Alright, it may seem too soon, but here’s the first installment of Sappy Hour.
Growing up’s weird, every bit of it, and there are many among us who would say it also sucks. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a kid again: waking up extra early to catch Saturday-morning cartoons, having your parents pay for every little necessity and/or commodity your heart desires, to have no care in the world aside from what fate will befall your favorite character on your favorite cartoon? I sure as hell do. Growing up to most people means being deflowered by the harsh and ugly world around you, finding a job you’ll hate just so you can feed yourself, marrying someone you’ll grow to hate, having kids you’ll hate even more, retiring to some hard-earned years of rest, and then dying. Yeah, it sucks being old.
Or does it?
Recently I’ve had a bit of an existential crisis surrounding what I’m going to do after I graduate, what kind of jobs I’ll be taking, how I’m going to get by with this student loan that’s about to bring its full weight down on my balls-typical college senior problems. One of the few things I can take comfort in through all this is that I’m not alone and that there are others who have it worse off than I do (yes, downward social comparison does apply even to seemingly nice people). There’s also something else going on that deserves significantly more attention.
You see, I’m a metalhead, and as irrelevant as that may seem it’s actually pertinent to the topic. One of my favorite all-time bands is the long-disbanded Death Metal monolith Death. Yes, this band, with their simply eloquent name, pretty much spawned Satan’s favorite subgenre of Heavy Metal with their skull-crushing 1987 debut “Scream Bloody Gore”. This album was-and still-is nasty and obscene; a staple in every Death Metal enthusiast’s book. It was raw, violent, vulgar, and bloody-everything that comes to mind when one hears the sacred (or not-so) words “Death Metal”. Fast forward to 1995: I was three years old and the only musical exposure I had was to Yanni and the occasional Lebanese folk tune and classical piece. By that time Death had really gotten their act together and released what I hold to be their greatest release to date, “Symbolic”. This album is a far-cry from the formative years; a much, much more mature effort on their part lyrically and musically speaking. There’s one track in particular that strikes a chord (no pun intended) deep within me and is probably what’s keeping me going at this point. That track is the majestic “Perennial Quest”, and it discusses the never-ending journey that is life, where, to quote the song, “Dreams are followed, and time is a test”. No truer words have been spoken in Heavy Metal on the matter of life.
I recently read an article on Death that was posted on, believe it or not, NPR. Aside from the whole, “RIP Chuck! You were the best!” wankery that one would expect to find when one raises the subject of Death, it was a very good read.. But it also got me thinking that Death might just be one the better metaphors we have of growing up and a good argument as to why it isn’t so bad. As time went by for the band, the level of maturity they were experiencing was evident not only in their music, but also in the album art. Sure, it still seemed rather odd, disturbing , and just plain bizarre to many, but when one sees that they went from a feast of zombies to men scaling a monstrous mountain (“Scream Bloody Gore” and “The Sound of Perseverance”, respectively”), and when one notices the shift from simple buzzsaw-like riffs to complex and intimate melodies, I think it can be agreed upon that they really did grow up.
To provide further context to what I’m talking about, let’s juxtapose Death’s albums (titles, album art, and all) with real life, starting from adolescence when in life, I think, the ball really starts rolling: we start out angry, obscene, awkward, violent, and frustrated, just wanting to lash out at everyone and everything (Scream Bloody Gore). We begin shedding the skin we once bore (Leprosy) and questioning what we used to know, usually to the dismay and chagrin of those around us, who try to bring us back into the fold of monotony and the norm (Spiritual Healing). It is then that we are simply human at our core-flawed and fallible-and nothing more (Human); we begin to think differently and push our development further and further, creating more doubt in our minds, but at the same time paving the way for a multitude of discoveries to be made (Individual Thought Patterns). Things in our lives, no matter how insignificant, come to hold greater value and become representative of greater things (Symbolic)-whether in the past, present, or future-and we finally take the initiative to undertake the the long and arduous journey to the peak of the highest mountain, armed only with the clothes on our back and the knowledge and experience we’ve accrued over the years (The Sound of Perseverance).
Interesting, eh? When it’s put down that way, growing up doesn’t sound so bad, and it’s things like this that actually make me look forward to growing up and facing the challenges that lurk ahead. In short, life is a growing process, and whether or not you take it to be this gloomy and dreadful process we just have to go through is up to you and you alone; life is chock-full of surprises and lessons that will make you or break you, depending on how you approach it. Remember, there’s two kinds of people on this planet: people with problems, and people who try to do something about them. Whew, that felt good! It’s 12:26 AM over here and I need to get back to playing some guitar before hitting the sack. That said, this concludes the first installment of Sappy Hour.
Y’all take care now.
Author’s Note: For the albums I mentioned, visit the following link unless you have a weak stomach and/or stunted attention span. http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Death/141
The NPR article mentioned earlier: http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2011/12/12/143518038/death-is-never-finished-remembering-death-metal-pioneer-chuck-schuldiner
And finally, “Perennial Quest” in HD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SI4L1YS7BZo Because f**k standard quality when it comes to good music.