Being a teacher and a die-hard metal fan is an odd combination on many levels. Part of me doesn’t want to teach history and instead have hour long lectures and discussions about which of the first three Metallica albums is the best, or why I prefer Mercyful Fate over King Diamond. And then there’s the other part of me that wants to tell my students that the music they fill their heads with is pure garbage created merely for money instead of the love of good tunes. Of course this isn’t a perfect world, so that can’t happen, and I damn sure can’t share my concert experiences with them.
Day in and day out though, there lies an interesting parallel of thinking about when I was in 8th grade and going through similar situations they are, but from a different time. Kids are kids, and teenagers are teenagers. We all went through the same shit at those ages, just different variations thereof. So how did I cope with it? Metal.
Each day after school, I remember being in my room with my huge around the ear headphones and rocking out to any number of tunes or bands while doing my homework, or just vegging out. The year would have been around 1995-1996, and I wasn’t actually into death metal at that time. I was aware of Death, Deicide, Suffocation, etc. but only from the images and album covers I saw in magazine articles and ads. My location was the podunk little town of Inman, KS with a whopping population of about 1000 people, and getting my hands on such music wasn’t really an option at that time in that part of the world. But I was lucky enough to find a few musical gems, which I now present to you as my 8th Grade Metal Selection!
Motorhead – The Best of Motorhead Volume 2: You’ll actually probably chuckle at how I came to listen to Motorhead and purchase this album. MTV was not only playing some videos at the time but also Beavis and Butthead, which had some great metal videos pop-up once in a while. [This is how I discovered quite a few bands actually.] One episode featured the video for “No Voices in the Sky,” which is still my favorite Motorhead song to this day. The chorus of this song is just so flawless that if you don’t get into it, then you have no soul. While scouring the record store shelves, I found this CD, which had the song I was looking for in addition to 14 other songs that Roadrunner Records deemed ‘the best’ of Motorhead’s catalog. This being my first taste of Motorhead, I was given the gift of songs like “Deaf Forever” and “Fire, Fire” along side two tracks from “No Sleep til Hammersmith.” In a way, I’m surprised that my CD copy of this album hasn’t worn out, as there was a point in time that I listened to this CD every day. Each time I drop this baby in, I jam it from front to back, sing along to every word, and air guitar to all the riffs. If you are into Motorhead then I don’t need to explain that. If you aren’t into them, then I feel sorry for you.
Metallica – Ride the Lightning: My favorite Metallica album of all time, hands down. I remember seeing Lars Ulrich in an interview on TV where he said that he prefers this album to “Kill ‘Em All” because this is the first album that Metallica worked on with Cliff and Kirk full-time with them contributing to the songwriting, which is a great way to look at this album. It’s perfect from start to finish with killer songs and riffs. I’m sure one could argue with “Escape” being more filler than anything, and I’ll concede that. But with songs like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Creeping Death,” how could other songs compare? I can still remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom, headphones on, and listening to this album while reading the lyrics for millionth time, wondering if I’ll ever be as good a bassist as Cliff Burton and what exactly Ktulu was/is. This album is such a joy for me that I copied my CD of it off on to a blank cassette so I could listen to it on my walkman at school. But don’t tell Lars that, he might sue me. And I’m nowhere near as good as Cliff.
Pantera – Far Beyond Driven: This was the first, and only, Pantera album I ever got into. No joke. I never really was a big fan of them, and I actually bought this album after seeing the video for “I’m Broken.” I don’t hate, or even dislike Pantera, I’m just fairly indifferent to them. But aside from that, this was a pretty extreme album for my 14 year old ears to hear. Dimebag had some sickeningly heavy riffs, and I’d never heard a vocalist like Phil Anselmo. It absolutely starts on a strong note with “Strength Beyond Strength” and Phil screaming things like “There’s nothing/No education/No family life” and [my favorite] “Fuck you and your college dream.” Lyrical extremes don’t end there, and masterpieces like “5 Minutes Alone” and “Slaughtered” only raise that bar. Still, the stand-out track to me is their cover of Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.” It’s perfect.
Fear Factory – Demanufacture: I like to call this album my first jump into anything underground. Mind you at that time, Fear Factory were somewhat unknown and “Demanufacture” certainly blew my doors open. I was strolling through my local record store and came across a listening booth that had this album as a selection. I really liked the album cover, and the name was intriguing, so I gave it a shot and was hooked from the first track. There are numerous parts of this album that I was fascinated by when I heard it back then; the drumming was unlike anything I’d heard, the synth swirls mixed in were a great compliment to the music, and Burton Bell on vocals was just awesome! Sadly, I don’t hold Fear Factory in this regard anymore. However, I still jam this album on a regular basis and still dig it just as much as the first time I heard it.
Slayer – Divine Intervention: It is probably a safe bet to assume that this album doesn’t rank highly on Slayer fans’ lists. Of course I love “Reign in Blood” and “Seasons in the Abyss,” but I hadn’t heard those albums yet. One evening, Headbanger’s Ball kicked on the video for the song “Dittohead” and I took the bait. This was their new release at that time and still had a rather furious approach to their music. [Sadly I would lose interest in new Slayer by 2000.] This is another of one those albums that I can start up and crank from the beginning to the end and sing with every word. “Sex, Murder, Art” and “Divine Intervention” are great, but the trio of “SS-3,” “Serenity in Murder,” and “213” certainly got my blood pumping. Opening up the CD case though, I couldn’t even begin to describe my feelings when I saw SLAYER carved into someone’s arm. Similarly, I wish I could describe the looks I would get from teachers in small town Kansas when they saw me wear my Divine Intervention shirt to school.
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