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March 24, 2006 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Musical Revelations: Descent

It was the year 2000. I was incarcerated in a low security (high tension) single sex educational facility. I slept three hours a night, stank of caffeine and angst, and was being drip fed extreme metal over instant internet messengers by a psychotic Pakistani Goth who wrote intense nihilist poetry. Intestinal Disgorge and Strapping Young Lad were trashing my PC speakers and exciting my desperate teenage mind. I was, and I remain, a Metalhead.

Everyone’s adolescent ‘Becoming’ is a little different. Torn between needing to belong and asserting one’s own difference, some people play sport and some will join the choir. There isn’t, however, an extra curricular activity for the misanthropes and the iconoclasts. We all sit and stare at one another and we endure every painstaking over-stimulated hormone-heightened second. We pick through the social debris and chaos to find the others who know, and we save each other. But I never found my greatest solace in other people. I’ve always been a loner – at home in my own head, if not my own skin. I got off on the neuron storm raging inside and I found it echoed in the feedback of a cranked guitar.

Metal’s chief themes are of power, masculinity and transgression. An ugly combination, but certainly as universal as anything in the Old Testament: Biblical Shit. It isn’t high art and would never wish to be. It is catharsis for those who barely feel capable of feeling any more, the product of working class discontent ringing through the ears of the suburbs. It is bottled thunder, power for the powerless and with teenage boys, everything is a pissing contest. That awkward position on the cusp of independence, trapped in the impotence of childhood but with

larger-than-adult appetites for freedom. It’s hard to explain the allure of the genre to those who don’t get it, anyone who tells you they went ‘through a metal phase and got over it’ never really joined the club, and let us not kid ourselves: Heavy Metal is a club and a sausage-fest at that.

So, at the end of the millennium in an apocalyptic mood I found myself in the only independent record store in my rather rural town and in the woefully under-stocked ‘Metal & Punk’ section two albums caught my eye. Every genre has its conventions and in Metal you can usually tell what an album sounds like from its cover, the font of the logo giving away influence and affiliation, the style of the art consistent between sub-genres. Dark forests cloak screeching Scandinavian Black-Metal, ripped limbs for gory Death-Metal and Power-Metal logos forged in Teutonic iron. These two however, belayed

little of their contents. One showed a woodcut of a wolf licked by flames, the other a simple but disturbing grey-on-black graphic that warped my mind. In the great tradition of heavy metal, like awed kids faced with the grinning face of Eddie on Iron Maiden LPs in the 80s, I bought them on the coolness of their covers alone.

Between them, those two albums taught me the importance of every passing moment; that the world is ending every second and creating itself anew; that I was part of that dialogue and my will could affect change in myself and beyond. That those things were not necessarily separate. Biblical Shit.


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