The Journey to Metal

I’d say that I started listening to music around the same age as most kids. It was towards the end of elementary school that I started caring about what I listened to, and like most kids, didn’t want to listen to the same things as my parents. Some of my musical taste still stems from what they listened to, but at that point in time it wouldn’t have been “cool” to bring a Led Zeppelin CD to school. I remember one day in particular, riding the bus to my junior high, where I had brought my Walkman and my Dad’s Guns ‘n’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction” tape, and being questioned about what I was listening to. When I told them, I was made fun of, not only because the album was a few years old (for kids and their short attention spans, 5+ years makes anything old) but because it wasn’t popular among our social circles. Basically, if you were a kid my age and listened to anything your parents did, you were pretty uncool. The fad that was occurring around this time was the hip/hop and gangster rap phase, and I was not immune to its charms.

My first real love was gangster rap. Not only was it the farthest thing from what my parents enjoyed and/or wanted me to listen to, it was also fresh and new. I mean, the origins of rap go much farther back, but to my freshly developing mind, this was the new big thing. Artists like Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre were exposing me to a culture that I knew nothing about, and I was fascinated by it. The beats man, the beats are what hooked me. Then the lyrics were out there, and the delivery was so different from Rock n Roll music. I couldn’t explain it, even when my parents were asking me, the poor-ish suburban white kid, what I could possibly enjoy about it. Looking back, I did grow up in an era when video games and electronics started changing the world. Even my parents who won’t admit enjoying some of the New Wave stuff that came out right when Rap was getting big, were influenced by electronics and the electronic sound. I think my love of video game sounds/music can translate directly to enjoying the synthetic tone of rap and hip/hop. I was also intrigued by the lyricists, and as a lyricist myself, still love some of the intricacies of rap lyrics.

As I got older, I moved away from the Rap scene. It served its purpose, and there is still some of it that I can enjoy present-day. The artists that came around and piqued my interest in alternative and other forms of rock were bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails. The connection here should be pretty obvious, in that the first 3 bands listed here were part of the Rap-Rock movement in the late 90’s, also called Nu-Metal (though you will find with me, these sub-genre monikers are pretty pointless, and I tend to avoid using them). Nine Inch Nails is almost purely electronic, but with lyrics that I can more closely relate to. In fact, most of the bands from this era were easier for someone like me to relate to, as I’ve never lived in the ghetto, killed anyone, or pimp-slapped a bitch. Living vicariously still has its benefits though. One of the bands I listed here ended up doing a cover album, and on that album was a little song called “In Your Eyes”, and my love for another genre came to be.

“In Your Eyes” was a song by an old school punk rock band called Minor Threat. Rage Against the Machine did a cover of this song, and that sparked my interest in the genre. I ended up purchasing the Minor Threat discography, and fell in love with punk rock. From there, bands like AFI, Pennywise, Death by Stereo, and many many more filled my playlist. The raw emotion, the uptempo music, and the anthemic choruses drew me in and held my attention for some time. Then I branched out, exploring sub-genres and finding bands like Thrice, Thursday, and Senses Fail that were built upon the punk rock ethic, but had their own unique styles. As my collection grew, I discovered bands that bridged gaps with other genres, and eventually stumbled upon metal as we know it today. Metal itself is a huge genre, and purists will argue over all of the sub-genres and will dismiss bands for falling under particular labels. The band that started my journey into metal was Avenged Sevenfold, and that in itself would probably raise a few eyebrows from said purists. But I can admit that I enjoyed their music to begin with, and that though I own all of their albums, they aren’t a favorite of mine anymore. Still, I give credit where credit is due.

Metal, to me, doesn’t need all of the sub-genre labels. I simply call it metal. I know the difference between metalcore, grindcore, hardcore, power metal, black metal and death metal, but I think it’s all metal. Old Metallica is metal. Newer Metallica not so much, but you catch my drift. Metal defined: double bass, awesome riffs, growly vocals, shredding guitar solos. All metal bands stick to this sort of formula, though some prefer clean vocals, some mix vocals, some use blast beats and some do not. It’s all still metal, to me.

My favorite bands as of right now are: Revocation, The Black Dahlia Murder, Chimaira, and Misery Index. These are all metal bands, and they all would probably fit into differing sub-genres, but again, I don’t believe in all the labels. So these bands are all different, but similar, and I’m going to explain why. First, a video:

Revocation is amazing because not only is David Davidson a phenomenal guitarist, but he also has the chops to have a semi-death-metal vocal style. I know from experience that being a vocalist is hard enough without playing an instrument on top of it, so he’s pretty talented. His solos are reminiscent of classic rock jams, and he is relatively easy to understand without major “ear tuning” (more on this later).

The Black Dahlia Murder are unique in the fact that Trevor Strnad manages to pull off black metal and death metal vocals, convincingly enough that on first listen you would believe it to be two separate people. The band focuses on adding layers to the music, as evident in this video, where the guitars separate and come together, and everything else has its place as well.

This is a video of one of Chimaira’s instrumental tracks, off their latest album. This song alone gives you a taste of all they have to offer, without a vocal delivery. I love this track, and could listen to it over and over again. Don’t get me wrong though, I love Mark Hunter’s vocal delivery, he is one of the easiest screamers to understand, and his lyrics have hit close to home more than once. The unique aspect of Chimaira is their use of synthesizers to add layers to their music. It’s always well done.

Finally, Misery Index rounds out my top four. This is probably the most generic choice, as there really isn’t anything that sets them apart from the pack. They use double bass blast beats, they have solos, they have nice riffage. The vocals are death metal style, and done well. That’s about all I can say, they do it all, and they do it all well. They are just technical in the way that they seem to never miss a beat, even when the BPM is pretty high.

So this is where I am today. It’s been a long musical journey, but this is where my heart currently lies. Rather than give up on music when I get to a certain age, I have adapted to music as it has changed throughout the years. I feel like this is the best way to not limit yourself from experiences that might change your life. There has always been music in the background for your memories, hasn’t there?

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