Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Seasons in the Abyss

In honor of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Slayer on Jeff's blog, I have some things to share. I've never been a big fan of Slayer, but it's great to see them get a nice thorough album-by-album review. It inspires me to get to work on a certain other metal band that's mentioned throughout the Guide. But before I get to that, I should say this: there was a time when even muttering Slayer's name came with a lot of caution.

I didn't grow up in a fire-and-brimstone household, but there was a slight cautionary eye towards metal. Metal bands (especially Ozzy and Judas Priest) were highly criticized (and sued) in the Eighties for warping teenagers' minds into doing horrific acts. So for a concerned parent, there's a reason to be concerned, but in reality, metal was not (and is not) the culprit here. However, that wasn't what was printed when a teenager in my neighborhood shot and killed his mother. Featuring a picture of a police officer being aghast at the lyrics in a Megadeth record, it sparked yet another debate about metal music and lyrics. In retrospect, it's offensive to me that people are led to believe that a surface matter like music and lyrics can drive people to do awful things.

In the case of Slayer in my high school years, they were the most extreme of the extreme. They sang songs about murder, violence and other horrors, but me and my friends were never drawn to committing that stuff. We came from good families but had a normal rebellious side as well. What Slayer sang about was way more about the metaphor than the reality. But trying to explain that to a God-fearing Bible beater would often result in the reciting of scripture and other things. Slayer totally tapped into that rebellion and they still are doing it.

The turning point with my understanding of Slayer was with a Q&A section in Modern Drummer. Dave Lombardo was asked about his technique by a person roughly the same age as me. The guy was into jazz and rock, but was a huge Slayer fan as well. At no point was there a discussion about the band's image or lyrics; it was all about the music itself. This was '95 and for a teenager focusing way more on the music than any image, I thought this was cool. There was no cowering in fear, preachy sermons or aghast looks when talking about Slayer. I got the same feeling reading this Complete Idiot's Guide this morning.

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