I've had this post in draft form for months. I think it's time to finish it off and post it, not to mention starting to post regularly again:
I don't think any of us can ever boast that their musical taste has ever been impeccable. Mine, I maintain, has been consistently better than most peoples: I was raised on Bob Dylan and prog rock, went through a major classical phase when I was about 10, and then lived in limbo until I discovered heavy metal when I was 14. It was an important moment in my life. Though even now my promises of 'metal for life' seem hopelessly naive, heavy metal has always been there for me since those first, now risible, moments of our meeting. I can still clearly remember sitting at my computer playing through five or so metallica tracks I had scraped off kazaa (goodness how time flies) and thinking 'this is so fucking awesome'. A few weeks later I bought my first CD that was not a duplicate of some element of my parents music collection (Rammstein - Mutter, still a damn fine album and I don't care what anyone thinks) and then I never looked back. Soon I was growing in to a promising little metal nerd, as it (thankfully, probably) slowly began to replace anime as the mainstay of my imaginative life, and it changed me definitively for the better. Metal gave me an identity when I most needed one, it gave me clothes to feel good about wearing, it gave me a sense of belonging, it gave me self-confidence. Despite the fact that I became perhaps even more of an outsider I began to be able to keep my head level in the face of the bullies who mocked me every day, and had for long years, and the teachers who tore up my doodles and told me I'd never amount to anything unless I could do long division. Metal gave me the ability to say 'fuck it all' and stand proud away from the herd which I never had and never would be part of. It might not be too much of a stretch to say I owe my life to it. At the very least, I owe the person I am now to it, and for that I should be thankful. Friday was my birthday (Well, it was when I started writing this...), and an occasion for me to reflect (in between stein-fulls of super snakebite that left me feeling like I'd been mainlining agent orange the next morning) on how my life had changed, and, quite frankly to laugh at my younger self. And, lets face it, though he was entirely necessary for me to exist now, he was a bit of a twat. His musical taste was naieve and a bit shit, and he would have probably cried if you'd told him so. His dress sense was abysmal, he didn't wash enough, and he once spent a whole summer holiday wearing atrocious black theatrical lipstick in the mistaken belief it would make him more 'goth'. He was far too passionate about vampires, once gave himself a nosebleed just so he could paint in his own blood and radiated an exclusion zone of roughly fifty feet inside which no respectable female would be seen dead. If I met him today, I doubt I would get on with him, not at least until I'd forced him to listen to Blood Axis anyway. But, he wasn't that bad. In fact, he was just like a lot of kids of his age who we spend a lot of time laughing at and belittling their musical taste, especially, in the kind of internet communities I am a member of. We forget that to these kids what we consider, perhaps rightly, to be complete shit is in fact as essential to their continued existence as oxygen. So, this is pretty much just an exercise to humble myself, as well as to rekindle some sympathy for those smelly little moshers who might someday, if they eat their greens and do their homework, grow up to be someone like me. Poor cunts.
So, here goes: a top ten of songs that allowed me to survive the first year of my GCSEs, probably one of the shittest years of my life, and an explanation of why they rocked so damn much. These are the angry songs, the powerful songs, the angst-ridden ones. I never stopped listening to the Beatles or Pink Floyd, but this stuff was something quite different to that. Some of them I still like, some of them I would never think of listening to in a month of sundays, so choosing them has been a quite pleasant little nostalgia trip in to the land of guilty pleasures. So, what did I listen to alone in my room, all those years ago, in between sessions of furiously masturbating to bad vampire fanfics on the internet and reading David Eddings books?
1. Rammstein - Adios
Ah, Rammstein. I took German because of these loveable gimp-suited tykes, and I did abysmally at it too, the bastards. Germans continually delight in telling me that if I understood Rammsteins lyrics there's no way I could like them, but this is obviously not true, as Rammsteins lyrics are literally the only things I can say in german beside 'Keine Mayo' and 'Bier, Bitte', which are just completely essential if you want to stay alive in a country that actively promotes Tokio Hotel and unfiltered Camel cigarettes.
2. Jack off Jill - Horrible
This is, of course, not a metal tune by any stretch of the imagination. But then, when I was 15, I didn't know this. Everything from AFI to Venom to the Sex Pistols to Satyricon was simply grouped as 'music that doesn't suck', entirely distinct from precisely everything I would ever hear being played on the radio. Jack Off Jill, is, basically, music for 14 year old girls who wear stripey tights to weep and cut hearts into their arms with a pair of scissors to, who only achieved any sort of prominence whatsoever because their singer once fucked Twiggy Ramirez. I still adore them.
3. Cradle Of Filth - Queen Of Winter, Throned
Black metal fans often like to think of themselves as strong, honourable, unfettered by Christian morals, and all that jazz. So I think it's time they had the strength to just stand up and admit that Cradle of Filth produced some fucking brilliant songs. I distinctly remember when I first heard this song (November 5th, 2003), only because it was bonfire night and because of what I was doing at the time, but damn. Over ten minutes of bombast, quotes from Dracula, needlessly ornate keyboards and a fat lady singing. It's quite excellent.
4. Iron Maiden - Aces High
Of the whole list, this is probably the song I still like most. And that is the way it should be, because, lets be frank here people, if you've ever been a teenage boy and you don't like Iron Maiden, there's probably something terribly wrong with you. Or you're a scally. So, same thing really...
5. Dimmu Borgir - Puritania
At one point in my life, now thankfully past, I was of the unshakeable belief that this was quite plainly the heaviest and most evil song ever. It's far from it of course, but you can't deny it does have a certain something. In fact, if this was what Dimmu Borgir actually sounded like, rather than a one-off, I'd still probably be listening to them. There is a small list of people who I would still cheerfully murder if I could get away with it whose faces I used to imagine stamping on in time to this one. In fact, when I listen to it again, which I will do right now, I'm sure I shall remember every word and every face.
