A Love Story

My first blog entry for Metallus Maximus, an account of how I first met heavy metal. You can read the original here.

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Like any significant meeting, my introduction to metal was not planned. In the beginning, it all came about because I am not very good at being sad. I’d just moved back to Toronto after several years away, recovering after a series of Disasters. I was just beginning to cast around socially again, looking to meet people, start projects, emerge from my cocoon. So when BK, good friend and anchor of positivity in my life, mentioned that he and Dani C were going to a metal show, I invited myself along. It seemed like a diversion, something completely different to distract me; it also seemed like an excellent chance to get to know my friends better. I didn’t even know which bands were playing that night.

We got completely lost getting to the venue. None of us had ever been to the DC Music Theatre before, and the directions we got read something like: “With a prayer to the pagan gods, leave the path. Walk beneath the bridge; answer the Troll’s riddle successfully or appease him with a joint of fine mutton. Walk through the tall grass, taking care not to be led astray by pixies. When you reach the road again, go down the scariest alley you can find. Past this point, no maps can guide you. Follow the sound of blastbeats to the door.” We eventually arrived, slightly frostbitten, and had just enough time to stow our coats at the “coat check” (an ancient red velvet couch), grab some beer, and watch no fewer than six men hoist Wolven Ancestry’s drum kit onto the stage.

At first, I retained a little bit of psychological distance. I was able to consider things academically, be aware of my own enjoyment and analyze it. I was both amused and impressed by the theatricality of the experience, complete with furs and corpsepaint; I loved the high energy level, the positivity being thrown off both by the performers and by the crowd; I enjoyed the good-natured, friendly violence. The academic in me was still in charge of my brain, still studiously taking notes, allowing me to hold the experience at arms’ length.

By the time Woods of Ypres came on stage, something changed. I began to listen differently. The shift was as profound as any alchemical transformation. It started in my chest, felt as though a fist had plunged through my ribcage and seized ahold of my spinal column. Instead of listening with my brain, I began to listen with my body. I remember, dimly, recalling the Walk Whitman line, “I sing the body electric,” and thinking for the first time I might have a real inkling of what it was about. Then I simply gave myself over to the experience, let my body move and heave exactly the way it wanted. I should have been terrified by the loss of control I felt. Instead, I was overjoyed. I found myself reconnected with the strange, sorrowful chunk of meat that was my heart.

I couldn’t know, of course, that anything significant had been set in motion. It would be several months until I was attending concerts regularly; many more months would elapse before circumstances cosmically aligned and I began to write about what I was hearing. Like any love story, there has been a gradual unfolding helped along by a great deal of luck.

So here I am, beginning of my second quarter-century of life on this planet with a completely new soundtrack. I think I’m in love.

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