Sunday, June 21, 2015

By (sort of) Request: Doom Metal 101

A close friend of mine is working on a comic book set in the world of metal; in the course of bouncing ideas off of me he asked if I had any recommendations of bands he should check out.

This is what an aneurysm feels like.

After the brain baby stopped kicking, I spent a couple weeks putting together a series of e-mails with brief (by my standards) overviews of bands and genres, and links to albums on Youtube and Bandcamp. The shortest of these was 800 words; the longest, which was over 1800, elicited this response: "Too much!"

My buddy was only looking for a few bands, maybe 10 at the most; but I just couldn't help myself. Crafting those e-mails took me back to my college years, when every weekend brought with it a newly discovered band and a newly blown mind. I used to write long torturous messages about music to whichever friends would put up with them (there weren't many). I hope somewhere in the vast forgotten detritus of the internet these still exist, a testament to the exuberance of someone who had nothing better to do than spend hours writing about metal. [If I recall correctly, my school e-mail didn't have "drafts" yet; which meant all of these Dostoyevskyish manuscripts were written in one sitting.]

It doesn't please me that all the music I hear these days feels like a watered down, less creative version of something I heard over 15 years ago. I don't think that's entirely my own cynicism. Earlier this year I interviewed a sludge band who told me their music has nothing to do with Black Sabbath. That's the current musical environment in a nutshell: Sheep in black shirts following whatever is currently popular without any knowledge of where it came from and lacking the basic intellectual curiosity to investigate its history. With everyone who was around "back in the day" now focused on their careers and raising kids, there's no one to curate, and just anonymous message board lurkers in lieu of proven authorities. What should be a wine tasting is now a kegger: Albums are downloaded in bulk, listened to perfunctorily and cast aside. No depth of interest or attachment; just swipe left, swipe right.

At any rate, scouring my music collection for stuff my friend would like brought me back to my roots: back to the days spent devouring articles and lists written by actual experts. And as he relates his excitement to me over hearing albums like Chaos AD and Wolverine Blues for the first time - albums which transformed my world over 20 years ago but I mostly take for granted now - it allows me to step back and revisit a time when it all seemed fresh and exciting.