Sunday Sesh: Hand-Me-Down Metal
In which we begrudgingly acknowledge the people whose charity or financial desperation helped usher us toward our love of metal.
I cannot credit my older brother–that prick–with getting me into metal. I am certain I would have found my way here without his assistance. Just not so soon. You see, back before every record store on Earth bought and resold used music, my brother used to make a quick five bucks by selling metal tapes he no longer liked to me. He might as well have been a shadowy figure whispering “Hey kid, wanna buy some crack?” I don’t know what caused him to fall out of love with these albums; I can only assume that he was a massive poser, only buying them to seem cool to his friends who were actually cool and not posers. Or maybe whenever he owed someone money for drugs/porn he would sell anything he could. Whatever the case, he would assure me that by allowing me to purchase albums from him at a discounted price he was doing me a favor–out of the sheer kindness of his heart. And so my budding curiosity about metal made me the sole beneficiary of said kindness (the only kindness that prick ever paid me, for the record).
The ravages of time and alcohol have muddied the picture, but I believe the first tape I bought from him was Megadeth‘s Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? This was my first taste of metal: To a young boy who listened to nothing but glam rock, it sounded frightening, dangerous and nearly incomprehensible. At first I did not like it. But I could not stop trying to like it. It sounded like hateful noise, and yet its allure was undeniable. Soon enough I went out and purchased So Far, So Good…So What! for myself (a superior album, for the record).
For his next sale, my brother offered me a choice between Misfits‘ Walk Among Us, Slayer‘s Seasons in the Abyss and Exodus‘ Bonded by Blood. I told him what I really wanted was his tape of Iron Maiden‘s debut. I hadn’t heard it; I just liked the cover. But he would not part with that one, nor would he even permit me to listen to it. And neither Slayer nor Exodus appealed to me. So I chose Misfits (not metal; still relevant). It turned out to be a fortuitous choice: I have long since lost the ability to enjoy any of Megadeth’s music, whereas Misfits are still in regular rotation.
My brother must have suffered some vestigial attachment to Walk Among Us, because he tried to talk me out of taking it. He offered to let me have both Seasons in the Abyss and Bonded by Blood for five bucks. I wasn’t having any of this bullshit; desperate for cash, he had to let the album go.
Next up for sale was Nuclear Assault‘s Survive. This was the most extreme thing I’d ever heard. The drummer was so fucking fast. I couldn’t imagine a human being playing that fast. I was no budding extremophile, so the relentless thrashing of this album terrified me for weeks after the purchase. But the songs were catchy enough to keep me hooked, and my young brain was just developed enough to grasp the fact that there was some sort of social critique going on in the lyrics. Not the most refined social critique to appear in heavy music to that date, but when John Connelly referred to the television as “the idiot tube” at the top of his lungs in “Brainwashed”, I had to take pause and wonder if watching TV was really stunting the growth of my brain.
At last, my brother’s extreme poserdom compelled him to capitulate to my wishes and sell me Iron Maiden’s debut album. Too bad that, unbeknownst to him, I had long since gone out and bought a copy for myself. It was the first time I bought a tape without hearing it first, lured into it by the morbid allure of its cover art. And I was rewarded mightily, as this purchase set off a Maiden-spree and a long standing affection for the band’s first decade of existence.
Although Megadeth and Nuclear Assault were among my first flirtations with metal (along with Metallica‘s only good album, Ride the Lightning and Overkill‘s pinnacle, I Hear Black), I was not to plunge headlong down the Path of Thrash. There were some run-ins with death metal and industrial, but those are stories for another time. As soon as puberty hit I pushed metal to the back burner (except for an ongoing love affair with Maiden) and plunged headlong instead into the radio’s version of grunge rock. And since my brother had already sworn off metal in favor of punk, there was nothing left for me to
learn buy from him. Years later I was presented the chance to play for him something I had just bought. As it happens, it was a track off of Dornenreich‘s masterpiece, Her von Welken Nachten. His response: a sneer, followed by the utterance, “Sounds too studioized.”
My brother’s path into metal remains more or less obscure to me. I know we had an older cousin who had a shitload of Maiden and Megadeth posters on his walls, and doubtless a cream-worthy vinyl collection (I didn’t give a shit about vinyl, it was too old and dusty, and CDs were too newfangled; tapes were the be all end all of physical media.) I do remember that my brother was an avid fan of Headbanger’s Ball. I
wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to watch didn’t catch on to that show until a few years later. And when I finally did, the floodgates were open and radio grunge could officially fuck right off.
So, was there anyone in your life who eased/violently pushed you into metal? Divulge the contents of your personal life in the comments below.