I recently read about a study which confirmed that ones’ taste in music is a veritable turducken of emotional intrigue. Criticizing an artist or genre that someone loves is tantamount to a psychic slap, because the music we love is part of our identity. Woe betide the insensitive thug who makes a casual joke about the ridiculousness of music that means something to somebody.
Following that disclaimer, I will say that there are kinds of music that I have never been able to tolerate. I have let Country into my world in small doses, and I have learned to listen to rap and hip hop with my son as an eager native guide. I am still unable to spend any time listening to jazz, polkas, or earnest Christian rock. It seems to me that Jesus would prefer that his message be disseminated by means of something exquisite by Bach or Faure rather than bad, fake arena rock.
Metal was, until recently on the list of music that I could not endure without breaking out in hives. My husband likes metal, listens to metal, and reads about metal, so I have been interested in a superficial sort of way that had nothing to do with the actual music. I like the bad-assness of it all, the idea of the middle finger raised at polite society, the long hair, leather, and tattoos. As a courtesy, I learned to distinguish Speed Metal, Death Metal, and Classic Metal, and to know my Anthrax from my Megadeth. I could, perhaps, have passed a test, but I had no feeling for the music. It did not transport me, excite me, or make me want to play that one track again and again to get that narcotic rush. It was, for me, just loud noise with really great guitar work.
Over the past year, a little romance blossomed. I really liked Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and then I fell in love with Apocalyptica, a group of cellists who cover heavy metal music in ways I could not have imagined in my life as a Bach-toting classical cellist. I kept finding out that music I already liked (Jethro Tull? Led Zeppelin?) might actually be classified as metal, and that, well, I already liked it. The deal was sealed two days ago when I watched a documentary about Iron Maiden. I was impressed that their lead singer was also a licensed pilot, able to fly a 7-something-seven filled with band, crew, and equipment all over the world. I admired the fact that men their age could still run around stage, clearly love what they were doing, and (unlike some bands that have played the Super Bowl half time show in recent years) do it incredibly, energetically, well. I found myself, after two hours of concert clips, singing Iron Maiden songs to myself. I liked those songs. I loved them. I wanted to hear them again.
I bought an Iron Maiden album on iTunes.
Now that my toe is firmly encased in black metal and chains, I have some observations. First, I will vouchsafe that I love the music, the voices, and the consummate skill with which Iron Maiden does its thing. What I do not get is the fascination with all things Faux Medieval, Runic, and Pseudo-Historical, all of which reminds me vividly of “This Is Spinal Tap.” There are metal bands that seem to fall into some adolescent male Dungeons & Dragons thing that makes no sense to me. Rush, a band my husband loves, and which, in my opinion, has the awesomest drummer in the world, falls into the category of “D & D/Stoner/I May Have Pimples But I Can Kill You With My Mace” lyrics. Metallica does not. Iron Maiden does, AC/DC does not. How does this work? Can I, a lifelong lyric lover listen to music and ignore the ridiculous lyrics? Is it like listening to Brahms lieder, which I can’t understand a word of because it’s in German, but which I love just the same? Will I develop an uncontrollable desire for chain mail and begin to gnaw meat snatched from a bread trough?
There is also this whole thing about female fans, and flashing and waiting back stage. I have seen every “Behind The Music” about hard rock or metal bands, and although most of them once lived for a fifth of Jack and two teenage girls from Dubuque with lots of black eyeliner and inadequate tube tops, they are now married with children. If I say that “I like Metal,” am I endorsing the wholesale exploitation of women, and irresponsible use of various substances? (Or did I already do that when I said I liked Hip Hop?)
I want to expand my horizons, and I do love this Iron Maiden album which is in constant play, even as I block out the lyrics. On the other hand, I will never, ever, be seen in public wearing leather pants, lifting my t-shirt to catch the eye of some superannuated drummer with hair longer than mine, or doing that thing with my hands that looks like the Texas Longhorn symbol, but isn’t. I might, on occasion, bang my head a little in private.
We aren’t really a great fit, Metal and me, but I think that I’m falling in love.