It Is What It Is.

Heavy Metal Mortgage

An Audio-biography, by S J Holetz

"In the morning I raise my head, and I'm thinkin' of days gone by.
And the thing I want out of"

Dun nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh

I WANT YOU! I want yooooouuuuu!"

Steve, Age 7: "What is THAT?"
Friend -"Kiss. Rock N Roll Over"
Steve: "Wow!"

And just like that I was hooked. Growing up in rural Northern California, music was playing around the house or in the
car as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed listening to music of almost any kind, from the 50's rockabilly and
Elvis hits that my Mom loves to the twangy testimonials of the country western that my Dad enjoys, although it would take
decades for me to be willing to admit THAT one. But I never really had music of my own until I heard that first power chord,
 that sweet crunch that never fails to send waves of pleasure through my brain. While I have come to love music from so many
different genres, from the  the sensuous eternal thump of the Blues, the fierce unbridled creativity of Jazz, the skittering joyous
frenzy of Ska, to the driving precision of Techno, no other music has ever given me the same physical reaction that I get from
the heavy stuff. Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Trash or Death or Grindcore; in all of its guises it never fails to please. Whenever
I hear that wall of distortion in Flying High Again, or those blistering high notes during the solo in No One Like You, even
now, 20 years after first listen, those sounds still give me the same exquisite chills.

Kiss were a preposterously easy sell for a 7-year old boy. They looked like a cross between aliens and superheroes, had
catchy songs with a great guitar sound, and the bassist spit blood and breathed fire. Are you kidding me?  So, after hearing
that first Kiss track, I asked for it immediately. My Mom really came through for me on my next birthday.  I received both
the desperately yearned for tape and my first stereo system, a black rectangular cassette player. This particular model featured
 a speaker grill that would assault my tender ears with the cold efficiency of a cheese grater as I held it tightly to my head,
quietly rocking out after lights out. Fortunately, I suffered little permanent damage from either the speaker or the lyrics.
At the time, my young mind was ill-equipped to grasp the complexities of the world around me, so I remained completely
oblivious to the fact that the primary lyrical concern of this particular work was: sex with groupies. But I will return to
the subject of metal lyrics later. The seeds were now sown, although it would be years until they would blossom, as I
was distracted by the wonders of Star Wars and my own limited earning potential.

 Dunt! Duh Duh Dunt! Duh Duh Dunt!
Deer neer neer neer Neer!
Dunt! Duh Duh Dunt! Duh Duh Dunt!
Duh-dunt! duh-dunt! duh-dunt! duh-dunt!

 Steve, Age 12: "What is that?"
Friend -"AC/DC. Back In Black."
Steve: "Duuuuude!"

AC/DC. Judas Priest. Ozzy Osbourne. Scorpions. Motorhead. Van Halen.
Thankfully I was never forced to resort to Klosterman-like levels of fraud to quench my insatiable thirst for metal,
but by the time I reached junior high my early initiation into the fields of agricultural irrigation and the movement thereof
had given me the financial ability to grow my collection of vinyl and cassettes exponentially. Soon I found myself knee
deep in both alfalfa and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Proudly sporting my black metal band T-shirt, a look
that undoubtedly impressed both the ladies that weren’t there and the livestock that were, I would finish my hand-line
chores then voraciously comb the pages of Hit Parader and Circus magazine looking for the next big thing. And soon I
 found it. In a full page article in Hit Parader I learned of a British act that had suffered sinister goings-on during the
recording of their new album.  With a new singer affectionately dubbed the “air raid siren” in tow they were ready to
take the U.S. by force. Not long after, the galloping rhythms of Iron Maiden were coursing through my headphones,
starting a love affair which would last for the next decade. I was so far in the bag for this band that I actually read the
lyrics to The Trooper as a poem in my sophomore English class. The highlight of my Maiden infatuation was one of the
greatest concerts I have ever seen, as I traveled five hours by bus to Sacramento to see them on the Seventh Son tour
with my friend Bill, who had scored us both tickets & backstage passes. The band was in awesome form that night and
would proceed to play for almost 3 hours in a torrential downpour. I still remember singer Bruce Dickinson screaming
“As long as you will stay here and listen, we will keep playing!” as the opening riff to The Trooper rang out over a crowd
going absolutely insane. Simply awesome. In the afterglow, my hero worship was tarnished not in the least by the fact that
upon meeting the band that had towered over the world for so long in my mind, I discovered that they were about the same
size as my little sister. (That tarnishing would require an additional 3 or  4 lackluster albums to fully take effect.) I still have
that backstage pass though, autographed by all 5 members. Amusingly enough, when I made my first trip to London in
1998, as I rode the tube into the city to my hotel, my first thoughts were not of the overwhelming history of the place,
or Shakespeare, or Winston Churchill, or even the Beatles, but instead: “Wow, this is the home of Iron Maiden.”

During high school, one of the highlights of the Metal year would occur when my track or cross country team would
make it to the state meet. This would pave the way for the annual pilgrimage to Tower Records in Sacramento, or
perhaps Rasputin’s in Berkeley, where I would blow months of saved up money on rare foreign metals. 

Friend -What did you buy?
Steve Age 15: Some German band called Accept. It looks really cool (presses play)
"Hi Di, Hi Do, Hi Da! Hi Di, Hi Do, Hi Da!"
Steve: "What in the hell? I think this is defectiv...
Friend -"(laughing) You got screwed!"


