This is an old version of the essay, see the polished piece
>Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.[^burnt]
[^burnt]:[T.S. Elliot’s Burnt Norton, (No. 1 of ‘Four Quartets’)](http://www.tristan.icom43.net/quartets/norton.html)
Brutality in a cage, contained, precisely machined from abrasive plasmic arcs
>Not merely a continuous stream, our experiences of the possibilities of the near future and the certainties of the immediate past exist simultaneously with the experienced events of the hair’s present. All experience exists, therefore, not in the infinitely thin present of the traditionally conceived now, but in a temporal thickness that Husserl called the living present. This living present is the temporal window of the phenomenal world, the arena within which experience transpires. The halo of possibilities that constantly lurk before us in the future are referred to as protentions, and experiences that have just passed through the now-point are referred to as retentions. Within this living present, experiences exist for us as numerous facets synthesised together, dynamic gestalts moving from protention to retention.[^168]
[^168]: Harris M Berger, ”Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,“ _Popular Music_ 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p168.
This is negative space — clusters of machined rips, lip-biting silence punctuates the in-between waiting spaces drawing pulling the ear into false-comfort, tension to be _delivered_ by the protending riff.
adjective ( __heav–i–er , heav–i–est__ )
1 of great weight; difficult to lift or move :
– (of a class of thing) above the average weight; large of its kind : heavy artillery.
– weighed down; full of something : branches heavy with blossoms | feeling weighed down by weariness
– Physics of or containing atoms of an isotope of greater than the usual mass.
2. of great density; thick or substantial : heavy gray clouds | a heavy blanket.
– not delicate or graceful; coarse :
– (of the sky) full of __dark__ clouds; __oppressive__ : a heavy thundery sky.
3. of more than the usual size, amount, or force; doing something to excess
4. striking or falling with force : a heavy blow to the head | we had heavy overnight rain.
– (of music, esp. rock) having a strong bass component and a forceful rhythm.
5. needing much physical effort : long hours and heavy work.
– mentally oppressive; hard to endure : a heavy burden of responsibility.
– important or serious : a heavy discussion.
– (of a literary work) _hard to read or understand because overly serious or difficult._ [hard to listen to…]
– feeling or expressing grief : I left him with a heavy heart.[^heavythes]
[^heavythes]: New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition
* * *
_word_ METALLIC adjective: grating, harsh, jarring, dissonant.[^metalthes]
[^metalthes]: Christine A Lindberg, ed., The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p576.
>But metal cannot be conceptualized as a mere steam valve for psycho-social pressures, even if the turning of that valve is conceptualized as an active process. The notion of perceptual agency is at the heart of the death metal participant’s ideology. While much of metal in general and death metal in particular is energetic and aggressive, the musicians I spoke with were quick to disabuse me of the misconception that metal is merely angry music. Saladin explained that metal was about exploring all the emotions that hold a person back in their life… Over and over again, the metalheads explained that music listeners must not merely let sound wash over them, but they should listen to music _actively_, engaging with the msuic and making it meaningful. What distinguishes death metal and underground metal in general from commercial hard rock and pop metal, they said, is that the music requires active listening…[^steamvalve]
[^steamvalve]: Harris M Berger, ”Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,“ _Popular Music_ 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p173.
* * *
>What is the meaning of a wrathful Buddha? We see all these wrathful images of Buddhas (gesturing around the temple). But in truth wrathful Buddhas have nine qualities. Their bodies are wrathful, heroic, and frightening. Their voices are laughing, threatening, and fierce. But mentally they are loving, peaceful, and powerful. Like all enlightened beings, their minds are peaceful, compassionate, joyful, and wise. If a being is wrathful on the outside and also angry in its heart, then it is a real monster — not a Buddha. Wrathful Buddhas look wrathful for a purpose: for pacifying, for taming negative forces.
[From Tulku Thondup’s Talk in India 2003]
* * *
It all began some time between the third and fifth grades. I seem to remember things from this period by grades, if at all. Each year is divided by that one major change—moving to the next level in school. There is no clear beginning or end. I saw the music video for the Smashing Pumpkins’, Tonight, Tonight and was, for some reason, struck by it. Logically, I went out and bought the CD, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I wouldn’t understand the title of the album for at least five years. At least, I wouldn’t know that I’d understood the title. Was I an angsty 4th grader? Was I _weighed down by weariness_, my heart _heavy_ with the troubles of the world? What about this melancholic, harsh music appealed to me, not even in my the clichéd dark teenage years? The meaning is a bit hard to miss when you hear the music. The album was released on October 24, 1995; so I was around 10 years old. Which is like, third grade, right? I always have to recount from the beginning to figure that out. So I bought the CD, a double album, despite the fact that the one song I knew was nothing like anything else on the album. Yet I don’t remember realizing that, or particularly caring at the time. But the songs I listened to most where the heavy ones. Like the buzz-sawing, Zero; the crushingly distorted Bodies; the ever-classic, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, with the timeless chorus, ”Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage“. Etc.
