Friday, May 15, 2009

Why I Love Heavy Metal:A Cliché Subject, An Unusual Stance

You, the imaginary reader who visits this blog, might be aware that we've taken a bit of a turn in our writing. No longer attempting to simply review albums, our heavy metal essays have become...well, a lot more personal and ambitious. I've been focusing on a tiny detail or thought and blowing it up into an unorthodox essay idea but haven't gotten around to putting much down because the ideas have hardly ever been great enough. You should appreciate all the daydreaming that goes into "Shattered Imperium" nowadays. Appreciate the quality over quantity as well. This particular essay has been brewing for more than a month! Just the basic idea itself has undergone many slight mutations. I might add that it's my first attempt at an extremely deep and personal entry. As far as reviews go, I don't think I'll be doing any more standard reviews on here. They don't really serve any purpose. I also don't believe I'll be tackling any essays focusing on anything other than heavy metal. It's heavy metal that I think about, or read about, more than any other style of music, heavy metal gets the most playing time throughout the day and if there's a song 'stuck' in my's probably a heavy metal tune.

I've had a lot of ideas swirling around in my head these past months. Some simple, some dense and unrefined, but all in relation to the role which heavy metal is playing in my life..right now. It's about my life, my feelings, with heavy metal as an ally in my mortal journey. So it was with much frustration that I tried to sort a particular barrage of thoughts out about four weeks ago on a Saturday. I was formulating a lot of sentences in the shower, and modifying them while blowdrying my hair. The urgency of sorting and writing out the thoughts reached it's peak while I was making rice on the stove. As the water began to boil, I poured the jasmine rice into the pot and after a few stirs, I reached to turn the knob down. I realized that perhaps just as the rice needed to be covered, left to 'simmer' and allowed to should I allow my thoughts to just sort themselves out over the course of the day, the week, even a month if necessary. I feel an urge to write and want to act on that inspiration, but what good is a jumbled mess of sentences not yet fully realized? Thus, it's taken me a very long time to make any headway. Of course the more I've thought about heavy metal in my life, and why I 'love heavy metal,' certain thoughts have transformed or led to other thoughts which lead to yet even more thoughts and it's hard to just put a fucking cap on it. A lot of brainstorming. A lot of picking and choosing. At the same time, since I am up on current events and 'trend forecasting,' my heavy metal analysis has been interrupted frequently and gone through many small changes as I become more aware of many possible dire future scenarios and so forth.

The biggest overall struggle for me in the past 3 years of my life has been the struggle to retain the curious, creative, imaginative flame of youth alive inside of me. To never surrender this flame to the workings of the machine which seek to smother it into oblivion. Part of that battle deals with self destruction. Existing in a madhouse and knowing fully well that it's a madhouse is not easy. Opposing the greater workings of the machine is not easy. Looking past the illusion is not easy and trying to express such ideas to oblivious denizens residing in the madhouse(who don't know or won't admit that they are in a madhouse)is incredibly frustrating and difficult. I find that I can't identify with most people and more often than not, I don't want to be able to identify with them. Most of the time, it seems easier to give up. I'm not talking about taking my life in the physical but rather destroying myself and the flame within through complete apathy, misery, bitterness and hatred. As the world hurtles towards lunacy it is of utmost importance to keep a clear head. Common sense. Regardless of that fact, I don't want to become a misanthrope or a wretched cold-hearted human being as I grow older. Not only would I drive away people and relationships with those people, but I would have an underlying hatred for myself. While I don't want to go down this dark route, I often find myself embracing forms of self-destructive behavior. Most of this is self-destructive in the spiritual sense though I'm of the opinion that such destruction can manifest itself on the physical level over time. Substance abuse, lack of exercise, loss of appetite or loss of desire to do anything productive etc, you get the picture. I relayed some of these thoughts to Zach once while maneuvering my car down the highway after a walk in the state forest. Just talking about how surprised I was that neither of us had really embraced self-destructive behavior. Sharing this was a bit difficult at first and perhaps this is why I spoke about it in terms of 'us.'No doubt that I was speaking mostly about myself as Zach is more grounded to 'the now' in a sense..has a bit of a different personality as well, a certain role. Without divulging family or relationship specifics, let's just say that Zach has closer ties in those areas whereas I have neither unbreakable ties with kin nor any kind of girlfriend to care for and who cares for me. I suppose this is where you would expect me to introduce heavy metal as a reason to struggle against self-destruction. You'd be dead wrong if you jumped to that conclusion. Heavy metal is not a reason but rather a tool, an ally. The reason is the beauty of life itself, relationships with other human beings, nature, the ability to think, see, run, write, draw, speak and taste. Existing in this 3 dimensional reality on a currently habitable rock floating in space and being lucky enough to spawn into being(or re-spawn into being)by way of two healthy people in a declining, but still comfortable, empire. I'd say I'm pretty lucky in that sense.

