Opeth Reporteth

After having seen Tragedy the night before and being crushed by their utterly filthy heaviness, last night I was looking forward to something for a nice contrast – something interspersed with more gentleness, utilising negative space in the song arrangements. Arriveth early to check out Karatonia as I’d not heard them before but walked out halfway through. I wasn’t too impressed; they’re not a bad band but not terribly exciting either.

So I sat at a cafe to work on my psychedelic love story. I was filling up with the bodily memories of my magickal time exploring London’s hidden reverse and synthesising these feelings, distilling them into words. This put me into quite an enchanted space for which to experience Opeth.

They opened with The Devil’s Orchard and it was epic, setting the tone perfectly. Mikael was fucking hilarious throughout, as usual. They played a selection of earlier songs and an acoustic interpretation of Demon of the Fall. I really appreciated that; having seen some bands a fair few times and feeling cheated for hearing the same set list over and over, I see it as a mark of respect to the audience to make an effort, to be creative and to give us something interesting for our money. Häxprocess was a personal favourite. The Heritage album has snuck into my essential listening list slowly but firmly, and I had a strong desire to hear as many of those songs as possible.

We were treated to an encore of Harlequin Forest – totally heavy and beautiful as always. I felt happy with the whole experience, and in this spirit of gratitude lay down in the midnight park in Newtown and stared peacefully at the doom-grey sky for an hour before walking home.

Häxprocesserna

– Defender Of The Faith, 16.03.2013

Watching

The drugs were wearing off and the Fear was kicking in as I walked home from the party through the midnight park. I took in the old-but-not-quite-ancient trees. They were all so beautiful – broad, tall and gnarled, yet proud. There was a smarminess about them though that I really didn’t like.

I soon realised why: these trees were the sole survivors of the other act of genocide that was waged in Sydney at the end of the 18th century – the environmental holocaust. Smug sentinels that declared their own eliteness, and belligerently mistook sheer luck for evolutionary supremacy over their felled forest comrades.

I sat beneath one of the tallest ones and sculled some sweet nectar from my sack.

The war memorial stood in the clearing, looming over the pretty city park in silent territoriality. It was a monument to grief; a monument to thieves. There was a young couple making out in the locked doorway of this concrete monolith. They looked so much in love, as though they had so much to taste of each other that was new, and a rushed desperation to feast now, now, now.

As I watched them from the shadows of the trees, I felt hopeful despite the onset of my comedown, but also sad and anxious as amplified by my frail state. I was okay with this though, because aren’t all of the most profound experiences flooded with seemingly incongruent emotions?

I gave myself a layback and meditated on the interconnectedness of sex and death. I wondered how long it would take before the glory of bloodshed that this couple lusted after each other underneath would permeate their relationship. How long until they, too, were at war?

From Where Its Roots Run

From Where Its Roots Run

Limp Wrist

photo by Bad Bitch#1

photo by Bad Bitch#1

Last Friday night Bad Bitch#1, Tater Tot and I had plans to go to M.I.A. at The Enmore; it is the reason why I cut short my holiday on the Coast to drive back early to Sydney. However, we doubted the outcome of this plan as we supped upon cider in Newtown that afternoon. I looked up tickets and realised that when including booking fee, credit card fee and other such bullshit Capitalist profiteering, M.I.A was going to cost us around $95 a pop. I do understand the expenses involved for bands touring to our fair island. In Europe and the USA, a band can theoretically perform >ten shows along a ten hour stretch of road and be able to sell a decent amount of tickets. In Straya, you drive ten hours, petrol is some XP€N$IV $H1T and you may only come across one or two townships on this journey  that could support you. That said, $95 is bullshit no matter how you look at it. And personally, whilst I like M.I.A and I have confidence that the show would have been rad, the pricing deeply offended my punk rock sensibilities.

But lo! After digging around within the internet, I was stopped in my tracks by the news that Limp Wrist were playing that night. In my summer-addled mental state of weeks past, I had misguidedly thought that I had already missed their Australian tour over NYE. Armed with the knowledge that they were indeed going to smear their scat all over the Annandale that very evening, my despondency went into retirement and party animal excitement reared its ugly head again. The best part? $25 a ticket, with Hard-Ons supporting. There was no contest in my mind, and with steely determination I quickly convinced Bad Bitch#1 and Tater Tot to come to the dark side.