* * *
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 shaped guitar: a red Gibson SG. Why is the shape of a guitar so important? So Jesper started a band and recorded a song with them. I tagged along and gained my eventual nickname, ”roadie“. 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. I wanted to believe. I also don’t remember when, exactly, the illusion dissolved and he shed the identity of Jesper, but at some point he resumed his identity. But never lost that aura. He now sings for a leading death metal band in England. Or so he says.
* * *
I search for a definition of Metal. I could qualify it endlessly: Death, Black, Power, Progressive, Avant Garde, Symphonic, Viking, Doom, Folk, Nü, NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), Pagan, Christian, Shred, Neo-Classical. It becomes absurd if it wasn’t already. What remains when the modifiers are removed?
* * *
For me, the path that led to this music was far from straight, and yet was strangely inevitable. Art appeals to an us that is raw, emotional. In my current context, one where metal is an extremely strange and alien concept, most of the people with whom I interact don’t see much of that emotional core. Finding out that I <3 metal can come as a bit of a shock for those who don’t already know a bit about me. But we all have our ways to excise the demons the world inspires within us. So I wonder, is that all this music serves to do? Does my love for metal extend beyond the realms of negativity?
* * *
My friend bought it. Someone brought it into school on their discman. I was intrigued. So I bought it. Smash by the Offspring. It 0wn3d me. It still does.
* * *
10 more minutes of standing, shuffling for a better spot, and fighting valiantly to protect the spots that are already had. A restless whisper rises throughout the room, it is not clear where it starts, or to what it refers. The stage is now dark. Necks crane and eyes strain to make sense of the fresh, shifting darkness. The shapes on stage begin to congeal into outlines, and the murmur of the crowd grows louder.
The music begins with a soft, symphonic scape of oscillating synthetic tones. The darkly peaceful chords weigh down on the restless bodies, which grow quiet.
* * *
There are several major rock stations that are receivable 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“.
* * *
Can you be Buddhist — live a life filled with compassion and happiness, and listen to Death Metal? Does spirituality satiate the same urge, the same hunger, as music? Some Christians would have us believe so. I heard a sermon in a Mongolian Evangelical church where the pastor lamented the youth’s finding God in ”fun“ things. He used music as his prime example and mimed it out for the crowd, hands cupping imaginary headphones and head bobbing to an imaginary disco beat, he grinned absurdly and continued the service, ”Xogjim sonsdog…!“ the service concluded with the parish band resuming their places on stage and leading the crowd in yet one more enthusiastic round of Jesus-loving song. But their needs were being filled by the Jesus part, not the music, right? Then why are there Christian death metal bands?
* * *
_tss… tss… ts ts ts_ __tsh__
six taps of a hi-hat later, the destruction begins.
* * *
I’d sign – a contract with the devil
I’ve tried – for so very long
I’d die – to become immortal
that’s why I sing this song
Am I a wannabe? – have I no dignity.
Who’d give up all my life, to be…
In the book of heavy metal —— METAALLLL!
In the book of heavy metal
-—Dream Evil, ”The Book of Heavy Metal (March of the Metallians)
* * *
Would Buddha listen to metal if it touched his soul? Were I to become Buddha, would it cease to have meaning to me? The music excises the demons; so without the demons, can there be the music? Isn’t it all about the music?
>From our lives’ beginning on
We are pushed in little forms
No one asks us how we like to be
In school they teach you what to think
But everyone says different things
But they’re all convinced that
They’re the ones to see
So they keep talking and they never stop
And at a certain point you give it up
So the only thing that’s left to think is this
_I want out–to live my life alone
I want out–leave me be
I want out–to do things on my own
I want out–to live my life and to be free_
–Helloween, “I Want Out” (_Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II_, 1988)
___A certain bleak cynicism. A morbid fascination with the dark, undesirable; a simultaneous familiarity with their emotional counterparts from a life of alienation and depression. A need for personal reality corroboration, art metaphors reflecting and reaffirming perspective validity.___
Raise your hand, your fist in defiance proud
Slay the armies of static grey plastic descending
Blood rains, floods low-lying poor as the rich gawk from above
_In the metal universe, there can be no pleasure without acknowledging first the pain._
Poise and hubris in extreme. Superlatives R Us.