Before I get into the ways in which heavy metal aids and inspires me in my struggle let's get a few things sorted out.
First and foremost, it's all about my personal experience when listening to an album. It has nothing to do with feeling like I'm part of some metalhead family. I've never once felt like that because I've never been around more than one heavy metal fan. There seems to be a lack of intelligent heavy metal fans worldwide but this is a subject unto itself and I don't feel like writing about it within this entry. My personal heavy metal experience has nothing to do with trivia or forums in which I can use my trivia knowledge to one up people whom I'll never meet in real life. This is like gossiping at church. It has nothing to do with amassing a collection of rare vinyl..I don't have the means necessary and if I did, I doubt I would purchase more than the handful of rare records that are magnificent, but oh-so-rare, records. No need to buy mediocre hidden "gems" if I'm not going to be relentlessly bragging about them is there? No question that it's NOT about steadfast allegiance to bands, labels or musicians. That kind of behavior pisses me off. As if Rob Halford as an individual is this 'god' who can never be criticized. He simply channels the metal spirit very well. Can't be about merchandise. I'd rather buy music than band merch and I barely even have enough money to buy music nowadays. A $19 shirt is out of the question. While I might passionately scrawl a logo onto my denim jacket, it does not take the place of a NASCAR style advertisement nor is it a kind of symbol that alerts other heavy metal initiates to my taste. I mean, there aren't any around so it wouldn't make sense. Most importantly, it isn't about knowing of the most obscure treasures and keeping them withheld from the average metalhead. If a younger, more impressionable version of myself lived in the area and was genuinely interested in exploring older, lesser known heavy metal would I make him undergo some kind of foolish initiation to make sure he was 'true' enough to enter into the 'Greater Mysteries of Metal' or would I be frank with him? The real 'secret' would be the way in which one listens to heavy metal, the way in which one can apply it to their life. My relationship with heavy metal is very intimate and I recognize it's place in my life..contributing to mental/spiritual well being. Sound as if I'm trying to be clever or über-intelligent? Perhaps that's because you only accept heavy metal as entertainment or a sort of lifestyle, a pre-constructed persona to wear to the bar or a concert. I'm not accusing you of a lack of passion for 'metal' or seeking to topple you off of your pedestal of 'trueness.' You may be far 'truer' than I or more of a maniacal fan then I could ever be. Maybe I'm not so much a fan of the genre as I am of the core spirit that makes heavy metal what it is. Now we already know what that spirit is right? I've discussed it in just about every entry I've made. Go back and look if you are clueless. The albums that I seem to listen to the most are very in touch with this spirit and often quite aware of that fact.