And so, I went to this gig with my gal pals , something I’ve only done once before. In the fourteenish years that I have been going to gigs, it’s sometimes been me riding solo, or oftentimes with all dude men, but usually with a majority men and a smattering of womenfolk. There has been one exeption last year, when Bad Bitch#1, Lucy Graves, SJA and I all went up to see The Drones at the Hi-Fi in Brisbane. It was a killer gig and an even better drive home. Bad Bitch#1 was driving and she had a stroke of genius when she put on Sing Sing Death House. We cranked it and shouted, growled and screamed every word, full bore, until the last chord. Never have I partaken in a more righteous singalong; the only one that comes close is when Grogan, Coen, other youthful metal kids and I formed the All-Australian Backseat Metal Choir on our way to some mini-metal fest years ago in Brisbane. I dig the cliché that went down post-Drones – ‘twas truly a vagfest made even more devotionally feminine with our vocal worship of Dory Belle Brody Dalle.

Before Limp Wrist, we boozeth at mine and walked to the venue. I had had a cunt of a week with no reprieve, but as soon as I walked into that pub and was surrounded by ugly-beautiful, real-smelling humans of all shapes, sizes and colours, my mood lifted heaven-ward. The relief was palpable and it reminded me that no matter what goes down, punk rock will always have my back. Although we missed Glory Hole, by all accounts they were a worthy first support. We only caught the last two songs of Shit Weather and I was pleasantly surprised by my maiden experience of them. I was worried that my gals would be resentful of me instigating this game change so late in the plan – having had their hearts so set on M.I.A. – but they convinceth me that they were pumped also and so my heart began to rest easy.

Hard-Ons were fucking grouse. It’s been a long time since I saw them at Cooly Hotel back in 2004 or 2005. That night, I was drunk as shit and thrashing intensely and the bass player commented on my DRI shirt, which led me to reason that somebody with such good taste in music was worth following. I also meant to go to their last tour but Blackie went and got himself bashed, silly bugger, and I didn’t go see his replacements. But last Friday night, it only took me two songs in to realise how fucking good Hard-Ons really truly are. Once they kicked into their raucous thrashy shit I was sold. I looked over at the gals and could see that they were pumped also. No guilt, no regrets!

Ray Ahn (bass) was piss-funny as usual and went in to some righteous ranting between songs. My personal favourite was when he spoke of the new plans for corporations to offer civilians outer space holidays. He surmised that with Tiger and Jetstar lowering their prices to an affordability that the average Aussie could accept, we were well on our way to having a bogan exodus to the moon. In light of this, he predicted a surge in Schapelle Corby-esque bud-smuggling in boogie-board bags. Let my judgement be known: Raymond Ahn is a genius of the highest comedic calibre.

Limp Wrist took the stage, resplendent in short shorts, leather, demin, biker hats and chains. They are the death of the newest and shittest incarnation of Turbonegro; Limp Wrist are true queer and true punk and they put their money where their fleshy, salivating mouths are; outgaying all imposters for life! Music-wise, these cunts are fast and filthy and would be a proud addition to any hardcore fan’s collection. I stood up the back with my gals, getting drunker and sweatier and more infected by the energy raised. I reached the point of maximum annihilation a few songs in when I realised I was at the hardcore show of the year (big call, I know, but I defy you to prove me wrong any time soon) and I was standing at the fucking back of the pit. What had become of me? I felt sad, old, pathetic and a traitor to everything I stood for. “Fuck this,” I said to myself, “I’m from Tweed!” and with my resolve set, I pushed my way to the front and centre as easy as you please. I was swept up in the energy immediately and got lost in the filth and the fury of it all. It was rad to be at a gig where there are no fuckwits showing off their ninja moves with serious faces, just a sea of stinking bodies sweating torrentially all over one another, purely smiles and loose-limbs and non-self-conscious oblivion. The pit was tight enough for crowd surfers to roll over every couple of minutes, and when someone fell down they were not down for long. Such is the beauteousness of violent but loving punk rock pit-politics.

