After Kurt Cobain blew his brains out in 1994, alternative rock, the supposed savior of the mainstream, took a shit and died. The loss of Nirvana seemingly created a domino effect; the remaining “big bands” of the genre either broke up, imploded or simply petered out, with the exception of Pearl Jam, who became alt rock’s answer to The Grateful Dead (as if we needed another one), while the lesser known bands went back underground. For me, those bands belong to a certain time and place; Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were a big part of the soundtrack to my teenage years. I didn’t discriminate between heavy metal and so-called grunge; it was all just a bunch of ugly, hairy dudes with guitars playing big, loud riffs.
Okay, so a couple of folks have asked me to write something about how I got into heavy metal. Well, let me start by saying it wasn’t easy to do, being trapped in the bowels of the Midwest. Furthermore I’m only 30, which means I was way too young to get caught up in the ’80s glory days of tape trading (I was 8 years old when Nihilist released their first demo, about 4 when Death released theirs) and too old to have had the internet readily available to me at a young age (we did however, have some sweet Apple computers at school that you could play Oregon Trail on). There were very few outlets for discovering metal available to someone growing up when and where I did. I think it started with classic rock. It might not have been easy to catch an underground metal show in central Iowa, but it was easy to turn on the radio and hear Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Steppenwolf, Kiss, etc… the building blocks of heavy metal. I always gravitated towards the heavier side of classic rock, so metal was a natural progression.
And I discovered metal through MTV. This might sound like a completely ridiculous notion now, but back then MTV actually had something to do with music and didn’t constantly show programs about knocked up trailer park dwellers, morbidly obese high schoolers who want to be dancers and cheerleaders only to fail miserably, and more sexually confused 20-somethings than you can shake a stick at (take that how you will). It was Metallica’s video for “One” that hit me like a sledgehammer to the skull. I caught it while randomly flipping channels one day after school. It was one of those moments of “This is the music I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear.”. The dynamics, the guitar tone, the machine-gun drums, everything about that song was perfect. It blew all the hair metal MTV had been playing at the time out of the water. Metallica weren’t a bunch of preening tarts like Poison, they were genuine bad asses with a dark, heavy sound that matched their black-clad image. Of course, it was all downhill from there…