I am quitting smoking. My good friend David Lord Butler also recently quit. We decided to tell you how we are dealing, musically-speaking. What follows is one man’s tale of death and resurrection (through hellfire):
Quitting Smoking Metal Method
“It’s easy to quit smoking, I’ve done it hundreds of times.” — Mark Twain
So you’re quitting smoking? I can kinda tell. No offense. Anyway, I’m quitting too. It’s not the first time but, as always, I hope it’s the last. Actually, sometimes I wonder if I DO hope it’s the last. I mean, I’m so good at it now that it’s kind of a shame to just give that up. Talents are hard to come by. To give up a well-developed smoking talent AND a quitting-smoking talent all at once is a pretty sad loss. Like the loss of the last speaker of a language, or the ability to walk and take care of oneself as old age takes your earthly graces one by one. It’s horrible; a nightmare.
Which brings me to my next topic. When I quit smoking, and I assume that this is relatively universal, I am nightly visited by terrible visions of death and murder, insurmountable feelings of guilt, regret, and crushing sadness. In my dreams, I murder feral children, am stabbed repeatedly by close friends, relatives and ex-girlfriends, and perform or am witness to countless and unspeakable atrocities. Being awake however isn’t significantly more tolerable, but at least you can avoid the horrible creatures you call your loved ones by hiding in your room, screaming into your pillow, and cursing the names of their future children. With this much emotional stress crowding the crevices of your soul it is critical to cut it off there. Don’t watch sad movies or UHF again as you will find Weird Al to be too weird and too annoying. Don’t break out that break-up Bon Iver album, and don’t watch Inception, instead: smoke weed everyday (obviously) and do what every successful person does when trying to easily overcome difficult obstacles: sell your soul to Satan. Live in the sublime evil. Let the smoke from Hell’s eternal fires flow over your face and head bang as much as physically possible. Seriously, listen to metal.
Now this might not work for everyone because most everyone hates this stuff with a pretty strong passion, but there is a lot of metal out there and to my ears, it is about as widely varied in character as not-metal (ok, no it’s not.) It’s sorta like an alternate universe (not really), or it tries to be, right? (yeah, I guess.) Hitler’s Third Reich to Jesus’s Christian empire? (Sure.) Anyway, even if you really are too cool or too sensitive to ever listen to metal and enjoy it at all, you can always try to enjoy it “ironically,” or in a group setting, both of which seem to help matters significantly.
Now, you might say to me, “David, I love metal already, it’s already the only music I listen to and I smoke 3 packs of cigarettes a day. What should I do?” The answer is obvious, keep doing what you’re doing, maybe listen to more brutal metal? But really, if you are trying to quit smoking then it might be time to stow that studded leather jacket in one of those bio-hazard bags you collect and throw it in your closet with your old emo clothes, cause that gig’s up. That’s cool I guess, but depending on how long you’ve been a metal head, it’s probably harder than quitting smoking, so good luck. Wouldn’t wanna be ya.
For the rest of you. It’s time to throw your hair around and curse Christ.
So you probably aren’t looking forward to getting into metal, but there are a few classic albums that just might help. Also, even though this is “prescription metal”, in the spirit of metal itself, I’m gonna ask you to self-medicate. Feel it out. I tend to like to listen to extremely brutal death metal when I’m doing something else, like reading or walking, but when I am trying to rock out, I honestly prefer slightly less technical, more propulsive rhythmic metal: thrash, speed and early death, for example. Now, Anna’s article is covering ambient music and the reason I am writing this article is because I don’t like to “calm down” when I quit smoking because I find it to be unfeasible. When I am quitting smoking, I must let my energy, aggression, frustration and that categorically unquenchable feeling of desire for nicotine to escape through Dionysian ecstasy. But maybe your emotions work in peaks and valleys and in which case perhaps a cocktail of ambient music and metal might be exactly what you need. Exercise works well in tandem with metal but only do it if you enjoy it. Remember, you have to make sure that you stay happy so that you can be a half-way decent and productive person. It’s not worth quitting smoking if you lose all your friends.
Let’s get on with it.
Slayer: Slayer is the best metal band of all time. They are truly a multi-purpose band and metal heads and casual listeners can enjoy their music together. They are better than Metallica for the simple reason that they are vastly more brutal without losing much of that wonderful speed/thrash pop rhythmic sensibility and they are better than the best of the most brutal bands because of that very same sensibility. You can hum the riffs and head bang easily.
Show No Mercy (1983)
“Evil Has No Boundaries”
“AAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.” — Tom Araya
Vocalist Tom Araya’s high pitched metal wail at the beginning of Evil Has No Boundaries, the first song from Slayer’s first album says it all: “AAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaahhhh.” While it is perhaps the case that this song could be improved by changing the name to “Evil Hath No Boundary,” there is really nothing else wrong with it. There is not one but two scorching guitar solo’s by the one-minute mark. The verse riff is simple, fast and repeated many, many times and is basically an excuse to have some notes playing to distract you as the band attempts to take your soul. While Chilean-American lead singer Tom Araya is clearly cool as hell, some people find his singing to be…bad. I’m usually pretty generous to him because he’s got a great wail (which I love), and his barking is very acceptable and often mixed pretty low. One thing that can help to get you into Slayer is to sing along with the lyrics sheet. If you do this, you won’t hear him as much and it’s impossible not to enjoy yelling phrases such as, “our axes are growing with power and fury.” The chorus is the least metal part of this song, but only because it’s the catchiest, and that really only indicates how fucking metal the rest of the song is. How many songs have a chorus where a group of apparently possessed pirates shout the call “Evil,” as another angry man responds with “Will take your soul” and other crazy shit and that part isn’t the most metal part of the song? All the other songs on this album are great and you should listen to them as well, but again, this is about you, you are quitting smoking. Enjoy the fury, but we gotta keep moving.