A few times we had the privilege of supporting Martin’s hefty weight on our downtrodden arms, but he wasn’t heavy cos he’s our brother. I was pumped when he pulled me up out of the crowd to sing in his face and my unholy voice reigned supreme momentarily, but never to be forgotten. The first time I crowd-surfed, I pulled myself up onto the stage, did a sick ninja kick and then sprawled out into the worshipping arms of my Sisters and Brethren in the pit. I was floating on a sea of love and went back for more a few songs later. The second time, I again approached from the stage and did a sweet forward somersault into the writhing mass of flesh beneath me. I felt like I was fifteen again and that is the most elite feeling in the world. Punk rock is the elixir of youth, and relearning my unshakeable faith in the strength and camaraderie of my fellow thrash lords makes it an honour to be human. “I Love Hardcore Boys / I Love Boys Hardcore” was played last, and my heart swelled with euphoria to hear my favourite song live at the end of such a phenomenal set.

Afterwards, I saw Blackie and told him how much fun I had, then thanked him. He thanked me, to which I countered, “No! Thank YOU!” and he tried to thank me more so I told him I’d fight him if he kept trying to lay the blame for such awesomeness on my unworthy conscience. Lucky he thought it was funny; a lesser human could have been offended in light of recent events. I bought a Limp Wrist shirt and the merch dude suggested I get it signed by Martin who standeth nearby. I had no pen, but he gave me a very sweaty Hairy Bear hug and let me wipe the cloth over his perspiring arse, which is a far-superior stamp of approval in my opinion.

Outside, Bad Bitch#1, Tater Tot and I were yarning with some dudes about the gig and such forth. I was engaged in conversation with a tall and smiling messy-haired skate rat, and we speaketh of unknown rad bands that we thought the other should know of. We swapped phone numbers and have since sent suggestions and files to and fro. I would like to thank him for the heads-up on The Mentally Unstable who have been getting a solid work-out the last week, and I hope that Gravelrash was a worthy exchange for him. Tater Tot had her mojo rising and pashed one of the dudes with a full assault and left him gasping. She later jumped into a cab full of these boys for round two. Bad Bitch#1 and I pissed our jeans laughing at her antics, then we all went across the road, sunk more piss and regaled each other with tales of fighting from our teenage years.

In summary, short and sweet: that was a faultless night, filled with good company old and new, and a fucking epic start to this new year. Limp Wrist and Hard-Ons, I thank you from the bottom of my cold, black heart for creating such fond thrash-filled memories. Much love!

– Defender Of The Faith,  12.01.2013

Riot Grrl

Right at the end of my living in London stint I started working at Pogo Café in Hackney. I also found myself in the middle of a riot.

One of the maddogs I used to work with

It was high summer and there was no teaching work for five weeks. I had considered getting a bar job but I couldn’t bring myself to work for six quid an hour – that is not why I went to uni for four years. Anyway, I went to Pogo one night to watch a screening of Noise and Resistance and starting yarning with one of the girls who worked there. It was an all-vegan anarchist co-op – completely volunteer-run, and all profits went to paying the bills and to helping various charities. Pogo would reimburse the workers for travel to and from work, and we were also allowed a free main meal while we were on shift. I explained that I would be moving back to Australia in a month but that I could work three or four days shifts per week up until then. I do realise that I went from refusing to work a bar job because the pay was beneath me to volunteering my services for free, but…it was probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I really loved working there.

Senorita Ana

Everyone I worked with was amazing in their own way, and we were all there because we wanted to be, not because we had to. I worked with people from all kinds of backgrounds. One thing we all had in common was the café and the ethics and political lifestyle implications that came from that. All of us were vegetarians of varying degrees, mostly vegan. We all supported organic farming and fair trade. We were all part of various alternative subcultures and our lifestyle choices were not compatible with the dominant society. We were all misfits and outcasts in some way, some more obviously than others. We were homo-, hetero-, bi-, a- and trans- kinds of sexual. We were old and young and everything in between. Some of us rented, others lived in co-ops, a few squatted and a couple were homeless. Some used Pogo as their sole means of working and getting a free meal every day, while others just worked out of leisure. We all used it as a social hub.

