By Ty Phillips
The term brings up a myriad of images and emotions: Satanism, angry youth, noise, ignorance, beauty, intelligence, art and more.
It all depends on who you ask.
To me, metal is like a pulse pounding, symphonic cacophony of inspired anti-establishment brilliance. Entire albums are devoted to George Orwell’s 1984, or the medieval religious persecution of Europe. Rage Against the Machine’s hip hop inspired metal musings cry out against American police state and racial policies.
Truthfully, there are just crappy metal bands out there and we all had to suffer through the non-metal of Hair Metal (the 1980’s version of Revlon meets New Kids on the Block), but real brilliance is out there and nothing shows this more than the connection between classical music and extreme metal. These once fringe artists, clad with chain mail and corpse paint, write amazing symphonies and overlay them with black and death metal.
As a young man, like most young men, I had my share of angst.
I was insecure. I was picked on. I came from a troubled home where an abusive father and a doting but zealous mother caused me more fear than security.
Metal was an escape to me. It was a way to retreat into my own world and release my hurt.
It didn’t drive me to Satan. I wasn’t mutilating animals or biting heads off of birds and bats. I was decompressing. It was a non destructive way to feel like I wasn’t the only one who felt so used, so angry and so alone. It was a salvation for an only child, living in middle of nowhere and without a friend.
It sparked my love of the arts; drawing, creative writing, song writing and gave me a safe harbor from bullies and social awkwardness
As an adult, it still drives me.
I still find myself smiling and growling along to politically and socially savvy lyricists who drop chord guitars and decorate their words with pounding drums. It pushes the pace of my workouts, its prose sparks the creative writing process that lets me escape from time to time and it touches my inner child that still hurts from scars that never fully healed.
Korn’s earlier work where Jonathan Davis screams at his father strikes a chord of an unheard child in me. Immolation’s political savvy protest touches my social conscience. Otep’s poetic mastery of words rings out for the fight of abused women everywhere.
Metal is not the one dimensional, head banging nonsense our mothers warned us about (though some may be). It is the conscience of a young generation. It is the fuel of intellectually gifted masses.
I can see the whole of my life mapped out in these chords and lyrics. The angst, the rage, the insecurity—all pounding over a concerto of so much delicacy and elegance, that the noise fades away.
It offers a silence within the madness.
So often we hear that rock and roll is about excess: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bands burn out after one big hit and crash into overdose, violence and the excessive lifestyle of pop culture. Metal though, is just as much a rebellion against this as it is anything else; the blind attachment to be big and popular—selling out. It’s about the statement not the fame.
I think this is why metal has stuck with me and I with it. It’s never truly popular. It’s always the voice of the unheard. It is the art of the insecure instead of the pre-fabricated pop tube fed to the masses of the illiterate, me generation narcissists.
It is my small controlled chaos within the maelstrom of media glitz.
Editor: Dana Gornall