>Death be not proud,
thou some have called thee mighty and dreadful,
thou art not so.
–Children of Bodom, “Follow The Reaper” (_Follow The Reaper_, 2000) (quote originally from John Donne, [“Death be not proud, though some have called thee”](http://www.bartleby.com/105/72.html))
>Liner notes introduction: As a servant of light and defender of life, I’m proud to invite you all to the furthest horizons to fight united against astral chaos, the primordial enemy of the planetary wisdom. So relax your body, relax your mind, turn your speakers up and enjoy the virtual odyssey…
–Luca Turilli (_King of the Nordic Twilight_, 1999)
word EPIC 1. noun: heroic poem, saga; 2. adjective: heroic, grand, monumental, ambitious, great.
>Shattered hope became my guide
and grief and pain my friends
a brother pact in blood-ink penned
declared my silent end
>Naked and dying under worlds of silent stone
reaching for the moonshield that once upon us shone.
–In Flames, “Moonshield” (The Jester Race, 1996)
word BRUTAL adjective: savage, ferocious, wicked, ruthless, sadistic; heinous, abominable. antonym: gentle, humane.
>One day you’ll live in happiness
With a heart that’s full of joy
You’ll say the world “tomorrow” without fear
The feeling of togetherness will be at your side
You’ll say you love your life and you’ll know why
–Helloween, “Future World” (_Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II_, 1988)
Metal’s evil, eh?
>Nowadays the air’s polluted
ancient people persecuted
that’s what mankind contributed
to create a better time
–Helloween, “Eagle Fly Free” (_Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II_, 1988))
>Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato warned in The Republic that “any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited… when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.”[^platowarn]
[^platowarn]:William S Fox and James D Williams, ”Political Orientation and Music Preferences Among College Students,“ _The Public Opinion Quarterly_ 38, no. 3 (Autumn 1974).
* * *
>In moments of silence when you are alone
You feel the desire is burning still strong
Open your heart and remember the day
When I sent you out on your way
>I’m a wandering man, the heir of the crown
A lonely knight, I’m roaming around
I’ll never rest, I’ll never give in
Until my quest, has come to the end
–Freedom Call, “The Wanderer” (_Crystal Empire_, 2001)
word INTENSE 1. adj: extreme, fierce; exceptional, extraordinary; harsh, strong, powerful, potent, overpowering. 2. adj: passionate, vehement, fiery, spirited, vigorous.
On Death Metal:
>But unlike the garbled sound emanating from the lovable and occasionally frenetic Cookie Monster, death-metal vocals seem to come from a dark spot in a troubled soul, as if they were the narrator’s voice on a tour of Dante’s seventh circle of hell… Early death-metal bands such as Death and Morbid Angel that emerged from Florida in the mid-’80s helped create the musical template that characterized the blasting sound as well as that of its Satan- and occult-obsessed sibling, black metal: fast, relentless drumming often featuring two bass drums; grinding, rapid-fire chording on guitars; squealing guitar solos; muted electric bass; unexpected sudden tempo changes; and a sense of theatricality that’s inevitably threatening–“a horror film put to music” is how Monte Conner, a vice president at Roadrunner Records, sees it… To be a true Cookie Monster vocal, said Mr. Conner, who signed some of the subgenre’s biggest bands, including Sepultura and Fear Factory, “it’s got to be really, really guttural. It should sound like they’re gargling glass… If you want to make music that’s terrifying, you have to sing about ripping people’s heads off. Singing about puppies and kittens isn’t too cool.”…[^cookie]
[^cookie]:Jim Fusilli, ”That’s Good Enough for Me: Cookie Monsters of Death-Metal Music.,“ The Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2006, http://opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110007902.
>While it is not clear to me if the motivating power of death metal is generating a vanguard of energetic youth or drawing artistic and creative young
people into a trap of naive individualism, I believe that the political significance of musical sound is rooted in the meanings that the participants
constitute and the consequences of those meanings for the participants’ lives and the larger society.[^motpower]
[^motpower]:Harris M Berger, ”Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,“ _Popular Music_ 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p175.
>The tonal dimension of music and the meaning sthat emerge from it are constituted by the subject’s active, perceptual organization of the sound in time.[^tdimen]
[^tdimen]:Berger (1999), p161.
