Memories – Straight To Hell

I’m winding down the main crux of my Memories series now. There is only really one more part to go after this one. This page recounts my older posts about what I’ve listened to over the years. This time I’m going to get into the years 2006-2010, which brought a very radical series of changes in my life that would reflect in what I chose to listen to during that time.

In the summer of 2006 I endured a few severe blows in life that left me regrouping. I relocated to where I am now, in the southwest of Missouri. I was more or less starting all over in every aspect of existence. Thankfully I still had plenty of friends from my last time living here, after all I’d only been gone about 18 months.

Everything that had happened left me clawing back toward that which was comforting and familiar, and few things were as much that to me as heavy metal. It did help that my network of friends in the area were also into the same thing. People had huge collections, played in bands and it was that community that I returned to that year.

“Metal” meant, by and large, the extreme side of things. The early 2000’s saw death metal return in a big way to prominence and black metal was mostly past its 90’s drama and about the music itself. A host of bands old and new were blazing paths in every different direction.

For me it was a bit more than just picking up the music again. It became more of an identity thing. I wasn’t just into harsh music, it was an embodiment of what I thought about society and people. All of the music’s yelling about war, death, Satan and how fucked humanity is wasn’t just there because it suited the music, it was in step with what I thought and how I felt. Perhaps not a good thing, I don’t know, but it was what it was at that time.

I didn’t just listen to the music – I wore the shirts, I went to the shows, I lived and breathed it. I can’t even count the number of friends I had who were in death metal bands at the time. I pretty well gave up on being a “normal” member of society and chose to exist in a counterculture pocket instead. Sure I worked like everyone else, but my spare time was focused on the music. I embraced the identity fully, both to express myself and to keep people the hell away from me.

I wouldn’t rest long just in one pocket of heavy metal. I would soon pick up far more on the doom subgenre around this time. I hadn’t previously been exposed to much of it beyond the obvious Black Sabbath, but in the late 00’s I went all in on doom. Old, new, it didn’t matter. The music suited my obviously not great mental state at the time and was a comforting presence during those years. I am far “better” now by most metrics than I was back then but doom metal is still a good part of what I enjoy these days even if I don’t explore the area as intently as I did back then.

As 2007 came around I would find myself exploring an unlikely genre, though it was entirely fitting for me at the time. A friend lent me a CD he’d picked up not long before and thought I should give it a spin. I’d heard the name for years and knew he’d been a bit different from his namesake and his chosen genre but I never took the time before to give his music a spin. The artist was Hank Williams III and the album was Straight To Hell. The results would kick me off into a new appreciation for country music.

I spun the Hank III album time and time again. While the genre was something I avoided up to that point, this rough and tumble outlaw tear was right up my alley at the time. There was obvious crossover between the outlaw country movement of the late 00’s and the heavy metal scene. But I didn’t just stop with Hank III, himself a metalhead with his own bands. I jumped in to country as a whole, visiting legends like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings along with artists of the day like Wayne Hancock and Lucky Tubb.

As luck would have it, my area was a good place to be for that country scene. Both Wayne and Lucky played shows at least once a year in my town and I was a fixture at their shows. Hank III also came through for one of the craziest, longest and booze-soaked concerts I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t alone in my newfound love of the music – many of my friends were also picking up on Hank III.

Country would last with me even after that insurgent movement of the late 00’s slid away and became something else that would eventually find its place in mainstream music. But that outlaw scene of the time hit home with me, a thread I’ll pick up another time in another fashion.

As the decade wore down I was pretty entrenched in the sounds of underground and independent movements. I had anchored my identity to them, after all. After a bit of a struggle through 2008 I entered 2009 in a more stable place though still fully vested in these counterculture leanings. I wanted to yell at the world how messed up I thought it was and I did so through the many songs around that echoed the same sentiment. It was angst that perhaps mutated into true misanthropy, at least to a degree. If anything, I didn’t realize how much of that time would just be a pregame for society’s shitshow to come.

That is where I was as 2010 came about. I had fashioned myself as some uncaring, hateful outlaw, sick of it all and armed with the tunes to prove it. I entered a bit of a different headspace around this time as my station in life slowly improved, caring less and less about what image I projected onto society and just enjoying whatever I wanted to enjoy. And it was around this time I noticed them slinking around the same corners of the record store where I was at – the metal, the independent country and roots music. Who were these man-bun wearing, beard-clad, craft beer swilling people and why were they into the same shit I was? What did it make them, or perhaps more interestingly, what did it make me?

Questions for the next time, of course.

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