I look back at my life into heavy metal with feelings ranging from pride and pleasure, from remorse to regret and from joy and sadness. At the budding age of 16, I was introduced to this music by my earliest friend. After the discovery of a local college radio station, the first four years into this music, I was molded by a local college DJ. She would provide me with the knowledge I didn't know I needed, the music I didn't know I wanted and the pure inspiration and joy that comes with discovery. In many ways, that quest and joy of discovery was applied to many interests in life, most notably travel and history. However, there is has been a running theme within my love of metal throughout the past 31 years, the one thing that was constant all the way up through today - I was a loner.
Never once in the last 31 years have I felt a desire to be part of an over all group of people, we lovingly like to call "metalheads." Perhaps the music conversations during those early breeding years and the friendships lost or drifted away left a hole that could not be filled. Today, its hard to find people to have a conversation about metal that feels like those times and for that reason I've become a "loner." I simply cannot be the only one, though. Can I?
I said there was a "running theme" throughout, so this wasn't just limited to the fading away of early friendships in the growing years. Ever since the mid-90's, divisions within subsequent friendships over styles within the world of heavy music grew wider. Coupled with the fact that the maturation process (much slower for a male) revealed less than stellar personality traits that I was not at all proud of, the only thing I desired was to discover and enjoy the music I was obsessed with, alone. The only "authoritative voice" I wanted to hear was my own.
While friends and acquaintances within heavy metal fandom faded into obscurity and left the ranks to "grow up" - my love of metal only grew stronger. I was alone and I didn't want it any other way. Never once in recent years did I willingly subject myself to group conversations of "have you heard this band" or "I think this band sucks" or "this is the best band in the world." I left that discovery to happen on its own through my obsession and free from any other's judgment.
Over the years, watching people leave the scene didn't bring me down and I cast no judgment on their choices. Families are made, styles change, preferences change and people mature to whatever path they choose. As far as metal fans go - it seemed to me that most were/are drawn in initially through friends. Perhaps the heaviness of the music gives a sense of rebellion against established music. However, many people that get into metal are drawn in by the culture - whether it is desiring to be part of a group of "outcasts" that feel they way they do, or the party atmosphere. For many, this is a temporary blip in life - a stepping stone that becomes a humorous tale for future kids and grandkids.
For me, metal is only about the music and how it makes me feel. Even at 16, I never grew long hair, or wore chains or leather. The music inspired me emotionally and the lyrical topics pushed me into what became a love affair with history. To this day, I still cannot fully identify with metal's culture, but as metalheads age and have inserted themselves into "mainstream life" - we are all starting to look similar. One of the biggest reasons I took up concert photography, which has become just as much of a passion as the music itself, is to focus on the bands and music and not be distracted with other metalheads. Even in a crowded venue, the desire for "solitude" with the band through a lens is more comfortable than standing at the fringes of a mosh pit.
So are the real fans - the ones that never walked away from the music, the ones that truly enjoy the solitude of music listening, studying album artworks and liner notes - are we just loners? Its certainly how I've felt about myself - an obsessed metal fan that only desires the never ending hunt for new music that inspires emotion and only seeks the direct personal emotional connection with the music.