Metal Is Good For Kids
My music is good for kids…
Remember the days of tapes? I had a tape of Alanis Morissette’s best seller, Jagged Little Pill, and managed to erase the part of the song that goes, “Are you thinking of me when you f**k her?” I erased forever that part of the song because I used to turn it down, just for a moment, whenever my mother was around to hear it, and so it began to do it all on its own. I was, as you can gather, a very good little girl. But what my mother never knew was how powerful that line was, how much the word “f**k” projected more than mere obscenities, but imagery and feeling; anger and regret and revenge, and I loved it. In fact, I would have turned it up every time if I wasn’t such a ninny.
Alanis Morissette was no heavy metal lady, but she was my 12-year-old’s metal equivalent – full of emotion and weighty subjects. Her lyrics were something which allowed me to feel, and release that feeling in the word, “f**k”, time and again. She was a lighthouse for me, when my body was plagued by hormones and my poor little heart by early teen angst. She guided me through my angst, as much as Nirvana and Pearl Jam did later, until I reached the stage where extremities of emotion, both good and bad, required my musical lighthouse to evolve into something more hardcore. It began with In Flames.
I don’t expect my mother to recognise or accept the music I love today. She would understand the softer side, my love of a good singer-songwriter, or folk musician, but she would never, ever, get the Chimaira’s of my world. But if it were my son or daughter, having been there myself, I would not only understand their desire and need for metal in their lives, but actively encourage listenership. Because as much as the music might sound angry and hateful (which it can be), it has a grounding action. It expresses angst and confusion in a way which you don’t want your own kids to do in their everyday actions. It can be their substitute and it’s really not a bad one at the end of the day. As all metal lovers will tell you, metal, and all of its off-shoots and contemporaries, is actually pretty sophisticated music.
I remember being completely hooked on Deftone’s White Pony, an album which was perfect for 3am mornings on my way home from a night out. This album was my substitute for cocaine, because the high I could reach, rolling down my window while cruising the darkened streets, allowed me to overcome the crushing depression and loneliness which was a feature of my early 20s. Ultimately, I clung to music in my deepest moments. It was a constant in my life, something I depended on when nothing seemed certain or predictable. Even today, when I really don’t want to do something, I put on a good hard-kicking, air-punching album, very loudly, and allow it to invigorate me or cradle me, or be whatever it is I need it to be.
The idea of finding comfort or exoneration in this kind of music is completely discredited by the paranoia and falsehoods attached to metal-heads by the ignorant public. Unfortunately, much of it is true, except the part about Satanism, suicide, murder, depression, drunkenness, drugs, devil-worshiping and ritual slaughter, uncleanliness, disease, slothfulness and every other bad description aimed in our direction. Some wish that they could be all that, but mostly, we are just smelly kids playing it hardcore. The kids who succumb to any of that are probably lost to the world already. As it is so eloquently put on the blog Backward Messages, “Exactly how many kids has heavy metal sent to hell?”
What infuriates me most, however, is that having an appreciation for the music doesn’t make you a metal-head and nothing else. I wanted to slap this woman I once met who gave me the up-and-down and then acted all surprised because she was told I was a metal-head. I was wearing a dress (and it wasn’t black). Even when aural appreciation turns into a lifestyle choice, since when is metal the only blameworthy music for the f**k-ups of this world? Is a drunk metal-head breaking his guitar against the amplifiers any worse than a drugged-up trance bunny, or the screaming Beatle-maniac, or the Drakensburg Boys Choir chorister? Anyway, black has always been a fashionable colour. Those who do not have an inkling of understanding or love for heavy metal are completely mystified when I tell them that Mastodon has an environmental spin and that Demon Hunter are god-fearing Christians. Not all metal results in your kids attending church burnings and KKK meetings. Like I said, this music is sophisticated, as are the fans.
So my message is this: “Parents, make your kids listen to metal”. Start at the age of five with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, or “Pet” by A Perfect Circle, just to creep them out, and then slowly introduce the other good stuff. You will thank me. Not only will your kids develop discerning musical tastes and an ear to make any music producer proud, but will live to be well-adjusted creatures, perhaps with a propensity towards an over-use of the word “f**k”, but this is actually more than okay. Just know that word helped me through many of my issues, as it may help them too one day.
- Claire Martens