Foraging in Hackney yields sweet returns

Some of the people I worked with in that last month showed me some of the best times out of the whole time I lived in London. The time Ana from Spain and I went bike-riding through Hackney, found hidden farmland and picked buckets full of wild blackberries, then sat in a field of horses, got blazed and munged out, and talked about human circuses, punk rock and literature. The time Seba from Poland and I sat at Pogo for two hours after it closed and showed each other up in the thrash stakes on Youtube. The day I first worked with the beautiful Eva from Italy and she allowed me the privilege of watching her make mouth-watering, healthful and colourful salads out of our garden, flowers and all. The day that Jozsef from Russia Hungary and I made ten different kinds of scrumptious vegan desserts and taste tested them all. The day that Joel from Byron Bay first came into the café wearing the exact same Dangers jumper as I, and we sat and trouted about hardcore all morning. The day that Summer from LA told me she was a writer, and we read to each other bits and pieces of things we’d written over the years whilst listening to Rodriguez and Neil Young. The time Paul from Dublin introduced me to some low-down and dirty rocknroll from his hometown in the style of the Cramps. All these times were very special to me – bonding with strangers from all over the world about the things that matter the most in my life. I was sad to leave but grateful to have been a part of it. It’s something that I would like to start up here eventually, once I get tired of the academic rat race. A not-for-profit, organic vegan café that doubles as an art and music space, run by a community of like-minded and eclectic individuals that could make it greater than the sum of its parts. One day…one day…

Beauteous Hackney farmland

Anyway, you would have heard something about the England Riots of 2011. What started out as a legitimate angered response to police brutality and lies regarding the shooting of Mark Duggan turned ugly when the cops bashed a young girl in Tottenham on the Saturday night. This of course set the community raging even more so – police stations were picketed all over most of the poorer areas of London – Tottenham, Brixton, Hackney and Croydon amongst others – and full-on riots began that Sunday night and carried over for close to a week in different parts of the country. It started in these areas in London, and the High Streets were set ablaze and looters took advantage of the chaos. What could have turned into a righteous response to ongoing problem of police power tripping quickly turned scummy, and people lost their lives trying to protect the streets, their families and themselves. I witnessed the scumminess, and also the strength, of some of these people firsthand as I went into Pogo on that Monday afternoon. Here is an excerpt from my journal that evening:

<beginning of entry>

Monday, 8th of August, 2011

I just found myself in a pretty fucking intense situation. I went to go and watch a movie at Pogo; I left home early because I wanted to chill and have a feed at the café beforehand. There was a report that Hackney Central station was closed because of the riots yesterday, as was Brixton tube, so I took a train from Tulse Hill to St Pancras, then a tube from King’s Cross to Highbury and Islington, and then the overground towards Homerton, where I was going to get off and walk, but the train ended up stopping at Hackney Central anyway. That was a fucking mission!

As soon as I got out of the station shit was weird. Riot cops had shut off the ramp and directed us down the stairs towards Amherst Road. Across the road, there were about thirty people gathered in the square – some masked or scarfed over, but most brave-faced. Something was being anticipated. You could see it in the way everyone was shuffling their feet, hands in pockets or clutching drink bottles, eyes flicking in a 360° vista, placing themselves in relation to everyone else. Always feeling safer amongst my own and wary of the real bad guys, I stood amongst this crew and looked to the right, toward the ramp of the station. Four riot cops stood, blocking the way of the nobodies trying (yet) to get through.

I took my headphones out – I realised I would need to be catlike and alert to be safe – and that’s when I noticed the unholy noise of drone and doom from the sky. I usually love that shit but hearing it live and not at a gig is fucking unsettling. I counted four black choppers in my direct vicinity and a few more scattered further away and hovering in and out of sight. This shit was serious.

