Mongolia Piece 2 in Pieces

Metal in Mongolia

The first time I heard heavy metal–_the kind I listen to, from Scandinavia_– in Mongolia was also the first time I heard this music broadcast on mainstream TV, while staying with a herding family in East-Central Mongolia.

I was seated outside on a carpet with my language teacher, we moved throughout the morning as the patch of shade shifted with the sun. The dog who didn’t die–yet remains nameless, at least in memory–lay napping by my side. I tried not to sound frustrated as I generated yet one more lifeless sentence of grammar crap.

Flies – Ger – Annihilation (5mins)

I took what must have been my 100th lap around the ger–I had struck a rhythm; long underwear snapping against the canvas roof to the beat of my stilted step. My right foot always hitting harder as it centripetally held me in an orbit–clockwise of course, even when committing flyicide.

From my field journal…

31 August, Afternoon
>Flies are everywhere. On my arm.
>Fuck these godforsaken fucking flies. Wow, I sound angry, no?

31 August, 5:30pm
>Now Lkhakvasuren is running around the ger rambo-style with a towel in one hand, and my pillow in the other, windmilling her arms.

4 September, 3:55pm
>Midday is definitely the worst time of day. It’s hot, and there’s nothing to do. My [host] father usually naps or watches TV, or both, while I make flashcards or do homework. Meanwhile, the flies go beserk. There’s no point in even trying to wave them away.

>Right now the only sound is of flies swarming above and around me. A chorus that ebbs and flows to its own chaotic pulse. Usually, I get up every ten minutes or so to clear my side of the ger, if only to lessen the number in my immediate vicinity, for a few moments of relative peace.

>It sorta works. At least I don’t feel helpless. My [host] father is going to tend to the sheep now…

8 September, 3:47pm
>When this baby screams, it’s like the sun is shattering, screeching-swerving through space. Except less cosmic, graceful, grandiose, or poetic. The shit is just LOUD and SHRILL.

>It’s also the witching hour. Or hours. WHen the flies all take their afternoon dose of speed and then go Bat-Shit-Insane all over the ger. _Todo: Become zen so I don’t care_

9 September, 3:00pm
>…they joked that I should give them burzag blah blah, that I was a poor host –pause to kill some flies–

9 September, 3:55pm
>Phew. There were 100’s, now there are, like, 20. The war is un-winnable, but I figure I can win a few battles to make their level at least tolerable. And strike some fear into their grimy hearts.
Anyways, so these guys show up…

In Mongolia

In Mongolia, vegetable soup consists of:
onions (_optional_)
cabbage (_optional_)

In Mongolia, the girls walk home to their slums wearing fake designer jeans and faux-fur-trimmed coats.

In Mongolia, Dogs are not man’s best friend.

In Mongolia, Chinggis Khaan is the God of Gods.

In Mongolia, marmots steal frisbees and other bright white, fast-moving objects.

In Mongolia, your cab fare is computed using a simple formula:
(distancekm*300) / (mongolian language ability) / (number of mongolians with you) + 500 \* (number of gringos) + random \* 100


Green Bananas

People who eat green bananas are weird. The fruit is not quite ripe, I submit — the toughness of the skin is telling! _Wait, I’m not ready yet. I want to live up to my full potential!_ But the eater is hungry and impatient. the skin is bent-cracked split pulled. Upside-down. Assuming that monkeys know bananas better than us, we are going about the act __all wrong__!

But that’s not even the worst of it.

The pale residue — it’s hard, firm, you could say, and you really have to bite and chew. the taste is pleasant enough at first, if underwhelming. Banana. Only slightly tart, with a hint of bitter mouthfeel (if such a thing is possible?). Swallow.

The phantom residue clings to your mouth dry-hairy coarseness that no amount of water or milk can disperse. As if the fruit hadn’t been fully separated from its skin, and took bits of skin-adhesive with it, leaving traces for the eater to ponder.

If they even notice.