"We will do away with your kind
Countdown to exterminate the human race
4, 3, 2, 1
Let chaos entwine
On defenseless soil
Remove errors of man
And sweep all the weakening kind
I am war, I am pain
I am all you've ever slain
I am tears in your eyes
I am grief, I am lies
Bygone are tolerance
And presence of grace
Scavengers are set out
To cleanse the human filth parade
I am pure, I am true
I am all over you
I am laugh, I am smile
I am the earth defiled
I am the cosmic storms
I am the tiny worms
I am fear in the night
I am bringer forth of light"
Aaaaah. I can feel the misanthropy flowing. You know, it's occured to me I still pretty much do this, except I've swapped Dimmu Borgir for Boyd Rice and the Count Nosferatu Kommando.
6. My Chemical Romance - Vampires Will Never Hurt You
Probably the two things I am most thankful for in my life regarding my musical development are the fact that I never really liked nu-metal, and the fact that I was never a fucking emo. That said, I did used to really quite like My Chemical Romances first record. When I first heard it, which must have been some time in late 2002, they were actually both pretty underground and, to my ears at least, something quite new. I saw them live on their first UK tour, my first proper gig (apart from high school bands and tribute acts) and it was great. Their lyrics were some of the most pretentious stuff I'd heard up to that point (though obviously nothing quite up to Cradle of Filth standards) and their music wasn't bad either. I liked the ridiculously melodramatic delivery, and with my vampire obessession, this track was a given. Their second album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, on which the band decided to dress up like idiots (when I saw them they still wore normal clothes) and ditch reasonably interesting and cool lyrics about vampires and crime sprees for poetic abortions like 'It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Fucking Deathwish' was probably, along with developing an interest in real goth rock when I was 16, the thing that definitively saved me from ever having an assymetric fringe (And lets face it, I'm a big guy: I'd have looked absolutely ridiculous). I put the first album at the back of my cupboard, deleted it from my hard disk, and have barely listened to them since when I can avoid it.
7. Marilyn Manson - Cake And Sodomy
Luckily, I hit puberty properly maybe two or three years too late to be a proper Manson fan, but I was still a teenager, I was still alive in the nineties, and I still owned a trench-coat. This number, off one of his earlier albums, was exactly offensive and angry enough to be right up my street. "I am the god of Fuck": what does it mean? Who knows! It'll piss off your parents no end though.
8. In Flames - Pinball Map
In Flames were for me, like for so many people, my introduction into the wonderful world of Melodic Death Metal, one of the hard core of bands who helped something like real heavy music become briefly, wonderfully popular for a few years after the nu-metal fiasco, before everyone either got boring or jumped ship on to the metalcore bandwagon. In Flames were, unfortunately a part of that second group. Luckily, I got to see them live back in 2004, before the rot had completely set in: owing to their punishing touring schedule as both headliner and supporting act I have seen them every single year since, and will probably see them again this year at Wacken. They ain't getting better, though to be fair it's not through lack of enthusiasm. They remain a good live act, but the quality of their set deterioriates with every new album. This is the track they opened with live, the first time I saw them, complete with pyrotechnics and rock and roll kicks from guitarists and bassist as they sprung into life. It was the first time I had seen a band that I genuinely loved live. By Cloud Connected I was actually in tears. This is classic In Flames, from the Clayman album, full of classic gothenburg riffs and completely unintelligible english as a second language, dictionary-composed lyrics ("Conflict serum is my aura?"). I don't listen to this anymore, for several reasons. First, because I burned out, but second, because I realised that even at their pinnacle In Flames were by far the most boring MDM band. Dark Tranquillity, Arch Enemy, At The Gates and, of course, my personal favourites, the immortal fucking EDGE OF SANITY, now those are acts I still headbang to...
9. Murderdolls - 197666
"In 197666 I was born a bastard and a son of a bitch
'Cos I'm sick! Sick motherfucker siiiiiiiiiiiick!"
Don't think it really needs any more explanation than that. I must admit, whilst we're here, that I am still a fan of everything to do with Wednesday 13 from the first Frankenstein Drag Queens album all the way through to his solo material. It's a bit like Alice Cooper meets the Misfits: bad make-up and b-movie references are pretty much all it takes to make me like a band really. Also, there are some damn good songs, even if I don't dig it quite like I used to. I wish 'God is a Lie' had been around when I was 15.
10. Children Of Bodom - Hate Me!
Though I still think Alexi Laiho has some mean chops (the solo at the start of Needled 24/7, the other main contender for a Bodom track for this release, is just frankly fucking ridiculous) the Hatecrew are the band that have probably fallen farthest for me on this list, followed closely by My Chemical Romance, In Flames and then Dimmu Borgir (The others I still listen to a bit more than once in a blue moon (Or quite often in the case of Maiden), though normally for entirely different reasons than what I used to, because quite frankly some of it just amuses me nowadays). I feel like I need to qualify this, as it might make it seem to the casual reader that I think My Chemical Romance are better than Children of Bodom. I used to listen to Children of Bodom like it was a religion. They are still 28th in my last.fm charts despite the fact that I am pretty damn sure I can't have listened to more than ten tracks in the past year. They used to be number one. I both burned out, overplaying their relatively compact discography, and found better things: once you've discovered Dissection and Cryptic Wintermoon, CoB just seem...pointless.
There was more than this, of course, but ten seems a sensible number. And maybe even after this I don't want to admit I was a Zeromancer fan.