Thursday, October 23, 2008

Metal for One Please

I was staring out the bathroom window today, taking notice of the tree across the street. Autumn seems to be so gradual at first as if it might never arrive but then before you know it you find yourself staring at a blazing orange and gold tree in your neighbor's yard and wearing a flannel shirt nearly every day. It's been month's since I've written anything in full. I have a bad habit of starting a review or an essay on an enthusiastic whim and days later I'm four paragraphs in and stumped. I could easily blame it on the ever flowing stream of thoughts that run through my mind resulting in a failure to focus. I guess I could also blame it on current events,depression,laziness,the list could go on. Plainly spoken,it's been a general lack of good content that's to blame. When it comes to reviews I could spout my personal reasons for liking such and such an album any old time but I intend on making each review above average. If I find myself just repeating a lot of what's already been written elsewhere I end up being frustrated and tend to watch the cursor blink persistently on notepad while daydreaming. It would be easy to sit on the computer all day,fantasizing,reading,peeking in on various forum threads, but I grow restless and want to make use of my time. If writer's block manifests itself then I had better move along to the next project while it's still early. Since I haven't been working my part time money gathering job I've been painting,practicing guitar and trying to gain some ground battling my constant overworked brain through meditation. Early last Thursday morning(after 12:30 sometime)I captured a fleeting moment of thoughtlessness. I had no sense of sitting cross legged in the dark living room but rather felt as if I were floating in a swirling void. Being the meditation novice that I am, I registered the "I DID IT!" thought and that sent my mind back into normal mode,out of any such void,back into the living room,back to anticipating the cuckoo clock cuckooing and I then remembered that it was nearly 1 am. This speck of time was the highlight of last week. I'm glad I am able to comfortably experiment like that. Glad I spend around 85% of my time with my brain and myself. It's throughout my daily "routine"(or at least my daily unemployed routine)that I THINK about THINKING or analyze and plan actions..and of recently I try to just "BE" at least once a day. I have grown so used to this living style that I would be easily annoyed or even hostile if I had someone else constantly buzzing around and intruding on my thoughts and time. Sounds a bit extreme if you're a social extrovert but I have developed a lot as a person under conditions of maximum alone time. Often I come to realizations about important things by myself and it's hard to communicate them to friends or family a week later. An element which has aided me in contemplation and been my companion throughout is heavy metal(grave metallum:the music of the gods)

*Metal,most notably the extreme cast of metal,is most rewarding when listened to in solitude. The live show while being an intense and moving aural and visual experience experience..a social "bonding" moment for some. However, surrendering your undivided attention to a full album in a relaxed state of mind yields far greater appreciation and understanding.

I have never been a mingling,chit chat type of human being. I'd moved around a lot in my childhood years which made long lasting friendships pretty hard to keep. Once I was in my late teens, and settled down, I had broken out of my shell somewhat and had best friends,friends and those unsure types(I called them school friends).
Life was nearly DEFINED by a group of people at one point which resulted in a lot of temporary happiness but foolish infighting and easily damaged egos(a lot of low self esteem) often resulted in self hatred. I felt like a goofball most of the time. Downsizing that group of friends of lesser known friends and acquaintances was a good move but so much of me was still based around other people. When I moved out west more circles of "friends" came around. I'd smashed through the small town prison walls and entered the BIG CITY to find exactly what you'd expect. Loose attention whores,greasy hipster types who bummed off of rich college brats,artists and "musicians" out to kiss ass and gain notoriety. Feeling at odds with this majority, I steadily spent more time alone and my friends spent more time involved in their new lives. Towards the end of my Texas stint I was home by myself almost every day. This was the first time in a long time that I'd truly been left alone..and I wasn't fully dependent on friends. Tiring pop/rock songs made me sad as they typically discourage solitude. When one is alone so often and not used to it they usually become lonely..and loneliness results in pity partying and depression. Therefore many people fear solitude(and find hermits to be batshit crazy). I had bouts of depression stemming from loneliness,"nobody wants me" syndrome and poor self image issues..the lack of peers around to validate my existence and importance was hard to get used to. Moving back to the previously rejected small town intensified all of those issues.
My relationship with metal was very fickle before entering this slow zone. I was previously in search of adventure and instant gratification and would hardly ever sit and contemplate life or reality. Most of what I listened to acted in the same way..those old familiar chord progressions and accessible melodies that easily trigger basic emotions..acting as instant gratification in a sense. Music you needn't really hold a magnifying glass up to because it's whole shtick is being simple and easy to tap your foot to. Pop and rock call out to the lonely individual by predictably tugging the usual heartstrings,"I feel your pain","I'm so lonely too man..I gotta find myself some action."At their worst they act as a soundtrack for the lives of the masses who weep over sappy songs and schmaltzy ballads or feel uplifted by one dimensional "I"m gonna make it" songs. Pop and rock weren't complimenting my life but rather depressing it. What worked well in a group setting failed miserably when listened to in my chilly upstairs bedroom back home.