Pico Iyer on Traveling, from “Why We Travel: A Love Affair With the World”
>We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate…. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again–to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”

Titles for pieces to write sometime:
Notes on Watching TV in a Ger in East-Central Mongolia
The Sheep Trap Plot
Fly-icide (in progess)
On Urbanization and the Eating Habits of Town-Center Dwellers in Delgerkhaan, Hentii, Mongolia
from my field notes: “To write: POEM: _I want to kill you, goat_” it came to me when I heard myself yelling this at a particularly stubborn goat (I was herding).
__Maxcax__: _v._ To desire meat

It lurked in the shadows, behind every counter, beneath every menu waiting for the opportunity to take hold of our GI tracts and wring them for all we’re worth. I made it for 1.5 months without getting really sick. The others weren’t so lucky.

But come, my day, it did…

Quote (title of finished piece?):
>What a fucking ridiculous place

Notes towards a second essay


We are walking down the main drag, heading to or from a bar. A man is standing by the roadside. he is a dark shape revealed only in the passing slices of headlights, wearing a shirt that was once white, but is now streaked with red. Presumably blood. His face, also revealed by the headlights is similarly painted — and wears a timid grimace.

He is trying to get home; with one hand struggling to pathetically hail a passing car, as he hunches over into himself.


Don’t go to Mongolia for the food. Unless you like three things: Mutton, Salt and Fat. Then you should rather enjoy the cuisine.

The American doctor at the local Korean Christian hospital thinks Mongolians have high rates of kidney disease from not drinking any water. In the countryside, they drink _suutei tsai_ (literally, tea with milk). Perhaps a more apt name would be _davstai tsai_ (tea with salt). It is the beverage of choice when you’re not drinking _airag_ (fermented mare’s milk, or _koumiss_), and can be conveniently used as broth for any soup or noodles.

Main Dishes

You have the infamous _buuz_. Buuz are like Tibetan _momos_ — little mutton-filled boiled dumplings. Except _momos_ are smaller, and have spices and vegetables. _Buuz_ have four ingredients: Mutton, Mutton Fat, Salt, and Onions. For cultures from the colder regions, the highest of culinary achievement is glorious lard.

Put the onions, mutton and fat in a dumpling wrapper. Make into dumpling. Boil. Eat with _suutei tsai_. Your first bite may be dangerous, you bite into the familiar dumpling shell only to receive an onslaught of flooding “juice”. Your mouth fills with mutton grease and the uniquely pungent taste of mutton itself.

Mutton is a uniquely fatty red meat, so bad for you that the Mongolian government runs a health campaign, promoting BEEF as the heart-healthy “other red meat”!

Up next, _khuushuur_. These are like _hot pockets_ (maybe the calzones), but filled with one thing: mutton — and then fried to oblivion.

_Tsuivan_. This was my staple dish when eating at the only restaurants that exist outside the city (the capitol). Zoogiin Gazar, Buuz-eria, “Mongolian National Fast Food”. they serve several dishes, most which are randomly sold out at any particular moment.

I always order Tsuivan. it’s a simple dish — a safe choice mostly, though a few times I was served it with ketchup. Which threw me off a bit. Essentially it’s Mongolian lo mein. take flat wheat noodles, fry lightly with a generous amount of oil, slivers of mutton, and maybe a few veggies. even the noodles will take on the pungence of mutton, absorbed into the oils.

I arrived in Mongolia approximately August 23rd.

On August 29th, I recorded in my journal that “maybe I just don’t like mutton”.

I had just finished my first week.

First of fourteen.


One would think, given the number of livestock (35 million) and their centrality to Mongolian culture and lifestyle, and that all the main livestock varieties produce milk fit for the purpose (sheep, goats and cows) that Mongolia would have developed a robust cheese-making tradition. But no. There are two types of Mongolian cheese: _aaruul_ and “Mongolian Cheese”. _Aaruul_ is the traditional cheese made in the countryside and dried for weeks in the sun on the roof of the _ger_. It is hard. As a soft stone. Sure, you _could_ bite it, but you’d be risking a ticket to both the dentist and world of pain. one of my buddies’ host mothers made this mistake. She must’ve been lving in the city so long she lost touch with the culture and forgot how to eat _aaruul_. Though city dwellers don’t drink as much _cuutei tsai_ so maybe she was calcium deficient (thus the broken tooth).

So _aaruul_ is a hard and very strong-tasting cheese. very salty.

