Back in 2011, the ever-insightful Steel Druhm penned an excellent piece on being an older metalhead. It’s a very well-written, short essay on what it’s like to be a mature metalhead when many of your peers and colleagues have since moved away from our hallowed music genre of choice. As someone who is just a little over a year away from hitting 40, I’m going to expand on this subject a little, and also toss in something that usually is a bit alien when it comes to getting older and loving metal: taking someone who’s never listened to metal and introducing them to our favorite artists and albums.
Like Mr. Druhm, I get bizarre looks from people on the street whenever I’m driving around with Voices or High on Fire cranked up to insane volumes. I also get uncomfortable stare-downs when I walk around my local Publix wearing a Rotting Christ “Lucifer Over America Tour” t-shirt. Explaining these to most passers-by is an exercise in utter futility, as whenever I do so I get a “Have a Blessed Day!” before they walk away all mortified and confused. Even my own partner, who loves Crowbar, Pantera, and Orphaned Land, can’t fully get behind some of my more abrasive music choices. Not to generalize (and the reason why is coming), but I completely understand the reason for this kind of reaction from older people. Metal is a genre rife with rebellion, anger, and fighting against the status quo, or at least on the surface it is. Naturally, people who weren’t brought up with it aren’t going to understand, nor will they attempt to do so.
But here’s where the script is flipped. Whereas Steel Druhm noticed many of his peers musically “grew up and moved on” (my words, not his), the vast majority of mine cling onto metal to this very day. For many of us, it’s the soundtrack of our lives. I’ll always remember where I was the first time I heard Kyuss‘s “Demon Cleaner,” or the excitement of death metal-meets-Iron Maiden when I first saw Carcass‘s “Heartwork” video played on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. And although their stories will vary greatly from mine, many of my peers and friends will stand up and say that, although our tastes have diversified greatly, metal very much has a permanent place in our hearts. Maybe it’s because we’re a different generation than Steel‘s, but we all get it. It’s not just displaced anger or unrelenting rage. Many of our favorite songs are a time-stamp of who or where we were when we first heard them, and that’s okay. Not everyone who’s older will appreciate it like we do.
Or so I thought. Last year, one of my friends who will be 50 in a few years and is a big fan of electronic dance music admitted to very rarely listening to anything heavier than Metallica. He asked me to make a mix CD of bands I believed he’d enjoy, as long as they had good chorus and a decent beat. So I went ahead and made one that was heavily drenched in classic power metal, modern thrash, a bit of doom metal, and a couple of really brutal death and black metal songs, thinking it would be a great gateway. Oddly enough, of all the songs I burned for him from my own gimongrous CD collection for him to check out, he latched onto this in a rather unhealthy manner. Yep, picture two grown men, driving up and down the relatively quiet Short North district of Columbus, terrifying unsuspecting shoppers with Anaal Nathrakh blaring from a tiny orange SUV.
He now has an appreciation for metal, as well as a few new favorite bands to check out. This taught me that instead of holding someone’s hand as they tip-toe into metal’s icy waters, sometimes dropkicking them directly into deeper, scarier end of the pool works wonders. It also taught me that age really doesn’t mean anything when it comes to exposing people to new sounds, even if said sounds are as gentle as showering with sulfuric acid while scrubbing yourself clean with a rusty brillo pad and key-lime juice shower gel [You mean Axe Body Spray™? – Steel Druhm].
So folks, no matter who tells you otherwise, metal will always be seen as music for the rebellious, the eternally angry, and the immature to outsiders. Let them feel that way, and continue enjoying the music you love, even if it’s outside heavy climes. This is the soundtrack to your story. Also, if someone shows an interest in metal, don’t be afraid to expose them to your favorite sounds. The end result may pleasantly surprise you.