I was never that into heavy metal as a youth, which is too bad, because I could have rocked the greatest Bon Jovi hairstyle in history if I'd gotten a perm. Instead, I listened mostly to classic rock and the kind of '80s new wave that didn't require me to wear black eyeliner and act depressed all the time. I also pretended to be a Grateful Dead fan for a while because I liked hippie chicks, but I knew even then that I was faking it.
It wasn't until I was in my mid-30s that I finally developed a taste for hard rock, and I'm still not sure exactly how it happened. I think I might have just finally heard one too many Bad Company or Bob Seger songs, or maybe I couldn't get the taste of vomit out of my mouth after hearing Foreigner sing "I Want to Know What Love Is," but for whatever reason, I kind of turned my back on classic rock and went looking for something else.
I started off with Black Sabbath, which is a nice place to begin. Though Ozzy and his mates might have invented heavy metal, they were never actually that heavy compared to some of the bands that came later, and "War Pigs" is just about the best song ever recorded. If you're thinking of becoming a head-banger, I recommend Paranoid, Sabbath's second album, as a jumping-off point.
From there, it was an easy transition to bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, and even GWAR. (If you're not familiar with GWAR, I highly recommend that you look them up. Funniest band ever, metal or otherwise.)
As much as I began to enjoy and understand heavy metal, however, there was still one band that scared the crap out of me: Slayer. Lots of metal bands sing about the devil and death and other fun subjects like that, but I always got the feeling that Slayer actually meant it. Witness these song titles from Show No Mercy, the band's debut album: "Evil Has No Boundaries," "The Antichrist," "Die by the Sword," "Fight Till Death," and "Tormentor." Sounds like a barrel of laughs, doesn't it?
If you want to get a sense of what listening to a Slayer song is like, find someone using a jackhammer, and then go stick your head between it and the pavement. The only difference is that your ears would probably bleed more from listening to Slayer.
As scared as I was of Slayer, though, I respected the hell out of them for staying true to their roots. Metallica might have been co-opted by the mainstream, but Slayer and their rabid fans never were. Even as they aged, they still struck me as potentially violent lunatics.
Sadly, for Slayer and their fans, guitarist Jeff Hanneman, a founding member of the band, died last week. The official cause of death was liver failure brought on by necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease. According to Hanneman, he contracted the disease from a spider bite he claimed to have received in 2011, but his history of drug and alcohol abuse have led some to wonder if that's true.
As of this writing, Hanneman had not yet been laid to rest, and the Westboro Baptist Church, which comprises the absolute worst people in America, was planning to protest at his funeral. I don't know much about Hanneman other than the fact that he could play a guitar really fast and loud, but I don't think anyone deserves to have the douche bags from the WBC show up at their memorial service.
I hope they do show up, though. I hope they come with their pickets and messages of hate and encounter a massive horde of Slayer fans when they get there. And then, when the counterprotest begins, I hope the cops turn a blind eye and let the Slayer fans do what they will. I'm not saying I want anyone to get killed, mind you, but there's never been a group of people more in need of a good ass-whuppin' than the Westboro Baptist Church.
If they don't resort to violence, which probably would be for the best, I hope those fans at least point some giant speakers toward the Westboro a-holes, turn the volume up to 11 and let Hanneman blister some ears one last time. I guarantee you that a Slayer song easily could drown out the hateful cries of a bunch of pricks from Kansas.
Todd Hartley is the lead singer of Lost Shaker Assault, a heavy-metal Jimmy Buffett cover band. To read more or leave a comment, please visit zerobudget.net.