.

In my class, we had a pretentious guitar player who read guitar magazines and doubted my metal conviction. This is the kind of guy who subtly puts people down, and thinks Yngwie Malmsteen is the greatest. (Not that Yngwie is bad, his music just isn't that great.) Ironically, he thought I was the poser. However, I respected his opinion. During our senior year, we had calculus class together. I believe he sought to expose me as a fraud when he suggested a band to me, thinking that I would get it and hate it. But later that same day, I went with a friend to the music store and picked up an album by that band. Driving home, we heard this:

The band, of course, is the iconic Meshuggah. As soon as the guitars broke in, my friend and I looked at each other, awe in our eyes, and exclaimed that it was F***ing Awesome (capital F, capital A). This was the first outside-the-mainstream metal that I was ready for, partly because it was so amazing, but also because the vocal style wasn't too far from what I was used to.

Even though I loved it dearly, it would remain an oddity in my collection, as the only extreme (but non-thrash) band, for some time. It would be joined by the less-esoteric Obsolete, which I won as a prize at post-prom of all places.

In the summer after graduation, i.e., the year 2000, two of my friends and I traveled about 9 hours to Denver to see the Summer Sanitarium tour with System of a Down, Powerman 5000, Kid Rock, Korn, and Metallica. This was my first concert experience.

So, going into college, I had a hyper-limited world of metal, but it was just starting to open up to music outside the mainstream.


  1. Ah, the nu metal days. Yes, I listened to a lot of those same bands. For some reason it took me a bit longer before I heard much Death and I didn't buy my first Meshuggah album until the summer before law school. I did pick up a lot of my albums based on what I heard on soundtracks and stuff like that.

    I kind of hid my more extreme metal stuff from people for awhile, until I didn't care anymore. So, while people knew I listened to System of a Down, Fear Factory, Static-X and the like, they didn't know I was also listening to some death and black metal bands.

    My first t-shirt was a Sepultura t-shirt and my first concert experience was Sevendust and Disturbed. I'm not real proud of the concert experience.

  2. My first metal tee was one with the Metallica throwing star on it. I may still have it at my parents' house . . . I'll have to look.

    Kid Rock and Eminem are the only ones either of us mentioned here that I'm embarrassed to say I listened to. I still think Staind's first two albums (i.e. Dysfunction and the mostly-forgotten Tormented, not Break the Cycle) were pretty good (the other stuff wasn't, because apparently somebody can't write dark music when he's well off and has a nice happy family).

    Nu metal seems to be having a slight resurgence. I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet.

  3. I briefly had the Kid Rock album. Luckily, it was actually my girlfriend's at the time and she wanted it back after we broke up. Sometimes things do work out.

    I do have some bands I listened to that I'm embarassed about now. Much of the third-rate nu-metal bands for example. I had a CD by Limp Bizkit too. I don't think I ever listened to that all the way through.

  4. Yeah, Limp Bizkit comes up in the next installment . . . .