Steve Age 15: “Oh, Hell yes”! (bangs head rapidly)

Another Metal highlight of the year was the annual air band competition, where my friends and I took 1st place two
years running with our spectacular renditions of Looks that Kill by Motley Crue and I Wanna Be Somebody by
W.A.S.P. We went all out for these ersatz performances, complete with full costumes and Plywood BC Rich guitars.
My portrayal of Blackie Lawless was made complete by the piece de resistance: saw blade armbands made with
ACTUAL circular saw blades. My Dad is so freaking cool. However, he DID draw the line at the saw blade codpiece.

Soon thereafter I acquired a huge milestone in my headbanging development, Metallica’s Ride the Lightning, a release
which I believe took metal to a whole new level. While other bands had released albums that were heavy, fast, or
 riff-laden; none had thus far combined and perfected these elements into such a momentous example of sheer speed,
weight, and technicality. Ride The Lightning would have tremendous effect on both the metal scene as a whole and
myself personally, starting me down a path I have followed since.  I soon found myself searching for music even faster,
heavier and more brutal. In my post-college years, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer were gradually supplanted in my
personal heavy rotation by Kreator, Destruction, Carcass, and Entombed. At present, I am completely enamored of
the current school of Swedish death metal. Bands such as In Flames, Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity & their ilk have
an uncanny knack for suspending the sweetest of melodies within huge slabs of crusty frozen distortion, a combination
that slithers into my brain pan & makes itself at home in the most wonderful of ways. The Finnish bands Children of Bodom,
Finntroll & Sentenced (R.I.P.) are just as good, but with a more playful, tongue in cheek quality . On the domestic front,
I really dig the organic groove and monstrous heft of bands like Clutch and Black Label Society, as well as super
technical state-of-the-art offerings from bands like Seattle’s Nevermore and the towering Mastodon. The latter’s
incredible Moby Dick themed opus Leviathan I am proud to say was recorded right here in Seattle.   

Now, I fully recognize that one aspect of metal that has always been the most difficult to defend to non-believers is that
of the lyrics. While my personal favorites have always been songs about history, or mythology, or simply exhortations to
RAWK!, too often the lyrics of this fine genre have run the gamut from mildly embarrassing to downright asinine.
Of course there is a long and hallowed tradition in the history of  rock lyrics to make an effort to shock. But due to broken
english, rampant misogyny, or the preposterously satanic, these lyrics can occasionally make even a hardcore fan such as
myself more want to shake my head than bang it. And this isn’t just specific to the acts of the 80’s that you might look
back on nostalgically, one need look no further than 2003’s St. Anger for a fine example of the most cringe-worthy lyrics
ever committed to a hard drive. That having been said, I have to think that Metal’s “go forth & conquer” attitude must
have been a positive factor in the confidence I enjoyed during my formative years. I'd hate to think how I would have
turned out had I been raised solely on Emo.

More often the case these days, in line with the staggering advances heavy music has seen in production, sound quality
& musicianship, the lyrics have improved as well. The apex of which to my thinking is vocalist Neal Fallon of Clutch, who
I consider no less than the poet laureate of Metal. This is a songwriter who throws mythology, pop culture, science fiction
and politics into a blender and hits frappe’, to stunning lyrical effect. Despite these vast improvements in this arena, it is
surprising to me where the music I love stops short. There are topics of soul crushing emotional magnitudes that few acts
touch upon in this most brutal of genres. Satan IS Satan, but nothing is scarier, heavier, or more brutal than my mortgage.
Fortunately, my love of metal will be with me every bit as long as my monthly payments


Mortgage Of Doom - Song by Bonehand

Bonehand’s Top 40 of Metal Playlist: Put THIS in your Ipod & smoke it!

I Want You – Kiss
Back In Black – AC/DC
Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
Hallowed Be Thy Name – Iron Maiden
Flying High Again – Ozzy Osbourne
Unchained – Van Halen
Hell Bent for Leather – Judas Priest
No One Like You – Scorpions
The Trooper – Iron Maiden
The Hellion/Electric Eye – Judas Priest
Ace of Spades - Motorhead
The Power & The Glory – Saxon
Rainbow in the Dark – Dio
Sweet Leaf – Black Sabbath
Queen of the Reich - Queensryche
Motorbreath - Metallica
Iron Fist - Motorhead
I Wanna Be somebody – W.A.S.P.
Supernaut – Black Sabbath
Fast as a Shark - Accept
Swords & Tequila – Riot

Metal ChurchMetal Church
Take Control - Raven
Creeping Death – Metallica
Hell Awaits - Slayer
Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? - Megadeth
A Shogun Named Marcus - Clutch
Heartwork -Carcass
Embody the Invisible – In Flames
Hate Song – the Haunted
Only for the Weak – In Flames
Say It In Slugs - Entombed
Rebel Angel – The Crown
Born in the Night - Witchery

Roswell 47 – Hypocrisy
The Fix is In – Entombed
Fear Death By Water – Sixty Watt Shaman
Blood & Thunder - Mastodon
Nemesis - Arch Enemy
The Mob Goes Wild – Clutch

  Words & Music Copyright  2007 S J Holetz

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