Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Metal Years: Part Two

In Christchurch (where I was living at this time) there was a t-shirt and record shop called Ace T-Shirts and Grunt Records. It was a metal shop, so I had never really had any reason to go there. The metal I wanted I got from the shop I worked at.

At this same time there was a music show on Friday nights. This show had a metal section that was hosted by Bruce Rae, the owner of the aforementioned shop. On one night I was with my mates from work, and as usual we were watching the show, having a few drinks and the odd smoke. Then this came on......

I was transfixed. Here was something really heavy. What was this? It was Death Metal, and man, I wanted some.

In between Metallica and Death, I had been "through some stuff" I guess. Booze, pot, exams, leaving school, starting fulltime work, girlfriends and being a teenager all somehow combined into loving the sound of this stuff.

I went to Grunt Records that week and bought a few albums. I was hooked, but was picking up anything blindly: death, thrash, power, and doom metal all at once. Then I stumbled upon Celtic Frost.

This wasn't like the others really. It was depressing, more like the gothic stuff I was into (Fields of the Nephilim, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure etc) but was deadly depressing. Listen to the first vocal "grunt" at 0:33. It sounds like he is barely living. Then check out the amazing tempo change at 1:40. The sense of slowing inertia, slowly falling out of angst into terror. This was played many, many times with my brother. Very loudly, very blitzed, very early in the morning.

I started reading metal magazines, scouring the reviews for the death stuff, knowing waht reviewers dug death metal. I noticed a things reoccuring in liner notes: Scott Burns (producer), Dan Seagrave (artwork), Tampa, Florida; Kent Smith (sound effects). All roads were leading to understanding a scene. If an album ticked a few of those boxes, it was worthy of my money. Like Sepultura. I had read about them constantly in the magazines. They were "the big one", but getting hold of this album was hard. Grunt Records was always sold out. Then one day, Bruce himself gave me the call: "Your Sepultura album is here".

The bar was raised. I had never heard anything so watertight, fast and heavy all at once. Far out. If ...and Justice for all was the yardstick, this went way beyond measure. There is another one of those falling slowing tempo changes at 1:25. Where with Celtic Frost it was falling in a heap, with Sepultura it was like moving forward and backwards at the same time. Sepultura were the band that every metaller who I was talking with agreed on; whether you liked thrash or death, Beneath the Remains was recognized as the best. Listening to it today, it is still easy to see why, especially thinking it is from the same time as ...and Justice for all. (1988)

By this time, we were importing these albums into our shop, and everyday there would be someone to talk about the latest such and such album. These guys sort of became mates. We would get together at someones house and take turns in what to play. Bands were being formed. I even started one (well, sort of. I got my first mention in a music magazine talking about a band I was forming. Nothing really came of it.) There was a central figure in the group, an older woman who had three school age kids. Her house was the general meeting place, and she always had the latest albums before any of us had heard about them. Looking back, it was pretty odd. Not dodgy, but sort of incongruous.

It was here that I was introduced to Obituary. On the heaviness scale, this was heavy. I have no idea what he is going on about; apparently he didn't even use words all the time, but what a voice! I had always been aware of the darkness of this music, but this song made me completely aware of it. At 2:28 everything slows down, the lyrics are "into the soul," the guitars are flanged to give an other wordly effect. The guitar solo starts. I distinctly remember imagining it was like falling into hell, but trying to claw back up. The solo was satan's claws at my ankles.

Oh yeah. I'll have more of that. It was scary but spiritual. The whole idea of metal and the occult is as old as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. One can even trace it back to Robert Johnson at the crossroads. Going back further, music and the occult can be found together in Berlioz and Liszt. It was the next couple of bands that I encountered that were to change this as an idea of imagery to one of actual belief and practice.

Morbid Angel were widely known as being occult practioners, mainly of the Necronomicom variety. They were also extremely anti-Christian, and were also prone to mention satan regularly. Also these were the first hyperblast drums that I had ever heard. They also used some nice choral effects (at 1:53) which gave the whole thing a mystical air. No longer was the music brutal and about corpses and zombies, here was something that seemed to be about belief and religion. At 3:25 is where the whole thing becomes tangible. To a young spiritually green young me, this was very powerful. It was on this stuff that I cut my spiritual teeth.

One thing I know for sure, is that if I was told then where I was to end up, I would not have been all too happy with the present day version of myself. I also know that if the Christian faith had been presented to me in the way I now understand it, I would've been in hook line and sinker. The occult was mysterious and actually seemed to provide spiritual experience. The Christianity that I knew then was bland and boring. The mystery and mystical nature that is inherent in the faith is of a far greater substance than that of any occulty thing. It is a shame I didn't see that then.

But that is for the next post.


Unknown said...

Not one mention of Stephen Duffy or Vini Reilly, CP(O). Not one!! GD

Unknown said...

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you did a good job here .. Keep up the good work and a splendid Sunday to you!

Kath Williamson said...

Hmmm... not exactly cheerful, is it?

orczy said...

No Kath, it isn't! The Christian black metal scene isn't either, but it does express an intense spirituality, one that can speak of other aspects of the faith.