Cheese #2/2 is textured pleasantly, between mozzarella and cheddar. It’s a bit rubbery. looks delicious until you take a bite. And realize it has no taste. Who knew it possible to make cheese with utterly no taste? i always figured cheese got most of its flavor from the cheesiness. y’know, milk (ie. goat vs. sheep vs. cow… all the cheese taste different) and the cultures…

But here was proof of the futility of my self-delusions. Stark in its blandness. My host family laughed when i bought some, and referred to it as _davsgui byslag_ — cheese with no salt. So the one place I would gladly have welcomed a bit of salty tang, of course it is utterly absent.

The one thing that is wrong with _all_ Mongolian Pizza is the cheese — and understandably so. When mozzarella is $15/lb, and you earn $400/month if you’re rich, then Pizza just ain’t gonna be the same.

Not that they don’t try… (Pizza King… )

I stared at the metal bowl placed unceremoniously before us. It was a matte-gray metal pot — like a wash bin – the standard vessel for all cooking outside the “apartmented gentry”.

I only got sick once in Mongolia. No, twice. Neither were especially severe – as in, long lasting – but rendered me physically weak, emotionally drained, and gastrointestinally anarchic.

Sickness, such as this reminds you of how connected and unified your GI tract really is. We tend to separate at the stomach. The top is for eating, the bottom for pooping. Yet once food passes the halfway mark, it falls under the realm of the nearest escape route. So on that fateful day when I drank a glass of Mongolian Coca-Cola with breakfast (my host father later told me my illness must have been due to that) the contents of my GI tract decided to riot and collectively exited my body.

Luckily (or unluckily, depends who you ask) I never experienced a majestic GI phenomenon known as the _Wind Tunnel_. When both sides of one’s GI tract decide to exit simultaneously, one is left in an interesting logistical quagmire. Then, a state of vacuum is created in the center of the body as you spew digested and undigested food simultaneously into the nearest drainally-able vessel.

100 Words: Hair

Hair enjoys a tenuous duality in life. This duality consists of two states: that of the attached hair, and that of the detached hair. These states also elicit divergent reactions from the very hosts that spend hundreds of thousands of hours diligently growing filaments. Upon encountering a hair in one’s food, it is considered acceptable to raise hell Since hair has bacteria… ::SCREAM::

So do washed hands.

In its attached (and gloriously metal) state:
1. Headbanging on a higher plane
2. Intrinsic symbol of temporal and social commitment (to a cause and…) to opposition of accepted (and enforced) draconian societal norms.

Inner Peace Through METAL (early draft)

NOTE: This is an early draft of this essay

>heav–y |ˈhevÄ“| adjective ( __heav–i–er , heav–i–est__ )
1. of great weight;
– (of a class of thing) large of its kind : heavy artillery.
– weighed down; full of something : feeling weighed down by weariness
2. of great density; thick or substantial :
– 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 :
– 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.

>me–tal–lic |məˈtalik| adjective
1. _a metallic sound_ : grating, harsh, jarring, dissonant.[^metalthes]
2. Harshly resonant : _the strange metallic note of the meadow lark, suggesting the clash of vibrant blades_ (Ambrose Bierce)[^metaldict]

[^metalthes]: Christine A Lindberg, ed., The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p576.
[^metaldict]: American Heritage English Dictionary, 3rd Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1992).

* * *

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“.

* * *

It was 4th grade. I lived in a nice town, went to a decent school.

I was fast. Real fast. The fastest in the school. We played touch football every day at recess, and I’d run for the hail mary, churning past the helpless defense. this was before puberty passed me by and took everyone else with it, leaving me small and athletically irrelevant.I had a classic crush on a girl in my class named Claire.

My ADD was still not quite under control; the social waters chilled as I unwittingly alienated myself from peers with exuberant abandon. It wasn’t active, aggressive animosity; just a general distancing and idle, abrasive needling, teasing.

The boys I played football with had figured out my little secret and so, naturally, they felt it appropriate to use this information for their own enjoyment.We were walking out to the football field one afternoon; the teasing banter continued to rain. I’d long since realized the futility of defending myself, so I tried with equal futility to ignore. But I am my father’s son, and my mother’s father’s grandson; our blood boils hot and boils fast.

