Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bits of the Past (Getting Caught in my Teeth)

If you hadn't noticed, I have been gone for a while. Why exactly I left I've written about in other places, so I won't bog you down with the details, but it goes without saying that I haven't been around.

Welp, I'm back. Sort of. And I've missed you.

But before I get into that, I'd like to start with a little story.

I started listening to war metal around sophomore year of college purely by chance. While metal had been a part of my listening since before high school, freshman year brought the the bountiful supply line that is a college radio station and its vast troves of albums. I spend countless hours in that station, occasionally locked in conversation and laughter with the friends I'd met through music, but far more embraced by the near silence of dormant plastic in the back closets piled high with promotional records, worthless singles, and dusty equipment from decades past. The station itself had hundreds of CDs labeled and sorted in the main rooms - tall and wide bookshelves layered with the rotated hot commodities of the past decade - but the back rooms where laced with dirt worn gold. That's where all the 'junk' went; anything less popular, unknown, or just plain old found itself buried in cardboard or tossed on splintering shelves in dark cupboards lined with records. For the four years I delved in those shelves, I never quite reached bottom, but the few things I've held onto - promotional printings of Death's debut, Swans double albums - only hinted at the names I still don't know.

For as much music as I was consuming, I purchased little, and for good reason. Between the weekly influxes of new music hot off the presses to the trumpet sound of oozing promoters and the magnetic siren call of the back shelves, there was little time, energy, or money left for anything else. That precious commodity was saved for only the best of the best, those things I needed to have to satisfy some soulful longing that would only be sated by its shrink-wrapped manifestation.

While I did pick up a few classics during that time, the most lasting purchases were the surprises. Those online cart fillers that might grant me free shipping or smooth over an odd price total often lasted longer than the albums that started the purchase. Perhaps it is because of that surprise that they lasted so much longer - some of the classics in my collection were bought out of expectation, on the belief that I needed to hear them, that they would unlock some important understanding or secret musical gnosis critical to metal enlightenment. When they inevitably failed to live up to those lofty hopes, they lingered until I returned with fresh ears some days, months, or even years later (truthfully, I've yet to have unlocked a few of them, though not for lack of trying). The surprises, on the other hand, never had to be good; in fact, they had no right being good. After all, what does third rate black metal offer in the face of legendary, history making albums? And what does it mean, after finally watching the disk disappear into the laptop's reader and begin to play, when I actually love it more than any so called legend?

That was the situation I found myself in during the fall of my sophomore year. Burdened with a host of recommendations from friends, a backlog of promos and artifacts from the station vault, and the pesky annoyances of school work, I could still find down time to read reviews and keep up with the internet news on releases too harsh or underground to be promoted by any brand reasonable enough to market to colleges. Hours could go by between various reviews, skulking through distributers listings, looking for something stimulating against the backdrop of an already overstimulated day. To be honest, I don't know what grabbed me about the album itself - perhaps the striking and polished artwork, or the connection connection to Primordial, a group which had crossed and dominated my listening path for a good portion of time. On the other hand, the connection more likely stemmed from that natural urge to appear contrarian, even if just to myself. A totally natural inclination for a college student, I imagine, so that if forced to pull a name out of the air, I could rattle multiple obscurities off the cuff to appear in touch with the youth metal culture of the time, whatever the hell that may have been. Instead, drawn by the allure of a cover, a single review, and little else, I spent the $12.99 including shipping to have this lightweight letter bomb delivered to my tiny mailbox.

I may go back into the story of the album and repost the review I had written of it several years ago, but for now let me leave it to history and time. Instead, let me say that I hope to continue writing more frequently as I begin my indoctrination back into a genre I call home.

And like the metal geyser that blasted my palette clean, I hope to do the same with this platform. I've removed all the previous posts from this blog - for better or worse - and wish to start from the bottom up, creating things anew. The previous incarnation of this blog was messy, and not just in terms of writing. It came when listening and pursuing metal were secondary to just finding something to connect with, and amidst that cacophony my writing moved from topic to topic with a frenzied lack of direction. I like to think I've grown since then - grown further away and returned home, back to the comfort of clashing cymbals, trash can microphones, corroded guitar string and even more rusted vocal chords. And with walls plastered with the holy trinity of blood iron red, chalk white, and bile black, we can rise again.

War metal brought me back. Hopefully, we will both be here to stay.

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