"Listen to this. Who is this? Can you guess who this is?"
A heavy metal song plays on the radio. Guitar wailing, screaming. Notes flying like an electric shiver up the spine. The insistent questioning means that I should know who it is. Crap. I don't. I listen hard, hoping I'll have a metal epiphany.
"Ummm. Metallica. Metallica?"
"No, just listen—right there! Do you hear that?"
Ahh. A characteristic effect. Whose, I do not know. I say so.
"It's Pantera. Do you hear that sound? That's Dimebag Darrell. That's his signature."
He's not put off, but I'm kicking myself. I should have guessed Pantera—though being able to guess one correctly out of the two most frequently noted bands by the fan in question would hardly lend any more to my credibility as a metal aficionado.
I do not have an ear for this. I wish I did, but I don't. Still, I try. Not to love it, but to better understand it.
What is the appeal? He explains how passionate it is. The feeling is aggression, but it's genuine. Pure. It shouldn't matter what kind of music is—those who do it well...you can feel the passion that they put into it.
This I get. Just as sometimes you need to wallow in self pity, sometimes anger and aggression are what you need to feel, confront, and get out of your system.
There's more to it than this, of course. Guitarists like Darrell Abbott and vocalists like Phil Anselmo and lyricists (and vocalists) like Maynard James Keenan are masters at what they do. I'm not going to like everything I hear, and it won't be my life's quest to stock my closet with black, skull-laden t-shirts, but as long as there's a willing guide, I'm game. I don't know that I would have otherwise given a second (or first) thought to Tool, A Perfect Circle, or System of a Down.
So, I'm not a hard core fan of heavy metal music, but I don't need to be to in order to respect the musicianship and the unfiltered emotion that goes into it. And, yes, it also helps to love the guy who loves the music.