Oftentimes headbangers (and music fans in general; it isn’t limited to us) will remember difficult times where they turned to their music of choice for comfort. For me, the first time metal did that was when I dealt with a very familiar issue to many: fake friends.
I was part of a Catholic high school youth group for a couple of years, and we would have weekly meetings where we would gather and just talk. I enjoyed meeting people my own age and getting to talk about stuff that mattered to us. What I quickly realized was just how different our experiences were, even though we were all nominally Catholic.
I was the Bill O’Reilly-watching, budding musician who attended a private, all-boys high school. It was pretty different most of the other kids. Any “issue” you can think of that may apply to a teenager (you know what I mean), we had at least one person who was suffering through it in spades. Guaranteed.
I didn’t really have issues. Everything was all right at home, I steered clear of drinking and drugs. Perhaps because of that, I was regarded as the naive, sheltered one, whose opinions (which tended to be variations on “so-and-so shouldn’t have done that to you; that was wrong”) weren’t really accepted.
To say these meetings were emotionally intense was quite an understatement. There were many therapeutic tears shed in that room. But although we could support each other very well, we could also fight. And boy, did we fight.
One girl assumed that because of my upbringing (private high school, responsible, didn’t drink, etc.), I was automatically a tremendous asshole. I know this because she told me, to my face. And nobody backed me up, so I did the natural, easy thing and just snapped right back. Nobody gets away with saying that someone’s background/education automatically makes them a better or worse person on principle. Not in my presence, ever.
That was just one example, but the group did those kind of things to each other every week. I wasn’t always involved directly, and to be fair I sunk into the mud from time to time as well. But the fact remained that we would share deep secrets, doubts, and fears one minute and then be insulting and yelling at each other the next.
It’s very easy to develop trust issues in that kind of environment. Not complaining–just reporting.
So how’d I deal with it? I wore out my copy of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack (“Peace Sells” was quickly becoming one of my favorites). I started lifting weights and getting into some of the heavier forms of metal that were becoming popular at the time, like Lamb of God, Slipknot, Disturbed and Korn. I still listen to them all, and it was aged a lot better than the screamo punk a lot of us were into at the time.
As the aggression and heaviness of the music went up, the more I identified (and the more testosterone went into my workouts). One song that I particularly loved was Lamb of God’s “Laid To Rest.” It just never failed. The point wasn’t so much that it fed or reinforced the anger and frustration, but on some subconscious level it was comforting to know that there were plenty of other angry people out there, who identified with your feelings and just reached through your headphones to say, “Forget about them. Let’s just headbang and play some guitar.”
In their personal lives, these bands often overcame struggles that made my own seem like a cakewalk. I’ll never forget hearing a story that Corey Taylor of Slipknot told; that after blacking out at a party he woke up in a dumpster, his friends simply left him there thinking he was dead. That’s messed up for anyone to go through, no matter what world you live in.
What’s interesting is that I never saw any of these people again, but the metal has stayed. Go figure.
Although my relationship with metal was growing, the majority of my music by this time was still classic rock. I recognized that I was onto something special with metal, but I was not yet a full-fledged headbanger.
So if you asked me what metal was when I was 16-17, I would have said, “Oh yeah–it’s good for a workout. Got any Billy Joel or Led Zeppelin?”
Written by Matt P