December 10, 2004

Tales of A Metal Head Wife

Two days ago, the former lead guitarist for Pantera was shot and killed by some nutjob who was upset that the band had broken up. Michele objects to lumping this act in with heavy metal's already tarnished image, because, as she puts it, heavy metal's image isn't tarnished at all:

{...}As with any news story that blames music, video games or movies for someone's criminal, deranged actions, the media misses one glaring point: in order for the killer to react in such a manner, he had to have some serious, deep rooted issues that go way beyond the music he listened to, the games he played or the movies he watched.

Metal has long been a favorite whipping boy of the hypersensitive, shallow-thinking My Morals Should Be Your Morals set. From the time Ozzy first barked at the moon, metal was imprinted with a warning label: This music is hazardous to your children. Freaked out parents and sociologists looked much deeper into the music than was necessary and proclaimed the genre as one that would cause its listeners to sign up for the church of Satan or become zombies in an army of juvenile delinquents.

You would think that when all these years later Ozzy became the darling of television and looked upon as a sweet, if dopey, father figure, the world would have figured out - albeit belatedly - that heavy metal is as much a theatrical act as Britney's original virginal persona.

Yet every media commentary I've read this morning on the death of Abbot has the same underlying tone - live by the sword, die by the sword. Metal is music for misfits, don't you know? What can you expect from the fans of a band whose lyrics are all unprintable in a family paper? They were heathens, I tell you! They drank and smoked and cursed! It's all so shrill and so unnerving.

{...}Of course, they will point to Abbott's nickname of Dimebag. They'll look at the Pantera DVDs and a see bunch of hard drinking, hard partying guys. And they'll conclude "the metal lifestyle is a dangerous one." And tomorrow on Page Six, there will pictures of some pop music princess with a bottle in her hand and her tits hanging out of her dress or a some boy band star holding a bottle of Jack Daniels and spitting at the camera. But, hey. They're just having fun, right? Pop Stars Gone Wild! What a riot! Give that guy some long hair and a guitar and suddenly he's a wild eyed beast who wants to eat your children.

It's not just the music of heavy metal that's misunderstood. The fans also get their share of the lies and distortion. We're all emotionally disturbed individuals with deep psychological problems, bad parents and broken homes who draw pentagrams on their bedroom floors and torture the neighbor's cats.{...}

Now, I'm not a metal listener above and beyond being subjected to listening to the husband's---a metal head---choices on the WinAmp. Quite frankly, I don't like much of it. But there are some albums I never would have listened to in the pre-husband-era that I do listen to now. I will out myself as one who actually likes Metallica's Black Album. I've learned over the years that, in the metal head community, this opinion means I'm actually a poser. If I were actually interested in what that community thought about me, I would have uttered that Kill 'Em All was the penultimate Metallica album. Never mind that the Black Album slams and actually, you know, sounds good (as in it's technically proficient and they made their music sound good in the studio). I'm a poser. Whatever. I'm not misguidedly seeking metal head community props. I like what I like, and I like melody when it comes to my music. Metal does not focus on melody. Kill 'Em All hurts my ears, grates on my nerves and sounds like musical vomit.

Yet, being married to a metal head is instructive in breaking down the prejudices associated with metal. I've learned over the years that, ahem, the people who listen to metal really are normal individuals. The husband's normal. His friends are normal. They just like to jam out and metal is the music they prefer for such an activity. They don't bite the heads off bats; they don't play Judas Priest albums backwards to find secret messages from the devil. What they do, however, is to play air guitar and headbang, wishing they still had their long hair from the olden days. They find something redeeming in this music. While I don't necessarily understand their choice of music, I can at least understand the passion in this music that they find compelling.

Say whatever you want, metal is chock-a-block full of passion. While, to my ears, it's not passion for sounding incredible, but rather for creating a lot of noise, it's nonetheless obvious that metal artists are in it because that's the sound they're passionate about. That passion spreads to the listeners. I can't deny anyone the opportunity to be passionate about music, which is why I--mostly---tolerate the husband's choice in music. This passion is also why I think metal heads--bands and fans alike---get a bad rap. No one is passionate about Britney Spears except for oodles of teenage girls and pedophiles needing someone to fill their off hours. Yet there are plenty of metal heads out there who, as they age, are still big fans of slamming guitar riffs and screamed lyrics. I believe this freaks people out. It's one thing for some teenager who's already depressed about their social situation to start listening to angry-sounding metal music, but an adult? Nope. You're supposed to have outgrown that sort of thing by the time you hit twenty-one. I know this because I alwaysthought that the husband would outgrow his metal compulsions. He hasn't. He's thirty-four and I'm just as liable to come across him slamming his hands on his desk in a Neal Peart impersonation nowadays as when we were younger.

For a time, I despaired of this behavior. Now I see it as a good thing. While he objects less to Sarah McLachlan these days, he hasn't lost track of his hard rock roots. After all, he was a member of the KISS Army when he was seven-years-old: he has serious roots. I don't listen to the same things as I did when I was seven...but the husband does. He about orgasmed himself a year ago when Mr. H. gave him a KISS greatest hits CD for his birthday. Does that make him more advanced than I am, simply because I had a thing for Shaun Cassidy in the first grade? I don't know. But I do know that if you find your passion early, like the husband did, it's probably worse to dump it in an effort "to grow up" than it is to embrace that passion for the rest of your life.

No matter how stupid you look when you headbang and play air-drums.

Posted by Kathy at December 10, 2004 03:10 PM

"But I do know that if you find your passion early, like the husband did, it's probably worse to dump it in an effort "to grow up" than it is to embrace that passion for the rest of your life."

Wise words.

Posted by: michele at December 10, 2004 03:16 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?