Reign In Blood (1986)
“Rain In Blood”
This is the defining song of Slayer’s entire career, and is more or less the title track of their best selling album, Reign In Blood. The goofy play on words in the title of this song is rewarded immediately as it begins with the sound of a sudden shower of what we can presume to be blood (which for some reason is accompanied by lighting.) When Slayer plays this song live, they literally turn on showers above the front of the audience that rain “blood.” While the rain sounds on “Rain In Blood” are really the only sonic crossover between Anna’s ambient new age article and my metal article, these sounds aren’t just rain sounds, they’re blood rain sounds, that’s different. Anyway, I chose to include this song not simply because it’s the best Slayer song, but also because it is an excellent song to head bang to, and head banging is a very important part of the Quitting Smoking Metal Method.
Head banging is like dancing, but it hurts and there is nothing sexual about in the least. If there is something sexual about it, either you’re doing it wrong or you are too sexy to head bang. Some people can’t or don’t want to head bang and that’s fine, but figure something else out to do. Play an air guitar extremely aggressively, run around and punch the air, or if you remember how to do that punk dance where you do that stupid kick thing like a bad kid ninja then do that (I guess), cause you gotta do something or you won’t get the desired effect. Head banging is the best dance for metal and is an encounter with the sublime. It is disorienting, all consuming, painful and extremely unpleasant unless accompanied by the proper level of real, honest aggression. If you are quitting smoking, you have that aggression inside of you; it’s just a matter of letting it out.
If you are new to metal, keep listening to these two albums, before moving on.
“Dead But Dreaming”
On one live version of this song, recorded for posterity on Deicide’s Satan Lives live album, lead vocalist Glen Benton introduces the song by scream-yelling “DEAD BUT DREAMING!!!,” immediately before the band begins the song. On this live album, every song is introduced in exactly this manner with exactly the same socially unacceptable level of intensity. This singular intensity is what characterizes every moment (except for the intro) of Deicide’s greatest, most brutal and most technical album – Legion.
While “Dead But Dreaming” isn’t the first song on Legion, and is not nearly as good as the first song, the first song features an unskippable ambient, backwards-Satan-speech-and-animal-sounds intro section which is very corny. But, if you haven’t heard what a goat sounds like recently and want that experience, check out “Satan Spawn/The Caco-Daemon.” It is the most brutal song on the album. What is so amazing about nearly all the songs on Legion is that they are of such an extreme level of ordered aggression, speed, and noise, that much like serialist classical music of the 1950′s or complex encryption algorithms, they appear to be born from chaos rather than order. If you have ever been taken under by a large ocean wave and the force of the water lurches your body at angles you didn’t know possible, eventually crashing the physical manifestation of your unimportant existence into the sandy ocean floor, you’ve experienced the physical, real-world equivalent to the sonic experience of listening to this album. While Slayer is music made for and by humans interested in the Occult, Deicide is music made for demon creatures of unknown appearance, shape and size, by demon creatures of unknown appearance, shape and size.
The vocals to “Dead But Dreaming,” as is true with all the vocals on Legion, are a wonderful multi-tracked combination of high and low screams, which gives every lead vocal line the feeling of being sung by a horde rather than by just one man. While you CAN try to let this music wash over you, as I tend to do now-a-days, it is endlessly rewarding to pay extremely close attention to every turn of phrase, every structural change, every rhythmic stop and so on and so forth. But, since this really isn’t about appreciating metal, it’s about surviving the process of quitting smoking, don’t worry too much about not picking everything up. Try to do something else while you listen to this music. Let it take your anger and stress away like the Ursula takes Ariel’s voice in The Little Mermaid.
Onward To Golgatha (1994)
“Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies”
This one might be hard to find at the record store but if you are adept enough at pirating you’ll be able to find it. I’d be tempted to say that Incantation are The Fall of metal, but the same could be said of every third metal band out there. Incantation has had a total of 38 members in it’s existence, and only one dude, John McEntee, who’s been there the whole time. This phenomenon is so common in metal that this statistic isn’t even the most ridiculous you can find. When grindcore progenitors Napalm Death released their first official album Scum in July of 1987, no original band members were maintained from the first to the second half of the album. Like most metal bands though, don’t even bother trying to figure out whether the album that Incantation released in 2006 was their best; it wasn’t. I’ve never heard it, and I know it wasn’t. Onward To Golgatha is the first album by Incantation and is just the right antidote to all the other insufferably fast metal I’ve suggested you listen to already. Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies is a majestically mean spirited song, with a slow, down-tuned, lip curled, slugging drudging pace which, despite being appropriately horrific, is crushed several times by the spinning of that speed riffing thread that most bands know how to do, but which Incantation does so well. I don’t know which Horrific Prophecies are being delivered by this song but I know clearly that they are very horrific. Don’t worry about getting out the lyric sheet for this one as underground metal legend Craig Pillard’s vocals are of the incomprehensible cookie monster growl variety and are really better left undefined. This is music for the worst of human atrocities, not the confounding wonders of Hell. Use this slow beat to head bang as hard as you can and snarl and spit as much as you feel is sanitary.
Well, that’s only four songs but each one is on a great album so that’ll probably be enough, and I’ve certainly written enough. Good luck quitting smoking.