Well, no way was I going to get onto Mare Road where I usually walked to the café. As I walked north along Amherst Road to go the long way towards Dalston Lane, I could see through the alleyways on my right that Mare Road was blocked off – the cops clearly anticipated that rioters would be looting the shit out of those swanky High Street stores. Thing is, for all of their armour and batons and weapons, I could see even at this early stage that the cops were outnumbered at least four to one and this isn’t even the intense part yet. I kept walking along the strangely silent street, overdubbed with the sound of the blades spinning overhead. I got to Kenmure Road which is a side access to Mare Road and walked up to one of the cops blocking the way in.

“Hey mate, I need to get to Clarence Street,” I said.

“Where’s that?” he asked.

“Well usually I walk straight up here and past the estate, up that street.”

“Well that’s all blocked off, you’re best to walk up and around and then you’d have to go through the estate, but I would advise against walking through there by yourself.”

“Are you talking about Pembury Annex on the corner? Like, don’t go through there?” I asked, not sure of what he was telling me to do.

“Yeah. Stay away from the estate.”

“Why’s that? No, don’t worry. I know exactly why. I’ll sort something out.”

“Righto,” he said.

“Racist cunt,” I thought. “You think I’m one of you and so you’re trying to point out false boogeymen in the places where the brown and poor live. Well, I am brown and poor, and the only people on this earth that scare me in situations like this are white men in uniforms.”

I walked back down the way, debating whether to walk up to Homerton and jump on a train home, or just go around the long way to Pogo. “Fuck it, I’ve come all this way, may as well have a go.” As I kept walking I noticed a tall young man fall into step beside me.

“Hello, are you going through Pembury?” he asked in a heavy Eastern European accent.

“Yeah, are you?”

“Yes, I have to meet my friends up the road. I can walk with you if you like.”

“Yeah thanks. What’s your name?”

“Mikael.”

“I’m ‘Dot’. Where are you from?”

As we got yarning, I learnt that this young man was from Romania, and had just lost his job at a construction company. He’d been living in London for nine months, in Hackney, and wasn’t educated past Year 10, making it really hard for him to get work.

“How old are you?” he asked, peering sideways into my face.

“Too old for you love!” I joked.

“No, you’re only about twenty-one or twenty-two,” he argued.

“Actually I’m nearly twenty-seven mate,” I laughed.

“Oh! Oh okay. You look like a kid still. How old do you think I am?”

“I don’t know. I don’t like these games.”

“Just guess.”

I turned and smiled at him. “Sixteen?”

“No, of course not,” he puffed, his manly pride clearly hurt, “I’m twenty-three.”

“Still too young darlin’.”

After a minute or so he asked me: “What makes you feel crazy?”

Unsure of what he meant, I asked him to elaborate. He wanted to know the things that made my blood heat up, that made my toes tingle, that gave me butterflies, that made me smile secretly. He wasn’t being smutty, and this was one of those interesting conversations that punctuates the mostly banal exchanges I have come to expect from strangers in London. No shit, I have been told too many times to count that I was the most interesting person that some people had ever met, and it made me sad because there are millions more interesting than me out there. This is what I crave – chaos, unfamiliarity, that which creates friction and so, growth. I am glad that I gave that young man the time of day. Anyway, back to the conversation.

“This,” I said, “this is what gives me butterflies – connections, warmth, belonging. Throwing a net out in the vast and overpopulated ocean, not to catch a multitude but just one or two special, rare and willing finds.” Not sure he wouldn’t take that as encouragement, I added to distract him, but no less honestly: “When I talk to and when I think about the person that I love, I feel a thousand times happier than I did before.”

“Mmm. This is a nice answer. I like it. Would you like to have a drink with me later?”

“No, I don’t drink.”

“What about a coffee then?”

“Look, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about me. I’m not interested in anything romantic.”

“That’s okay, I understand. Somebody is very lucky to have your heart,” he said sweetly.

I smiled, and thanked him, and wondered how accurate that statement really was.

