Everyone remembers their first time. The stories may be slightly different, but we all can recall them with a certain amount of glee, zest, and maybe an embarrassed smirk or two. For some, it required a bit of a learning curve, while for others it was instantaneous and gratifying. For some, it happened in an older sibling’s bedroom while they were away. For others, it was in the backseat of a friend’s car. For me, it was at the dinner table while my parents and younger brother were eating ice cream while looking at me in abject terror. But no matter where we were, we all agree on one thing: we can recite, with crystal-clear detail, that magical moment when metal music grabbed us for the first time and opened us up to our favorite music genre.1
The year was 1986. MTV had this little program called Hard 30, which was the daytime equivalent to The Headbangers Ball and sported a beautifully-coifed Adam Curry playing about a half-hour’s worth of glam rock, thrash, and traditional metal. As a nine year-old kid in New Hampshire, I would have the TV on while doing homework, and more often then not MTV would be playing in the background. Yet, on one fateful day, as my little brother was in the kitchen, bugging me while I was doing multiplication tables, a siren sounded from the TV. This was followed by trumpets, and a convincing gallop that was otherworldly, and a voice that beckoned me to worlds beyond my young imagination could ever comprehend.
Nine year-old me was enthralled. Here was a band that eschewed songs about girls (until “Carrie”), cultural appropriation (until “Cherokee”), and rock ‘n roll stereotypes (until “Rock The Night”), and brought something original. Mind you, it wasn’t necessarily good, but even at that young an age, I really didn’t give much of a shit about stereotypical glam rock trappings. I was impressed by John Norum’s leads. I was floored by the fact that Mic Michaeli’s keyboards were front-and-center. And they had me convinced that we really were heading for Venus, and still we stood tall. Hell, most sports agree with me, as “The Final Countdown” is played whenever a game is about to end, and there’s very little separating the victors from the losers. Cheesy? Yes. But I will defend this song as one of the gateways for me becoming the Angry Metal Cat that I am today, and I have no shame in admitting so.
And speaking of gateways, I don’t believe for one second, that we’re all born from the womb already kvlt as fvck, and if you were, there stands a strong chance that I would find you awfully humorless and not worth getting to know. That said, we have our gateways that got us from Point A, to Destination 2, to Planet Xenon, and maybe to Point B. In a prior retro-piece, I praised Screams and Whispers, the still-timeless final album by Anacrusis that got me into underground metal. From there, the floodgates opened. In 1993, Carcass‘s Heartwork, drew me into death metal. Samael‘s Ceremony of Opposites pulled me into the more orthodox side of black metal, while a decade later, Blut Aus Nord‘s awesome The Work Which Transforms God threw me into the genre’s more fucked up side. All of these albums have, for better or worse, left time stamps on my psyche, and provided me with quite the impressive soundtrack that only grows bigger with each passing day. In fact, there’s another song from 1986 that has stood with me, and the album it came from is getting its own Yer Metal is Olde piece very, very soon.
So no matter what, dear readers, don’t be afraid to admit a “guilty pleasure,” because there’s nothing guilty about something that brought you into the awesome world of metal music. Never be ashamed of your roots, and always tell your “first time” stories with those around you. You are bound to get a good laugh or two, but you will also get some smiles and memories. Cheers, gang!