A few days ago I went to the bank to take out some money. The teller was a quiet, mild-mannered guy in his mid thirties wearing a blue and white striped shirt with a starched collar that couldn’t quite cover what appeared to be a pentagram tattooed on his neck. When I asked him about this decoration he undid his top button and showed me the word Slayer was written across it in dark red letters. I took my money and thanked him, but couldn’t shake the image from the back of my mind.
This seemingly innocuous interaction sparked a full-blown flashback. I remember graduating high-school and watching my friends put away their Bad Brains tees and surrendering their Pantera records for Polo shirts and Allman Brothers CDs. Most went on to either a respectable job or college, cut their hair and closeted their old flames. I can’t say that I didn’t move away from Hardcore music myself, if you check my shelves now you’ll find a lot more Irma Thomas than Iron Maiden. It seems the older we get the farther we move away from the more extreme genres.
I went back and listened to some of these records to see if there was a reason for the safety pins in my denim jacket. Some artists didn’t quite hold up, Dio’s songs about dragons are a little harder to take seriously and somehow the zombies that the Misfits were singing about didn’t come alive in same way they used to.
But for the most part, the bands who really sounded authentic years ago still do. Sabbath’s “Hole in the Sky” still drops every beat like a sledgehammer and the Dead Kennedys biting humor is still as scary as it is funny.
In honor of my teller I revisited Reign In Blood. Playing it from start to finish is a pretty exhausting thing; each track hits harder than the last. Brutal, impossibly fast rhythms make it hard to do anything but give yourself up to it. Finally it hands you back a fistful of your own teeth as the title track rumbles to a stop.
Whats great about Thomas Edison’s invention is that it really does keep an emotion alive forever. As adult life makes it easier for us to relate to frustration than anger, the music that embodied this anger stops being pertinent. We give up that pure, naive emotion and settle down, but we should never forget how much those first few notes of Dimebag Darrel’s solo meant to us. If you’re not too far from it yet, try to remember the reasons you had for the pins in your jacket.
LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org