Heavy metal does not take the place of a close companion, or at least not in the sense that I constantly rely on it for full support. As I noted previously, it's not a REASON in and of itself. I don't read lyrics as wisdom. Rather, I can either identify with the writer or submerge myself into the fantasy world penned by the lyricist, assuming the role of the character or narrator. To put it quite bluntly, heavy metal is a coping mechanism and a self-empowering tool that encourages me to fight on. To rail against those self-destructive tendencies which stem from a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling of being trapped. I have come to terms with the fact that I can't escape from this system of control. Even if running to the ends of the earth, I wouldn't be fully free. Obviously I'm as poor as hell so I don't have the means necessary to flirt with 'living off the grid' whatsoever. I must endure and retain my sanity, retain that flame whilst accepting my inability to physically flee the machine. It would be so easy to just let myself go. It would require little to no effort. I have often caught myself thinking that.To sleep in all day or booze away the weeks and stop caring about anything of value. Dismal forecasts for the future being my excuses as I haven't the expertise nor the equipment to last very long should the system of control come crashing down under the weight of excess. It's a battle to keep my head above the proverbial waters and most people that I know or talk with cannot seem to identify.They know things are bad(not extremely bad) but buy so many of the lies of progress and figure that the smart guys running the ship will have it all sorted out. Because they trust in the system and have much at stake within it, they will deny most of what I throw at them even if it's in black and white and large bold text. They'll tell me I'm nutty, more or less, and Heavy metal on the other hand does not tell me that I'm insane. It does not encourage me to whittle down my spirit and jump enthusiastically into the machine among the rest of the drones. Even though I am helpless to impact the big picture I have full reign over my mental, spiritual and physical health(at the moment). Heavy metal again, encourages, me to seize control and revel in the power I have over my mental, spiritual and physical health. Life is a battle, a struggle..not an easy or consistently pleasant experience with the occasional rare tragedy or mishap. I must emphasize the fact that I slowly came to see life in this way before becoming a full blown metal listener. Thus, it's a case of me being drawn to heavy metal over the years as it best fits my worldview and keeps alight that flame deep within. Recognizing life as a battle is not at all depressing in my opinion. What's depressing to me is a preconceived idea that life is nearly consistently a positive and that all negative aspects are curses. To embrace both the negative and positive forces, realizing that this balance is vital in the natural world, is a very 'heavy metal' thing to do. Now, I've written out a lot here and it's all quite messy as usual so let's recap:

*modern world system=legit insanity, ignores positive/negative balance, seeks to control all things, views humanity somehow separate from nature
*most people=oblivious to this system, it's "just the way life is," give up mental, spiritual and physical control

both of these responsible for the "madhouse effect"

*genuine heavy metal spirit=recognizes life as a battle, glorifies the struggle, in full realization of the natural positive/negative balance

Now you should be aware of why I have such difficulty in identifying with people around me. We can always talk about surface things and joke around but on a deeper level we are on opposite sides of a chasm. From this stems a weighty feeling of loneliness. A loneliness which I am at fault for feeling because I've adopted such a worldview. To follow the crowd on the other side and feel as if I'm doing 'the right thing' due to everybody else doing it. To cast off my knowledge, to ignore my gut feeling and take on a linear view of progress in order to feel as if we're all working towards something better. To easily find a partner in the crowd in order to experience those beginning stages of bliss and to feel needed on a daily basis. To actually have faith in some kind of religious,political or economic institution and think and worry much less. But no, such moves would be madness because they'd surrender that untamed fire and suppress my individual being, require me to deny what I perceive as reality. So I continue my walk further down this path on the darker side of the chasm because it's the only reasonable thing to do. After deciding that I shall tread forever onward even if it is lonely and morose, I turn on Iron Maiden or Immolation or While Heaven Wept or Burzum or Blind Guardian and a sense of tremendous power courses through me. It is *after* making such a decision that I utilize the tool of heavy metal. This should illustrate the fact that heavy metal is not the reason in and of itself. It is not under the banner of "metalhead" or "biker" or "punk rocker" that I join my circle of quasi-outcast family members and flip off the herd on the other side of the chasm. In most cases I'd be flipping off the dark side of the chasm and celebrating some kind of rebel identity through a sub-herd within the herd(unaware of course). I can't be bothered yearning for the acceptance of the herd and feverish ranting about them angrily accomplishes little. There is too much to think about, too much catching my creative eye, too much to dream about and too much music too appreciate. I can't help but feel that I'm following a narrative weaved for me by The Fates. I fit so well into this solo traveler role. Yes, there is a struggle and it can sometimes get the best of me. It rears it's head on a daily basis nowadays but as I grow older I'm sure I'll grow used to fighting it. I walk into a future filled with looming problems of unfathomable magnitude and the closer I get, the more I'll want to give up and fall into effortless self destructive behavior. I know that such a time is coming and it both frightens me and excites me. A challenge to end all challenges. Heavy metal is my soundtrack, my walking staff, my set of rosary beads, my energy drink of choice, my team of cheerleaders. What better way to greet an inner battle than by the rousing and thundering sounds of heavy metal?

*Coming Summer 09'
"Metal of Dishonor"
An in depth collaborative essay focusing on the current overabundance of metal without substance. Long Overdue.


1 comment:

Helm said...

What is this blog! I stumbled onto here somehow and I am glad to see such a thing exists. I feel I understand you very much [on the topic of this particular post]. Have our paths crossed in the past?

Warm salutations. I shall read the full backlog in due time.