>Starting from widely divergent perspectives and serving widely divergent conclusions, most scholars of metal have interpreted the music as an expression of the frustrations of the blue-collar young in a de-industrializing society that neither requires their labour nor values their presence.[^bluec]
[^bluec]:Berger (1999), p169.
_Up next, on Melting Point Radio, “This Week in Metal History”. But first, here is a Maiden classic, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”_. I toggled off the mic and spun my chair around to where my co-hosts were crouched over a laptop, busy scouring wikipedia for worthy events. _Ohhh, 1945: The firebombing of Dresden?_ I scowled. Could I deny it was not, indeed, metal for an entire city to be incinerated in an immense firestorm? Did this not epitomize the kind of bleak, cynical world view typified by [some of] our beloved music? But the music lifts my spirits, I am blissfully unaware of the words being scrawled across the airwaves. So I ____ to associate my beloved metal with such a tragic injustice, for fear of it seeming an endorsement of such a horror.
I step through the doorway; the shrine room swallows me in darkness glowing with dim fluorescent tubes, mounted bare to the wall. My eyes adjust to the cool light and suddenly I find myself face to face with a scowling demon — its face twisted in agony. Beneath his feet were tiny people, frozen in their desperate dash to escape his thunderous ego-crushing step. Then it hit me, all at once, in one contained _this is metal_ thought.
Metal is about many things, but it is surely MINOR and LOUD and FAST, at least archetypically.
How seriously do we take it? Alexi Laiho, possibly the most gifted songwriter in the metal world today, is a clown with a guitar as he admits during their epic live DVD in Stockholm, “So you see, basically we’re a bunch of fucking idiots… [proceeds to launch into a passionate rendition of a typically brilliant, pummeling, yet melodic song].”
melt everyone’s faces with flowing, glorious metal]”
There are two amazingly cliché moments when metal played a serious role in keeping my mental peace. Both were also clearly clichés at the time, which I enjoyed immensely despite the circumstances. Heavy Metal & Breakups…
The first was my first real experience in romance, at summer camp the summer before 9th grade (I was 13?). Me and said girl’d been “going out” for about a week, I’d just been informed of the ending of our little arrangement by one of her friends. The important part of the story is that, devastated, I returned solemnly to my bunk, crawled in bed shoes clothes ‘n all, and fetched my disc-man and Marilyn Manson (c’mon, it was the closest to metal that I had). My friend stopped by and asked if I was alright. I said _sure_. I later laughed and told others that _of course I wasn’t ok, I was lying in bed with my shoes and clothes on, listening blankly to Marilyn Manson…_
End of serious 2.5 year relationship with basically no prior warning. Destabilization imminent or already occurring. I lay on my bed in Weybridge House and insert a very special CD into my stereo, “Into Oblivion” by Into Eternity.
1. Splintered Visions
2. Embraced By ‘Desolation’
3. 3 Dimensional Aperture
4. Beginning Of The End
5. Point Of Uncertainty
6. Spiraling Into Depression
8. Buried Into Oblivion
9. Black Sea Of Agony
10. Morose Seclusion
I grinned demonically as the cd began to spin, and the opening track’s blistering harmonized scale runs washed over me, connecting somewhere deep wounded within.
This album is special
>Spiraling into depression
Spiraling into depression
>Still you cannot bear all this pain
Still you cannot bear to walk away
Darkness still rips silently within
Still you cannot bear all the shame
>Alone in your circle of despair
Your dreams are discarded
Clinging to a sterile existence
Self-pity and lingering grief
Depleted and beaten
Depleted and beaten
I sit down at my desk, pen in hand, headphones on, and click “play” on my iTunes playlist. How do I define this music that I love so? Is there a constant between these many disparate genres? It seems more like a series of spectra in various dimensions. Metal is a vague identifier that describes a subset of this multidimensional space, the boundaries of which are far from definite, and certainly not objective. I hypothesize that there are general lines within which most fans of this genre could agree to label “metal’. Sub-genres are sure to extend beyond this commonly held space, and not all sub-genres will occupy its entirety, necessarily (since some begin on the fringes and then continue into the distance). . Here are a few spectra I can identify..
>Some have eyes but still can’t see.
Their plastic noise is anything but music to me.
Mechanized and computerized.
Switch off your brain and make sounds that dehumanize.
(Kreator, _Love Us or Hate Us_ (Extreme Aggressions, 1989).
I’m writing a personal essay on what metal means to ME. But I don’t even know what metal means to me, since it’s so visceral. And at my current stage in life (22 years old. In college. Etc…) I’m trying to reconcile my worldview with my taste in a genre of music that seems to be at odds with said worldview.
