New York is a city full of emotion, craziness and intensity and with that, there comes an art form that is meant for releasing all that which is the art of heavy metal. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression since childhood, listening to Killswitch Engage, Disturbed, Cannibal Corpse and everything in between, that was my medication and cure. As a way of releasing it, I used metal as a paintbrush, quite literally. Once I discovered that there was an entire scene in New York City where metal was everywhere you turned, I found my peace, my inspiration, drive, purpose and home.
New York City’s metal scene has always been brutal and massive. Places like Lucky 13, Duffs and St Vitus alone makes the dark cloud of metal always hover over the city. For the longest time, if I would walk into any other bar, it would be incredibly awkward to talk with the bartender and tell them I like black metal, death metal and hardcore. The second I walked into Lucky 13, ordered a Guiness and saw a guy in a Fear Factory shirt and started talking with them. Every night I go into a show whether it is a local show at Lucky 13 or a huge metal show at Terminal 5, the brotherhood and loyalty we all have towards each other never gets old. There would be times, where I would be walking down the streets, see a guy in one metal shirt, while I would be wearing mine and we would flash the metal horns towards each other. That to me never gets old.
There is no denying metal is a darker form of music. Regardless if it is death metal singing about blood and gore, black metal band singing about Satan, or a hardcore band saying screw you to the system, and with that comes darkness that we wear. We use the skulls and pentagrams and eerie imagery on the outside to feel with the darkness we feel on the inside. I have met people in the scene who are veterans and have some gruesome war stories, people who were abused, people who struggled with addiction and plenty of people who dealt with anxiety and depression like I did, and many of my favorite vocalists who helped me through all of this have dealt with their fair share of trials and tribulations, such as David Draiman, Jesse Leach and Tommy Vext. Not all metalheads are depressed and angry, and when we are in the moshpit together or headbanging to Slayer at the metal bars, and the people who believe this stereotype would never think that again if they spend an hour or two at Duffs, Lucky 13 or St Vitus. We are all angels, we just have horns. The lyrics, the imagery, emotion and the bond I have with the people in the NYC metalscene has inspired me to take what I have learned about art history and create the art that I do.
Metal in itself is a diverse genre in itself. There is hard rock, thrash metal, death metal, black metal and the list goes on and on. With this diversity comes many different visuals, vibes and emotion that can come with it. I saw Chelsea Grin one day and then Kreator and Obituary the next day and it was like a completely different experience. When I saw Mayhem at Gramercy Theater many people, including myself were wearing corpsepaint, had long black hair and denim vests usually wearing shirts for Behemoth, Marduk and Abbath as well as Mayhem and any other band with unreadable logos. I would see Dope and Combichrist a month later which is more of a 90s Nu metal concert, so most people had spiked hair, chains and wearing shirts for Korn, Disturbed or Fear Factory shirts. When I was at Summer Slaughter with Cannibal Corpse and Nile, most people were wearing shirts for Morbid Angel, Obituary, Deicide and other death metal bands. When I realized the world of metal is where I wanted to be, many people thought I was limiting my options is life and narrowing everything down too much, when the truth is there is so much in that world alone. The visuals, the people, the music itself, metal is the one element that can easily mix with anything.
Outside of the music, metal has inspired many works of art, literature and just about any other creative field. There is a show hosted by Metal Injection called Taste of Metal, hosted by Chef Brian Tsao, who has known figures in heavy metal such as Zakk Wylde, Richard Christy and Killswitch Engage just to name a few and has them cook a dish that is inspired by their music and albums. There is a beautiful foundation known as the You Rock Foundation that is meant to use metal and rock and the stories of known musicians who have dealt with anxiety and depression to show people struggling with depression that they matter. You also cant neglect metal news sources such as Metal Injection, Blabbermouth, Metalsucks or Loudwire that keep everyone updated with the latest tours, albums as well as interviews on the rockstars opinions.
In the end, metal is the sound of brutality and darkness that intrigues and speaks to us all, helping us, inspiring us and driving us to move forward.
Fear however is something that we are inflicted with and we unfortunately, unintentionally inflict fear amongst others. As mentioned before, metal is a darker form of music, there is no denying that, and people fear what they do not know. People who aren’t into metal see the skulls and the pentagrams and people in leather jackets and Viking beards and get easily intimidated, and I was guilty of it for a while. While I spent the majority of my formative years listening to Lamb of God and Fear Factory, I would feel intimidated being a socially awkward former scene kid seeing all the guys in slayer looking like the are ready to mess someone up. Once I fully immersed myself in it, I realized that there was nothing to fear at all and saw how most people in the scene are the greatest people I had the privilege of meeting. For people who don’t listen to metal, or have a fear of a darker imagery, it is a very hard thing to introduce into their lives, and as someone who has been ostracized and would have been looked at as a misfit back in the day, I still have to be understanding when I show someone, Hammer Smashed Face by Cannibal Corpse, and get turned off by it.
We as misfits and metalheads however, are living in the fear of the age of gentrification. The closing of CBGB’s, L’Amourds, Coney Island High and others were massive hardships for us because it induced fear in that where would we go to enjoy the thrill of live music. In 2016 alone, we lost Black Bear Bar, The Acheron, Grand Victory and others, and with each venue closing, we fear that this is an epidemic that can possibly wipe the scene out. In the end however, while we practically mourn those losses, we don’t let it take us down. Places luck St Vitus, Lucky 13, Duffs, Blackthorn 51 and other places keep the scene alive as well as the metalheads of New York City both older and newer. With so many new bands coming up, it is undeniable that more fans are constantly coming up with them, continuing the lifespan that adds to ours. There are many pessimistic people out there who claim that rock and metal is dead, well those people live in more negativity then the metalheads who are constantly accused of being full of it. The fact that we don’t give up even with venues closing, it goes to show that we are dedicated, passionate and strong people who have a love for this music and art form. We listen to it, we wear it, and we breath it and no amount of gentrification can take that away from us.