Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guest Post: Gryphyn Bloodheart - A Late Start Into Metal

This post was sent to me by Gryphyn Bloodheart, the President of the local Heavy Metal Club, here in Orlando. It depicts her discovery of metal, and her views on music. Hopefully I will have a few more guest posts to add to this site:

"As president of the Heavy Metal Knights at UCF, it's a little embarrassing to confess to people that I've only known metal for three or four years now.

Let me explain: far beyond in the depths of Buttfuck, Nowhere, I was trapped, listening to and singing along with whatever music my mom played in the pickup truck. That, as you can surely guess, was country music. I knew nothing else until I was twelve, when, inspired by my sister's differing musical tastes in this “rock” music, I turned my radio dial for, as far as I could tell, the first time in history, and started listening to rock. “Hm... this 'rock music'... it is intriguing,” I thought. So for a while there I enjoyed System of a Down, Three Days Grace, A Perfect Circle, and whatever else they happened to play on the radio. It took a while to ween myself off of Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, and the Dixie Chicks, so I kept switching back and forth between stations, like a child who can't seem to break the habit of thumb-sucking. The conversion was eventually complete after a year or so, but occasionally to this day, when I'm feeling a little nostalgic or homesick, I'll turn my radio to a country station or listen to something from one of my old country CDs. A good friend got me into Flogging Molly and brought me to a show in Ybor City, which ended up being my first pit experience. It was a blast then, just as it is now. It wasn't until I met my current boyfriend, Jesse, that I discovered a more deviant kind of music.

I still have the first pair of mix CDs he burned for me, and that's what first got me into metal. Stratovarius, Amon Amarth, Cannibal Corpse, Lamb of God, Manowar among others - there's hardly a bad song on those CDs. He also burned for me a copy of Queensryche's 1988 album “Operation: Mindcrime” which, once I started really listening to it and realized it was a concept album, got me absolutely fucking hooked. Being a well-behaved, straight-A(ish) I.B. student, I never would have accepted any of these things from the trouble-making, drug-dealing bastard that kept trying to get me to skip Calculus class and smoke a “twenty sack” with his buddies and him. But to be totally honest, when he forced me to take a demo copy of the shitty little local band he played bass for, I fell for him a little when I listened to it.

Since this adventure of musical discovery (and courtship), I have been to several concerts that don't involve twang-y vocals and hay rides. My first was Queensryche, opening for Judas Priest. I didn't know who Judas Priest was back then. It turns out, this was one of the shows Judas Priest did just after Rob Halford started touring with the band again after leaving many years prior. It probably seems funny to some of the metal heads reading this, to hear me, of all people, saying that there was a time I didn't know who Judas Priest or Rob Halford were. Yes, it is embarrassing. But I was psyched about seeing Geoff Tate up there on stage in St. Pete. I began jumping up and down in my seat and squealing when Geoff announced the sequel to “Operation: Mindcrime”, and kept asking Jesse if he'd heard the announcement while the band played “I'm American”. “Yes dear, I heard it. Will you please calm down now?”

After that, I saw Yngwie Malmsteen, Black Label Society, Queensryche (again and again), Amon Amarth, Iced Earth (with Into Eternity), Dragonforce, Turisas, Powerglove, Alice Cooper, and Dio (in Black Sabbath as Heaven And Hell). Jesse's dad (also named Jesse, who we usually call “Big Jess”) was crucial in my early metal years in exposing me to these new (at least to me) acts. Sometimes I didn't know how legendary these people were, and Jesse was critical in filling me in on all the trivia and back story of these major metal players.

But despite their best efforts in educating me on metal, I always feel ten steps behind everyone else. Jesse was raised on metal from the cradle, and sometimes it feels like everyone else around me was too. When people ask what kind of metal I like, I may respond that I'm a big fan of prog metal, to which they often respond “So you like Mastadon/Opeth/etc?” I'm sure I blush when they say this and I'm forced to confess that I've never really listened to this or that band. Any time I'm confronted with a new person with whom all I share is metal, they usually start listing off a bunch of their favorite bands, none of which I've ever heard of. I'm always afraid to ask them about their bands, because I'm never really sure if there's a couple among them that I'm OBLIGED to know about, that I might be ostracized for NOT knowing about.

I sometimes wish that, like Jesse, my baby bottles had been full of molten metal, and my parents played Iron Maiden on loop while I slept in my crib. But, then again, I don't know if I would have liked to have missed “Bring on the Rain”, “Wide Open Spaces”, and “Achy Breaky Heart”. It seems like country has some songs that are brutal enough to be metal, like Charlie Daniels' “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, Reba McEntire's “Fancy”, or Garth Brooks' “The Thunder Rolls”. But, unfortunately, metalheads don't generally know THESE kind of classics.

Which brings me to my fondness of folk metal. With folk metal, it seems like there's always a way to compromise between your culture and metal. Oftentimes, when bands incorporate traditional musical styles or traditional instruments, or even use metal to tell the lore of their culture, I feel particularly thrilled, even hopeful. I don't generally like thrash, but when I heard some of Sepultura's “Roots”, I was very excited by the band's exploration of their culture.

One day, someone is going to make a special brand of American folk metal, just for me, and I'll be waiting. Perhaps, even, it is already out there, and I just don't know about it yet. That's the beauty of metal; there's always more of it, and it's a battle to explore it all."

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