There I was, standing there as it happened to me. I couldn’t do much about it…..this crazy, yet sweet guy had made me experience something that I never, ever wanted to experience before. It was an evening meant for a scene in a movie – a huge, white, amphitheater stage, with pinkish/purple clouds on a dusky, lit sky with a cool New Mexico breeze flipping my hair in and out of my face. Perfectly annoyed, I was about to politely excuse myself to the girls room, when I heard the sound of what sounded like a deep, gonging church bell ringing from the amphitheater before me. “Finally”, I thought “A heavy metal group with substance.” Yearning for the labor intensive artistry of some Beethoven or Mozart, my eyes piqued back towards the stage as I was just about to get past the row of Metal Heads that were between me and my hairspray. What I didn’t know at the time was that this exact moment would be my conversion from the ‘status quo’ to something utterly genuine and underestimated….in more ways than one.
Starting out as anything but a “Metal Head,” my own conversion toward heavy metal music happened one August evening in 2002. Packed with raw, gut-wrenching rhythm sections and well versed keyboard sections, Dream Theater pounded out “The Glass Prison” that evening and I was won over to “the dark side”. How perfectly the grungy engine of the melody grinded against the quirky, yet well intended mechanical keyboard tones. As the concert progressed, a litany of different emotions and thoughts passed through me as I experienced this vastly technical, yet genuine art form. As I would find out later on, there were many heavy metal groups that fit into multiple metal genres (progressive, Christian, nu metal and many others- what variety!!) just like them that did not confine themselves to structural rules and rigid, unbending lines of tradition. Metal was nothing as I had thought of it before – a genre devoid of sense or meaning – just rambling and screaming. AS I discovered, Metal had more to offer than what meets the casual, undiscerning ear.
Heavy Metal Music is a truly unique, vast array of sub genres as far reaching as any other American art. It is an art form that says “screw conventional wisdom….what are your thoughts and ideas??” As independent and free-thinking as the American founders, Heavy Metal boasts legendary artists such as Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, Ozzy, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Tom Araya of Slayer, James Hetfield of Metallica, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, and the progressive metal giants John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. Now, inasmuch as these men are household names and mostly front-men, Metal Fans don’t forget about the rest of the band members. Point being, if you mention one name of a specific group, metal fans can follow up with dialogue about other members in the band. Steve Harris this and John Myung that, respectively. Metal heads are privileged to be a part of a culture that breeds exceptionality in more than one section of the average Metal group. Instead of Beyonce this and Mariah Carey that, Metal fans can take pride in the notion that each heavy metal group has multiple, talented, individual voices that collaborate to make unique music…not just one or two.
Heavy Metal is the opiate of the common man. It goes far beyond the “cock rock” of the 1980’s. While there are many bands that write lyrics that won’t spark a ton of intelligent conversations, generally speaking (or at least the bands I’ve listened to), it delves into the social issues of today, yesterday, and yes, even ancient history. Listen to any metal band and you will get a lesson on the human experience through the ages, without leaving society in civil unrest. Unlike the majority of today’s popular music that talks about boy meets girl and the subjugation of women, Heavy Metal Artists cultivate the conversations that we, as a society, need to have. It is a genre that cultivates differing opinions and expresses itself in very meaningful ways. Heavy Metal is the music of the forgotten, unsung, everyday heroes that live payday to payday, choose to have kids instead of careers, choose the best of life, and not necessarily the “success” of life. At its best, the Metal culture makes up millions and millions of people experiencing life as it is and expressing their frustrations of the seemingly endless brokenness of the human condition.