I was in the car with my family driving to some family function. One of my uncles was getting married or something, and it seemed like a garish waste of my precious time. I was somewhere between eight and ten, and my older brother was discovering this crazy thing called rock and roll, constantly gabbing about some bald idiot named Billy Corgan. While we waited for our dad to finish paying for the unleaded, Carver leaned forward and turned on the radio.

Oh my God, I thought, listening to the sounds blasting from out car. Oh my God, what is THIS ?

A wall of electronic sound came rushing out, washing over me with so much atmosphere and power that my preteen mind was blown away. My eyes went wide and I asked my mom to turn it up even more, fascinated by the voice coming out of the speakers on my side.

This was insane! There was some lunatic on the radio screaming something at the top of his lungs about a head being like a hole, and something else about bowing down and getting what you deserve! What did that mean? What was this guy singing about? Was he even really singing? Was it even a “he”? And what God-forsaken instruments created the beautiful noise backing him up? The car stereo immediately became Linda Blair in The Exorcist to me: frightening, enthralling, and undoubtedly cool.

“Yeah, Nine Inch Nails are okay,” sighed Carver, slumping back in his seat, “but not as good as the Pumpkins.” I didn’t listen. I was so enraptured by the musical darkness filling me, a noise that at the time seemed to me like the sounds of a war against all things good, the soundtrack to a temple being burned to the ground.


My music was my goddam life, or most of it anyway. Honest. My life had a soundtrack at all times, and that soundtrack was one hundred percent grade-A METAL. Sure, I listened to lots of different music—a little punk, a little pop, even a little country—but metal was everything to me. At any hour in which I could get away with it, I was blasting Exodus on my stereo or slamming my head to Dimmu Borgir with my headphones on. My teeth were nice commodities, and I did enjoy having kidneys, but I’d give them all away if someone threatened to take my Slayer albums from me. Heavy metal is like that—your music defines you to the point where you need it. You don’t own an article of clothing without a band logo on it, and your room is just plastered with posters of your favorite bands because you need all of that fed into you. I was heavy metal. It mattered to me more than anything.

Well, then there was this girl. Melissa. This goddess I’d just left. She mattered, too.