As I was nearing the end of my A Levels, I discovered a band that changed the course of my music-listening forever. That band was the local Suffolk metal band Cradle Of Filth. The fact that the lead singer still lives at the bottom of my parent’s road in Ipswich had nothing whatsoever to do with this, I promise!!
Cradle Of Filth have had their detractors over the years, saying that the band are not serious and that they definitely are not a black metal band. At the time, I didn’t care. The 10-minute track ‘Queen Of Winter, Throned’ was a revelation for me. Indeed, it was a revelation for my brother, as it gave him the inspiration to become a drummer. Maybe more on that another day. Black metal or not, I loved this band. The blend in their early days of lightning fast ferocity, extreme subject matter (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek) and beautiful melody was a winner for me and I could not stop listening to them. To this day, ‘Dusk…And Her Embrace’ still remains one of my most cherished albums.
So it was that I went to University with a real desire to discover more extreme forms of heavy metal. I scoured the record stores of Canterbury for anything with even a loose connection with black metal, discovering the likes of Hecate Enthroned and Emperor along the way. Then there was Dimmu Borgir, another ‘quasi’ black metal band that was able to marry together the accessibility with the extremity and over-the-top theatrics. I began to think I’d found the greatest metal genre of them all.
Enter Miguel, a Spanish student at the same Uni. I can’t remember how or where we met, but meet we did and as well as sharing my love for black metal, he led me down another road. That road was named ‘blackened death metal’ and was eventually twinned with ‘melodic death metal’ street.
First up were the utterly mighty Dissection. No longer tongue-in-cheek nor theatrical, here was a band that was deadly serious about it’s music. It was still both melodic yet insanely heavy and it spoke to me. It did not matter that I was hearing this on a very old cassette tape with more snap, crackle and pop than a bowl of Rice Krispies because the genius of ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’ shone through. On the flip side of this knackered cassette was ‘The Jester Race’ by In Flames. It too sent shivers down my spine. Mainly I was fascinated how death metal could suddenly sound catchy and accessible whilst remaining brutal at it’s core. Needless to say, I was hooked.
Over the next couple of years, I bled the genres dry, uncovering the likes of Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates and Carcass amongst a mass of others. To add a little light relief perhaps, I also got more interested in the power metal genre. Bands like Gamma Ray and Helloween were a shot of undiluted metal sugar and whilst I still have plenty of these albums in my collection, I listen fairly irregularly as my tastes have gradually changed over the years.
Looking back now, I still find it fascinating how a chance discovery or an unexpected friendship can really influence the way in which we discover music. Had it not been for a blind purchase here or a fluke meeting with a like-minded individual, I may never have gone beyond the confines of NWOBHM or thrash metal. The chances are, I would have stumbled onto certain bands or genres eventually but who knows? I may not have or even if I had, I may not have been in the same mindset thereby dismissing a band instead of embracing them.
And then, after Uni, with the introduction of the Internet as more than just an early gimmick, the journey continued, embracing yet more twists and turns along the way…