The first time I heard heavy metal, I had no idea that was what it was.
The 14-year old, future Head of Metal had just finished watching one of his favorite movies, The Matrix: Reloaded. As the closing credits came on, he became transfixed by the song he heard…
The band was Rage Against the Machine. The song was “Calm Like A Bomb.”
“This is…awesome,” I remember thinking. It was so different from anything else I had heard at the time. It had attitude. It had muscle. As I liked to say, “it had a little umph.”
Rage sounded so different to me because at the time, my favorite music was Radio Disney pop. I’m not kidding! My favorite album was Hilary Duff’s “Metamorphosis.” My favorite song was watching the Disney All-Stars performing Elton John’s Lion King hit, “Circle of Life.” And to this day, you could plop me down in front of Disney’s “Tarzan” and I would still remember every word to the soundtrack that Phil Collins wrote for it. (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing now.)
But even though I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to that stuff now (most days), what I always took away from it was just how much fun the performers were having. It never sounded as if they were having anything other than a total blast.
When I heard “Calm Like A Bomb,” I sort of transferred that sense onto it. Yes–as the band name stated, Rage Against the Machine was angry, political, pounding. But at the end of the day, it was just fun to listen to. I’ll be first to admit that metal is serious business–but I have still never lost that belief that metal is fun music, no matter how dark, heavy and aggressive it became.
But I wasn’t really aware of what “metal” was. “Calm Like A Bomb” to me at the time wasn’t a metal song; it was “that awesome song from The Matrix soundtrack.”
A much more comprehensive introduction would come a year later when I started playing “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” and acquired the in-game soundtrack for the V-rock radio station. “Vice City” took place in 1986, a very strong period for metal music. The soundtrack featured hits of the day from Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Slayer, Motley Crue–all of which remain among my favorites today.
I loved the music (I still think of all the virtual shootouts and heists that would occur while it played), but I didn’t realize that was heavy metal. I just thought it was period music meant to enhance the experience of the game (I know, I’m dense, right?). It was only when I started seeing what other songs those bands had (frequently by checking the website for J&R Music World) that I saw the categories they were listed under: Heavy Metal. Momentous, right?
Problem, though–I had gotten my feet wet, but I still had a long way to go before I would even think of calling myself a metalhead. But you start to identify more with a type of music when it helps carry you through a difficult time, and these would be forthcoming.
But for now, if you asked me at age 14-15, what metal was, I would probably respond with a blank stare and say, “Metal? What’s that? You mean, like Slayer?”
Written by Matt P