We turned the corner and stopped, taking in the sight of burning bins on the rubbish strewn northern end of Clarence Road; hundreds of people, mostly masked and hooded, gathered around, sporadically visible through the black smoke of burning plastic and rubber, which moved through the air around us in zigzags, pushed this way and that by the helicopters chopping into the ether just above us. Mikael suddenly put his arm across my chest and pushed me back as something flew past us and glass smashed on the wall next to my face.

“Holy shit! Thankyou! There’s no way I’m going into work tonight.” I stared all around me. Mikael grabbed my hand and offered to walk me through.

“No, I think I’ll just go home. Thankyou anyway, and good luck!”

“So I can’t see you again?”

“Look, I think not. I’m moving back to Australia soon. But please, stay sweet. Its very refreshing.”

We hugged, then I smiled at him and walked away past a young woman and man putting out a council bin fire and moving it off the road. An older man was heckling them. The young woman had enough, stood up and looked him in the eye.

“You know what Uncle? My mum and baby brother need to drive home very soon. We live here, this is our street. So I’ll just clean up your mess Uncle, and you respect my family in turn.” Chastised, he let them be and wandered into the crowd, muttering to himself. I hope that strong young girl’s family got home safe and sound.

I wanted to walk north through the park of Hackney Downs, but was loathe to pull out my work smartphone in the middle of this, to check out my direction, which lines were down, and the best way to get back south without putting myself in any dangerous situations.

There was a pub nearby, and I went in to the toilet and pulled the phone out to check where the closest open station was. Satisfied with my orienteering skills, I went out into the bar for a few minutes. The pub was packed, all patrons with pints in their hands, staring at the news on the flatscreen. They were watching news of the riots in Hackney, when they could well have just looked outside for a flesh and blood update.

“Fuck this flatscreen culture,” I thought. “Hyperreality sucks everyone in.”

I walked through the community orchard, and the apocalyptic doomsday atmosphere got under my skin. There were random packs of other humans, and I was a lone wolf, a female, and very fucking thankful that I dress like a teenage boy in times like this. I pulled my hood over my face and my scarf up where my beard would be if I’d had a Y chromosome. I wasn’t hassled the whole way home – I kept to myself and stayed alert.

I caught a train from Rectory Road to Seven Sisters, and then into Camden Town. I treated myself to a nice dinner at Inspiral Café, and sat and wrote and people-watched. I caught a few more trains to get back, sticking to the peripheries of the city itself, giving wide berth to the hotspots. It was a long and winding road home, going around the tedious way, narrowly avoiding some crazy shop fires and opportunistic looting in the centre of Brixton, but I eventually got home safe and sound. I’m glad I didn’t get caught up in anything gnarlier!

London’s burning?! Camden Lock, Monday night of the riots.

<end of entry>

The next day I spoke to some of the Pogo crew. They had locked the café and watched the rioting from inside. Some of the photos they took were pretty full on. There was a car upended in front of the shop and set alight. It gave off so much heat that the front window of the shop cracked! A few shops down the street were looted and destroyed. We started up a fund straightaway to help our neighbours. It was rad to see everybody lending a hand.

Delicious Pogo food

Anyway, that was my experience of arson, stealth and romance in the London Riots of August 2011. Namaste.

Defender Of The Faith,  20.11.12

Metal Battles and Traffic Jams

Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks

One weekend a few months ago, I made plans to visit my Dad at his place in the outer suburbs of my city, about half an hour away from me. Being the procrastinator I try hard not to be (but unfortunately am on lazy Saturdays when no work needs doing and I just want to sit in the sunshine and write), I left at 11.45am in order to pick him up at midday. The main road from my house to the highway was moving slowly because of the abundant number of fellow Saturday drivers. This was compounded with the eighteen thousand sets of traffic lights that punctuate the relatively straight run towards the city’s west, like unnecessary semicolons; in an otherwise flowing sentence.