* * *

>Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.[^burnt]
[^burnt]: T.S. Elliot, “Burnt Norton,” No. 1 of _Four Quartets._ Published online by Tristan Fecit, at (June, 2000)

* * *

Time blurred; I see myself struggling with forces I do not, can not, will never comprehend. I turn and face the one who’d started the joke, he’d just launched a flippant jibe into my flank, took it a bit farther than the rest. He was down, on the ground. Both of us were reeling, my world had distilled into an edged clarity and a breeze cooled my neck. One punch to the gut, as I watched, a spectator to my own actions.

I helped him up, both of us in equal disbelief. Maybe I apologized. Maybe I told him ruefully that _you did ask for it, didn’t you_.

* * *

>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)

* * *

My friend bought it. Someone brought it into school on their discman. I was addicted. So I bought it. _Smash_ by The Offspring. It 0wn3d me. It still does.

>ad–dict–ed |əˈdiktid| adjective : physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects [^addictdict]
[^addictdict]: New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition.

* * *

>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.[^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).

* * *

There are several major rock stations that are receivable over FM radio broadcast in the Greater Boston Area. 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.There is no commercial metal radio in Boston. Yet the metal scene is far from dead in Boston’s rougher blue-collar ex-urbs. The western cities of Worcester and Springfield are world-famous for their propensity to churn out solid metal acts. So I moved on to a private mini-prep-middle-school (the only school that could keep my ADD ass in line), a climate where working-class music like metal is alien and strange. So I spent those years listening in isolation to crappy alternative rock/Hard Rock radio.

>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.

* * *

>in–tense |inˈtens| adjective: extreme, fierce; exceptional, extraordinary; harsh, strong, powerful, potent, overpowering; passionate, vehement, fiery, spirited, vigorous.[^intdict]
[^intdict]: The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, OSX Edition.

It’s little coincidence that I made the transition from dabbling in distorted guitars to immersion in mainstream hard-rock, and eventually, to full-blown heavy metal during middle school. Middle school was a stinking sulfurous hell on earth. A bastion of privilege, entitlement and pestilent wealth. And now I was small; I’d gone from 75 percentile to 25 percentile in both height and weight, and into a world where it mattered more than ever.

By 8th grade, I found myself with one real friend, and more than one enemy whose favorite pastime was to remind me of just how many friends I didn’t have. They were bigger than me, so no quick punch to the gut was going to solve anything.From punk (Offspring) and grunge (Nirvana) to hybrid nü-metal (Sevendust) and gothic industrial (Marilyn Manson), my music darkened with each passing year. Then I went to Art camp. And METAL anticlimactically entered my orbit. There was an animal magnetism to these harsh, strangely beautiful sounds; from the grim solemnity of growling death metal, to the epic and fantastic bombast of its more cheerful cousin, Power Metal.

>ep–ic |ˈepik|
1. noun: a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
2. adjective: of, relating to, or characteristic of an epic or epics :
– heroic or grand in scale or characterThe quest for inner peace through metal had begun.[^epicdict]
[^epicdict]: New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition.

* * *

>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)

* * *

It 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_ and he left. I laughed out loud, sardonically, _of course I’m not ok, I’m lying in bed at 7pm listening to Marilyn Manson…_

* * *

>But metal cannot be conceptualized as a mere steam valve for psycho-social pressures… 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.[^steamvalve]
[^steamvalve]: Harris M Berger, ”Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,“ _Popular Music_ 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p173.

* * *

>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)

* * *

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. 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, was their song in a strange new form. Gone were the clean luke-warm vocals and mellow interludes. The guitars were thicker, harsher, and the only voice I could hear was all but demonic. Of course he had used the same main riff from 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’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.
I’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)

* * *

A Guitar tech tests a majestically evil-looking guitar while the crowd mills about, joking, posturing awkwardly, cheering on the tech sarcastically. The venue is small. Dingy would not be an understatement, and we can feel that we are in gritty Worcester, Massachusetts.

