The Unassuming Metalhead – September 2015 (“Dad”)

the unassuming metalhead

Metal was always going to be a tough sell for my dad. The guy listens primarily to orchestral music, and has for as long as I’ve known him. To be fair, his occasional departures from that realm are pretty out of left field — you’ll also find Blondie, Eurythmics and Enya in his CD collection, for example — but not quite so far out as to constitute metal. Hell, this is a guy who got legitimately upset when I told him I listened to a pop-punk band called Diarrhea Planet; how d’you think names like Cattle Decapitation or Dying Fetus are going to go down? 

If it sounds like I’m trying to slag my dad off, please know that’s not the case. Ever since I told him a year and a half ago that we’d started this blog and podcast, he’s been nothing but supportive. When I go home, he’ll always ask me how things are going with Nine Circles, whether our audience has grown any, etc. He may not like the music, but he’s been nothing less than 100 percent supportive of the fact that I do, which is all you can ask for.

Still…there was that one time he took me to buy an Exodus album…

This was almost 10 years ago now, when we were living in Annapolis, Maryland. Exodus had just dropped their seventh album, Shovel Headed Kill Machine, marking the debut of then-new vocalist Rob Dukes. I’ll admit: at that point, I didn’t know a ton about Exodus or metal in general, but having loved the band’s previous album, Tempo of the Damned (still an album I keep in semi-regular rotation to this day), I was pretty pumped to pick this one up. Did it matter that legendary vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza had just left the band in a…let’s say “less than positive” light? Nah. I was a noob! I just wanted to expand my horizons of “fast” and “heavy,” and didn’t particularly care who was handling the mic.

In any case, one morning — probably a week or so after the album dropped — my dad came downstairs from his office and announced that he was running out to Best Buy on an errand. I asked if I could tag along, and told him that a band I liked had dropped a new album and I wanted to pick it up for myself.

“Sure, Dan, that’s fine. What band?”

“They’re called Exodus.”

“I don’t know them. What do they play?”

“…heavy metal”

The genre mis-classification was a strategic move on my part. I knew if I’d said “thrash metal,” more questions would arise: “what’s thrash metal?” “How’s that different from heavy metal?” And while I wasn’t worried that he’d stop me from buying the album — my dad was the laxest person in the world when it came to questionable pop culture content; it was my mom you had to be careful with on these things — I didn’t really feel like answering any more questions than I needed to. Luckily, he shrugged, said “okay,” and let it go.

We arrived at Best Buy and parted ways — him to the office electronics section, and me to the CD section. Side note: remember when you could buy CDs at Best Buy? And when they actually had a half-decent selection of music? With dedicated rows for different genres? I mean, sure, it was limited from a metalhead’s perspective; you’d never see stuff like Darkthrone or Burzum there. But I do distinctly remember picking up albums from bands like Amorphis at Best Buy. And Eluveitie. For a mass retailer like that, their selection was respectable. Nowadays, you walk into one of their stores and all the CDs — from all genres — are crammed into maybe a single aisle. It’s depressing, man.

Anyway, I found Shovel Headed Kill Machine and took care to walk up and pay for my copy before meeting up with my dad again. (Again, just trying to minimize the questions / potential judgment.) We got into the car and made our way home.

To get back to our house from Best Buy, you had to drive past the Annapolis Mall — which, in retrospect, would probably make the shortlist of candidates for official designation of “Hell on Earth.” The mall was enormous, yet didn’t have nearly enough parking spaces to adequately cover all of its patrons. As a result, you’d see people driving around the parking lot and surrounding streets for hours trying to find spots. Oh, and to make matters even better (read: much, much worse), Route 301 — a not-insignificant roadway connecting Delaware, Maryland and Virginia — ran right alongside it, and even had an exit or two feeding directly into this traffic tornado. It was a perfect storm of potential annoyances, enough to make any trip to the mall — even if you weren’t going on the weekend or around holidays —an enormous pain in the ass.

So naturally, we hit traffic on the way home from Best Buy.

I don’t remember what exactly my dad had put on the radio, but around 20 minutes into the trip — by which point we’d gone maybe 3/4 of a mile — my dad switched off the radio.

“Hey, Dan, why don’t you throw your new CD in?”

IT ME.
Look. It me.

“Eh, I don’t know if this’ll really be your thing, Dad.”

“Nah, come on! I’m bored with [random-NPR-classical-station] — let’s hear it!”

Reluctantly, I reached down for my Best Buy bag and took out the album. As I was removing the shrink wrap, I tried ever so carefully to keep the cover art facing downward, out of sight. But he caught a glimpse.

“That looks pretty gruesome. What’s the album called?”

…gulp…

“It’s…it’s called ‘Shovel Headed Kill Machine.'”

“…oh.”

Remember the “oh” I described in the July edition of this column? Yeah, this was one of those “oh” sounds.

“Well, okay…put it in.”

The enthusiasm I’d heard not two full minutes before? The interest in hearing what kind of music Exodus was making? Gone. Fully, completely gone. Nevertheless, in it went…

The first song on Shovel Headed Kill Machine, of course, is “Raze” — a nasty, four-ish-minute quick hitter that’s particularly refreshing in the context of the interminably-long rest of the album. Looking back, it’s not nearly as heavy as it felt at the time — duh — but I can only imagine what a non-metal listener like my dad thought of it. And I say “I can only imagine,” because he never actually told me. Not using words, at least.

Just under a minute into the song — right as Dukes began to belt the chorus of “light this motherfucker like a Roman Candle / burn this bitch straight to the ground” — my dad decided he’d had enough of Exodus. Without speaking, he turned the radio off, pressed eject, and calmly took the CD out and handed it to me. Once I’d put it back in the case, he flipped NPR on, and I don’t think either of us said another word until we got home.

Looking back, I’m kind of amazed my dad made it through as much of the song as he did. A full minute! That’s not an insignificant amount of time!

I never really felt the need to apologize for this particular incident — he had, after all, asked to hear the album — and my dad pretty much forgot about it once we got home. (I doubt he’d remember it today if I brought it up.) But I think we both kind of learned to keep a degree of distance when it came to heavy metal.

Check back next month for more dealings with the simps, and make sure to share your own with me in the meantime!

Keep it heavy,
Dan

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