Heavy metal music is extremely important to me, and I often refer to it in pieces about my own life experiences. I have literally unfriended people for insulting my taste in music; and not in the superficial Facebook kind of way, either. In the real-life kind of way where your ass is as good as dead to me.
It is such a fundamental part of me that I’m not sure that I would have been alive were it not for extreme music.
These lyrics by South African punk rock band Fokofpolisiekar (“Fuck off police car”) taken from their 2017 album Selfmedikasie (“Self medication) sum up perfectly my attitude regarding this controversial genre:
Harde, negatiewe musiek het my lewe gered, het my lewe gered (“Loud, negative music saved my life, saved my life”).
It’s such a simplistic line, and yet so powerful, that it resonates more with me than a million songs spun from clever wordplay and genius metaphors ever could.
I’ve been listening to this kind of music since I was around 12 years old.
I cut my teeth on the hair metal bands of the eighties – even though I only discovered them a decade later when they had already become a parody of themselves and more or less imploded – and soon progressed to heavier stuff the likes of Megadeth, Slayer and Pantera. After a while, even those bands weren’t heavy enough anymore and I sought out more extreme variations of the genre like a drug addict seeking out a harder, more intense fix.
I’m not making a very good case for this type of music, am I?
Well, no. And my aim is not to convince detractors to like a genre that was created with the aim of pissing people off, anyway.
But heavy music has been there for a lot of dark times in my life; my parents’ divorce, my struggles with depression, even the death of my dad a mere two years ago. Through times of loneliness, times of anger, times of fear, metal has been a constant companion to remind me that hey, I’m not alone, there are others who are also experiencing these fucked up emotions.
Sure, the same thing could probably be said for any type of music.
But here’s the thing. Because metal is such an outlier genre and doesn’t really have the mass appeal of other, more accessible types of music, it tends to resonate with those of us who feel like outcasts and often feel rejected by society because we don’t fit into traditional societal pigeonholes. Metal has taught me the value of individuality and of staying true to what I believe.
There have been countless times in my life that having a strong opinion made me a soft target for ignorant people who get their kicks from arguing just for the sake of it and because they’re bored with their own mediocre existence. And you best believe those opinions didn’t do me any favors when it came to popularity, whatever the fuck that is. But I never compromised and I never backed down, even if it meant getting picked on, and I truly believe that a big part of that comes from the music that I listen to.
I’m 33 years old, and I still wear my Behemoth and my Devildriver shirts to work on casual Friday, and I wear my Doc Martens with my pant legs tucked in and yeah, people stare and they make comments and some of them give me a wide berth afraid that they’ll catch, I don’t know, devillitis or something.
But, if there’s one other important thing that the world’s most reviled and provocative music has taught me, it’s not to lose a single minute of sleep giving a shit about what other people think, because people will always hate and fear anything – or anyone – that don’t fit neatly into a labelled box. And that suits me just fine.