Look man, I’ve been in the mosh-pit.
I have oft looked back wistfully on my days as a Grunger. And this reminiscence has become more frequent now that one of my younger brothers is himself in to heavy rock. However, when I list the bands that I used to idolise (Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Papa Roach) he scoffs. ‘Wadayamean?’ ‘That’s some heavy shit right there,’ I plead. I thought Korn were heavy, but he likes the really hard stuff.
Death Metal is how it would be classified in the periodic table of music. Now these two words are scary enough on their own – but amalgamated – they don’t sound like my idea of the perfect accompaniment to a tube journey.
I apparently forget this when my brother asks if I will chaperone him and a friend to one of his favourite bands, ‘Cannibal Corpse,’ who will soon be playing in London. I say ‘soon’ but my ability to consent is probably helped by the fact that the gig is in March, and my brother asked me in November. I think to myself, ‘March 2013, pshhhh, thats ages away.’
Of course, about a week passes, and all of a sudden, its March 2013. My trepidation builds when, upon meeting my brother’s guitar teacher, I realise I have been hitherto referred to as, ‘the one who is going to Cannibal Corpse.’ Eek. I decide to do some research in to Cannibal Corpse and the other bands on the bill (Hour of Penance, The Black Dahlia Murder and DevilDriver)….to assuage my fears. They can’t be as terrifying as my imagination is leading me to believe. My research confirms I am right—they are more terrifying. Cannibal Corpse’s album artwork consists mainly of, well, this. And as for their music, when I click play on one of their YouTube videos, I can almost feel my jowls tremble, such is the magnitude of the sound emanating from my laptop.
Two days before the concert I describe my unease to my brother. He reassures me, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine…..a lot of chicks love the Black Dahlia Murder.’ I don’t know whether this statement is designed to suppress my foreboding, with the knowledge that my fear would probably be laughed at by the Black Dahlia Murder’s female followers, or, that I could potentially have the opportunity to meet some rock chicks. Listening to their music, I feel the former is true.
Before I go and meet my brother, I deliberate over what one wears to their first Death Metal concert. I guess black, but the only black top I own is a cashmere turtle-neck jumper. I think this would be an unwise garment for the occasion—not least because im not risking my favourite turtle-neck near the perilous zone of the mosh-pit. Guffawing friends have warned about the possibility of me encountering a ‘Wall of Death.’ I found out this entails the crowd parting, and then running head-long towards each other at full speed. I decide that if I am caught up in this, I will simply adopt the fetal position, and pray. The cashmere is definitely out. In the end I decide on a fairly muted outfit: jeans, black t-shirt, as bad ass I can go without applying prosthetics to my face. One last glance in the mirror before im out the door. ‘Would I fuck with me?’ Well, yeah, probably, definitely, but I’m late and the traffic will be terrible on the Westway, so I gotta go. On the way I try and listen to some music to get me in the mood but the heaviest thing I have on my iPod is the Black Keys. Cannibal Corpse makes the Black Keys sound like Schubert.
I am late, the traffic was terrible on the Westway. Tonight’s venue is the Forum, in Kentish Town, and I find my brother and his friend at our pre-
arranged rendezvous. I apologise profusely for my tardiness, but they say its cool and that they’ve just been people watching and trying to guess who is on their way to the concert. Walking down Highgate Road I realise that this must not have been too hard. Groups of lank-haired men, wearing shredded t-shirts with slogans like, ‘Get in the fucking pit!’ begin to appear, trudging towards the Forum. Though I look a bit like Dilbert on his day off, my companions – similarly attired to those around us – make it clear that I too am attending the concert. Passersby look at us, knowingly. I suddenly, maybe for the first time since the Linkin years, feel a part of something.
The queue to get in is reassuringly ordered, though we are still in Britain I remind myself. However, I am surprised by the friendliness of everybody around us. On two occasions, on overhearing my ignorance, fellow queuers interject and assure me that what I am about to witness is ‘awesome’, and after one of them plays me some DevilDriver on his phone, I nod and agree, he pats me on the back. ‘Awesome.’ Walking in to the main room I encounter, not a violent maelstrom, but a very ordered crowd, mostly talking quietly between themselves. Weirdly, I begin to think about the Justin Bieber concert at the O2 the night before. One of my friend’s little sisters had been in attendance and had to wait an hour and a half before the cheeky beggar showed his face on stage. Apparently after an hour, the crowd of angsty mothers and sugar-fuelled preteens began to resemble a Parisian mob. But I imagine if an hour and a half passed at the Forum, that the crowd would still be standing there orderly, talking amongst themselves.
As the first band comes on, the Black Dahlia Murder, I realise my foreboding was in vain. I had an image of myself being grabbed by the jewfro and tossed into the pit, but in fact the mosh-pit only constitutes a small part of the crowd. And, though im not about to fling myself into its epicentre, it doesn’t look as terrifying as I had imagined. If you just want to stand and watch and gently bang your head, as I do, that is completely fine. The guy standing in front of me has an impressive head of hair, and is banging his head furiously, with the result that bits of hair occasionally hit me in the face. However, rather than ask him to desist, which im sure he would have done obligingly, I say nothing – his hair is really soft and smells very nice – I wonder if he has washed it specially. A guy with a t-shirt saying ‘Feast on the Blood of the Weak’ accidentally steps on my shoe, and apologises profusely. Although I am finding the music quite hard to enjoy, I am loving the crowd. Death Metal heads have got to be some of the nicest, most mild-mannered people I have ever had the pleasure of a night out with. I can imagine feeling far more intimidated at a Rihanna concert.
Unfortunately I cannot stay until the end and, after bidding my brother and his friend adieu, and imploring them to rock on, I head for the exit. On the way out I buy some DevilDriver hotpants for my friend whose party I have had to leave to attend. Driving back down Highgate Road I am slightly saddened to see that the streets are now empty of the leather-clad revellers and full instead of plain old civilians, all looking the same. I guess, aside from their niceness, what appealed to me most about the metal heads was their individuality. The old cliche that being different is cool had never rung so true.
My brother and his friends don’t use the word Grunger anymore, but I can see that to them being part of a subculture is part of the attraction as well. I, weirdly, thought about Justin Bieber again and how his music was representative of how dreary and lifeless modern Pop had become. Though I was a Grunger not much more than a decade ago, this was still B.D (before dubstep)—nowadays youth culture is even more homogenous than it was then, and I sympathise with today’s post-postmodern youth striving to find individuality in a world of ‘Beliebers.’ I guess one way to do that is, to borrow a phrase, ‘get in the fucking pit.’