Sunday Sesh: What Came First, The Metal or Your Shitty Attitude?


Are you divergent, friend…?

If famous rock musicians would stop killing themselves, I might be able to stop thinking about the issue of depression. On the whole, there’s no use thinking about it, at least insofar as there is no way to think yourself out of it. A lot is being written about depression lately; comments are flying like projectile snacks in a food-fight. Most of these writings and comments tend to come down squarely upon one side or the other of the mental health debate; mostly I try to abstain from the conversation because my thoughts are somewhere in the middle, which can be an irreconcilable place to find yourself.

Eschewing all of that, I’d like to talk about the connection between metal and mental health. Our own Decapitron already covered it sympathetically in one context here, so I’ll try to cover it in another. I’ll start off with Story Time:

One day back in 200? I gave a co-worker a ride home from work. In the CD player was a compilation I’d made of all kinds of dark goth and metal music. The music did not appeal to my passenger, but he too was suffering mentally, and as we had formed a tenuous bond over mental suffering, he had the good grace not to write off the music out of hand. Instead he asked: “Do you listen to this stuff because you are depressed or are you depressed because you listen to this stuff?” It was a damn good question—one that had somehow never occurred to me before. I couldn’t give him a clear answer then. And I still can’t. On the one hand, it is patently clear that an inherently shitty disposition opened me up to the enjoyment of music which exults in shitty dispositions. On the other, it is unclear to what degree my continuing struggle with said shitty disposition is the result of continuously feeding it with dark, dreary, feel-bad music. [Insert Ouroborus-reference here.]

Glam was my first musical love. Not a dark genre, you’ll agree, but it seems relevant to note that even as a child I preferred ballads to party-songs. I liked those sad tunes about loss and loneliness and irreparable mistakes. Kix’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” became a favorite long before I ever figured out what it really meant (my young brain either glossed right over the word “suicide” or I was actually too young to know what the word meant). I’d already been listening to metal for years before any signs of anxiety or depression began to manifest. And yet, could those early forays into metal have planted themselves like seeds in the underside of my psyche and grown there for years without detection, until finally they broke the surface and everything went to shit?

Whatever the case, at some point in the midst of my teenage years I began to withdraw from the nauseating gang-bang sometimes referred to as the social sphere, and to view other people my age as a species among which I was forced to live but to which I certainly did not belong. Inexorably, I gravitated toward the darkness in the arts. If you’re looking for darkness in music, you can look further than metal, but you certainly don’t need to. By 1997 I was consuming metal almost exclusively. My Dying Bride, Moonspell and Cradle of Filth were in constant rotation. One of my brothers once looked at a pile of my CDs and remarked: “Where do you even find this shit?” Well, asshole, I went looking for it. “Why? Are you a Satanist?” Yup, that must be it.

It goes without saying that very few people around me understood my burgeoning obsession with dark, aggressive music any more than I did—or any more than they understood what was happening to my brain. But the issue of the familial/social isolation faced by depressive fucks will have to wait for some other article. Or not, since it has already been covered fairly extensively.

So, to those of you metalheads out there who grapple with mental health, or to those of you who generally feel okay but just don’t like fun, I pose the question:

Which came first, your love of metal or your cognitive distortions?

At what point, if any, did a coping mechanism become a part of the disease? Could a break from metal—even a permanent one (gasp!)—be just the thing you need to start turning it all around, despite how loathe you are to admit it to yourself? I mean, carving out the metal from your life would be tantamount to carving out a giant piece of your flesh—but if that piece was synonymous with so much of what plagues you every step of every day, would it really be so bad? Doubtless you’ve already asked yourself some or all of these questions. Did you find an answer? Do you even care?

Sound off in the comments below.


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