There has been lots of musicological writing about what music _means_ to us, and how we go about converting the acoustic energy that hits our ears into emotional and intellectual energy. It seems the process is far from objective, and doesn’t happen in a vacuum, social or otherwise. So metal is no different.
Lots of metalheads talk about how metal doesn’t really _mean_ anything, that it’s just music, and it is what you make it. But then there are books written by _sociologists_ about the metal “subculture”. The academic discourse on heavy metal is anemic, at best, but it does reveal some interesting things jflkdsjflkasdj
>[The great Tibetan yogi Jetsun Milarepa] lived in utter solitude, in caves and isolated mountains. His clothes were very poor; he had no nice clothes. His food was neither rich nor tasty. In fact, [for a number of years] he lived on nettle soup alone, as a result of which he became physically very thin, almost emaciated. Now, if you consider his external circumstances alone, the isolation and poverty in which he lived, you would think he must have been miserable. And yet, as we can tell from the many songs he composed, because his mind was fundamentally at peace, his experience was one of constant unfolding delight. His songs are songs that express the utmost state of delight or rapture. He saw every place he went to, no matter how isolated and austere an environment it was, as beautiful, and he experienced his life of utmost austerity as extremely pleasant.[^reasmed]
[^reasmed]: The Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, “The Reason We Practice Meditation”. http://www.rinpoche.com/reason.html
For me, metal appeals on more than one level. There is a layer of intellectual and ironic interest that celebrates metal’s exuberant theatricality (hilarity). Then there is a chemical, spiritual magnetism;
“When used to describe electric guitar sound, distortion, to me, denotes a thickness or density characterized by harmonic complexity, sustain and cascading audible overtones.”[^distrt]
[^distrt]:Robert M. Poss, “Distortion Is Truth,” _Leonardo Music Journal_ 8 (1998), pp45-48.
>Music has often been called “the language of emotions” (Gabrielsson & Lindström, 1993). Many studies have shown that identification of basic emotions in music works reliably in experts as well as in nonexperts (Cunningham & Sterling, 1988; Hevner, 1936; Terwogt & van Grinswen, 1991). This is significant, because even if a listener enjoys music via headphones and alone, this may still be a communicative act that includes active interpretation…
When thinking about the evolutionary bases of pleasure and chills in reaction to music, one should consider the possibility that it is not the phenomena such as the pilerection or shivers that make chills evolutionarily important, but the emotional process that takes place in response to a stimulus that contains information. In social groups, it is not only important to communicate facts, but also one’s emotional status. Music can be understood as an emotional communication system, and it is essential to learn to understand the communication of the social group to which one belongs. It has been said that most social groups have a certain style of music. If we want to belong to a group, we need to understand their emotional communication, which is partly found in music. This may be one reason why a certain musical style becomes important to us, and why we begin to identify with this style. It’s not the music, but the feelings of the people we hear playing that are important to us… it is not the music as a physical stimulus that manipulates our moods, but it is using the music as a communicative offering to influence our feelings in a re-creative process.[^recreat]
[^recreat]:Oliver Grewe et al., ”Listening to Music as a Re-Creative Process: Physiological, Psychological, and Psychoacoustical Correlates of Chills and Strong Emotions,“ _Music Perception_ 24, no. 3 (February 2007). _emphasis added_
Art is communication. An artist encodes a message, an image, a feeling, _whatever_ in a medium which is then transmitted to the consumer who decodes the art. Good art conveys the message, or conveys _a_ message, or makes the consumer _feel_ as though a message was communicated to them. Art acts as a mirror, we appreciate that which tells us what we already know. For metalheads, the music acknowledges the darkness of the world; it is dark, but that is ok. I do not, ever usually dwell on such darkness
Music is cathartic it allows one to virtualize the expression of emotions without the usually requisite associated experience. Thus pent-up anger is released when exposed to violent/angry music — as the mind sees the musical stimulus as violence in sonic form, allowing the listener its cathartic effects while avoiding its anti-social tendencies (that is, violence).
Metal down beats
Gods stomping, stampeding, galloping across aural scapes-
malevolent keyboards synthesize __ anticipation — and recreates the virtual stimuli that would have instilled such unease.
One distorted chord. 1 and 5. Hold.
Channel the choas and oppressive rumble of terrible empty space, of aural impartial chaos, the only God in a world of cellular automata. Carve and channel this dark force through air. Contained and executed sonic chaos.