METAL AND ME ~ by Mark Brandt
One of the most enticing things about metal is its ability to take all sorts of people under its wing. Metal is a genre rooted in emotion; in its cheerier moments it makes you feel strong, empowered and united. In its gloomier parts, it is an enveloping and strangely comforting blanket of darkness. The diversity of the genre (to anyone more acquainted than a cursory glance) is truly phenomenal, stretching across more than a hundred countries and countless styles. It was only inevitable that one teen, a logophile disillusioned with the offerings of more mainstream genres, was going to fall into the trap, and its eccentric assortment of music and people.
By way of explaining why I do what I do, I’d like to tell you a story, traveling back to 2005. A boy, aged 14, possesses a music taste ranging from rap to smatterings of rock bands, but nothing particularly offensive. An older school friend has passed him a couple of albums with intriguing artwork. He chooses at random and clicks the CD into his player. What flows through appeals to his rap/rock-oriented senses, but there is an underlying darker atmosphere than what he’s accustomed to. It feels almost metallic, punchy and full of energy. He flips the jewel case, and reads the album title. Linkin Park’s Meteora.
Admittedly, not the classiest of entries into the metal sphere, but it is tough to deny that Linkin Park provides a solid gateway to discovering metal. What followed was a yellow brick road, stopping at Disturbed and others along the way, before a final accidental stumble onto Insomnium solidified my love of melodic death metal. I was hooked, and my research of metal bands drew me in further and further. The combination of melody, vitality and poetic lyricism appealed to me as a writer, particularly focusing on lyrics. The genre became irrelevant, I grew to love all of them, although the darker side was always interesting. Soon, I found a way to merge this new-found love of metal with the current love of writing.
Although my lyric-writing days faded at the age of 18, the love of writing and words continued. Due to a lack of metal-loving people in the proximity, I soon turned to the internet and its various forums, inexperienced with the genre but eager to learn. After finding myself saturated in band recommendations, I discovered I could be pickier with my choices, what with metal being a “diamonds in the rough” genre. Still searching for new music to listen to, a more analytical side opened up. Although I was nowhere near an expert, I still noticed patterns emerging, discovered full scenes of similar bands, and the dot-to-dot game became easier. I found myself improving at recommending albums for friends to try, based on their current music taste. It wasn’t long before my own reviews emerged on a blog, in the plethora already on the internet. A series of consequential events resulted in collaborations with like-minded sites (like this one), which resulted in me becoming firmly planted in the world of music journalism, much more quickly than I envisaged.
Far from the portrayed jet-set lifestyle that of course inevitably entails (sarcasm, gentlefolk) with working in the metal industry, music journalism is far from glamorous. Much like any writing-based job, it has its downsides, its deadlines, its stress. It can be quite demanding of your time, especially if you feel like a perfectionist. But the perks compensate: meeting wonderful individuals in the business, listening to high quality music (bracing yourself for the worse releases) and this wonderful feeling that you contribute something to the genre. The emotion you get when you see people taking influence from your recommendations, being a metal tour guide of sorts, is wonderful.
For all its squabbling and infighting, metal is a fairly united and passionate scene, and one that I love dearly, stepping aside the endless trivial arguments about lineups, bands and genres. Once that is removed, what is left is an entity still finding its feet, but each decade becoming steadier than the last. As a journalist who loves his job, I feel a sense of pride to be a part of this blossoming genealogy.
– Mark Angel Brandt (InAngelsHeadphones)
Brandt is a lover of music in most genres. At the moment, he is studying Russian and German. You can visit all his music musings at InAngelsHeadphones
Catch Mark’s writing at Metal Recusants, DeathMetalBaboon, A Metal State of Mind and (140 characters) on Twitter.