Metal seems tailor made for one,that so called loneliest number. A rebellious spirit fighting against the world,never giving up,encouraging and genuinely empowering the dedicated listener. It's almost a beacon for loners. To enter the realms of extreme metal and gain transcendence one must first develop an ear. It's hard to do so at first but little by little you will "get it." The best metal requires much listening,ear developing, and thinking..something that cannot properly be done with lots of people around yapping it up. Many people will talk about how much they understand death and black metal without ever having really sat down and listened to full albums. It's usually easy to identify hipster parasites within metal because they are all about the shuffle feature. Listening to a mix match of random black,death and "doom" metal tracks on your ipod while sitting in Starbucks,spending about 10 minutes talking on your cellphone or LOL'ing with a bunch of people online..this is not the way one listens to and appreciates extreme metal. I suppose if you are listening to a bunch of mediocre SHIT then it might serve you well to listen to it in shuffle format while not fully concentrating upon it. Don't get me wrong here..a good mixtape is nice to have around and sometimes you might be in the mood to hear just one particular tune...but nothing beats a good quality album from start to finish. Deep and intermediate listening separates the wheat from the chaff so to speak. There is little room for mediocrity in vinyl,cassette,cd or mp3 collections when you are listening in a full sitting with a critical ear. That 46 song pornogrind cd doesn't sound so good now does it? But so many will enjoy metal as a hobby or a social networking tool. This greatly depreciates the power of metal and lowers it to radio rock becomes nothing but background noise or strings of songs that stick in your head and remind you of certain people or situations. A lot of common folk don't take metal seriously because they don't seriously listen to it. I recall the days of sitting in the family living room at the slow PC around 2004/2005..particularly one time,hunched over the speakers and listening to a track from Immortal's "Full Moon Mysticism." Just giving it a try..only one song you know? To these ears then it was basically noise ..I picked out some notes under the Orc-like vocals and tinny "thwack thwack thwack" of the snare drum but didn't care to focus any real attention on it because it didn't appeal to my brain on instant. Of course it didn't help that I seldom had any peace and quiet or time to stretch my mind. After simplifying my life situation and living conditions years later I was able to focus in on such well known extreme metal classics and was knocked head over heels by their sheer power and ability to really stimulate my mind on a higher level. I was soon able to hear past the common butchered production jobs and Darkthronian recording techniques..grasping the essence with enthusiasm.

Besides reaping the aural benefits of extreme metal listening,I also became turned on to a lot of previously ignored literature and philosophy. I might have had a keen interest in outer space overload of extreme metal listening enhanced it. Realizing you are but a microscopic fragment of dust in the universe is vital,as is realizing the inevitability of your death. Death metal(most notably the more evolved and advanced of it's kind)was a powerful tool in terms of death contemplation. Thinking of death as less of an enemy and as more of an ever present fog that drifts behind each of may envelop some suddenly but it gradually covers and devours us all..and no biological organism shall escape it. I find it healthy to fixate my mind on death often as it's fascinating and seldom thought about in a rational way. How to imagine the actual end of YOU,snuffed out and no longer anything? Quite a difficult thought to ponder because I,like you and everyone else,have only existed being conscious and cannot imagine otherwise(not that anything exists after death). People tend to deny themselves such thoughts especially when they are alone. Death is pushed to the attic of the mind or covered up with the comfort blanket of religion. I enjoy talking about these things with close friends but it's of utmost importance to arrive at such ideas on your own since we can all be our own masters. Life is rich thinking material too of course,no need to zoom in solely on death. Even the most basic pioneering metal acts championed the individual and the glory in living life to the fullest by your own set of rules. Inspiring introspection. So in short,metal got my mind working a lot more and gave me a lot of self confidence in thinking and in being. Not self confidence stemming from compliments of friends,girlfriends,family members,co-workers but self confidence originating inside..awakening to aspects of myself that had gone unnoticed or been unappreciated. Perhaps extreme metal won't spark the same fire inside of everyone. For those with naturally non-metal ears I suggest classical music or some traditional folk.


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