At around the quarter way mark, I was perched up in the fastest-moving right hand lane and I cranketh my iPod via the radio on my shitty twenty-year-old speaker system. Everything sounds harsh – simultaneously tinny and bassy – through these ancient Magna artefacts. There’s no point in listening to beautifully layered and complex compositions through them because the EQ is non-existent, and all nuances are lost in the crude translation of my speakers. Early hardcore with down-tuned guitars or filthy black metal or balls-to-the-wall thrash are adequate though. Sure, it’s not the ideal way to listen to anything, but through a five year process of trial and error I’ve surmised that the only shit that sounds halfway decent in my car is dirty, hard and heavy rock and roll. I proceeded at a slow crawl along this congested track thusly, skipping anything too complicated and letting loose all that was raw enough to take the narrow range of my speakers.

Early Mastodon was crackling through my car when I noticed him. He was in the car in front of me and it appeared as though he kept looking back at me through his rear and side mirrors. As a paranoid type, I dismissed the thought for a little while. However, I was soon certain that he was in fact looking at the blood red Slayer sticker dripping down my front windscreen. I observed him beginning to jerk his head and drum upon the steering wheel, throwing a sly cymbal crash out the window every now and then with his invisible stick. He then started headbanging in a form that my Brother in Hell and I have termed ‘old-school anger thrashing’.

My Brother and I are both fond of any old-school headbanging style, and oftentimes we have admired Metal Lords at gigs engaging with the musical assault with such direct, intense and no-frills approaches. My Brother is old-school himself, favouring dramatic power stances and a rotational direction of the neck for maximum windmilling of the hair, one fist usually held aloft unyieldingly to penetrate the air. I’m more of a mover and shaker, letting the energy take me where it will – sometimes front and centre of the pit to absorb the band’s stage presence from close quarters, or rarely up the back to take in the atmosphere of the gig holistically, but usually in and amongst Sisters and Brethren in the pit – thrashing, jumping and fist-pumping proudly, furiously banging the head on the end of my long and sinuous neck in triumph.

As I observed this fellow Metal Lord in front of me, he took his hair from out of his ponytail and shook it out brazenly (all the better to headbang with, my dears). I was amused no end, watching him lock into whatever song it was that he was cranking. I wondered what it was that was causing him to move so joyously. Whilst I understand the principals of ‘each to their own’ and other similar Crowley-type rhetoric, I must confess I am a fairly judgemental cunt when it comes to metal. Fortunately, I love most styles and can appreciate everything from the most serious of Opeth to the most ridiculous of Manowar. Yet I do draw lines, and respect has been lost by many an otherwise cool person simply by talking enthusiastically about music that I deem shit. Was this guy as legit as he was making out, or was he wasting valuable thrash energy on unworthy offerings?

To find out, I snuck into the left lane and crawled up beside him, turning my own music down. Luckily, his passenger side window was open and I could clearly discern Meshuggah’s Bleed blaring out of his far superior speakers. This was good; all was right with the world and this Metal Lord was okay in my book. His song finished just as Darkthrone’s Witch Ghetto clicked over on mine. I cranketh, and Fenriz’ dirty voice carried past me and to the ears of Metal Lord next door. He looked over and nodded his approval and we both sat, silently thrashing as we waited for the lights to change. I could see him fiddling with his console in preparation for his next turn. His selection was Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell – a classic and decently heavy song, even if a somewhat obvious and safe choice for a Metal Battle. Nonetheless, I nodded in appreciation and we listened to it the whole way to the next set of lights.

What was I going to do next? Nothing cheesy. No fucking around. As I skipped through each iPod suggestion in anticipation of Dimebag’s last solo, I was getting worried that Anselmo’s final “oorgh!” was closing in. However, relief and pride filled me as Amon Amarth rode into battle to save the day, swords blazing With Oden On Our Side. I glanced next door and Metal Lord was clearly as pumped as I. We sat there in unity, headbanging appreciatively on that hot Autumn Saturday, separated by metal vehicles, yet united by a love for metal that is true and good.

Soon, a gap in the traffic appeared and I burned off down the road opportunistically. As I looked back in my rearview mirror, I saw that Metal Lord had thrown me the horns and I returned in kind, saluting a worthy metal brother with the triumphant sounds of Viking bloodlust and violence renting the air.

Defender Of The Faith  – 19.09.12