Metal Manifesto Part II: The Radio Era

Continued from Metal Manifesto Part I: The Beginning

There are several major rock stations that are receivabble over FM radio broadcast in the Greater Boston Area (JOB?). Each tries desperately to define itself as THE definitive source of rock in the area, no matter how similar their mindless blathering DJ’s, or commercialized programming.

But it was a start. And WAAF isn’t so bad. Or wasn’t so bad. Dunno about nowadays.

There is no metal radio in Boston. Will there ever be? The metal scene is quite lively, especially out West in blue-collar Worcester, and I’m told in the Merrimack Valley as well.

So I spent my middle school years listening to crappy alternative rock/Hard Rock radio, searching for my musical identity. I found, and would later reject, for right or wrong, some bands: Sevendust, Tool, Powerman 5000, LImp Bizkit (the first step is to admit, right?).

Then I went to summer camp and met “Jesper Strömblad”.

Jesper was 16, I was 14. When you’re 14, 2 years is a bigger proportion of your life than it would be to me now, at 22. By exactly 4/77 times. Don’t ask me why that is important, it just is.

So Jesper was from a band called IN Flames, from Sweden. I would later learn that Sweden is the second most metal country in the world. (Data forthcoming). Though he was from Pennsylvania. He had long dark brown hair and a dry, caustic sense of humor.

He owned a stunningly gorgeous red Gibson SG that would inspire my own guitar years later. Why is the shape of a guitar so important? It just is. So Jesper started a band and recorded a song with them. I tagged along and gained my eventual nickname, “roadie”. But that’s a story for another time.

The next summer Jesper showed up with a CD and a story. The opening song on the CD (see below), captured my heart in an instant. The riffs were magical in their brutal beauty. It remains one of my favorite songs. And of course he had used the same main riff in the song he recorded the previous summer.

There he was in the liner notes, Jesper Strömblad. But the picture didn’t quite fit. The Jesper Strömblad in the liner notes had long blonde hair and was… a different person. Our Jesper told us about the strict Swedish laws — that prohibited minors from publishing music, thus forcing the band to use a stand-in for the photos (and live shows? So he could goto school or something?).

In any event, it’s unlikely I believed him then. I believed parts, but I was suspicious. I wanted to believe.

I also don’t remember when, exactly, the illusion dissolved and he shed the identity of Jesper.

So Jesper introduced me to metal. 4 songs from 4 bands started it all: Iron Maiden with The Whicker Man, In Flames with Embody the Invisible, Kamelot with Nights of Arabia, and Sonata Arctica with My Land.

Many people seem to have a “Heavy Metal” phase in their life. A temporary and immature indulgence in an angst-ridden sonic landscape. Especially for those who where at their angsty prime during the height of pop/glam-metal-mania (the 80’s). But metal means something very different today, in a world where it is very much not cool. Not that people don’t think it cool if you like metal, since it’s kind of unusual, but there’s definitely stigma attached to it.