People preach about the importance of focusing not on the goal but the journey. In most cases, I agree with this sentiment.
I was listening to random music on Spotify for work when I remembered out of the blue the band Winds. They are a progressive heavy metal with a touch of classical music and goth to great effect. I’m not a big fan back then, but when I listened to one of their songs, it took me back to simple times.
I was reminded of how incredibly difficult it was to get my hands on heavy metal music.
It was probably one of the things that attracted me to heavy metal music, aside from the aggression and the technique required to pull off its songs.
I remember back in 1998 when I heard “Because of You” by 98 Degrees blaring from the car’s radio going to school in the morning.
Something in me snapped.
This was during the time when boy bands dominated the airwaves with their songs about love, girls, and babies.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate boy bands, especially now that they’re a part of the things I see in my life’s rear view mirror.
But at that precise moment in 1998, I felt the hate rising inside my body.
I’m sick and tired of the radio telling me what and who to listen to. I want to decide for myself the things I want to hear. Fuck these boy bands and their baggy pants and their unrelenting pandering to the lowest common denominator.
My choice to listen to heavy metal was a reaction to mainstream radio. I was attracted not only to the rage, but also the freedom of expression. It panders only to the indulgence of its creators, which is fascinating at the very least.
However, as much as I want to immerse myself in the music, it was tough to secure a copy of their bands’ albums. In a religious country that ironically condemns vulgarity and yet let these “radio-friendly” music run the airwaves amok, I’d be lucky if I can find Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Slayer albums off the racks of record stores. Granted, I was able to secure copies of albums from said bands, but I can only count the albums available from these stores.
My only real access to heavy metal back then was by downloading free songs from metal record labels like Century Media and Nuclear Blast. And as much as I wanted to download bootlegged copies off Limewire, cable internet back then was a luxury an incoming college student like me couldn’t afford.
However, I eventually found my haven for heavy metal: Recto.
It is a place at the heart of the country’s capital when shady stalls sell bootleg CDs of metal bands for peanuts.
Getting to that place takes a 2-hour drive back and forth, and I have to flick through their selections to find the available albums. However, at that point, I won’t buy them yet. I’ll have to get back home and find reviews of the albums to determine whether I should buy them or not. Once I’ve made a decision, I’ll commute my way back to the stalls the next day to buy the albums.
This is in stark contrast to today’s consumption of music. Sign up to Spotify, search for a band you want to listen to, and you’re done. Can’t find the bank you want? Download their albums off iTunes. Worst case scenario? Download a copy from torrent sites.
While the process of selecting and buying metal albums 13 years ago was a time-consuming process, I enjoyed every single moment of it. I love the feeling of learning about a new band from their best albums and listening to their songs on repeat for weeks and months. I love the fact that, while everyone else is listening to Bloc Party and The Killers, I was in a world on my own accompanied by Nevermore, The Gathering, Arch Enemy, and others.
I chose this music, and I revel in it with my all.
Given today’s way of acquiring music, it’s one of the reasons why I’m not as passionate about metal compared to way back. Everything is so easy nowadays. The challenge is gone.
I sound like I’m making excuses, and maybe that’s true. After all, there is still tape trading and vinyl collection. But metal music, in general, may have passed me by. The thrill is gone. There are other things to live for now that I have a family and responsibility to do on a regular basis.
But there as one point in my life when metal is life. It was everything I lived for, and nothing else mattered as much. It was one of the things that saved from a confusing adolescent and teenage life, and it was pivotal in creating the soundtrack for the bulk of my adult life. And it is a journey that I will forever keep with me until everything ends.
How about you? What’s one of the most memorable adventures in your life? Share them below and let’s reflect back on our lives!