I don’t know where I’d be without heavy metal music, but I know it’d be far worse off than I am today. Damned if metal didn’t get me through the worst of times and keep me sane during the best of times. I don’t deal with failure well, but I struggle equally at dealing with success.
I remember my Junior year in college–I was on a swim team trip to Arizona for a competition–when my roommate remarked that I must be “pretty fucking hardcore to fall asleep to Slipknot”, which is what I did every night (sometimes I still do).
I’m really not that hardcore a guy. It’s just music I can relate to. Yeah, I listen to death metal, but I’m also the guy who couldn’t step on a spider to save his life.
Even so, angst, isolation, and anxiety were common feelings for me growing up. Angst at what? I guess I hated the idea that fate was predetermined, I hated the discovery upon adulthood that much of the world is full of malice, and I hated that some people existed solely to judge and bring others down. I think these are good grounds for being upset. And I was upset at my own limitations, which like any teen, I was discovering. Maybe some of the kids I went to school with were too busy worrying about Homecoming or whatever to think about these things. I dwelled on them.
I also legitimately struggled to relate to people, and I genuinely like people. In high school, I had what in hindsight I would deem “extreme social anxiety.” My freshman year, I was too scared to eat in the cafeteria. So, I either ate outside on a bench alone, or didn’t eat at all. I don’t think many people realized that about me because I also was one of the fastest swimmers in North Carolina history. But yeah, I was reserved; I never spoke in class. Speaking a lot just stressed me out.
It was a similar story in college. I would have been a perfect member of Stephen King’s “Loser’s Club.”
I’m by no means an extrovert now, but I’m more comfortable in my skin.
Being an introvert is a blessing in disguise. I do speak easily with fourth and fifth graders in English class. I’ve always spoken easily with the middle and high school kids that I coached on various swim teams. It was with the genuinely awful people that I struggled with, and I’ve met a few, especially in Los Angeles. I think I struggled because I sensed their wiring was toxic, which sent off alarms in my subconscious. Maybe my anxiety is a sixth sense telling me to steer clear of shitheads.
I was upset back then, but along came bands like Disturbed, In Flames, Slipknot, and Killswitch Engage, and the music seemed to be perfectly in sync with my soul. And more oddly still, it didn’t suggest anything unhealthy. Contrarily, it was therapy, and in 32 years I’ve had no better therapy. It seemed to be saying, “Hey, we are other humans who know exactly how you feel, and we’re here to tell you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” When it’s said so poetically–and I would argue that it is a poetic genre–it puts you at ease. And yes, you can even fall asleep to it.
Did I mention they’re technical wizards at guitar?
I envy metal guitarists. Anyone who can grasp these feelings, which I think are born at a soul level, and transfer them to a musical instrument, has an extraordinary gift. I believe it’s supernatural. When metal is good, the notes of the guitar capture every powerful emotion a human being has ever felt. They then send these feelings to another listener.
It’s the most beautiful courier service ever devised by man.
So yeah, I’m the heavy metal/horror movies guy. I always have been, and that will never change. I spent my high school weekends stocking up on Nightmare on Elm Street Sequels and rocking out with my buddy Taylor to some Static-X that blared from his parents’ stereos. At twice that age, I’m much the same.
My music tastes haven’t changed much. The only difference between then and now is that I fall asleep a little earlier and need some earplugs at the shows. Back then, though, I was apologetically me. Now I’m unapologetically me.