The crowd is filled with an unusual assortment of people. They are mostly men, and mostly white. The air is thick with the dropped R’s of anti-suburbia. Some have girlfriends or wives by their sides. The whiteness of the crowd is accentuated by the blackness of their attire; black shirts, black jeans, black jackets, long black hair. There are a few latinos, and one black man. Maybe. If he is there, people come up to him with curiosity and congratulations for upending the stereotypes of those who revel in subverting stereotypes (yet never really escape them).

* * *

>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 youngpeople into a trap of naive individualism, I believe that the political significance of musical sound is rooted in the meanings that the participantsconstitute 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.

* * *

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.

_tss… tss… ts ts ts_ ___tsh___

* * *

>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.

* * *

six taps of a hi-hat later, the destruction begins.

* * *

Metal. I can 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?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?

* * *

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 stream of typically brilliant, pummeling, yet melodic face-melting metal].”

Poise and hubris in extreme. Superlatives ‘R Us.

>Death be not proud,
though some have called thee mighty and dreadful,
thou art not so.
–Children of Bodom, “Follow The Reaper” (_Follow The Reaper_, 2000)[^deathproud]
[^deathproud]:(quote originally from John Donne, [“Death be not proud, though some have called thee”](

* * *

__Art appeals to an us that is raw, emotional.__

>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)

__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 proudSlay 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._

>bru–tal |ˈbroōtl| adjective: savage, ferocious, wicked, ruthless, sadistic; heinous, abominable. antonyms: gentle, humane.

* * *

_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. Yet I am unnerved to associate my beloved metal with such a tragic injustice, for fear of it seeming an endorsement of such a horror.

* * *

End of serious 2.5 year relationship with basically no prior warning. Destabilization imminent or already occurring. I lay on my bed in the holistic organic hippie house and listen to my numbness as my stereo spins up to speed. My face defrosts into a demonic grin as the opening track’s blistering harmonized scale runs washed over me, connecting somewhere deep wounded within.

>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

I listen to ___Buried in Oblivion___ by __Into Eternity___ in its entirety

  1. Splintered Visions
  2. Embraced By ‘Desolation’
  3. 3 Dimensional Aperture
  4. Beginning Of The End
  5. Point Of Uncertainty
  6. Spiraling Into Depression
  7. Isolation
  8. Buried Into Oblivion
  9. Black Sea Of Agony
  10. Morose Seclusion

>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

* * *

When people reach college, or college age, it seems their perspective reaches a critical openness. The introspection becomes transcendental. I would never feel right saying _I needed more_, but I certainly wondered _is this it_?

* * *

I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy the look on people’s faces when I announce that I listen to death metal, _wait, what? But… you’re not…_ ___head explodes___ In this new context difference is gold, who wants to wear a generic label, fit the mold? _How many hippie buddhist metalheads do ___you___ know?_

* * *

Does music satiate the same urge, the same hunger, as spirituality? 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?

* * *

>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 discovered Buddhism; the un-religion; the anti-ism. I saw in it the intense introspection and honesty that I’d been forced to learn through years of social self-discipline, trying to learn the unwritten rules of society for which my brian found itself less than ideally suited. Yet there was also a belief in the ultimate power of human compassion to counteract our toxic egos and thought-demons. I felt a fit with my not un-ironic mix of cynical optimism.

Can I be Buddhist — live a life filled with compassion and happiness, and listen to Death Metal?

* * *

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).

_But now I am a metalhead_. Metal is not therapy, it is part of who I am.

* * *

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.

* * *

_The music excises the demons; so without the demons, can there be meaningful music?_ ___Isn’t it all about the music?___

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.

>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).

* * *

>[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”](

* * *

>The tonal dimension of music and the meanings that emerge from it are constituted by the subject’s active, perceptual organization of the sound in time.[^tdimen]
[^tdimen]:Berger (1999), p161.

_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._

Would Buddha listen to metal if it touched his soul? Wouldn’t it, by definition, not touch his soul? Were I to become a Buddha, would it cease to have meaning to me?

* * *




Gods stomping, stampeding, galloping across aural scapes–malevolent keyboards synthesize towards anticipation — _and recreate the virtual stimuli that would have instilled such unease._

* * *

>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.[^Tulku]
[^Tulku]: Tulku Thondup, “Tulku Thondup’s Talk in India 2003.” (2003)

* * *

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.